.:: Nick Busseni: Generous heart and ... heavy foot !!!
November 2001, S.Crispino Rally, Italian Gravel Trophy.
The green-blue Subaru Impreza WRC of the Aimont Team is driving the sixth special test when, facing a fast left closing curve, because of a spring board effect, overthrows on the right side, ending its race on the top.... Nicola Busseni, in his last competition, says goodbye to all the people who admired and appreciated him, driving once more over the limits, challenging the physics laws and confirming that the name of "heavy foot" will be forever tied up to his deeds. The last rally, the last special test, the last seconds wearing his overall and helmet, the last instants of a career lived with the same usual grim. Not even a serious illness deprived Nick from the courage and the strength to fight as a lion, demonstrating a great love for the life, a big passion for the races and a crystalline class. An example for everybody, whose disappearance left a terrible void in the world of rally. He was born in Nave, a small town near Brescia. Nearby they race every year the 1000 Miles Rally, a traditional competition with mythical challenges.
Nicola starts his gentleman-driver career in 1979, with the pseudonym of "Sandy", immediately showing to be a terrible enemy for all the adversaries. He participates to the Rally of San Marino with a PORSCHE tuned by Orlando REDOLFI and, with four gravel tyres, creates the panic among the adversaries ending at the fourth place end. The following year, in 1980, always with a PORSCHE but now "a little bit more rally-version", he introduces himself at the VALLI PIACENTINE with great ambitions, ended then in a "terrible transfer". Fourteen special stages conquered and an advantage of 2'51 '' on big adversaries, such as Federico Ormezzano, were the first ticket of Nicola Busseni that, from unknown driver, became soon the adversary to be defeated.
Nicola is ready by now and his first victory doesn't delay. And it is in that 1980 1000 Miles, gained together with Bassi, that they give him the name of "Nick heavy foot". An appropriate nickname, good for a natural born attacker.
The unbelievable 1980 season ends with the Giro d'Italia, a very particular and selective competition, raced partly in circuit and partly along tortuous hilly roads. The crew in fact is made of three members: driver, co-driver and sprinter. At the departure the complete LANCIA MARTINI team, with drivers that don't need to be presented: Bernard Darniche, Markku Alen and Attilio Bettega, all of them with a LANCIA BETA MONTECARLO TURBO, a real missile if compared with the PORSCHE 911. And then Alboreto, Patrese, Cheever, Tabaton, Pittoni, Pregliasco, Verini and some others, ready to compete along the roads of the peninsula. Of course it would have been very difficult to win, but the main point was to be there, to battle against the sacred monsters of the steering wheel, always driving at 110% and trying to do his best and showing his class.
It was a great performance of Nick, excellently helped by Fausto Bondesan, ended at the seventh place end with a scratch in the special stage of "La Cura" and an unbelievable 5th place end in Varano and Monza, after the forfait of Carlo Rossi, third man of the crew.
Speed, desire to race and to measure himself with the adversaries, innate virtues that Nicola always expressed at the best, especially in the more difficult competitions. A continuous challenge against the adversaries, but also against himself going over his own limits. In 1981 he registers himself in the "Cronoscalata della Maddalena", climb competition where the strongest experts participate. With the usual PORSCHE of Orlando, he really incredibly flies on the wet asphalt, ending the race at the third place end after only 1" from the winner, Castelli, but arriving before of many more performing cars, driven by experienced adversaries as the king of the climb-races Mauro Nesti.
This was Nick Busseni... A driver sometimes bold, but always sincere. He loved the adventure and the impossible challenges but above all he loved to race at the best. His cars were rigorously to back traction: Fiat 131 Abarth, Porsche 911, Ferrari 308 GTB, Lancia 037. Cars with great charm and best performances, that only a natural talent was able to bring to the limit. And Nick was really this way: a natural talent. Day, night, rain, fog, dry or snowy asphalt, it didn't make any difference. On every kind of surface, Nick was able to do the best and often he was able to put in crisis more experienced drivers, endowed with top cars and even supported by official teams.
