Pietro Bordino (1890 - 1928)

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Pietro Bordino (1890 - 1928)

Pietro Bordino
PIETRO BORDINO, probably the finest road-racing driver of his generation, was born in Italy in 1890. In 1904, he was acting as riding mechanic in Fiat racers, accompanying Felice Nazzaro, Vincente Lancia and Ralph DePalma.

By 1908 he had become a competition driver himself, making his debut at the Chateau- Thierry hill-climb. In 1911 he went to England with the giant four-cylinder, 28-litre, 300 bhp Fiat racer, which made a number of high-speed runs at Brooklands.

His career did not start in earnest, however, until 1921, when his twin-ohc Fiat took the lead at the start of the 1921 Brescia Grand Prix and kept it until the fourteenth lap; first tyre troubles and then a broken oil pipe caused his retirement. As it was his first appearance in an international event, Bordino's performance - which included a record lap speed of 96.3 mph - was doubly remarkable.

Already he had established a reputation as a driver whose methods were of a type likely to endear him to every enthusiast who met him, since he believed most firmly in getting the absolute maximum from his car whether it would last or not.

These were the characteristics which marked his performance in the 1922 French Grand Prix at Strasbourg: he left his two team-mates, the veteran Felice Nazzaro and his nephew Biagio, far behind, leading from the second lap.

Valve-stem trouble eliminated his principal rivals, the Sunbeams, and it looked as though the race would be a walkover for Bordino, when two laps from the end his back axle fractured. This was a fault common to all three team cars and had already cost the life, earlier in the race, of young Biagio Nazzaro, although Felice Nazzaro's car lasted the distance to win.

The opening of the new Monza Autodrome in September 1922 provided Bordino with two sensational victories, the first in the 373-mile Voiturette Grand Prix, in which he led a 1-2-3-4 Fiat victory at a speed of 83.25 mph, followed a week later by a clear-cut victory in the first European Grand Prix, his winning speed being 86.90 mph, with a fastest lap of 91.3 mph.

On the twisting Tours circuit used for the 1923 French GP, Bordino set up the fastest lap (85.6 mph) in practice, and then eclipsed this in a shattering burst of speed with an 87.18 mph opening lap and led for the first eight laps until the supercharger on his Fiat swallowed flying stones and choked.

The European GP at Monza brought deeper disappointment: a stub-axle broke in Bordino's car during practice, killing his passenger, Giaccone, and injuring Bordino to such an extent that his new mechanic had to shift gears for him during the race. Even so, he led for more than half the distance, until a violent skid, caused by the loss of a rear tyre tread, prompted him to retire.

Pietro Bordino in the car that he raced in the 1922 Italian Grand Prix
Pietro Bordino in the car that he raced in the 1922 Italian Grand Prix to lead home a Fiat 1-2-3-4.

Bordino and his mechanic Felice Nazzaro in the supercharged 1½-litre  Fiat on the 1924 Targa Florio
Bordino and his mechanic Felice Nazzaro in the supercharged 1½-litre
Fiat on the 1924 Targa Florio.

He opened the 1924 season with fourth place in the Targa Florio, even though his little It-litre supercharged Fiat was quite the wrong car for the Madonie circuit. He fainted on the fourth lap and Nazzaro had to finish the race for him.

He soon went into the lead in the 1924 French Grand Prix at Lyon, and put up a magnificent performance until brake failure put his car out. It was the high point of his career. He managed tenth place at Indianapolis in 1925, but the new 1926-7 1½-litre GP formula was not to his liking, and he made few appearances, although he won the 1927 GP of Milan at Monza with the new type 806 V-12 Fiat.

Soon after this, Fiat finally withdrew from racing. Bordino changed to a Type 35 Bugatti, with which he took seventh place in the three-litre class of the 1928 Mille Miglia, but shortly afterwards, while practising on the Targa Florio circuit in Italy, he collided with a large dog, which jammed the steering, causing him to crash fatally. Not only was he a fine driver, he was an exceedingly pleasant rival, recalled his obituary.

Only a few days after Bordino's death the first Coppa Pietro Bordino race was run over the Allesandria circuit. This turned out to be the first major victory for the driver who was to replace Bordino in the affection of Italian motor racing fans - Tazio Nuvolari.
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