Piero Taruffi

Piero Taruffi

12/10/1906 - 12/1/1988

Taruffi was an all-round sportsman who managed the Gilera motorcycle team as well as racing cars. He won one Grand Prix, the 1952 Swiss GP, and finished third in the drivers championship.

Known as the "Silver Fox" due to his shock of prematurely silver hair, Taruffi was an all-round sportsman who qualified as a doctor of Industrial Engineering and spent many years dovetailing the task of managing the Gilera motorcycle team with his many car racing commitments.

He was a successful motor cycle racer in the 1920s before switching to a Fiat car in 1923. Taruffi first tasted serious four-wheel competition in the 1930 Mille Miglia, and was soon showing promise with his Itala. That brought him to the attention of Ferrari, who provided him with a 2.3 Alfa Romeo to beat Biondetti in the Coppa Frigo hill-climb. He was still racing on two wheels but took second place in the 1932 Rome GP behind Fagioli in an Alfa Monza, and third in the 1933 Eifelrennen.

By 1934 he was driving works Maseratis but crashed badly at Tripoli, and in 1935 he moved to the Bugatti team, taking a third at Turin. Taruffi was still involved in motor cycling, and though he stopped racing in 1937 he continued to manage the Gilera team both before and after the war.

Taruffi also made many record breaking attempts with his hair-raising TAF twin-torpedo cars.

Between 1947 and 1949, Piero drove Dusio's Cisitalias with great success and, guesting for Alfa Romeo, he took fourth in the Monza GP in 1948. Joining Scuderia Ferrari in 1949, Taruffi took second place in the Rome GP at Caracalla with the Tipo 166. In 1950 he occasionally represented both Alfa Romeo, taking third in the Grand Prix of Nations in Geneva, and Ferrari, his third in the end-of-year Penya Rhin GP at Barcelona bringing an invitation to join the works team on a regular basis in 1951. This was the final year of Alfa's dominance, but Piero finished second in the Swiss GP and third in the non-title Bari GP at Lungomare. In sports cars he took second place in the Tour of Sicily and, sharing a 4.1-litre with Chinetti, won the Carrera Panamericana.

Taruffi enjoyed his finest year in 1952. With the Tipo 500 now the car to beat, he backed the brilliant Ascari superbly, winning the Swiss GP at Bremgarten, and with some other excellent drives finished third in the drivers' championship. In other important single-seater races, Piero won the Paris GP at Montlhery, and was second at both Syracuse and Naples, while in the big-capacity cars he took second in Turin and won the Libre Silverstone race in Vandervell's Ferrari Thinwall Special'. For 1953 he joined the Lancia team, racing their sports cars without great success, though he did finish second in the Carrera Panamericana in a 3.3 Lancia. Things improved in 1954, as victories in the Targa Florio and the Tour of Sicily demonstrate, the latter success being repeated the following year, this time at the wheel of a Ferrari.

Taruffi was still an occasional Grand Prix driver who could be relied upon to do a good job, and Mercedes brought him into their team after Hans Herrmann had put himself out of action, Piero bringing the silver car to excellent finishes in his two outings. For 1956 he joined Maserati's sports car team, sharing the winning car with Moss, Schell and Behra in the Nurburgring 1000 Km, and taking second in the Targa Florio, the Circuit of Sicily and the Pescara GP. His final F1 race came in the 1957 Syracuse GP when, driving a Scuderia Centro Sud Maserati 250F, he finished fourth, despite a broken shock absorber. Soon after, and at his 13th attempt, Taruffi achieved his great ambition, by taking victory in the ill-fated Mille Miglia in a works Ferrari as a late replacement for Musso. With this, he announced his retirement from racing, and set up a racing drivers' school.

His book "The Technique of Motor Racing" (published in 1966) is regarded as one of the sport's all-time classics.

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