III GRAND PRIX DE MONACO
Monte Carlo, 19 April 1931.
100 laps x 3.180 km (1.976 mi) = 318.0 km ( 197.6 mi)
Louis Chiron wins at Monaco with the new twin-cam Bugatti
by Hans Etzrodt
At Monaco the current 10-hour formula was ignored and the race was run instead over 100 laps. Bugatti and Maserati provided the only factory entries, while Alfa Romeo withdrew their team
due to tire problems. From 23 cars at the start, only nine finished the race. Dreyfus was the early leader in his Maserati, briefly passed by "Williams" Bugatti who retired two laps later.
Etancelin, Pedrazzini and Lehoux departed early with mechanical trouble. Varzi's Bugatti took the lead on lap nine and held it for 20 laps, losing his chance to win the race after damaging
a front wheel. Chiron led with his Bugatti from lap 30 till the end. The Bugattis of the Germans Burggaller, Morgen and Leiningen retired with mechanical problems. After Dreyfus lost
much time in his pit, he recovered fourth place but had to quit near the end when his engine stopped running. Caracciola raced his Mercedes never better than in fourth place and
disappeared after mid race. Fagioli held his Maserati in second and third positions, exchanging places with Bouriat's factory Bugatti but finishing second. Varzi recovered from his
major setback to dislodge Bouriat from third place near the end. Chiron set a new record, winning in style by lapping the entire field. This was to be the Monegasque driver's only
victory at Monaco.
In 1931 the Monaco Grand Prix was held for the third time and already counted among the classic automobile races. Racecars from 1100 cc up to 8000 cc were accepted for this event over the
3.180 km twisting circuit through the streets of Monte Carlo, which had to be lapped 100 times. The uneven streetcar tracks along the start/finish straight and up the steep incline to the
casino were still in place. Some circuit improvements for this year's race were made to increase spectator safety. The inside of the road tunnel was painted white to reduce the danger of
glare after exiting the tunnel. The start and finish area was near the harbor in front of the grandstands on Boulevard Albert Premier. From there the road lead through the tight right hand
corner of St. Dévote up the 9% incline hill of Avenue Monte Carlo through two turns towards the Casino. In a twisty downhill section the road lead through a left hairpin bend past the main
train station, then a right downhill turn under the railroad bridge to the sea front. Here another right turn along the coast led to the fastest part of the course through the tunnel and on to
the only more-or-less straight stretch along the quayside, interrupted by the chicane. Next followed the left hand Tabac Corner leading past the pits to the right-hand Gasometer hairpin where
the course joined again Boulevard Albert Premier past the back of the pits to the start and finish area. With ten real corners per lap, it was a true test for brakes and engines. Dangers
lurked everywhere. Just feet from the circuit's curbs were house walls, concrete posts, tunnel walls, and the cliff edge into the sea. All dangerous sections were protected with sand bags
to avoid serious accidents.
The General prize money amounted to 205,000 French francs. The winner was to receive the valuable and massive gold cup from the Prince of Monaco plus 100,000 French francs. The second-place
finisher was to receive 40,000 fr., third 30,000, fourth 20,000, fifth 10,000 and sixth 5,000 fr. Furthermore, there was an additional special prize for fastest lap of 3000 fr. If the fastest
lap beat the previous year's record, set by Dreyfus at 90.141 km/h, then the prize would rise to 5000 fr. for establishing a new overall lap record. Another special prize of 10,000 fr. was for
leading after every ten laps. Non classified drivers, who had covered at least 20 laps within 48 minutes, would receive a prize of 2000 fr. A prize of 5000 fr. was paid to all competitors,
who would complete the 318 km in less than four hours.
The drivers had been specifically invited by the Automobile Club of Monaco, who selected 28 entries. The German Bugatti Team arrived with Ernst-Günther Burggaller and the Berliner Heinrich-Joachim
von Morgen in 2.3-liter T35B and Prince Hermann zu Leiningen with a 2-liter Type 35C. The fourth German was Rudolf Caracciola, entering a 7.1-liter Mercedes-Benz SSKL sports car in racing trim,
the same car in which he had won the Mille Miglia a week earlier. Caracciola had a contract for 1931 with Daimler-Benz and therefore works assistance at all his races. Team Manager Alfred
Neubauer had tried to influence Caracciola not to race at Monaco since this event was not suited to the high speeds of the SSKL and defeat was more likely than success. Caracciola resisted
because he did not wish to repeat previous year's dilemma where he first had placed an entry for the April 6, 1930 Monaco Grand Prix but then withdrew shortly before the race to generate
more practice time for the 16th April Mille Miglia. For the 1931 Grand Prix, the Monaco organizers had invited the German once more to participate and Caracciola tried to avoid a somewhat
similar incident for the 1931 event as had happened in 1930. Therefore he accepted the 1931 invitation in consideration of the extremely friendly Monaco sporting commission.
From Great Britain there was Earl Howe, who was the first independent driver to receive the new 2.3 liter twin-cam Bugatti, Clifton Penn-Hughes with an older, green painted 2.0-liter Bugatti
without a supercharger and Sir Henry Birkin with a 2.5-liter Maserati. From Austria there was an entry by the Viennese driver Bernhard Ackerl with his 1.5-liter T37 Bugatti without
supercharger. He would not stand a chance of keeping up with the larger cars, since his was the slowest car in the entire field.
The majority of the drivers arrived from France. Juan Zanelli arrived as an independent entry with a 2.3-liter single-cam Bugatti. The works Bugatti team entered the latest 2.3-liter twin-cam
grand prix cars for Guy Bouriat, local hero Louis Chiron, Albert Divo and Achille Varzi. Chiron's car carried the Monaco colors of red and white at the front of the hood, just behind the
radiator. Philippe Etancelin brought the same 2-liter Bugatti that he drove last year, Count Stanislaus Czaykowski entered his 2.3-liter single-cam Bugatti, Marcel Lehoux brought his single-cam
2.3-liter Bugatti, William Grover, alias "Williams", arrived with his own 2-liter single-cam Bugatti, Boris Ivanowski was expexted with a white 7.1-liter Mercedes-Benz SSK and "Dribus", the
pseudonym for the famous French driver André Boillot, arrived in a seven year old Peugeot with a 4-liter sleeve-valve engine.
