On February 19th 1989 an Italian reporter for Tele Pedagna Est began to uncover a story so big it could have changed his entire career, but he chose to keep it secret for 32 years. That reporter was my uncle Eros and recently he has made me aware of these facts that took place during the late 80’s and 90’s. He is now rather old and wishes the story to be disclosed. He has chosen me to do so and I am honored to be sharing some of the material he gathered during those years.
This is the story of a group of very influential people who shared a passion for fast cars and racing. Together they founded a secret racing club.
Two dozen TV careers could have been blown away in a heartbeat had this story surfaced in its time. My uncle uncovered it by chance and chose to keep it secret. Furthermore he ended up befriending this group of VIP street racers.
The random discovery of coded messages appearing late at night on the Italian teletext
The tool that members of the secret club used to share dates and locations for their gatherings was the Italian teletext system Televideo which they could easily hack given their position and connections, thus the name of their organization “Televideo Racing Club”.
And this is how my uncle uncovered them: as early as November 1988 he had began noticing a pattern of mysterious messages appearing late at night for just a couple of hours on the Televideo main menu. Soon he realized they contained encripted dates, times and names of cities written backwards.
On February 19th 1989, to his utter disbelief, he read the name of his own town Imola and that is when he decided to seize the opportunity to try and find out who was using Televideo to arrange secret meetings. It appeared that someone would be doing something in Imola in the early morning of March 10th.
Gearing up for the investigation of a lifetime
The alarm was set at 5 am on the morning of March 10th 1989. Eros, then 39, packed his bag with a hand held camcorder he had borrowed from his workplace, his instamatic and nothing more. Right before leaving his home he loaded a new roll of film, aimed out his window and took this random picture. Just to verify his camera had taken the roll properly.
My uncle’s self portrait inside the Imola Race track, after breeching security
After leaving his home in the Pedagna area my uncle headed towards downtown where he began looking for clues of an organised gathering inside the main square. Having found nothing he walked towards the Palaruggi sports hall and that is when he first heard the distinct sound of cars circling inside the racetrack.
As a reporter who also covered local sports events my uncle was well aware of the event calendar at the Autodromo Enzo e Dino Ferrari. No events or tests were scheduled for that day!
He started running towards the main entrance of the track, but security personnel blocked him. Showing his journalist card was of no help: that’s when he began thinking he might be onto something.
Luckily the race track is 5 km long and if you were a local you knew places where you could break in when entrancees were under surveillance.
Salvaged bits of video recorded while trying to hide from security
Uncle Eros managed to enter the perimeter of the track from via dei Colli, but he knew he was conducting his investigation on borrowed time. These are bits he shot on Super-8, of course without any permission, inside the Autodromo Enzo e Dino Ferrari on Friday March 10th 1989.
In the final frames you actually get a glimpse of the guard that caught him filming and chased him off while threatening to beat him. As he was running down the hillside of Monte Castellaccio uncle Eros fell and broke the camcorder he had borrowed from his workplace. From here on he would be conducting his investigation with the sole use of his Nikon RD2 photo camera.
The first of many car pictueres
Above: this is the first shot uncle Eros ever took of the cars and it is actually a really bad one, but we consider it nonetheless an important document.
Below: this picture was taken after uncle Eros had already been chased away. He was not on ther premises of the race track anymore. He was just outside the entrance to the paddock mingling with some elderly men who had been drawn to the racetrack by the noise of car engines and lack of better things to do. Suddenly one of the pilots (allegedly Raffaele Pisu) accidentally exited the paddock area while looking for his support truck. It was just a brief moment, but enough to get a good look at his car, which not being a Ferrari didn’t faze the elderly men standing a few meters away.
Uncle Eros was still not quite sure what to make of his discovery. He did read the name Striscia la Notizia on this Porsche 953, but by that point he thought his big “journalistic scoop” was just going to be about some new TV show they were recording. So that was kind of a deflating thought for him, but he did find it puzzling that they were sharing dates and locations through coded messages on Televideo.
Becoming aware of what he was uncovering
After the March 10th race in Imola weeks went on and my uncle would always keep Televideo checked. Saturday April 1st the secret gathering was in Milano: no way he could find the precise location in such a big city so he didn’t go. Friday April 22nd it was San Potito. Eros thought of the small town near Lugo di Romagna, but found nothing. Much later he would find out it was a rally race in San Potito Sannitico (very far from his hometown Imola).
