Caberto Conelli, a sportsman in love with the Targa Florio
by Adolfo Orsi

Salò, Circuito del Garda 1925

Caberto Conelli (sulla sinistra) conversa con Renato Balestrero prima della gara: sullo sfondo la T13 n.11 di Gino Compagnoni

The Targa Florio has been the unforgiving test for motor racing drivers and cars alike. Caberto Conelli, an Italian driver now largely forgotten, was one of the heroes of this race between 1927 and 1930, coming second on one occasion, and third on two. Given his association with Bugatti, and thanks to the documents made available by his family, we take this opportunity to remember him and pay tribute to his career.
Carlo Alberto Conelli de Prosperi was born at Belgirate on the 26th of August, 1889. His father Carlo was a Piedmontese diplomat with upper class background. His mother Anna Bracorens di Savoiroux came from a noble family of Savoiard origins and of military background. Carlo, who died in 1895, had six children: four girls, Carlo Alberto (Caberto) and his older brother Francesco, who shares the same birthday, as he was also born on the 26th of August, but three years earlier. They spend an idyllic youth between Turin and the beautiful villas on Lake Maggiore owned by the family, at Belgirate and Villa Lesa, where they are keen sailors and become passionate about motor-boats.
They are also familiar with cars; the husband of Carla, one of the sisters, is Alfonso Ferrero di Ventimiglia, one of the founder members of Fiat. The most prestigious cars of the time were used to tour around the most famous European tourist spots.
Before the war, Francesco, also called Franz, has the Cantieri Teroni build the motor-boat ‘Sciata’, equipped with a 300HP Fiat engine, which goes on to beat the speed world record at Montecarlo.
Motors are also an attraction for Caberto who, after taking part in the Macedonian war as a chauffeur, obtains his pilot license in 1917. He then becomes member of the Squadriglia Baracca, bringing down four enemy planes and earning a silver and a bronze medal and the Japanese decoration of the ‘Sol Levante’ (Rising Sun)
In 1919 Franz opens the way to car racing for Caberto by taking part in the Parma – Poggio di Berceto uphill race, where he qualifies first in his class. On the same day also Enzo Ferrari has his first race.
Caberto’s first race is the Aosta – Gran San Bernardo hill climb on the 29th of September, 1920. His car is a F.A.S.T. (Fabbrica Auto Sport Torino ), arriving first overall. This is a good omen for his career, though it is Franz who is more active in the years between 1920 and 1922. In 1921 in Brescia he brings the Diatto-Bugatti, also called the Diatto Type 30, to victory in the preliminary races of the 1st Italian Grand Prix.

The car is first in class up to 2.000 cc in the flying kilometre, with a speed over 119 Km/h, and repeated the success a few days later at the Grand Prix Voiturette Gentlemen. The newspapers of the time asserted that only the car’s 16 valve engine, ‘built on license in Turin’, is a Bugatti, but the truth is revealed in the photographs which clearly show that also the chassis, most likely of the T22, is Bugatti designed, if not in fact arriving directly from Molsheim. This would explain the interested presence of Ettore Bugatti, who assisted in Brescia at the great ‘en plein’ 1-2-3-4 of his T 13s in the Grand Prix Voiturettes, also at the pits of Franz Conelli.
In 1922 Franz won the Parma- Poggio di Berceto on a Ballot and at the end of the season he retires from racing, taking the wheel only once again in 1925 in the Circuito del Garda with a T 35. From then on Franz becomes involved with the administration of the family affairs following his younger brother’s sporting activities.
For the 1923 season Caberto bought an Amilcar, with which he is placed favorably in the ‘voiturette’ category.
Following in the footsteps of Count Masetti, in 1925 Caberto becomes official driver of the S.T.D. group (Sunbeam, Talbot, Darracq) and in that season only races abroad. He makes his debut at Miramas with the Talbot ‘voiturette’ and comes a good second. On the 17th May 1925 at Montlhery, trying to pass with his little Talbot Duller who was preceding him, Caberto zigzags erratically on the winning straight hitting the fence three times and is thrown out of his car which however manages to pass the finishing line and thus comes second.

Targa Florio 1927
la T37 A di Caberto Conelli sulla linea dei box di Cerda