A lawyer from Locarno, Count Ottorino Volonterio of Orselina was an enthusiastic Swiss amateur who rarely troubled the score sheets. With a pace that varied between slow and very slow his career was spent at a leisurely pace.
Born in 1917 he was the son of a lawyer and Mayor of Locarno, and was wealthy enough not to have to work. He owned a 1936 Bugatti Atalante which he purchased in 1945 after the Second World War, owning it until 1979. He fitted a supercharger and raced it in hillclimbs in Italy and Switzerland.
In 1950 he hired and Alfa Romeo from Enrico Plate which he raced in the sprint at Lucerne that year but the car was not to his liking and he opted to purchased an Allard for his hillclimbing.
By 1952 Ottorino had decided that he wanted to go circuit racing and through his friend Giovanni Lurani he hired the ex-Franco Cortese Ferrari 166. He made his first foray on June 8th that year entering the Gran Premio dell’Autodromo di Monza driving the Ferrari but retired after 4 laps. He also drove it on the Maloja Hillclimb in August, finishing 3rd. It was his last drive in a Ferrari and as he switching allegiances to Maserati.
He was due to visit England in 1953 and had an entry in the International Trophy at Silverstone in May driving a Maserati A6CGM but he failed to appear. He entered his ex-Plate Maserati 4CLT/48 in the Ulster Trophy and finished a resounding last in his heat having been lapped by the entire field within the race distance of a mere 10 laps! He entered the III Grand Prix de Rouen-les-Essarts in June with his Maserati 4CLT now sporting an updated A6G nose however he failed to make the start as he did again in August at the Newcastle Journal Trophy at Charterhall in Scotland. He did race in the Madgwick Cup in September, but retired.
He still partook in the occasional hillclimb and at Ollon-Villars in August he finished second in class to Baron Emmanuel de Graffenried. But results can be misleading and the Count was a full 24 seconds slower than the Baron over the six minute course.
In 1954 he shared de Graffenried's old Maserati A6GCM (2038) and sold his Maserati 4CLT/48 to Fox Movietone where it ended up being used as high-speed camera car in the film The Racers, written by Hans Ruesch, directed by Henry Hathaway and staring Kirk Douglas. In search of greater excitement, Volonterio agreed to purchase the A6GCM, which was fitted with a 250F engine, on condition that de Graffenried entered it in the Gran Premio d'Espagne at Pedralbes and shared the drive with him. Toulo qualified at the back of the grid but worked his way steadily up to 10th place before handing over to Ottorino to made his World Championship debut. At this point any idea of further progress through the field came to an abrupt halt. Things didn't get any better when the exhaust started to fall apart and eventually on lap 57 Volonterio was forced to retire.
Having now acquired the Maserati A6CGM, in 1955, he raced in the Formula Liber Coupe de Paris at Montlhéry in April, Volonterio brought the Maserati home in 19th place (behind an 850cc Panhard Monopole), though he was 5th in the racing car class (out of the five cars entered).
At the Gran Premio del Napoli he diced briefly with Ascari on lap 3 but only because he was so slow that Ascari was actually already lapping him. He was 11th and last in the Redex Trophy at Snetterton and did not arrive for the Oulton Park Gold Cup. He retired with transmission troubles on lap 17 out of 70 in the Gran Premio di Syracusa which was a blessing to the other drivers as in qualifying his time of 2m58.4 was 28 seconds slower than Giorgio Scarlatti's Ferrari 500 in front of him and a staggering 55 seconds off Luigi Musso's pole time. Tony Brooks took the win driving a Connaught B-Type setting a fastest lap on the way of 2:00.2, 102.36mph. If the good Count had kept running, Brooks could have lapped him over 30 times.
1956 dawned with Ottorino's enthusiasm undiminished. At the Gran Premio di Napoli he finished 5th, however that was 11 laps behind the winner, Robert Manzon, in his Gordini T16 (16-0032) but amazingly he was not last as four laps further back came Berardo Taraschi in a Ferrari 166. He then failed to arrive for the British Grand Prix, where he was entered in a 250F but did turn up for the German Grand Prix on the 5th August at the daunting Nurburgring. He actually crossed the line in 6th but........firstly only six cars were actually still running and he had only managed to complete 16 of the 22 laps, six behind Fangio's Lancia-Ferrari D50. His late pit stop for fuel did not improve matters as his mechanics managed to fall over each other while attempting to refuel the car as Ottorino sat having a drink of water.
He upgraded to a Maserati 250F which he acquired from Franco Cornacchia's Scuderia Guastalla in 1957. But despite having ditched his ageing rigid-axle A6CGM his results remained steadfastly unchanged. At the Gran Premio di Napoli he was 24 seconds slower in qualifying than the car in front and 40 seconds slower than Peter Collins on pole. In the race he retired after 4 laps. At the Grand Prix de Reims on July 14th he was the reserve driver for Herbert MacKay-Fraser but the car was withdrawn following MacKay-Fraser's fatal accident racing a stripped down Lotus 11 in the F2 Coupe Internationale de Vitesse support race (Thus becoming the first fatality for the factory Lotus team).
Volonterio's last Grand Prix appearance came in Italy in 1958 sharing his 250F Andre Simon. They finished 11th, 15 laps down and not classified. He decided somewhat wisely to let others drive his car from then on and entrusted it to Scuderia Centro Sud.
The car was loaned to Cabianca for the 1959 Italian GP but Volonterio continued to compete with it on hillclimbs until the Mont-Ventoux in 1963 where he crashed, sustaining a broken leg. It was also driven by the likes of André Testut, Maurice Trintignant, Gerino Gerini, Hans Hermann and Fritz d'Orey. He sold the car to Tom Wheatcroft in 1965 and it can be seen in the museum at Donnington.
Ottorino bought an Alfa-Romeo Giulietta SZ and continued hillclimbing and making the occasional appearance in local races around Lugano. He then upgraded to Glass fibre Alfa Romeo Giulia TZ-2. he made his last appearance in 1973.