Piero Taruffi

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Piero Taruffi
File:Piero Taruffi.jpg
Born (1906-10-12)12 October 1906
Died 12 January 1988(1988-01-12) (aged 81)
Formula One World Championship career
Nationality Italy Italian
Active years 19501956
Teams Alfa Romeo, Ferrari, Mercedes-Benz, Maserati, Vanwall
Entries 19 (18 starts)
Championships 0
Wins 1
Podiums 5
Career points 41
Pole positions 0
Fastest laps 1
First entry 1950 Italian Grand Prix
Last entry 1956 Italian Grand Prix

Piero Taruffi (12 October 1906, Albano Laziale – 12 January 1988), was a racing driver from Italy, and also the father of lady racer Prisca Taruffi.

Sports car career

Taruffi began his motorsport career racing motorcycles. He won the 1932 500cc European Championship on a Norton and in 1937 set the motorcycle land speed record at 279.503 km/h (173.68 mph). He won the 1957 Mille Miglia, the last competitive edition of the famous Italian race. Following this tragic race he pledged to his wife, Isabella, that he would never race again. He was 50 years of age.[1] 14 people were killed in the thousand mile auto race of 12 May. Alfonso de Portago crashed into a crowd of spectators at Guidizzolo near Mantua. Portago died along with co-driver, Edmund Nelson, an amateur driver, and 11 race fans.[2]

Taruffi drove a newly introduced 2-litre, 4-cylinder Ferrari, which placed third in the 360 kilometre race Grand Prix de Bari at Bari, Italy, in September 1951. He finished behind Juan Manuel Fangio and Froilán González with a time of 2 hours 58 minutes 40 3/5 seconds.[3] Taruffi and Alberto Ascari participated in the Carrera Panamericana in the mountains of Mexico in November 1951. They placed first and third respectively over the course from Mexico City to León, Guanajuato, a 267-mile (430 km) leg. Taruffi led second-placed Troy Ruttman by more than four minutes. Taruffi trimmed 15 minutes on the Mexico City-Leon leg and another 21 minutes between Leon and Durango. In the process he climbed from 12th to third overall.[4] Taruffi won the race on 25 November, with a time of 21:57:52, over mountains and plains of the southeastern tip of Mexico. He had an average speed of 87.6 mph (140.97 km/h).[5]

Taruffi set a world record for 50 miles (80 km) in an auto of 22[citation needed] cubic centimetre (1.3 in3) displacement in January 1952. He attempted a 100-mile (160 km) record but his motor burned out after 98 miles (158 km).[6] Taruffi was in a two-litre Ferrari for the running of the third Grand Prix de France, in Paris in May 1952. He captured first place with a time of three hours over a distance of 285 miles (459 km). His average speed was 95 mph (153 km/h).[7] Taruffi placed second to Fangio in the 1953 Carrera Panamericana, with a time of 18:18:51 in a Lancia. His time was better than the previous year when he was victorious.[8] In March 1954, Taruffi lost the Florida International Grand Prix with an hour to go, after having led the first three hours, when his Lancia stopped. He pushed it to the pits and team mechanics began working on it with diligence. Taruffi was still out of the car when the O.S.C.A. shared by Stirling Moss and Bill Lloyd crossed the finish line. Taruffi had averaged 81.1 miles (130.5 km) per hour (130.5 km/h) before he retired.[9] Taruffi won the 1,080-kilometre (670 mi) Tour of Sicily in April 1954. His time of 10 hours 24 minutes 37 seconds established a record for an event which opened Italy's sports car racing season. It was 14 years old at the time. He averaged 64.4 miles per hour (103.6 km/h) in a Lancia 3300.[10]

Taruffi and Harry Schell placed fifth overall in the 1955 Florida Grand Prix, driving a Ferrari.[11] Taruffi claimed first place in a Ferrari, at the 1955 Tour of Sicily, with an overall time of 10 hours 11 minutes 19.4 seconds, with an average speed of 105.998 kilometers per hour (65.867 mph).[12] Taruffi dropped out of the 1955 Mille Miglia, when he encountered a broken oil pump on the course north of Rome. He and eventual winner, Stirling Moss, were vying for the lead in the early stages of the race.[13] Cesare Perdisa won by 22 seconds in the 1955 Grand Prix of Imola, driving a two-litre Maserati. Taruffi spun his car into a straw bale at the edge of the track on the first lap. He was uninjured, though his car was damaged, and he was forced to retire from the race.[14] Jean Behra and Taruffi teamed to secure a fifth-place finish in a Maserati at the 1956 12 Hours of Sebring.[15] Taruffi established a world record for Class E cars in June 1956. He raced 100 miles (160 km) in 46 minutes 27.2 seconds, an average of 129.9 miles per hour (209.04 km/h).[16] Also at Monza, Taruffi broke the one hour mark of 212.543 kilometres per hour (132.074 mph). A third record he performed was for 200 kilometres. His time was 53 minutes 14.5 seconds.[17] In the 17th running of the Tour of Sicily, in 1957, Taruffi had a small crash while in pursuit of leader Olivier Gendebien. He touched the wall in Gioiosa Marea but continued in his Maserati. Gendebien won in a Ferrari. The event was marred by the death of J. Olivari who was burned to death when his Maserati hit the a wall in one of the course's 11,000 curves.[18]

