GRAN PREMIO D'EUROPA
Autodromo di Monza, A-circuit (I), 9 September 1928.
60 laps x 10 km (6.214 mi) = 600.0 km (310.7 mi)
Chiron wins tragic European Grand Prix with Bugatti
by Hans Etzrodt
The European Grand Prix at Monza was the most important race in 1928 as it was the only event held to the international formula. Unfortunately the race will be remembered for the most horrific accident that had ever happened
at a motor race (Later in 1955, 85 people were killed at Le Mans.) when Materassi's Talbot left the track at about 200 km/h mowing down a group of spectators, killing 23 plus the driver and severely injuring 35 others. The
race was allowed to continue while the officials attended to those injured and removed the corpses. Spectators, the press and drivers were informed about the disaster only after the race.
From 22 starters Williams (Bugatti) led until lap 4 after which his engine broke down. Nuvolari (Bugatti) then held first place for two laps but was passed by Brilli Peri (Bugatti) who led for four laps until his car slowed
before retirement. Nuvolari then led for the following four laps until Varzi (Alfa Romeo) advanced into the lead for five laps. Materassi who had earlier held fourth place encountered problems, losing time in the pits and
then crashed on lap 18. Out of respect, the other Talbot teammates withdrew. As of lap 20, Chiron (Bugatti) moved into first place until the end at lap 60. Borzacchini (Maserati) held fourth place but crashed. There
were 12 retirements which enabled some lesser drivers to finish in better positions than expected. Following Chiron in first place was Varzi with Campari's help finishing second and Nuvolari third. Drouet (Bugatti) finished
fourth, Maggi with Pastore's and Borzacchini's help fifth, followed by Ernesto Maserati, Bouriat and Foresti in Bugattis. Probst and d'Ahetze in Bugattis exceeded the allowable time and were not classified.
The CSI (International Sports Commission) of the AIACR decided at their March 17, 1928 meeting that the European Grand Prix would no longer be open exclusively to constructors but also to other cars as long as they had the
approval of their constructors. This decision would affect the future of the upcoming Grands Prix and meant nothing else than a new way to address the common lack of interest in Grand Prix racing and finally allow independent
drivers to take part. The CSI also announced that the British club had declined to hold the race due to the disinterest of the manufacturers. However Italy was prepared to take over and proceed with the European Grand Prix
which was to take place again at Monza on September 9. The Gran Premio d'Europa was held for the sixth time and was part of the 1928 World Championship. It was also the eighth Italian Grand Prix counting towards the Italian
Championship. The Commissione Sportiva des RACI and the Societŕ Autodromo di Monza carried out the organization under the supervision of Count Vincenzo Florio and Cavaliere Renzo Castagneto, the Race Director.
Article 14 of the regulation read that the time of the end of the race will be decided later, but the race will be stopped within a maximum time equal to the average hourly speed of 120 km (which translates to 5 hours).
But the stewards may in case of necessity stop the race before the fixed time. The total prize fund amounted to 250,000 lire. The overall victor was presented with 100,000 lire, second place 30,000, third 20,000,
fourth 10,000, fifth 10,000, sixth to ninth each 5,000 lire. The first who completed 200 km received 5,000 lire; the first who completed 300 km received 10,000 lire; the competitor who beat the local record of 600 km
received 10,000 lire; the competitor who beat the local lap record of 10 km received 5,000 lire; the first 10 competitors who completed at least 100 km received 3,000 lire.
The Bugattis of Louis Chiron and Williams were entered independently by their drivers. Thus Williams' Bugatti was painted green even though he enjoyed factory support with Meo Costantini, the Bugatti Manager, present. Chiron
had his blue car's radiator and hood painted in Monaco colors. He was regarded as the most threatening of the foreign drivers and was considered to be a likely winner. In this season alone he had won the Grands Prix in France,
Rome and San Sebastian. He was a driver with perfect style and able to reach higher speeds without giving the slightest impression of effort in the car.
Maserati was the only team that entered two cars especially designed for the 1928 Formula, the 26R with a 1700 cc 8-cylinder engine to be driven to be driven by Maggi and Borzacchini. Additionally, Maserati entered one
proven two-liter car which was allocated to Ernesto Maserati. The reserve drivers for the official team were Alfieri Maserati and Cesare Pastore. The 1700 Maserati and the modified two-liter would be very close in
terms of speed. The 1700 with the smaller chassis was very light at only 720 kg, much more docile to drive at high speeds and exceptionally stable. The two-liter, however, would have more power but weighed very close to
the maximum allowed limit of 750 kg. The remaining two Maseratis were entered independently by the Sicilians Fisauli and Piccolo.
All the remaining participants were independents, even the so-called Talbot team of the famous Italian race driver Materassi who had acquired five Talbot grand prix cars for which he had selected Italian drivers to start in
the race. This was the Scuderia Materassi which dominated the 1500 class with three of the fast low 8-cylinder Talbots to be driven by Materassi, Arcangeli and Brilli Peri. The Scuderia also entered two 4-cylinder 1500
supercharged 1924 Talbots for Comotti and Brivio while Carlo Rosti also practiced but did not start.
Besides these cars, there were 11 Bugattis of which Nenzioni and the Frenchman D'Ahetze raced types with 1500 cc engines, while the others were all two-liter types. Only the Swiss driver Probst did not have a supercharged
car. Additionally there was an old but fast Alfa Romeo P2 which Varzi had acquired from Campari after he won the Coppa Acerbo. Now Varzi was the leading hope for an overall Italian victory.
Two old Delages were entered with 2-liter 12-cylinder engines, one with a supercharger and the other without. In well prepared condition these cars could hold their own against most opponents, but from the day they were
brought to the various Italian races the Delages never ran properly. Aymini had raced the Delage this year in Tripoli, Catania and Messina but had found little success. Only in Rome and Susa Moncenisio was Aymini able
to classify, despite the fact that in both races the car experienced problems. For the European Grand Prix Aymini drove the twelve-cylinder car.
