On this day in 2001, 44-year-old Italian race car driver Michele Alboreto is killed on a track in Germany during a test drive. Alboreto collected five Grand Prix wins on the Formula One (F1) circuit, where he competed during the 1980s and early 1990s, and also claimed victory at the 24 Hours of Le Mans endurance race in 1997.
Michele Alboreto was born in Milan, Italy, on December 23, 1956, and began his racing career in the mid-1970s. He made his F1 debut in 1981 and took home his first victory at the Caesars Palace Grand Prix Las Vegas in 1982. From 1984 to 1988, Alboreto drove for the Ferrari team, the first Italian to do so in more than a decade. In 1985, his most successful year, he won the Canadian Grand Prix and the German Grand Prix and came in second place for the F1 drivers’ championship behind the iconic French driver Alain Prost, who collected the crown again in 1986, 1989 and 1993.
Referred to as the world’s richest sport, Formula One is an elite level of racing in which competitors drive highly sophisticated and technologically advanced single-seat, open-wheel vehicles capable of speeds surpassing 230 mph. These cars are typically built by large automakers, including Porsche, Ferrari and Toyota, who are known in the racing world as “constructors.” Formula One racing is governed by the Fédération International de l’Automobile (FIA), which in 1950 named its inaugural world championship driver and constructor.
After departing Ferrari, Alboreto drove for other teams before eventually leaving the F1 circuit after the 1994 season. In 1997, he and two teammates won the 24 Hours of Le Mans race, driving a Porsche. Le Mans, along with the Rolex 24 at Daytona (formerly known as the 24 Hours of Daytona) and the 12 Hours of Sebring, is considered part of the Triple Crown of endurance racing, a sport that tests the stamina of both car and driver. The Le Mans, France, race was first run in 1923, while the inaugural Sebring race was held in 1952, at the Sebring International Raceway in Florida. The Daytona event began in 1962 as a three-hour competition at Florida’s Daytona International Speedway.
In March 2001, Alboreto won the 12 Hours of Sebring, competing in an Audi. One month later, on April 25, he died at the Lausitzring (now known as the EuroSpeedway Lausitz) in Germany after the Audi R8 sports car he was test-driving at high speed suffered a tire failure and crashed.