Aldo Marazza 1912-1938 - A pre-war "what-if"
- Leif Snellman, pictures kindly provided by Guido Marazza (Aldo's nephew)
- January 3, 2003
- Stefan Bellof - Talent overplayed, by Leif Snellman/Tom Prankerd
- Tony Brise - A shooting star that fell down too early, by Mattijs Diepraam/Paul Hartshorne
- Luigi Villoresi - Ascari's mentor, by Leif Snellman/Robert Blinkhorn
1937 Circuito della Superba (May 30, 1937)
Racing enthusiasts love to speculate about the many "what-ifs" that exist in the history of Grand Prix racing. A favourite pastime is speculating about the drivers that showed a lot of promise but whose careers were cut short before their talent had the chance to flower fully. Stefan Bellof and Tony Brise are prime examples.
There is a lesser known name that must be included in the list - that of Italian pre-war racer Aldo Marazza. Marazza was born in Milan in 1912 and never entered a Grand Prix race. Instead, in a career that lasted just 16 months, he made himself famous in Voiturette racing (the "F3000" of the pre-war era) in which he participated in 13 races, of which only one outside Italy. He managed to win two of these races but crashed fatally in his 13th start.
The first appearance of the Marazza name in the racing world is found in the entry list for the Circuito di Torino on 18 April 1937, on which he is included as entry #30. However, Marazza never started in that race and one has to move further ahead until 30 May to find Marazza's first real appearance on a race track. It was at the 40-lap Circuito della Superba Voiturette race at Genua and Marazza raced an old Maserati 4CS two-seater that he had bought just a couple of days earlier from motorcycle racer Guiseppe Gilera. The car (chassis #1519) had belonged to Count "Johnny" Lurani who had mainly used it for hillclimbing.
In this ancient vehicle Marazza qualified for a place in the middle of the first row between Vittorio Belmondo and local favourite "Nando" Barbieri. Marazza held third position during the early laps but passed Barbieri on lap 4 and started to chase Belmondo. On lap 29 Marazza forced Belmondo into a mistake and the latter hit a straw bale and spun the car, leaving Marazza to take over the lead and race on to a surprise victory in his very first race.
If Genua was a dream start Marazza was put back to earth two weeks later at Florence where the entry list included most of the Italian Voiturette elite. A picture of the start shows the class field: Marazza's fellow Maserati drivers Cortese, Nando and Guido Barbieri, Severi, Wakefield, Bianco, Belmondo, Trossi, Dreyfus, Colini, Dusio, Rocco and Contini took on the ERAs of "Bira", Whitehead and Tongue. René Dreyfus won the race in a works Maserati while Marazza finished a lowly ninth, four laps behind. But next week, racing at his home town of Milan, Marazza showed that his Genovese success hadn't been a fluke result. From his position on the second row he held third position in the race behind Maserati drivers Siena and Rovere and in front of Prince "Bira" in his ERA "Romulus". When Rovere retired with engine trouble Marazza took over second position and held it to the finish.
At San Remo Marazza started in the second heat alongside Varzi and Villoresi but when Ferdinando Righetti tried to pass him at the Station Square the cars touched. Marazza continued but had to retire later-on with ignition trouble. A month later Marazza made his only international appearance as he qualified for the final of the most important Voiturette race of the season, the Berne GP at the infamous Bremgarten circuit, and finished 6th among the European Voiturette elite in a race that was run in heavy rain. He was an early retirement at the Coppa Edda Ciano at Lucca but he had by now made enough of an impression to receive a Maserati works drive for his last appearance of the year, the Circuito di Campione d'Italia. Here Marazza was called into the pits to hand over the car to Trossi who was fighting for the Voiturette championship. Trossi later retired but was still declared champion.
Marazza's first start for Officine Alfieri Maserati in 1938 was at the Targa Florio in May. Marazza followed leader Villoresi during the first ten laps and then passed him for the lead. Marazza made a series of fast laps but was unable to chase off Villoresi. When the latter tried to re-pass 13 laps later he slid and crashed hard into Marazza. Marazza's car was badly damaged but fortunately the driver was only slightly wounded.
A month later Marazza was back at the wheel at Naples for the Coppa Principessa di Piemonte, a race run in extremely hot conditions. Early leader Trossi gave up after 10 of 60 laps. After the pit stops Marazza, who had been among the top three for most of the race, found himself in the lead. He was never challenged and took his second career victory. At Varese Marazza passed Teagno and Villoresi to finish second behind Cortese, while at Pescara he started from the front row and raced in second position but was an early retirement. In between his Voiturette commitments Marazza came 26th in the Mille Miglia in this Lancia Aprilia aerodynamica, bodied by Pininfarina.
Marazza's last race was the Milan GP at Monza on 11th September. The race developed into a fierce fight between Alfa drivers E Villoresi and Severi and Maserati drivers L Villoresi, Marazza, Cortese and Pietsch. Sommer's Alfa Romeo started to burn and possibly Marazza was blinded by the smoke and failed to see the chequered flag as he continued at full race speed, overturned the car in the Lesmo curve, and crashed into the woods. Marazza had a lung pierced on a branch of a tree. He remained consious at the hospital while the doctors gave him several blood transfusions but despite their efforts Marazza died the same evening.
He was buried at the family grave at Civenna, close to Emilio Villoresi. A bronze model of a Maserati was placed over the tomb but it was later stolen. One can only speculate how the future could have been for this highly talented driver. Of course the war would have interrupted his career but surely he would have been seen again in the late 40s, possibly racing Formula 1 cars for Maserati alongside Villoresi and Ascari. Note that Marazza was one year younger than Fangio. And then? Nobody will know.
Aldo Marazza's Voiturette starts
As a privateer:
Circuito di Torino/GP del Valentino 18.4.1937
#30 Maserati 4CS
Circuito della Superba 30.5.1937
#24 Maserati 4CS
Gran Premio di Firence 13.6.1937
#6 Maserati 4CS
Circuito di Milano 20.6.1937
#6 Maserati 4CS
Circuito di San Remo 25.7.1937
#14 Maserati 4CS
Rtd Heat 2, ignition
Coppa Acerbo Junior 15.8.1937
#46 Maserati 4CS
Prix de Berne 22.8.1937
#34 Maserati 4CS
5th heat 2, 6th final
Coppa Edda Ciano 19.9.1937
#6 Maserati 4CS
Rtd, lap 1
As a works Maserati driver:
Circuito di Campione D'Italia 26.9.1937
#6 Maserati 6CM
2nd heat 1, Rtd final, lap 42 (with Trossi)
Targa Florio 22.5.1938
#30 Maserati 6CM
Rtd, Crash with Villoresi on lap 23
Coppa Principessa di Piemonte 26.6.1938
#8 Maserati 6CM
Circuito di Varese 17.7.1938
#16 Maserati 6CM
1st heat 1, 2nd Final
Coppa Ciano Junior 7.8.1938
#30 Maserati 4CM
Coppa Acerbo Junior 14.8.1938
#20 Maserati 6CM
Rtd, sparking plugs lap 3
Gran Premio di Milano 11.9.1938
#4 Maserati 6CM
5th, fatal crash on slowing-down lap