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Lucio Cesario and the Lancia LC2


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#1 Paul Newby

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Posted 20 May 2003 - 14:37

OK, I admit it, I'm a Lucio Cesario fan from way back and I've put a reference to the Lancia LC2 that he drove sporadically in the 85 WEC to draw in the Europhiles. :)

So who is Lucio Cesario, and why did he make a big impression on me 20 years ago? Well I can still recall seeing him (on TV) sliding that Ralt RT3 around Calder Park on the way to winning the Australian F2 C'ship in 1982 at the age of 20. Less successful was a foray with Allan Moffat's Mazda RX7 team at Bathurst that year. Lucio had slightly damaged the car in practice and it was later withdrawn. Apparently he was quicker then regular driver Gregg Hansford, and he had never seen the track before.

In 1983 he graduated to our F1, Formula Pacific nee Atlantic and while he was quick he got involved in way too many incidents and when charged at Sandown for nerfing a fellow competitor he famously handed in his licence because he couldn't afford to pay the fine! In '84 (after his new patron had paid the fines and he got his licence back) he teamed up with Alfie Costanzo's team and ran one of their Tigas. Lucio figured well (was he runner up?), although he was strictly employed as a number two driver and Costanzo won the C'ship.

The 1980's were a graveyard for young Australian talent. Only one driver truly broke through internationally and that was David Brabham who only did a couple of seasons here and whose career was mapped out from the start. Only one touring car team had the courage to employ young drivers (Glenn Seton and Mark Skaife) and other who went to England were impressive, but had no money to break through (Tomas Mezara and Russell Ingall.) The Formula Ford Driver to Europe Scheme was a joke - a return ticket to Engand and nothing more!

It still amazes me in a time before every young hotshot had their own managment team or were listed on the stock market that Cesario was able to translate a promising Australian career into a factory drive with a world sports car team. Cesario had a reputation for being extremely quick but accident prone (an Aussie deCesaris?) and while this is less of an issue these days, it was back then when no established teams took a chance on a young raw driver!

Anyway Cesario was offered a test of the Lancia LC2 at Monza where the local press described him as an Aussie "Villeneuve" - a bit over the top I agree. However he was signed on as a reserve driver - a bit like a test driver in today's parlance. He raced at Le Mans where he finished 6th with Wollek and Nannini (although there is some conjecture about this) and was paired to drive with Nannini at Fuji which was aborted mid race due to rain.

For 1986 there was talk of another WEC drive or possibly IMSA, but it came to nought and the next time we saw him in his Lancia Martini race suit was at Bathurst in an Alfa GTV6. I saw him practice this car in the wet and he was truly impressive, although he did have an enormous spin at the top of the mountain in dry qualifying. They had their problems in the race and finished fifth (and last) in class.

For 1987 he co-drove with Colin Bond in the Alfa Australia 75 Turbo in the endurance races. Alas at Bathurst he demolished the 75 at the top of the mountain during the race and that was all he wrote. Game over. :cry:

I've often wondered how Cesario managed to secure such a plumb WEC drive out of left field and wonder whether he had the ability to go places in Europe. (IIRC the jornalist David Segal was involved). I suspect that Lancia was not the best place to be at that time - with plenty of Italian F1 hopefuls already on the books, and a downgraded attack on the 87 WEC planned. Certainly his wild reputation did him no favours in Australia where young drivers were seen as crash magnets (it would be 10 years before a 21 y o Craig Lowndes changed this perception forever) but it could have been so different if he had more time in Europe.

What do others think? Have I got it totally wrong, or was Cesario Australia's greatest lost talent of the 80's? :)

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#2 Ray Bell

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Posted 20 May 2003 - 20:00

As I more or less dropped out of contact halfway through the eighties, I don't feel qualified to comment on your last question...

But the mention of Segal seems to put some perspective on things. During the seventies there was a rash of young Melbourne lads becoming motor sporting journos, and some of these graduated into 'press secretaries' and so on for top drivers.

Most of these people had heads bigger than the drivers. Grandiose ideas would come and go, but along the way... well, you know the one about "if you throw enough..."

Something out of left field could well have come of this. It's possible, too, that Mike Kable had something to do with it. I can well picture old Mike getting on his high horse and riding off to the Lancia people promoting someone he saw as an outstanding Australian talent. Mike was spending a lot of time in Italy those days.

My impression of Cesario, however, was never that great. Maybe I underrated him, but we'll never know. He certainly had a lot of people rate him higher than I did, Allan Hamilton backing it with his cheque book. But in my mind he was never going to be a John Bowe, and Bowie was the last one to come up through that pack.

#3 john medley

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Posted 21 May 2003 - 01:26

By the late 1970s/1980s I was well and truly out of contact with frontline Australian racing, but I still recall the day which must have been private practice at Winton head down and hard at work with some historic racing car in the pit area when I happened to glance up at a F/Pacific car going unbelievably quickly through the Esses right in front of us. The two of us there stopped what we were doing and watched this car for about 5 laps, then I walked over to another onlooker and said " WHO WAS THAT??!!" to be told it was Gay Cesario's son, Lucio. I cant add much to your thread, Paul, except to say that I was a fan of Cesario's from that moment.

