IV GRAND PRIX de BELGIQUE
Spa-Francorchamps (B), 9 July 1933.
40 laps x 14.914 km (9.267 mi) = 596.6 km (370.7 mi)
Nuvolari triumphs in a Maserati at the Grand Prix of Belgium.
by Hans Etzrodt
The Belgian Grand Prix, the third major international Grand Prix of the year, attracted almost the entire elite of international drivers.
The race became the sole triumph for the unequaled Nuvolari in the monoposto Maserati, which he had modified between practice and the race.
Driving a Maserati for the first time, he led the entire race except for three laps during mid-race, when he had to stop for fuel and
tires. Chiron and Borzacchini dropped out while Varzi and Dreyfus were clearly left behind the inspired Nuvolari, who proved once again
that at 40 years of age, he was still Europe's best driver.
Like the July 24-Hour-Race of Spa eight days earlier, the IV Grand Prix de Belgique took place on the famous Francorchamps circuit over
a 596 km distance to the same formula as used in the French Grand Prix at Montlhéry.
The big news at the Belgian Grand Prix was the announced start of the new 2.8-liter model from Bugatti. The expectations of this new,
much talked about car were unusually high. This was the same car that should have been completed for the French GP, but due to further
development the start was called off at the last moment and postponed until Spa. Varzi, as the most experienced driver of the equipe,
appeared with the car in practice at Spa, but drove rather gently around the course and did not make any fast lap times. Varzi experienced
insufficient road holding and the brakes also worked inadequately. Consequently, Meo Costantini, the Bugatti team manager called off the
start for the new car. The definitive start was then further postponed until Monza on September 10. Very little information was released
about the new model except that it was built for next year's formula and had therefore a weight of 750 kg or less without its tires and a
minimum width of 85 cm. The 8-cylinder engine had two overhead camshafts and with a capacity of 2800 cc was to develop 230 hp. Top speed
was supposedly 250 km/h. The chassis was completely new, the driveshaft very low and the center of gravity was lowered, although the 25 cm
ground clearance had been maintained. Costantini also hinted that the brakes were different but gave no further details about the car,
which had special wheels out of aluminum.
Besides Varzi, Bugatti was represented with its 2.3-liter models, to be driven by Dreyfus and "Williams". Well known private drivers
included Lehoux with his 2.3-liter Bugatti, plus Chiron, Moll, Sommer and Wimille in Alfa Romeos.
Baron von Waldthausen and Villars had formed a small Swiss equipe, the Ecurie Villars. They entered two Alfa Romeos but withdrew two days before
the race. A probable reason for this late change was a financial clash between the team and the organizers. Instead they competed at La Baraque
hill climb near Clermond-Ferrand. Another Swiss team consisted of Grosch and Markiewicz, alias Marko.
They registered their Alfa and Bugatti respectively.
Belgian private driver Willy Longueville did not arrive with his 2.3-liter Bugatti T35B. Officially the car was not ready for the race.
There were the well known Maserati monopostos, which had not yet proven themselves
on road circuits, except at Reims at the Marne GP. The cars were assigned to Campari and Zehender; however, Campari could not start due
to an eye injury received at Reims the weekend before. Nuvolari, dissatisfied with the preparation of his cars at the Scuderia Ferrari,
was considering driving a monoposto Maserati depending on his practice results. If this experiment failed, he would start with the 2.6-liter
Alfa Romeo from the Scuderia Ferrari with teammates Borzacchini, Siena or Taruffi.
On the first day of practice Chiron, who had won the Spa 24-Hour Race the weekend before, made use of his latest circuit experience by setting the
fastest lap at 6m07s, an average speed of 146.3 km/h. Nuvolari, and Borzacchini achieved the next best practice times, Nuvolari's being 6m09s.
The Italian champion practiced on the 2.6-liter Alfa and also the 8CM monoposto Maserati. It first appeared unlikely that Nuvolari would decide to
drive the Maserati, because the monoposto was known to have poor road holding as experienced by Campari in the 8CM's first race at the 1933 Monaco
Grand Prix. Despite this, Nuvolari tested the very fast Maserati for several laps, learning about the car's instability in high speed corners,
caused by a flexing chassis. After a fast lap of 6m05s on Friday, the second practice day, Nuvolari decided to start with the Maserati, thereby
causing quite a sensation. Nuvolari together with his well known mechanic Decimo Compagnoni and the Maserati factory mechanic, Luigi Parenti, went
to the nearby Liège workshops of the Belgian Imperia factory. Using their tools to modify the monoposto during the next 24 hours, they made the front
part of the chassis more rigid with additional bracings to improve road-holding. The uncomfortable gear lever was also altered.
