CIRCUITO DI ALESSANDRIA
Alessandria-Valenca-Castelletto (I), 22 April 1928.
8 laps x 32.0 km (19.88 mi) = 256.0 km (159.1 mi)
Nuvolari conquers Alessandria Circuit. Materassi and Brivio class winners
by Hans Etzrodt
By winning the Circuito di Alessandria, Tazio Nuvolari with his Bugatti captured his third victory of the season after the Tripoli Grand Prix and the Pozzo Circuit. From 26 cars at the start, 13 finished the race.
Materassi led initially with his 1500 Talbot but Nuvolari passed him on the second lap. Despite making three pit stops, Varzi maintained second place from lap three onwards after the rain had started.
When Materassi lost time in the pits, Arcangeli in the second Talbot led the 1500 cc category till he ran out of fuel on lap six. Clerici (Salmson), Brivio (Derby) and the Salmson of Biondetti exchanged the
lead in the 1100 cc category. Nuvolari finished with an average speed of 101.520 km/h in 2h31m18s which was a new record, ahead of Varzi (Bugatti), Valpreda (Delage) and Materassi (Talbot) who also won the
1500 cc category in 2h40m20s while Brivio (Derby) headed the 1100 cc category in 2h52m51.5s.
The Alessandria race had been held annually since 1924 and this was the fifth in the series, held on the circuit Alessandria - Valenza Po - San Salvatore - Castelletto - Alessandria. The drivers had to cover
eight laps of the winding 32 km circuit, a total of 256 km. After Tripoli and Pozzo, this was the third race counting towards the Italian Automobile Championship. The popular race at Alessandria was a prelude
to the upcoming Targa Florio in two weeks.
Pietro Bordino who was an absolute favorite for this race, succumbed in a fatal practice accident at Alessandria the weekend before. He had wanted to be present at all costs and had assured his closest friends
that he wanted to win the Alessandria Circuit race with his new T35C Bugatti, which he had picked up in Molsheim the month before. He had received an offer from the Bugatti works to represent them at Alessandria
and the upcoming Targa Florio. This race was to be the resurrection of Pietro Bordino, the unbeatable fast driver, idolized by the Italian crowds. Bordino with his mechanic, Pietro Lasagni, had died here on
Sunday, April 15, near the mill of the San Michele settlement near Alessandria during practice for the following week's Circuito di Alessandria. Bordino was driving at a speed of about 70 km/h when a large
Alsatian dog ran into his car, jamming the Bugatti's steering mechanism. Despite desperate attempts, the driver lost control of the car, which spun off the road and tumbled down a ravine into one of the deep
unnamed tributary channels of the Tanaro River, which ran along the course. During the fall, Bordino was ejected from his seat and was swept away by the current of the rivulet for a short stretch. He was
found lifeless while his mechanic, who was trapped in the car, died a short time afterwards as a result of a fractured skull. In honor of this great Italian driver, La Stampa named the 1928 Alessandria Circuit
race unofficially Circuito automobilistico "Pietro Bordino" while Gazzetta dello Sport and L'Auto Italiana called it "circuito Pietro Bordino". But only in 1929 did the Automobile Club di Alessandria organize
the event in memory of Pietro Bordino and named the race Circuito Pietro Bordino.
While other countries had trouble attracting as many as 20 competitors for their races, in sports-oriented Italy 36 entries signed up with the Automobile Club di Alessandria. The over 1500 cc category included
last year's winner Gaspare Bona with a 2000 Bugatti. The Scuderia Nuvolari arrived with two similar cars for Tazio Nuvolari and Achille Varzi. Additional 2000 cc Bugattis were entered by Ugo Degioanni,
Ogniben Alverà and Alfredo "Dilly" Cereseto. Giulio Aymini arrived with two Delage 2LCVs for himself and Federico Valpreda. Aymini had raced his 12-cylinder 1925 grand prix Delage earlier at Tripoli where
he retired. Now with two cars, the Delage with their chassis were not given a great chance over the six Bugatti entries.
