Taruffi began his motorsport career racing motorcycles. He won the 1932 500cc European Championship on a Norton and in 1937 set the motorcycle land speed record at 279.503 km/h (173.68 mph). He participated in numerous non-championship Formula One races. He won the 1957 Mille Miglia, the last competitive edition of the famous Italian race. Following this tragic race he pledged to his wife, Isabella, that he would never race again. He was 50 years of age. 14 people were killed in the thousand mile auto race of May 12. Alfonso de Portago crashed into a crowd of spectators at Guidizzolo near Mantua. Portago died along with co-driver, Edmund Nelson, an amateur driver, and 11 race fans.
Taruffi drove a newly introduced 2-liter, 4 cylinder Ferrari, which placed 3rd in the 360 kilometer race Grand Prix de Bari at Bari, Italy, in September 1951. He finished behind Juan Manuel Fangio and Froilán González with a time of 2 hours 58 minutes 40 3/5 seconds. Taruffi and Alberto Ascari participated in the Carrera Panamericana in the mountains of Mexico in November 1951. They placed 1st and 3rd, respectively, over the course from Mexico City to Leon, Guanajuato, a 267 mile leg. Taruffi led second place Troy Ruttman by more than four minutes. Taruffi trimmed 15 minutes on the Mexico City-Leon leg and another 21 minutes between Leon and Durango. In the process he climbed from 12th to 3rd overall. Taruffi won the race on November 25th, with a time of 21:57:52, over mountains and plains of the southeastern tip of Mexico. He had an average speed of 87.6 mph (140.97 km/h).
Taruffi set a world record for 50 mi (80 km) in an auto of 22 cubic centimeter (1.3 in3) displacement in January 1952. He attempted a 100 mile record but his motor burned out after 98 miles (158 kilometers). Taruffi was in a two liter Ferrari for the running of the 3rd Grand Prix de France, in Paris, France, in May 1952. He captured 1st place with a time of 3 hours over a distance of 285 miles. His average speed was 95 m.p.h. Taruffi placed 2nd to Fangio in the 1953 Carrera Panamericana, with a time of 18:18:51 in a Lancia. His time was better than the previous year when he was victorious. In March 1954, Taruffi lost the Florida International Grand Prix with an hour to go, after having led the first three hours, when his Lancia stopped. He pushed it to the pits and team mechanics began working on it with diligence. Taruffi was still out of the car when the Osca shared by Stirling Moss and Bill Lloyd crossed the finish line. Taruffi had averaged 81.1 miles per hour (130.5 km/h) before he retired. Taruffi won the 1080 kilometer (671 mile) Tour of Sicily in April 1954. His time of 10 hours 24 minutes 37 seconds established a record for an event which opened Italy's sports car racing season. It was 14 years old at the time. He averaged 64.4 miles per hour in a Lancia 3300.
Taruffi and Harry Schell placed 5th overall in the 1955 Florida Grand Prix, driving a Ferrari. Taruffi claimed first place in a Ferrari, at the 1955 Tour of Sicily, with an overall time of 10 hours 11 minutes 19.4 seconds, with an average speed of 105.998 kilometers per hour (65.867 mph). Taruffi dropped out of the 1955 Mille Miglia, when he encountered a broken oil pump on the course north of Rome. He and eventual winner, Stirling Moss, were vying for the lead in the early stages of the race. Casare Perdisa won by 22 seconds in the 1955 Grand Prix of Imola, driving a two-liter Maserati. Taruffi spun his car into a straw bale at the edge of the track on the first lap. He was uninjured, though his car was damaged, and he was forced to retire from the race. Jean Behra and Taruffi teamed to secure a 5th place finish in a Maserati at the 1956 12 Hours of Sebring. Taruffi established a world record for Class E cars in June 1956. He raced 100 miles in 46 minutes 27.2 seconds, an average of 129.9 miles per hour (209.04 km/h). Also at Monza, Taruffi broke the one hour mark of 212.543 kilometers per hour (132.074 mph). A 3rd record he performed was for 200 kilometers. His time was 53 minutes 14.5 seconds. In the 17th running of the Tour of Sicily, in 1957, Taruffi had a small crash while in pursuit of leader Olivier Gendebien. He touched the wall in Gioiosa Marea but continued in his Maserati. Gendebien won in a Ferrari. The event was marred by the death of J. Olivari who was burned to death when his Maserati hit the a wall in one of the course's 11,000 curves.
Taruffi was the author of the seminal book, The Technique of Motor Racing. In November 1957 the Saturday Evening Post published Taruffi's article, Stop us before we kill again. The former racer discussed the 1955 Le Mans and 1957 Mille Miglia races in which drivers and numerous spectators died.
In August 1952 Taruffi protected a racing car design under patent 2,608, 264. The patent had three torpedo-shaped parallel bodies joined together. Independent twin motors and wheels were in the two larger bodies, at left and right. The driver and the passengers sit in the car's central part. The central portion is both higher and smaller than the others. Taruffi commented on the low wind resistance and low center of gravity of his design.
The Piero Taruffi museum is in Bagnoregio, a small town between Viterbo and Orvieto in Central Italy. It has vintage cars and motorbikes of his era.
|1950||SA Alfa Romeo||Alfa Romeo 158||Alfa Romeo Straight-8|| GBR|| MON|| 500|| SUI|| BEL|| FRA|| ITA|
|1951||Scuderia Ferrari||Ferrari 375 F1||Ferrari V12|| SUI|
| 500|| BEL|
| FRA|| GBR|| GER|
|1952||Scuderia Ferrari||Ferrari 500||Ferrari Straight-4|| SUI|
| 500|| BEL|
| NED|| ITA|
|1954||Scuderia Ferrari||Ferrari 625||Ferrari Straight-4|| ARG|| 500|| BEL|| FRA|| GBR|| GER|
| SUI|| ITA|| ESP||-||0|
|1955||Scuderia Ferrari||Ferrari 555||Ferrari Straight-4|| ARG|| MON|
| 500|| BEL|
|Daimler Benz AG||Mercedes-Benz W196|| Mercedes-Benz|
|1956||Officine Alfieri Maserati||Maserati 250F||Maserati Straight-6|| ARG|| MON|| 500|| BEL|| FRA|
| GBR|| GER||-||0|
|Vandervell Products Ltd.||Vanwall||Vanwall Straight-4|| ITA|