1933. Alfa Romeo, as always in difficult, if not critical, economic conditions, was taken over by IRI (the Industrial Reconstruction Institute which brings together state-owned companies) at the behest of the Head of Government Mussolini, and Ugo Gobbato became General Manager. The new management decides to abandon the races, which are too expensive, and entrusts the sports management to the Team Scuderia Ferrari which, even without the new P3s, will nevertheless reap many successes, winning 19 out of 36 Grands Prix, particularly thanks to Nuvolari, with the now outdated 8C 2300 Monza Type brought to 2600cc by the Ferrari team.
This truly suggestive video, produced numerous years ago by Shell, is of great historical value; not only because it represents the year’s most significant motor races and Alfa Romeo’s numerous victories, but above all because it shows the emotions and enthusiasms of the people, the expressions and the sensations of the drivers, the social status, the facilities and the fashions of the time. And, unfortunately, also the last joyful moments of life of the great Campari, who perished during that tragic year in Monza at the curve that still bears his name. A very rare document that I invite you to watch and look at closely and slowly several times because the film’s attentive direction will lead you, each time, to discover and see the moments, images, moods of the “actors” consistently under a different perspective until you emotionally involve yourself in the filming of the action taking place; the film will almost make feel you as though you are present, as if looking out a window.
The film begins with the start of the Mille Miglia in Brescia and the line-up of the powerful Mercedes SSKLs driven by Manfred Von Brauchitsch and Willy Zimmer. We see a smiling Piero Taruffi with his friend Lazzaro “Lino” Pellegrini Quarantotti, the Pope’s noble guard, on an Alfa 8C 2300. They will arrive third.
Alfa Romeo, which was officially out of the competitions, is represented by the Ferrari team, founded in 1929, here with its best drivers: Borzacchini, Nuvolari, Trossi, Taruffi, Brivio, Cortese, Scarfiotti and others to contrast (so to speak) the Mercedes SSKL driven by Von Brauchitsch and Clifton Penn-Hughes.
They were all driving the Alfa 8C 2300/2600, another Vittorio Jano masterpiece with bodywork by Zagato and Touring, incredible eight-cylinder cars with compressors, capable of over 150 HP, fast and easy to handle; there were also the smaller, yet still competitive, Alfa 6C 1500 and 1750 in the race driven by numerous private drivers.
A brief shot follows the elegant and beautiful Ilse Hubach, wife of the German pilot Pietsch and Varzi’s soon-to-be lover. Varzi, who is very much in love with her, gets drastically involved in her vices, including morphine, which eventually lead to his decline.
Starting incredibly fast with his Alfa 8C, among the cheering crowd gathered along the road, is obviously the great and famous Nuvolari, with his trusted mechanic Decimo Compagnoni alongside. The enthusiasm of the people is truly incredible, among the gestures of encouragement one can almost hear their screams and cheering. His rival Borzacchini will be forced to retire from the race due to mechanical failures; the result of excessive irreverence caused by the rivalry between him and Nuvolari, which during this race reached its peak.
For a few moments, probably on the Futa curves, we see the MG Magnette K3 driven by Count Giovanni “Johnny” Lurani and George Eyston, who eventually arrived 23 minutes later.
We then get a brief glimpse of a passing gas-powered Alfa 6C 1750 GS and the interesting phases of its unusual “refuelling” with a carbon-based gas mixture. Note the inscription on the boiler: Gasogeno Dux, hidden on the film during the post-war years.
The designer of the gas-powered vehicle is Prof. Mario Ferraguti from the ‘Istituto di Frutticultura’ institute in Rome, on the Cassia road near Ponte Milvio, where it still exists. This autarchic form of fuel was totally approved by the Head of the Mussolini Government who wanted alternative fuels to petrol and oil and obviously made with the full collaboration of Alfa and Jano himself for the necessary mechanical adaptations on Ferraguti’s personal car. Ferragutti, a great sports fan, is competing here along with General Agostini; they arrived 53 minutes later and out of classification.
Here we see a stamp check on Nuvolari and Compagnoni’s Alfa n. 98, immediately accosted by the race commissioners and the enthusiastic crowd at the arrival of the great driver. Note the tremendous confusion and Compagnoni who turns around, perhaps making sure that he hasn’t run anyone over anyone. The car is obviously from the Team Scuderia Ferrari; it has its emblem on the hood and has a Modena licence plate. And here is his triumphant arrival in Brescia awarded by local authorities in the stands with Count Aymo Maggi and an elegant young fascist on the right.