He was a top class driver, was always found in leading positions if the Delage was well prepared. The other Delage without a supercharger had little chance in the race. It was entered by Ceratto but it was not known if
he would start. A complete list of entries is at the beginning if this report.
On Monday, September 3rd Brivio, Foresti, Tonini and Drouet were active in the morning. The best times recorded during these practice runs were around 3m43s and 3m44s. In the afternoon Brilli Peri, Maggi and Arcangeli
appeared who were waiting for their cars that were due to arrive Tuesday morning. Maggi, however, managed to take a few practice laps with one of the Maseratis which was already at Monza. The 1924 lap record of Ascari
stood at 3m35.6s.
On Wednesday morning only Tonini and Varzi were out on track. When the siren declared the beginning of the afternoon practice, Chiron drove some laps with times of 3m50s, 3m45s and 3m43s. He was expected to develop the
new Bugatti which had arrived at Monza damaged. Nuvolari, Borzacchini, Rosti, Tonini, Williams, Drouhet, Nenzioni, Aymini, Gilera, D'Ahetze completed the afternoon practice.
Thursday's activity was very busy. In the morning all the Talbot drivers, Brilli Peri, Arcangeli, Comotti and Materassi took part at different times on the circuit with times from 3m50s to 3m52s. In the afternoon, the
activity was also intense. Finally the remaining two Maserati drivers arrived. Maggi and Ernesto were at the wheel of the 1700 cars but practiced without forcing the new cars. The Talbots also continued the work they
had begun in the morning. Chiron (Bugatti) and Borzacchini (Maserati) attempted to beat Ascari's record. Chiron did a magnificent time of 3m33.6s while Arcangeli's best was a lap in 3m35.6s. Nearly all the competitors
practiced, amongst them Nuvolari, who completed a fast lap in 3m40s.
Friday was the last practice day. In the morning they began scrutineering of the cars, which was supervised by Commissioner Momo and Engineer Crepaldi. All cars had to be within the regulatory weight limit of 550 to
750 kg. Blancas, an Argentinian who lived in France, had his blue Bugatti damaged pretty badly on Friday but nothing else could be learned about his car. The two Maserati drivers Fisauli and Piccolo were allowed to
start since they passed the 150 km/h speed test around the entire 10 km circuit. Williams, Materassi, Borzacchini and Maggi also practiced. Williams, so as not to be outdone by his friend Chiron, completed several
fast laps in 3m35s and 3m34.8s among others. According to unofficial stopwatches Williams drove a lap in 3m32.8s, also beating Ascari's record. In the morning Chiron was busy painting his car in the colors of Monte
Carlo, his hometown. He changed the right half of the radiator to white and the left side red plus two white stripes separated by a red one around the hood just behind the radiator. Later in the afternoon he was on
the track to test tires. As the most popular French diver of the time, he was fully convinced that the records would be beaten, but for his part had no intention of running a record lap, wrecking the car and
compromising a possible victory. Materassi planned to have all the Talbots of his team finish the race. He registered laps in 3m40s and 3m41s but did not give the impression of trying too hard during practice. The
Swiss driver Probst who had previously announced that he would not start, arrived at Monza in the afternoon and almost immediately drove onto the track.
On Saturday a crash happened during practice involving Ugo Stefanelli in his 2-liter Bugatti, which at first appeared as a rather serious accident. Steffanelli had been allowed to practice in the evening to test his
brakes. During a sudden stop on the Curva Grande, the car overturned and came to rest upside down with the driver thrown out. Some spectators witnessed the accident, collected the race driver and transported him to
the hospital. He had suffered some injuries, one of which was quite a deep wound on his nose, but he was not in a serious condition, because he was able to tell the people who found him, how the accident happened.
The day after the race Stefanelli was out of danger and left the hospital early to transfer on September 13th into a nursing home in Milan and then after a week, it was expected that he would be able to return to Bologna.
Under a blue Sunday morning sky at 7:30 in Monza uncountable cars lined up in single file but most of the public arrived between 8.30 and 10. Many thousands of spectators were present at 9:00 in the morning in the
stands along the racetrack with a marvelous view. Everything was decorated festively. Shortly before the start the officials arrived, including Arnaldo Mussolini, Senator Silvio Crespi President of the R.A.C.I.,
Count Vincenzo Florio CSI President of the R.A.C.I., Arturo Mercanti the Director of the Milano AC and Renzo Castagneto, the Race Director of Monza.
The following drivers did not start: Blancas (Bugatti) damaged his car on Friday, Stefanelli (Bugatti) had crashed Saturday, Fisauli (Maserati) practiced but did not start, the same for Gilera (Bugatti), while Ceratto
(Delage) and Prince Jean Ghica Cantacuzino (Cozette Special) did not appear. At 10.20 AM drivers and mechanics left the pits, pushing the 22 cars along the track to the start and finish line, where they positioned the
cars on the starting grid. The drivers were cheered and applauded, especially Varzi who presented the major Italian hope in his Alfa Romeo.
For this race, the start and finish line was placed on the back straight of the inner circuit opposite the timekeepers stand and ahead of the pits. The reason for this change was to make the first turn easier for
drivers given the significant number of starters. Also for safety reasons they did not want the compact mass of cars to chase into the difficult turns of the outer road circuit, preferring the wider Curva Nord of the
oval. Therefore the first lap was 15.5 km or one and a half laps long, beginning with the 4.5 km oval followed by the 5.5 km road circuit plus a second tour of the oval to end the lap. The last lap of the race
consisted of only the 5.5 km road circuit. The 22 cars were arranged in nine rows according to race numbers drawn by lots. The places of #14, #16 and #34 were left open since those cars did not start, however
this rule was not applied to the missing #4 car in the first row.