Eventually my uncle managed to catch up with the bunch of VIP racers in Misano on May 20th. It was another track day and one of the few events in which Gianfranco D’Angelo (pictured above) took part. He is seen doing burnouts with his imported Buick Grand National inside the paddock at the Misano circuit. You can see him looking straight into my uncle’s camera. Uncle Eros thinks he had a walkie-talkie on board because the security service came seconds later out of nowhere and escorted him once again off the premises. This was the day my uncle understood he was onto something huge: an actual secret racing club with VIP memebers.
Getting very involved in the investigation that could turn his career around
My uncle’s diaries report that Televideo Racing Club held events in Cernobbio (near Como) and Cassino (near Frosinone) on June 10th and July 1st 1989. Uncle Eros wasn’t able to travel there though. Then Televideo went silent. He hoped it was just a short hiatus, but nothing happened for weeks.
Finally, in the late days of August a new coded message appeared: an event would be held in Sanremo in the early hours of September 9th. Eros wasn’t going to waste this opportunity. Since most of the TV personalities he had recognized in Misano would be arriving from Milano he speculated they would have been traveling to Sanremo the day before: this is why on September 8th 1989 my uncle spent roughly 6 hours at the Bettole di Novi motorway service area…around 3 pm he noticed a suspicious vehicle drive by along the freeway: the gigantic semi in the picture on the left.
It was near Varazze that the semi took a small detour and stopped in a deserted lay-by. My uncle observed from afar. Two identical BMW M1s were pulled out and thoroughly washed by two men. The cars were left to dry in the sun while the two men returned inside the driving cabin for a few minutes. This is the best shot my uncle was able to get of the two cars. Shortly after they were loaded back on the truck by those two men and brought to Sanremo. My uncle kept following from a safe distance. He had already been seen twice around the gatherings of this secret racing club and was a bit afraid of what could happen to him had he been caught again.
Mike’s horrific crash
On the morning of September 9th 1989 a street race was taking place between Sanremo and Pietra Ligure: whoever would have completed the 55 km track the fastest would be the winner of the day.
My uncle found himself the perfect spot: about 12 km into the track, right after a fast bend to the left. There was enough vegetation for him to hide yet his view was relatively unobstructed.
Paola B. was the first pilot to start with her n°23 BMW M1. Ten minutes later it was the turn of her team mate: Mike. They were by far the most invested in the club. The only ones racing with two cars. Up until that day that is.
This crashed M1 is Mike’s n° 22. He probably entered the turn too fast and lost control of the vehicle, then spun out and ricocheted against the rocky wall. Uncle Eros describes the scene as horrifying… and so does this picture. My uncle was just a few meters away and reached the car seconds after it had come to a stop. Mike was conscious but struggling to undo his seat belt. They feared the car would go up in flames as fuel was leaking out the tank. Eros helped Mike unbuckle and pulled him out of what remained of his car. He sat Mike down on the roadside and waited for the ambulance with him. Mike then asked my uncle -a complete stranger to him- to ride with him.
Party like it’s 1989
Also shot on September 9th 1989. Obviously my uncle didn’t take any pictures neither inside the ambulance nor at the hospital. Luckily Mike had only minor bruises and some pain in his wrist. At the hospital of Savona doctors started running tests: X-rays, scans, an MRI and so on. Other members of the Televideo Racing Club started arriving just minutes after Mike and Eros. Non disclosure agreements between the director of the hospital and all the racers were signed on the spot. Something surfaced on a local newspaper the day after but it was reported that Mike had injured himself on a hike. The story didn’t even make it to national news.
After being visited by a neurologist Mike was given a private room and his friends were allowed to see him. He was in good spirits. It is by his bedside that he introduced my uncle to his friends and made it official that from then on he would have been a guest at their secret events any time he wanted.
That night Mike stayed in the hospital under observation. The race had been canceled but not the after-party in Pietra Ligure! Mike really insisted everyon should celebrate his escape from the crash even if he couldn’t be there.
So here we are: on the evening of September 9th 1989 at the Astral discotheque in Pietra Ligure. The girl my uncle was hitting on should be a mechanic on team Ruota della Fortuna, but I’m not sure. He tells me he had no luck with her that night, but it still was one of the most memorable he ever lived.
Who was uncle Eros?
Through this photo album I not only wish to tell the story of Televideo Racing Club, but also to celebrate my uncle who documented everything so well. Below I have gathered four bits we managed to recover from old VHS tapes. These videos are not linked in any way to Televideo Racing Club. They are just a testimony of what my uncle was doing professionally in those same years. These are extracts from different reports for the local news on Tele Pedagna Est.
