Interviewed by Betsy Laboe (American) ~
Upon meeting Gianfranco, you know that he is Italian. He resembles a jockey, small framed, athletic with piercing blue eyes that have seen many hours of racing. Born in 1950, he has aged well, still showing the energy and passion for his sport!
When you google Gianfranco’s name you realize that he has raced almost 50 cars in Europe and all over the world. Formula 1, 2, 3, World Touring Cars Championship, Le Mans 24 Hours, and many more.
The young Italian began racing at 23.
When I asked him why? He answered, “Why Not ?”
When Gianfranco was a teenager, in the summer, he would take his mother’s Mini, and race it when she was resting at home. His brother and friends would stand at either side of the street and yell when it was okay to race at full throttle.
His racing career began in 1973, in the Formula Abarth Series. He felt as though this was a very late start, most racers start their careers when they are mere teenagers. He soon advanced to Formula 3 racing in 1975. Brancatelli also had a brief moment racing formula 1 in 1979. He then went on to race European Touring Car Series and finished 4th in 1984, driving a BMW 635 CSi for Eggenberger Motorsport. In 1985 Gianfranco became the champion along with Swedish driver, Thomas Lindstrom, winning six out of the fourteen races, along with three 2nd places and two 3rd places.
In 1987, he partnered with another former Formula One driver Johnny Cecotto, to win the 500 kilometer de Bourgogne at Dijon-Prenois, one of his fondest memories. Brancatelli also won the 1988 Italian Touring Car Championship driving a privately entered Alfa Romeo 75.
Brancatelli’s biggest wins in touring car racing were the 1985 Guia Race of Macau driving a Volvo 240T, and the 1989 Spa 24 Hours of Le Mans driving an Eggenberger Ford Sierra along with Bernd Schneider (formula one driver) and Win Percy. He then travelled to Australia in the 1980’s and early 90’s to compete in the Bathurst 1000 touring car race.
Gianfranco has also raced at the 24 hours of Le Mans on five occasions. His best finish was 2nd place in 1989 24 hours of Le Mans driving a Sauber C9 for team Sauber Mercedes.
He continued racing until the late 1990’s…. but now he is back!
He has recently competed in New Zealand with Historic Touring Car Championship driving the same car he drove and won in 1987 in the World Touring Car Championship ! He also raced again this year in New Zealand in January in the Historic Touring Car Championship with a Ford RS500.
He is planning to compete in Europe this summer. Silverstone and Oulton Park (England) and Nurburgring (Germany) July/August.
When I asked Gianfranco about the most difficult part of racing. He said, “Finding sponsorship… it is hard to promote myself.” I think for most racers this is the most difficult part because the driver is responsible to find money and support to race. To find this support you may have to meet with many companies and individuals to promote yourself and your racing abilities. However, he says that the most enjoyable attribute of racing is being able to know that you gave it 100% and the crowd enjoyed watching it ! He says that part of his secret to racing is to walk the track the day before to see close up and first-hand what kind of obstacles are involved. The seasoned racer studies the track, the turns, or any indentations or problems that are easier to observe when you are walking the track instead of driving it ahead of time.
Gianfranco does not know what the future holds. But, he loves racing and wants to continue to do so until he cannot!! It is wonderful to see this man excited about racing and doing so well into his late 60’s! He is still in great shape. He runs 2 kilometers daily and every Sunday he can be found running from Lourdes to BH Shopping Mall (12 K)!!
Gianfranco’s main love is a beautiful Brazilian, Irene. They have been together over 20 years. They reside in Belo Horizonte and Gianfranco helps Irene to run and operate her printing machines business, Maxsys Brasil, located in Lourdes. I look forward to interviewing her in the coming months. She too, has a wonderful story!