Host City: Cortina d'Ampezzo, Italy
Venue(s): Bobsleigh Run, Ronco, Cortina d'Ampezzo
Date Started: January 27, 1956
Date Finished: January 28, 1956
Format: Four runs, total time determined placement.
In the years since the Oslo Olympics world championship medals have been spread evenly with nine crews each taking a medal apiece. Allied to the fact that, for various reasons, none of the previous three world champion pilots, Felix Endrich and Fritz Feierabend of Switzerland and Guglielmo Scheibmeier of Italy were present in Cortina this should in theory have made predictions difficult.
Whether it was the local knowledge of Italian pilots Lamberto Dalla Costa and Eugenio Monti, the innovative design of their Podar-designed sleds, or just superior driving ability that conspired to give the host nation a resounding victory mattered little. The truth of the matter was that as soon as the first Italian bob reached the finish of its’ first run it was obvious that, barring a crash, a home victory was assured. Dalla Costa, who rarely competed on any track other than Cortina, led his compatriot by 0.8 seconds at the halfway stage but was four seconds clear of the third-place team. By the finish of the competition six seconds separated the Italians from the rest of the field. In comparison the battle for bronze was hard fought between Switzerland, the United States and Olympic bobsleigh débutants Spain and was only decided in favour of the Swiss on the final run. Piloting the Spanish bob was the remarkable multi-talented sporting aristocrat, the Marquis de Portago.
De Portago was the driving force behind the creation of the Spanish bobsleigh team and populated it with friends and relations. In the modern era he may well have been described as an “adrenalin junkie” because as well as his bobsleigh career he was a racing driver who was placed second at the British Formula One Grand Prix in 1955, three-times champion amateur jockey of France and a competitor in the English Grand National Steeplechase as well as being a top-class swimmer and squash player. He would pilot Spain to a bronze medal in the 1957 World Championship but would be dead by the end of the year, the victim of a gruesome crash that also claimed 11 other lives in the classic Italian sports car race, the Mille Miglia.
Eugenio Monti, a former national skiing champion, would go on to dominate this event for the next decade and won six of the next seven world titles. If bobsleigh had been contested at the 1960 Winter Games he would have started as a red hot favourite but instead he had to wait another twelve years to become Olympic champion.