From intruder to official photographer
Santa Lucia Rally, Asiago 1990
There is a significant gap in my uncle’s photo archive. From September 1989 we skip to December 1990. After Mike’s accident Eros was welcomed as a guest, but keeping the club a secret remained a top priority for all members. So once that everyone was aware of his presence my uncle didn’t feel comfortable shooting photos anymore. But in roughly a year’s time, spent cultivating some sincere friendships within the club, uncle Eros was explicitly asked to begin documenting the activities of the club again.
These are two of the first authorized pictures he took!
Above: Iva Zanicchi and her co-pilot Carlo Pistarino were one of the most combative and winning teams. They had a huge entourage and drove a 350 horsepower Audi Quattro with a livery inspired by Iva Zanicchi’s TV show OK il prezzo è giusto.
Below: a 1986 Peugeot 205 T16 Evo 2. Roberto Ceriotti (driver) and Carlotta Brambilla Pisoni (co-pilot) purchased it together in 1989 and had it tuned and painted so they could officially join the club the following year.
The biggest scandal in the history of Televideo Racing Club
This scandal began one month before the picture above was shot (in early May 1991). The club was meeting somewhere near Lucca for a rally race. My uncle was not present. Gianni Boncompagni, who usually ran solo, showed up on his Lancia Delta S4 accompanied by this unknown female co-pilot. Allegedly underage! The co-pilot was nontheless than a very young Ambra Angiolini. She would debut on TV only one year later. The young age and total lack of VIP status would have been big enough of a scandal, but to add insult to injury Ambra was seen driving by more than one member on that day and the Lancia Delta ended up winning the race.
Uncle Eros will not tell me who phoned him at this point, but it was indeed an influential and very much enraged club member who asked him to be present at the following race and open an investigation on the underage pilot. Most senior members wanted Ambra to be banned from the club for ever, but they needed some proof of wrongdoing: all street races were held on closed roads so being underage wasn’t per se disqualifying.
This picture was taken by my uncle at the following race (a Hillclimb near Vicenza, held on June 8 1991) as part of his investigation: Ambra is unsuspectingly smiling wide at the camera.
A rented spy-van
After Ambra’s scandalous debut, outraged members of the Racing Club wanted her disqualified for life and hired uncle Eros to dig up dirt on the team. He was in the end -at least in their eyes- a very brave and stealthy investigative reporter!
The senior member who had started this all will remain anonymous because he has since repented, but it’s important to know that in just a couple of weeks his crazy conspiracy theory gained a lot of steam within the Club. The initially blurry allegations soon became very specific: Ambra wasn’t possibly able to drive that well and that fast at such a young age so her copilot-turned agent Gianni Boncompagni must have been in control of the car from the passenger’s side. There was a fraud to uncover!
To verify this wild theory and get both Ambra and Gianni Boncompagni banned for life, the anonymous senior member pulled strings to rent a spy van. One of very few that were known to exist in Italy at the time. Uncle Eros went to Milano to pick it up on May 30th 1991 and was given one week’s time to teach himself how to operate it before the hillclimb on the Costo hillside, in the club’s hopes Ambra’s last race…
Uncle Eros turned investigative journalist once more
Uncle Eros didn’t even have to ask for this shot. That influential senior member of the Club who funded this whole investigation was so elated that day that he wasted nearly a full roll on my uncle in the van and almost blew his cover while doing so.
In the end we should be happy that they were not uncovered, because thanks to my uncle’s photos and – even more – thanks to the audio he managed to record tapping Ambra’s ear piece, the team’s position was completely cleared and all rumors put to rest for good.
It turns out Boncompagni did not have hidden controls on the passenger’s side. No wheel, no pedals. He did not operate the e brake. Ambra was in control, not him! But Gianni Boncompagni did turn out to be a far better copilot than he had been a driver. He would give extremely precise directions on just about everything, from the standard information a co-pilot would give to rpm’s and real time indications on foot positions. And Ambra was amazing in following with split-second reaction times. She was a beginner at the time and without Boncompagni telling her exactly when to shift and how to handle each curve she would have probably not been as good.
More pictures from my uncle’s archive
Val d’Orcia rally of 1991
Above: team Urka! during their rookie year in 1991. Paolo Bonolis and Luca Laurenti ran with a rhd 4wd MG Metro: almost 400 hp at the wheels!
Below: Ezio Greggio on board his Porsche 935. After the retirement of Raffaele Pisu, Ezio invited his new co-host on the show Striscia la Notizia to become his co-pilot.
The eagle of Ligonchio
Two pictures of Iva and her race car shot in different years.
Above: a beautiful portrait by my uncle of Iva Zanicchi wearing her signature yellow helmet. Why did it sport twin air-brushed eagle heads? Iva’s career had started as a singer, and a very successful one too! She was dubbed “the eagle from Ligonchio” because of her amazing almost tenor-like voice.
