GRAND PRIX DE TUNISIE
Carthage (F), 5 May 1935
40 laps x 12.6 km (7.8 mi) = 504 km (313.2 mi)
Varzi makes it look easy
by Leif Snellman
Achille Varzi, who drove his debut race for Auto Union, totally dominated the event from start to finish. The fast circuit took a great toll on the material and causing several retirements. Initially Nuvolari
(Alfa Romeo) held second position but he had to make stop for repairs and eventually retired. Wimille (Bugatti) took over second position. The hood of his Bugatti was blown away, but that did not hinder
him from holding on to his position until the end. Etancelin (Maserati) managed to finish third using just one gear during the latter part of the race.
After a one year interval the Tunis Grand Prix was back on the calendar for 1935. The participation was restricted to 25 entries, invited by the Automobile Club of Tunis and had time to 27 April 1935
to answer the invitation.
The Carthage circuit had already been fast and for 1935 the chicane before the grandstands was removed. This shortened the circuit from 12.714 km to 12.6 km and made it even faster bacause the cars could drive
the over 3.6 km long main straight flat out. The race was run over 40 laps on the 12.6 km long circuit or a total of 504 km. A hazard for the drivers was that a great part of the circuit was exposed to the strong gusty wind.
At Carthage the sea breeze blew from the north during day time between 10 a.m. and 6 p.m. beacuse the sea warmed up more slowly than the desert. The hot temperatures there caused the warmer air to rise which created
a pressure difference and the wind.
Lapped cars were not allowed to complete the full distance and the whole field was flagged off immediately after the winner had passed the finish line.
The prize money was 40,000 Fr for the winner, 15,000 for second, 10,000 for third and 8,000 for fourth while the fastest lap was worth 2,000 Fr.
The Tunis entry list was quite extensive. The race was not among those listed for a Nazi government bonus, so Mercedes-Benz was not present. However, having won the Tunis GP twice before in 1931 and 1932, Achille Varzi
was keen to have his first start as an Auto Union driver there. The new Auto Union cars were not yet ready but Varzi persuaded the team to send an upgraded 1934 car to Tunis. It featured a new cockpit with metal sides
instead of canvas, a new type of exhausts and closed in front suspension. The car retained some 1934 features like the reserve tank in front of the driver and air intakes on top of the engine bonnet. It was claimed to be
the same car that Stuck had used for speed records on 20 October 1934 at Avus.
Then there was unsuspected trouble when Varzi wanted his salary paid in Lire, the new Nazi economic policy having very hard restrictions on bringing cash out of Germany. It was decided that Varzi would start the race as
an independent and collect the starting money and prizes for himself, but in the last moment the Germans changed their mind and Varzi was entered as a works driver. A dozen mechanics and personnel led by Willi Walb
accompanied the car. Auto Union's first driver Stuck was not amused when he found out the arrangements and said in a letter to Walb that he was amazed "that a German firm gets a foreigner to drive its car in the first
Tazio Nuvolari was meant to race the new Alfa Romeo Bi-motore but trouble to find satisfactory tyres prevented this and instead Scuderia Ferrari entered two Tipo Bs, a 2.9 litre car with a new variant of the Dubonnet
independent suspension for Comotti and a 3.2 litre car with the old type front suspension for Nuvolari. The Mantuan obviously wasn't too keen after the Monaco failure of the Dubonnet / hydraulic brake car. Antonio Brivio was
the reserve driver. Scuderia Ferrari used 19" tyres on their cars for this fast circuit.
Some of the old Tipo Bs had been sold to independent drivers and three of them appeared at Tunis, all of the early type with bodywork hanging down outside the frame to comply with the 850 mm bodywork rule, easily recognizable on
pictures by the vertical slots at the bottom of the frames. Sommer raced his blue (#5003) already seen at Monaco. Count Raphaël Béthenod de Montbressieux, with the pseudonym "Raph", raced his newly acquired Tipo B (#5006), possibly
painted blue, and Ferdinando Barbieri was to race a Tipo B probably owned by Swiss Carlo Gari. The Chilean born Juan Zanelli appeared with his ex-Raymond Sommer Alfa Romeo Monza, which had won the 1932 Le Mans 24h race.
Scuderia Subalpina was out in force with two 6-cylinder independent suspended Maseratis for Philippe Etancelin and Goffredo Zehender, a Maserati 8CM for Eugenio Siena and an Alfa Romeo Monza for Pietro Ghersi.
Piero Dusio was the reserve driver. Giuseppe Farina was to race Gino Rovere's 6-cylinder independent suspended Maserati.
Ecurie Nelly Braillard entered a Maserati 8CM for Robert Brunet and an old 2.5 litre 2-seater Maserati for Benoit Falchetto. French driver "Raymond" Chambost, Italian Luigi Soffietti and Hungarian László Hartmann raced
8CMs as well. Gruppo San Giorgio entered a Maserati 8C for Renato Balestrero.