Italy was represented by the Alfa Romeo works team with 6C 1750 GS cars in racing trim for Luigi Arcangeli and Baconin Borzacchini. Tazio Nuvolari was to start with one of the new 8C 2300's
introduced at the Mille Miglia the week before, but changed to race trim for the Monaco race. Scuderia Ferrari entered Goffredo Zehender with an Alfa Romeo 6C 1750 GS in race trim. The
Maserati works arrived with three 2.5-liter grand prix cars for Clemente Biondetti, new man René Dreyfus and a short chassis racecar for Luigi Fagioli.
From Switzerland there came two independent entries, one for Carlo Pedrazzini with a 2-liter Maserati, bored out to 2100 cc and the other for hill climb specialist Hans Stuber in his 2-liter
Thursday morning was the first day of practice for just one hour between six and seven. Before sunrise and ahead of the early start, the town was already experiencing the noisy and busy
activity of spectators, police, officials and photographers. Heavy traffic from out of town cars blocked the side streets. At exactly six in the morning, the engines started thundering,
accentuated by the siren-like wail of their superchargers, sending their morning song across Monaco Bay and up the rocky cliffs of Monte Carlo. Most of the competitors were seen on the
first day of practice. The main interest centered on last year's winner René Dreyfus in a red Maserati and local hero Louis Chiron with a blue Bugatti. Practice went without noteworthy
incidents except a collision by Dreyfus. He attempted to pass a bunch of cars before the right hand corner at St. Dévote and slid sideways into a heavy stone balustrade, damaging only
the tail of his car. According to Christian Moity in his "The Monaco GP", the practice times were incomplete and their accuracy questionable. They did not affect the starting positions,
which had been decided and publicized days before.
|von Morgen (Bugatti)||2m14s|
Friday practice was again for just one hour starting at six in the morning. The complete absence of the Italian Alfa Romeo team confirmed the rumors of Nuvolari, Arcangeli and
Borzacchini not starting. In the April 22, 1931 Berliner Tageblatt was reported that the Italian team was contracted with Pirelli. Although they had tried these tires already
without success in last year's Monza Grand Prix, Alfa Romeo tried them anew at the Mille Miglia a week ago and once again without success. Alfa Romeo then made an effort to
persuade Pirelli to let Alfa enter into an agreement with Dunlop for the Monaco race, which Pirelli would not permit. As a result the Alfa Romeo factory decided to abandon their
start at Monaco.
According to Christian Moity the following practice times were again incomplete and unreliable:
|von Morgen (Bugatti)||2m12s|
For the first time there was now also a Saturday practice: Zehender was driving a Scuderia Ferrari Targa Florio model 1750 GS Alfa that was stripped of fenders, doors and tail.
The new factory Bugattis with their twin-cam engines dominated practice. When asked about their superior speed, Jean Bugatti, the son of Ettore, answered briefly: "Double lasts
longer, even if it is just a camshaft."
Sir Henry Birkin withdrew from the start because of a warped cylinder head that leaked water into the combustion chamber of his Maserati. It could not be repaired in time for the race.
While in Monte Carlo, Tim Birkin also learned about a death in his family.
The Motor stated: " Pedrazzini, with a two-litre Maserati, was nearly a non-starter, for on the eve of the race Ernesto Maserati, making a final test of his car, crashed into a wall and
wrecked the front axle. However, Sir Henry Birkin gave up his Maserati's front axle, which was then fitted to Pedrazzini's car in place of the damaged component."
The April 22, 1931 Berliner Tageblatt reported that Boris Ivanowski, who won the 1929 Grand Prix of Ireland two years previously, had called Caracciola six days before the Monaco Grand Prix
and asked him for his old SSK. He bought the car the same day and picked it up in Strasbourg, where the Mercedes had been brought from Untertürkheim. At Strasbourg Ivanowski got stuck
in a snowstorm. The former officer of the Russian Imperial Guard, who had sent his entry for an "SSK" two weeks prior, arrived in Monte Carlo only on the evening before the race, too
late for practice. He argued with race management before the start but did not get permission from the race stewards to take part in the race. Not only had he not put in any practice
laps, he did not know the circuit and had not arrived at the mandated time for the weighing in. Because the regulations explicitly required circuit knowledge, the sporting commissioners,
due to their great responsibility, did not permit him to start.
The works Bugattis had arrived as favorites because of Varzi's win at Tunis. The lap times achieved during practice made them the most promising cars but of course also because of the
Alfa Romeo works' absence. The times taken on Saturday appeared to be the only correct practice times, according to Christian Moity.
|von Morgen (Bugatti)||2m12s|
|Zehender (Alfa Romeo)||2m17s|
|zu Leiningen (Bugatti)||2m20s|
|Ackerl (Bugatti 1500 cc)||3m05s|
Sunday morning arrived with a blue sky. The blazing sunshine was tempered by the strong Mistral, the icy southern French stiff breeze, which had continued throughout practice. A crowd
estimate of 30,000 was probably a low figure. Spectators had taken possession of all vantage points around the circuit. From the 28 entries selected by the organizer only 23 cars arrived
for the start. The official Alfa Romeo team had withdrawn their three cars for Nuvolari, Arcangeli and Borzaccini due to problems with their tire supplier. Henry Birkin had declined to
start due to an engine problem after Saturday practice and Boris Ivanowski had arrived too late to be accepted by the stewards.