#4 Option1

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Posted 21 May 2003 - 04:36

Originally posted by Paul Newby
...Certainly his wild reputation did him no favours in Australia where young drivers were seen as crash magnets (it would be 10 years before a 21 y o Craig Lowndes changed this perception forever) but it could have been so different if he had more time in Europe.
...

Apologies for being completely OT, but this was amusing - of course Lowndes went to Europe to do F3000 and developed a rep there of being a crash magnet. :)

Neil

#5 Paul Newby

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Posted 27 May 2003 - 05:00

Wow, back to page 3 and only three responses.

C'mon Aussie TNFrs, Csario was a pretty controversial driver in his days, there must be a few more opinions out there on where he stands in the "might've beens" of Australian racing. :)

#6 MattFoster

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Posted 29 May 2003 - 10:56

Paul,

I do remember Lucio's explosive start in openwheelers. I really thought he could have been big but he gained the crasher rep and I guess that makes you hard to employ.

ANyone who what he is up to these days?

#7 ghinzani

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Posted 18 July 2010 - 04:58

Did he not also get a run out for the Alba team in C2 that year also?

#8 ellrosso

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Posted 18 July 2010 - 07:38

I was still reasonably involved with it all in the 80's and can remember Cesario well. He was regarded as a talent and was very dominant in F2 in the Ralt RT3.
However I spoke to Chris Kane about him years later (Chris was racing the ex Russell Norden March replica in F2 at the same time as Lucio) and he felt the RT3 was a pretty major part of the equation. He was obviously a very capable steerer, quick/smooth etc - but I'll side with Ray on this one - he wasn't a John Bowe to my eyes. Be interesting to look at his times in the Lancia compared to Patrese actually - I'll have a squiz thru my Autosports and see if I can find anything. I do remember he didn't explode on the Sports car scene like Bellof did.

#9 arttidesco

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Posted 18 July 2010 - 08:29

Looks like someone must have caught a break in Group C2 for Lucio at Sandown in 1984 with Jolly Club who have a reputation of being well connected with Italian Manufacturers.

According to racingsportscars.com there is no doubt Lucio did drive the #4 Lancia LC2 to 6th at Le Mans in 1985, though being in the same vehicle as Bob Wollek, who was not averse to squabbling with the likes AJ Foyt for seat time, if Lucio had not been up to the job his role might have been diminished.


#10 brucemoxon

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Posted 18 July 2010 - 11:15

I remember his speed and the excitement of his signing for Lancia - the thought at the time was that his dramatic driving style would wash well with the passionate Italians.

I don't know that Lancia were whole-hearted about this effort - maybe they were, I don't really have the inside scoop on that.

But when Lucio was here, both before and after his time in Europe, he did seem to have more than his share of crashes. Could be that he was just unlucky.

Lucio does hold the distinction for bringing out the first-ever Safety Car in the Bathurst 1000, when he shorted Colin Bond's Alfa 75.




Bruce Moxon



#11 arttidesco

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Posted 18 July 2010 - 12:23

I don't know that Lancia were whole-hearted about this effort - maybe they were, I don't really have the inside scoop on that.

Bruce Moxon


If I remember correctly from a 1982 Motoring News Article the 956 was tested through all the usual procedures Porsche used for its road cars including being driven over cobbled and potholed surfaces that saw the 956 chassis pouncing around like a rally car, before the prototype (scroll down the link) was signed off as ready to race.

During this time Lancia prepared for the 1982 season by building the pretty 1.4 turbo Lancia Beta Montecarlo GP5 engined LC1 Brachetta to the 2 litre group 6 regulations that were being phased out in order to take advantage of the fact that Group C was a fuel consumption formula (with a limited amount of fuel allowed per distance travelled, while the 2 litre GP 6 regs allowed unlimited fuel consumption.

Though only legible for the drivers championship the ploy nearly worked with Patrese taking 3 wins but ultimately coming up 8 points short of Jacky Ickx in the World Sport Car Drivers Championship.

The downside for Lancia of this ploy was that they lost not only the 1982 World Sports Car Drivers Championship, they were not legible for the 1982 World Sports Car Manufacturers Championship (Group C only, won by Porsche), they were also one year behind in the Porsche 956 in development of the Lancia LC2 Group C contender, and while they were occasionally quick they were usually unreliable for a host of reasons relating to both the engine and the power train, on one occasion I remember well the two leading Lancia LC2's contrived to knock each other off the track at Brands Hatch handing another victory to messers Bell & Stuck.

#12 Lee Nicolle

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Posted 18 July 2010 - 22:41

I can remember watching Lucio at AIR in qualifying and he was very quick and his lap times were within about 3/10 ths of a lap. I cannot remember the race except I think Ian Richards picked up his championship on the day.
My other memories of Lucio is that he was far too agressive which actually was a bit ah la John Bowe at the time.

#13 arttidesco

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Posted 18 July 2010 - 22:59

My other memories of Lucio is that he was far too agressive which actually was a bit ah la John Bowe at the time.


Might I be correct in thinking Mad Max had a bad influence on driving standards amongst Australian racing drivers of the day ?