The 1100-1500 cc category received 17 entries of which only 11 appeared at the start. Scuderia Materassi had the most important cars, two Talbot 700s, 1927 grand prix cars, for Emilio Materassi the 1927
Italian Champion and Luigi Arcangeli. These cars had not been allowed to start on March 11 at Tripoli. Since then Materassi had made many changes to the cars, especially to the chassis which used to have
several deficiencies. The Alessandria Ciruit was not the most favorable for this first test of the Talbots because it was a very harsh circuit and the cars were not fast enough to challenge the Bugatti of
Nuvolari. From the many Bugatti 1500s, the Scuderia Nuvolari entry stood out as the most interesting as it heralded the debut of the Genoese motorcycle rider Pietro Ghersi. Giovanni Canestrini reported that
during the morning test drive on the unfamiliar Bugatti Ghersi offered irrefutable proof of his exceptional ability. The muddy slippery road surface forced Ghersi into a spectacular skid with the car pointing
towards the fence in front of of the timekeepers, but with no damage done. Cleto Nenzioni in a Bugatti 1500 was joined by his brother Giampietro, his only race in 1928, with a similar Bugatti 1500 which he
might have had on loan. There was a single 1500 Maserati entry for Giuseppe Vittoria and Tommaso Grasso entered an Alfa Romeo 6C-1500.
Among the small 1100 cc category four of the 11 entries did not appear. Pietro Cattaneo with a 6 cylinder Amilcar and Abele Clerici with a 6 cylinder Salmson, both had the means to race significantly faster
than the others in their class. Clerici was more experienced and was given the better chance. But Antonio Brivio in the Derby and Giuseppe Bianci with the new Lombard might spring a surprise. A complete
list of entries is shown at the beginning of this report.
Two days before the race Giovanni Canestrini expressed his thoughts in Gazzetta dello Sport about the third battle for the Italian championship at Alessandria. The difficult Alessandrian terrain will answer
the question of superiority between the Italian champion Emilio Materassi and Tazio Nuvolari who has every intention of overthrowing him. Nuvolari won the first point in the standings, then a second win in
Verona where he had the great fortune to beat Pietro Bordino, the great, who has disappeared. Now Nuvolari comes to Alessandria in a strong position in the Italian Championship and two strong victories that
have consolidated his confidence in himself. Therefore, morally Tazio Nuvolari is in a better position than his most direct opponent in this race. Emilio Materassi did not yet pass a test with his fast
Talbot that he can have full confidence in his car. In the duel that confronts the two leaders for the first time, you must necessarily take account of these factors to properly forecast a victory for Nuvolari.
On Sunday the sky looked sullen, full of rain clouds and did not bode well. In fact, half an hour after the start, it began to rain. From the 26 starters, the category over 1500 cc comprised eight cars, 11 cars
in the category from 1100 to 1500 and 7 in the category up to 1100 cc. The drivers lined up their cars at the start according to their race numbers in rows of three. Only the first 13 numbers are known with
certainty, the remaining numbers are extremely likely but could not be verified. The first nine cars were identified from a photograph, lined up as follows.
The dry dirt roads for the most part were narrow and dusty which made passing difficult. For this reason the cars were started one at a time, at intervals of 30 seconds. Commendatore Felice Nazzaro, the
now retired famous race driver, acted as starter and gave the first signal at 2:20 PM for the fastest cars in the order of #1 Bugatti of Degioanni followed by #2 Alverà (Bugatti), #3 Aymini (Delage),
#4 Varzi (Bugatti), #5 Valpreda (Delage), #7 Cereseto (Bugatti) and #8 Nuvolari (Bugatti), again fitted with the anti-mud shield, a boxlike sheet metal frame around the windscreen as seen at Pozzo Circuit.
The #6 Bona (Bugatti) should have left before Cereseto, but the car retired from the starting line with a faulty oil pump that could not be repaired in time. It was a real shame because last year's
winner would have been a strong competitor.
After 30 seconds the 1500 cc category was started with #9 Materassi (Talbot) first, followed by #10 Arcangeli (Talbot), who was wearing a white overall, Cracchi (Bugatti), Giampietro Nenzioni (Bugatti),
Beccaria (Bugatti), Ghersi (Bugatti), Zampieri (Bugatti), Valle (Bugatti), Grassi (Bugatti), Vittoria (Maserati) and Cleto Nenzioni (Bugatti). Beccaria and Zampieri were delayed because their engines would
not start. Beccaria eventually left but Zampari stopped after 100 meters and retired.