Tenacious, incredibly tenacious, at the point to win the 1984 1000 Miles controlling his Lancia 037 at the "Muratello" with only one hand, prevented in the movements by a painful dislocated shoulder.
But not only.
Here he is to drive in the fast descent of the special stage of the "Castellaccio" at the 1986 Livorno Rally, "the university of the Rally" as in Livorno define it, to make a special stage record that still today is unbeaten and ridiculing the official JOLLY TOTIP team...
And then again winning on board of the Lancia 037 the 1987 Coppa Liburna using the same notes of the precedent year, because of an accident occurred to his daughter few days before the competition that prevented him to try the race.
Only a natural talent can be successful in such enterprises! Loved by everybody and feared by the adversaries, co-driven by Daniel Ciocca, Nick "heavy foot" had the opportunity to put himself in evidence among the best drivers of the Italian Rally in the two years 1981-82, when Fiat 131 Abarth, Opel Ascona 400, Ferrari 308 GTB and Porsche 911 ruled on the Italian roads. Few competitions with the 911-Orlando, although unlucky, have been enough for Nick to receive favorable comments from the criticism. And the King Walter ROERHL well knows, as in Piancavallo he had to bow himself in front of the champion from Nave, such as Tonino Tognana and Fabrizio Tabaton that in Biella were constantly put under pressure by a car very distant from their Stratos and Ferrari.
Man of great charisma, Nick was always able to be at the center of the scene, whatever his performance were, at the end of a special stage or of a rally. The 1981 TRN endings (National Rally Trophy) were an example of this. Still today, after many years, they must be remembered not for the victory of Filippi (Lancia Stratos), but for the defeat of Busseni, due to an undeserved disqualification at the end of a victorious stage that would have allowed him to triumph, thanks also to the results gotten in the next two. A kind of "conspiracy" in favor of a "Lancia man", who found himself winner of a title without not even having won a race. The first competition was made in Messina and the 34 Group-4 cars registered to the race can give an idea about the hot climate of that event. Nick makes his 911-Orlando to fly, beating all the adversaries (at the endings, they participated the best 10 of each zone) but at the finish-line the mock arrives. Not even the time to uncork the bottle of Champagne that the disqualification arrives as a lightning in a serene sky.
The commissioners get off every small detail of the 911 up to when they find in a tooth of the fifth gear (not important for the final result) the pretext for the final sentence. Also in the second competition in CASCIANA Terme the things were not better. The Tuscans gravel roads were not much loved by the Porsche of Nick, often with a jammed gear box also in the mixed roads where the traction is fundamental. Final result: fifth place end with eight miserable points and the final title more and more distant. In the bystander and last competition, the VALLI IMPERIESI, Nick unloads on the asphalt Bhp and anger. He wins, arriving before of Pasutti (Porsche) and Filippi (Stratos) but once more the mock arrives. The Porsche of Busseni this time is not verified (... by now he was out of the game) while the one of Pasutti, that was by now the virtual winner, is submitted by two zealous technical commissioners to 10 weary hours of verifications up to the unbelievable final decision. Nick is the winner of the race, but, because of the exclusion of Pasutti from the final classification, the title goes in the hands of an incredulous Filippi. "Heavy Foot" was to all the effects the moral winner... Unfortunately in the gold bulletin-board there is not place for them! After this parenthesis, Busseni had the opportunity to take his revenge in the next season, now disputed on the most difficult roads of the Italian Rally Championship. Biasion, Tognana, Tabaton, Zanussi the adversaries to beat and, for all of them, a rock-cliff to overcome: Nick Heavy Foot.
Sly as a cat, Nicola was there, always among the "bigs", ready to give the winning kick and to ruin the plans and the strategies of the official drivers. Nobody thought that at the 100.000 Trabucchi a private driver could battle against the OPEL team, but all the people had to retract themselves in front of the white FERRARI, arrived on the third step of the podium after a competition with terrible weather conditions. And for the more sceptics, convinced of a sporadic enterprise, here is to arrive the confirmation in Aosta after an unbelievable competition on the snowy roads, with the FERRARI reconstructed only the night before the race and therefore not completely reliable. A private crew against the MARTINI RACING and the JOLLY CLUB, David against Golia. It seems unbelievable, but those special stages won with abysmal time spare made really tremble the incredulous men of those prestigious teams. And without that 5 initial minutes lost in the snowstorm, the classification would have been different.
