One of the best drivers from South America, Chico Landi's was the first Brazilian to race in Europe. His driving career lasted nearly 30 years.
Francisco Landi was born in Sao Paolo, Brazil in 1907. He began racing in 1934 when he entered the Grande Premio da Cidade de Rio de Janeiro on the daunting Gavea circuit in the Rio district of Leblon.
Gávea is the rock that rises 842 meters almost from the beach between the Rio Cachoeira and the Ponta do Marisco, that makes up part of the Maciço da Tijuca. The name was given by the Portuguese because from the sea it looked like the topsail (Gávea is Portugese for topsail) of a boat.
The circuit was known as the 'Trampolim do Diabo' (The Devil's Trampoline) because at one point it ran along the top of the cliffs before turning inland into the hills to return to Leblon via a series of hairpins. With over 100 corners and different surfaces (asphalt, cement, gravel and dirt, the racing was a true challenge to the skill and bravery of the drivers. And, as it was located at the end of the local tram line, beyond Ipanema, where cars had to cross the slippery tracks, further increased the level of danger.
Landi lead the race in 1934 before his car broke down just 8 laps from the finish.
In 1941 Landi won his first Grande Premio da Cidade de Rio de Janeiro at the wheel of the ex-Manuel de Teffé Alfa Romeo B-3200. The car was a prize awarded to de Teffé for being voted the best Brazilian driver. It was supposed to be a modern Grand Prix car but when it arrived it was not only second hand, but hadn't been rebuilt and had no spares. de Teffé complained and received a suspension from the Brazilian Automobile Club preventing him racing in 1937. When Landi drove it, it had been fitted with hydraulic brakes and a modified radiator grille.
He won again in 1947 and 1948 and became the first Brazilian driver to have an international career. Driving an Alfa Romeo in the three-race Temporada series in Argentina in 1947, against some of the best known names in Europe, he finished third to Luigi Villoresi and Achille Varzi in the Gran Premio del General Juan Peron and fifth in the Gran Premio Eva Peron.
This led to an invitation to drive in the 1947 Bari GP (F2) in a Maserati, becoming the first Brazilian driver to race in Europe. He retired from the race won by Varzi, but returned a year later where, against an impressive field including Villoresi, Varzi, Nuvolari and Farina, he won.
Between 1951 and 1956 Landi took part in a total of six World Championship events as a Ferrari privateer and in a Escuderia Bandeirantes Maserati 250F. It was in this latter car that he finished joint fourth with Gerino Gerini in the Argentine Grand Prix of 1956, to become the first Brazilian driver to score points in Formula 1.
In 1952 he came second in the Albi GP with a Ferrari T375 and he won at Bari again, this time in a Ferrari sports car. 1952 also saw him win a number of races at home.
In the years that followed Landi helped to build up motor racing in his home country. In 1960 he shared a Brazilian-made FNM JK to victory in the important 1000 Mile race, the first win for a local machine and in 1962 he attempted to launch Formula Junior in Brazil. He was also running a garage and car accessory business and eventually became the manager of the Interlagos circuit where he remained until just before his death in 1989.