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Switzerland Scuderia Enrico Platé


By Jeremy McMullen
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We are all talented and gifted in one or a couple of areas in life. The trick is to not be distracted, believing ourselves to be something other than what we are, and therefore, waste our time and attention where we are not truly gifted. This fact in life was no more-true than for Enrico Plate.

Enrico was born in Milan, Italy in 1909. Despite his Italian heritage, Plate became a nationalized Swiss and, in fact, would be officially listed as a Swiss entrant when he started racing. Racing, however, was not what Enrico started out doing. In fact, Enrico began his involvement with motor sports as a mechanic. Not surprisingly, however, Enrico was taken by the idea of being a racing driver instead of just a mechanic.

Unfortunately, Plate proved to be perhaps a better mechanic than a racing driver. He proved throughout his career that he did not have the exceptional abilities necessary to be a contending driver.

Enrico's first race was in 1936, the voiturette Grand Prix of Milan. Plate drove a Maserati 4CM in the event and started from the 3rd row. The grid was three cars wide and consisted of only 12 entrants. Despite all that is known about Enrico's disappointing racing career, it actually didn't start out all that badly. Although finishing the race three laps down to Trossi, who won the race, Plate crossed the line to finish the race 6th. There have been many world class drivers who had a worse first race.

Plate didn't take part in any grand prix or sports car races in 1937, but in 1938, Enrico would experience one of his greatest finishes as a racing driver, but, it would be the only highlight for the Italian/Swiss driver the whole year.

Enrico suffered from two DNFs, one at the Grand Prix of Tripoli and, then, another at the Targa Florio. Both races were voiturette races. In August, Enrico competed in another voiturette race at the Swiss Grand Prix. This event was comprised of two heat races followed by a final race. Plate drove a Maserati 6CM for Gruppo Volta in heat 2. Unfortunately, Enrico finished his heat race 10th, two laps down to heat winner Mays in his ERA. This result disqualified Enrico from taking part in the final race.

In September of '38, Plate went to Modena to take part in the Modena Grand Prix. Some of the big names of grand prix racing at the time were present: Villoresi, Biondetti and Cortese. Enrico proved he was not truly fast enough to compete as he started the race from second-to-last on the grid. However, it isn't always the fastest who win or do the best. It is about finishing and being fast. While Enrico wasn't fast he finished the race. Enrico was the last running car on the track but it resulted in the best result of his racing career to that point. Plate finished the race 4th, seven laps down to Cortese who won the race.

Although Enrico scored the best result of his career the year before, one of his better results took place at the Grand Prix of Tripoli the next year. Twenty-nine entrants took part in the race. No fewer than twenty-two entrants were driving either works or privately entered Maseratis of all types of models, from the 6CM to the 4CL. Alfa Romeo teams brought a total of six 158 Alfetta's. And Daimler-Benz, though greatly outnumbered, brought two Mercedes W165s. A great battle was expected, but due to the oppressive heat, Italian-after-Italian made car began to fail while the outnumbered W165s disappeared into the distance. Ten, out of the original number of twenty-two Maseratis, made it to the finish. And although seemingly not that special of a result, Enrico's 12th place finish, considering the conditions, was a rather good result. He was able to do something other drivers like Farina, Villoresi, Biondetti and Cortese could not do, and that was, finish.

The only other highlights for Plate in 1939 came in his next two races. Enrico scored a 6th place finish at the Targa Florio, held in Palermo. After starting the race dead last, Plate drove carefully and consistently around the 3.5 miles circuit in his Maserati 6CM and finished the race two laps down to Ghersi who won the race for Scuderia Torino, also driving a Maserati 6CM.

At the Grand Prix of Naples, Plate started the race second-to-last, but was able to finish the race 9th.

Enrico took part in three other races throughout the remainder of 1939, including the Coppa Ciano and Acerbo junior races, but suffered from DNFs in each of the three races.

With the outbreak of World War II racing came to a halt. The halt in racing gave Enrico time to evaluate where his talent truly lie. He didn't have the pace necessary to compete at the top levels, but it is hard to give up racing once the bug has bitten. As with anything, it is hard to give up something once it becomes a habit. So when the world emerged from the ravages of war, and racing started back up again, Enrico was there behind the wheel ready to compete. However, he did come to realize that he could possibly come to enjoy more success giving up his cars to those drivers who were faster than he. This gave rise to the team Scuderia Enrico Platé.

Almost immediately the decision by Enrico to concentrate more on being a team director than driver began to pay dividends.

Fortunes seemed to turn for Plate, not merely because of his decision to start fielding cars for faster drivers, but he himself was awarded as a racing driver. At the Grand Prix du Marseilles, in May of 1946, Enrico scored his career best result as a driver. The race consisted of 35 laps of a 2.2 mile street course around Marseilles. Raymond Sommer ended up winning the race, but Enrico came in 2nd, albeit one lap down.

In July of 1946, Enrico supplied the famous Tazio Nuvolari with a Maserati 4CL (see Maserati 4CL article) for the Grand Prix d'Albi. The famous racer took Plate's car to victory. Tazio navigated the 32 laps of the 5.5 mile course in just under two hours time and had lapped the entire field. Enrico supplied what was to be Tazio's last grand prix victory.

Though things appeared to start looking up for Plate as a driver; as well as a car owner and team director, soon, bad fortunes returned. He suffered a DNF at the Coupe Rene le Begue race, held at the Circuit de St. Cloud in Paris, France. Enrico finished only eight of the scheduled 30 laps of the 3.7 mile road course. He had to retire due to clutch problems. Another DNF followed in October of that year when he took part in the Gran Premio de Penya Rhin in Barcelona, Spain. Unfortunately, Plate never got to take part in the 80 lap event as he was involved in an accident on the second lap of the race and was forced to retire.

In between the races in Paris and Barcelona, Enrico competed at Torino, Italy in September. Plate took part in the Gran Premio del Valentino. Driving his Maserati 4CL, Plate finished the 60 lap event, five laps down to Achille Varzi in his Alfa Romeo 158, but went on to take 5th.

Plate returned to Marseilles a year later to take part in the 1947 Grand Prix de Marseilles. This was the sight of his best result of his career and was looking for a repeat performance. Well, Enrico was able to do exactly that. Though a lap down, Enrico finished the 69 lap event in 2nd once again, beaten only by Eugene Chaboud. For his 2nd place finish, Enrico earned a little over $1,000.

Enrico followed his 2nd place at Marseilles with a 7th place at Nimes, France in June of that year. He ended the race five laps down to Villoresi who won the race for Scuderia Ambrosiana in a Maserati 4CL.

Plate brought two cars to take part in the Grand Prix de Reims in July of 1947. Enrico drove one of the cars, Christian Kautz drove the other. The race consisted of 51 laps of the 4.8 mile road course near Reims, France. While the race was not a memorable one for Enrico as a driver it was memorable for him as a team owner.

Enrico was the second car out of the race due to an accident he suffered in his Maserati 4CL. However, Christian Kautz not only completed the 51 lap race distance, he did so by finishing 1st. Kautz defeated Louis Chiron and Bob Gerard. It took Christian a little over two and a half hours to complete the race. This was Plate's second major victory as a team owner, in as many years.

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