A more detailed description of the modifications carried out at the Imperia Works was given by Luigi Orsini in "MASERATI, A Complete History", 1980,
by Orsini/Zagari. The long frame members were enclosed in sleeves, forming a boxlike structure instead of a C-shaped cross section. They altered
the steering linkage ratio to render it less direct and also changed the steering wheel from the rigid Italian style to the more flexible type with
spokes composed of superimposed thin metal elements.
The week before the Belgian Grand Prix, Campari had raced a 3-liter Maserati monoposto at the Marne Grand Prix outside Reims but retired early when a
flying stone injured one of his eyes. He was entered for Spa the following week, but would not be fit to race that soon. Therefore the monoposto
he had driven at Reims was now available for the Belgian Grand Prix. According to Luigi Orsini an agreement between Ernesto Maserati and Enzo Ferrari
had been reached on the morning after Reims. Doctor Ferruccio Testi, a close friend of the Maserati brothers, served as an able mediator. The
monoposto from Reims was to be lent to Nuvolari, including servicing with mechanics since the Mantuan was still contracted to the Scuderia Ferrari.
The Maserati was then delivered at Spa to Nuvolari and was not an entry of the Bologna factory. The Scuderia Ferrari entered this monoposto for
Nuvolari, most probably a compromise solution by Enzo Ferrari. However, the Maserati did not display the prancing horse emblem.
Sunday saw enormous crowds attracted to watch this international battle. At one o'clock in the afternoon the 12 cars were lined up for the start
of 40 laps around the Spa circuit. A great disappointment was the withdrawal of the new Bugatti model and Varzi appeared instead in the familiar
2.3-liter car. The grid had been determined by ballot and the race numbers had been allocated accordingly.
Nuvolari started from the last row but after just more than six minutes, the end of lap one, he had passed every car in front of him, leaving
behind all his dangerous adversaries, Borzacchini, Chiron, Varzi and Dreyfus, outdistancing them clearly. During those first laps Nuvolari
drove flat out to gain an advantage while the remaining race was at a slightly reduced pace. Williams lost time changing spark plugs when he
visited the pits at the end of lap one and two.
After 100 km Nuvolari led by 41m35s, an average of 144.28 km/h, with a gap of 17 seconds to Borzacchini and Chiron. These two were engaged in
a fierce battle and were only one second apart. They in turn were 45 seconds ahead of Varzi with an eight seconds gap to Lehoux and then
the dueling pair of Zehender and Dreyfus a further 25 seconds back. The end was made up by Siena, Moll and "Williams" who again had stopped
to change spark plugs. Zehender, then lost ground and had to retire with transmission trouble. The young Swiss newcomer Markiewicz in an
Alfa Romeo had luckily escaped a serious accident in a corner during practice. During the race he drove at the rear of the field, retiring
after another harmless crash in one of the corners.
After 200 km, Nuvolari was still in the lead at 1h22m02s, followed by Borzacchini with a gap of 36s, then Chiron 50s, Varzi 2m11s, Lehoux
2m29s, Dreyfus 3m11s, Siena 3m17s and Moll 3m36s. Williams had fallen further behind due to more stops for spark plugs and Sommer was beset
with fuel pipe problems. On lap 13 Nuvolari set the fastest lap with 6m01s at 148.7 km/h.
A great surprise came when Nuvolari made a brief stop at his pit for fuel and new tires, which took 1m40s. Having already passed Borzacchini,
this enabled Chiron to take the lead, with Varzi third. Nuvolari had fallen back to fourth place and it appeared that he had little chance
to regain the lost ground.
After 300 km, Chiron held the lead with 2h03m03s, Borzacchini followed with 2h05m06s, Nuvolari now third with 2h06m20s, then Varzi in fourth
1m31s further back, followed by Lehoux. These times out of the 1933 AUTOMOBIL-REVUE, give Chiron a 3m17s advantage to Nuvolari. It is
strange why Chiron was suddenly so far ahead of Nuvolari without giving an explanation in any of the contemporary magazines. The pit stop
took only 1m40s, so one would expect Chiron to be one to two minutes ahead of him but not over three. In any event, Chiron's race ended
then rather suddenly while in the lead when his Alfa's differential broke as it had at the French Grand Prix. At once Nuvolari had lost
one of his most dangerous opponents and had gained second place. Victory became even easier for the Italian, when the new leader Borzacchini
also retired after his Alfa's engine broke a connecting rod. That is how Nuvolari, in only three laps, moved from fourth back into first place.
From thereon he never gave up the lead.
