Wilbur Shaw’s Indy winning Maserati
In 1937 a young Italian, Enzo Fiermonte, entered the Vanderbilt Cup in the US. He had a brand-new Maserati race car – a V8 RI – but no experience. The event organizers declared him unfit for the race. Fiermonte was forced to forfeit his Maserati to Wilbur Shaw, who’s own racer was damaged in practice.
So impressed was Shaw by the Maserati, that he went straight to Joe Boyle, the owner of the Chicago based Boyle Racing Team who was also at the event. Shaw told Boyle he could win the Indianapolis 500 if he had such a car.
How did Fiermonte, a young boxer and aspiring actor, afford such a Maserati? He was married to Madeleine Force Astor, an American nearly twice his age. She was one of the survivors of the Titanic disaster. Her then-husband, John Jacob Astor IV, one of the richest men in the world at the time, perished with 1500 other passengers on the Titanic when it sank in the North Atlantic. He left Madeleine a wealthy widow with the means of bankrolling her young playboy’s many adventures.