Gianni Lancia, son of Lancia founder Vincenzo, died in Cap Ferrat, France on 30 June. He was 89.
Gianni's world was rocked early on in his life when his father passed away suddenly when the younger Lancia was just 12 years old, and again shortly thereafter as war gripped Europe and the family business fell under military control. However, this time was not wasted; Gianni spent it gaining a degree in engineering from the University of Pisa, becoming a managing director in 1947 and taking sole charge a year later following his uncle Arturo's death.
Aged just 24, Gianni was a fanatical motor sport enthusiast who took every opportunity available to test his mettle on the race track. He carried this passion into the boardroom, pushing through the development of the D20 Coupe, D23, D24, D25 and finally, the D50 Grand Prix car.
He was also responsible for the Aurelia B10 – the first production car with a V6 engine – just five years after the firm's factories were practically destroyed. Despite his successes, he was seen as an upstart by the old guard in the company, with discussions said to get quite heated.
He slowly came to realise that racing was a costly business, especially for firms that designed and manufactured their own cars. Already in dire financial straits, Gianni was then struck by the death of Alberto Ascari in 1955. This culmination of troubles led to Lancia withdrawing from motor racing, and Gianni from life. The family shares were sold to Carlo Pesenti, to whom money was owned for the construction of a massive skyscraper, while Gianni fled to South America and married French actress Jaqueline Sassard.
He returned to Europe and settled on the Cote d'Azur, but chose to distance himself from both Lancia and motor racing.
He is survived by his wife, three children and six grandchildren.