Yesterday afternoon, BMW driver Robert Kubica received a prize of importance, and one I’m sure the Polish driver will cherish for many years to come. You see, this prize isn’t awarded to just anyone, and the recipient is chosen not on his results or by other obvious means, but instead they are chosen by the residents of a small town in Italy. The prize is called the Lorenzo Bandini Trophy, and to receive it means you aren’t just an ordinary Formula One racing driver.
Lorenzo Bandini was himself a racing driver in the sixties. Born in Libya in 1935, Bandini grew up in Italy and following his father’s death in 1950, Lorenzo left home to become an apprentice mechanic. Working with cars and motorcycles, he soon progressed to racing them, and with the financial help of his employer, Bandini started to become quite accomplished at this.
Racing in a variety of classes, Bandini’s most notable achievements prior to Formula One was his Mille Miglia victory in 1958 and reasonable success in the Formula Junior World Championship. By 1961, Bandini was in F1 and the following year was hired by Ferrari for a full-time drive. The Italian driver may have only won one race in his Formula One career, but his passion for the sport was uniformly admired by all who met him. Bandini’s death, however, was tragic and left a gaping void in the hearts of F1 fans the world over.
Lorenzo had been competing in the 1967 Monaco Grand Prix when he left us, his car having been involved in a fiery accident at the principality’s circuit. Entering the harbour chicane, Bandini’s rear-left wheel clipped a guard rail, causing an uncontrollable skid into a street light which in turn flipped the car over. He slid into straw bales lining the track and it is thought that these ruptured the fuel tank and sparks caused the spilled fuel to ignite.
Marshals pulled Bandini out of his car unconscious, but the Italian suffered third degree burns and ten fractures to his chest. Lorenzo fought for three days, but finally succumbed and died in Monaco on 10th May, 1967. 100,000 people attended his funeral in Reggiolo, Italy on May 13th 1967, and straw bales were soon banned in light of Lorenzo’s accident.
From these tragic circumstances though comes a chance to praise drivers who excel not necessarily at winning races and championships (although it does help), but those who show other qualities that only adds to the charm of Formula One motor racing. The Bandini Trophy is awarded to drivers who show great character, spirit and determination, and the recipient is decided by the residents of Bandini’s hometown, Brisighella, Italy.
Past winners include Felipe Massa, Kimi Raikkonen and Fernando Alonso, and the trophy has been rewarded to drivers since 1992. The only exception to the rule thus far is Luca di Montezemolo, who was awarded the honour in 1997 for his services as President of Ferrari. And to support Kubica’s awarding of the prestigious trophy this year, the BMW team apparently allowed him to drive his F1.08 the 11km from Faenza to Brisighella.
This is a big honour for me, and it comes as a surprise given the rather disappointing season I had in 2007. It’s great that some people seem to believe in me and my abilities. I am particularly pleased that this award also has to do with my ‘performance’ off the race track – and that attitudes and actions that I don’t really stop to think about have earned me an award like this. I’m really looking forward to the drive, too. Robert Kubica.
The Bandini Trophy is important because it highlights other great things to come from motor racing and Formula One. Not everything is about chasing the illusive tenth, marketing yourself correctly or getting your signature on a Ferrari contract. Formula One is much more than that, and hopefully, with the help of Lorenzo’s trophy, it will remain that way.
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