After 400 km, Nuvolari held first place, 1m45s ahead of Varzi, 3m22s in front of Dreyfus, 3m48s to Lehoux and 6m11s ahead of Siena. The two
works Bugattis were not far behind the leader, just waiting to take over in case Nuvolari would have to stop again. More than that, one of
them was being driven by his arch rival Varzi and he certainly didn't slow down. Varzi took up the challenge where Chiron had left off. A
Nuvolari-Varzi duel like at Monaco it was however not.
At the completion of 500 km, Nuvolari was still in the lead with 3h28m42s. Varzi followed in second place with a gap of 2m14s. He accomplished
a masterpiece going in the last lap by changing one wheel in the unbelievable time of 14 seconds. By doing so, he was able to keep his second
place, which seemed to be in imminent danger. Varzi had nearly lost his entire advantage to Dreyfus who now finished third, just three seconds
After 4h09m11s, at an average speed of 143.6 km/h, Nuvolari was the victor in the Maserati monoposto. This was another demonstration of his
phenomenal talent as a driver but he was lucky that Chiron and Borzacchini had dropped out. Nuvolari was stopped doing 200 km/h on the descent
to Masta. His winning speed was faster than the 1931 lap record. Varzi came second with a gap of 3m15s, Dreyfus third, Lehoux fourth with no
third gear and Siena fifth. Williams was flagged one lap behind and Sommer was five laps down due to fuel feed problems.
Nuvolari had established the fastest lap of 6m01s at an average speed of 148.7 km/h. Varzi's fastest lap was 6m06s, Dreyfus 6m04s, Borzacchini
6m03s, Chiron 6m07s, Siena and Lehoux 6m12s, Williams and Moll 6m15s, Zehender 6m20s, Sommer 6m37s and Markiewicz 7m25s.
|1.||22||Tazio Nuvolari||Scuderia Ferrari||Maserati||8CM||3.0 ||S-8||40||4h09m11s|
|2.||14||Achille Varzi||Automobiles E. Bugatti||Bugatti||T51||2.3||S-8||40||4h12m56s||+ 3m45s|
|3.||18||René Dreyfus||Automobiles E. Bugatti||Bugatti||T51||2.3||S-8||40||4h12m59s||+ 3m48s|
|4.||4||Marcel Lehoux||M. Lehoux||Bugatti||T51||3.0||S-8||40||4h13m28s||+ 4m17s|
|5.||12||Eugenio Siena||Scuderia Ferrari||Alfa Romeo||Monza||2.6||S-8||40||4h17m10s||+ 7m59s|
|6.||16||"Williams"||Automobiles E. Bugatti||Bugatti||T51||2.3||S-8||39|
|7.||8||Raymond Sommer||R. Sommer||Alfa Romeo||Monza||2.6||S-8||35|
|DNF||10||Mario U. Borzacchini||Scuderia Ferrari||Alfa Romeo||Monza||2.6||S-8||22||connecting rod|
|DNF||6||Guy Moll||G. Moll||Alfa Romeo||Monza||2.3||S-8||20||gearbox or clutch|
|DNF||2||Louis Chiron||Scuderia CC||Alfa Romeo||Monza||2.3||S-8||20||differential|
|DNF||24||Goffredo Zehender||Officine A. Maserati||Maserati||8CM||3.0||S-8||10||transmission|
Fastest lap: Tazio Nuvolari (Maserati) on lap 13 in 6m01s = 148.7 km/h (92.4 mph)|
Winner's medium speed: 143.6 km/h (89.2 mph)
Weather: dry, overcast
Nuvolari eventually left the Scuderia Ferrari at the end of July to form his own team with Borzacchini. Enzo Ferrari hired Fagioli
as his new team leader, then added Campari and later Chiron. Already in April, after the Monaco Grand Prix, Nuvolari had bought Sommer's 8CM
Maserati but for the Belgian race he used the 8CM, which Campari had raced at Reims the week before.
Once the Alfa Romeo factory realized why Nuvolari had left the Scuderia and noticed the latest success of the now very effective Maserati monoposto,
they released their narrow Tipo B/P3 monopostos with spares and several key technicians to the Scuderia Ferrari. At the end of 1932 Alfa Romeo had
withdrawn from motor racing for financial reasons. To Ferrari's great dismay, they would not release their very successful Tipo B/P3 monoposto
racecars to the Scuderia Ferrari, so dominating in 1932. Therefore, Enzo Ferrari's alternative was to modify the old 8C-2300 Monza models, of
which he had six cars. He increased their engines to 2.6 liter capacity. But these cars were still not strong and robust enough to beat the faster
Bugattis and improved Maserati monopostos.