Leo Villa

Leo Villa

English mechanic
Date of Birth: 30.11.1899
Country: Great Britain

Biography of Leo Villa

Leo Villa, an English mechanic, played a crucial role in the speed records set by the famous Campbell family of race car drivers. Born in London to an Italian father and a Scottish mother, Villa initially pursued various jobs before finding his passion as a mechanic. He even worked as a delivery boy in a London restaurant before his talent for drawing cars, especially automobiles, became evident at a young age.

With the help of his uncle, Villa secured a position as a mechanic in the team of Italian racer Giulio Foresti, who represented the 'Italia' car in Britain. The work of racers involved significant risks, and Villa and Foresti narrowly escaped serious injuries several times. Unfortunately, Villa's luck ran out when he suffered severe burns from a generator explosion during preparation for the 'French Ballot' race. While Villa managed to recover from his injuries, Foresti had already found a new mechanic, leaving Villa unemployed.

However, Villa's unemployment did not last long as he caught the attention of Malcolm Campbell, a renowned racer himself. Villa became Campbell's full-time mechanic and played a key role in achieving nine land speed records and four water speed records. Tragedy struck on the eve of the new year in 1948 when Malcolm Campbell lost his life. Shortly after, Malcolm's son, Donald Campbell, approached Villa for assistance.

Donald learned that the Americans planned to break his father's water speed record, which deeply affected him. Determined to give a fitting response to the foreigners, Donald sought Villa's support. Although Villa generally supported the idea, he pointed out some flaws in Donald's chosen path. In Villa's opinion, once they embarked on setting speed records, it would be impossible to quit. Villa and Donald developed a different kind of relationship, where Villa became not just a hired worker and assistant but also a mentor and authority figure.

Despite a somewhat unsuccessful start, Donald eventually set several new records - seven on water and one on land - with Villa's involvement in the preparation for each project. However, tragedy struck again in 1967 when Donald lost his life during an attempt to set his eighth water speed record. After Donald's death, Villa moved to Reigate, Surrey, with his wife and pursued gardening. In 1976, he was honored with the Order of the British Empire for his contribution to the Campbell family's record-setting endeavors. Sadly, Leo Villa passed away from lung cancer in January 1979.