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Juan Jover


Milano-Speluzzi "1"




X Gran Premio de Penya Rhin (29 October 1950)


Juan Jover Sañés represented somehow the kind of original amateur driver whose personal wealth allowed him to compete in a couple of sports, all of them with a mechanical base, much in line with Rolls, Henry and Maurice Farman, the Voisin brothers and so many others.

Jover was the most notorious Spanish driver of his time, together with Joaquín Palacio (1901-1989). Both had very similar careers. Jover made his debut on two wheels, on the early twenties, but very soon cars attracted him more and he switched to four wheels. He can be found on the entry list of the III Trofeo Armangué in 1923, where he drove a Cyclecar "Rally Chic" wearing number 3.

As time went by, and after WWII, he took part in some European Grand Prix races, at tracks like Bari, Montlhéry, Reims-Gueux, Pedralbes, Monza or La Sarthe. In 1949 he finished second in the Le Mans 24 Hours, sharing a Delage 3 litres with Henri Louveau, trailing the winning Ferrari of Luigi Chinetti/Peter Selsdon. Later in the year the same team of Louveau and Jover, with the addition of Mouche, finished second in the Spa 24 hours.

In the races organised by the Penya Rhin, also after the war, Jover was a usual presence, very enthusiastic but with rather hectic results. In the 1946 Grand Prix, he shared a Maserati 6CM with Alberto Puig Palau, that was a complete rookie too. After a race plagued with incidents, they both finished in a surprising third place, although 15 laps away from the winning driver, Giorgio Pelassa, and 11 from the second placed drivers, Ciro Bassadona and Arnaldo Ruggieri (all of them driving Maserati 4CLs).

It has not been until quite recently that this fact - Jover sharing the Puig Palau car - has been known. Paul Sheldon doesn't acknowledge the entry, and it has been Pablo Gimeno Valledor's amazing The International Penya Rhin Grand Prix that has shed some light over this, whereas previous biographical notes on Jover used to mention that his debut in Grand Prix racing happened in 1947, at the Bari Grand Prix.

In 1948, in the IX GP Penya Rhin-VI Copa Barcelona, he drove a Maserati 4CL under the Escudería Autoespañola banner, but was forced to retire on lap 12. In 1950 (our picture) he was driving a Maserati 4CLT/48 prepared by Speluzzi and known as the "Milano".

The story of the "Milanos" apparently starts in 1949, when the organizers of the Italian Grand Prix decided to offer some serious starting money to any constructor presenting cars of new design for the race. The Ruggieri brothers, who were the owners of the Scuderia Milano, made a couple of modifications to two Maseratis 4CLT/48 that they owned at the time (1594 and 1602) and they entered them as Maserati-Milanos.

The basic modifications were shorter wheelbases, larger brakes and a re-tuned engine (via an increased blower pressure) of which Mario Speluzzi was responsible. Taruffi and Farina drove the cars. Not everybody agrees on whether the organizers understood that these cars were or were in fact not "new cars", hence making dubious whether the "special prize" was awarded to them.

The idea, however, was kept alive, and the Ruggieris decided to make a further step in 1950. Two chassis 4CLT/50 were bought (1611 and 1612) and some experiments took place on them. To cut the long story short, one of the cars, probably the 1611, became the Milano "1" (with a de Dion axle) whilst the second one was never raced during the season, and its rear did not adopt the de Dion. At the same time, Speluzzi conveniently modified the Maserati engine with a large single Roots blower in place of the two-stage original one and a completely new cylinder head with two plugs per cylinder.

Compatriots Paco Godia and Juan Jover drove for the team in the 1950 Penya Rhin race, but sources seem to indicate that the second car was not the Milano "2" but one of the 1949 cars. Also thanks to Gimeno's book, this can be confirmed, as this shot of Godia's car shows the obvious differences with Jover's Milano.

With money running short for continuing with the ideas, that was the end of the Milanos. Or was it?

Well, not exactly. Somehow sources agree that car number "2" (probably the original 1612) happened to be sold to a young amateur driver named Mario Alborghetti, whose enthusiasm was such that he commissioned Gianpaolo Volpini and Egidio Arzani to "create" a car of their own for him to drive at "top" level, based on the chassis that he had bought.

The car, now named "Arzani-Volpini", which external aspect was very much of "Squalo" lines, was supposed to be ready by March 1955, so an entry was made for it at the Turin Grand Prix at Valentino Park. Just a bit too soon, as the car was not ready in time.

A fortnight later, in April, the combination appeared in Pau for the Grand Prix. The odds stacked against him, Alborghetti was incredibly slow in practice, and was well at the back of the grid, having posted practice times similar to Storez and Armagnac and their DB's supercharged monomilles, the three of them some ten seconds slower than the next guy up there. We know he drove a very slow race, made three pitstops and then, on lap 19, he crashed heavily into the straw bales at the tight Station corner, apparently without making any attempt to round it. Alborghetti was killed, with nine spectators injured.

Whilst some authors have never found a reasonable explanation for this accident others suggest that Pollet was involved in it, as he would have been overtaking Mario on the inside at that particular moment.