A siren was sounded one minute before the start. At 10:30 the Assistant State Secretary Giunta gave the signal to start by lowering the flag for the 22 drivers who immediately shot away with a deafening roar to the excitement
of the very large crowd. Williams moved immediately to the front, followed by Nuvolari, Borzacchini, Materassi, Brilli Peri and Varzi. Comotti remained on the grid with his Talbot's engine stalled and lost 41seconds before
it started while Brivio also made a slow start. After half a lap, as they passed the timekeeper's stand, Williams was in the lead, closely followed by a tight group of Nuvolari, Borzacchini, Materassi, Brilli Peri and Varzi,
heading towards the road circuit. Williams completed the first lap in 5m20.4s passing the grandstands five seconds ahead of Nuvolari, Borzacchini, Materassi, Brilli Peri and Varzi with a gap to Chiron, Arcangeli, Foresti and
Maggi, while the others were widely separated. The fight for second place, just half a second apart, was really exciting. After the first lap the leading group was in the following order:
|5.||Brilli Peri (Talbot)||5m33.2s|
|6.||Varzi (Alfa Romeo)||5m33.8s|
After the second lap, Williams had increased his lead to ten seconds with a lap in 3m39.2s. Nuvolari with a 3m44s lap headed an intense battle with Borzacchini and Materassi, followed by the duo of Brilli Peri and Varzi who
drove a lap in 3m41s, trying to catch up. Maserati stopped at the pits at the beginning of lap two for spark plugs but left immediately. Nenzioni and D'Ahetze experienced poorly performing engines. Both stopped at the
pits where Nenzioni retired his 1500 Bugatti while D'Ahetze rejoined the race after more than four minutes. Piccolo with the independent Maserati also retired. After two laps the leading group was in the following order:
|5.||Brilli Peri (Talbot)||9m14.0s|
|6.||Varzi (Alfa Romeo)||9m14.8s|
After three laps the field was down to 20 cars. With a lap in 3m38.8s, Williams had increased his lead to 14 seconds. Nuvolari was still second with a lap in 3m42.6s but had shaken off his followers by eight seconds, a
battling group of four, Borzacchini, Varzi who had passed Materassi and Brilli Peri. Those four cars crossed the finish line a mere 1.2 seconds apart, with only yards between Borzacchini in third and Brilli Peri in sixth.
The closeness of the racing with the deafening roar of the engines excited the crowd. Ernesto Maserati passed Foresti to gain tenth place. After three laps the leading group was in the following order:
|4.||Varzi (Alfa Romeo)||13m00.2s|
|6.||Brilli Peri (Talbot)||13m01.2s|
|10.||E. Maserati (Maserati)||13m44.2s|
On lap four Williams drove a lap in 3m37.6s at 165.441 km/h average speed which was a new lap record. His advantage had increased to over 20 seconds to Nuvolari who drove a 3m45s lap. Varzi lapped in 3m40.4s, passing
Borzacchini's Maserati which elevated him to third place. Brilli Peri with a lap of 4m41.2s likewise passed the Maserati to keep up with Varzi. Materassi stopped at the beginning of lap four for less than a minute to adjust
the steering and change the two front wheels but this dropped him to ninth place. He did not seem satisfied with the ease with which Varzi's Alfa Romeo overtook him on lap three. After four laps the leading group was in the
|3.||Varzi (Alfa Romeo)||16m41.2s|
|4.||Brilli Peri (Talbot)||16m42.4s|
|10.||E. Maserati (Maserati)||17m31.6s|
Near the end of the fifth lap Williams slowed with a smoking engine that sounded really sick. His lap had come down to 8m16.2s as he crawled to his pit where they changed spark plugs. But the problem was more serious and he
retired with broken piston rings. Speculation had it that Williams' early pace was a predetermined tactic of Chiron's race. If so, Williams had certainly done his job and was eliminated from the race. As a result Nuvolari
found himself in the lead, followed by Varzi, Brilli Peri and Borzacchini. Materassi had fallen from fourth to ninth place during his pit stop on lap four and must have stopped again on lap five when he dropped to tenth position
with laps of 4m30.2s and 4m31.4s on laps four and five. With Williams' departure the race for the lead had suddenly become exciting with the first three cars separated by less than five seconds. After five laps Nuvolari
led at 147.373 km/h average race speed with the field in the following order after 50 km:
|2.||Varzi (Alfa Romeo)||20m24.8s|
|3.||Brilli Peri (Talbot)||20m25.0s|
|8.||E. Maserati (Maserati)||21m25.0s|
|19.||Williams (Bugatti)||24m32.2s||- one lap behind|
|20.||D'Ahetze (Bugatti)||31m15.4s||- two laps behind
Between lap six and ten the battle between the top three intensified. Earlier, Borzacchini in his two-liter Maserati had raced in third place but he was slowly losing ground. Chiron kept in touch with the leading group,
although 20 seconds or so behind the leader and Arcangeli was clinging to fifth position. On lap seven Brilli Peri drew level with Nuvolari on the straight and moved into the lead with Varzi following him and also passing
Nuvolari. The tall Brilli Peri sitting in the low and fairly small Talbot looked almost comical. Chiron increased his pace and overhauled Borzacchini. Brilli Peri maintained the lead but Varzi followed in hot pursuit.
