The name Ascari is one of the most famous in motorsport. The surname of the legendary F1 champion of the 1950s still has global recognition.
Today there is a new Ascari, a descendant of the unforgettable racing driver, Alberto.
Helio, a nephew of Alberto Ascari, has walked the catwalks of the most famous fashion designers and in the last two years the roads of “the most beautiful race in the world”, the Mille Miglia.
But that’s not all. His true passion and main work is not four wheels, but two. And with pedals, making them a real cult object in New York.
The name Ascari conjures imagery of the glorious F1 challenges of the past, with the blood left on the corners of the Monza circuit, where he dueled with Fangio, and died in a tragic accident.
That same race circuit where the Mille Miglia has passed through in the last two years and where Helio Ascari, ex-model on the Ferré and Ferragamo Milanese catwalks, ran first in the official Lancia team in a beautiful red Aurelia B24 in 2017 and then in a 300 SL Gullwing, as Ambassador in the recent running of the race last month.
Having one of the most famous names in motorsport could be a burden, but Helio told me he is happy to be associated with its history. “I have always felt the responsibility of the surname I carry,” He said. “For me it’s a dream.”
Helio Ascari was born in Brazil, and grew up with the legend and stories related to his well-known relative. He came from a poor family: “I was ten years old when I started working,” he said, long before he started his model career on the catwalks of the world.
In the meantime he also enrolled in the United Bicycle Institute, in Portland, to pursue a passion that has accompanied him since he was seven years old: to restore bicycles using recycled materials, making them cult objects.
Ascari Bicycles offers classically designed, hand-built bicycles. Co-founded with his wife, Maria Thereza, Ascari bicycles fuse a timeless sense of art with an equally timeless appreciation for the hand-built bicycle.
Helio designs and builds its bikes. All frames, forks, stems and brake levers are made by him in his workshop in Brooklyn, New York. The prices for an “Ascari stop bike” range from $15,000-$20,000 (£11,000-£15,000), while Ralph Lauren has one in his office worth $30,000 (£23,000)!
Ascari bicycles are made from steel, and they are made of high quality chromoly, and brazed in copper and brass. They are works of art themselves, with Helio giving the bikes the attention to detail of a master jeweller.
Classicism and elegance, like a true rare handbuilt classic car, are what guide Helio Ascari in his work. From the logo to the handlebars, everything is made by hand with recycled materials and high quality, because he feels every customer deserves a unique bicycle that is a work of art and not a mass-produced.
Although you might believe Helio would prefer a high-performance vehicle of his own, perhaps with Italian heritage, I was surprised when he revealed his own car is a classic Jeep Grand Wagoneer. Recently bought and restored by himself, the Grand Wagoneer is recognisable by its wooden exterior frame, a design feature that gives the Jeep a hand-finished appearance, and in a way is not dissimilar to Helio’s bicycles.
His most enduring memory of the 2018 Mille Miglia? Strangely, he told me, it is not related to the race, but to a visit to the ward of the paediatric hospital in Brescia, where his celebrity could bring a smile to the children who couldn’t attend the start and finish of the race. “I was the Cars Doctor”.
Helio hopes that as the Ascari name is associated with Formula One car racing, to be synonymous with the enduring legacy of craftsmanship, technology and art, as the Mille Miglia classic cars.
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