How the car went into Piotti's hands for Monza later in the year and was practised but not raced is part of the mystery, but unfortunately we have never heard or read a reasonable explanation.

Back to Jover. In 1951 he took part in the Spanish Grand Prix, again at Pedralbes, this time driving the Maserati 4CLT/48-1612 (in Milano fashion?) but did not qualify. It was a pretty irritating experience for Jover who was unable to squeeze a reasonable practice time from the car, whilst Godia, at the wheel of the other car - the one that Jover drove in 1950 - had no such problems. Now, another mystery surrounds this (non) participation. Many sources credit Jover with a time enough to have qualified for the race, being just a fraction slower than Godia and faster than Bira and Rosier. But it is a fact that he did not start the race, and no explanation is given to the fact, except for a source that suggests that the engine died in practice hence making it impossible for Jover to start.

Jover went on racing, and in May 1953 he took part in the La Rabassada hillclimb, driving a F2 Maserati and a Cisitalia 1100, finishing second and third on scratch, in front of Paco Godia who, driving the same cars, finished fourth and fifth. Both drivers were beaten fair and square by their compatriot Joaquín Palacio, who drove a Pegaso Z102 spyder 2,5l. From that race onwards, that Pegaso model was to be known as "Rabassada".

Later in the year, and driving one of those Pegasos, Jover suffered a very serious accident in practice for Le Mans 24 Hours. The car was travelling at around 200km/h when, having just overtaken a Cunningham, Jover misjudged the speed at which he was approaching the corner after the Dunlop bridge and hit the barriers. Jover was expelled from the car, and his left leg was very seriously damaged. It was only due to the ability of his friend, Doctor Soler-Roig (father of the Spanish driver of the late sixties and seventies) that he didn't suffer the amputation of his leg.

This was, as Jose Luis Otero recalls, one of those cases where some press reports - some of them very serious, as that of MotorSport magazine - went simply wrong and said Jover had died as a result of the accident. This was not the first case, though. Otero tells us about similar cases in which drivers seriously hurt have been reported dead, like Helmut Fath (Nürburgring 1961), Heinz Luthringhauser (Brno 1972), motorcycle champion Víctor Palomo (Montjuich 1979), Carlos Charly Menditeguy (1956 Sebring 12 Hours) or Fritz d'Orey (Le Mans practice, 1960).

After a full year of recovery, Jover was back at the wheel in June 1954, of course to compete in La Rabassada hillclimb. In what was a Pegaso parade, Jover finished fifth being four other Pegasos. For the record, let's remember the names of the drivers, from winner to fourth: Julio Reh, Polo Villaamil, Celso Fernández and Joaquín Palacio.

Now it's 1956, and Jover finishes in second spot at the III Gran Premio Nacional Sport de Barajas driving a Maserati 300S, behind the winning Porsche spyder of J.-Felipe Nogueira but in front of the Ferrari Monza of Nogueira Pinto and the Jaguar D Type driven by Rudy Bay. The following year, he won the same race, this time at the wheel of a Maserati 200S, dedicating his win to the recently disappeared Alfonso de Portago. In 1958 Jover finally won the La Rabassada hillclimb, this time driving a Mercedes-Benz 300 SL.

Almost retired, in 1960, this gentleman driver was to die on Tuesday 28th June whilst driving his small convertible from Sitges to Barcelona. For reasons unknown, the car went off the road and fell down through the cliff.

In memory of this driver, beloved by his colleagues, a Trofeo Juan Jover was organized, to be held from 1963 to 1968 at the Montjuich racetrack. In 1967, the Trofeo Juan Jover was also the II Gran Premio de Barcelona of Formula 2. At the end, surrounding Jim Clark as winner, were two other World Champions in the making, as both Denny Hulme and Jochen Rindt occupied the other two podium places. Surely it was the best homage that Juan Jover would have desired.

Reader's Why by Alessandro Silva

"The Scuderia Milano (or Milan) was a racing outfit run by the Ruggeri (or Ruggieri) brothers that raced Maseratis in the early post-war period." This is what it is usually written about it, but if the curious reader of today wishes to know more about it, he finds a lot of unanswered questions.

For instance: a) Which was the complete name of the team? Scuderia Milan obviously does not make any sense (it is like saying Real Madrid Calcio), so it has to be Scuderia Milano. But in some official programs it is printed: "Scuderia Automobilistica, Milano", which means Racing Car Stable comma Milan. Was Scuderia Milano an accepted shortening?

b) Was it Ruggeri or Ruggieri? Both are to be found and both surnames appear equally divided in Italian phone books.

c) Who were the other Ruggieri brothers? Was Amedeo Ruggeri (or Ruggieri) one of them? Amedeo raced one of the former Materassi, Brilli-Peri, Arcangeli ill-fated Talbot 700 in 31/32 and died at Monthléry in December 1932 during an attempt for the World's One Hour Record on the difficult 16-cyl Maserati V5.

d) Scuderia Milano acted as an unofficial works team for Maserati in 1946. Why did Maserati switch their allegiance to Scuderia Ambrosiana in 1947/48?

e) Which were the cars raced by them in '46/'47? Did the Scuderia own them? Did they enter also customer cars? And many others, the basic one being: how to find sources about Scuderia Milano?

