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Alfonso de Portago

Alfonso Antonio Vicente Eduardo Angel Blas Francisco de Borja Cabeza de Vaca y Leighton, Marquis of Portago, best known as Alfonso de Portago (born in London, October 11, 1928 - died near Guidizzolo, Mantua, Italy, May 12, 1957) was a racing driver from Spain.


Notable heritage

Portago was 6' (1.83 m) tall and weighed 170 pounds (77 kg).[1] He was educated in France.[2] He became articulate in four languages. Portago was heir to one of the most respected titles in Spain[1] and a millionaire.[2] Among his ancestors was an explorer, a Governor of Madrid, and a war hero. His Spanish father was Antonio Cabeza de Vaca. He died during half time at a polo match at a young age. His mother was named Olga Leighton and was Irish. She also had a daughter named Sol. Olga's first husband, Francis John Mackey, was more than 40 years older than her. He shot himself while terminally ill and left Olga an enormous fortune made as founder of Household Financial.[3]

Personal life

In 1949, when he was twenty, de Portago married American former showgirl Carroll McDaniel (by whom he had two children). McDaniel was several years older than him and they barely knew each other. One of his daughters (born 1949 or 1950) is photographer Andrea Portago, who was on the June 1977 cover of Andy Warhol's Interview magazine. His son Anthony de Portago, a stockbroker and private investor interested in dance and acting was born around 1954. Supposedly, Carroll and Alfonso were in the process of getting a divorce so he could legitimize his invalid Mexican marriage to Dorian Leigh (who had already aborted their first baby in 1954 and then gave birth to their son Kim on September 27, 1955).[4] However, de Portago was also dating actress Linda Christian, actor Tyrone Power's ex-wife. De Portago was killed in the 1957 Mille Miglia race on May 8. His divorce was to become final on May 9.[5] McDaniel never signed the divorce document since he was deceased. She went on to marry multi-millionaire Milton Petrie.

Versatile athlete

Medal record
Competitor for 22x20px Spain
World Championships
Bronze 1957 St. Moritz Two-man

He won a $500 bet at the age of 17 when he flew his plane beneath a bridge. He participated twice in the Grand National Steeplechase at Aintree as a gentleman jockey, although he found keeping his weight down to be a struggle.[1]

He also was a bobsleigh runner. In this sport he took part in the 1956 Winter Olympic Games in Cortina d'Ampezzo, where he placed fourth in the two-man race. He was introduced to bobsledding by an American from Beloit, Wisconsin, Edmund Nelson. Portago and Nelson later teamed to win the Tour de France automobile race. Portago recruited several of his cousins from Madrid for the Olympic competition. The team made only twenty trial runs before achieving their fourth place finish.[1]

Portago also won a bronze medal in the two-man event at the 1957 FIBT World Championships in St. Moritz.

Race car driver

Portago began racing sports cars and won six big races, including the Tour de France automobile race, the Grand Prix of Oporto, and the Nassau Governor's Cup (twice). He once told a reporter, I like the feeling of fear. After a while a man becomes an addict and has to have it. In Nassau during the winter of 1956, Portago trailed the car ahead of him by inches while travelling at 150 mph (250 km/h). Portago used his skill to avert careening into a crowd after the driver ahead of him touched his brakes and both cars went into a 600-foot (180 m) skid. Among sports car enthusiasts Portago was known as a two-car man, because of the many burned-out brakes, clutches, transmissions, and wrecked cars for which he was responsible. He often needed several cars to finish a race.[1]

He participated in 5 World Championship Formula One Grands Prix, debuting on July 1, 1956. His best result was a second place at the 1956 British Grand Prix (a shared drive with Peter Collins, and scored a total of four championship points. In 1953 he raced with Luigi Chinetti in the Carrera Panamericana. During the 1955 British Grand Prix at Silverstone, Portago was thrown from his Ferrari while racing at 90 mph (140 km/h) after losing control on a patch of oil. He was hospitalized with a broken leg.[1]


File:Memorial MM.jpg
Memorial to victims of Mille Miglia where the fatal crash happened

He and his co-driver Edmund Nelson were killed in a crash (on May 8) in the 1957 Mille Miglia about forty miles (68 km) from Brescia, the starting and finishing point of the 1,000 mile (1609 km) race. They were in third place at the time. The accident also claimed the lives of ten spectators, among them five children. Portago blew a tire on his Ferrari, causing the car to go into the crowd lining the highway. He was travelling at 150 mph (250 km/h) when the tire went flat. The Ferrari hurtled over a canal on the left side of the road, killing five spectators, then veered back across the canal, and caused the deaths of five other onlookers on the right side of the road. Two of the dead children were hit by a concrete highway milestone that was ripped from the ground by Portago's car and thrown into the crowd. The bodies of Portago and Nelson were badly disfigured beneath the Ferrari, which was upside down. Portago's body was in two sections.[2] This resulted in a long trial for Ferrari team owner Enzo Ferrari.

As T.C. Browne wrote: The inevitable happened when Alfonso [...] de Portago stopped alongside the course, ran to the fence, kissed Linda Christian, ran back to his Ferrari and drove on to his destiny, killing himself, his co-driver, 10 spectators, and the Mille Miglia.[6]

Once Portago commented: "I won't die in an accident. I'll die of old age or be executed in some gross miscarriage of justice". However Nelson countered this assertion by saying that Portago would not live to be 30. According to Nelson, "every time Portago comes in from a race the front of his car is wrinkled where he has been nudging people out of the way at 130 mph (210 km/h)".[1]


The Portago curve at the St. Moritz-Celerina Olympic Bobrun is named in his honor for his foundation's efforts to renovate the lower portion of the track. A Portago curve (#7) is also shown on the Jarama motor racing circuit in Spain.

Complete Formula One World Championship results


Year Entrant Chassis Engine 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 WDC Points
1956 Scuderia Ferrari Ferrari D50 Ferrari V8 ARG


2 †



15th 3
1957 Scuderia Ferrari Ferrari D50A Ferrari V8

5 *

20th 1
† Indicates Shared Drive with Peter Collins
* Indicates Shared Drive with José Froilán González

External links


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 1.5 1.6 Marquis at the Wheel, New York Times, March 17, 1957, Page SM40.
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 Daredevil Sportsman Perishes, Los Angeles Times, May 13, 1957, Page 1.
  3. The Girl Who Had Everything, Dorian Leigh. Page 94.
  4. The Girl Who Had Everything, Dorian Leigh, pages 113-114, 128.
  5. "The Girl Who Had Everything," Dorian Leigh, page 145.
  6. The road races, Motor Trend 100 Years of the Automobile, 1985, ISBN 0-8227-5092-9, Page 233.

  • Wallechinsky, David (1984). "Bobsled: Two-man". In The Complete Book of the Olympics: 1896 - 1980. New York: Penguin Books. p. 558.


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