Rebels Without Speed
The ATS Fiasco

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Written by Simon Stiel

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In the twilight of the 1996 season, Damon Hill astonished the paddock by signing a one-year contract with Arrows, a move described by the Daily Telegraph at the time as the equivalent of Alan Shearer signing for Rochdale. However, Hill was not the first World Champion to move to a team which general wisdom regarded as second-rate. His namesake Phil Hill had done likewise in 1963 for Automobile Turismo e Sport (ATS).


REBELS WITHOUT SPEED: The ATS Fiasco

As well as beginning with an A, like Arrows ATS was founded by renegades from an established team. In ATS' case, it was from a team none other than Ferrari. Eight members, including team manager Romano Tavoni and Carlo Chiti, the designer of the Ferrari 156 that had swept the board in 1961 left due to their intense dislike of the influence of Enzo Ferrari's wife Laura as a shareholder. In addition Ferrari sent her to the funeral of the slain championship contender Wolfgang Von Trips rather than go himself.

The eight renegades then enjoyed the support of Count Giovanni Volpi di Misurata and formed the Societa per Azioni Automobili Turismo e Sport Serenissima. However Volpi withdrew and ATS was formed. Hill wasn't able to properly defend his title in 1962 due to the brain drain Ferrari had endured and the poor relation he had with sporting director Eugenio Dragoni persuaded him to join ATS.


ATS was formed by a disgruntled breakaway group from Ferrari, which included 1961 World Champion Phil Hill. ATS was formed by a disgruntled breakaway group from Ferrari, which included 1961 World Champion Phil Hill.

He was then joined by Giancarlo Baghetti, who in France 1961 had become a Grand Prix winner on his debut. Theoretically, the team had potential and Chiti had built a factory and foundry at the Sasso Marconi site near Bologna and designed the car with an in-house V8 engine in short time. He and Tavoni even went as far as to say they would beat Ferrari.

Tony Vandervell had said likewise and had succeeded in beating "those bloody red cars" with his Vanwall team. However ATS were not Vanwall. After missing the first race of the 1963 season at Monaco, they "appeared" at Spa. Inverted commas are applicable since the team transporter stopped at Malmedy, away from the paddock, perhaps out of embarrassment at the state that the cars were in despite the effort.

The chassis was a ridiculously small body and a huge deflector did not help matters. The chassis also needed to be sawn through and re-welded if an engine change was needed. On the track, Hill and Baghetti could only manage 17th and 20th, 12.5 seconds off Graham Hill's pole time. Baghetti only lasted 7 laps before succumbing to transmission failure and Hill retired six laps later with gearbox troubles.


Baghetti fared no better than Hill at Spa - in other words, not very well at all! Baghetti fared no better than Hill at Spa - in other words, not very well at all!

Matters did not improve at Zandvoort. Although Hill had improved to 13th place on the grid, he was still 4.9 seconds off Jim Clark's pole time and only two places ahead of Baghetti. Hill's rear wheel fell off on lap 15 and Baghetti pulled into the pits two laps later with engine trouble. The team did not appear in France or Britain in order to continue development. Germany was also missed since the transporter crashed en-route.

At Monza, where Hill clinched his title just two years previously, the team was anonymous. Hill finished 11th, seven laps down on winner Clark and Baghetti was not classified at 13 laps behind the winner. Watkins Glen was no better with both cars out after four laps and in Mexico, after Hill's rear suspension broke while running in 10th while Baghetti had retired early yet again, it was "arrivederci" from the team who gave up the fruitless struggle after a disappointing season beset with financial difficulties after Volpi withdrew.

It was not the end of the ATS car though. Alf Francis, Stirling Moss' former mechanic, took possession of it. Associated with Valerio Colotti, a Maserati chassis-engineer and prominent manufacturer Vic Derrington, Francis built a spaceframe chassis (a year after the Lotus 25 had shifted the goalposts with a monocoque design) six inches in wheelbase shorter than the original, and provided aluminium bodywork which had a square-like section. Mistaken for an ATS by MotorSport and Autocar magazines, Mike Lawrence referred to it as a Derrington-Francis ATS 100-02.


The ATS didn't improve over 5 meetings, and the team disbanded at the end of 1963 but the chassis survived. The ATS didn't improve over 5 meetings, and the team disbanded at the end of 1963 but the chassis survived.

It appeared in 1964 at Monza and in the driving seat was Portuguese Mario Araujo de Cabral who had shown promise, for example in 1959 when he had qualified ahead of Graham Hill and Innes Ireland in his debut at Monsanto, in a Formula 2 race at Oporto, in the non-championship Pau Grand Prix where he had finished fourth, and at the Nurburgring, the previous race, where he was up to 10th from 16th on the grid before his gearbox failed.

That talent showed at Monza 1964 when Cabral qualified ahead of double Monaco Grand Prix winner Maurice Trintignant and diced with future winner Peter Revson at the back of the field before retiring with ignition troubles. He had put Hill and Baghetti to shame by racing the modified ATS faster than any of them. Cabral never appeared in F1 again after Monza. Meanwhile, the team ATS boasted they would beat, Ferrari, took the driver's and constructor's championships for 1964.

The original ATS-100 appeared in Goodwood in 1999 and Andrew Wolfe put it across the finish line in fourth place for the Glover Trophy race. Ironically, the sharknose Ferrari that gave Hill his title no longer exists in its original chassis whilst the car that put his career in nosedive, the ATS, does.


The Derrington-Francis version raced by de Cabral at Monza in 1964 was a rebuild of the original chassis. The Derrington-Francis version raced by de Cabral at Monza in 1964 was a rebuild of the original chassis.

How did the protagonists of ATS fare afterwards? Hill's career petered out in Monza 1966 when he failed to qualify an Eagle. Baghetti scored no points driving a Centro Stud BRM in 1964 and his last appearance at Monza 1967 was a sideshow from his second place in the 1966 Targa Florio, driving a Ferrari. After Formula 3 in 1968 he became a photo-journalist and hoped to participate in the 1968 London-Sydney Marathon but when he reached India his passport was stolen. He died in 1995 of cancer.

Chiti, with Ludovico Chizzola set up the Autodelta company which produced the Alfa 33TT which won the 1975 sportscar championship in the hands of Jochen Mass, Arturio Merzario, Jacques Laffite, Henri Pescarolo and Derek Bell, and which was behind Alfa Romeo's involvement in F1 in the late 1970s and early 1980s. He later developed Motori Moderni turbo engines for Minardi in F1, but was also behind the ill-fated Subaru engine that was used by Coloni in 1990, before he passed away in July 1994.

Hill took some memories from ATS, an in particular Chiti's love for animals. He recalled: "When we were all at ATS, we were in this farmhouse he'd bought, and the animals - pigs, sheep - just used to walk right in! He was one hell of a guy." One hell of a guy, and one hell of a team indeed.

Article written by Simon Stiel © 2006


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