Alessandro Umberto Cagno, or ‘Sandrin’ as he was known to many, was born to a modest working class family in Turin, Italy in 1883. His father was a coal merchant but in a time when money was a prerequisite for motor racing Cagno still found a way out of his humble beginnings to become a sought after driver and engineer. By 1902 he was a driver to the Queen Mother of Italy
Cagno began to race at the age of eighteen, placing second on the Belgian circuit of Ardennes in 1902. He won the climb race of Susa – Mont Cenis in 1904. He finished in third position at the hillclimb at Mont Ventoux in 1905 driving in the Gordon Bennett race. In 1906 he took part at the first edition of the Targa Florio winning the race while driving a Fab Auto Itala SA.
Cagno was also a flying enthusiast, and he designed and tested aircraft, founding Italy’s first flying school in Pordenone. He volunteered to fight in the war in Libya, and built the first bomber aircraft.
In 1912, Cagno returned to Fiat as Chief Tester of racing cars and General motor vehicle Tester. During the war he ran the General Testing Office for the Italian and French armies. After the war he returned to racing and concluded his career in 1923, leading the Fiat team to victory in the Leningrad-Tiblisi-Moscow race. He then continued to collaborate with Fiat as a test driver and dealer.
Having worked for so long for Fiat it seems natural he should open the first Fiat dealership in Turin, ‘Autocagno’ and, as well as continuing to collaborate with Fiat in a testing role, carried on working there till he retired in the late 1960s.
He died during Christmas, 1971.