Luigi Musso

28/7/1924 - 6/7/1958

Record updated 21-Jun-23

Winner of the Italian two-liter sportscar championship in 1953 and the Targa Florio in 1957. He also raced in F1 on occasion and won the Italian Championship in 1955. He was killed in the French Grand Prix in 1958.

Luigi Musso was born in Rome, Italy, the youngest of five brothers, Luciano, Elena, Giuseppe, Matilde and Luigi. Their father, Giuseppe Domenico Musso, was a wealthy Italian Diplomat in China and also founded a successful film production company. When he died in 1940 he left his sons a substantial fortune.

Both Luciano and Giuseppe raced, with Giuseppe the more active, racing between 1949 and 1958 with a number of good results in Italian Sports Car races.

Luigi was handsome and a keen sportsman who enjoyed fencing, horse riding and shooting. However, inspired by his bothers, his real passion was racing. Luigi was desperate to race but his brother were unwilling to lend him their cars so, before he had passed his driving test he purchased a Fiat Topolino and then a Patriarca-Giannini Fiat 750 which he used in hillclimbs and Italian road races. He made his racing debut in 1950 Targa Florio. Unfortunately ending his race inauspiciously when he crashed into a monument to Garibaldi. His brother Luciano fared better, finishing 10th overall.

The following week he finished a respectable second in class in the Corsa del Monte Pellegrino and he also took on the Mille Miglia but retired. He continued racing the Patriarca-Giannini into 1951 with a best result of second overall, just in front of Maria-Teresa de Filippis, in that year's Coppa Ascoli at Caldaie. Incidentally at one time he lived with Maria-Teresa for three years.

For 1952 he acquired a Giaur-Giannini and he finally managed to persuade one of his brothers to lend him a Stranguellini Sport. He began to show true potential and so, when in 1953, Maserati were looking for three promising young Italian racing drivers, he was picked along with Sergio Mantovani and Emilio Giletti. That year he met Fiamma Breschi, a native of Florence, fell in love and left his wife and two children.

Driving the Maserati A6GCS he scored outright wins in the Vermicino-Rocca di Papa hillclimb, the Giro dell’Umbria and the Circuit of Avellino. He finished second in the Coppa Perugina, Circuito di Caserta and the Circuit of Reggio Calabria, and took 3rd in the Bologna-Raticosa hillclimb and the Coppa d’Oro di Sicilia at Syracuse. It was enough to see Luigi take the Italian two-liter Sportscar Championship. In September, Maserati gave Mantovani and Musso their Grand Prix debuts in the Italian Grand Prix, sharing a Maserati A6GCM with each of them driving 38 laps.

In 1954 with the Maserati 250F

In 1954 with the Maserati A6GCS

He stayed with the Officine Alfieri Maserati in 1954 and after a 6th in Buenos Aires 1000Km and a DNF at Sebring, his return to Europe saw a return to the podium. At the wheel of a Maserati A6GCS he was fourth in the Giro di Sicilia and third in the Mille Miglia with Augusto Zocca. He then took a win at the Naples Grand Prix on the Posillipo circuit before finishing a fine second in the Targa Florio behind Piero Taruffi’s Lancia D24. He took another second in the Giro dell'Umbria followed by a win in the Circuit of Caserta. After another podium finish in the Imola, he shared his car with his brother Giuseppe in the 10 Hours of Messina, unfortunately failing to finish. After more good results, including a win in the 2 Litre Circuito di Senigallia, he travelled to Ireland for the Tourist Trophy at Dundrod driving with with Sergio Mantovani they finished 5th.

In Grand Prix he won the non-championship Pescara Grand Prix driving a Maserati 250F but failed to finish in the Italian Grand Prix at Monza. However in the Spanish Grand Prix at Pedralbes he finished second behind Mike Hawthorn in a Ferrari 553 and ahead of Fangio in a Mercedes.

Another year with Maserati followed and in Grand Prix he was on the podium of a World Championship race for the first time with a third in the Dutch Grand Prix at Zandvoort behind the Mercedes of Fangio and Moss. He also had some good results in non-championship races finishing second He took 2nd places in the Grand Prix at Bordeaux, Naples and Syracuse. He took the Italian Sports Car Championship again though his only major with was at Monza in the 1000Km Supercortemaggiore, held just three days after Alberto Ascari was killed there in testing.

At the end of the year he made the switch to Ferrari and started 1957 by travelling to South America to race in the Argentinan Temporada series. On the long flight to Buenos Aires Luigi, a compulsive gambler, played a few hands of poker with the other drivers and ended up loosing a considerable amount of money. Apparently according to an eye witness, the other players could see his cards due to where he was sitting. In the end he lost some 8 million Lira to Cesare Perdisa and Harry Schell. Eraldo Sculati, the Ferrari team manager from the previous year, attempted to diffuse the situation but Perdisa insisted on collecting his winnings.

His Ferrari career started well sharing victory in the Argentine Grand Prix with Fangio in the Lancia-Ferrari D50. Though things were not at all what they seemed. Within the team there was friction between Musso and the British contingent of Collins and Hawthorn and things were not about to improve.

At Monaco in the Lancia-Ferrari D50

Two months later Musso was 2nd in the 12 Hours of Sebring with Harry Schell and then finished 3rd in the Mille Miglia driving a Ferrari 860 Monza. In single seaters, he finished 2nd in the non-championship Syracuse Grand Prix behind Fangio before travelling to Germany for the Nürburgring 1000Km race. On the 5th lap he crashed and broke his arm which put him out for quite a while. He returned in August for the German Grand Prix also at the Nürburgring. Then at the Italian Grand Prix he was leading when he was ordered to hand his car over to Fangio. He refused and to make matters worse when his Lancia-Ferrari D50 picked up a puncture just three laps from the finish. Meanwhile Fangio had taken over from Collins and finished 2nd. Musso was finally classified 5th.

