Former Grand Prix driver Stefano Modena – a man widely regarded as among the most superstitious to have raced in the sport – is today celebrating his 49th birthday!
He used to race wearing one glove inside-out, and once forced the team mechanics to swap team-mate Martin Brundle’s car to the other side of the garage as he felt it was unlucky to be on that side himself!
Sadly, Stefano’s F1 career failed to deliver on the promise that he showed in the junior formulae.
After winning the 1986 Monaco Formula 3 a race en route to the European F3 title, the F1 world quickly sat up and took notice of this tousle-haired Italian, who would go on to win the 1987 Formula 3000 title as well.
He made his F1 debut that year for Brabham at the season-ending Australian Grand Prix, retiring with exhaustion mid-race. He had impressed many that weekend, and was signed with the Euro Brun team for 1988.
It was a woeful baptism to F1, and the car was a pig that he could rarely qualify. Somehow, he managed to get into the re-formed Brabham team in 1989, and picked up a fine third place at Monaco.
Stefano switched to Tyrrell for 1991, and stunned the paddock when he qualified on the front row at Monaco. Sadly, a podium finish went begging when he slammed into the tunnel’s Armco barriers after Riccardo Patrese’s Williams dropped oil. It was a devastating outcome for Stefano, but he bounced back with a second-placed finish at Canada.
But, as Tyrrell’s form waned, so Stefano’s motivation went with it, and a year spent tooling around at the back of the field with Jordan in 1992 was the last the F1 world would see of him behind the wheel.