In 1914, my lawyer grandfather Avv. Pasquale Giordanelli was a Cavalry Officer in World War One. In 1940 my father Paolo Giordanelli – an Italian law student – volunteered for the army and was sent to the North African campaign of World War Two. My father fought at the Battle of Tobruk and El Alemein. He was captured in 1943 in Tunisia when the Axis Forces collapsed and brought to the UK “in chains” (his words), as a prisoner of war. In war-torn London he met an Italian girl – my mother. Rather than return to a shattered Italy, he remained in London, married her, and raised a family. He was well educated and spoke five languages: Italian, French, Greek, Latin, and English. In the 1970/80s he became the Investments Control Manager for Fiat UK at their Brentford HQ. He remained very Italian. Aged nearly 90, he died after medical complications following an accident whilst riding his bicycle.
My mother who was also Italian travelled back and forth to Italy during the build-up to WW2. In 1939, wearing her black military uniform, she was presented to General Graziani and later to Benito Mussolini. When war was declared she was in London and hid her Italian military duties. Her family rented a large town-centre property where there was Rossi’s café/restaurant, ice-cream parlour, ice-cream factory, a 4-bedroom apartment and a garage business in West London.
In 1911 her father Giuseppe Rossi walked the 2,000 miles from Southern Italy to Scotland. He worked hard and eventually his six children joined him. In the late 1930s he moved his business to West London. At the outbreak of the World War Two, early morning raids saw the arrest of all UK-based family members some of whom were interned in Canadian POW camps. The West London premises became a refuge and ‘safe-house’ for displaced Italians and POWs. My mother who escaped internment, hid her military photo, uniform, and military equipment, fearing arrest from the UK authorities, and consequently being shot as a spy. She waited until the 1990s before revealing a picture of her secret military connection. The image is in the Scrapbook gallery.
I was born in Kensington. My early years involved long periods in Italy. We commuted in a 1934 Packard Twelve, a 1936 Straight-8 Buick and then a 1954 Humber Super Snipe. From 1953-65, I went to a tough ‘Dickensian’ private school in West London – a useful grounding should I ever be imprisoned or tortured. With long stays in Italy, my UK school reports stated that I could have done well had I attended. In 1961 and aged 13, I watched the TV report of the Italian Grand Prix at Monza and saw the horrific accident that killed Ferrari driver Wolfgang Von Tripps and 15 spectators. This was the first time I had seen fatalities, and still wonder if this was the moment that I became fascinated by motor racing.
In my early teenage years, I wanted to be a weatherman or an airline pilot. My father feared that these professions would take me away from the family, so for further education, I was despatched locally to Twickenham College of Technology and began a 5-year engineering apprenticeship at Fluidrive Engineering Co. Ltd. Aged 16, I had a Lambretta TV175 which I modified for increased performance and rode it accordingly. During my engineering training, motorsport was uppermost in my mind. No one in the family wanted me to race cars. In 1966 when I was 18, I had my first competitive race in a self-modified Ford Anglia. I came second by 0.002seconds in the ‘Production Car Finals’ at an oval racing stadium. I immediately switched to circuit racing and have competed in a variety of cars ever since.
At 22 years of age, with my engineering qualifications, I worked for British Airways during the amalgamation of BOAC & BEA. In 1971, I chose to leave BA to rescue my mother’s struggling family business: G. Rossi & Sons. I reorganised the restaurant, kitchen, ice-cream factory, fleet of vans, and the vehicle workshop. The workshop became my motorsport base. In 1978, the business was forced to close without compensation due to compulsory town-centre redevelopment, so with zero funds, I set up my own motor business – Rossi Engineering – specialising in classic cars and race car preparation. I was also accepted by the Law Society on the register of Expert Witnesses for associated matters. This partially satisfied the historic connection that my paternal family had with the legal profession.
In 1983 I wrote a story for Classic and Sports Car magazine and some club magazines. In the early 1990s, I became a professional freelance motoring journalist, joined the Guild of Motoring Writers, and became Chief Test Driver for Auto Italia magazine.
Cars apart, in the 1990s, one of my many jobs included designing and setting up a temporary 1-mile circuit on the large concrete Vickers runway at Brooklands. Running unsilenced Formula One cars on a circuit inside London’s M25 motorway is a rare occurrence; but it happened for a few short years during the late 1990s. With the new millennium, I closed my engineering business, qualified as a race instructor, gaining a Class A ARDS instructor licence. I instructed part-time at Brands Hatch and Thruxton Circuits, and also have private clients. In 2015 I gained a tough new Sports Coach qualification launched by the MSA – a Level 2 Certificate in Performance Motorsport.
With experience in motor racing, test driving, race instructing, race coaching, handling consultancy, classic car experience and engineering, I started to write more. I have written on a wide range of motoring subjects. My work involved countless trips to Italy to write about cars, and this evolved into travel stories and writing columns on any subject. In 2022 I wrote a book “Confessions of a Test Driver from Pedal Car to Formula One”. I have dual nationality and spend time in London, Italy, and Scotland. As for the future, I shall continue motor racing, race coaching, and working as a race car handling consultant.
My wife Jane (Watson) is a wily Scot who spent many years fell-running and sailing around Scotland’s Western Isles. She works internationally as an HR Director; and at weekends as pit-crew for the cars that I race. My work as a handling consultant gives me the privilege of racing a variety of great cars. I have two successful sons: Dino – an Environmental Scientist, and Niki – an IT Consultant. I have no long-term goals. My wife and I describe ourselves as a rudderless ship.