The drivers of the 1100 cc category started last after another 30 seconds. The first away was Clerici (Salmson), followed by Biondetti (Salmson), then Cattaneo (Amilcar), Basadonna (Fiat), Brivio (Derby),
Caviglia (Fiat 509) and the last car was Giovanardi (Giovanardi) with a 500 cc Guzzi engine.
Shortly after the 1100 Giovanardi had left, a trumpet announced the first car returning at the end of lap one when Degioanni's Bugatti emerged from the curve at the finish arriving with a lap in 19m45.4s.
He was followed very closely by Varzi with a time of 18m47.6s; he stopped at the pits and re-started immediately. Valpreda, who had started fifth, was hard pressed by Nuvolari who had already passed Cereseto.
Arcangeli followed a short distance behind Materassi. The parade of drivers continued. Nuvolari completed the first lap in 18m40.4s but Materassi with a time of 18m33 was over six seconds faster at an average
speed of 103.424 km/h. This was to be the best lap time of the Talbot but the fight between Nuvolari and Materassi was still uncertain with Materassi in the lead over his rival. In the 1100 category Brivio
was leading ahead of Clerici and Biondetti. Giampietro Nenzioni retired his Bugatti on the first lap with a breakdown while the Bugattis of Bona and Zampieri were already stranded at the start, which reduced
the field to 23 cars. According to each driver's individual time, the cars were in the following order:
|6.||Degioanni (Bugatti) ||19m45.4s|
|15.||Cleto Nenzioni (Bugatti)||21m30s|
During the second lap the top positions changed fundamentally. Nuvolari passed with a better time, covering the 32 km lap in 17m56.6s, an average speed of 107,003 km/h, which was the best time of the day placing
him 50 seconds ahead of Materassi who was second overall and first in his 1500 class. The Materassi-Nuvolari duel was not the only cause of great interest in the race because Varzi and Valpreda also drove very
well. In the 1500 class Ghersi, Beccaria, Nenzioni, Cracchi and Vittoria chased after Arcangeli who was second in category behind Materassi. The race was very fast and all records were broken. Brivio, who
at the end of the second lap was still first in the 1100 class, stopped at the pits with a ruptured fuel tank. It took about 15 minutes to repair it and then he rejoined the race. In the meantime Biondetti
passed into first place, ahead of Clerici and Cattaneo. At the end of the second lap Nuvolari was leading Varzi by 95.4s, when the order was as follows:
During the third lap strong rain was falling in certain places around the circuit. Nuvolari, who drove beautifully, was first overall, followed by Varzi, who had passed all the cars in front of him, while Nuvolari
who had started further behind, passed three cars ahead. Materassi stopped at the pits to change all his spark plugs, losing five minutes and Brivio followed for the same reason. Both restarted after brief stops.
Excellent racing was also seen between Valpreda and Degioanni. In the 1500 class Arcangeli had inherited the lead while Materassi drove strongly after his stop, threatening Ghersi who was second in his class behind
Arcangeli, with Cleto Nenzioni, Beccaria and Cracchi driving with regularity. In the 1100 class Biondetti was now in first place while Cattaneo regained lost ground. Brivio however chased powerfully with his
new plugs and visibly made up ground. Aymini retired the Delage with a ruptured fuel tank on the third lap and Basadonna also ended his race.
At mid-race, after the fourth lap, Nuvolari was resolutely in the lead at an average speed of 105.436 km/h. Varzi stopped at the pits with a broken ignition wire but started promptly, maintaining his second place.
The shiny wet road revealed all its pitfalls. Arcangeli spun his Talbot around dangerously in front of the pits and grandstands, launching the car against the wooden staircase of a footbridge packed with spectators.