At 1:00 PM the cars were pushed to the starting area. At 1:15 PM, Felice Nazzaro, the famous Fiat driver of the very early years and victorious still at age 42, winning the 1922 French
Grand Prix, drove the lap of honor. A 25-car starting grid had been determined by drawing of lots before practice and as such was publicized by the organizers. On the day of the race this
arrangement was changed. Since Birkin in row one and Ivanowski in row seven were not to take part, all cars, except Dreyfus on "pole", moved forward from left to right to fill the empty
spaces. The final starting grid looked as follows:
The battle between the 23 cars began when race director Charles Faroux lowered the flag at 1:30 PM. Dreyfus in the red Maserati led away the roaring pack, chased very closely by "Williams", Stuber,
Lehoux and Caracciola. After the first lap Dreyfus was still in the lead ahead of "Williams", Stuber, Caracciola, Lehoux, Varzi, Biondetti, Fagioli, von Morgen, Chiron, Etancelin, "Dribus",
Zehender, Burggaller, Divo, Howe, Penn-Hughes, Zanelli, Czaykowski, Bouriat, Pedrazzini and Leiningen. The last man in the field, Ackerl (1.5-liter Bugatti), was not mentioned in any of the reports
except in the Austrian AAZ, which stated that Ackerl came to a stop in front of the Casino grandstand due to a small fire in which he scorched not only the seat of his trousers but his own seat as
well. On which lap this incident occurred was not reported, but if this was his exit from the race, then it must have been on lap 56.
After lap two the order did not change for the leading three but fifth man Lehoux moved past Caracciola to regain fourth place, which he had held after the start. Varzi and Chiron, in the fastest cars
of the field, still maintained sixth and tenth places respectively. They would need some time to work their way to the front from their lowly starting positions.
On the third lap at the exit of the Tunnel, "Williams" attacked Dreyfus, but he failed to make the pass. Stuber fell back from third to seventh place. Zehender and Penn-Hughes stopped at their pits.
Before the end of lap four, "Williams" succeeded in passing Dreyfus for the lead at the end of the Tunnel. Caracciola, who was fifth, fell back one further place when Varzi went past him.
On the fifth lap "Williams" remained in first place, leading Dreyfus, Lehoux, Varzi, Caracciola, Fagioli, Biondetti and Chiron, who had passed Stuber and Etancelin. The Motor report vividly described
the situation:"The noise was deafening. Never in my life have I heard such earsplitting exhausts. Yet the public, half-stunned by the din, simply loved it. The color, the noise, the dust and smoke
all combined to confuse the senses and to promote an unholy lust for speed!"
The first retirement came on lap six, when "Williams" fell back through the field to stop at his pit with a broken valve spring. The repair would have been very involved, so the car was withdrawn.
Dreyfus was now back in the lead, followed by Lehoux, Varzi and Caracciola in fourth place.
On lap seven, Etancelin disappeared with a broken piston in his Bugatti. Earl Howe stopped at his pits to change an oiled plug.
On lap eight, Varzi, in the works twin-cam Bugatti, was closing in on Lehoux's single cam Bugatti and had no problem in passing him for second place.
On the ninth lap Varzi had worked himself around Dreyfus' Maserati to take the lead, while Chiron was able to get past Biondetti and Caracciola to gain fifth position.
After 10 laps, and 31.8 km, Varzi's average speed was 85.624 km/h. The field was down to 21 cars in the following order:
|1. Varzi (Bugatti)||22m17s|
|2. Dreyfus (Maserati)||22m21s|
|3. Lehoux (Bugatti)||22m23s|
|4. Fagioli (Maserati)||22m24s|
|5. Chiron (Bugatti)||22m26s|
|6. Caracciola (Mercedes-Benz)||22m29s|
|7. Biondetti (Maserati)||22m44s|
|8. Bouriat (Bugatti)||22m48s|
|9. Divo (Bugatti)||22m52s|
|10. Leiningen (Bugatti)||23m15s|
|11. Czaykowski (Bugatti)||23m18s|
|12. "Dribus" (Peugeot)||23m30s|
|13. Stuber (Bugatti)||23m50s|
|14. Penn-Hughes (Bugatti)||24m08s|
|15. Burggaller (Bugatti)||24m30s|
|16. von Morgen (Bugatti)||24m52s|
|17. Zanelli (Bugatti)||25m31s|
On lap 12, Dreyfus had fallen back to fourth place after Lehoux and Chiron had overtaken him. After 13 laps, Pedrazzini, who had started the race as a sick man, retired his Maserati when he
realized that his physical condition did not measure up to the battle on hand. He also had a problem with the engine or ignition. On lap 15, Lehoux came to a halt at the sea wall with a broken
rear axle differential from where he toured back to the pits. W.F. Bradley wrote in The Autocar, "Lehoux came in with his Bugatti rattling like a milk float. The gear box, which he had drilled
and filed to secure lightness, had broken to pieces." On lap 17, Dreyfus lost another place to a mightily advancing Fagioli. After 20 laps, there were still 19 cars in the running. The order was:
|1. Varzi (Bugatti)||44m04s|
|2. Chiron (Bugatti)||44m25s|
|3. Fagioli (Maserati)||44m37s|
|4. Dreyfus (Maserati)||44m41s|
|5. Caracciola (Mercedes-Benz)||44m50s|
|6. Bouriat (Bugatti)||44m51s|
|7. Divo (Bugatti)||45m18s|
|8. Biondetti (Maserati)||45m18s|
|9. Czaykowski (Bugatti)||46m06s|
|10. "Dribus" (Peugeot)||46m44s|
|11. zu Leiningen (Bugatti)||47m19s|
|12. Earl Howe (Bugatti)||47m39s|
|13. Penn-Hughes (Bugatti)|
On lap 24, Bouriat, who had been glued to the tail of Caracciola's Mercedes, was finally able to get around the German to gain fourth place. Then Dreyfus came in and the mechanics worked for nearly
eight minutes to repair a broken oil pipe on his Maserati before he joined the race again. He had now fallen four laps behind the leaders. Biondetti stopped at the Maserati pits twice.
