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VI° GRAN PREMIO di MONZA

Autodromo di Monza (I), 10 September 1933
3 heats of 14 laps x 4.500 km (2.8 mi) = 63.0 km (39.1 mi)
Final 14 laps x 4.500 km (2.8 mi) = 63.0 km (39.1 mi) - planned to be 22 laps


No.DriverEntrantCarTypeEngine

2Eugenio SienaScuderia FerrariAlfa RomeoMonza2.6S-8DNS - entry withdrawn
4Carlo Felice TrossiScuderia FerrariDuesenberg4.4S-8
6Attilio BattilanaA. BattilanaBugattiT35C2.0S-8
8Tazio NuvolariOfficine A. MaseratiMaserat8CM3.0S-8DNS - entry withdrawn
10Luigi PremoliL. PremoliPBM3.0S-8
12Whitney StraightW. StraightMaserati26M2.5S-8
14Guy MollG. MollAlfa RomeoMonza2.3S-8
16Luigi PagesL. PagesAlfa RomeoMonza2.3S-8
18Felice BonettoF. BonettoAlfa RomeoMonza2.3S-8
20Stanisłas CzaykowskiS. CzaykowskiBugattiT544.9 S-8
22Giuseppe CampariScuderia FerrariAlfa RomeoTipo B2.6S-8
24Renato BalestreroR. BalestreroAlfa RomeoMonza2.3S-8
26Mario U. BorzacchiniOfficine A. MaseratiMaserati8C 30003.0S-8
28Ferdinando BarbieriF. BarbieriAlfa RomeoMonza2.3S-8
30Goffredo ZehenderG. ZehenderMaserati8CM3.0S-8DNS - entry withdrawn
32Carlo CastelbarcoC. CastelbarcoAlfa RomeoMonza2.3S-8
34Mlle "Hellé-Nice""Hellé-Nice"Alfa RomeoMonza2.3S-8
36Charly JellenC. JellenAlfa RomeoMonza2.3S-8DNA - raced at Hohnstein
38Lelio PellegriniC PellegriniAlfa RomeoMonza2.3S-8
40Jean GaupillatJ. GaupillatBugattiT512.3S-8DNS - car problems in prior race
42Ippolito BerroneI. BerroneMaserati4CM1.5S-4DNA
44Giulio AyminiG. AyminiMaserati263.0S-8DNA
46Piero TaruffiP. TaruffiMaserati8CM3.0S-8DNS - car damaged in prior race
48Pietro GhersiP. GhersiAlfa RomeoMonza2.3S-8
50Clemente BiondettiC. BiondettiMB Speciale3.0S-8
52G. Cornaggia-MediciG. CornaggiaAlfa RomeoMonza2.3S-8
54Paul PietschP. PietschAlfa RomeoMonza2.3S-8DNA - raced at Hohnstein
56Walter GroschW. GroschAlfa RomeoMonza2.3S-8DNA
58Earl HoweEarl HoweBugattiT512.3S-8
60Marcel LehouxM. LehouxBugattiT512.3S-8DNA


