Italian Racing Red, cover

A comprehensive history of international Italian motor racing; the red national racing colours of corsa rosso reflects the Italian passion for cars and motorsport.

At the beginning of international motor sport in 1900 Italy was allocated black as its national racing colour but did not actually take part fully until 1908.

By then no team had been prepared to accept black and Italy had taken red. By 1913 the national colours had become established and Italy has used red ever since.

Drivers, Cars and Triumphs of Italian Motor Racing; Karl Ludvigsen

Italian teams have been one of the most consistent users of their national colour even since the advent of sponsor’s colours in the 1960s. Since then most other teams have only used their national colours occasionally. Indeed Ferrari have consistently used red as their principal colour – when they added more white it was not well received by the tifosi, the Ferrari faithful, and they are now again almost entirely red.

Passion, Engineering and Artistry

Karl Ludvigsen links the Italian Futurism art movement with their engineering skills. This synthesis of art and machine is demonstrably reflected in Italian racing cars. As the author says: “With remarkable few exceptions, Italian competition cars are gorgeous” This artistic element is not just manifest in the external bodywork but in all aspects of their automobile engineering.

Even today the under-bonnet view of the Alfa-Romeo V6 engine is described by motoring writers, and others, as a work of art, as sculpture. Italian automobile combines engineering with aesthetics even for the details.

History of Cars and Teams

The book, Italian Racing Red, runs essentially in chronological order but within chapters principally devoted to a particular manufacturer or team. So there is some overlap in time when two marques were competing at the same time. It is written as a narrative history and it is as much about the people, especially the designers, who made Italian automobile engineering what it is today.

It is noticeable that throughout Italian motor sport the same manufacturers reappear – most have very long histories that have ebbed and flowed and includes names like Maserati, Alfa Romeo, Lancia and more recently Ferrari. All have had periods at the top punctuated by periods in the doldrums or even outside racing. Unlike many non-Italian teams they keep coming back.

The book also covers the smaller and more shortlived builders who often played an important part in developing designers and engineers who then went on to greater things with the big teams.

Reading Ludvigsen’s history makes clear why so many of the world’s super cars are Italian – it is that combination of passion, artistry and engineering that seems peculiar to Italy. Many other countries make great cars with character or spirit but somehow few would be described as having soul – something that certainly applies to the great Italian designs.

The book is comprehensively illustrated with contemporary photographs, drawings and modern plates

The Author

Karl Ludvigsen is a well known and highly regarded historian and author. He has been the receipient of many awards for his writing. He has worked in the motor industry, for GM, Fiat, Ford and as a consultant. He writes on drivers, racing, engineering and has been editor of several major motoring magazines. He maintains the Ludvigsen Library, a major photographic library which provides illustrations for his writing.


An enjoyable and fascinating history of top level motor racing: the cars, the drivers and the triumphs as the subtitle suggests. But is also a history of the designers and engineers who are so much part of that history and who give the Italian car its soul. They too are celebrated here.

It should be on the shelf of all lovers of cars and motor racing – no enthusiast’s library would be complete without full coverage of Italian cars and their racing pedigree and this book fulfils that purpose admirably.

Italian Racing Red is published by Ian Allan Publishing (ISBN: (13) 978 1 7110 3331 3) at £24.99 and is part of series that includes British Racing Green. French Racing Blue and German Racing Silver.


First seen on Suite101

Add new comment

Plain text

  • No HTML tags allowed.
  • Web page addresses and e-mail addresses turn into links automatically.
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.