Vincenzo Sospiri

Vincenzo Sospiri

7/10/1966

1995 F3000 champion caught up in the Lola F1 fiasco. Since found success in Sportscars and the IRL, but failed to impress in brief CART foray.

'Vince' as he was known in the pit lane, was from the Italian town of Forli. He began racing in the Italian Junior 100cc Karting Championship in 1981, taking two wins and the following two years saw him take consecutive championships.

In 1984 he moved to Italian Intercontinental Karting and won the Championship as well as the 100cc European Intercontinental Karting Championship. In 1985 he finished 2nd despite taking 9 wins. 1986 saw him back on form winning the 125cc Italian Championship and the 100cc European championship. He also took pole for the 100cc World Karting Championship Final.

In 1987 he won the 100cc World Karting Championship with 12 wins and came 2nd in the 125cc World Championship with 7 wins. He also came 2nd in the Italian 125cc Championship with 5 wins.

For 1988 he moved to Britain to race cars, and his winning ways continued, taking 9 wins in the RAC British Formula Ford championship, 3 more in the Esso Championship, and winning the Formula Ford Festival at Brands Hatch.

With confidence he moved up to the Opel Lotus Euroseries in 1989 and raced in British F3 in a Reynard 893 Toyota. It was an unhappy year and in 1990 he moved back to the Opel Lotus Euroseries. He took three wins to finish 2nd overall, while in the British Vauxhall Lotus championship he took the title with 4 wins.

1991 saw Sospiri move up to F3000 with Middlebridge in a Lola T91/50 Cosworth as team-mate to Damon Hill. Unfortunately an uncompetitive car coupled with his relative inexperience meant he only managed to finish 8th overall, though he did finish a fine 2nd at Hockenheim.

So in 1992 he took a step back into Italian F3 with the Traini Corse team in a Dallara F392 Mugen Honda. He managed one win and with 23 points finished 5th overall.

Sospiri felt he was ready for another go at F3000 in 1993. Driving a Mythos Reynard 93D Judd he scored consistently, ending the seadon in 7th place overall.

He switched to David Sears' Super Nova team in 1994 and once again his consistence left him in with a chance of the championship towards the end of the season. However his inability to win left him 4th overall on 24 points.

In 1995, his fourth season in F3000, he took three wins in his Super Nova Reynard 95D Cosworth at Barcelona, Pau and Spa, and with 2nd places at Silverstone and Enna he wrapped up the title with a race in hand. With 42 points he beat his team-mate Ricardo Rosset to the title.

Despite winning the F3000 title the F1 teams did not come knocking, and his only option was to be Benetton's official test driver for 1996.

The in 1997 he landed a drive with the new works Mastercard Lola T97/30. It all looked good on paper, however Mastercard had forced Eric Broadley to bring his plans forward a year and so when the car made it's debut at Melbourne for Round 1 it had never even seen a wind-tunnel.

It was instantly clear that the Lolas were hopelessly off the pace. Jacques Villeneuve qualified on pole with a 1:29.369, while Sospiri could only manage a 1:40.972, 113% off pole. Neither Lola were allowed to start.

Meanwhile the team had built up massive debts, and by round two in Brazil the team had withdrawn. Sospiri only found out in a local paper after he arrived in Sao Paulo.

Vincenzo almost immediately picked up a drive in a Dallara Aurora with the Scandia team in the Indy Racing League. With no oval experience, he was stunning at Indianapolis, where he qualified 3rd on the outside of the front row as a rookie for the 500 mile classic, although he was forced out of the race after 163 laps having dropped down the field. In other IRL races (he did 6 in total) he claimed 6th at Pikes Peak and also 2nd at New Hampshire, and in the final standings he placed 21st with 134 points. Throughout the rest of the year, he also did one Porsche Supercup race at Silverstone, finishing 7th, and towards the end of 1997 also competed in two races in Formula Nippon in Japan, although with a spin at Fuji and only 15th at Suzuka he would have considered that foray to have been unsuccessful.

In 1998 Jabouille-Bouresche Racing team took Sospiri on to drive their Ferrari 333SP in the International Sports Racing Series, pairing Vincenzo with former F3000 sparring partner Emmanuel Collard. Out of eight races they won six, retiring in the first and last races but winning the rest. With 120 points the pair were clear champions. He drove at Le Mans with Jean-Christophe Boullion and Jerome Policand but retired with transmission problems.

Late in the year he made the trip to the USA again driving the All American Racers Eagle 98I Toyota in four CART races without distinction.

So for 1999 it was back to sports cars driving the JB-Giesse Ferrari 333SP in the Sports Racing World Cup. Sospiri and Collard took three more wins and 4 other podiums to score 104 points and retain the championship. He retired in the Daytona 24hrs in the Konrad Lola Lotus B98/10, then at Le Mans, he drove a works Toyota GT-1 with Collard and Martin Brundle. Brundle put the car on pole but it retired after 90 laps.

Sospiri then disappeared from the racing scene, although he made one brief re-appearance at the start of 2001 when he did the ALMS round at the Sebring 12hrs in a Kelly-Moss Motorsports Porsche 911 GT3-RS, shared with Rick Polk and Cort Wagner, but the car failed after only 47 laps.

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