We then move to Italian East Africa, for the 7th Tripoli Grand Prix, where Varzi wins with his Bugatti on the brand new Mellaha Circuit on the 7th of May. The Grand Prix was combined with a rich lottery organized by Egidio Sforzini, President of the local RACI (Royal Italian Automobile Club), and by the famous journalist Giovanni Canestrini, editor of the Gazzetta dello Sport newspaper; the so-called Lottery of the Millions. The start of the race was launched by General Badoglio, then Governor of Libya, but there were endless controversies at the Grand Prix caused by numerous irregularities, cheating and even agreements between some great drivers and the organizers themselves to manipulate the lottery and share some of the winnings. It is no coincidence that we also see the angry disappointment of a spectator, standing on the right at the exit of the last corner of the final lap, with Varzi slightly leading on Nuvolari with whom he had made an “agreement”. Enzo Ferrari demanded a formal declaration by Nuvolari that the Scuderia had absolutely nothing to do with any fix.
Italo Balbo, Viceroy of the Italian East Africa, did not give the two drivers the floor during the awards ceremony. The RACI opened an investigation and… nothing ever happened.
The video continues with the German Grand Prix on May 21 on the Avus circuit. The race has just ended and we see the cars parading slowly under the stands with the victorious Bugatti Tipo 54 driven by Varzi, adorned with a large laurel wreath, in front of the other cars. The race cars are preceded by an imposing Mercedes and authorities giving a Nazi salute. The Italian flag is raised alongside the German flags with hooked crosses, while Varzi impassively and casually smokes a cigarette sitting on the edge of his Bugatti; an incredibly powerful car with roughly 300 horsepower released by an almost 5000 cc eight-cylinder engine; very fast but absolutely unstable in curves.
At the French Grand Prix, 11 June in Montlhéry, Nuvolari takes the lead like lightning at the wheel of his old 8C 2600 Monza, whose powerful rumble also excites the group of flics on the track, followed by the other two driven by Borzacchini and Siena who are laboriously trudging behind the very fast Bugattis. Yet once again, the car, taken to the limit, is absolutely unable to compete (it loses roughly 15 seconds per lap) and breaks down causing a dispute between Ferrari and its top drivers. Campari wins with his Maserati n. 32. Giuseppe Campari known as el Negher, due to his dark complexion, constantly undecided between his great passions, the opera and cars, in 1933 sensationally declares his intention to leave racing and Alfa Romeo. A short-lived decision, because he simply “changed” cars driving briefly for Maserati. His dashing by on the elevated road and his solo arrival are quite beautiful; he is celebrated and drenched in champagne. A satisfied and smiling Campari, unaware of the fate that awaits him in Monza.
Here we are now at the Italian Grand Prix in Monza, on 10 September. A certain ferment had been shaking the sports environment for months, the Team Scuderia Ferrari Alfa 2300/2600s were no longer competitive in the Grands Prix, whereas the Maserati and Bugatti were now more powerful and faster. Nuvolari went to Maserati creating his own Team Scuderia, while Campari returned to Alfa to race with the official P3.
In the video we see Nuvolari in the Maserati pushed at the start by his mechanics and greeted by the public on the side of the track. But wait, suddenly the Team Scuderia Ferrari box appears briefly along with the P3 changing tyres and Enzo Ferrari in a suit and tie on the right while talking to Fagioli. A rather agitated stop by Nuvolari follows at the Maserati garage for refuelling and changing of a tyre while the chief mechanic Guerrino Bertocchi is standing on the wall. Nuvolari, who was first, starts very nervously gesturing with both arms. For a moment, you can see Fagioli’s P3 approach the pits, which then heads on to win the race. We then see the last joyful images of Campari who, surrounded by his mechanics, pushes the P3 on the starting grid of the second race in the afternoon, which took place on the high-speed ring. The driver is smiling and happy as he hears the applauses of his fans crowded in the stands.
The head of the Mussolini government starts the first heat of the race, while the second heat is launched by the hierarch Starace, the Party Secretary. A terrible accident takes during the first lap: Campari and Castelbarco’s cars skid on patches of oil left by Trossi’s Duesemberg and end up overturning. Campari dies instantly while Castelbarco comes out completely unharmed. On the next lap, and at the same point, Borzacchini with his Maserati perishes exactly like Campari; his car like Campari’s is overturned just a few steps from the previous accident with carabinieri and military personnel looking on. It was the only time Nuvolari was seen crying in despair over the sudden and tragic death of his friends. Incredibly, the third race run continues to take place and there’s yet another casualty; this time it’s Count Czaykowski on a Bugatti who loses his life in the same manner.
Next is the Tourist Trophy race in England with Nuvolari protagonist on an MG Magnette K3 n.17. You will notice his absolute mastery with the little car but above all you will be able to hear his voice and enjoy his laughter at the awards ceremony, with the perennial cigarette in his left hand. 1933.
The images and video used in this article are for illustrative purposes and belong to their respective owners.