In any case, by the end of 1947, the Scuderia appears to have disposed of the variety of the old machinery entered during the previous seasons. Ironically Arialdo had a bad crash the day of the Scuderia's best victory - after the one by Sommer at St. Cloud '46 on the mysterious 6CM/4CL - by Pagani at Pau 1947, and almost never raced afterwards. Though often late for practice and ill-prepared - looking at records you might see that the best showings always took part in the first part of the season - the Scuderia Milano cars were fundamental in the making of reasonable starting fields during '46/'47, providing the blown section of the orchestra with Parnell, Bira, Ecurie Autosport, Naphtra Course and Enrico Platé's similar cars and entering drivers such as Nuvolari and Sommer.

(By the way, question f) Which was the relation between Milano and Platé? Did they swap cars?)

At that time the Ruggeris started trying to improve their more recent car, one (or more?) 1946 4CL. At the 1946 Milan GP the first example was seen: it featured an Alfetta-kind radiator cowl, an altered steering wheel and instrument panel, and the central gear change was moved to the left end side (Pritchard says 1946, De la Rive Box/Crump 1947. 1946 is the correct date.) Most importantly a two-stage supercharger modified the original engine. The car actually did not start for this race and I do not know if it was raced during the 1947 and 1948 seasons, the Milano cars being usually listed as 4CL or 4CLT. The team disappeared from entry lists in 1949, until the Italian GP, when two modified 4CLT/48s were entered, driven by none less than Farina and Taruffi. What had happened?

The AC Milan, organizer of the race, had put up a quite substantial extra starting money for entrants of two newly designed cars. So, the 4CLT/48s were modified with shortened wheelbases and bigger brakes and the engine was the work directed by Prof. Mario Speluzzi of the Milan Polytechnic, an expert of supercharging and of Maserati engines to be used in speedboats. Speluzzi mainly put two-stage huge blowers and modified cylinder heads on the basic 4CLT/48 engine, and apparently the Scuderia qualified for the extra money, though sources are discordant about that. Farina withdrew while lying third, unsatisfied with the car (he would have finished second!) while Taruffi struggled all race with ignition problems.

It was maybe the injection of new money that led the Ruggeris to a more ambitious program: building new chassis to house a Speluzzi Maserati engine further modified that claimed 290 bhp. This engine featured twin magneto ignition driven from the rear of each camshaft and even bigger two-stage superchargers. The first chassis had a De Dion axle, while the second had trailing links and transverse leaf. Felice Bonetto, just fired by Ferrari, was signed for the 1950 season, but the new car (with de De Dion chassis) was not seen before the GP des Nations and on that occasion it was driven by Comotti who did not finish, but a '49 car won the Freiburg Hill Climb driven by Paul Pietsch with Bonetto third on the new car. Bonetto did not show enough speed, so only Comotti "started" in the Italian GP in the De Dion car (question g: or was it a '49 car?), but barely left the grid.

So we arrive at the race in the picture. One of the '49 cars was driven there by Francisco Godia and the De Dion was entrusted to Juan Jover. Jover had already been seen on a Maserati of the Scuderia at Bari, in 1947 and had raced Maseratis in 1948 for a team apparently called Scuderia Auto Spagnola with Godia and Jean-Claude Fabregas.

This raises other questions: h) What was the correct name of the team? Scuderia Auto Spagnola does not make much sense either in Italian or Spanish.

i) Where their cars the old Milano cars?

Juan Jover (b 1903) was one of the more distinguished Spanish drivers of the period. A period which, in the words of Gimeno Valledor, was such that "[in Spain] a car was a dream and therefore a motor race was like an exhibition of extraterrestrials." That should be enough to explain why Jover's name cannot be found very often in international records. The Spanish Pegaso sportscar later raised some hopes but Jover crashed it badly during practice for Le Mans in 1953 and was very seriously injured. Jover died in 1960 in a road accident.

In the 1950 Penya Rhin, Jover finished very distant and was not classified. The Barcelona race was moved from Montjuich to the Pedralbes circuit in 1946 to allow bigger attendances of spectators and huge crowds showed up then and at the following races in '48 and '50 that attracted good international entries.

The Penya Rhin GP at Pedralbes reached Championship status in 1951 (with a famous decisive race between Alfettas and 4.5L Ferraris) and again in 1954. A Scuderia Milano Maserati was raced by World Champion Nino Farina in early non-championship races in 1951 and later by Onofre Marimon, while the last entry of the Scuderia known to this writer, took place for the Spanish GP later in that season where two Maseratis were driven by the old Spanish friends of the Scuderia Jover (who did not start) and Godia.

Apparently the race in the picture was the last for the Milano-Speluzzi Maserati car with the De Dion axle. The second chassis was later sold and became the basis for the Arzani-Volpini 1955, a nice but ill-fated 2.5 F1 car, while the Ruggeris started building a rear-engined air-cooled flat 8 car for the same formula on a chassis also based on the second 1950 one, following a design of Enrico Franchini. Lack of money stopped the interesting project before it was completed.