April 26, 2001

Michele Alboreto (1956-2001)
By: George Achorn & Chuck Macak

Many knew him as a successful driver for Ferrari in F1 or as a Le Mans winner for Porsche. Audiphiles knew him as one of the select works drivers for Audi's dominating R8 factory team. Those lucky enough to have attended the Monterrey Historic Automobile Races in 1999 might even remember him simply as the gentlemanly driver who refused to rocket his matte black Audi R8 past a multi-million dollar Auto Union Type C silver arrow, creating awe and one heck of a photo opportunity for those in attendance.

However one might remember him, Audiphile and motorsport buff alike knew Michele Alboreto as a highly effective racecar driver with an easygoing demeanor and a kind smile.

Earlier today, while test driving the newest version of the Audi R8 racing sportscar on the Lausitzring in Saxony, Germany, Michele Alboreto was killed when his vehicle went off the track and rolled.

Dr Wolfgang Ullrich, head of Audi Sport, described the accident in an early statement as an "incomprehensible tragedy".

At this early time, the cause of Alboreto's accident is still somewhat unclear. In preparation for the 2001 season, this newest evolution of the R8 had already logged thousands of kilometers in testing on numerous circuits without any problems.

In an interview shortly after the accident, Dr. Ullrich stated, "We will do everything in our power to find the reason for this accident. But right now our thoughts and condolences are with Michele´s wife Nadia, his two daughters, and his whole family."

Michele Alboreto was born in Milan, Italy on December 23, 1956. At the age of 44, Alboreto had lead a long and storied racing career. Michele began his professional racing career in 1977 racing European Formula 3. Two years later he won the European F3. In 1981 Michele got his big break into Formula 1 when Tyrrell brought him aboard. It did not take him long to win his first Grand Prix the following year at Las Vegas, and a second the next year at Detroit, he was well on his way to making a name for himself.

In 1984 he moved to Legendary Ferrari and showed the world he had what it takes to win races. Michele logged 3 wins while racing with Ferrari. Belgium ('84), Canada ('85) and Germany ('85). He finished second in the World Drivers Championship to Alain Prost in '85.

Upon learning of Alboreto's death, Ferrari president Luca Montezemolo said, "Michele Alboreto played an important role as a driver in the history of Ferrari. He was intelligent, and paid a great deal of attention to the technical problems involved in the development of the car. His death has been a hard blow to take, and has filled me with a deep sadness. Michele continued to race, driven on by an irrepressible passion, proving that in our sport, which is totally involving, risk is always around the corner."

After racing with such teams as Tyrrell, Larousse, Lola, Arrows, Footwork and Minardi Michele decided it was time to hang up his Formua 1 shoes.

In 1995 he decided to try his hand at touring cars with Alfa Romeo and the Indy Racing League before finding a very comfortable and successful career in sports car racing. In 1997 he won Le Mans with Stefan Johansson and current Audi teammate Tom Kristensen driving the Joest Racing Porsche WSC95.

More recently, Michele had become a staple driver for Audi Sport's factory works team, piloting the R8 to victories throughout its development. Just last month, Alboreto won the 12 Hours of Sebring and had been one of the favored drivers to win Le Mans again this year.

Scott Atherton of Panoz Motor Sports and the American Le Mans Series, issued a statement Wednesday night in response to the loss of Alboreto.

"Today's news is very sad for all of motorsports," he said. "Michele Alboreto was a champion in every sense of the word. His mere presence in the starting field for one of our events added prestige and excitement. We were honored to have him as part of the winning team last month at Sebring and last year at the Petit Le Mans. Our heartfelt sympathies go out to his family, and to his teammates and friends at Audi. Tonight, we are grieving along with his fans from around the globe. He will be missed."

Our staff was lucky enough to meet Alboreto while at the Monterrey Historics and at an Audi press launch that followed. Michele had attended the event and shared in the revival of Audi's motorsport endeavors at Monterrey. He could be seen throughout the weekend spending time with his two young daughters, as his enjoyment of the day would not have been complete without them.

The Italian works driver stayed as long as he could, and on his very last drive for the day, staffer Jamie Vondruska got to experience a hot lap around Laguna Seca with Alboreto. As they returned, Michele quickly removed his helmet and hurried toward a minivan waiting nearby that would take he and his family to the airport for their return to Monte Carlo.

At this somber time, our thoughts and prayers go out to Michele and his family in this time of loss, and we pray the motorsport community has seen its last loss for a long time to come.

Michele Alboreto Biography

Date of birth: 23 December 1956
Place of birth: Milan (I)
Place of residence: Monte Carlo (MC)
Status: Married to Nadia, two daughters
Previous Le Mans races: 8 (Winner in 1997)
Started career in: 1976 (Audi driver since 1999)

  • 1977 3rd place Formula Monza
  • 1978 5th place Formula Italia
  • 1979 2nd place Italian Formula 3 Championship, Long-Distance World Championship
  • 1980 Formula 3 European Champion, Long-Distance World Championship
  • 1981 Formula 2 European Championship, Long-Distance World Championship, Formula 1 World Championship
  • 1982 6th Formula 1 World Championship, Long-distance World Championship
  • 1983 12th Formula 1 World Championship
  • 1984 4th Formula 1 World Championship
  • 1985 2nd Formula 1 World Championship
  • 1986 8th Formula 1 World Championship
  • 1987 7th Formula 1 World Championship
  • 1988 5th Formula 1 World Championship
  • 1989 11th Formula 1 World Championship
  • 1990 Formula 1 World Championship
  • 1991 Formula 1 World Championship
  • 1992 10th Formula 1 World Championship
  • 1993 Formula 1 World Championship
  • 1994 Formula 1 World Championship
  • 1995 German Touring Car Championship, Sports car racing, USA
  • 1996 Indy Racing League, Sports car racing, USA
  • 1997 Winner of Le Mans 24 Hour race
  • 1998 2nd in Petit Le Mans
  • 1999 3rd in Sebring 12 Hour race (Audi R8R), 4th in Le Mans 24 Hour race (Audi R8R)
  • 2000 Winner of "Petit Le Mans", 2nd in Sebring 12 Hour race (Audi R8), 3rd in Le Mans 24 Hour Race (Audi R8)
  • 2001 Winner 12 Hours of Sebring

    Click here for a Gallery of Michele Alboreto.

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