The Black Day of Monza. Campari, Borzacchini and Czaykowski crashed fatally.
by Hans Etzrodt
The Gran Premio di Monza of 1933 will always be remembered as the Black Day of Monza. Since the very beginning of automobile sport there had never been a tragedy of such proportions. Three of Europe's greatest racing drivers had crashed fatally within a few hours of each other at almost the same spot in the South Curve: Campari, the most popular driver, the bulky, amiable Giuseppe, then Mario-Umberto Borzacchini, the great driver and famous friend of Nuvolari and finally Count Stanisłas Czaykowski, winner of the heat 1 race and the 1-hour world record holder. Many followers of international motor sport were deeply moved by this disaster, their hearts filled with grief. Campari crashed not due to excessive speed but the desire to remain in first place at whatever cost. He also obstructed poor Borzacchini who did not have sufficient time to react. Czaykowski's crash has never been properly explained. Driver error was a comfortable excuse for organizers and officialdom to hide the inadequacy of the Monza banking with respect to the speed of the cars.
      The three heats were won by Count Czaykowski in his 4.9-liter Bugatti, then Balestrero and Lehoux both with Alfa Romeos. Lehoux also came first in the shortened final of the dreadful Monza Grand Prix.
This latest Monza tragedy overshadowed the death of Britain's top driver, Sir Henry (Tim) Birkin and the famous German, Otto Merz, both of whom were killed earlier during the year. Monza had again confirmed its sad reputation as a track of ill fortune. In 1922, just after the Monza circuit had been completed, the German Austro-Daimler driver Fritz Kuhn was killed during training for the Italian Grand Prix. His car was too fast through the turn, went into a skid and rolled several times before throwing out the driver. Two weeks before the 1923 Grand Prix, Pietro Bordino had tested a Fiat 805 with driver Enrico Giaccone as passenger. The car overturned in the North Curve of the high-speed oval. Giaccone was fatally injured while Bordino escaped with neck and shoulder hurt. While practicing for the 1923 Italian Grand Prix, Ugo Sivocci with an Alfa Romeo P1 crashed fatally, as did Count Zborowski in a Mercedes at the following year's Grand Prix. In 1931 Luigi Arcangeli crashed to his death during a practice run with a twin-engine Alfa Romeo. The terrible tragedy on September 4, 1928, during the Grand Prix of Europe at Monza was also unforgettable. Emilio Materassi in his Talbot attempted to pass Foresti's Bugatti on the straight in front of the grandstands. Materassi lost control, the car left the circuit in the direction of the grand stand at top speed and jumped over the three meter deep and four meter wide protection ditch into the crowd. It caused the death of 27 spectators, not counting those who were maimed and injured. Materassi perished as well. This tragic accident had contributed to Monza's reputation as track of ill fortune.
      The 1933 Grand Prix of Italy had been postponed to take place on the same day as the Monza Grand Prix. This happened because the circuit was not available earlier due to Monza renovation works resulting in well-fitted pits and new imposing grandstands. However, circuit improvements and modifications to corners were not yet started. During the morning the Italian Grand Prix was held on the old 10 km circuit, comprising the original 4.5 km high-speed oval track as well as the 5.5 km asphalt circuit. The Grand Prix of Monza in the afternoon utilized just the 4.5 km Pista di Velocita. Racecars without weight or engine capacity restriction were permitted at the Monza Grand Prix.
      The customary system of three heat races and a final was maintained. Competitors were divided into three separate groups of 10 cars each to start in three separate heat races. Each group had to cover 14 laps, consequently 63 km. The starting grids for the three heats were arranged in Milan on Wednesday evening before the race by means of a special ballot system that had been introduced the year before. Each of the three groups included a former Monza winner and the cars of the different racing teams were distributed amongst the three groups in a way to assure equal strength within each group. The first four finishers of each heat then had the right to start in the final, comprising the 12 best drivers to battle for 22 laps over 99 km.
      The Commissione Sportiva des RACI (Royal Italian Automobile Club) and the Società Autodromo di Monza as organizers, were not paying starting money this year. Instead a total of 154,000 lire was allocated for prizes, of which a share of 27,000 lire went to each heat and 73,000 lire to the final of the Monza Grand Prix. The winner of each heat was to receive 10,000 lire, second 7,000, third 5,000, fourth 4,000 and fifth 2,000. The winner of the final was to receive 30,000 lire, second 20,000, third 10,000, fourth 8,000 and fifth 4,000 lire.
Entries:
Spectators were looking forward to an entertaining Monza race with great interest because it promised to be a decisive battle between Bugatti, Alfa Romeo and Maserati. Unfortunately the official Bugatti team was unable to start because their new 2.8-liter model was still not ready to race. Private Bugatti drivers comprised Count Stanisłas Czaykowski, the 1-hour world record holder in a 4.5-liter car, plus Earl Howe, Marcel Lehoux and Jean Gaupillat, all in the proven 2.3-liter models. Attilio Battilana came with an older 2-liter model. The famous monopostos from Alfa Romeo and Maserati were also present. Maserati had furthermore planned entering their powerful 16-cylinder car but a driver had not been nominated. Among the many private entries were Count Luigi (Gigi) Premoli in his PBM (Premoli Bugatti Maserati), a special racecar that he had built himself, combining a Bugatti grand prix chassis, gearbox and wheels with a 3-liter Maserati engine and front radiator grill. Biondetti entered his regular Biondetti Speciale, which also utilized a Bugatti chassis with Maserati engine. The logic behind such modifications was evidently the limited power of the Bugatti 2.3-liter engine, which made it practically impossible to contest the lead. The latest 3-liter, 220 hp Maserati power plant had similar external dimensions to the 2.3-liter 180 hp twin-cam Bugatti engine and replaced it with only minor modifications.
      An earlier entry list by AUTOMOBIL-REVUE included Giovanni Minozzi (Maserati) and Alfa Romeo drivers Gianfranco Comotti, Guglielmo Carraroli, Raymond Sommer and Luigi Castelbarco. These drivers did not appear in the final list of entries in a later issue of AUTOMOBIL-REVUE with starting numbers already assigned to each driver. The former drivers were no longer shown and instead replaced by Nuvolari, Berrone, Campari, Pietsch and "Helle-Nice".
Practice:
Scuderia Ferrari was the first team practicing on Monday. Count Trossi in particular completed several fast laps in his specially built 4.4-liter, 270 hp Duesenberg. On Thursday track activity increased when several other well-known drivers arrived. On this day Taruffi in the Maserati monoposto completed one lap on the 4.5 km speed oval at an average of 210 km/h while Campari also attained excellent times. On Saturday, Borzacchini in the Maserati Biposto established a new lap record with 1m16s, an average of 213.1 km/h.
Heat 1:
The first heat was to start at 2:00 PM and the final was scheduled for 5:00 PM, so that by around 5:35 PM the victor of the Monza Grand Prix should have been determined. Nuvolari, and Siena who raced in the morning's Grand Prix were too tired to start in the afternoon. Taruffi had crashed his car in the morning's race, ending up with a bent front axle and Zehender also withdrew from the afternoon's race. Jellen, Gaupillat, Pietsch, Grosch, Aymini and Berrone failed to appear. A brief drizzle before the start had made the track wet. Eight machines were paraded past the grandstands crowd to the starting area, to be lined up eight abreast, as was customary for the Monza Grand Prix.
Pole Position
4
Trossi

Duesenberg

10
Premoli

PBM

12
Straight

Maserati

14
Moll

Alfa Romeo

6
Battilana

Bugatti

18
Bonetto

Alfa Romeo

16
Pages

Alfa Romeo

20
Czaykowski

Bugatti

DNS: 2 Siena, 8 Nuvolari

At 2:10 PM His Excellency Starace, a very high ranking Fascist, gave the starting signal. Premoli, followed by Straight and Trossi had the best start. After the first lap Premoli was leading with his PBM, followed by Straight, Trossi and Czaykowski. Next time the cars passed the pits, Premoli was still in front but Trossi's Duesenberg had moved into second place. Pages had left the speed track at the first curve without damage and retired his Alfa on the grass along the course. On lap three Trossi's Duesenberg and Czaykowski's Bugatti were at the front, thundering closely together past the grandstands. Premoli, Moll and Bonetto had already fallen behind. Czaykowski was in the lead on lap four with Trossi second. This order remained up to lap six with the blue Bugatti in front followed by the red Scuderia Ferrari Duesenberg. During the next lap the Duesenberg broke a piston and consequently spilled part of its 22 kg of oil past the entrance to the 21 degrees banked South Curve. AUTOMOBIL-REVUE reported that Guy Moll, who followed closely, hit the oil slick and went into a terrifying skid, spinning three times around near top speed of about 180 km/h. Just by pure luck his car remained on the track without hitting the retaining wall or bouncing over it. At the end of this lap seven Trossi stopped at his pit. After a quick inspection of the oil leak the mechanics slowly pushed the Duesenberg away. With Trossi out of the race, Czaykowski had no problem and his car completed the second half uncontested in the lead, followed by Moll. Czaykowski with the 4.9-liter Bugatti won at a speed of 181.56 km/h. Moll had established fastest lap at 196.60 km/h and finished second.


