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Dorino Serafini, Enzo Ferrari and the Zenith Chronograph

Discussion in 'Vintage (thru 365 GTC4)' started by arezzo, Nov 7, 2016.

  1. arezzo

    arezzo Formula Junior

    Jul 29, 2003
    699
    Kuwait
    Full Name:
    SH
    Valentino Rossi is considered to be one of the greatest and most successful motorcycle racers of all time, entering the sport in his father’s footsteps, both being born in the Marche Region of Italy.

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    There is something special about the Marche region that most people are not aware of, besides being an exceedingly beautiful and unspoilt part of Italy, it has been producing Racing Champion drivers and riders for over a 100 years. Many played an integral part in the history of Scuderia Ferrari, names such as Piero Bucci, Luigi Scarfiotti, Luigi ***ioli, Lodovico Scarfiotti and Gianni Morbidelli.

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    Therefore it is not a surprise there was a predecessor from the Marche region to Valentino Rossi who was just as famous and successful as him in his heyday but his name has been lost to time and history.

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    Dorino Serafini born 22nd of July 1909, was also a son of the Marche region, Motorbike European Champion of 1939, the survivor of Two World Wars, one of the first members of the Ferrari Formula 1 World Championship Team along with Ascari and Villoresi, who finished second in five of the seven Formula One Grand Prix he participated, the Rock on which Enzo Ferrari built his Scuderia Ferrari racing team in the 1950 and 1951 racing seasons and a life time friend and confidante of the Il Commendatore.

    The Two Wheel Racing Years

    Between the Marche region’s city of Pesaro and the city of Modena in the Emilia-Romagna region was full of young men making machines with wheels and laying the foundations of the Italian motor industry. For many of them, racing was not just an enjoyable new sport but a way of proving the commercial value of their creations. Signor Serafini's passion for motorcycles was inherited by the young Dorino and further fuelled by the presence in Pesaro of the Benelli family. The five Benelli brothers ,Tonino, Francesco, Giuseppe, Filippo and Mimo, were building formidable little 175cc bikes, which Tonino rode to a number of local victories.

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    It was on a Benelli that Serafini made his racing debut in the 1928 Circuit of Rimini, a few kilometres up the coast from his home, recording the fastest time. He stayed faithful to his hometown manufacturer for the next four years but it was on MM machines, built by the Bolognese firm of Morini and Massetti, that he became Italian national champion in the 175cc

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    In 1935 he moved up to the 500cc class, the motorcycling equivalent of Formula One, joining the Bianchi team, whose promotional department made the most of his victory in the Circuit of Lario by printing special literature to draw attention to the speed and efficiency of their machines - recognisable by the pale blue of their paintwork. In the saddle of Bianchi's freccia celeste (blue arrow), Serafini also won the 1936 Coppa Acerbo at Pescara and the 1937 Circuito del Giardini Margherita in Bologna.

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    Such was his reputation that in 1938 the two most successful teams in Italy, Guzzi and Gilera, competed for his services, the latter making the winning bid with the offer of a salary of 2,000 lire a month.

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    In his first season on the four-cylinder machines, Serafini's victories in the grands prix of Sweden, Germany and Ulster gave him the title of European champion ahead of his main rival, the BMW rider Georg Maier of Germany. At the time being the European Champion was the equivalent of being the World Champion and Dorino Serafini became a mega star and household name across the continent.

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    During World War 2 Serafini’s village was surrounded and then invaded by German forces that were searching house to house for rebels, upon reaching his house they saw a picture of him standing on the highest podium after a race in Germany as he was receiving his award. Such was his legend and fame that the commanding officer decided to withdraw from the village thus sparing his family and neighbours.

    Entry into Four Wheel Racing

    At the ripe old age of 38 Dorino Serafini started dabbling with racing elegant little Cisitalia single-seaters built in large numbers by Piero Dusio to help speed the rebirth of Italian motor sport.

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    Serafini’s first major race was in March 1947, the El Gizera Grand Prix in Egypt where 16 Cisitalia D46 would compete for the solid gold Sehab Almaz Bey Trophy. Although he came third in his qualifying heat in the final race he was only able to come last with Franco Cortese winning the Trophy and Alberto Ascari coming second.

    [ame]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uUNEND-Ex10[/ame]

    In July of 1947 that year, on two consecutive weekends, he took the wheel of a Cisitalia D46 and took part in the Circuito di Caracalla on the Circuito delle Terme di Caracalla (a race in the park around the Baths of Caracalla in Rome), Coupe de Petites Cylindrées at Reims and in the IX Grand Prix de l'Albigeois, at Albi. Details are scarce, but he retired in all three races. Not a particularly successful start.