Nuvolari repassed Varzi on the next lap, regaining second place and both of them were now chased by Chiron. After a short gap Arcangeli followed ahead of Borzacchini, who had fallen to sixth place. D'Ahetze stopped on lap
nine to change spark plugs which took three minutes while Comotti pitted on the next lap and left after more than five minutes. After 100 km, Brilli Peri remained in the lead at 154.043 km/h average speed with the field in
the following order after ten laps:
|1.||Brilli Peri (Talbot)||38m57.0s|
|3.||Varzi (Alfa Romeo)||39m03.0s|
|9.||E. Maserati (Maserati)||40m35.8s|
|12.||Bouriat (Bugatti)||42m40.6s||- on lap behind|
|13.||Blacque-Bélair (Bugatti)||43m02.2s||- on lap behind|
|14.||Tonini (Bugatti)||43m21.2s||- on lap behind|
|15.||Aymini (Delage)||43m33.2s||- on lap behind|
|16.||Brivio (Talbot)||43m50.0s||- on lap behind|
|17.||Probst (Bugatti)||45m03.0s||- on lap behind|
|18.||Comotti (Talbot)||50m18.0s||- 3 laps behind|
|19.||D'Ahetze (Bugatti)||57m26.4s||- 4 laps behind|
On lap 11 Probst stopped at the pits for around eight minutes. Brilli Peri who had held the lead from lap seven to lap eleven, stopped at the beginning of lap twelve for nearly three minutes and dropped from first to ninth
position. Nuvolari now found himself in first place once again with Chiron second after he had passed Varzi, followed by Arcangeli and Borzacchini, who was some distance ahead of Materassi. Maggi was eighth, ahead of Ernesto
Maserati who stopped at his pit on lap 12 for over two minutes and dropped to thirteenth place. Meanwhile, during his determined pursuit of Chiron and Varzi, Arcangeli had made the fastest lap of the day in 3m37.2s on lap
eleven. Comotti pitted again on lap thirteen for over two minutes. D'Ahetze stopped once more on the same lap and lost much time during the following two laps, possibly with further pit stops. With a lap of 3m38.6s Varzi
passed Chiron on lap 13. Nuvolari, who had led from lap 11 to 14, was overhauled by Varzi and Chiron before the end of lap 15. On the same lap Brilli Peri stopped at his pit for over three minutes and Probst made another
long pit stop of over six minutes. Aymini retired at the beginning of lap 15 with an overheating engine while Tonini ended his race at the end of the same lap. Arcangeli's fast pace brought him within three seconds of
Nuvolari, as he had reduced his deficit by about 20 seconds during the last five laps. The erstwhile leader Brilli Peri, continued to fall back and had now been lapped by Varzi. The race was more than ever undecided and
entertaining after 150 km when Varzi completed the lap at an increased average speed of 156. 675 km/h with the field in this order after 15 laps:
|1.||Varzi (Alfa Romeo)||57m26.6s|
|9.||Foresti (Bugatti)||1h02m23.0s||- one lap behind|
|10.||E. Maserati (Maserati)||1h02m29.6s||- one lap behind|
|11.||Blacque-Bélair (Bugatti)||1h02m58.0s||- one lap behind|
|12.||Bouriat (Bugatti)||1h02m59.2s||- one lap behind|
|13.||Brilli Peri (Talbot)||1h04m34.6s||- one lap behind|
|14.||Tonini (Bugatti)||1h04m48.2s||- two laps behind|
|15.||Brivio (Talbot)||1h04m48.8s||- two laps behind|
|16.||Comotti (Talbot)||1h13m08.6s||- four laps behind|
On lap 16, Varzi still headed the field, which was down to 18 cars. Chiron was in second place followed by Arcangeli who passed Nuvolari for third position while Materassi in fifth place was over a minute behind the leader
trying to catch up. At the end of lap 17 the order of the front group remained the same. On the beginning of lap 18, Maggi stopped for over three minutes at the pits to have the steering adjusted.
Meanwhile on the inside circuit in front of the grandstands, the leading group of Varzi, Chiron, Arcangeli and Nuvolari had just passed, when seconds later on the outside track the back marker Foresti was chased by the fifth
placed Materassi, who was completing lap 17 to start the 18th. Materassi passed the finish line a few meters behind in Foresti's wake and moved to one side with the obvious intention of overtaking. In the blink of an eye his
Talbot lurched alarmingly first right and then left, the car shot at incredible speed to the left, it passed the three meter wide strip of grass, the barbed wire fence and a three meter wide deep ditch lining the straight.
It landed with a giant cloud of dust among the spectators that crowded the limits of the trench. The red car tragically mowed down the spectators at the edge of the ditch for 50 meters and then plunged into the ditch.
The body of the poor Materassi was clearly seen to be thrown into the air. The frightened crowd immediately rushed to the site of the accident. With admirable promptness the police cordoned off the scene of the accident
and hastened to give first aid to the 36 injured victims. But 22 spectators were dead having been struck by the car at no less than 185 km/h per hour and were reduced to pitiful corpses.
Messrs. Giunta, Casalini and Lessona, the Prefect of Milan, Senator Crespi, Arnaldo Mussolini and the Race Director Renzo Castagneto were rushed to the scene of the accident. They immediately realized the gravity of the
situation and gave the necessary orders. The group had a meeting to see if it was appropriate to suspend the race. To proceed with the race despite the terrible situation was a prudent decision as a sudden stoppage
would have evoked panic. Many of the spectators who had been direct witnesses of the accident left immediately and the remainder lost interest in the race. Referring to the causes of the disaster, one hour later the RACI
released the following statement: "This morning at 11:30 AM at the Monza circuit in the race for the European Grand Prix a very serious accident occurred. The race driver Materassi drove at a speed of about 200 km/h and
started the 18th lap. In an attempt to overtake the competitor Foresti on the straight facing the grandstands, he bumped with the right front wheel of his car [sic] into the left rear wheel of Foresti's car [sic]. His
car careened wildly, crossed the lawn, the barrier and the ditch that divide the race track from the public, and swooped into the crowd. We regret the 19 [sic] dead and 26 [sic] injured some of them very seriously. Among
the dead is apparently the race driver Materassi."
Meanwhile the race continued with the spectators calm and disciplined. Most spectators did not yet know about the disaster. But the battle continued, the drivers on the track guessed that the accident was not that
serious and drove on. The Talbots abandoned the race in mourning and withdrew out of respect for their team leader's death. Comotti who was four laps behind with his Talbot completed 16 laps, Brilli Peri was one lap
behind the leader and completed 17 laps, Brivio who was two laps behind completed 18 laps and Arcangeli 19. Tonini was two laps behind when he retired with lubrication problems on lap 18 but had completed just 15 laps.
