Wednesday, February 28, 2018

Mario & Aldo Andretti Born In Montona, Italy - February 28, 1940

February 28, 1940
Mario  & Aldo Andretti
Born in Montona d'Istria, Italy
American racing legend Mario Andretti, and twin brother Aldo, were born in Italy, where they were inspired by watching the great Alberto Ascari race at Monza. After World War II Istria was occupied and annexed by Yugoslavia. His family, like many other Italian Istrians, fled in 1948. They lived in a refugee camp from 1948 to 1955. The family settled in Nazareth, Pennsylvania and the brothers discovered racing on an oval track in their home town.

Mario and Aldo were surprised to find a half-mile dirt racing track when they moved to Nazareth. The twins rebuilt a 1948 Hudson Hornet into a Sportsman modified in 1959, funded by money that they earned in their uncle's garage in 1959.
They flipped a coin to see who would race in the first race. Aldo won the coin toss, the heat race and the feature. They took turns racing and each had two wins after the first four weeks. They did not tell their parents that they were racing. Aldo was seriously hurt near the end of the season, and their parents were unhappy to find out that the twins were racing. Aldo fractured his skull, he recovered from his coma, and returned the following season.

Aldo continued racing on the USAC and IMCA circuits, but in 1969 Aldo suffered severe damage to his face after crashing into a fence, and quit racing. His face had 14 fractures to his facial bones. Mario described the accident in his book What's it like out there: "Aldo continued racing until August 17, 1969, when he had an accident, which was not his fault, in an IMCA sprint race at Des Moines, Iowa. He was driving a sprint car that I had bought for him."

In a career that spanned five decades, Mario would go on to becoming a International star. Known for his versatility as a driver, he is one of only two drivers to win races in Formula One, IndyCar, World Sportscar Championship and NASCAR (the other being Dan Gurney). He also won races in midget cars, and sprint cars, and the "Pikes Peak International Hill Climb". During his career, Mario won the 1978 Formula One World Championship, four IndyCar titles, and IROC VI. To date, he remains the only driver ever to win the Indianapolis 500 (1969), Daytona 500 (1967) and the Formula One World Championship, and, along with Juan Pablo Montoya, the only driver to have won a race in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series, Formula One, and an Indianapolis 500. No American has won a Formula One race since Andretti's victory at the 1978 Dutch Grand Prix. Mario had 109 career wins on major circuits.

Mario had a long career in racing. He was the only person to be named United States Driver of the Year in three decades (1967, 1978, and 1984). He was also one of only three drivers to win races on road courses, paved ovals, and dirt tracks in one season, a feat that he accomplished four times. With his final Indy Car win in April 1993, Andretti became the first driver to win Indy Car races in four different decades and the first to win automobile races of any kind in five.
Aldo is the father of John Andretti and Adam Andretti. Both of Mario Andretti's sons, Michael and Jeff, were Indy Car racers. Michael followed in his father's footsteps by winning the Indy Car title. With John joining the series in 1988, this meant that the Andretti's became the first family, to have four relatives compete in the same series.

Another note of interest, Aldo would come out of retirement in 1986 to compete in the Budweiser 24 Hours of Mosport, co-driving with Canadian Motorsport Hall of Fame legend Horst Kroll and Anthony Cesaroni. For myself, the weekend presented one of my most memorable times in my motorsport career. Since my early years I cheered Mario on, during the weekly clips on Wide World of Sports. The evening before the race, Horst and myself spent the evening in Aldo's motor home, joined by John Andretti, listening to my hero's twin brother, tell their family history. What more could a guy from small town Nova Scotia ask?

For more; The Mario Andretti Story
Part One; The Early Years
Part Two; The Champ Car & Indy Years
Part Three; The Formula One Years
Part Four; The Later Years

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