The Italian Almanac
Italian News - October 26
Racing legend and former Ferrari driver Mario Andretti has been given the prestigious Italian title of 'Commendatore della Repubblica' for his contribution to the sport. Andretti, who was born in an area of the Istrian peninsula which was later handed over to Yugoslavia, is the second Italian from the world of auto racing to receive this recognition after Enzo Ferrari.
He is the only driver to have won the Indianapolis 500, the Dayton 500 stock car race, the Champ car title and the Formula 1 championship, with Lotus in 1978. The 66-year-old driver, who emigrated to the United States in 1955, received the recognition from the Italian consul in New York, Antonio Bandini.
"This is a very special day for my family as well as for auto racing. And it is an honor I am particularly proud of," the legendary driver said at the ceremony. "I am Italian, my blood is Italian. The fact I have the passport of another country doesn't change my feelings," he added.
Andretti won his first Formula 1 race with Ferrari, for whom he raced in 1971 and '72. Aside from Lotus, he also raced for Alfa Romeo, Williams March and Parnelli. Looking at the world of auto racing today, Andretti observed that "it's changed. The sponsors control everything now. I don't know if it would be possible for a driver now to win as many races as I did back then".
In his long career, which touched five decades, Andretti was also Indy Car National Champion four times, USAC National Dirt Track Champion and three-time winner of 12 Hours of Sebring.