Dorino Serafini

Dorino Serafini

22/7/1909 - 5/7/2000

European Motocycle Champion of 1939, survivor of two World Wars and two frightening accidents, Serafino finished second in five of the seven Formula One Grands Prix he entered.

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<p style="text-align: justify">Teodoro 'Dorino' Serafini was born in San Pietro near Pesaro on Italy's Adriatic coast. He was the oldest of the four sons of a carriage builder and beekeeper. Teodoro's father was a keen motorcyclist and thus it was no surprise when his eldest son made his debut at the Circuit of Rimini in 1928, setting the fastest lap. He rode Benelli motorbikes, which were manufactured locally in Pesaro, in 175cc competition for the next four years before switching to a 175cc MM made by Morini and Massetti in Bologna. On the MM he won the Italian 175cc Championship and in 1935 graduated to 500cc racing, joining the Bianchi team.

On the pale blue Bianchi, he won the Circuit of Lario, the 1936 Coppa Acerbo at Pescara and the 1937 Circuito del Giardini Margherita in Bologna. All this led to him being offered two works contracts for 1938 with both Guzzi and Gilera lining up to sign him. He chose Gilera, on a salary of 2000 lira a month. In 1939 he won Grand Prix in Sweden, Germany and Ireland to take the European Championship.

In March 1947 he made his racing debut in single seaters driving a Cisitalia D46 - Fiat to 7th in the Sehab Almaz Bey Trophy at the El Gezirah circuit in Cairo, Egypt. In July he drove the Cisitalia in the Circuito di Caracalla on the Circuito delle Terme di Caracalla (a race in the park around the Baths of Caracalla in Rome), the Coupe de Petites Cylindrées at Reims and in the IX Grand Prix de l'Albigeois, though he retired in all three races. In August he was entered by Scuderia Milan in one of their Maseratis 4CL for the XIII Grand Prix de Comminges at St Gaudens. His performance was amazing and he led the race from the start, setting the fastest lap in the early stages. However when he suddenly discovered that the steering wheel and column were no longer attached to anything other than his hands his race came to an abrupt halt, hitting a tree head-on. Seriously injured, braking his ribs, arms and legs as well as suffering burns, he was given little chance of survival.

However he not only recovered but by the end of 1948 he was back racing making the final round of the F2 season as part of the Maserati works team with Ascari and Villoresi. He also drove a four-seater Healey Elliott with Lurani to second place in class in the Tour of Sicily, which was not a bad effort considering that the car was relatively standard and was only collected from the factory in England and driven across Europe to Sicily a few days before the race, and he won the Circuito del Garda sports car race at the wheel of a factory OSCA 1100.

In 1949, Scuderia Ambrosiana entered a Frazer Nash in the Giro di Sicilia and in the Mille Miglia for Serafini and Rudi Heller. Serafini was leading at the half way mark but clipped a curb and bent the steering, forcing their retirement.

He won the Giro delle Calabrie in an OSCA driving with Alberico Cacciari and also drove an OSCA in F2 races. On the 30th October during the Gran Premio Automovilista de Madrid, held on the Ciudad Universitaria street circuit, he lost control of his OSCA and crashed into the crowd, sadly killing a spectator. At the end of the year Ferrari offered him a works drive along side Ascari and Villoresi.

Over that winter he visited Argentina to participate in the Temporada series, meeting President Juan Perón and his wife Evita, who supported of motor racing in their country. On January 8th 1950 he finished second in the Gran Premio Maria Eva Duarte Peron on the Palermo Park circuit in Buenos Aires. On his return he and the other Italian drivers who had made the trip, among them Ascari, Farina, Gigi Villoresi and Piero Taruffi, were received by Pope Pius XII in a special audience.

During the year he campaigned both sports cars and single seaters for Ferrari. In the Mille Miglia he drove a Ferrari 195S Barchetta Touring with Ettore Salani. It rained for virtually the whole race and Serafini got a serious soaking in the open Ferrari, on his way to a very creditable second behind Giannino Marzotto in a closed Ferrari coupé. Just to make Serafini fell even wetter at the finish must have been the sight of Marzotto who drove the whole race in a double breasted suit! That year Dorino won the Giro di Toscana and the Giro di Calabria.

At le Mans he drove with Sommer but failed to finish. He finished second behind Alberto Ascari’s similar 166 MM in the Daily Express Trophy race at Silverstone on August 26.

In single-seater races he finished 7th in the Bari Grand Prix and on the 3rd September he made his Formula 1 debut when he shared the second placed Ferrari 375 with Alberto Ascari in the Italian Grand Prix at Monza. He also achieved a number of other second place finishes, notably in the Gran Premio do Penya Rhin at Pedralbes in the F1 car and the Circuito del Garda with the F2 T166. His total for the year was nine podium finishes, two wins on the Giros, a second in the Mille Miglia, three more second places in Formula One races, and two thirds in Formula 2.

Retained by the Scuderia for 1951, he finished second again in both the Syracuse and San Remo GPs before another big accident, this time in the Mille Miglia when he missed a corner that was masked by a wall of spectators in Martinsicuro near San Bernadetto del Trento. He left the road and his Ferrari 340 America somersaulted across a ploughed field. Once again he survived but he was left with a badly broken arm and leg that pretty much put an end to his career.

He had a number of operations over the years and consequently raced less frequently. He did contest the 1954 Brescia-Rome-Brescia classic, taking seventh place overall and first in the GT class with his works Lancia Aurelia B20. But by then he had decided that he had probably tested the fates enough and retired.

In his retirement he became a regular visitor to commemorative events, most notably at Ferrari's 40th anniversary along with Surtees, Regazzoni, Trintignant, Berger and many others.

Dorino Serafini passed away peacefully in a hospital in Pesaro at the age of 90, on 05 July 2000, just shy of his 91st birthday.

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