Foresti made a brief stop on lap 20 at the pits to change his goggles. His Bugatti had apparently not been damaged by Materassi's Talbot. Drouet who was 13th on lap 15, found himself in fifth place but was lapped by
Chiron and Varzi. With Nuvolari about three quarters of a minute behind, subject to pit stops, it had become a two horse race. On the 20th lap Chiron passed Varzi to take the lead, finishing at 158.033 km/h average
speed with the field in the following order after 200 km:
|2.||Varzi (Alfa Romeo)||1h15m58.8s|
|5.||Drouet (Bugatti)||1h19m52.0s||- one lap behind|
|6.||E. Maserati (Maserati)||1h22m06.8s||- one lap behind|
|7.||Bouriat (Bugatti)||1h23m05.0s||- one lap behind|
|8.||Maggi (Maserati)||1h23m12.0s||- one lap behind|
|9.||Blacque-Bélair (Bugatti)||1h23m19.0s||- one lap behind|
|10.||Foresti (Bugatti)||1h23m39.4s||- two laps behind|
From lap 21 onwards only 12 cars were left in the race. Chiron held on to the lead, Varzi followed a few seconds behind and Nuvolari in third place lost ground. The battle was now between the first two, but Drouet, who drove
fast and smoothly, attacked Borzacchini in fourth place. Maserati and Maggi continued their steady race while Foresti had engine problems. On lap 23, D'Ahetze stopped to refuel. Blacque-Bélair retired on lap 25. Chiron
finished lap 25 at 159.010 km/h average speed with the field in this order:
|2.||Varzi (Alfa Romeo)||1h34m29.0s|
|4.||Borzacchini (Maserati)||1h39m05.0s||- one lap behind|
|5.||Drouet (Bugatti)||1h39m05.4s||- one lap behind|
|6.||E. Maserati (Maserati)||1h41m45.0s||- two laps behind|
|7.||Maggi (Maserati)||1h43m02.4s||- two laps behind|
|8.||Foresti (Bugatti)||1h43m36.0s||- two laps behind|
|9.||Bouriat (Bugatti)||1h46m04.0s||- three laps behind|
On lap 26 another bad accident happened at precisely the same point on the straight where Materassi had crashed except that it now happened on the inside track. When Blacque-Bélair retired he parked his Bugatti opposite the
grand stands on the edge of the track, on the line of cones separating the two race tracks. Borzacchini, who raced in fourth position, arrived on the inner circuit. Apparently he did not realize that Blacque-Bélair's car was
stopped in the middle of the track and collided at full speed with a front wheel into the stationary car. The impact was tremendous from which the Maserati emerged minus the wheel that had struck (some reports claim both
front wheels). Borzacchini's car was catapulted at full speed and skidded out of control along the ground towards the alarmed dense crowd on the inside track separated only by a simple fence. The car tore down at least
20 meters of the barriers but nobody was injured. It came to a stop 200 meters beyond at the last pit against the fence where Borzacchini climbed out uninjured and was able to participate as a reserve driver a short time
later. Thus, the best placed Maserati disappeared from the battle, having carried out a magnificent race. Maggi in the 1700 Maserati had followed a few meters behind Borzacchini and miraculously managed to avoid the out
of control car. We could not find explanations as to why Blacque-Bélair's Bugatti was allowed to be parked dangerously between the two straights or whatever happened to his car after it was hit.
Ernesto Maserati had carburation trouble and pitted for seven minutes on lap 28. Bouriat also stopped on that lap to refuel for over eight minutes. Nuvolari stopped on the following lap for over six minutes which dropped
him one lap down and gradually all the others made their pit stops at mid-race. There were no position changes for the first three from lap 26 to lap 30 when Chiron and Varzi both stopped to refuel the former in 1m40s and
the latter in 1m45s. Varzi got out of the car to let Campari take over driving since he was the Monza specialist, a move that the spectators approved with great applause. Maggi also stopped on lap 30 for almost four
minutes and handed the car over to Pastore. After the mid-race pit stops Chiron's average speed had dropped to 156.717 km/h with the field in the following order after lap 30:
|2.||Varzi/Campari (Alfa Romeo)||1h55m05.4s|
|3.||Nuvolari (Bugatti)||2h02m20.4s||- one lap behind|
|4.||Drouet (Bugatti)||2h03m21.6s||- one lap behind|
|5.||Maggi/Pastore (Maserati)||2h08m34.6s||- two laps behind|
|6.||E. Maserati (Maserati)||2h13m45.4s||- three laps behind|
|7.||Foresti (Bugatti)||2h13m55.0s||- three laps behind|
|8.||Bouriat (Bugatti)||2h19m46.8s||- four laps behind|
After 31 laps Ernesto Maserati continued to fix a problem on his car and stopped at the pits each lap from 28 to 32. Foresti's Bugatti was in poor condition and continued to run at reduced speed. Probst stopped on lap 31 for
over two minutes. Nuvolari's car was not strong enough to fight off the storming Drouet and he lost his third place when he was passed on lap 32. Campari was unable to make any impression on Chiron and was still 13 seconds
behind. Chiron finished after 350 km at 157.107 km/h average speed when the order at lap 35 was as follows:
|2.||Varzi/Campari (Alfa Romeo)||2h13m53.0s|
|3.||Drouet (Bugatti)||2h21m13.4s||- two laps behind|
|4.||Nuvolari (Bugatti)||2h21m54.0s||- two laps behind|
|5.||Maggi/Pastore (Maserati)||2h30m00.4s||- four laps behind|
|8.||E. Maserati (Maserati)||2h45m19.8s|
Pastore who had relieved Maggi on lap 30 did a few laps but apparently was too slow. He was called in on lap 37 to be replaced quickly by, unbelievably, but true, Borzacchini who jumped in the car, unimpaired by his crash.
