The beautiful and tragic story behind Alfa Romeo's four leaf clover
The story of Ugo Sivocci's Triumph and Tragedy
The green four-leaf clover or 'Quadrifoglio Verde' has been the symbol adorning Alfa Romeo racing and high-performance street cars for nearly a century now.
It first appeared on the Alfa Romeo RLTF at the 1923 Targa Florio. The four-leaf clover on a white square was painted by one of the four drivers Alfa Romeo drivers - Ugo Sivocci.
Sivocci was regarded as a talented but unlucky driver, which earned him the status of 'l'eterno secondo', or 'eternally second'. Sivocci hoped the lucky symbol would help him change his fortunes.
And it did! The 1923 Targa Florio had a truly dramatic finish: Sivocci's team-mate Antonio Ascari was leading the race, when his Alfa Romeo broke down just 200 meters from the finish line. However, due to his lead over Sivocci in second place, Ascari's mechanics managed to get his car running again.
That's when it gets almost bizarre. In the euphoria, Ascari's mechanics jumped on board the car and crossed the finish line with Ascari, but this lead to him being disqualified. Ascari had to return to the point where he previously broke down and re-start from there, and this allowed Sivocci to catch-up and take the win. If that's not luck, I don't know what is.
The tragic part of this story is that Ugo Sivocci was killed in an accident on the 8th of September 1923 at Monza during practice for the first European Grand Prix. His Alfa Romeo P1 didn't carry the quadrifoglio symbol that day due to regulatory reasons.
Alfa Romeo resigned from the race, and as a mark of respect painted the 'Quadrifoglio Verde' symbol on all of its race cars since. The white square in which each corner represented one of the four Alfa Romeo team drivers was changed into a triangle to mark the loss of Ugo Sivocci. Additionally, the number 17 used on Sivocci's P1 has never been assigned to Italian racing cars again.
The symbol was first used on a production Alfa Romeo in 1963 on the Giulia Ti Sport, and over the years it has adorned legends like the Alfetta, GTV, and most recently the new Giulia and Stelvio.