But what had really concentrated European officialdom’s focus upon the hard hat-versus-soft helmet issue had been the sad death of veteran driver Luigi Fagioli during the 1952 Monaco Grand Prix meeting. A hard crash-helmet requirement had already been launched but not properly enforced by that time. That Monaco GP was not a World Championship-qualifying open-wheeler race that year, but was run instead as a double-headed sports car event, with one race for up-to-2-litre cars, and another for over 2-litres. Each one was quite a challenge around the tight street circuit, and the factory Lancia team arrived for the lower-capacity race with a trio of carefully prepared B20 Aurelia Coupes.
These were fantastically effective racing GTs at the time, and Luigi Fagioli had just finished third overall with one in the Mille Miglia, ahead of pre-war Mercedes-Benz team-mate (and deadly rival) Rudi Caracciola’s works 300SL.
Tragically, during Monaco GP practice, Luigi Fagioli crashed his Aurelia in the famous Tir aux Pigeons tunnel on the seafront. Unrestrained by seat belts and with no hard crash helmet he was hurled around inside the car and was retrieved with a reported broken leg and hand, internal and head injuries.
Fagioli was 54 years old. He had been one of the famous ‘Three Fs’ team of Alfa Romeo Grand Prix drivers – Fangio, Farina and Fagioli – pre-war he had been a works driver for Mercedes-Benz and Auto Union as well as Maserati and for the Scuderia Ferrari. He became renowned for being hard as nails, tough, aggressive. He had once, memorably, attacked team-mate, but rival, Caracciola with a wheel-hammer in the pits at Tripoli. He was not a racing driver to be toyed with, and his nickname – ‘The Abruzzi Robber’ – pretty much told the story.