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Farewell Don Sergio

Motor sport has often thrown up fascinating characters and none more so than Don Sergio Mantovani who died this weekend at the age of 92.

Don Sergio, often confused with the Maserati racing driver of the 1950’s, Sergio Mantovani, arrived in Modena as a young priest in 1959 and was originally adopted by both Maserati and Ferrari and so began his interest in grand prix racing and in particular the drivers. He would travel to some of the races and Enzo Ferrari became a very close friend of his.

 Don Sergio with his close friend Luigi Villoresi at Ristorante Lauro in Modena in 1996 <em>(Photo Gauld)</em>

Don Sergio with his close friend Luigi Villoresi at Ristorante Lauro in Modena in 1996 (Photo Gauld)

When I say character, consider this, in the grounds of the Church of Santa Caterina alla Crocetta he asked permission to knock down a chapel and tower but was refused: so he knocked it down anyway to make way for an old peoples’ home and was promptly put on trial and fined 30 million lire. He was sentenced to ten months in prison and Enzo Ferrari said he would have his meals sent into him if he actually went to prison but the sentence he received was suspended but it was retained on his police record!

Don Sergio Mantovani with members of the Grand Prix Drivers Club at the memorial in the grounds of the Santa Catherina Church in 2016. <em>(Photo Peter Meierhoffer)</em>

Don Sergio Mantovani with members of the Grand Prix Drivers Club at the memorial in the grounds of the Santa Catherina Church in 2016. (Photo Peter Meierhoffer)

He was particularly friendly with one of our late Grand Prix Drivers Club members, Luigi Villoresi and when Villoresi was in his ‘80s he moved into the retirement home run by Don Sergio and the priest told me Luigi was forever getting into trouble by driving his motorised wheelchair around and terrorising the other residents.

Most of our Club members who attended the special service held at Santa Caterina in memory of Maria-Teresa de Filippis two years ago will remember Don Sergio’s moving address.

He will be remembered not only in Modena but all over the motor racing world for any driver who raced for Ferrari or Maserati must have met him at some time or another

Speaking personally I found him not only fascinating but great fun with a streak of determination in him that faced up to authority and a good and positive representative of his religion.

Graham Gauld