Results (Heat 1)

Pos.No.DriverEntrantCarTypeEngineLapsTime/StatusDiff

1.20Stanisłas CzaykowskiS. CzaykowskiBugattiT544.9 S-81420m49.2s
2.14Guy MollG. MollAlfa RomeoMonza2.3S-81421m01.0s+ 11.8s
3.18Felice BonettoF. BonettoAlfa RomeoMonza2.3S-81421m04.0s+ 14.8s
4.12Whitney StraightW. StraightMaserati26M2.5S-81421m04.6s+ 15.4s

5.10Luigi PremoliL. PremoliPBM3.0S-81422m30.6s+ 1m41.4s
6.6Attilio BattilanaA. BattilanaBugattiT35C2.0S-81423m00.4s+ 2m11.2s
DNF4Carlo Felice TrossiScuderia FerrariDuesenberg4.4S-8 8
DNF16Luigi PagesL. PagesAlfa RomeoMonza2.3S-81
Fastest lap: Guy Moll (Alfa Romeo) in 1m22.4s = 196.6 km/h (122.2 mph)
Winner's medium speed: 181.6 km/h (112.8 mph)
Weather: overcast, brief drizzle, then dry
After the race the young Moll protested to officials about the dangerous conditions at the South Curve, also called Vedano Curve, where he had spun several times on the oil dropped by the Duesenberg. Whitney Straight warned Earl Howe after this race about a large patch of oil in the middle of the banked turn close to the top.
      A report from the October 1933 'Motor Sport' mentions a cloud of smoke belching from the Duesenberg's exhaust and water dropping from it as the car came into the pits. Luigi Orsini wrote 1979 in 'La Scuderia Ferrari' that the reputable journalist Giovanni Canestrini had inspected the Duesenberg's engine after the race and found a collapsed piston and cracked cylinder by its pieces. He discovered no other damage to the crankcase or sump. In later years the Duesenberg's engine was inspected by Doug Nye and Denis Jenkinson; although there was evidence of the breakage, it was inconsistent with a major loss of oil. In any event, it seems rather questionable that the Duesenberg did indeed drop a large amount of oil and it is just as certain that Guy Moll would hardly have taken such action if his spin had been the result of a mere driving indiscretion. It also makes one think why the other five drivers in this heat completed seven further laps without any serious incident.


Heat 2:
Campari and Borzacchini were the main contenders from the seven-car field of heat two. Campari's Alfa Romeo monoposto had its front brakes removed and smooth-thread tires mounted all around, as was customary for speed track racing. Borzacchini drove the 2-seater 3-liter Maserati, in which Campari had won the French Grand Prix. Like Campari, he also had the front brakes removed from his Maserati and smooth-thread tires mounted. At the drivers' parade before the race, the bulky Campari received boisterous applause that regularly greeted him as the most popular driver in Italy. He had made the announcement that this would be his last race before retirement to pursue a career as an opera singer. The young Borzacchini, at the top of his racing career, was also received with excited shouts from the crowd. The cars were lined up on the starting grid seven abreast.
Pole Position
22
Campari