Campari who was unable to catch Chiron with Varzi's Alfa Romeo, was about 25 seconds behind the Frenchman. He stopped unexpectedly on lap 37 to let Varzi take over again but the exchange took 50 seconds. From this moment
on, Varzi's race seemed hopelessly compromised. He attacked Chiron running now with laps in 3m41s and 3m40s but Chiron was alert and promptly responded to the attack. D'Ahetze and Probst stopped on lap 38 for spark plugs.
Ernesto Maserati pitted almost every time from lap 36 to 39 to address a problem. After two-thirds of the race Chiron was still in the lead finishing lap 40 at 157.635 km/h average speed with the field in following order
after 400 km:
|2.||Varzi/Campari (Alfa Romeo)||2h33m21.6s|
|3.||Drouet (Bugatti)||2h40m17.4s||- two laps behind|
|4.||Nuvolari (Bugatti)||2h41m38.8s||- two laps behind|
|5.||Maggi/Pastore/Borzacchini (Maserati)||2h51m53.8s||- five laps behind|
|8.||E. Maserati (Maserati)||3h11m21.6s|
After lap 42, the race continued without position changes for many laps. Chiron maintained the lead with Varzi in second place about one minute behind. On lap 42 Drouet stopped for three minutes to fix a leaking pipe
enabling Nuvolari to take back third position and to be sure of staying ahead of the French driver. Chiron finished lap 45 at 158.061 km/h average speed with the field in the following order after 450 km:
|2.||Varzi/Campari (Alfa Romeo)||2h51m53.6s|
|3.||Nuvolari (Bugatti)||3h01m32.4s||- two laps behind|
|4.||Drouet (Bugatti)||3h03m27.0s||- two laps behind|
|5.||Maggi/Pastore/Borzacchini (Maserati)||3h11m41.0s||- five laps behind|
|8.||E. Maserati (Maserati)||3h30m52.0s|
On lap 46, Chiron and Varzi maintained their leading positions but with an increased gap of 1m08.6s. Borzacchini who had driven Maggi's 1700 Maserati at a fast pace for ten laps, was stopped by his team on lap 46 to hand the
car back to Maggi who would drive the remaining laps. Bouriat stopped on the same lap for over four minutes. Foresti did likewise for nearly three minutes but continued with his engine running dreadfully. Chiron had slightly
increased his pace after 500 km and beat Ascari's existing record. He finished at 158.478 km/h average speed with the field in the following order after 50 laps:
|2.||Varzi/Campari (Alfa Romeo)||3h10m27.0s|
|3.||Nuvolari (Bugatti)||3h21m31.0s||- three laps behind|
|4.||Drouet (Bugatti)||3h22m40.4s||- three laps behind|
|5.||Maggi/Pastore/Borzacchini (Maserati)||3h32m10.4s||- five laps behind|
|7.||E. Maserati (Maserati)||3h50m37.8s|
After lap 51 Chiron remained in the lead further increasing his advantage over Varzi to 1m22.4s. On lap 54 Ernesto Maserati passed Bouriat's Bugatti to gain sixth place, while Foresti completed only 54 laps. Chiron finished
lap 55 at 158.659 km/h average speed while the field remained in the same order:
|2.||Varzi/Campari (Alfa Romeo)||3h29m22.0s|
|3.||Nuvolari (Bugatti)||3h41m14.0s||- three laps behind|
|4.||Drouet (Bugatti)||3h41m57.2s||- three laps behind|
|5.||Maggi/Pastore/Borzacchini (Maserati)||3h52m00.0s||- six laps behind|
|6.||E. Maserati (Maserati)||4h10m29.6s|
Varzi appeared to have resigned himself to second place and the race ended without position changes. Drouet meanwhile had increased his pace trying to catch Nuvolari but did not succeed. At the end of 60 laps Chiron crossed
the finish line after 3h45m08.6 s with an increased average speed of 159.898 km/h, a new record for Monza, beating Ascari's previous record of 3h47m13s at 158.439 km/h established in 1924. Varzi followed 2m20.4s behind in second
place and was the only car on the same lap. Nuvolari and Drouet who had fallen four laps behind kept on driving to complete the full distance of 60 laps as did the 1700 Maserati of Maggi in fifth place. Maserati, Bouriat,
Foresti, Probst and D'Ahetze followed next but were all flagged off. The latter two were not classified because they exceeded the maximum allowable time.
Chiron the brilliant winner of this race was deprived of the applause he deserved because the crowd was heavy-hearted due to the disaster. Chiron was only informed after the race about the terrible accident that had occured.
He spoke words of regret for the victims and for his friend Materassi and immediately requested to visit his corpse in Monza, accompanied by Meo Costantini, Giulio Binda and Musy. In this way the winner of the Grand Prix of
Europe made a tribute to the fallen of this day which will not be forgotten.
The fastest laps during the European Grand Prix (Due to its shortness, the last lap is excluded.)