    Although Serafini was known by his peers for his laid back charm, a calming disposition in a chaotic sport and easy smile but at his core he was a competitive champion and kept persevering forward.

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    In August he was entered by Scuderia Milan in one of their Maseratis 4CL for the XIII Grand Prix de Comminges at St Gaudens. His performance was amazing and he led the race from the start, setting the fastest lap in the early stages. However when he suddenly discovered that the steering wheel and column were no longer attached to anything other than his hands his race came to an abrupt halt, hitting a tree head-on. Seriously injured, braking his ribs, arms and legs as well as suffering burns, he was given little chance of survival.

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    However he not only recovered but by the end of 1948 he was back racing making the final round of the F2 season as part of the Maserati works team with Ascari and Villoresi. He also drove a four-seater Healey Elliott with Lurani to second place in class in the Tour of Sicily, which was not a bad effort considering that the car was relatively standard and was only collected from the factory in England and driven across Europe to Sicily a few days before the race, and he won the Circuito del Garda sports car race at the wheel of a factory OSCA 1100.

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    He won the Giro delle Calabrie in an OSCA driving with Alberico Cacciari and also drove an OSCA in F2 races. On the 30th October during the Gran Premio Automovilista de Madrid, held on the Ciudad Universitaria street circuit, he lost control of his OSCA and crashed into the crowd, sadly killing a spectator.

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    In 1949 the team Ambrosiana entered a Frazer-Nash High Speed for the Giro di Sicilia with Dorino Serafini as driver and Rudi Heller as co-driver. Serafini led the whole race for more than half distance and then skidded into a kerb and bent the steering, which caused his retirement, but the car had shown its capabilities in rugged mountain racing.

    Following this, the pair took part in the Mille Miglia but neither Frazer-Nash figured in the running. On 25 September 1949, Serafini and his OSCA won the Giro delle Calabrie.

    Scuderia Ferrari

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    Impressed with his wins at the Giro delle Calabrie and the Circuit of Garda Enzo Ferrari decided to offer Serafini the chance to be the third driver at Scuderia Ferrari along with Alberto Ascari and Luigi Villoresi at the end of 1949 for the 1950 Season.

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    As a full member of the Scuderia, he also raced single-seaters, starting with an inauspicious retirement on the first lap, after qualifying last on the Gran Premio di San Remo in April, where he drove a 125. In the Mille Miglia he drove a Ferrari 195S Barchetta Touring with Ettore Salani. It rained for virtually the whole race and Serafini got a serious soaking in the open Ferrari, on his way to a very creditable second behind Giannino Marzotto in a closed Ferrari coupé. Just to make Serafini feel even wetter at the finish must have been the sight of Marzotto who drove the whole race in a double breasted suit.

    [ame]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BbM2IP56z5w[/ame]

    Before getting the taste of the F1 car again, he is charged with a 166 in several F2 races (Modena and Monza in May and Angoulème -partnering Sommer - in June). Only Monza would bring some satisfaction, as Serafini finished second to Villoresi in his heat and completed a Ferrari 1-2-3 in the Final with Ascari completing the picture. At Le Mans he drove with Sommer but failed to finish due to electrical problems in a Luigi Chinetti entered Ferrari. Then he was back at the seat of the 125 for the IV Gran Premio de Bari in July, where he finished a distant 7th. Next stop was the Nürburgring for the German Grand Prix, run to F2 regulations in 1950. Serafini qualified very well (3rd) but would retire with a broken gearbox on lap 6. And then finally the new 166F2/50 appeared. Its debut came later in July, at the III Prix de Geneva. Although the Simca-Gordinis of Trintignant and Simon took a convincing first and second place, Serafini finished third on the podium with the new car.

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    He finished second behind Alberto Ascari’s similar 166 MM in the Daily Express Trophy race at Silverstone on August 26. That year Dorino won the Giro di Toscana and the Giro di Calabria.

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    The Grand Prix des Nations at Geneva had marked the first appearance of the 4.1-litre Ferrari, and, driven by Ascari, gave the Alfa Romeo team their biggest fright for some time; the car lying second for 62 of the 68 laps before retiring with water pouring from an exhaust pipe. Villoresi also did well in the 3.3-litre car but had the misfortune of spinning on some oil and sustaining injuries in the resulting crash.

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    With Villoresi unable to recover in time for the Italian Grand Prix, Enzo Ferrari decided to offer Serafini his debut at the Italian Grand Prix at Monza in the final race counting towards the World Championship. At some point there were talks of Sommer actually driving the car, but luckily for Serafini those ended in nothing.