According to W.F. Bradley in The Autocar, "There was an interesting duel between Divo and Caracciola. Up the hill the big Mercedes had a decided advantage over the smaller Bugatti, but in the
wriggling descent to the sea Divo had no difficulty in getting clear away from the Mercedes. As Divo had to pull in frequently for short pit stops, this battle was repeated several times, always
with the same result. The Mercedes probably was the fastest car in the race, but owing to its weight and length it was not the fastest on the Monte Carlo circuit." On lap 27, Burggaller retired
his Bugatti with a broken rear axle then two laps later von Morgen broke the differential of his Bugatti. Up to lap 29 Varzi remained in the lead and it appeared that he was assured of his third
ten-lap-prize. But on lap 29 he lost his position when he came careening to his pit with a broken wheel and a burst tire. W.F. Bradley reported in The Autocar that at the tunnel entrance Varzi
briefly stopped after having punctured the left front tire when hitting the curbstone, shattering the aluminum wheel. He reached his pit on three wheels turning and the damaged wheel sliding on the
fractured spoke, without damaging the brake. The time lost in coming in and changing the wheel cost Varzi four minutes. In any case, he lost all prospect of winning the race. After Varzi's demise,
Chiron found himself in the lead to the great excitement of the spectators, who cheered their local hero. The order after 30 laps was:
|1. Chiron (Bugatti)||1h06m24s|
|2. Fagioli (Maserati)||1h06m38s|
|3. Bouriat (Bugatti)||1h07m07s|
|4. Caracciola (Mercedes-Benz)||1h07m09s|
|5. Divo (Bugatti)||1h07m18s|
|6. Varzi (Bugatti)||1h07m23s|
|7. Biondetti (Maserati)||1h08m26s|
|8. Czaykowski (Bugatti)||1h09m16s|
|9. "Dribus" (Peugeot)||1h09m55s|
|10. Earl Howe (Bugatti)||1h10m18s|
|11. zu Leiningen (Bugatti)||1h10m30s|
After 32 laps, zu Leiningen, the last survivor of the German Bugatti Team, disappeared with a broken selector mechanism of his Bugatti gearbox. On lap 39, Divo headed for the pits with a slipping
clutch. He stopped twice again and was passed by Varzi. Bouriat was driving desperately, trying to keep up with Fagioli, who was half a minute ahead. At the end of 40 laps the order was:
|1. Chiron (Bugatti)||1h28m18s|
|2. Fagioli (Maserati)||1h28m38s|
|3. Bouriat (Bugatti)||1h29m06s|
|4. Caracciola (Mercedes-Benz)||1h29m25s|
|5. Varzi (Bugatti)||1h30m15s|
|6. Divo (Bugatti)||1h30m15s|
|7. Czaykowski (Bugatti)||1h32m13s|
Dreyfus was now in 14th place over 9 minutes behind the leader. Chiron's average speed was 86.432 km/h. Divo had to make further pit stops and was passed by Earl Howe. There were still 16 cars
circling at mid race, 50 laps, when the order was:
|1. Chiron (Bugatti)||1h50m12s|
|2. Fagioli (Maserati)||1h50m57s|
|3. Bouriat (Bugatti)||1h51m20s|
|4. Caracciola (Mercedes-Benz)||1h51m50s|
|5. Varzi (Bugatti)||1h52m12s|
|6. Earl Howe (Bugatti)||1h55m47s|
|7. Divo (Bugatti)||1h56m10s|
|8. Dribus (Peugeot)||1h56m48s|
|9. Stuber (Bugatti)||1h56m49s|
|10. Biondetti (Maserati)||1h59m34s|
|11. Dreyfus (Maserati)||1h59m41s|
On lap 53 Caracciola came slowly out of the Tunnel to stop at his pit with a slipping clutch. Alfred Neubauer explained in his Monaco Grand Prix report: "We were forced to abandon because of the
defect of the fourth (from front) connecting rod bearing, which must have developed due to lack of oil in the lower part of the engine." Furthermore, "I intentionally did not mention this defect
in my telegram, since the press was informed that the clutch had begun to slip and Caracciola, who could have carried on driving, could no longer fully exploit the engine."
Chiron's advantage increased with every circuit. Only Fagioli and Bouriat were on the same lap with him. After 54 tours, Varzi was a full lap in the back of Chiron. Shortly thereafter, Zanelli,
already seven laps behind, retired his Bugatti with a broken piston and came walking back to the pits. He had completed only 47 laps.
At this time there was a good subject for conversation, because the timekeepers made an error, by announcing that Fagioli had been in second position since lap 30. The official scoreboards must have
shown Fagioli in the wrong position further back. This episode is is dealt with in more detail at the end of this report. The order after lap 60 was as follows:
|1. Chiron (Bugatti)||2h11m55s|
|2. Fagioli (Maserati)||2h13m08s|
|3. Bouriat (Bugatti)||2h13m31s|
|4. Varzi (Bugatti)||2h14m28s|
|5. Divo (Bugatti)||2h18m17s|
|6. Earl Howe (Bugatti)||2h18m24s|
|7. "Dribus" (Peugeot)||2h20m09s|
|8. Zehender (Alfa Romeo)||2h21m00s|
|9. Biondetti (Maserati)||2h21m26s|
The Peugeot of "Dribus" was running regularly in seventh place, followed by Zehender's Alfa Romeo and Biondetti's Maserati. On lap 63, the engine of Earl Howe's Bugatti seized as a result of a broken
oil pipe as he rounded the Gasometer hairpin, causing his green Bugatti to go into a wild skid. On lap 66 Dreyfus equalled the fastest lap, which Chiron had established in 2m08s on lap 51. Stuber,
who was already many laps behind, retired his Bugatti on lap 68 with only 59 laps completed, due to a broken drive shaft after the station hairpin on the downhill part towards the pier wall where the