Busseni-Ciocca-Ferrari, a winning trio, a wonderful reality that climbed to the chronicle in the house competition, that 1000 Miles won for the third time among the people that loved it.
But it is with the LANCIA 037 that the driver from Brescia gets important successes. A 037 different from the others in circulation. A 037 maniacally cared by the friend ENZO PIOMBANTI from Livorno and painted of "taxi" jellow for desire of the sponsor.
Many spectators, surely the less experts, could have smiled seeing the "taxi" on the races, comparing it to the slow city transport car, but it is sure that none of the adversaries has ever underestimated the "yellow". On the contrary. The "037 Taxi" was a car to respect and to fear. And the adversaries of Nick well knew it. Everybody.
The Lancia Rally 037 is a car born expressly for the rallies: a thoroughbred to be tamed, the correct car for Nick, a suit cut custom, a "lust", as himself defined it.
Again winner of the house competition, won among the enthusiasm of the people crowd in the curves of S. Michele, ready to welcome him among great applauses and rings of trumpets and Nick, with a hand out of the small car-window, to greet them, so much was the advantage accumulated on the second car.
And then still at the first place at the 1985 Rally di Limone after having dominated the whole race, and at fifth place at the Elba, after the official drivers, using MICHELIN tyres , decidedly less performing of the PIRELLI ones, but developed by Busseni with the sensibility of a professional tester, also risking to have problems such as in San Marino, a race that saw him at the first place in the first leg but ruinously ended against a tree in the second one, in the attempt to contain the adversary Ercolani.
And then other successes in small but not less important competitions, such as the Rally del Pane, the Liburna Cup and the Prealpi Orobiche Rally. All dominated by "Heavy Foot."
Then the accident.
That 1988 Pescara Rally was really accursed. Nick with the Mercedes 190E 2.3 tuned by Orlando was driving at 110% and, after the withdrawal of the BMW M3 of Zanussi, he was even at the top of the race at the same place of a super Cunico, Ford Italia official driver. Then suddenly the dark, the fractures, the days in hospital and the certainty to be no more able to race in a car.
But Nick, used not to fear any adversary, knew how to fight as a lion with great will power and soon he again started to walk. Someone thought to a miracle seeing him after few months without the clothes hanger: it was the tenacity that for a long time countersigned him to bring him to overcome also this difficult moment.
For eight years he remained away from the races and when the friend Orlando Redolfi let him drive his TOYOTA CELICA ST185, he immediately loved it. The Rally of the Casentino was indeed a particular competition that Nick raced in his same way, with the accelerator always to the maximum. He had many rust on the shoulders but "Heavy Foot" spent only few minuites to remove it, ending on the lowest step of the podium a race fought on the "thread of the seconds". And it could have been also a resounding triumph for the crew, if the "capricious" differential gear had not made the CELICA so difficult to drive.
The final result was not important. The third place was as a victory but the more important thing was that "Nick Heavy Foot" has returned. One year later here he is again to wear the laurel crown and once more on the house roads, in the Rally delle Valli Bresciane. The last victory of Nick with his public, his people, those people that have not forgotten his enterprises as the dry rhombus of his 911 or the 037 hiss.
Nick was this way. An exuberant character but at the same time simple, ironic but sincere, serious in the speeches, sometimes a little bit gruff but with a great heart. He loved the extreme challenges without rules and tactics. He drove his way, always holding his "Heavy Foot" pressed on the accelerator. He was able to give show and the people loved him for this. He knew how to inflame the impassioned that, provided of banners and flags, were waiting for him in the most insidious curves, where only who has liver doesn't release the gas. He had respect for everybody and everybody had respect for him. A fighting driver that didn't had equals and challenged really those drivers that were endowed with faster cars. And, with the class of a great champion, he often had success.