    1950 Italian Grand Prix

    Scuderia Ferrari entered two cars with new engines bored out to 4494cc for Ascari and Dorino Serafini, a stand-in for a convalescent Villoresi (broken leg). The works cars were supported by the private 125 of Peter Whitehead. Alfa Romeo entered no less than five cars were for Farina (a modified 159), Fangio, ***ioli, Taruffi and Sanesi. The Farina car had a new 159-type engine. The usual Lago-Talbot, Maserati, ERA, Simca Gordini and a special Jaguar-engined Ferrari F2 completed the entry list.

    The front row was made up of pole-sitter Fangio, Ascari and two other Alfas driven by Farina and Sanesi. On the second row, we found ***ioli, Serafini, Taruffi and the first Talbot, driven by Raymond Sommer, who died one week later.

    [ame]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZqSeew2rkrQ[/ame]

    As the flag fell the Alfas easily outgunned Ascari but he fought back valiantly to keep himself in second place by the end of the first lap, ahead of the leader Farina. On the seventh lap Fangio set the fastest time of the race and on lap 14 Ascari took Farina only to be retaken two laps later. By now Sanesi had retired leaving Fangio in a comfortable third place, biding his time. On lap 22 Ascari's Ferrari broke its rear axle, while two laps later Fangio lost his gearbox. Fangio took over fellow team mate Taruffi’s car.

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    Enzo Ferrari asked Serafini to hand over the No. 48 to his team mate Ascari, who continued to chase Farina who had by now extended his lead. Before leaving his car to Ascari, Serafini was sixth. Fangio was again forced to retire, this time with engine problems on lap 34. Despite making a second fuel stop Farina coasted home some almost a minute and a half ahead of Ascari to take the chequered flag and the first world title. The Lago-Talbots of Sommer, Étancelin and Rosier completed the first six.

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    Enzo Ferrari was really delighted by the performance of his third driver and his sense of team spirit and cooperation.

    Enzo's Gift

    To reward Dorino Serafini for his loyalty and dedication Enzo Ferrari presented him with this Zenith Chronograph watch with the Scuderia Ferrari logo on the dial.

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    Not only is the watch one of the most elegant ever gifted by Enzo Ferrari it is also highly unusual in comparison with other watches he has gifted over the years. The Scuderia Ferrari Logo in Yellow on the dial might be the only one of its type on a watch ordered by Enzo and given as a gift, making it even more special.

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    Enzo Ferrari was further reassured by his performances in October. First, on the Circuito del Garda, he followed Ascari to finish second in the last F2 race of the season. A fortnight later, the whole team travelled to Barcelona to take part in the X Gran Premio de Penya Rhin, at Pedralbes. Serafini qualified second and finished second again to Ascari.

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    Over that winter he visited Argentina to participate in the Temporada series, meeting President Juan Perón and his wife Evita, who supported of motor racing in their country. On January 8th 1950 he finished second in the Gran Premio Maria Eva Duarte Peron on the Palermo Park circuit in Buenos Aires. On his return he and the other Italian drivers who had made the trip, among them Ascari, Farina, Gigi Villoresi and Piero Taruffi, were received by Pope Pius XII in a special audience.

    The year 1950 had yielded nine podium finishes for Serafini. The two wins on the Giros, a second in the Mille Miglia, three more second places in Formula One races, and two thirds in Formula 2. Surely what was expected of a Ferrari driver, so he was retained by the Scuderia for 1951.

    1951 Season

    The 1951 season started in March with the Gran Premio di Siracusa. Serafini drove a 212, qualifying in third spot and finishing second to Villoresi: his third second place in succession in a Formula One race.

    [ame]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LZZPNEeQuUM[/ame]

    On Easter Monday, which in the 1950s meant Pau and Dorino again qualified third, once more at the wheel of the 212, he experienced problems during the race, had to stop to change plugs and finally retired on lap 49.

    On April 8, Dorino qualified his usual 166/50 in third spot for the IX Grand Prix de Marseille, run to F2 rules. Villoresi won the race, and Serafini finished in fifth position. On April 22 he finally got his hands on a 375 for the VI Gran Premio di San Remo. Performing as usual, he qualified the car fourth and, you might guess, finished second yet again, this time to Ascari.