track turns right. Shortly afterwards, Divo, who had already stopped several times, headed to his pit with a broken engine, clutch trouble or a broken ball race; take your pick; he had only
completed 66 laps. On lap 70, Bouriat wrestled second place from Fagioli. The field was now down to ten cars and the times were as follows:
|1. Chiron (Bugatti)||2h33m48s|
|2. Bouriat (Bugatti)||2h35m25s|
|3. Fagioli (Maserati)||2h35m33s|
|4. Varzi (Bugatti)||2h36m27s|
|5. Zehender (Alfa Romeo)||2h41m46s|
|6. Dreyfus (Maserati)||2h43m04s|
|7. "Dribus" (Peugeot)||2h43m22s|
Bouriat was able to increase his lead over Fagioli, but nevertheless he was never secure in his position. Luigi Orsini described in MASERATI a Complete History that Fagioli had encountered fuel pressure
problems, forcing him to pump fuel intermittently, steering with one hand through the corkscrew twists of Monte Carlo. The L'Éclaireur de Nice reported that Czaykowski stopped at the exit of the tunnel
and pushed his car, but his race was soon coming to an end. Chiron continued at his fast pace and on lap 80 drove the fastest lap in 2m07s. With only ten cars remaining, the positions were:
|1. Chiron (Bugatti)||2h55m35s|
|2. Bouriat (Bugatti)||2h57m33s|
|3. Fagioli (Maserati)||2h57m55s|
|4. Varzi (Bugatti)||2h59m07s|
|5. Zehender (Alfa Romeo)||3h04m55s|
|6. Dreyfus (Maserati)||3h04m59s|
|7. "Dribus" (Peugeot)||3h06m45s|
|8. Biondetti (Maserati)|
Despit his handicap, on lap 84 Fagioli equaled the lap record of 2m07s, which Chiron had driven on lap 80. When Bouriat stopped to have his plugs replaced, he lost a lot of time, which allowed Fagioli to
regain second place, which he had lost on lap 70. Varzi and Dreyfus also moved forward and Bouriat found himself demoted to fifth position. On lap 88, Varzi equaled the record lap of 2m07s, driven before
by Fagioli and Chiron. All three achieved the same lap time but failed to break the record established in 1930 by Dreyfus at 2m07s, at an average speed of 90.14 km/h. With 90 laps complete, there were
still ten cars in the field in the following order:
|1. Chiron (Bugatti)|
|2. Fagioli (Maserati)|
|3. Varzi (Bugatti)|
|4. Dreyfus (Maserati)|
|5. Bouriat (Bugatti)|
|6. Zehender (Alfa Romeo)|
|7. "Dribus" (Peugeot)|
|8. Biondetti (Maserati)|
Three laps from the end Dreyfus retired his Maserati when his engine stopped running after the ignition points sheared off and dropped to the bottom of the magneto. This enabled "Dribus", a pseudonym for
André Boillot, to advance to sixth position. He had not made any pit stops with his eight-year-old unsupercharged Peugeot. Chiron was now over three minutes ahead of his closest pursuer and not worried.
Fagioli and Varzi battled for second place. Although Varzi in the works Bugatti had reduced Fagioli's advantage tremendously, he was not able to catch the Maserati.
At the finish Charles Faroux flagged Chiron, who had lapped the entire field with the new 2.3-liter Bugatti and won in the record time of three hours 39 minutes and 9.2 seconds. Fagioli and Varzi, who both
had to carry on driving to complete their 100 laps, followed next while all the others were flagged off. At that time the organizers had the barricades opened and the track was flooded by thousands of
spectators, making it very difficult for Chiron and his mechanic to complete their lap of honor.
|1.||22||Louis Chiron||Automobiles Ettore Bugatti||Bugatti||T51||2.3||S-8||100||3h39m09.2s|
|2.||52||Luigi Fagioli||Officine A. Maserati||Maserati||26M||2.5||S-8||100||3h43m04.6s|
|3.||26||Achille Varzi||Automobiles Ettore Bugatti||Bugatti||T51||2.3||S-8||100||3h43m13.2s|
|4.||20||Guy Bouriat||Automobiles Ettore Bugatti||Bugatti||T51||2.3||S-8||98|
|5.||46||Goffredo Zehender||Scuderia Ferrari||Alfa Romeo||6C-1750 GS||1.8||S-6||97|
|DNF||50||René Dreyfus||Officine A. Maserati|| Maserati||26M||2.5||S-8||91||magneto|
|7.||48||Clemente Biondetti||Officine A. Maserati||Maserati||26M||2.5||S-8||91|
|8.||12||Clifton Penn-Hughes||C. Penn-Hughes||Bugatti||T35||2.0||S-8||89|
|9.||30||Stanislas Czaykowski||Count S. Czaykowski||Bugatti||T35B||2.3||S-8||85|
|DNF||24||Albert Divo||Automobiles Ettore Bugatti||Bugatti||T51||2.3||S-8||66||engine|
|DNF||10||Earl Howe||Earl Howe||Bugatti||T51||2.3||S-8||62||oil pipe/engine|
|DNF||56||Hans Stuber||H. Stuber||Bugatti||T35C||2.0||S-8||59||drive shaft|
|DNF||16||Bernhard Ackerl||B. Ackerl||Bugatti||T37A||1.5||S-4||55||transmission|
|DNF||8||Rudolf Caracciola||R. Caracciola||Mercedes-Benz||SSKL||7.1||S-6||53||clutch/engine|
|DNF||18||Juan Zanelli||J. Zanelli||Bugatti||T35B||2.3||S-8||47||piston|
|DNF||4||Hermann zu Leiningen||German Bugatti Team||Bugatti||T35C||2.0||S-8||31||gearbox|
|DNF||6||Heinrich-Joachim von Morgen||German Bugatti Team||Bugatti||T35B||2.3||S-8||28||transmission|
|DNF||2||Ernst-Günther Burggaller||German Bugatti Team||Bugatti||T35B||2.3||S-8||26||engine|
|DNF||32||Marcel Lehoux||M. Lehoux||Bugatti||T35B||2.3||S-8||15||transmission|
|DNF||54||Carlo Pedrazzini||C. Pedrazzini||Maserati||26B||2.0||S-8||13||ignition|
|DNF||28||Philippe Etancelin||P. Etancelin||Bugatti||T35C||2.0||S-8||6||piston|
Fastest lap: Chiron (Bugatti) in 2m07s = 90.1 km/h (56.0 mph) on lap 80, on lap 84 by Fagioli (Maserati), by Varzi (Bugatti) on lap 88.|
Winner's medium speed: 87.1 km/h (54.1 mph) See "In retrospect:"
Weather: sunny and windy.
