Tuesday, May 15, 2018

Elio de Angelis Dies From Testing Injuries - May 15, 1986

March 26, 1958 - May 15, 1986 
Elio de Angelis
(Photo; en.wikipedia.org)
Born in Rome, Italy.
De Angelis father Giulio was a noted inshore and offshore powerboat racer, who won many championships in the 1960s and 1970s. After a brief spell with karts, Elio went on to win the Italian Formula Three Championship in 1977. In 1978 he raced in Formula Two for Minardi and then for the ICI British F2 Team, he also competed in one round of the British Formula One championship and won the prestious Monaco F3 race.

His debut Formula One season was in 1979 with Shadow. In 1980 he switched to Lotus, and at the age of 21, nearly became the youngest Grand Prix winner of all time when he finished a tantalising second at the Brazilian Grand Prix, run at the very demanding and difficult 5-mile Interlagos circuit.

His first victory came in the 1982 Austrian Grand Prix at the Österreichring, only 0.05 seconds ahead of the Williams of eventual 1982 World Champion Keke Rosberg. The win was the last hailed by Colin Chapman's famous act of throwing his cloth cap into the air. Chapman died in December that year and Peter Warr became the new Lotus team manager.

De Angelis was a competitive and highly popular presence in Formula One during the 1980s, and is sometimes referred to as Formula One's "last gentleman player". He was killed in an accident while testing the Brabham BT55 at the Paul Ricard circuit, near the commune of Le Castellet, France, in 1986.

During tests, the rear wing of de Angelis' BT55 detached at high speed resulting in the car losing downforce on the rear wheels, which instigated a cartwheel over a sidetrack barrier, causing the car to catch fire. The impact itself did not kill de Angelis but he was unable to extract himself from the car unassisted. The situation was exacerbated by the lack of track marshals on the circuit who could have provided him with emergency assistance. A 30 minute delay ensued before a helicopter arrived and de Angelis died 29 hours laterat the hospital in Marseille, from smoke inhalation. His actual crash impact injuries were only a broken collar bone and light burns on his back.

The French-Italian driver Jean Alesi, who broke into the sport in 1989, wore a helmet that matched de Angelis' design, in tribute to his semi-compatriot.

De Angelis was also a concert-standard pianist, and famously kept his fellow Formula One drivers entertained with his skills while they locked themselves in a Johannesburg hotel before the 1982 South African Grand Prix at Kyalami when the Grand Prix Drivers Association held a strike in protest at the new superlicense conditions imposed by the governing body, FISA.

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