Regga: The Extraordinary Two Lives of Clay Regazzoni, by Christopher Hilton
© 2008 Haynes, ISBN 9781844254798 (Hardcover)

Clay Regazzoni lived one extraordinarily full life and then, through tragedy, lived another one, equally packed.

The first was as a Grand Prix legend, Ferrari icon, bon viveur, womaniser and hooligan – conforming, as fellow driver John Watson says, to everyone’s inner desires of what a racing driver should really be.

The second was as a survivor trapped in a wheelchair, facing down depression to become an icon of a completely different kind, inspiring the disabled, still fascinating women, and taking part in some of the most dangerous rallies in the world – at racing speed.

Clay Regazzoni

A gentleman off the track but tough on it, ‘Regga’ was a pure racer and dedicated himself to the cause. He graduated to the Grand Prix stage in the 1970s, spending six seasons with Ferrari partnered alongside the likes of Jacky Ickx, Mario Andretti and Niki Lauda.

He joined the new Williams team and, while many would credit his teammate Alan Jones for the team’s early successes, it was Regazzoni who gave the squad its first win at the 1979 British Grand Prix at Silverstone.

With no room at Williams the following year, Regazzoni joined the little Ensign team, but tragedy struck early on at Long Beach when a brake failure led to a huge accident at the end of Shoreline Drive. He crashed so badly that he spent the rest of his life in a wheelchair.

This extensive Christopher Hilton biography tells his story for the first time in English, through the memories of those who lived alongside him, drove with him and drove against him.

It describes his humble early years in Switzerland – a country where racing has been banned since the 1955 Le Mans tragedy – the dangerous days in the lesser formulae where he had a frightening reputation, his move to Formula 1, an impossibly emotional win for Ferrari at Monza in 1970, mateship and bust-ups with Niki Lauda, and giving the Williams team their maiden Grand Prix win.

If you are a Formula 1 follower and wonder what happened to ‘Regga’ after Long Beach, it’s here warts and all. He started a driving school for the disabled and went rallying on six continents in adapted cars, battling the harsh Paris-Dakar rally many times in a lorry. In his spare time, he continued to woo women and – driving a hand-controlled Ferrari – conducted a longstanding battle with the police on Italy’s autostrada, which he sometimes won!

Here is the man also seen through intimate glimpses of him at home by his son Gian Maria and long-time partner Maddelena Mantegazzi, and they reveal the ultimate twist. What he treasured most were the simple things. And speed.

Regga: The Extraordinary Two Lives of Clay Regazzoni is currently available at all specialty book resellers. We recommend our friends at Automoto Bookshop, who can dispatch and ship worldwide – click here to order your copy.

Image via The Cahier Archive

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Geoff Burke

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