Alfa Romeo

24
Balestrero

Alfa Romeo

26
Borzacchini

Maserati

28
Barbieri

Alfa Romeo

32
Castelbarco

Alfa Romeo

34
Hellé-Nice

Alfa Romeo

38
Pellegrini

Alfa Romeo

DNS: 30 Zehender, 40 Gaupillat
DNA: 36 Jellen


Following Moll's protest an attempt was finally made to remove the oil while the cars were waiting on the grid. 'L'Auto Italiana' reported, "A saloon car started off around the track with a large broom protruding from a window. We were to learn later that it went to clean the leak from Trossi's Duesenberg oil and to throw sand on it. An insufficient measure since everybody knows that oil cannot be brushed off and sand limits the grip even more." Only these superficial attempts had been made to clear the oil off the track. The organizers did what they could to remove the oil slick and were reasonably successful. The Monza race director had also asked the drivers in writing to be cautious at the South Curve. 'L'Auto Italiana': "The drivers were informed of the oil on the track, but they said, Borzacchini first, that there would be no problem". A certain nervous uneasiness was already noticeable before the heat 2 race when the drivers had to wait at length for the starting signal. The crowd in the grandstands became impatient. They whistled, shouted and stamped their feet.
      Two days after this event, on September 12, AUTOMOBIL-REVUE provided the following report of heat 2:
      No one who has witnessed that race will forget it quickly. Again the drivers and mechanics push the racecars past the grand stands, the enormous crowd applauds again. Once Campari and Borzacchini become visible in the distance, a great fuss and waving commenced. The contest between these two drivers is anticipated with particular excitement. Campari walks on the right next to his red machine, a happy smile on his round face; he wears a pair of worn, normal trousers, a white jacket… things that are still deep in our memory. He waves with the hand and the spectators scream Campari, Campari!... New applause as Borzacchini, a lanky man passes by; he also waves, sending greetings to the grandstands. Castelbarco, Balestrero, Mlle. Helle-Nice, Barbieri and Pellegrini (all in Alfa Romeos) complete the field.
      The restlessness begins already, as a car from the organizers sets off on the track, the occupants equipped with brooms. Only later is one told that thereby the oil patches have partially been removed. The spectators, accustomed to races being run without a hitch, begin to whistle and stamp their feet. The drivers have to wait needlessly for a long time. Finally the loud roar of the engines starts up and the seven machines storm away towards the North turn, headed by Campari. The minute waiting time passes by and to the right the first three appear again, coming out of the South Turn. They are Balestrero, Pellegrini and Mlle. Helle-Nice. Another half minute slips by - - where are the others? Somebody stands; soon the entire grandstand is standing. Calls for Campari and Borzacchini can be heard. Nobody is concerned; yet it is odd that exactly four machines don't come any more and can no longer be seen already on the first lap. The three drivers appear again and now Balestrero gives horrifyingly signs with his hand. Now, all of a sudden, it is realized that something has happened that does not belong in the program. To the right at the turn they begin to run, suddenly a troop of nurses hurries away. Spectators, organizers, mechanics from the pits, all rush along towards the same target. Ambulances appear. It is obvious an accident has happened. Who is still interested to follow the race between the three remaining drivers, when even Balestrero, the leader, quickly stops at the pits to give a report?
      The minutes on the grandstands become hours. Nothing is known, the organizers steadfastly keep silent. The press stand shows a nervous hastiness as never seen before. The Italians are pale from dismay. And always the wait, the wait, the monotonous announcements of the loudspeaker reporting about everything except the accident. It takes yet another good half hour before one is informed that Campari and Borzacchini have met with a serious accident and another until it is known that Campari is dead and Borzacchini severely injured. The spectators shout wildly in confusion, everyone asks the other and nothing factual is known until an official delegation of journalists is guided to the accident scene where everything is explained.
      Then one knows the deeply disturbing truth, Campari is no longer alive and Borzacchini fights for his life. One hour later somebody comes running to bring the second news of death… No one is at all interested that Balestrero completed the heat in first place ahead of Pellegrini and Mlle. Helle-Nice.


      At the delayed start for heat 2 Campari and Borzacchini took the immediate lead heading towards the North Curve. They were closely followed by Carlo Castelbarco and Barbieri, then came Balestrero, Pellegrini and "Helle-Nice". The drivers had not yet finished the first lap when the tragedy took place. Campari and Borzacchini came barreling into the South Curve. They took the corner almost flat out at around 180 km/h.
      According to L'Auto Italiana the accident happened near the patch of oil, which was however not involved in the crash. "At the entrance of the South Curve, more or less where the famous oil patch was located, Campari, who was on the right side, swerved to the left towards the top part of the banking, maybe a bit too abruptly, he tried to correct also to avoid hitting the number 15 lamp post, but instead he ran for some time on the top edge destroying the concrete retaining wall and then tumbled over, down the embankment in the ditch below. Borzacchini, who tried to overtake Campari, had to stay on the outside to the left, having seen his line cut across [by Campari's car] might have braked, [the front brakes had been dismounted, so braking at that speed might have had no effect] or attempted to avoid Campari, lost control, slid and flew over the edge. The same might have happened to Castelbarco, who was coming around having overtaken Barbieri. The latter, who had a glimpse of the tragedy, although finding the track empty, but thinking that this had happened because of the oil, took the banked curve very much on the low right side."
      Campari's Alfa fell end over end several times down the small embankment, burying the driver. Campari was killed instantly, crushed underneath his inverted car. Borzacchni vaulted over the retaining wall and overturned. He was thrown out of his car against a tree and was giving signs of life. He was brought to the Monza Hospital where he died with a fractured spine, crushed chest and internal hemorrhages shortly after being admitted. His Maserati was not seriously damaged. Carlo Castelbarco's Alfa skidded and overturned also to the outside. The car landed on top of him and he miraculously escaped with only abrasions and a scratch to his chin. Barbieri, who had more time to react, spun his Alfa to the inside of the corner and was not injured at all. Pellegrini's Alfa also spun to the inside of the South Turn without damage and completed the next 14 laps without a problem.
      Despite the serious accident, which could not be seen from the grand stands, the race was continued with only three outmoded cars left. These remaining drivers did not know what to do and Balestrero even stopped briefly to find out if they had to carry on. Nothing about the missing cars was being announced over the loudspeakers. The spectators were puzzled and became restless. Later, when Barbieri had returned walking back from the South Curve to the pits, the bad news became known and was carefully announced to the public only after the race had ended. Balestrero won the boring race; Pellegrini was second, followed by Mlle. "Helle-Nice", already lapped by both drivers.
      Pondering upon these dreadful events 73 years on, one seeks for the true causes of these tragic accidents. At the time of the race in 1933, the initial reports placed the blame towards the Duesenberg dropping loads of oil at the beginning of Curva Sud (Vedano). This possibility has been later found rather doubtful. There are other and more convincing explanations. One theory was that the first lap of heat 2 was Campari's and Borzacchini's first lap on the circuit that day. They had not driven the course since Saturday practice and went through the already slippery corner near the same speed they had experienced during Saturday practice. Yet, the course was already used up at this time by the 19 cars from the morning's Italian Grand Prix over 50 laps plus eight cars of the 14 laps in heat one. A great amount of rubber and oil was put down from all these oil-dripping racers. Added to this came loose sand to cover the oil patch and some moist track surfaces from a prior drizzle. For all those reasons the corner could simply not provide the adhesion to which the drivers had become used during practice. Both cars - Campari's Alfa and Borzacchini's Maserati had front brakes removed and slick tires mounted. Additionally both contenders from different camps were going to race each other fiercely over those 14 laps, so it was important for each to establish an advantage as soon as possible. Also, what about the 27 drivers who had raced through that corner before? Only one of them had reportedly spun on the slippery course; Guy Moll. Could the cause have been simply overdriving? It effected only the fastest drivers; Guy Moll, Giuseppe Campari, Mario Umberto Borzacchini. The other spins were a consequence of avoiding action on a slippery course. They would have had similar difficulty if there had been no oil at all on the course. It was a relatively narrow track, compared with Montlhery or Brooklands, and the two leading cars were 'all over the place.
      The organizers did what they could to clean the track. They warned the drivers beforehand. Other drivers managed to get through safely. The drivers could have withdrawn without penalty. By taking part in the race, they knowingly accepted the risk.