|Arcangeli (Talbot)||3m37.2s at 165.745 km/h - on lap 11|
|"Williams" (Bugatti)||3m37.6s at 165.441 km/h - on lap 4|
|Varzi (Alfa Romeo)||3m37.6s at 165.441 km/h - on lap 15|
|Chiron (Bugatti)||3m38.0s at 165.138 km/h - on lap 24|
|Materassi (Talbot)||3m38.4s at 164.835 km/h - on lap 8|
|Nuvolari (Bugatti)||3m40.0s at 163.636 km/h - on lap 14|
|Brilli Peri (Talbot)||3m40.4s at 163.339 km/h - on lap 6|
|Drouet (Bugatti)||3m43.6s at 161.002 km/h - on lap 34|
|Borzacchini (Maserati)||3m44.6s at 160.285 km/h - on lap 2|
|E. Maserati (Maserati)||3m47.4s at 158.311 km/h - on lap 4|
|Maggi (Maserati)||3m49.0s at 157.205 km/h - on lap 11|
|Foresti (Bugatti)||3m49.4s at 156.931 km/h - on lap 36|
|Bouriat (Bugatti)||3m50.6s at 156.114 km/h - on lap 27|
|Blacque-Bélair (Bugatti)||3m54.0s at 153.846 km/h - on lap 23|
|Comotti (Talbot)||4m03.0s at 148.148 km/h - on lap 14|
|Aymini (Delage)||4m03.2s at 148.026 km/h - on lap 12|
|Brivio (Talbot)||4m05.4s at 146.699 km/h - on lap 3|
|Tonini (Bugatti)||4m05.8s at 146.460 km/h - on lap 2|
|Probst (Bugatti)||4m08.0s at 145.161 km/h - on lap 39|
|D'Ahetze (Bugatti 1500)||4m28.4s at 134.128 km/h - on lap 7|
|Nenzioni (Bugatti 1500)||no time|
|Piccolo (Maserati)||no time|
A formal investigation into the crash of the Talbot concluded that all parts of the car were in order including brakes and steering. According to the official report Foresti's Bugatti into which Materassi had
supposedly collided had not shown any traces of contact. Even the polished wheel hubs showed no scratch. Speculation pointed to an overly strong steering maneuver by Materassi leading to the disaster. The slightest
steering move at 200 km/h speed results in a considerable deviation from the straight line. A too abrupt move might have triggered the accident, a thought that was supported by Arcangeli and Brilli Peri both teammates
of Materassi. However, the presumption of a sudden indisposition to the driver carried the greatest likelihood. Materassi had supposedly complained lately about a heart condition and before the race had stated that
this was his last race. Who would have thought that this remark would prove to come true in such a bitter way.
The official investigation (published in November 1928) into the Monza accident established that the Talbot of Materassi did not brush against the Bugatti of Foresti when trying to pass him. The committee found
that the cause of the accident was attributed to a binding steering. This assumption appeared to be even more plausible after it was established that before the accident Materassi had stopped at the pits complaining
about the steering.
The cause of the accident is still unknown today. The Italian race driver Foresti had not noticed anything about the accident. His Bugatti showed only traces of the hammer blows for mounting wheels to the car.
Authorities like Count Vincenzo Florio and Felice Nazzaro assumed that intending to pass Foresti, Materassi had turned a little bit to the left and that this deviation at the enormous speed of the car (55 meters per
second) could not be corrected fast enough. This assumption is supported by the fact that racecars at a speed of 200 km/h have an extremely low adhesion and touch the ground practically only spasmodically, so that it
is hard to deviate from a once selected direction and a sudden change of direction has to lead to a catastrophe. Apart from these various theories the closer friends and relatives of the unlucky race driver were of
the opinion that during the race Materassi was overcome by a sudden indisposition as a result of heart-trouble which he had suffered from for many years.
Monday, the day after the race, a ceremonial procession took place in Monza with the coffins of the dead spectators carried through the streets, followed by the coffin of Materassi. The military and schools
of Monza led the procession, followed by representatives of various associations ahead of family and friends of Materassi, race drivers, Chiron, Williams, Varzi, Arcangeli, D'Ahetze, Silvani, Campari, Comotti, Aymini,
Maggi, the Maserati brothers and numerous other racers. The ceremony ended at 8:00 PM. The crowd broke up in silence, while the relatives of the unfortunate victims were crowding around the coffins of their loved
ones with tears in their eyes. The body of Materassi was immediately taken to the station to be brought to Milan with the train to Florence where his remains arrived on Tuesday.
The funeral of Emilio Materassi took place on Tuesday at 5:30 PM. His body arrived in Florence in the morning accompanied by family including his wife and companions. The imposing procession passed through
Florence between two rows of uninterrupted people. His coffin, which was carried on the shoulders of intimate friends and racedrivers was preceded by a band. Following the coffin were family members, a crowd of many
hundreds of persons of the sport, the race drivers Brilli Peri, Nuvolari, Arcangeli, officials of Automobile Clubs and motor sport, authorities and fascists. After the religious ceremony, speeches were made by Fabio
Vecchioni from the RACI, Renzo Castagneto in the name of the race drivers and others. The coffin was then taken by truck, followed by a long procession of vehicles carrying wreaths and flowers to his native Borge
San Lorenzo, where on Wednesday Materassi was laid to rest.
Obituary of Emilio Materassi, whose home was in Florence, Italy, was born November 1, 1894 in Borge San Lorenzo near Florence. The young Emilio worked as an apprentice in his father's shop, a trader of rope
and wine, thereafter worked as a bicycle mechanic, next moved to motorcycles and rare cars.
In 1919 Materassi worked as a bus driver at the SITA Bus Company and moved to Florence where he met the most popular drivers like the Florentine Count Gastone Brilli Peri, Carlo and Giulio Masetti and the
brothers Ernesto and Alfieri Maserati from nearby Bologna who attended the Florentine environment. With their help and thanks to his mechanical skills Materassi began racing at the 1919 Coppa Consuma with an Isotta
Fraschini. The car was probably lent to him by the Isotta Fraschini agent, Alfieri Maserati. In his workshop Materassi modified the luxurious car for racing. He finished third in the class up to 5000cc. Due to the
poor economic conditions after WW I, he was unable to enter other races. Since he was unable to race in cars, he drove his bus at high speed along the winding roads of the time near Mugello which resulted in customer
complaints and the SITA Company firing him.
In 1920 Materassi continued to race with cars provided from time to time by the one or the other friend, taking his first win, albeit in his class from 3500 to 4500cc at the 1920 Copa Consuma with a Fiat 20-30HP.
