Story by Graham Gauld
Photos courtesy of Gabriele Fabbri
In the story about the recent event in Riccione, I made a number of references to our host, Gabriele Fabbri. We sat and talked about his own racing career in Italian events and I later mentioned his name to an Italian historian who had never heard of him. Then the penny dropped.
In the 1950’s in particular, but throughout time, many Italian drivers raced under assumed names. For some it was to hide their real name from their family or else there was an insurance company reason should he be badly injured. Names like “Pam” ( Massilio Pasotti), “Mickey Mouse” (Enzo Pinelli) and “Rimotti”, Gianpiero Moretti, who later raced under his own real name, were quite common. So it was with Gabriele Fabbri who explained that he did not want people to know about his racing and so chose the name “Shark.” Which of course was why my historian friend did not recognize his real name as a racing driver.
Born in the Adriatic seaside town of Riccione, his grandfather had built the Grand Hotel de Bains in 1906 and since he was from a family of hoteliers, that was to be his fate. However he was mad on cars and racing and though he studied the hotel business in England, Switzerland and France he was not keen to be tied down to it and so he chose a different career path and in the 1960s founded his own jeans company called Bullit – after the Steve McQueen movie.
His father eventually sold the large hotel but when he died, Gabriele decided to go back into the hotel business and bought his present hotel, the Hotel Promenade right on the seafront.
He bought a 1930s supercharged MG when in England but truly started racing with a 695cc full house racing Fiat Abarth sedan and was on his way.
Gabriele found he was the only one in his area that raced cars as everyone else raced motor cycles. But four wheels seemed the way to go and he went on to sell the Abarth for a larger capacity 850, and then an Alfa Romeo GTA which he explained was used for ice-racing in the winter on circuits like Courmayeur and Sestriere.
“I preferred racing sports cars because at that time some of the great names in motor racing were racing sports cars and I bought an early Lotus 7 before moving on to more powerful sports cars”.
Gabriele was a steady customer of Enzo Osella and his first was a PA3 that he bought from Arturo Merzario. He also had a P1, a P3, a P5 and a P6 that he raced and hill climbed. “I loved the Giro d’Italia where you had five days of racing on circuits all over Italy which was something fantastic.”
By the time Gabriele stopped racing due to the expense of maintain modern sports cars he had already started his own collection of cars some of which he keeps in the basement of his hotel in Riccione. “The oldest was built in 1895 and in fact is only half a car with a de Dion engine and I don’t even know the make but I am trying to put it together”.
He also owns an American Brush of 1905 and a Fiat 501 race car and in 1985 he created the Adriatic Veteran Car Club of which he is still President and threw himself into organizing motoring events around the area. In 1985 he organized the 10th International Maserati meeting where he met the late Maria-Teresa de Filippis which started his connection with the Grand Prix Drivers Club and he has hosted the club at his hotel on a number of occasions.
Gabriele is a big open ever-smiling host and should you be in the Riccione area on holiday remember to call in to the Hotel Promenade and ask for Gabriele Fabbri; he may even show you his car collection!