Lella Lombardi


Here is the real 34 year old Italian driver Maria Grazia “Lella” Lombardi, taken at the 1980 Brands Hatch six Hours, who drove a March-Ford at the Spanish Grand Prix which took place on April 27, 1975. Lombardi was the second, and up to now, the last woman to start an F1 race. This race was held on the Montjuic Park street circuit in Barcelona which turned out to be terrifyingly unsafe even though three prior F1 races, as well as several races for F2 and motorcycles, had been held there.

klemcoll. Lella Lombardi, March-Ford, Spanish GPLombardi seen at speed at the left, managed to avoid trouble all weekend, which was something of a triumph in itself. She qualified near the back in 24th position almost seven seconds adrift from pole man Niki Lauda who drove a Ferrari 312T. But by that time there had already been loud complaints from many of the drivers that the barriers which lined the circuit were unsafe. Inspections showed that there were gaps between some barriers, many had no bolts holding them together or bolts were only finger tight, and some barrier posts were loose in the ground. The drivers went on strike and some worked on the barriers themselves. The drivers finally agreed to race after legal threats from the organizers and financial ones from their team owners.

Emerson Fittipaldi, driving for McLaren, refused to take the start. Lombardi managed to avoid both the politics and the crashes as Lauda and Clay Regazzoni with their front row Ferraris were both immediate barrier victims with Lauda not completing the first lap. Other lap one retirements included Patrick Depallier (Tyrrell), Wilson Fittipaldi (Copersucar) and Arturo Merzario (Williams). The barriers then claimed both Mark Donohue (Penske) and Alan Jones (Hesketh) followed somewhat thereafter by James Hunt (Hesketh) and Tom Pryce (Shadow). Tragedy struck the race on lap 25 when Rolf Stommelen had his rear wing break on his new Embassy-Hill as the car crested a rise, bounding off a set of barriers until hit by the Brabham of Carlos Pace and then vaulting over another barrier to fatally injure five spectators. The race was stopped and abandoned a few laps later.

Lombardi finished sixth, two laps down, and became the only women to ever earn a Championship point, although even that was cut in half due to the race having been shortened. She had a respectable placing at the German Grand Pix in 1975 and had nine more F1 starts, plus two more starts in 1976 and earning a 2nd in class finish at Le Mans. She died of cancer in 1992.

Photos by Nigel Snowden ©The Klemantaski Collection – http://www.klemcoll.com

To see more photos from our archive go to: http://www.klemcoll.com/TheGallery.aspx

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