Never the less, come 1957 he was still with the Scuderia. his season started with an impressive win in the 1000 Km of Buenos Aires, sharing a Ferrari 290 MM Spider Scaglietti with Masten Gregory and Eugenio Castellotti. Castellotti was then killed on 14th of March killed during a private Ferrari test session at the Modena Autodrome. Luigi was furious with the factory's claims that Castellotti had been tired and made a mistake and felt that the crash had been caused by brake failure. This further alienated him from the set up at Maranello. Having said that, it was his best year in Formula 1 taking second in France and Britain and 4th in Germany to end the year in 3rd place in the standings. Fate also smiled on him at the Mille Miglia that year. He contracted a virus and couldn't participate so Alfonso de Portago took over his car with tragic consequences when he suffered a blow out at high speed loosing his life, that of his co-driver, Edmund Nelson, and ten spectators.

In 1958 we once again find Luigi still at Ferrari, having turned down an offer from BRM and despite now being the only Italian driver on the roster, he felt the promise of the Ferrari Dino 246 was too great to pass up. His relationship with Collins and Hawthorn had not improved and was about to get even worse. Luigi had also heard that Collins and Hawthorn had come to an arrangement whereby they would split their winnings, thereby further widening the rift within the team.

At the start of the season in Argentina, he finished second to Moss in the Cooper Climax and in Monaco he had to give best once again to the Cooper Climax, this time driven by Maurice Trintignant. There followed two more seconds, now driving sports cars, in the 1000 Km of Buenos Aires and the 12 Hours of Sebring, both times sharing a Ferrari 250 TR with Olivier Gendebien and Wolfgang von Trips.

On his way to winning the 1958 targa Florio in the Ferrari 250TR

He then took a win in the non-championship Syracuse Grand Prix in Sicily, and also won the Targa Florio, once again driving with Gendebien. He arrived at the Dutch Grand Prix at the end of May leading the World Championship, but after a difficult time only managed to qualify in 12th. In the race he could do no better than 7th, out of points. He finished 4th in the 1000 Km of the Nürburgring, with Phil Hill, before the next round of the World Championship in Belgium at Spa-Francorchamps. Musso qualified much better lining up in the middle of the front row of the grid. However by the end of the first lap he had dropped to seventh. Worse was to come when on the the 6th lap a rear tyre blew just before entering Stavelot and he crashed at about 200 kph.

The crash left him unable to race at Le Mans the following week but he was back behind the wheel for the Monza 500, otherwise know as 'Monzapolis' or the 'Race of Two Worlds'. The race, intended to show who was best between the American and European drivers, had been first held the previous year and was not well supported by the European teams, however for 1958 several Formula 1 teams did participate and even build cars specifically for the event. Stirling Moss, Phil Hill, Juan Manuel Fangio, Mike Hawthorn and others decided to go up against A.J. Foyt, Jimmy Bryan, Jim Rathmann, Eddie Sachs, Jimmy Reece, Troy Ruttman and others. Luigi drove a Ferrari 412 MI and put the car on pole with an average speed of 280.8 kph (174.5 mph). Bob Veith was 2nd with Fangio 3rd in the Dean Van Lines Special. The event was run in three heats. In the first heat, Rathmann, Sachs and Musso were battling for the lead until Luigi had to pit with exhaustion caused by the heat and exhaust fumes. Hawthorn took over and eventually finished 6th. Jim Rathmann won all three heats and was declared the winner. However Musso’s performance impressed J.C. Agajanian who offered him a drive in the Indianapolis 500 next year.

The next round of the Championship was in France. Stirling Moss was leading the standings on 17 points from Hawthorn with 14. Musso, still on 12, was third and in need of the win for more than one reason. In the mid-1950s he had opened a Plymouth dealership in Rome, in partnership with Franco Bornigia, who had raced with his brother Mario in 1950. The business was not doing well and his gambling debts had been mounting, including the rumor of a loss of some ten million lire the previous Monday from a game of cards in the Hotel Real de Modena. The French race traditionally carried the biggest prize of the season, thus the win would not only be a big help but was in many ways imperative as his most recent gambling debts were apparently owed to the Mafia.

For the race, Hawthorn was on pole with Musso second and Harry Schell third. At the start Schell took the lead from Tony Brooks in the Vanwall who had made a great start from the second row. Hawthorn passed Brooks quite quickly and then at the Calvaire bend, he overtook Schell. Musso moved up to second on lap 2, but by then Hawthorn had opened up a gap of nearly 10 seconds. Musso pressed on and by lap 9 he was almost on Hawthorn's tail. Then in the fast Courbe du Calvaire Musso clipped the curb at about 240 kph. the car shot to the left, went into a ditch and somersaulted into a wheat field. Musso was thrown out and was taken to Reims hospital by helicopter, where he succumbed to head and internal injuries at 19h30 that evening. The previous year Luigi had been able to take that corner flat out, but in 1958 with more power on tap it was a risky task and one that could well have caused the accident. There has been speculation that Hawthorn had braked early in the corner, upsetting the balance of Musso's car, but in reality the full reason is not known.

28 days later he would be joined by Collins and though Hawthorn went on to take the title and retire, six weeks after taking the Championship, he was killed on the Farnham by-pass reportedly dicing with Rob Walker's 300 SL Mercedes in his modified British Racing Green 3.4 litre Jaguar.