The Talbot made a tremendous impact against the fence on the inside of the corner where it remained entangled. By mere luck, the scary incident ended without serious consequences. The bold Arcangeli freed his car
and restarted quickly to the applause of the crowd. Biondetti stopped his Salmson at the pits. Degioanni abandoned the race on lap four when the order was as follows:
|10.||Cleto Nenzioni (Bugatti)||1h27m21s|
|19.||Degioanni (Bugatti) ||1h56m10s|
|20.||Brivio (Derby)||not shown|
|21.||Cattaneo (Amilcar)||not shown|
At the end of the fifth lap Nuvolari was still in the lead after 1h31m50.8s with a six minute advantage over Varzi, who was ahead of Valpreda by two minutes. Nuvolari now seemed immune to any attack and controlled
the race wonderfully. Varzi stopped for the third time at the pits but did not lose his second position. Valpreda still had the better of Arcangeli and Materassi, who was a minute behind his teammate. In the
1100 cc category after a good start by Biondetti, Clerici took the lead. Between the fourth and fifth laps Brivio again secured first place in his class. Now the positions were clearly settled with the order after
five laps as follows:
|8.||Cleto Nenzioni (Bugatti)|
After six laps Nuvolari was leading at an average speed of 108.437 km/h with a time of 1h51m20s. The two Bugattis of Nuvolari and Varzi were still followed by the Delage of Valpreda in third place, which confirmed
his remarkable skills as a safe driver. The latter had never been able to steal the victory from Nuvolari. The rain had slackened since the third lap and the race pace increased as the course improved slowly.
The Talbot team leader passed in front of the grandstands gesticulating incomprehensibly, at least for the crowd. Shortly afterwards it was learned from reports that Arcangeli had retired when he ran out of gasoline
at Valencia, a banal cause depriving the good "Gigione" with well-deserved success. Materassi was followed by Ghersi and Beccaria. Further back were Nenzioni and Cracchi. In the 1100 class Clerici attempted in
vain to catch Brivio who appeared unshakable.
At the end of lap eight enthusiastic ovations greeted Tazio Nuvolari as he arrived at the finish after 2h31m18s, followed over six minutes later by Varzi, with a large gap to Valpreda, Materassi and Beccaria. All
the others had been lapped and were beginning their final lap to qualify as finishers, which were Cleto Nenzioni, Valle, Brivio, Alverà, Clerici, Cattaneo, Vittoria and Biondetti. Grasso, Caviglia and Giovanardi
were flagged off because they had exceeded the allowable time. Pietro Ghersi, while holding a good position, went off the road on the last lap, a trivial road incident. Cracchi's Bugatti also left the road and
crashed no more than two kilometers from the finish line but only his mechanic was slightly injured. The rain had stopped - too late! - A brief break for the drivers. The sky, however, remained overcast.
Last year Bona won the Alessandria circuit at an average of 91.798 km/h. Nuvolari had exceeded this by ten kilometers with his magnificent performance improving the race average to 101.520 km/h. Nuvolari also
established the fastest lap at an average of 107.003 km/h. All records were broken. No tire problems were noted throughout the race. Materassi secured first place in the 1500 cc category and finished in fourth
position in the overall standings. The Talbot was not in its element, since the circuit was full of curves and poorly suited to high speeds. The fight between Brivio and Clerici in the category up to 1100 sealed
the victory for the former. A complaint against the classification of Brivio was put forward, questioning the displacement of his Derby but was considered regular and the complaint was rejected.
Tazio Nuvolari had achieved three clean victories in the first three rounds of the Italian championship. He could not have done better with this impressive beginning. When Nuvolari was questioned immediately
after his triumphant arrival he gave simple answers. "Perhaps my colleagues are of the opposite opinion but I find the Alessandria circuit quite easy. I am pleased and proud to have won a trophy that bears the
name of the unforgettable Bordino".
