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Alfonso de Portago facts for kids

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The Marquess of Portago
Alfondo de Portago e Edmund Nelson.jpg
Formula One World Championship career
Nationality Spain Spanish
Active years 19561957
Teams Ferrari
Entries 5
Championships 0
Wins 0
Podiums 1
Career points 4
Pole positions 0
Fastest laps 0
First entry 1956 Formula One season
Last entry 1957 Formula One season

Alfonso Antonio Vicente Eduardo Angel Blas Francisco de Borja Cabeza de Vaca y Leighton, 11th Marquess of Portago (11 October 1928 – 12 May 1957), best known as Alfonso de Portago, was a Spanish aristocrat, racing driver and bobsleigh driver.


Early life

Born in London, he was educated at Biarritz, in France. He became articulate in four languages. Portago was heir to one of the most respected titles in Spain and a millionaire. Among his ancestors were an explorer (Álvar Núñez Cabeza de Vaca), 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 an Irish nurse. She also had a daughter named Sol, for Soledad, who married and became known as the Marquise de Moratalla in racing circles. She died in 2017. Olga's first husband, Francis John Mackey, was more than 40 years older than she was. He shot himself while terminally ill and left Olga an enormous fortune made as founder of Household Finance Corp.

Portago was 1.83 m tall and weighed 77 kg. De Portago won a 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.

Race car driver

Casa de Beneficencia y Maternidad de La Habana. Cuba Grand Prix.2. Havana 1957
#12 Alfonso de Portago rounding Calle Belaquain from Calle San Lazaro to Malecon in front of the La Casa de Beneficencia during the 1957 Cuban Grand Prix in Havana

De Portago began racing sports cars in 1953 after his meeting with the Ferrari importer in the USA, Luigi Chinetti, who asked him to be his co-driver in the Carrera Panamericana. He later raced alone in a personal Ferrari Sport model at the 1954 1000 km Buenos Aires. de Portago won six major races, including the Tour de France automobile race, the Grand Prix of Oporto, and the Nassau Governor's Cup (twice). In Nassau, during the winter of 1956, Portago trailed the car ahead of him by centimeters while travelling at 240 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 180 m skid. Among sports car enthusiasts, de 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.

He participated in 5 World Championship Formula One Grands Prix, debuting on 1 July 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 140 km/h after losing control on a patch of oil. He was hospitalized with a broken leg.


Alfonso de Portago
Medal record
Competitor for  Spain
World Championships
Bronze 1957 St. Moritz Two-man

He also was a bobsleigh runner, recruiting several cousins in order to form Spain's first bobsleigh team for the 1956 Winter Olympic Games in Cortina d'Ampezzo. He had had only two or three practice runs in Switzerland before buying a pair of sleds. With de Portago steering, the two-man bob finished fourth to the surprise of the traditional teams, missing out on a medal by 0.16 seconds. He was introduced to bobsledding by an American from Beloit, Wisconsin, Edmund Nelson, whom he later teamed up with in order to win the Tour de France automobile race.

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


Memorial MM
Memorial to victims of Mille Miglia at de Portago's fatal crash location, in Cavriana.

He and his co-driver Edmund Nelson were killed on 12 May 1957 in a crash during that year's Mille Miglia, in a straight road section between Cerlongo and Guidizzolo, in the communal territory of Cavriana about 70 km from Brescia, the start and finish point of the event race.

The wreck also claimed the lives of nine spectators.


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.

Personal life

In 1949, when he was only twenty, de Portago married American former model Carroll McDaniel (by whom he had two children). McDaniel was several years older than de Portago and they barely knew each other. She subsequently married the philanthropist Milton Petrie. One of de Portago's daughters is photographer Andrea Portago, who was on the June 1977 cover of Andy Warhol's Interview magazine. His son, Anthony (1954-1990), was a stockbroker born around 1954. He married in 1973 (and divorced in 1978) Sorbonne-educated society fundraiser and costume- and set-designer Barbara, daughter of German nobleman Henrik von Schlubach. Her stepfather, Gerald van der Kemp, was a curator who restored the Palace of Versailles. Barbara de Portago subsequently married, in 1984, actor and playwright Jason Harrison Grant, and, after their divorce, married in 1991 (divorced 1994) investment banker William James Tapert.

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