Author and patent holder

Taruffi was the author of the book, The Technique of Motor Racing. In November 1957 the Saturday Evening Post published Taruffi's article, Stop us before we kill again. The former racer discussed the 1955 Le Mans and 1957 Mille Miglia races in which drivers and numerous spectators died.[19]

In August 1952 Taruffi protected a racing car design under patent 2,608, 264. The patent had three torpedo-shaped parallel bodies joined together. Independent twin motors and wheels were in the two larger bodies, at left and right. The driver and the passengers sit in the car's central part. The central portion is both higher and smaller than the others. Taruffi commented on the low wind resistance and low centre of gravity of his design.[20]

Formula One

He participated in 18 World Championship Grands Prix, debuting on 3 September 1950. He won one race and scored a total of 41 championship points. He also participated in numerous non-championship Formula One races.

Taruffi drove a Ferrari to victory in the May 1952 Swiss Grand Prix. He led from the start, with the Ferrari of Rudolf Fischer coming in second.[21]


The Piero Taruffi museum is in Bagnoregio, a small town between Viterbo and Orvieto in Central Italy. It has vintage cars and motorbikes of his era.

Stock cars

Taruffi drove a Ford stock car owned by Floyd Clymer of Los Angeles in the 2,000-mile (3,200 km) Pan-American race held in November 1954.[22]

Complete World Championship Grand Prix results

(key) (Races in italics indicate fastest lap)

Year Entrant Chassis Engine 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 WDC Points
1950 SA Alfa Romeo Alfa Romeo 158 Alfa Romeo Straight-8 GBR MON 500 SUI BEL FRA ITA
Ret *
NC 0
1951 Scuderia Ferrari Ferrari 375 F1 Ferrari V12 SUI
500 BEL
6th 10
1952 Scuderia Ferrari Ferrari 500 Ferrari Straight-4 SUI
500 BEL
3rd 22
1954 Scuderia Ferrari Ferrari 625 Ferrari Straight-4 ARG 500 BEL FRA GBR GER
1955 Scuderia Ferrari Ferrari 555 Ferrari Straight-4 ARG MON
8 †
500 BEL
NED 6th 9
Daimler Benz AG Mercedes-Benz W196 Mercedes-Benz
1956 Officine Alfieri Maserati Maserati 250F Maserati Straight-6 ARG MON 500 BEL FRA
Vandervell Products Ltd. Vanwall Vanwall Straight-4 ITA
* Indicates shared drive with Juan Manuel Fangio
† Indicates shared drive with Paul Frère


  1. Raruffi Not to Race Again, New York Times, May 18, 1957, Page 13.
  2. 14 Killed at Race in Italy; Marquis' Car Hits Crowd, New York Times, May 13, 1957, Page 1.
  3. Bari Auto Race To Fangio, New York Times, September 3, 1951, Page 17.
  4. "Taruffi Takes Lead From Ruttman After 1,266 Miles Of Auto Grind", New York Times, November 23, 1951, Page 37.
  5. "Italian Autoists First and Second In 1,933-Mile Pan-American Race", New York Times, November 26, 1951, Page 40.
  6. "Italian Driver Claims Mark", New York Times, January 16, 1952, Page 29.
  7. Taruffi Wins Auto Race, New York Times, May 26, 1952, Page 27.
  8. "Fangio and Stevenson Set Marks As 1,912-Mile Auto Contest Ends", New York Times, November 24, 1953, Page 37.
  9. "Osca First In 12-Hour Contest; Rubirosa's Lancia Home Second", New York Times, March 8, 1954, Page 33.
  10. "Taruffi Wins in Record Time With Lancia As Serious Accidents Mar Race In Sicily", New York Times, April 5, 1954, Page 28.
  11. Jaguar Triumphs In 12-Hour Event, New York Times, March 14, 1955, Page 30.
  12. "Taruffi's Auto First", New York Times, April 4, 1955, Page 36.
  13. "Moss In Mercedes Sets Auto Record", New York Times, May 2, 1955, Page 25.
  14. "Perdisa Defeats Maglioli", New York Times, June 20, 1955, Page 26.
  15. "Fangio's Ferrari Victor At Sebring", New York Times, March 25, 1956, Page S1.
  16. "Taruffi Claims Auto Mark", New York Times, June 22, 1956, Page 26.
  17. "Taruffi Sets 3 Records", New York Times, June 22, 1956, Page 49.
  18. "Belgian Driver Wins Sicily Race Driving Ferrari", Los Angeles Times, April 15, 1957, Page C3.
  19. In This Week's Post, Los Angeles Times, November 12, 1957, Page A12.
  20. 2 New Inventions Make It Tough For Rogues With Nefarious Intent, New York Times, August 30, 1952, Page 17.
  21. Swiss Auto Race To Taruffi, New York Times, May 19, 1952, Page 24.
  22. Italian Auto Driver Arrives, New York Times, November 11, 1954, Page 48.
Sporting positions
Preceded by
Tim Hunt
500cc Motorcycle European Champion
Succeeded by
Gunnar Kalén