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Costantino Magistri

6/11/1894 - 7/6/1938

Costantino Magistri makes his debut at the age of 31, winning the first Coppa dell’Etna. Further success followed including the Giro di Sicilia and the Targa Florio.

Costantino Magistri A native of Palermo, Sicily, Costantino Magistri made his debut in 1924 at the wheel of his father’s Itala, on the Palermo-Montepellegrino hillclimb, finishing third in class.

In 1925 he acquired a Bugatti and won the Coppa Etna on the Celso Bianco road circuit. On the Palermo-Montepellegrino hillclimb that year he finished in second and the following year, he won the Palermo-Partinico–Trapani reliability race.

He was a good mechanic and served his apprenticeship at the Alfa Romeo dealership in Palermo. Carlo Gasparin, the owner, sent him to Turin to learn additional skills. Back to Sicily, he helped with the preparation of Gasparin’s cars, testing the teams Alfa Romeo racing cars.

Magistri and Gasparin took part in the Giro di Sicilia in 1928, each driving an ex-work Alfa Romeo 6C 1500 S.

This was the first running after a fourteen-year break. The race consisted of one 108-kilometer (67.1-mile) lap of Madonie Circuito Medio, plus another 900 kilometers (560 miles) around the coast roads of Sicily, passing through the towns of Messina, Catania, Siracusa, Agrigento, Trapani and Palermo. The two Alfa Romeos dominated the race with Magistri taking the win despite having to stop of more than four minutes during the night near Agrigento due to a puncture.

A week later, driving the same car Magistri finished third in the Coppa Messina, behind the Bugattis of the winner Edwald Probst of Switzerland and Letterio Cucinotta. Fourth in that race was none other than Tazio Nuvolari in another Bugatti.

In 1930 two factory Alfa Romeo 6C 1750 S were sent from the factory to Palermo and entered by Carlo Gasparin in the 6th edition of the Giro di Sicilia, to be held on 26/27 April, on a shortened version of the 1928 course, without the Madonie circuit lap. Gasparin was paired with the works driver Luigi Arcangeli and the experienced Giovanni Battista Guidotti was hired to race alongside Costantino Magistri. They finished in second and third place, behind the powerful 2.3-litre OM 665MM of the winners Archimede Rosa-Giuseppe Morandi. The event was overshadowed by the death of Baron Amedeo Sillitti, thus becoming the first fatality involving a competitor in the Giro di Sicilia.

A third place finish for Magistri occurred once again in the 1931 edition of the Giro di Sicilia. The event was marked by a very competitive dice between him, who drove the same Alfa Romeo 6C-1750 S, this time with L. Fieri as co-driver, and the sister car driven by team mate Carlo Gazzabini and his passenger Paolo Cantore, which lasted the whole race. The OM 665MM of Rosa-Morandi took its second consecutive win.

In 1933 a 25-year-old mechanic from Mazzarino, province of Caltanissetta, Francesco Faraco moved to Palermo and joined Costantino Magistri. Faraco was one of the best mechanics Magistri ever worked with. That was the beginning of a long-lasting friendship, in the following seasons Magistri who was fourteen-year older than Faraco, raced many times with the latter as riding mechanic.

At their debut together, they did not finish the 1933 Targa Florio, when the head gasket of their Alfa Romeo 6C-1750 S engine blew. But in the next editions of the race they earned a remarkable third place in 1934, following the winner Achille Varzi and Nando Barbieri, both in Alfa Romeos, and in 1935, a fourth place in a works Alfa Romeo 8C 2300, behind team mates Antonio Brivio and Louis Chiron and the Maserati of Nando Barbieri.

In May of 1936 Magistri crossed the Mediterranean sea to take part to the prestigious Tripoli Grand Prix, held on the 13.140-kilometer (8.16-mile) Mellaha circuit near Tripoli, Libya, at the time an Italian colony. The race was won by the unbeatable Auto Union Typ C of Achille Varzi. Magistri in his Alfa Romeo 8C “Monza” qualified 20th out of 26 cars and finished 11th in the race.

On 20 December 1936 finally Costantino Magistri achieved the coveted Targa Florio victory. Being the event reserved to cars with engine capacity not exceeding 1500 cm3, for the first time he abandoned his beloved Alfa Romeo, and took part to the race at the helm of a blue painted 1.2-litre Lancia Augusta. Only nine cars managed to finish the tough race, Magistri drove the first of four Lancias in the first four places.

Assisted by his friend Faraco until the end, Costantino Magistri died of a heart attack, after long suffering, on Tuesday, 07 June 1938.