The positions and times included in this report are not subject to questions as those in some journal's reports. They were found most correct in the L'Éclaireur de Nice except for the times reported
on lap 80, which were obtained from Motor Sport. A few mid-race times were added from Edmond Cohin's research. With regard to the time keeping of Fagioli there remained not always clear transparency in
most journals because in the course of the race it was announced at one time that Fagioli was mistakenly declared to be much too far in a rear position. In the decisive laps Fagioli passed Bouriat and Varzi
and was classified about four minutes behind Chiron, closely followed by Varzi. This also explains the confusion of some reports showing Caracciola in third position, while the German was never higher than
After 50 laps of racing the timekeepers admitted that they had made a mistake in announcing that Fagioli was in second position as early as lap 30. The official scoreboards probably had shown Fagioli in
the wrong position further in the rear of the field. Hans Stuber said that besides Fagioli he also had been given wrong lap numbers at the beginning of the race, which was later corrected. Other drivers
were also shown in the wrong order in some reports because of the faulty information about Fagioli. W.F. Bradley wrote about the officials' performance: "Evidently, this whirlwind racing was too much
for their powers of observation and calculation."
Three months after the race, on July 18, 1931, the Allgemeine Automobil-Zeitung published the following:
"An embarrassing blunder happened at the Monaco Grand Prix. It has recently emerged that only 99 laps were completed, not the prescribed 100 laps. As a result the Italian Champion Achille Varzi was
denied his well-deserved second place. It will possibly be remembered that Varzi displayed a spectator inspiring finish on the 100th lap in which he overtook the Maserati of Fagioli. But at that time this
lap was no longer taken into account and for that reason this achievement failed due to the weak arithmetic of the race management."
The AAZ statement could not be backed up with other contemporary information when searching the 1931 AUTOMOBIL-REVUE issues and those of Motor Sport. Neither magazine mentioned this 99-lap dilemma.
Even though only 99 laps were completed, the official results as published in the contemporary press and in later reports, including this account, all show 100 laps. However they cannot be changed because
official results must be retained even when they are known to be WRONG!
This is what seems to have happened. The incompetent timekeepers somehow added a lap during the race, so what they thought was lap 100, was actually lap 99. Acting on this wrong information, they
told Faroux to drop the flag at the end of Chiron's 99th lap, which he duly did. Being a lap down to Chiron, Fagioli and Varzi were instructed to race one more lap to complete their full race distance,
though in reality the extra lap would only be their 99th. After this lap had been completed (i.e. on their actual 100th lap) Varzi passed Fagioli to create the 'spectator inspiring' moment mentioned by AAZ.
However, by this time both were merely on their cooling down lap, so it would have been most unfair to have given Varzi second place.
When the timekeepers issued the final results, Fagioli and Varzi appeared in that order. The laps completed should have read 99, not 100, and the race averages should have been somewhat slower as
the drivers completed 3.18 km less than the timekeepers stated. As far as is known, every report of the race since then, either in magazines or books has recorded the number of laps completed as 100 and the
final race distance as 318km.
These are the unofficial corrected results for the first three places:
|1. Chiron||99 laps, 314.82 km||3h39m09.2s||86.84 km/h|
|2. Fagioli||99 laps, 314.82 km||3h43m04.6s||84.68 km/h|
|3. Varzi||99 laps, 314.82 km||3h43m13.2s||84.62 km/h|
Primary sources researched for this article:|
Allgemeine Automobil-Zeitung, Berlin
Allgemeine Automobil-Zeitung, Wien
Berliner Tageblatt, Berlin
IL Littoriale, Roma
L'Éclaireur de Nice
Motor Sport, London
MOTOR und SPORT, Pössneck
The Autocar, London
The Motor, London
Special thanks to:
Note that a news film of 1931 Monaco GP (seen for example on YouTube) shows the 1930 grid and start!
VIII° CIRCUITO DI ALESSANDRIA
Alessandria, 26 April 1931.
35 laps x 8.0 km (5.0 mi) = 280.0 km (174.0 mi)
Varzi captures his second victory of the season
by Hans Etzrodt
Varzi in the new 2300 twin-cam Bugatti, possibly the best driver with the fastest car, was leading from start to finish, winning uncontested. Fagioli in the victorious 8C 2500 Maserati and Nuvolari with
the new 2.3-liter Alfa Romeo attemped to do battle but both failed miserably and retired early. Thereafter Varzi had a rather easy time. By winning the Bordino Prize at Alessandria, the 1930 Italian
Champion seized his second victory of the season, which also was the third straight win for the new 2.3-liter twin-cam Bugatti. Minozzi and von Morgen in older Bugattis finished next, followed by Castelbarco's
8C 2500 Maserati and Arcangelis 1750 Alfa Romeo. From 25 cars at the start only 10 finished the race. Another 14 cars of the 1100 cc class raced simultaneously, where Comotti (Salmson) won ahead of Falchetto
(Amilcar) and Carnevaly (Rally).
The Coppa Pietro Bordino was the first Italian circuit race in 1931. It was the eighth time that an event was held at Alessandria, always on a 32 km circuit but this year revised to eight kilometer length,
to be lapped 35 times with a total distance of 280 km. It was the first race counting towards the Italian Automobile Championship.
At the 1928 Alessandria race Pietro Bordino with his mechanic, Pietro Lasagni, had died here during practice on April 15, 1928, one week before the race. Trying to avoid a stray dog running in
front of his Bugatti, he bumped into the large Alsatian. The canine jammed the Bugatti’s steering. The car left the road and tumbled down a ravine into one of the deep unnamed tributary channels
of the Tanaro River, which ran along the course. According to reports, Bordino and his mechanic drowned. In honor of this great Italian driver, the Alessandria race became known thereafter the
Coppa Pietro Bordino on the Circuito Bordino.
The Automobile Club di Alessandria organized the contest, which was open for racecars, class I over 1100 cc and class II up to 1100 cc. The first prize was 40,000 lire, second 20,000 and third 12,000 lire.
The victor of the 1100 cc class was to receive 6,000 lire, the second 3,000 lire. There were additional special prizes. The popular race at Alessandria was a prelude to the Targa Florio.
