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The Caserta Grand Prix was held on 18 June 1967 over a somewhat triangular street course near the Reggia of Caserta, the largest building erected in Europe in the 18th Century. The event was marred by the organizer's complete lack of concern for security. A number of accidents occurred during the race, that resulted in the deaths of three men.
What really happened at Caserta is pretty controversial. There were no witnesses, the precise circumstances of the accidents are still unclear, since the part of the track in which they happened was surrounded by wall, buildings and trees, covering the view from distance. But it is likely that all began when two vehicles collided with each other in the first laps of the final race.
Silvio Moser in a Brabham BT18 - Ford had won the first heat, Ernesto Brambilla in a Birel - Ford, the second. On 7th lap of the final, the Brabhams of backmarkers Andrea Saltari and Beat Fehr touched wheels near the end of Via Domenico Mondo straight, just as it led into a blind right hander, in a section of the circuit where stone walls on each side of the road impose a severe limit on visibility. The car of the Swiss newcomer Beat Fehr was thrown into the air, crashing against the railway’s wall on the left side. It bounced, landing on its wheels in the middle of the track. Both cars were damaged, but neither driver was hurt. Franco Foresti in a Lotus 32 - Ford was the first driver who arrived at full speed, slid on the oil patch and hit a kerb ending into a pole. Worried about the dangerous situation, Beat Fehr managed to get off the car and leaped out onto the track to slow down the oncoming drivers.
Shortly later "Geki" Russo arrived, running in 3rd position close behind the leaders Ernesto Brambilla and Antonio Maglione. He lost control of his Matra MS5 – Ford, presumably the car had a punctured tyre, and crashed into the wrecks partially blocking the road. Russo ploughed into a concrete wall on the right side. He was thrown out of the car, being killed upon impact, his body lying on the roadside. The car was broken in two and caught fire.
Waving in the middle of the track, Beat Fehr was knocked down by the next group of racers, including Corrado Manfredini’s Brabham, Clay Regazzoni’s Tecno, "Tiger"'s De Sanctis, Massimo Natili’s Bianchini, Manfred Mohr's Brabham and others, tangled amidst a cloud of smoke and debris. Also Jürg Dubler’s Brabham BT21 - Ford was involved and he went off the road trying to avoid the wreckage, flying over another car and crashing into a pole, several meters off the ground. Dubler suffered injuries but survived the accident. The unfortunate Beat Fehr died later, during the transport to Caserta hospital. Different accounts report that he had been struck before by “Geki” Russo's car, this has not yet been confirmed.
Chaos took place at the circuit when several people, soldiers on duty at the track, marshals and spectators arrived to the place trying to help. One of the drivers, reportedly Dubler had a call by public telephone for ambulances and rescue equipment; about twenty minutes later the local fire brigade arrived on the scene. In the general confusion that followed Romano Perdomi, who raced under pseudonym "Tiger", lost control of his De Sanctis – Ford and crashed head-on into a concrete pole, suffering serious legs and internal injuries. He was trapped in the wreckage for about half an hour, speaking with his rescuers which equipment was inadequate to extricate him from his battered car. He was eventually removed by his own mechanics who carried the equipment from their pit, some distance away, and was taken to Caserta hospital. The news that the condition of the patient was improving were reported in the following days by newspapers but, having difficulty breathing, he was soon transferred to the intensive care unit of Naples hospital. Unfortunately "Tiger" succumbed to his injuries eight days later.
The organizers didn't stop the race immediately but only after four laps the marshals signaled with a red flag the only four competitors who were still running, Ernesto Brambilla in a Birel - Ford, Antonio Maglione in a De Sanctis – Ford, Enzo Corti in a BWA – Ford and Massimo Natili in a Bianchini - Ford. It was Natili who walked to the pits to inform the race director about the multiple pile-up.
This was a tragic race. Several drivers were injured, three of them lost their lives, others had miraculous escapes, eleven cars were destroyed along a 300 meters stretch of the course. A number of famous pictures of a twisted pile of tubes stuffed into the wall laying atop two other racers were published by newspaper and magazines. Possibly this unfortunate event marked the beginning of the end of an era in which European Formula 3 racers were involved in titanic battles in unprotected circuits.
Seen here are, in order:
#1: Manfredini, Saltari, Brambilla and Regazzoni's cars;
#2: Same as above;
#3: Same as above;
#4: Probably Saltari and Brambilla (#111?)'s cars;
#5: Same as #1;
#6: Natili (#36) and Maglione's cars in the foreground, all the other ones (Regazzoni (#9?), Brambilla, Saltari, Manfredini) on the right;
#7: Maglione's car (#38?) on the left, Natili's car behind it and Regazzoni, Brambilla, Saltari and Manfredini's cars on the right;
#8: Russo's burning car;
#9: Same as above;
#10: The front part of Russo's car;
#11: Probably Russo's body being carried away;
#12: Perdomi's car;
#13: Probably Russo's body lying on the ground;
#14: Perdomi trapped inside his car;
#15: Same as above;
#16: Perdomi in the hospital;
#17: Same as above;
#18: The street the day after the tragedy.
Formula 3 (Italian series)
Gran Premio di Caserta - Coppa d'Oro Pasquale Amato
La Stampa; Corriere Della Sera; Auto Italiana; Leiden Courant;
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