    Next on the agenda was the Mille Miglia and, of course, after the performance in 1950 and the experience accumulated during the year, the combination Serafini-Ferrari was favourite for the win. Chronicles recall that in Martinsicuro, in the region of Abruzzo, the Ferrari had a brake fade and Serafini had to make an emergency move to avoid hitting a house. It was too late, and car and driver disappeared into the bottom of a steep riverbank. Thankfully, Serafini was alive - obviously one of his specialties! - but as in 1947, seriously hurt. This time though, that ditch signaled the end of his racing career, and he would have to suffer a lengthy and painful recovery process involving several operations over the years.

    By 1954 he tried to make a comeback, now at the wheel of his Lancia on the Brescia-Roma-Brescia race. He won the GT class and finished seventh overall, but had probably decided that his racing days were over.

    He continued in the coming years with Ferrari as a Brand Ambassador and worked with Ferrari in Sales and Marketing, helping new clients discover the special benefits of owning a Ferrari. He remained close with Enzo Ferrari, often invited for lunch to discuss various issues.

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    In February 1961 Ferrari sold Dorino Serafini a 250 GT SWB Berlinetta Competizione in Red and Brown interior which he used in some competitive events and to bring in wealthy clients to Ferrari.

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    In his retirement he became a regular visitor to commemorative events, most notably at Ferrari's 40th anniversary in 1988 along with Surtees, Regazzoni, Trintignant, Berger and many others.

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    For his 90th Birthday a huge party was arranged in Piazza del Popolo in Pesaro complete with the mayor and a crowd that filled the square with cars and motorcycles. He still seemed strong and full of life. In 2000, a few weeks after his 91st birthday, he decided to undergo surgery to remove a lung tumor. Postoperative complications did not give a chance to the old Hero.

    On July 5th, 2000, Dorino Serafini died peacefully in a hospital in his hometown of Pesaro. The man who was to be a steadying influence within Scuderia Ferrari, the motorbike European Champion of 1939, the survivor of two World Wars and two frightening accidents, the man who finished second in five of the seven Formula One Grands Prix he participated in, that man now rests in peace. God bless him.

    ******************

    Special Thanks and Credit: Mattijs Diepraam & 8W - Who? - Dorino Serafini, Franco Andreatini, barchetta.cc, Google Images, historicracing.com, cma43.com, jmfangio.org, Wikipedia, formula2.net, formulapassion.it, notey.com, The Guardian, All the Images in this post are not mine and belong to their respective owners.
     
  2. damian in nj

    damian in nj Formula Junior

    Aug 24, 2009
    709
    That's a terrific example of a chronograph with the 'telephone' markers on the minute recording subdial.
     
  3. merstheman

    merstheman F1 Rookie

    Apr 13, 2007
    3,554
    São Paulo, Brazil
    Full Name:
    Mario
    I just want to know how the pics were integrated into the text. I though it wasn't possible to do that on FChat.

    Awesome story, beautiful watch, thanks for the post!
     
  4. 246tasman

    246tasman Formula 3

    Jun 21, 2007
    1,424
    UK
    Full Name:
    Will Tomkins
    Telephone markers? - please explain more, thanks.
     
  5. damian in nj

    damian in nj Formula Junior

    Aug 24, 2009
    709
    If you view the 45 minute subdial you'll see the markings at 3, 6, and 9 minutes are printed longer. This was done in the days of pay phones, when your coin would purchase 3 minutes of talking time-so you'd start the chronograph when you paid your coin, then you would know when your time was about to expire-so you'd know to finish your conversation, or add another coin to buy another 3 minutes!
     
  6. arezzo

    arezzo Formula Junior

    Jul 29, 2003
    699
    Kuwait
    Full Name:
    SH
    Very cool! never knew that, thanks for explanation.

     
  7. miurasv

    miurasv F1 Veteran

    Nov 19, 2008
    7,316
    Cardiff, UK
    Full Name:
    Steven Robertson
  8. bellabarbas

    bellabarbas Formula Junior

    Dec 28, 2008
    666
    Italy
    Full Name:
    Corrado
    I met Serafini in the summer 1994 in his small house in Pesaro. After the incident at the 1951 MM, she told me that all his earnings went spent with the Rizzoli Orthopedic Institute, in Bologna, to try to improve the situation of his leg.
    In the following years he had lived with the earnings of its Methane station for cars. The SWB article was definitely registered in his name, similarly the GTO were recorded in many of the Ferrari mechanics industry.
     
  9. arezzo

    arezzo Formula Junior

    Jul 29, 2003
    699
    Kuwait
    Full Name:
    SH
    Fantastic! You are so lucky you met him, if you know more please tell us, the information regarding his life post 1960s is not easy to find. Also about his thoughts about his career, the racing lifestyle, his relationship with Enzo. Would appreciate more of your insight.

    Grazie,

    S

     

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