Below: Iva’s Audi Quattro in Limone Piemonte. Rally racing was the favorite specialty for many members of the club and given the fact that they needed to gather in secret, early morning rally races in off-lying locations were also a very convenient choice.
Costa Smeralda Rally of 1993
April 17th 1993 marks the debut of this livery on Gianni Boncompagni and Ambra’s Lancia Delta S4. Gianni surprised Ambra with this Non è la RAI paint job on the day of the race. On that occasion Gianni was announcing to her that she would become the presenter of Non è la RAI as of September that year. This was history of Italian TV being made right before my uncle’s eyes!!!
For this big surprise to Ambra, Gianni wanted uncle Eros to be present and to document everything. My uncle would have normally not joined a race weekend so far from his home in Imola, but Gianni really wanted him to be there and even paid for all my uncle’s expenses.
The height of Televideo Racing Club
Imola track day, 1993
Uncle Eros has no doubt that the most exciting seasons were ’92, ’93 and partly 1994.
Above: a rare shot of Gino Bramieri on board his Alfa 75. This car looked bone stock, but it was very far from that. Some say it started off as a wrecked cop car (a Pantera as Italian police named it), others say it was a regular Alfa 75 straight from the dealer floor. But if you had the opportunity to look under the hood (like uncle Eros did) you would find a twin cam in line 4 with a Garret turbocompressor capable of 400 hp. The similarity with that of a Turbo Evoluzione IMSA is striking. It is alleged that Bramieri was friends with several professional drivers, including Nicola Larini and Miki Biasion.
Below: portraits of Roberto Ceriotti (team Bim Bum Bam) and of Marco Columbro and Lorella Cuccarini of team Paperissima.
Santa Lucia rally in Asiago, 1993
This is team Paperissima at the traditional Santa Lucia rally in Asiago. The ’93 season was possibly the absolute pinnacle of Televideo Racing Club. In the period between 1992 and 1994 all members were so involved they reached the point of issueing official merchandising: stickers, embroidered patches, car deodorants and so on that could be purchased only by a very select group of people, meaning themselves, their crew and their family members, who were already in the know.
The end of an era
A new generation of drivers and cars
My uncle tells me ’95 and ’96 were two decent seasons, but with lower attendance. Uncle Eros himself was also much less present at racing events. Some of the club members were concerned that by that point too many people were aware of its existence and it had become too risky. Others were just too busy with their careers.
The Club was never officially disbanded, but there have been no racing activities after the 1997 season. That was the year that two new drivers joined: Adriana Volpe and Enrico Papi. Sadly they ended up becoming the two final nails in the club’s coffin.
Volpe and Papi both ran solo in different teams and they immedeatly started taking first and second place in every race. They both drove new generation Toyotas, respectively this Chaser and a Aw20 Mr2. The other cars just couldn’t compete with the newer electronically tuned engines and with the better handling of these cars. And most of the senior members just couldn’t see the point in all the added electronics. They considered these new gen cars almost as if they were self-driving and had no respect for them. Not for the drivers, just the cars. Which is a pity because they were two amazing vehicles.
With this picture we present a testimony of the last race uncle Eros ever attended (held in Elva, near Cuneo). It was won by Adriana Volpe on her Lion Trophy Show Chaser so this is why we chose the picture of this specific car.
The Milano photo shoot
The 1998 reunion organized by uncle Eros himself
After the ’97 season the Club did get together several more times for non competitive events. They would gather for a dinner party or a cocktail. But it was in 1998 that uncle Eros had the brilliant idea of organizing a photo shoot in Milano. Many of the members agreed to suit up one more time and have a commemorative picture taken next to their race car! Several of the cars were restored specifically for this shooting. Below we present a selection of 9 pictures.
And thanks to my uncle for deciding to share this story with the world
The final picture of this selection has to go to my uncle Eros! Here he is pictured in 1993 standing next to his mk1 MR2. The photo was shot inside the parking lot of Le Cupole discotheque in Castel Bolognese, a club where he still likes to go dancing today.
Uncle Eros and I hope this story will raise enough interest to organize an exhibit where we can present some of the Televideo Racing Club memorabilia he collected during those years and other materials from his enormous archive.
Televideo Racing Club is an art project. All the images above are obtained digitally and do not represent reality. This is a completely fictional story, however the TV personalities it is centered on are actual Italian public figures. My project aims in no way at damaging their image. On the contrary I have focused on some of my most beloved icons and meant every line of text I wrote about them as a homage (if not a love letter). In this story they are all heros as they have been to me since my childhood in the late 80’s/early 90’s.
For those who don’t know what I look like: young uncle eros is played by me.