Italy’s Garagistes

The word garagiste refers to the great Enzo Ferrari’s hatred of the multitude of talented, but small, Formula 1 teams that were emerging out of Britain in the late 50’s and early 60’s. The term meant that the likes of Lotus, Cooper and the reborn BRM were basically garage workers (grease monkeys in less formal parlance) compared to the engineering might of his Scuderia Ferrari. These teams didn’t produce their own engines or other ancillaries (aside from BRM), specialising mostly in light, nimble chassis.

With the success of the ‘British way’ of going F1 racing proven by the early 60’s, it became the template for others around the world to do so as well, even in Italy, where Ferrari were sacred and Maserati and Alfa Romeo were big presences in motorsport overall, despite no longer being in Formula 1 itself.

ATS – Automobili Turismo e Sport (1963)


The underwhelming ATS car

The first kind of example of a garagiste Grand Prix team emerging from Italy was actually born from a revolutionary group of engineers who had become frustrated at Scuderia Ferrari. Automobili Turismo e Sport (ATS) was formed by 8 disgruntled members of the sacred Maranello squad, including the designers of the all-conquering ‘Sharknose’ Ferrari 156 of 1961, which had been the first rear-engined car (though somewhat outdated in other areas) to be made by the team and clinched both Drivers and Constructors championships in 61 with relative ease, the money and power of Ferrari fighting back against the British upstarts. The ATS company had been formed to take on Old Man Ferrari at his own game, with a road car in the works to support their Grand Prix efforts in the same manner their previous employers used to such success. They were backed by the Italian Count Giovanni di Volpi, and had lured ex-Ferrari drivers Phil Hill and Giancarlo Baghetti to their stable, both having had a disappointing 1962 campaign due to the loss of the top engineers that were now at ATS. Things seemed to be looking good…

Carlo Chiti had designed a car and V8 engine (unlike most garagistes, the Italians still sought to build their own units at this time), and had claimed that the team could even take on Ferrari in it’s first season! They missed the first race of the 1963 season at Monaco, but appeared at Spa with their car looking rather small and rather simple compared to the finely polished machinery both Ferrari and the British teams were turning up with. The car’s body was particularly petite, with a large wind deflector fitted to accomodate a driver properly, and the chassis itself had to be sawn and re-welded if an engine change were needed. This didn’t seem like the work of ex-Ferrari men like Chiti, Bizzarini and others. Phil Hill, the 1961 champion, couldn’t muster better than 17th place on the grid at Spa, 12.5 seconds (even on the old Spa this was a large time gap) off Graham Hill’s BRM on pole. Both cars retired with gearbox problems in the race. Each race afterwards was a litany of embarrassments and problems, the cars either finishing miles behind the leaders, or not finishing at all. The team gave up the struggle after the season ended, aided by the withdrawal of Count Volpi’s cash earlier in the year. The team had two finishes to it’s name, an 11th and 15th at the Italian Grand Prix at Monza.

Tecno Racing Team (1972-73)


The Tecno PA123 of Nanni Galli

The Tecno team was another early foray into non-manufacturer Italian F1 efforts. The Pederzani brothers had started their motorsport business building karts in Bologna in the early 60’s, and had progressed through the decade onto building single-seater cars, mainly for Formula 3 (with some success) and Formula 2 (their chassis was good enough for Clay Regazzoni to win the 1970 Formula 2 championship in one). The next step was clearly Formula 1, and Count Gregorio Rossi (of the Martini & Rossi drinks label) approached the brothers with a sponsorship package to enter F1 with. Luciano Pederzani designed both the chassis and the Flat-12 engine (still keeping the all-under-one-roof philosophy of the big Italian stables), which was based on the Ferrari units, ready for the 1972 season. Driving would be Italian Nanni Galli, sharing his drive with Brit Derek Bell. The car first appeared at the 5th race of the 72 season, at Nivelles in Belgium. Galli qualified the car 24th (alongside one Niki Lauda in a March), but retired with 30 laps to go after an accident. The 1972 season then continued with either retirements or non-qualification for Galli and Bell, with the car not proving terribly reliable either on the chassis or the engine side. Even Ron Tauranac, the famous Brabham owner/engineer now freelancing after selling the team, couldn’t make any significant improvements to the car.

The Pederzani brothers set about hiring an outside designer, Alan McCall, to work on the 1973 car. However, in a very strange situation even for F1 standards, so did the team’s sponsor Count Rossi, who commissioned a car from Gordon Fowell, along with hiring Chris Amon to drive and David Yorke to manage the team. This left the team with two distinctly different cars being developed for the coming season, and a rift in the management structure, between the founding Pederzani brothers, and their sponsor/sponsor-appointed staff. Both cars were used to little effect over the 1973 season, with Amon collecting the team’s only championship point in the McCall-designed car at the Belgian Grand Prix. By Austria Amon had had enough and left the tea, which subsequently folded afterwards. The Martini sponsorship went to Brabham, and Amon then setup his own team for 1974, which went about as well as the Tecno effort!

