Roberto Mieres
Roberto Mieres turns 86 today! 

Former F1 drivers Roberto Mieres (86 today) and Gaetano Starrabba (78 today) are celebrating their respective birthdays today.

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Argentine-born Mieres was the son of a wealthy family and excelled in virtually any sport he took his fancy to.

Nicknamed ‘Bitito’, he discovered a passion for motorsport seemingly by accident at the age of 23, when some of his friends decided to hold an impromptu race in MGs on the San Justo Speedway, which Mieres (to his utmost surprise) won. His pals then decided to start their own car club and race whatever they could get their hands on, including pre-War machines such as the Bugatti Type 35 and a Mercedes-Benz SSK. Mieres got hold of a 2.3-litre supercharged Alfa Romeo, which he used to take part in a support race for the Argentine Grand Prix. His performance was impressive enough to garner the attention of Giuseppe Farina and Alberto Ascari, who hunted him down in the pit lane to suggest he move to Europe to try his hand there.

The rest, as the well-worn phrase goes, is history. With support from the Argentine government, he crossed the pond and competed in several races using a Gordini and a Ferrari, and achieved several notable performances, but the government pulled the pin on further funding, and Mieres had to venture home.

Roberto Mieres He eventually pooled together enough funding to head back to Europe in 1953 and formed a friendship with Harry Schell where he signed a deal to be the Gordini team’s reserve driver. It was during this time that he almost succeeded in getting a race deal with Lancia, but before the year was out, he had made three F1 starts.

An offer from Maserati came his way for 1954, and he drove impressively on home soil and performed well against the Ferrari pairing of Fangio and Ascari. But it was when the F1 circus went to Europe that Mieres (and the rest of the grid) found the new Mercedes-Benz simply unstoppable, although he managed a brace of fourth placings in the Spanish and Swiss GPs that year, as well as another fourth place in Holland in 1955.

At the end of 1955, he dropped out of F1, but continued his motorsport exploits in endurance racing, as well as discovering a new passion in sailing that saw him represent his homeland at the 1960 Rome Olympics in the Star Class, finishing 17th overall.

Mieres, incredibly, still appears at the odd historic race.

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Born into the Italian nobility via the Sicilian House of Giardinelli, Prince Gaetano Starrabba was one of a host of rich aristocrats who are now part of the bygone era of amateur drivers who made it to F1.

In Starrabba’s case, his F1 stats amount to a single championship start – the 1961 Italian GP in a Maserati-powered Lotus 18  – but he contested the Targa Florio on several occasions in the 1950s before moving into single seaters in 1961.

With entry into F1 competition proving relatively cheap, Starrabba contested several non-championship events before having a crack at his local F1 championship round at Monza, qualifying 30th quickest of the 33-entry field, lapping the extended (banked) version of the circuit over 20 seconds slower than pole-sitter Wolfgang von Trips.

Gaetano Starrabba
Starrabba at the 1966 Targa Florio 

Von Trips would tragically be killed the next day on the cusp of possibly taking the Drivers’ Championship crown.

Retirement after 19 laps with an engine failure would prove the end of Starrabba’s championship foray, and he went back to the Targa Florio once again, calling it quits from motorsport altogether in 1969.

[Original image via Forum Auto and MC Drifter]

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Richard Bailey

Founder & Chief Editor at MotorsportM8
Hasn't missed a Grand Prix since 1989. Has a soft spot for Minardi. Tattooed with 35+ Grand Prix circuits.

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