This crowd-pleasing event received 32 entries for class 1, and 24 cars for class 2. Luigi Fagioli drove the only factory car and was the most promising of the Maserati drivers. Other Maserati entries were received
from Pietro Ghersi, Umberto Klinger and Luigi Castelbarco, who had won the six-hour race of Tunis. René Dreyfus was also present but this time only as Maserati reserve driver. Achille Varzi was alone in representing
his company with his own 2.3-liter twin-cam Bugatti, painted in red, against the large field of Italian cars. His entry had been uncertain. Motor Sport reported that Varzi's car was finished at Molsheim only the day
before the event and he proceeded to Alessandria by road. H.-J. von Morgen wrote in Allgemeine Automobil-Zeitung that Louis Chiron and Meo Costantini were silently and privatly present to watch the progress of the new
Alfa Romeo, entered by Scuderia Ferrari, in form of the latest 8C 2300 Alfa Romeo in grand prix trim for Tazio Nuvolari. According to Motor Sport, Nuvolari's car was only entered on the day before the race. There were
also two Alfa Romeo 1750s for Luigi Arcangeli and Francesco Severi with a 1500 Alfa for Alfredo Caniato. During the recent Monaco weekend, the Alessandria organizer had invited the Deutsches Bugatti Team with Ernst-Günther
Burggaller and the Berliner Heinrich-Joachim von Morgen in 2.3-liter T35B's and Prince Hermann zu Leiningen in 2-liter Type 35C. Another 20 entries in the class over 1100 cc and 24 cars in the class up to 1100 cc were
entered and are tabulated in the list of entries.
This year the public showed again great interest in this event. The mass visit began already during Saturday practice when immense crowds of spectators surrounded the circuit. H.-J. von Morgen reported in the Allgemeine
Automobil-Zeitung that there was actually no real practice because the circuit was not blocked off, requiring the racecars to circumvent road works, steamrollers, trucks and other road users. The new 8C 2300 Alfa Romeo
in grand prix trim driven by Nuvolari, was the first car so modified and not as fast as the later 8C 2300 grand prix cars that appeared at the Italian Grand Prix.
On Sunday spectators appeared in hordes, looking forward to witness a new duel between Varzi, who had won the last two races at Alessandria, and Nuvolari, who had provided a tough battle with Varzi the year before.
At the beginning, the weather did not appear to be promising. A harsh wind was blowing rain clouds above the circuit but during the race no rain was falling. The 39 cars were lined up in numerical order. Presumably
the numbers were drawn by lots. At 2:30 in the afternoon the starter Augusto Turati, former uppermost Italian sporting official and general secretary of the fascist party, gave the starting signal with a checkered flag.
D. R. Di Cerami
Varzi, dressed in blue overalls and white cap in his red Bugatti, shot at once into the lead from the second row and pulled away ten car lengths from his closest pursuer. Fagioli in the Maserati immediately chased after
the Bugatti to begin the first part of the battle. Nuvolari in the new Alfa Romeo had to pass seven opponents before reaching the leaders.
After the first lap, Varzi was ahead of Fagioli's Maserati. On lap three Fagioli broke his gearbox, which made Varzi's life much easier. H.-J. von Morgen reported in the AAZ, that he broke second gear on his Bugatti
during lap three, so that he had to crawl through the hairpin turns. There was hardly anything to report about the 1100 cc cars. Paschetta in the Fiat was still in front after the first lap and thereafter Comotti held
first place until the end.
On lap four, Varzi established the fastest lap in 3m16.4s at 146.639 km/h. The Bugatti of the 1930 Italian Champion was continuously drawing away, increasing his advantage by five seconds per lap, leaving Nuvolari no
chance to catch up with his new Alfa. Minozzi's Bugatti held third place, chased by the white Bugattis of Burggaller and von Morgen, the Maseratis of Castelbarco and Klinger and Arcangeli's Alfa Romeo in eighth place.
After 5 laps the order was:
|1. Varzi (Bugatti)||17m51s|
|2. Nuvolari (Alfa Romeo)||18m16s|
|3. Minozzi (Bugatti)||18m41s|
|4. Burggaller (Bugatti)||19m11s|
|5. von Morgen (Bugatti)||19m14s|
|6. L. Castelbarco (Maserati)||19m31s|
|7. Klinger (Maserati)||19m32s|
|8. Arcangeli (Alfa Romeo)||19m42s|
|9. Di Vecchio (Talbot)||20m36s|
|10. Caniato (Alfa Romeo)||21m55s|
|11. Gola (Bugatti)|
Nuvolari's Alfa Romeo lost now only one second per lap to Varzi's Bugatti but was not fast enough to keep up with the leader. Minozzi, Burggaller, von Morgen, Castelbarco and Arcangeli drove cars that were simply not
powerful enough to mix with the two cars in front. Klinger and Di Vecchio had fallen already two laps behind. The battle for the lead in class 2 up to 1100 cc was contested between Gerardi (Amilcar) and Comotti
(Salmson) who was still leading. After ten laps the order had changed very little:
|1. Varzi (Bugatti)||35m53s|
|2. Nuvolari (Alfa Romeo)||36m26s|
|3. Minozzi (Bugatti)||37m09s|
|4. von Morgen (Bugatti)||38m30s|
|5. Burggaller (Bugatti)||38m31s|
|6. L. Castelbarco (Maserati)||38m38s|
|7. Arcangeli (Alfa Romeo)||39m12s|
|8. Caniato (Alfa Romeo)|
|9. Klinger (Maserati)||44m25s|
|10. Di Vecchio (Talbot)||44m44s|
IL LITTORIALE reported that Nuvolari lost a lot of ground to Varzi on lap ten and then retired. La Stampa published Nuvolari's time of 36m26s after he had completed ten laps. AUTOMOBIL-REVUE wrote that Nuvolari
retired on lap 11 with 10 laps completed. Moretti stated in "When Nuvolari Raced..." that Nuvolari went out of the race on the tenth lap, when the differential broke on a bend near Valenza.
Fagioli, who had ended his race after two laps, was seen again racing after the eleventh lap but in Klinger's Maserati. AAZ explained that Klinger, who was already two laps behind, was stopped at the pits by Ernesto
Maserati, to have Fagioli take over. IL Littoriale reported that at some time Ghersi handed over his Maserati to René Dreyfus but this change brought no success. This driver change was confirmed also by AAZ.