|1.||8||Tazio Nuvolari||Scuderia Nuvolari||Bugatti||T35C||2.0||S-8||8||2h31m18.0s
|2.||4||Achille Varzi||Scuderia Nuvolari||Bugatti||T35C||2.0||S-8||8||2h37m28.0s
|3.||5||Federico Valpreda||G. Aymini||Delage||2LCV ||2.0||V-12||8||2h39m14.0s
|4.||9||Emilio Materassi||Scuderia Materassi||Talbot||700||1.5||S-8||8||2h40m20.0s
|5.||13||Luigi Beccaria||L. Beccaria||Bugatti||T37||1.5||S-4||8||2h43m40.6s
|6.||19||Cleto Nenzioni||C. Nenzioni||Bugatti||T37A||1.5||S-4||8||2h52m21.8s
|7.||16||Francesco Valle||F. Valle||Bugatti||T37||1.5||S-4||8||2h54m04.0s
|8.||.||Antonio Brivio||Filippo Tassara||Derby||Scap s/c||1.1||S-4||8||2h54m51.4s
|9.||2||Ogniben Alverà||O. Alverà||Bugatti||T35A||2.0||S-8||8||2h56m06.4s
|10.||.||Abele Clerici||A. Clerici||Salmson||GSS||1.1||S-6||8||2h58m28.0s
|11.||.||Pietro Cattaneo||P. Cattaneo||Amilcar||1.1||8||3h02m59.4s
|12.||18||Giuseppe Vittoria||G. Vittoria||Maserati||26||1.5||S-8||8||3h03m04.6s
|13.||.||Clemente Biondetti||C. Biondetti||Salmson||1.1||8||3h06m33.4s
|DNC||17||Tommaso Grasso||T. Grasso||Alfa Romeo||6C-1500||1.5||S-6||7||3h05m16.0s, flagged
|DNC||.||Giovanni Caviglia||G. Caviglia||Fiat||509||1.0||S-4||7||3h10m48.4s, flagged
|DNF||14||Pietro Ghersi||P. Ghersi||Bugatti||1.5||S-4||7||crash
|DNF||11||Pietro Cracchi||P. Cracchi||Bugatti||T37||1.5||S-4||5-7||crash
|DNC||.||Giuseppe Giovanardi||G. Giovanardi||Giovanardi||Moto Guzzi||0.5||V-2||4-7||flagged
|DNF||7||Alfredo Cereseto||A. "Dilly" Cereseto||Bugatti||T37A||1.5||S-4||4-7||
|DNF||10||Luigi Arcangeli||Scuderia Materassi||Talbot||700||1.5||S-8||5||out of fuel
|DNF||1||Ugo Degioanni||U. de Giovanni||Bugatti||T35C||2.0||S-8||4||retired
|DNF||3||Giulio Aymini||G. Aymini||Delage||2LCV||1.5||V-12||2||mechanical
|DNF||.||Ciro Basadonna||C. Basadonna||Fiat||509||1.0||S-4||2||mechanical
|DNF||12||Giampietro Nenzioni||G. Nenzioni||Bugatti||T37A||1.5||S-4||0||mechanical
|DNF||15||Alfonso Zampieri||A. Zampieri||Bugatti||1.5||S-4||0||mechanical
|DNS||6||Gaspare Bona||G. Bona||Bugatti||T35C||2.0||S-8||0||did not start/oilpump
Fastest lap: Tazio Nuvolari (Bugatti) on lap 2 in 17m56.6s = 107.0 km/h (66.5 mph).|
Fastest lap 1500 cc category: Emilio Materassi (Talbot) on lap 1 in 18m33.8s = 103.4 km/h (64.3 mph).
Fastest lap 1100 cc category: Antonio Brivio (Derby) on lap 4 in 19m46.2s = 97.1 km/h (60.3 mph).
Winner's medium speed: 101.5 km/h (63.1 mph).
Winner's medium speed 1500cc (Materassi): 95.8 km/h (59.5 mph).
Winner's medium speed 1100cc (Brivio): 87.8 km/h (54.6 mph).
Weather: overcast, rain during part of race.
Driver names misspelled or wrong names listed in the various sources included the following:
Ugo Degioanni, called wrongly De Giovanni or De Giovannini, researched by Alessandro Silva.
Alfredo Ceroseto, also called Dilly Ceserto.
Tommaso Grasso, also called wrongly Pietro Grassi.
Pietro Cracchi, also called wrongly P. Gracchi.
René Dreyfus stated in his book "My Two Lives" that following Pietro Bordino's death, Meo Costantino, the Bugatti team manager, told Nuvolari, who at the time was considered as a future Bugatti team member for the
upcoming Targa Florio, that he should not start in the Alessandria race because of concern that he might get injured during the race. Ignoring the Bugatti team's order, Nuvolari who owned three Bugattis entered
to race for the prize money, raced at Alessandria and won. As a consequence the Bugatti team manager did not give Nuvolari the factory drive at the Targa Florio.