Osella Squadra Corse (1980-90)

The 1983 Osella FA1D

Now Osella are a true garagiste team, never building their own engines (though in 1988 they bought Alfa’s old engines and badged them Osellas), and were a perennial struggler in Formula 1 despite earlier successes in sportscar racing. They went from rubbish sponsor to rubbish sponsor, were always a candidate for not qualifying, and ran some of the poorer drivers to make it to F1 in the 80’s. In 132 entries they scored points but twice, and I’ll document those races for you.

The first of Osella’s points-scoring races came under a cloud of political tension within Formula 1. FOCA (Formula One Constructors Association), an organisation run by Bernie Ecclestone and mainly representing the British privateer teams such as Williams, Brabham, Lotus and McLaren, was in a battle against the governing body FISA (now the FIA) and the teams loyal to them (Ferrari, Renault, Alfa Romeo… the manufacturer teams) over percieved bias towards the works squads by FISA over the independent teams. This war came to a head over a decision made in the 1982 Brazilian Grand Prix to disqualify the Brabham of Nelson Piquet and the Williams of Keke Rosberg for their cunning (but not illegal by the letter of the law) use of water tanks as disposable ballast in the race, meaning that they could fill the tanks at the start and end of races to pass the weight rules, but empty the tanks when the car was actually racing. This decision wasn’t actually past until the next race in the US had finished, so in their outcry over the percieved wrongdoing done to the FOCA teams, Ecclestone called for a FOCA boycott of the next race in Imola.

By the race weekend itself, the only teams confirmed as started were Ferrari, Renault and Alfa Romeo. However, the smaller teams within FOCA: Osella, Toleman, ATS (not THAT ATS from above, a German team with the same initials) and Tyrrell, saw an opportunity to score some vital points in a depleted field race (in a time where unreliablilty was common), and broke the boycott to start the race. Naturally the Renault’s and Ferrari’s led the race at the start, with only Alboreto’s Tyrrell as real company (the Alfa’s retired early on with car troubles). But first Prost’s Renault expired with engine trouble, and then polesitter Arnoux retired on lap 44. Out of the manufacturer teams, only the Ferraris remained, along with one Tyrrell (Alboreto), one Osella (Jean-Pierre Jarier), one ATS (Eliseo Salazar) and one Toleman (Teo Fabi). The high attrition of a hot San Marino Grand Prix had taken it’s toll on the small field, and left those remaining with a great shot at points provided they could finish within a classified time. A lap down, but crucially two laps ahead of his nearest rival, Jarier managed to get his Osella over the line in 4th place, scoring his team a not inconsiderable 3 points.

Naturally, the team’s second and last points finish also came in a race of high attrition, though at least in this case it was starting with a full compliment of cars. This race was the infamous Dallas Grand Prix of 1984, so known for it’s searing heat causing cars and drivers to retire over the course of it’s 67 laps. The circuit was a temporary concoction set in Dallas’ Fair Park, creating a fiery combination of concrete and Texas heat, yet the race went as normal despite the 40 degree heat. Throughout the whole weekend the newly-laid, but poor quality, track had been breaking up due to the heat and the cars dragging it up with their big turbo engines. The race would see this worsen.

Mansell led at the start in his Lotus, as cars behind him were either spinning off on the rough track that was changing lap-by-lap, or encountering mechanical maladies because of the heat. For a while 5 cars were running as a leading group (Mansell, De Angelis, Lauda, Rosberg, Prost), each waiting for a mistake or drop in performance. Rosberg had invested in a special skull-cap cooling system and was considerably more hydrated than his rivals, and made his way gradually past the drivers infront along with Prost, who then assumed the lead and attempted to build a lead with 20 or so laps to go, in the hope that anyone trying to close down the gap afterwards would be too tired or their car too ill to do so, but in doing so he clipped a wall on lap 57 of 67 and damaged a wheel rim, conceding the lead to Rosberg, who went on the win the race. Amidst all the action upfront, the Osella of Piercarlo Ghinzani had been steadily making his way through the race, keeping his car on the crumbly road and passing the stricken cars of rivals wasting away in the heat. In 6th place, 2 laps down and with the leaders coming on to finish their last tour of the circuit, Ghinzani passed the Lotus of Mansell, who had resorted to pushing his car towards the line after experiencing late gearbox troubles, to finish 5th and score 2 points for his team. Mansell would then famously collapse in heat exhaustion after pushing his Lotus over the finish line, in 40 degree heat whilst wearing all his fireproof clothing and his helmet. Meanwhile Rosberg had literally kept his head cool and scored his only win of 1984.

Here is a link to the Dallas race:


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