Results (Heat 2)

Pos.No.DriverEntrantCarTypeEngineLapsTime/StatusDiff

1.24Renato BalestreroR. BalestreroAlfa RomeoMonza2.3S-81422m22.4s
2.38Lelio PellegriniC PellegriniAlfa RomeoMonza2.3S-81423m07.0s+ 44.6s
3.34Mlle "Hellé-Nice""Hellé-Nice"Alfa RomeoMonza2.3S-81425m58.0s+ 3m35.6s

DNF22Giuseppe CampariScuderia FerrariAlfa RomeoType B/P32.6S-80crash
DNF26Mario U. BorzacchiniOfficine A. MaseratiMaserati8C30003.0S-80crash
DNF32Carlo CastelbarcoC. CastelbarcoAlfa RomeoMonza2.3S-80crash
DNF28Ferdinando BarbieriF. BarbieriAlfa RomeoMonza2.3S-8 0retired at crash site
Fastest lap: Renato Balestrero (Alfa Romeo) in 1m31.4s = 177.2 km/h (110.1 mph)
Winner's medium speed: 169.0 km/h (105.0 mph)
Weather: .


Heat 3:
Before the third heat, a drivers meeting was held with lengthy discussions going on and drivers threatening to withdraw. In the meantime another attempt was made to painstakingly clean the Vedano Curve by using brooms to wipe away the oil and scatter sand over it. 'AUTOMOBIL-REVUE' wrote: Should the races be resumed or was discontinuance appropriate? The opinions were split everywhere. The organizers solved the question by having all drivers sign a statement, in which they acknowledged the dangerous condition of the track. In other words, the promoter recognized the danger to continue the races and tried to shift part of the enormous responsibility to the drivers.
      Finally, five drivers assembled at the start, which was then aborted with drivers and race management disappearing behind the pits. The restless crowd vented its displeasure with whistles and boos. It seemed certain that the previous oil slick was not the only cause of the catastrophe but rather the obsolete layout of the corners, which did not comply with the high speeds of those modern cars. But the opposing view was that Campari and Borzacchini spun out on the poorly cleaned up oily patch. Others were of the opinion that the cars were not made for track racing and therefore it was not possible for the driver to correct when a mistake was made. Speculation surrounded also removal of the front brakes as a weight savings and that this could have played a role in the crash. It was reported many years later in race reviews that some drivers had indeed refused to start in heat three. Although no further reference was given, only three drivers would then have been involved; Ippolito Berrone, Giulio Aymini and Walter Grosch. They are shown here as DNA because it could not be established if these drivers were even present in Monza.
      This third race had to suffer immense delays and the spectators' patience was put to the test. Nothing substantial was announced, they could only wait. A hellish hissing and catcalls started off, the spectators stamped, shouted and kicked up a row. After a colossal delay of about two hours behind schedule, it was decided to run the third heat. Finally amongst the restlessness, the whistles and boos, the drivers lined up five abreast for the start of heat three.
Pole Position
48
Ghersi

Alfa Romeo

50
Biondetti

MB Speciale

52
Cornaggia

Alfa Romeo

58
Howe

Bugatti

60
Lehoux

Bugatti

DNS: 46 Taruffi
DNA: 42 Berrone, 44 Aymini, 54 Pietsch, 56 Grosch


Lehoux led Ghersi on the first lap but then Ghersi took the lead until lap six, when he skidded on the oil patch. Thereby he lost time and fell back, while Lehoux secured first place again. He did not relinquish the lead until the finish, followed by Ghersi in second and Biondetti in third place.


Results (Heat 3)

Pos.No.DriverEntrantCarTypeEngineLapsTime/StatusDiff

1.60Marcel LehouxM. LehouxBugattiT512.3S-81421m50.8s
2.48Pietro GhersiP. GhersiAlfa RomeoMonza2.3S-81422m09.6s+ 18.8s
3.50Clemente BiondettiC. BiondettiMB Speciale3.0S-81423m14.0s+ 1m23.2s
4.52G. Cornaggia-MediciG. CornaggiaAlfa RomeoMonza2.3S-81423m49.4s+ 1m58.6s

5.58Earl HoweEarl HoweBugattiT512.3S-81423m50.0s+ 1m59.2s
Fastest lap: Pietro Ghersi (Alfa Romeo) in 1m25.0s = 190.6 km/h (118.4 mph)
Winner's medium speed: 173.0 km/h (107.5 mph)
Weather: overcast, dry


Final:
A lot of time passed until the siren announced the beginning of the final. The spectators had lost interest; they had been over-excited and agitated. The first four finishers of each heat were now to assemble at the start and since there were just three finishers from heat 2, only 11 cars embarked in the final.
Pole Position
12
Straight

Maserati

14
Moll

Alfa Romeo

18
Bonetto

Alfa Romeo

20
Czaykowski

Bugatti

24
Balestrero

Alfa Romeo

34
Hellé-Nice

Alfa Romeo

38
Pellegrini

Alfa Romeo

40
Ghersi

Alfa Romeo

50
Biondetti

MB Speciale

52
Cornaggia

Alfa Romeo

60
Lehoux

Bugatti

After the first lap Straight's green Maserati held the lead. He was followed by Ghersi, Lehoux and Count Czaykowski. On lap two the Count ousted Lehoux from third place and after four laps Czaykowski was leading the field ahead of Lehoux. The early laps developed into a two-way battle between those two Bugattis, when Czaykowski established the fastest lap at 187.935 km/h. His blue car was moving so fast that everybody expected the Count to win again. Lap after lap he passed the grandstands leading Lehoux in second place.
      But on lap eight, Lehoux thundered past in first place, while Czaykowski was missing. The suspicious crowd became restless. Full of alarm new questions and inquiries arose. Suddenly behind the small forest to the right one could see in the distance at the South Curve a column of dark smoke rising, which widened continuously. After ten minutes it was known that Czaykowski's Bugatti had crashed only 50 meters further along the banking from where the first multiple crash had occurred hours before. The Bugatti went into a wild skid, flipped over the outer edge, where "Czaykowski's head hit a stone lying all by itself in the grass, fracturing his scull". This almost certainly killed him instantly. The Bugatti trapped the driver underneath and caught fire. The car burned out completely with the dead driver underneath. Nobody was able to assist in any way. Finally help arrived and only then could Czaykowski's burned corpse be recovered from the wreckage. With frantic haste the news about the third accident was spread around; the spectators became horror-stricken.
      That was the end of the race… Suddenly the cars were flagged off after the completion of only 14 laps, instead of the originally planned to go over 22 laps. And so the race was discontinued unceremoniously. Much disturbed, the masses of spectators left in great haste.
      It is not known if Czaykowski's Bugatti or Moll's Alfa had mounted slick tires. Czaykowski's accident took place 50 meter further along from where Campari and Borzacchini had crashed, which would prove that the cause of the Czaykowski crash must have been other than the Duesenberg's oil spill. If his car ended up 50 meter after the oil slick, the accident probably began well before it. At those speeds cars rarely come to a sudden stop - unless they hit a tree. Was he overdriving? We shall never know.

Results (Final)

Pos.No.DriverEntrantCarTypeEngineLapsTime/StatusDiff

1.60Marcel LehouxM. LehouxBugattiT512.3S-81421m17.0s
2.14Guy MollG. MollAlfa RomeoMonza2.3S-81421m20.2s+ 3.2s
3.18Felice BonettoF. BonettoAlfa RomeoMonza2.3S-81421m28.2s+ 11.2s
4.12Whitney StraightW. StraightMaserati26M2.5S-81421m28.8s+ 11.8s
5.24Renato BalestreroR. BalestreroAlfa RomeoMonza2.3S-81422m24.0s+ 1m07.0s
6.50Clemente BiondettiC. BiondettiMB Speciale3.0S-81423m09.4s+ 1m52.4s
7.48Pietro GhersiP. GhersiAlfa RomeoMonza2.3S-81423m52.8s+ 2m35.8s
8.52G. Cornaggia-MediciG. CornaggiaAlfa RomeoMonza2.3S-81424m38.4s+ 3m21.4s
9.34Mlle "Hellé-Nice""Hellé-Nice"Alfa RomeoMonza2.3S-81221m59.4s
DNF20Stanisłas CzaykowskiS. CzaykowskiBugattiT544.9S-88crash
DNF38Lelio PellegriniC. PellegriniAlfa RomeoMonza2.3S-86
Fastest lap: Pietro Ghersi (Alfa Romeo) in 1m26.2s = 187.9 km/h (116.8 mph)
Winner's medium speed: 177.6 km/h (110.4 mph)
Weather: dry


After the race:
'AUTOMOBIL-REVUE' wrote that according to eye witness reports Lehoux suffered a nervous breakdown and had to be lifted out of his car.
      Count Carlo Castelbarco's injuries were unfortunately not just of a harmless nature. The report stated that Castelbarco had to be operated in Milan shortly after the crash and doctors did not release any details of his condition.
      Taruffi retired his Maserati during the morning's Italian Grand Prix with a bent front axle. He had the same car entered also for the Monza Grand Prix. In his memoirs Taruffi mentions that after the morning's race, as soon as he learned that Nuvolari was not going to start in the afternoon, he approached the Flying Mantuan to borrow his car's front axle assembly. But Nuvolari refused point-blank [presumably because his car had to be in working order two weeks later in Spain]. In hindsight Taruffi was thankful that he did not race in the tragic race.
      Nuvolari had abandoned his start for the afternoon race. For this reason he was not involved and did not become a victim, since he surely would have driven with the front-runners. The veterans Campari and Borzacchini had belonged to the world's elite. Both were known to be very experienced and disciplined, of the highest skill and a driving error was assumed out of question. The racing world was stunned. Tazio Nuvolari, close to both of them, was badly shaken and spent the whole night in the Monza Hospital room by the side of his dead friend Borzacchini with the other two bodies besides. The corpses of the three drivers were set to lie in state at the Fascist Club House of Monza until Tuesday, guarded day and night by fascist militia.
      AUTOMOBIL-REVUE' reported that on Monday evening the race organizers (R.A.C.I.) circulated a communiqué from Milan, which had a very awkward effect. In it the blame of the accidents from Sunday in the second heat and the final was attributed, according to a first inquiry, to the excessive speeds by the drivers making it impossible to follow the curve, which allowed speeds up to a certain point but not any speed. Further elements had possibly contributed toward the condition of the corner, like a moist track following the previous, intermittent rain. Many spectators thought that the accident could have been linked to oil deposited by a car that had participated in the first heat. This version was however ruled out because the accidents occurred, although quite close, but some meters away from the zone where the presence of oil was confirmed, and the fact that other cars had continued and finished the race running over the same spot without any problems. The well-known French journalist Charles Faroux, a specialist in merciless exposure and a feared critic, had the courage to raise a vehement protest against the communiqué. In this deplorable way the organizers were trying to ease their burden and pass the entire responsibility on to the drivers where nobody could any longer offer resistance. In that way, by blaming the victims with too high a speed, a groundless accusation was put forward and they were being accused of a mistake that was hardly valid. It was however remarkable that there was mention about the oil patches, while this was not the case at all beforehand. Also the reference that the other drivers did not have an accident at this curve because they were more careful stood on a very shaky foundation because it could be established that they, after the first accident and in knowledge of the now difficult turn, slowed down considerably and drove at the lower part of the track to avoid the oil patches on the upper part of the inclined turn. It was only by a great stroke of luck that Moll had not also become a victim of the corner. He was lying closely behind the Duesenberg, when it lost some oil and Moll's Alfa spun three times around at the spot where Campari crashed later on. In any case, there was proof that the oil was to be blamed to a great part; therefore the organizers were burdened even more so while they were making frantic attempts to come up with counter-evidence in order to exonerate them from liability. While the Monza Race Manager Castagneto displayed great prudence and energy, the representative of the government in the R.A.C.I., the Hon. Parisio, revealed a certain lack of competence. As admirably as the Italian government representative had proven in his capacity as administrative head of automobile sport, as embarrassing an effect had the indecision and his lack of authority, which he displayed after the accidents in Monza. The drivers, it was said, received a very unpleasant impression about this and signed the notorious statement with mixed feelings, in which they admitted knowledge of the dangerous condition of the track.

Oil, sand, water, slick tires, the will-to-win and scared organizers:
Many years back, Doug Nye (DCN) conducted long interviews with the renowned senior Alfa Romeo test engineer and driver Giovanni Battista Guidotti. His high qualifications were the reason why he was appointed as one of the experts to the court of inquiry, which investigated the triple disaster at Monza in 1933. According to DCN, Guidotti's recall was in almost every topic that he could check incisive, emphatic and crystal clear. The media had blamed Count Trossi's Duesenberg single-seater since it had "blown-up and dumped oil all over the track". This car of course used a redundant Duesenberg Indy chassis, fitted with a straight-8 4.4-litre unblown engine made by 'Skinny' Clemons. Guidotti confirmed to DCN absolutely adamantly that while Trossi had indeed retired the Duesenberg with a mechanical problem, the engine base chamber and piping survived totally intact, and that they found no evidence of substantial oil leakage at all. Guidotti was adamant that there was no major failure on the Duesenberg. The Scuderia Ferrari later sold this car to Whitney Straight it then passed on to Jack Duller and eventually to Jenks. Denis Jenkinson owned the Duesenberg of course for many years until his death in 1996, it's now in the Brooklands Museum, and the engine is being duplicated to restore the car to running order by Crosthwaite & Gardiner.
      DCN recalls, "We often pored over the original engine castings to deduce the truth of the Monza failure - and it was plain that (although cracked everywhichway) the crankcase had never been holed in a manner which would explain 'the Monza legend'. I was armed with this first-hand experience when I went to see Guidotti in 1987-ish and he explained the above.
      "The 'Duesenberg' was supplied without engine spares. We have always been 90 per cent sure that the crankcase and block castings today remain the originals supplied by Clemons to Trossi. I have personally handled the castings in question and there is no sign of a puncture failure in them of the kind which could have released oil onto the circuit. We always assumed therefore that a parted oil pipe or a split somewhere else in the system could have been responsible for dropping 'the oil' - if indeed the Duesenberg had been the culprit. This was distinctly possible.
      "What is indisputable is that all the cars contesting that race that day were endemic oil drippers, that the weather was grey, overcast and drizzly, and that light rain or drizzle had fallen. The combination of these factors - with perhaps the slick tires the major factor amongst them - with bitter competition and will-to-win exhibited by the leading drivers resulted in these terrible events.
      "Guidotti recalled it was a still day, without significant drying wind, it seems highly probable that sand was put down either upon oil accumulated from several cars - very possibly including the Duesenberg - or perhaps to absorb puddling water at the bottom of Monza's very gentle banking dish - because the majority of the cars (as is evident from photos of the start line-up) were on slick track tires. Overall, however, slick tires on a slick circuit and race started by organizers scared of the crowd's reaction if they delayed any longer really created the incident.
      "The truth, Guidotti said, was that the race was started to appease a vast and noisy crowd, who were becoming increasingly restless when the organizers dilly-dallied as drizzle had damped the course. Guidotti also confirmed that while it had been rash of the organizers to run the second heat when they did, in which Campari and Borzacchini died - it was simple manslaughter (in his opinion) for them then to have started the final in which poor Czaykowski rolled his big Bugatti on top of himself, and was burned to death."
      Alessandro Silva declared that Count Giovanni Lurani, as official in the Monza pits, and Giovanni Canestrini, editor at La Gazzetta dello Sport, were both present, stating that there was an oil spill (presumably by Trossi) and things were made worse by sprinkling it with sand between heats. This was the cause of the delayed start. Lurani hinted also about the drizzle. It could have been a deadly combination of oil, sand and water.

The legal investigation:
'AUTOMOBIL-REVUE' wrote, after the race a commission of experts was formed with the task of investigating the cause of the accidents and examining especially the statements made by other drivers and those of the very few spectators that were present at the scene of the accident.
      'MOTOR UND SPORT' wrote: To establish the responsibility for those accidents, the Royal Prosecutor of Milan opened a preliminary investigation. After thorough examination and test drives by three expert witnesses (Ing. Filippo Tajani, Piero Benzi and Mario Ferraris), he had demanded a verdict about the South Turn by early October. According to this investigation the judge had then dismissed any responsibility by the Monza race management or other third parties and had discontinued the proceedings. This discontinuation was substantiated with a change of track condition during the race, attributed to the well known dangerous South Turn that was traversed at such high speeds by those three victims. Adhesion on the track was however diminished due to oil losses and worn tires. The oil patches in the South Turn, caused by a racecar defect, were cleaned by race management and sprinkled with sand. Finally, race management had requested the drivers in writing to be careful in the South Turn.
      'ALLGEMEINE AUTOMOBIL-ZEITUNG' (Vienna) reported that the legal investigation against the race management did not determine the question of gilt. At the end of the statement it read that race management had done their duty in the interest of the competitors; consequently a fault of theirs could not be established. This judgment had given rise to disagreement among the public.

Press reports:
The newspaper 'Sport', Zürich, printed a critical report by an eye witness. "The race management believes that they are exonerated by firstly sprinkling the Duesenberg's oil patch with sand and then removing it with a broom and secondly by drawing the drivers' attention to the danger of the corner. Neither the one nor the other exonerates the race management, because they have committed a mistake in the heat of the battle if they believed they could overcome an oil patch with sand and broom."
      "They should have been better prepared for such occurrences, for example by keeping at hand inexpensive, grease-dissolving petrol or gasoline and only then clean the track with a broom. The race management should have improved the [two] turns during the ongoing repairs of the track. Instead they have spent too long on the grandstands and there was insufficient time to improve the curves. The present banking of the curves is sufficient for speeds of 200 km/h but no more."
      To think about this last statement, one can conclude that this argument applies to any corner on any track anywhere in the world. It's up to the drivers to go as fast as possible, without going too fast. That's what race driving is all about. So why should the South Turn at Monza be any different and why were the Monza officials in any way liable if a driver crashed there because he went too fast?
      The newspaper 'Sport', Zürich continued, "However, the Monza Autodrome had for years the reputation to be a distinct racetrack, which means the track is to be adapted to the expected speeds of the drivers and not the other way around as it is the case for example at road races (Mille Miglia or Coppa Principessa di Piemonte!). If Monza wants to maintain its high reputation as the greatest European race track for high speeds next to the Avus, they really must have learned something for the future out of the sad outcome of this year's race."
      Contemplating on these last remarks, maybe Monza wasn't as fast as the Avus, but that doesn't make it a dangerous track. If that could be argued, then the only safe oval track would be the fastest one, which is clearly nonsense. What they are talking about is 'reputation', not safety. Sure, if Monza was to be the fastest track, BIG changes would have been necessary. But that has absolutely nothing to do with safety. Widening the track would have made it safer. Increasing the angle of the banking might have made it more dangerous, i.e. higher speeds on an already narrow track.
      The tragedies of September 10 led to the end of Monza's original 10 km circuit. The speed track was abandoned and only the southern part was used in combination with the road circuit at the 1934 Italian Grand Prix but finally demolished in 1939.

In retrospect: the drivers, their wives:
'The Motor' published in their October 17, 1933 issue Earl Howe's impressions of the principal races of the 1933 season. The famous British driver, who certainly was an automobile sport expert, had the necessary experience to know what he was talking about. He remarked about the 1933 Grand Prix of Monza that Whitney Straight "came in he told me that there was a large patch of oil in the middle of the big banking close to the top, and warned me to be careful when my turn came in the third round. Another driver also noticed the oil and reported it." About the first accident Howe wrote, "The second batteria [heat] was then started, and when Campari, who was leading, and Borzacchini arrived at this point both their cars skidded wildly and left the track, followed by the car of Castelbarco. The driver of another car following behind saw what happened and got into a skid; his car also left the track but on the inside." About Count Czaykowski's accident, Lord Howe wrote, "I would like to see it insisted upon that every driver competing at Monza is compelled to wear a crash hat. Count Czaykowski's head hit a stone lying all by itself on the grass and his skull was fractured. I think it is more than probable that if he had had a crash hat on he might have been saved."
      Reflecting on Lord Howe's statements, one wonders if he actually witnessed any of the accidents. Most probably he did not. So what he wrote was hearsay or supposition. Because Straight told him that there were oil slicks, it doesn't necessarily mean that they caused the accidents. It appears more convincing to believe the only eyewitness account, which said that Campari CAUSED the accident by his driving.
      A brief 'AUTOMOBIL-REVUE' article from July 24, 1934, reported that the widows of Campari and Borzacchini had pressed charges in court against the Italian A.C. and the National Autodrome Monza, each claiming damages of one million lire. The court found the defendants not guilty and dismissed the charges.
      The Monza oval was dangerous; it was due to its lack of width. If a car got out of shape on the banking there was no room to make the necessary corrections. The subsequent crash might well involve other cars, which had nowhere to go to avoid it. This is precisely what happened in the Campari crash. Campari was a daring driver. Four weeks before at the Coppa Acerbo, he took a corner too fast, overturned and was thrown out of the car without seriously injuring himself. The drivers all knew that Monza's oval was relatively narrow, yet they still chose to race there. When the almost inevitable crash took place they blamed it on oil. Of course they would have looked pretty stupid if they had said the track was too narrow. And the two widows would have had no case whatsoever. It is surprising that Howe didn't mention the narrow track as he was used to the vast open spaces of Brooklands. It appears that the drivers were using oil as a scapegoat. The major cause of the accident was their decision to race on a track that they knew was too narrow for the speeds which were attainable. The Monza officials didn't force them to race there. In the thirties the Monza oval was no narrower than parts of the majority of road circuits then in use. The difference was that Monza was much faster. The greater the speed the more room is required for safety. The Bonneville salt flats must be the extreme example of this. The drivers knew this, but chose to blame the fatalities on oil. Even Earl Howe. A description of the Monza course by him, using Nuvolari's words: if a driver of a fast car really puts his foot down in seven out of ten kilometers, he will fly off the track and if he does, he is bound to hit a tree.




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© 2013 Leif Snellman, Hans Etzrodt - Last updated: 04.04.2013