We want to remember Nick in the day of his more beautiful and thrilling, although unlucky, competition. It was in the 1985 1000 Miles that Nick gave drive lessons to everybody, before to finish his race with the differential gear of his "yellow" KO. And there were no excuses for the others. Ok, he was on house roads, but the special stages were not a secret for the other competitors. His 037 was well prepared, but the adversaries didn't have wrecks. The lost minute in the first special stage for a puncture was not enough to put him out from the game. No, that time there were no excuses. The two heavy scratches inflicted to the adversaries were embarrassing indeed. Someone, to justify the blow, arrived to insinuate a favor timing, without having understood that, to have ridiculed once more all the adversaries, it had been Nick "Heavy Foot" because Nick, his way, was a big Champion.
.:: When rallies were raced with heart... ::.
"Between two litigants the bystander enjoys..." so a famous italian proverb. In that 1982 Aosta rally it was really the "private" Nick to battle against the two "official" contenders to the tricolor title: Tonino Tognana, Italian Champion and the winner (in extremis) of the rally Fabrizio Tabaton, two very good drivers, endowed with top cars and supported by two top-teams: JOLLY CLUB and MARTINI RACING. But that time they were put in crisis by a private crew with great class and will power. A crew that gave demonstration of great understanding and desire to win. A crew that would surely have won, if the evening before the rally.....
"What happened that time in Aosta" (from a tale of the protagonists):
At the 100.000 Trabucchi the FERRARI job has been really "naif". Maurizio Cavalli, told "MENES", lent his jewel to Nicola with only some rim more. The "Busseni brothers" and friends thought about the assistance, that consisted in tyres changings, gasoline and windscreen cleaning; the 308 didn't need other if not a good driver. How this story ends we already know.
In Aosta the story was a little bit different, the same car but with many vans and some professional mechanic, everything managed by Mauro Mannini and Fabio Penariol. In practice, the embryo of the PROMOTORSPORT.
The roads were nearly dry but the SS of the Col S. Pantaleone had the last 3/4 kms slope with the snow and at night, freezing, nobody would have been able to pass the hill without nails.
The "cat and the fox" had a daring idea: a tyres change during the stage!!!! They had the place (where the snow begun there was a street crotch), and also the means and the men; Penariol had already drawn how to prepare the mechanics and the jacks. It missed only an information: which could have been the spare time, racing the dry 15 kms. with the slick rather than with the spiked tyres?? The evening before the rally, they decided to make some tests, of course with the competition car. While they were about to complete the second slope, with the nails, few meters before of that crotch where all the people was waiting, the disaster. Twelve hours before the rally opening, the car lied on a pile of firewood near the road (they have never understood what happened) seriously damaged both in the chassis and in the mechanics.
After an hour they came back to the hotel in Saint Vincent. Nick was really depressed, he was incredulous, mortified. He excused with everybody and prepared himself to pack the suitcases. Despite it was night, he doesn't want to remain one minute more. Mannini faced him: "If you want to race, we try to repair the car".
Nicola asked him if they were crazy, then, after having thought about only an instant, he accepted this challenge. There was no time to send a van to Padua to take the necessary exchanges. Penariol called Michelotto and explained him the situation. The "dad" of the GTB opened his shop and put on a van a complete series of "resins" (now we can understand why in the photos the top car is white and the rest of the chassis is "pink - plaster" color) some radiator and some arm. In the meantime he found a taxi driver able to drive in the night from Padua to Saint Vincent. Nick and the co-driver, in the meantime, have been sent in room to rest: it was not easy!!! It was a drowsiness populated by thousand thoughts. Nick couldn't close his eyes.
Next morning, in the room arrived from the garage of the hotel the muttering of an eight cylinders: what was happening??? Well yes! Of that terrible experience remained only, apart the color of the car body, a not regulated group of lighthouses and an obvious invitation to the prudence in their heads (well soon forgotten), enough to make them lose in the snowstorm of the first special stage that famous 5 minutes .... and maybe also the rally.
When rallies were raced with heart. A special thanks to Daniele Ciocca, Alessandra, Ennio and Francesca Busseni.