One of the top tier drivers who raced during one of the greatest and most dangerous periods of sports car racing. A fascinating and articulate person, check out his memoir: “Daring Drivers, Deadly Tracks.”
This weekend is the 2017 24 Hours of Le Mans. I’ve written it before but its worth restating: Le Mans is its own universe. The two years I photographed the great 24 hour race were my most profound motorsports experiences. Actually, those races were two of the most sublimely beautiful, intense, overpowering and transcendental events in my life.
After the practice sessions for the 1985 F1 race at Spa I had dinner with friends. We were leaving the restaurant when I noticed Michele Alboretto engaged in an active conversation with a group of people seated at a table in the corner. We made eye contact and he stopped talking long enough to flash his great smile and enthusiastically wave a greeting. I smiled and returned the wave. I’ve always appreciated that small moment of friendly recognition.
I was back living in San Francisco when I read that Michele had been killed on April 29, 2001 at the EuroSpeedway near Lausitz, Germany. He was testing an Audi R8 race car in preparation for the Le mans 24 hours. The investigation revealed a sharp object had punctured the left rear tire and his car went out of control, somersaulted off the track and was destroyed. He was 44 years old when he died. I was overwhelmed with deep sadness for days.
I still feel his loss when I look at my photographs, but then I remember his smiling face in the restaurant. He was a superb driver and a genuinely great human being.
My first credentialed race was the Caesars Palace Grand Prix on September 25, 1982. Michele Alboreto had the fastest lap time, winning the race in a Tyrrell-Ford and finishing eighth in the standings of the World Drivers’ Championship. During 1982 he continued to drive for Ken Tyrrell and struggled with the naturally aspirated Cosworth V8 against the onslaught of the turbo engined cars. In 1984 he joined Scuderia Ferrari with its 1.5 liter V6 turbo engine. It is a dream of most competitors to someday drive for Ferrari but as an Italian Ferrari driver Alboreto had reached the pinnacle of accomplishment for every Italian racing fan and was rewarded with a fourth in the Drivers Championship. In 1985 Alboreto continued with Ferrari winning the Canadian and German Grands Prix and finishing second in the Drivers Championship to Alain Prost in a TAG/Porsche powered McLaren.
I loved photographing in the Formula One Pits. It was a great privilege to have a credential that allowed me access and through my years in F1 most teams and drivers became accustomed to my presence and let me work. Ferrari was not the most open team but I was able to observe how Alboretto functioned outside of the cockpit. He clearly had the respect and admiration of the team and despite his success and position was friendly and open to everyone.
At first the exhibition hall was quiet and empty. Gradually the hall was filled with a cacophony of tools clattering and people chattering in a pandemonium of languages as the technical masterpieces called Formula One racing cars were prepared for competition.
Check out my posts: https://poeticsofspeed.com/2012/05/21/paul-rosche/ and https://poeticsofspeed.com/2012/05/07/bmw-f1-turbo/.
© Dale Kistemaker 1982-85, 2011-17
2015 Motor Press Guild Bob D’Olivio Award For Photography - Best Photograph of the Year
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© Dale Kistemaker 1982-85, 2011-17