In 1921 Materassi was hired by Itala, the Turin-based company, where he served as the dealer for Florence. Disappointed by the poor performance of the road cars due to lack of engine power, he decided to change
an Itala "55" by installing a Hispano-Suiza aircraft engine, bought by the Itala Company. On September 11 that year Materassi entered the Itala at Brescia but had to retire on the fourth lap.
In 1922 Materassi opened his own garage in addition to the Itala dealership for Florence. In June he entered his modified Itala 55 at the Mugello circuit where he finished in eighth place.
In 1923 Materassi with his modified Itala 55 race car, which had a 4.7-Liter Hispano-Suiza engine, entered at Mugello where he retired on the first lap.
In 1924 Materassi raced his Itala throughout the year, winning at Perugia, retiring at the Savio Circuit while at Mugello he finished fourth due to a lengthy stop to repair his brakes. In May at the Parma -
Poggio di Berceto hill climb he finished second behind Ascari's Alfa Romeo P2. In June he won the Coppa della Consuma and the following month came first at the Coppa della Collina Pistoiese hill climb. In September
he finished third at the Vermicino - Rocca di Papa hill climb.
In 1925 Materassi once again raced his Itala all year, winning at Mugello, Savio and Montenero. At the Rome Grand Prix he finished second, was again second at Perugia but retired at the Coppa Acerbo where he
set fastest lap.
In 1926 at the Targa Florio with his Itala he finished in a respectable fourth behind three factory Bugattis. Later that year he won again at Montenero still with his Itala. He also drove for Maserati in their
first year on May 2 at the Coppa Vinci in Messina with the 1500 Maserati but retired with an engine problem. In August he set FTD at the Rimini 1 km speed trial, and at the Italian Grand Prix at Monza he drove the
second Maserati but both cars retired with engine ailments. The following week at the Milan Grand Prix at Monza he again raced the second car but Ernesto and Materassi both retired again.
In 1927 Materassi bought the 1500 Maserati, which after June he sold to Bindi. Materassi was good enough for Ettore Bugatti to take him into his 1927 works team together with count Caberto Conelli and Fernando
Minoia, three Italians. Materassi in the Bugatti won Tripoli, the Targa Florio and San Sebastian Grand Prix, while he crashed at the Rome and Spanish Grands Prix. In October that year he finished fifth at the
British Grand Prix at Brooklands. Between those races with the factory Bugatti, he won the Coppa Perugia on May 29 with his Itala. Then, back again with Bugatti he won the Bologna race on June 19, on August 14 the
Coppa Montenero and finished third on September 4 at the Milan Grand Prix. His achievements made him the 1927 Italian Champion.
In 1928 Materassi bought two Bugatti T35C racecars from Molsheim in addition to the complete Talbot inventory he had acquired at the end of 1927 when the French Talbot factory withdrew from racing. The Italian
designer Vincenzo Bertarione had influenced Materassi to purchase these fast cars including spare parts and drawings for his newly formed Ecurie Italienne or Scuderia Materassi. Besides driving, Materassi involved
himself in preparing the cars. But the Talbots were modified and improved in reliability with the help of the designers, the Italians Bertarione and Becchia, and chief mechanic Ermini. Scuderia Materassi, was the
first such racing stable with Becchia as technical engineer and only Italian drivers including Luigi Arcangeli, Antonio Brivio, Carlo Rosti, Giuseppe Morandi, Count Gastone Brilli-Peri and Gianfranco Comotti. During
the 1928 season Materassi entered his cars at Tripoli, Pozzo, Alessandria, Mugello, Rome, Cremona, Coppa Acerbo, Coppa Montenero and at the European Grand Prix at Monza with the tragic end of one of the best Italian
drivers, only 39 years of age.
The future of Scuderia Materassi was secured at the beginning of November 1928. Scuderia Materassi seemed to fall apart after the tragic death of Emilio Materassi in September, but it was formed anew when Count
Brilli Peri became its leader. His two team mates were Arcangeli and the young Comotti. Besides the three 8-cylinder Talbots the Scuderia had two T35C Bugattis, an Amilcar and an Itala with which to go racing during
the 1929 season. The reestablishment of the Scuderia was the continuation of Materassi's activity in the sport and thereby honored the deceased.
The 1928 Italian Championship classification
Absolute Drivers Championship
First: Campari, 5 points
Second: Nuvolari, Brilli Peri and Varzi, 3 points
Fifth: Materassi and Borzacchini 2 points
Seventh: Cucinotta 1 point
Absolute Manufacturers Championship
First: Alfa Romeo, 11 points
Second: Maserati, 7 points
The 1928 Italian racing season earnings ended with Materassi as the first amongst the Italian drivers with 185,000 lire, followed by Nuvolari with 178,000, Campari 152,000, Borzacchini 85,000 and Arcangeli 72,000
lire. Chiron, who won the Rome and the European Grands Prix received 165,000 lire and Divo 100,000 for winning the Targa Florio.
A court decision: On April 30, 1931 a Special Court in Milan sentenced the joint stock company of the Monza Race Circuit and the Automobile Club of Italy as organizers of the 1928 race at Monza responsible for the
disaster. On September 9, 1928 Emilio Materassi died when his car pounced into a crowded spectator area and caused 23 casualties next to 36 injured. The Court determined that the organizers in 1928 had not taken
sufficient precaution, which in such a case would have prevented the turning over of a car into the spectator area. The Automobile Club of Italy and the joint stock company of the Monza Race Circuit had to make payments
to the dependents of the victims.
Primary sources researched for this article:|
ACI giornale, Roma
Allgemeine Automobil-Zeitung, Wien
Allgemeine Automobil-Zeitung, Berlin
IL Littoriale, Roma
La Gazetta dello Sport, Milano
La Stampa, Torino
MOTOR und SPORT, Pössneck
L'Auto Italiana, Milano
Lo Sport Fascista, Milano
The Autocar, London
The Motor, London
Tutti gli Sports, Napoli
Special thanks to:
Signora Donatella Biffignandi