Pietro Bordino had driven for Fiat ever since 1904, except once when he raced a Lancia in the 1913 Targa Florio. Only when Fiat withdrew from racing at the end of 1927, did Bordino change to Bugatti. In 1927 he
drove in just one race, the Milano Grand Prix in the brand new 1.5-liter, V-12 Fiat 806 grand prix car and won the race, however, without the participation of Robert Benoist who decided not to take part with his
all-winning Delage 15 S-8. In 1928 Bordino drove a Bugatti T35B, on loan from Umberto Pugno, at the March 25 Pozzo Grand Prix, where he withdrew from the difficult mud-battle race. On April 1, he finished seventh
in the Mille Miglia with a 2.3-liter Bugatti. He wanted to win the following Alessandria Circuit race with his new T35C Bugatti, which he had picked up in Molsheim the month before. He had received a contract
from Bugatti to represent the factory at Alessandria and the upcoming Targa Florio. During practice at Alessandria near the mill at San Michele on Sunday, April 15, the fatal accident happened when a large
Alsatian dog ran into his car, blocking the steering, causing his car to skid off the dirt road down the steep ravine into a tributary channel of the Tanaro River, killing driver and his mechanic, Pietro Lasagni.
Pietro Bordino was born November 22, 1887 in Turin, Italy. In 1904 he started as a 17-year old teenager with the FIAT factory as riding mechanic to Vincenzo Lancia and Felice Nazzaro. In the 1905 Gordon Bennett
Cup he was Lancia's riding mechanic and during the 1906 Coppa D'Oro, an 11-stage tour over 10-days, he was one of the two riding mechanics to Nazzaro, finishing fourth overall in a 24 hp touring Fiat. At the 1908
French GP at Dieppe he was Lancia's riding mechanic and again at the 1908 Coppa Florio over 528 km at Bologna, finishing fifth. In 1910 Pietro Bordino drove himself with a Fiat and won the 1-mile Modena speed trial.
The following year he appeared at the Brooklands oval to set records with the 300 hp Fiat and appeared at Saltburn sands but failed to set records there. In the 1913 Targa Florio over 975 km Bordino finished eighth
driving a Lancia.
After the war, he retired in the 1921 Targa Florio with a 3-liter Fiat 801/401 and again at the Italian GP at Brescia. In 1922 he shipped with a 3-liter Fiat to the USA and raced at six Californian speedway events.
At the Beverly Hills 250 he retired with engine trouble, at the 50 mile race he finished fourth but then won the 25 mile race. At the 150 mile Fresno Speedway he finished fifth. In May he won the Cotati 50, but at
the following 100 mile race he encountered engine problems. Bordino did not enter the Indy 500. Back in Europe at the 1922 French GP he retired with the 2-liter 804/404 Fiat Grand Prix car while leading two laps
from the end when the rear axle broke causing him to crash. Later that year he won the 1922 Gran Premio Vetturette at Monza over 600 km and the 800 km Italian GP the following week. At the 1923 French GP he
retired the Fiat 805. Before the European GP later that year, Bordino and Giaccone had a serious practice accident at Monza, where Giaccone was killed while Bordino survived with a broken arm. At the following
Grand Prix Bordino appeared with a bandaged arm. He insisted on driving with only one arm while the mechanic shifted gears but after leading the race for three hours past the mid-race, he retired completely
exhausted after 440 km. He finished third in the 1924 Targa Florio with Nazzaro relieving him. At the following French GP at Lyon, he retired with the Fiat 805/405. Late that same year he took one of the
cars to the USA where the 805/405 body was changed to a single-seat style and in December he finished with this car in eighth place at the Culver City board track. In the spring of 1925 he raced at three other
AAA races. At the 250 mile Culver City race he finished sixth, at the Charlotte 250 he retired with a broken rear end and at the Indy 500 he finished tenth with help of his relief driver Mourre after injuring his
hand. Then in 1927 he drove the last race for Fiat with the new 806, the 100 km Gran Premio Milano, which Bordino won. Then Fiat withdrew from racing and he changed to Bugatti in 1928. Although Pietro Bordino
had never won the Italian Championship, a distinguished title only introduced in 1927, he was admired in his country as one of the most glorious Italian champions.
Primary sources researched for this article:|
Allgemeine Automobil-Zeitung, Wien
Il Littoriale, Bologna
La Gazzetta dello Sport, Milano
LA STAMPA, Torino
L'Auto Italiana, Milano
Motor Sport, London
TUTTI GLI SPORTS, Firenze
Special thanks to: