VIII° GRAN PREMIO de ESPAÑA
Circuito de Lasarte - San Sebastian (E), 24 September 1933.
30 laps x 17.315 km (10.76 mi) = 519.5 km (322.8 mi)
When Nuvolari crashed in the rain, Chiron won for Alfa Romeo.
by Hans Etzrodt
The revived Spanish Grand Prix concluded the 1933 racing season and was the swan song for formula libre, which had controlled the regulations over
the last several years. A special feature was the long announced introduction of the new 2.8-liter Bugatti. In the race Nuvolari stormed from
the last row of the grid past the entire field to take first place on lap two. He never relinquished his comfortable lead until two thirds of the
race on lap 20. It was raining when Nuvolari spun off the wet road and overturned, escaping luckily with only slight injuries. Chiron was then
presented with yet another unexpected victory.|
The Spanish Grand Prix was last held in 1927, when Robert Benoist won with the 1.5-liter Delage at Lasarte. The San Sebastian Grand Prix had then
followed at Lasarte in 1928, 1929 and for the last time in 1930. Thereafter the Grand Prix of Spain had been announced every year, only to be
cancelled subsequently. The problems originated from various political difficulties. In December of 1931 a new President was proclaimed with
Spain changing from a monarchy to a republic. Finally, now after a six-year interval, the Spanish Grand Prix was revived when the Spanish
government made 250.000 pesetas available to the organizers in San Sebastian to ensure that the 1933 event was properly organized. The A. C. of
Guipuzcoa organized this race on the Lasarte circuit near San Sebastian, which went counter clockwise over 30 laps of the 17.315 km circuit,
a total of 519.450 km. The Winner of the race received 20,000 pesetas, second 10,000 and third 5,000. There was also a special price for the
The very first start of the Bugatti Equipe with their long awaited 2800 cc Type 59 lent the Spanish event immense prestige. After several promises
during the year, always followed by cancellations, the first start of these new Bugatti models was now to be at the Grand Prix of Spain. The
machines were entrusted to Varzi, Dreyfus and Williams while Divo ranked as reserve driver and Costantini managed the team. Thereby one was
to experience once more a start of the Bugatti team, which had not happened too often during the 1933 season, a year when Bugatti ceased to be
competitive and the onset of their enforced retreat from grand prix racing. The beginning of their demise in racing started with those railcars
Bugatti built for the French railways. The new Bugatti should have appeared at the French GP where it was not yet ready. The long-awaited
Type 59 finally made its debut in Belgium but only during practice. It had a low squat two-seater body, the last grand prix car built on classic
lines and possibly one of the most handsome grand prix cars of the thirties. It had remarkable new Bugatti designed wheels fitted with radial
straight wire spokes, which were little more than reinforcement. The torque was transmitted through dog teeth between rim and wheel disc.
Under the hood rested a 2.8-liter twin-cam straight-eight engine (forerunner of the 3.3-liter T59 model of 1934). It was evident that the
new 2.8-liter Bugatti's lack of performance was surprisingly disappointing at the start of its first race.
Scuderia Ferrari drivers Fagioli, Chiron and Brivio made the long trip from the Masaryk Circuit in Czechoslovakia to Spain the following
weekend. Dreyfus, Lehoux and Wimille had also raced at the Masaryk Circuit outside the town of Brno and they belonged to the group of busy
drivers to make the time-consuming trip to San Sebastian. The young Jean-Pierre Wimille, an independent Alfa Romeo single driver for 1933,
had teamed up with Raymond Sommer. Maserati had not entered their cars at Brno in Czechoslovakia in order to be present in time at the more
important Spanish Grand Prix. Maserati's semi-official racing season was to end with Nuvolari, Taruffi and Zehender in the 3-liter monoposto
cars. Independent drivers were Benoît Falchetto with his Bugatti, Juan Zanelli, Walter Grosch and Philippe Etancelin, all in Alfa Romeos and
the Austrian Emil Frankl in an old 2.3-liter Bugatti.
Saturday, the last day of practice, was another rainy day. "Williams" in the new Bugatti T59 went off on the wet road in a corner at about
100 km/h after several spins and bounced against a tree. While the front axle was bent and the grill pushed in, the driver escaped without
injuries but did not race the following day. The Swiss Walter Grosch was also unfortunate when his Alfa Romeo was hit so hard by a private car
that he could not participate in the race. Silence was maintained about details of the new Bugatti models seen during practice. AUTOMOBIL-REVUE
reported that during practice "... the Bugatti drivers had strict orders not to exceed much above 100 km/h average per lap."
The fight would be between Nuvolari, Varzi, Chiron, Fagioli or Dreyfus. Except for Nuvolari, the others knew the circuit quite well. In spite
of that it was Nuvolari who recorded the fastest lap during practice at an average speed of 142 km/h. The favorites for winning the race were
the factory teams. Therefore, it was not likely that Zanelli, Lehoux or Wimille would be victorious. The grid was ordered by ballot like at
most other races.
On race Sunday the sky was overcast but there was no rain. An estimated crowd of 80,000 had streamed to the long Lasarte circuit to see the
cars speeding through the villages of Oria just after the start, Andoain after 5 km, Urnieta at half distance, Hernani after 11 km, and Lasarte
only 1.3 km before the start and finish. In addition the President of the Spanish Republic, Niceto Alcalá Zamora and the entire diplomatic corps
The grand prix races at San Sebastian had always seen a flying start with a pilot car. This would be changed as of the 1934 season when there
would be a standing start. Therefore 1933 was the last time this old method was applied. Precisely at noon the pilot cabriolet sped by with
the flag person giving the start signal from the rear seats to the 14 cars and drivers that followed from the starting grid in order of their
starting numbers. The pilot car pulled off to the right, to make room for the eager racers but not before almost causing an accident.
Behind the pace car the drivers picked up great speed. Lehoux was fastest, went into the lead and at the end of the pack was Dreyfus. Fagioli
finished the first lap in 7m22s, ahead of Chiron and Nuvolari, who had immediately started their attack from the last row. On lap two Nuvolari
charged into the lead past Chiron and Fagioli, completing the lap in 6m58s. Chiron did not want to be left behind and followed Nuvolari in second
place. The Mantuan's third lap was timed at 6m55s and his next one 6m50s, increasing his advantage over Chiron, Fagioli, Taruffi, Lehoux, Varzi,
Etancelin, Zehender, Wimille, Dreyfus and the rest of the field.
After ten laps Nuvolari's average speed had increased to 146.630 km/h, ahead of Chiron, Fagioli, Taruffi, Varzi, Etancelin, Lehoux, Dreyfus and
Zehender. At this time Taruffi fell back with ignition problems. Nuvolari again displayed the best performance of all competitors and broke the
old lap record once more on lap 13 and again the following lap when he set the record lap of the race in 6m40.2s, at a speed of 155.3 km/h. Siena,
Zehender and Falchetto had already retired.
At mid race, after 15 laps, Nuvolari's time was 1h43m27s, equal to an average speed of 150.637 km/h. He led Chiron by 1m38s, then Fagioli 3m41s,
Varzi 4m25s, Etancelin 4m58s, Lehoux 7m03s, Taruffi 11m02s, Dreyfus 11m58s and Wimille 12m29s. Brivio retired on lap 16.
On lap 17 Nuvolari and Chiron stopped at the pits to refuel and change wheels. Chiron took ten seconds less than Nuvolari to get his car serviced.
The gap between these two had come down to 42 seconds after Nuvolari had to return to the pits once more to have the fuel tank cap tightened.
Fagioli, Varzi and Etancelin followed in the next positions, still on the same lap as the leaders. The rest of the survivors Lehoux, Wimille,
Dreyfus, Zanelli and Taruffi had been lapped once or even twice.
The cloudy sky had progressively become darker and by 2:00 p.m. torrential rain came down. Until lap 19 Nuvolari, leading in his red and yellow
Maserati, had maintained an average speed of 147.5 km/h. The drenched asphalt slowed him down a little and the race average dropped to 141 km/h.
The first one to suffer the consequences of the
waterlogged roads was Taruffi on lap 19 when he left the circuit and collided with a tree, but fortunately without suffering any serious injury,
just a bruised elbow.
Still in the rain, the drivers reached lap 20 with Chiron trailing Nuvolari by over half a minute. While holding such a comfortable lead, Nuvolari
lost control of his car and was involved in a rather dangerous crash. Going beyond kilometer number two after the start and finish grandstands,
where nothing seemed to be dangerous, he braked for one of the corners alongside the Oria's riverbed and his Maserati started skidding violently.
It was due to water on the course. In spite of his skill, he hit an embankment and luckily was hurled out of the car because his Maserati then
overturned twice and smashed against a rock. It ended up resembling a pile of scrap iron, it was said. Nuvolari most probably survived by falling
out of the car. He landed on the road, receiving slight injuries to his head, small wounds to his face, a severely sprained right hand and a large
cut under the left knee. He was severely shaken. Cesare de Agostini quoted Nuvolari saying after his eleventh accident, "It was the hardest knock
I have taken in my entire life."
The doctors immediately brought the Italian in an ambulance to the first aid clinic but he declined assistance and requested they take him to the
Maria Cristina Hotel where the team had their headquarters. The doctors soon released the reassuring announcement that Nuvolari had no serious
injuries and that no complications were feared. On Tuesday Nuvolari returned from San Sebastian to Italy via Paris to recover from his accident
After Nuvolari's elimination Chiron inherited the lead, never to lose it again. As he had no immediate challengers, Chiron slowed down, to avoid
losing this unexpected victory in the last laps. During his pursuit of Nuvolari, Chiron had lapped in just over seven minutes and now he was
taking close to nine, the average speed of the race fell accordingly from 147.5 km/h to 135 km/h. On lap 21 Zanelli retired his Alfa Romeo.
During these last laps Fagioli in the Alfa Romeo monoposto and Lehoux remained behind the leader. Lehoux in his 2.3-liter Bugatti had passed Varzi
three laps from the end. The new Bugatti was driven in a rather lackluster fashion and ended in fourth place. Wimille with his red-striped blue
Alfa Romeo Monza came next, followed by Dreyfus in the second 2.8-liter Bugatti works car. Angel Elberdin stated, that "during the whole race
Etancelin had stayed behind Lehoux in second place among the independent drivers until two laps from the end when he retired with a puncture."
For the third time within a short period, Chiron achieved a great victory and thereby made up for his earlier run of bad luck. For Alfa Romeo
the year also ended with a meaningful victory. Ever since the famous monopostos had reappeared at the race tracks, they had won victory after
victory. Luigi Orsini wrote in "The Scuderia Ferrari" that Chiron came first with Englebert tires mounted on his P3 Alfa Romeo ahead of team mate
Fagioli in second place but his P3 was shod with Pirelli tires. The Scuderia Ferrari had planned a different finish with Fagioli as victor on
Pirelli tires because they had a heavy stake in the Spanish tire market. Several times pit signals were given to Chiron to slow down but it
seemed that he did not recognize the signs. After the race when confronted, Chiron claimed hotly that he had not noticed any signals.
René Dreyfus related in "My Two Lives" that on the Bugatti T59 the carburetors were continuously coming loose during the race and the cars did
not have the expected power. Meo Costantini was obviously not happy with the outcome of the race because the new cars were no match to the Alfa
and Maserati monoposti and even Lehoux's independently entered Bugatti T51 had beaten both factory cars. Bugatti had not influenced the outcome
of this race in any way.
Costantini was determined to solve the T59's problems during the coming winter months.
|1.||38||Louis Chiron||Scuderia Ferrari||Alfa Romeo||Type B/P3||2.6 ||S-8||30||3h50m57.40s|
|2.||10||Luigi Fagioli||Scuderia Ferrari||Alfa Romeo||Type B/P3||2.6 ||S-8||30||3h55m21.8s||+ 4m24.4s|
|3.||8||Marcel Lehoux||M. Lehoux||Bugatti||T51||2.3||S-8||30||4h12m49.8s||+ 21m52.4s|
|4.||18||Achille Varzi||Automobiles E. Bugatti||Bugatti||T59||2.8||S-8||30||4h14m14.4s||+ 23m17.0s|
|5.||30||Jean-Pierre Wimille||Sommer-Wimille||Alfa Romeo||Monza||2.3||S-8||30||4h15m57.4s||+ 24m00.0s|
|6.||26||René Dreyfus||Automobiles E. Bugatti||Bugatti||T59||2.8||S-8||29||flagged off|
|DNF||22||Philippe Etancelin||P. Etancelin||Alfa Romeo||Monza||2.3||S-8||27||punctured tire|
|DNF||2||Juan Zanelli||J. Zanelli||Alfa Romeo||Monza||2.3||S-8||20|
|DNF||36||Tazio Nuvolari||Officine A. Maserati||Maserati||8CM||3.0||S-8||19||crash on wet road|
|DNF||24||Piero Taruffi||Officine A. Maserati||Maserati||8CM||3.0||S-8||18||crash on wet road|
|DNF||34||Benoît Falchetto||B. Falchetto||Bugatti||T51||2.3||S-8||13|
|DNF||32||Goffredo Zehender||Officine A. Maserati||Maserati||8CM||3.0||S-8||13|
|DNF||28||Emil Frankl||E. Frankl||Bugatti||T35B||2.3||S-8||7||crash|
|DNF||6||Eugenio Siena||Scuderia Ferrari||Alfa Romeo||Monza||2.6||S-8||5|
Fastest lap: Tazio Nuvolari (Maserati) on lap 14 in 6m41.2s = 155.4 km/h (96.5 mph)|
Winner's medium speed: 134.9 km/h (83.9 mph)
Weather: Overcast sky and rain showers after two hours of racing.