After the demise of his serious opponents, Varzi had an easy time and could cruise home, driving at an average speed of 130 km/h. The following laps brought no major changes. After 15 laps, Castelbarco, Burggaller
and Arcangeli were already one lap behind the leader:
|1. Varzi (Bugatti)||53m51s|
|2. Minozzi (Bugatti)||55m31s|
|3. von Morgen (Bugatti)||57m13s|
|4. L. Castelbarco (Maserati)||57m20s|
|5. Burggaller (Bugatti)||57m35s|
|6. Arcangeli (Alfa Romeo)||58m49s|
On lap 20 happened the only serious accident of the day when Gola's Bugatti left the road at the right hand corner before the pits, hit the sandbags and flipped over several times. Luckily there were no spectators at this
place. Both, father and son Gola, were ejected, suffered multible fractures and contusions but the crash was not as serious as had been feared initially. They were able to leave the hospital the same night, presumably in
plaster. After 20 laps and 160 km, Varzi had lapped the entire field, except Minozzi's Bugatti.
|1. Varzi (Bugatti)||1h11m55s|
|2. Minozzi (Bugatti)||1h14m00s|
|3. von Morgen (Bugatti)||1h15m55s|
|4. L. Castelbarco (Maserati)||1h15m57s|
|5. Burggaller (Bugatti)||1h16m43s|
|6. Arcangeli (Alfa Romeo)||1h18m16s|
|7. Cerami (Maserati)|
|8. Zu Leiningen (Bugatti)|
H.-J. von Morgen reported in the AAZ, that Prince Leiningen had to retire ten laps from the end due to a trivial clutch pin failure. There were no position changes amongst the top six drivers after 25 laps and 200 km:
|1. Varzi (Bugatti)||1h29m56s|
|2. Minozzi (Bugatti)||1h32m14s|
|3. von Morgen (Bugatti)||1h34m25s|
|4. L. Castelbarco (Maserati)||1h34m36s|
|5. Burggaller (Bugatti)||1h37m36s|
|6. Arcangeli (Alfa Romeo)||1h37m45s|
Burggaller lost more time. H.-J. von Morgen explained that his teammate had to make four pit stops to attend to fuel problems on his Bugatti. After 30 laps the order remained the same, except Arcangeli had advanced to
|1. Varzi (Bugatti)||1h48m01s|
|2. Minozzi (Bugatti)||1h50m28s|
|3. von Morgen (Bugatti)||1h53m30s|
|4. L. Castelbarco (Maserati)||1h53m38s|
|5. Arcangeli (Alfa Romeo)||1h57m35s|
|6. Burggaller (Bugatti)||1h58m24s|
Varzi maintained the lead until the finish with a 2m22s advantage to Minozzi. Von Morgen, Castelbarco, Arcangeli, Burggaller, Fagioli in Klinger's Maserati, Di Vecchio, Caniato and Severi all completed their 35 laps,
while Baruffi (Bugatti) and Carami (Maserati) were too far behind to be classified and were flagged off. The small class was won by Comotti in his Salmson, while Falchetto (Amilcar) and Carnevali (Rally) were flagged
off but were classified as second and third place finisher in their class.
There was long applause for the victorious Varzi. During the distribution of trophies Varzi thanked smilingly, modest and calm like always.
La Stampa published a few questions directed to Varzi the following morning, when surrounded by friends, as he tried to step into his car to return to Milano. The three time winner at the Alessandria Circuit was by
nature not talkative, even after his victory. His answers: he had no problems, engine and brakes worked perfectly. He felt confident after he noticeably outdistanced Nuvolari already on the first lap. Difficulties
arose only through the dust at individual sections and the stones, which were sent whirling upwards and were flying in all directions. One stone hit him on the left eyebrow but did not hurt the eye. On such a short
circuit both classes should not start simultaneously. The spectators would have also a problem following the race.
H.-J. von Morgen reviewed in the AAZ, "...during the first 100 km, while nearly all 39 cars were still in the race, one had to pass cars constantly, it was raining stones or worse yet, literally shot stones. It was
unbelievable how many stones there were. In one turn the rubble was 40 to 50 cm high with loose sand and gravel on the road, so that every time the floor pan scraped the pebbles. Ten cars gradually retired due to
falling stones, because radiators or even front brakes were whacked to pieces. I have seen no driver, who did not bleed in some way from falling stones. In short, it was a very great entertainment. In addition there
were spectators running across the track during the race and they even stormed the pit depots. Obviously these flimsy frameworks soon came apart and all, also mechanics and race drivers brides were laying on the race
track in an indescribable tangle of wheels, gasoline, oil and tools."
Timekeeping or the lack of it: La Stampa stated in their report that the huge scoreboard, which was to show the racing progress, remained mute. The explanation for that was simple. There were a mere three
timekeepers for the 39 cars, which had been released simultaneously on this relatively short circuit. So, these three men hecticly could only note down the passage and intervals but had no time to furnish announcements
about the status of the race. For that reason loudspeaker announcements were sparingly. The spectators could hear,"The timekeepers have not yet completed the list of passing cars after the first five laps. We will
inform you shortly..." But time faded away - and spectators were furthermore consoled, until the end of the race, with no information by means of the scoreboard. The time keepers could not be blamed but the problem
could have been anticipated. It was solely mitigated due to the relatively few position changes. Evidently the results could only be publicized long after the end of the race. On such a short circuit they should not
have started that many cars and above all, not both categories simultaneously.
H.-J. von Morgen described in the AAZ, it became apparent after the race that besides Varzi's times, no laps were counted and times taken. In this way Burggaller's and von Morgen's positions were seriously 'adjusted'.
They did not classify fourth and second but suddenly were sixth and third. A protest against the timekeepers was not allowed. But if no timekeeping had taken place, would it be then permitted to object?
The AAZ report continued, that next morning, when the Germans wanted to pick up their prize money at the Automobile Club, it was explained to them that not everything was in order and the Sporting Commission now first
had to approve payment of the prize money. After endless disputes the Deutsches Bugatti Team received at least a payment for the return trip while the rest would supposedly follow later per mail. The official race results
were eventually published during the Club's nightly victory celebration.
Primary sources researched for this article:|
Allgemeine Automobil-Zeitung, Berlin
IL Littoriale, Roma
La Stampa, Torino
Motor Sport, London
MOTOR und SPORT, Pössneck
Special thanks to: