Elvira Ruocco is a former Alfa Romeo archivist. She recently sat down with SpeedHolics to tell us how Alfa Romeo’s famous green four leaf clover badge, or “Quadrifoglio Verde”, was born.
In the racing world, the four leaf clover has become synonymous with Alfa Romeo’s sporting traditions. The symbol first appeared in 1923 at the fabled Targa Florio race. In a bid to garner some good fortune, for he was renowned for finishing in second place, driver Ugo Sivocci hand painted a large four leaf clover on the hood of his Alfa Romeo LRS.
Set against a white quadrilateral background right at the front of the hood above the radiator, the emerald green clover caught the eye and drew comments from all.
Sivocci, for his part, went on to secure first place in the car that bore the “unlucky” number 13 and the “lucky” four leaf clover.
It wasn’t only Sivocci whom Lady Luck smiled on either, but the whole Alfa Romeo team. While he took first place in the Alfa RLS 3.2, the legendary Antonio Ascari finished second in the RLS 3.0 bearing the number 10, and also recorded the fastest lap time.
Tragically, Ugo Sivocci was killed later that same year. He was practising for the 1923 Italian Grand Prix at Monza. His car, the new Merosi & Santoni designed Alfa Romeo, wore the number 17, and there was no sign of the green four leaf clover.
When Sivocci crashed at a dangerous bend, Enzo Ferrari, who had been spectating and was good friends with Sivocci’s mechanic, rushed to the scene of the accident to help his friend. While he just managed to rescue him, Sivocci did not survive.
As a sign of mourning, Alfa Romeo withdrew from the Grand Prix, and no Italian racing car has worn the number 17 since. The infamous bend at which he crashed would also go on to claim the life of his old teammate Ascari in 1955, and thus it is now called the Ascari Chicane. Though it could easily have been named after Sivocci, its first major victim.
Since this sad event, the four leaf clover has been adopted by Alfa Romeo Racing as an auspicious symbol. Each corner of the white diamond shape on which the clover was painted had come to represent the four revered Alfa Romeo drivers, Sivocci, Ferrari, Campari, and Ascari, but one was removed after Sivocci's death to reflect the sense of loss.
The result was the Quadrifoglio triangle emblem which endures to this very day.
In the late 1960s, the Quadrifoglio transcended Alfa Romeo, becoming a symbol of fortune, or superstition, for drivers of a great deal of teams.
In a survey conducted by the Alfa Magazine "Il Quadrifoglio", it was found that the symbol was much more than just a trend, rather it was considered a noble and respectful touch.
And it still is...
Elvira Ruocco spent 35 years working as an archivist for Alfa Romeo, at the Alfa Romeo Historical Documentation Center.