The works Bugatti team entered a T59 for Jean Pierre Wimille while the French SEFAC once more failed to appear. Pierre Ray and local driver Maurice Mablot, both with Bugatti T51s, and André Février in a Bugatti T35C
completed the entry list.
Grid positions were decided by the times in the practice, which took place from Thursday to Saturday, 2-4 p.m.
A strong wind swept over the circuit as practice started on Thursday. Not all drivers had yet arrived. Nuvolari with his Alfa Romeo was fastest with a time of 4m35 1/4s. Wimille in the works Bugatti was second, driving a lap in
4m36 1/3s. His car looked good in the curves but lost to the stronger cars on the straights. Varzi was getting used to racing the rear engined Auto Union, reaching 230 km/h on the straights but making the curves carefully.
In the end he was third fastest with a time of 4m42s followed by Etancelin 4m48 1/4s, Zehender 4m53s, Sommer 5m02s and Brunet 5m03s. Siena was about as fast as Brunet.
On Friday Nuvolari was again fastest with 4m28.4s while Wimille reached 4m29.2s, the dsame time as Varzi. They were followed by Zehender and Etancelin.
Varzi had shown signs that more was to come, so no one was surprised when the Auto Union driver, who now had familiarized himself with the car, was fastest during the final practice session driving a lap in 4m24.8s and taking pole
position with a 3.6s margin. His hesitation in the corners had now disappeared. Nuvolari's and Wimille's times from Friday were good enough for front row positions.
Race day came with hot and sunny weather. Unwelcome for the drivers but enjoyable for the spectators the sharp wind was constantly blowing from the sea, helping the latter to resist the suffocating heat. While most of the
30,000 spectators were locals there were also many tourists and race enthusiasts present, especially from Italy and France.
At 1.30 p.m. to the sound of the Marseillaise, Marcel Peyrouton, Resident General of Tunisia, arrived accompanied by civil and military dignitaries and representatives of the AC Tunisia. Later during the race
he would surprisingly be joined by the Bey of Tunis, Ahmad II ibn Ali, attended by numerous dignitaries of the Tunis court.
At 1.45 the grid had been assembled and the drivers were ready to go. The cars were lined up three per row in a rather tight formation. There was one oddity on the grid which placed Brunet to the right of the
fourth row instead than to the left of the fifth row, where he belonged according to the qualifying times.
Chambost's Maserati refused to start and a mechanic was still working in vain with a handle when the Resident General dropped the flag at exactly 2 p.m. and the rest of the field went away. The acceleration of
the Auto Union was superior and Varzi immediately took the lead followed by Etancelin and nineteen other competitors. After some pushing the engine of Chambost's car finally started and he joined the race as well.
Nuvolari soon passed Etancelin for second position.
Varzi drove the first lap in 4m46s (158.6 km/h). Nuvolari followed about 100m behind, ahead of Etancelin, Wimille, Farina, Zehender, Siena, Sommer, Comotti, Soffietti, Barbieri, Balestrero, Hartmann and Ghersi.
Zanelli passed the grand stand slowly and would stop at the pits after the following lap.
After the second lap Varzi led Nuvolari by 12 seconds followed by Wimille 31s behind and Etancelin.
Varzi drove the fourth lap in 4m28.4s (169.0 km/h) and further increased the lead over Nuvolari. It was to be the fastest lap of the day, improving the old speed record by 34.6s (but not comparable
since the chicane was missing).
After five laps Varzi led Nuvolari by 43 seconds and Wimille by 56 seconds. Etancelin had gearbox trouble and had fallen back 1m27s. He was followed by Farina, who was 2m02s behind the leader.
The fast circuit almost immediately proved to be a car-breaker. While sources generally agree on the retirements, there is confusion regarding in which order and on which laps the incidents took place.
On the fourth (?) lap Brunet arrived slowly at the pit and retired because of a mechanical problem. Falchetto was an early retirement as well, abandoning his old Maserati at El-Aouďna due to transmission problems.
Mablot had some technical problems as well but was able to continue the race.
Zehender went wide in the Sidi Fredj corner, spun, overturned the 6-cylinder Maserati and ended up in an orange orchard. Zehender escaped unhurt but the car was damaged and he was unable to continue.
On the sixth lap Etancelin attacked Nuvolari, who was now struggling with an engine problem, and passed him for second position. On the next lap Nuvolari came into the pit to change the plugs on his Alfa Romeo.
At about the same time Balestrero retired his Maserati, either because of a broken clutch or due to ignition problems. Between the sixth and the eighth lap Soffietti and Ghersi stopped at the pits, the first with a broken
supercharger, the other due to gearbox trouble.
After eight laps Varzi was leading Wimille by 1m10s and Etancelin by 2m30s and the Auto Union driver was able to slow down a bit to save his car.
After his early pit stop Zanelli was able to continue but he retired on the ninth lap when Nuvolari returned to the pits as well. Siena also retired. The situation after 10 laps was as follows:
|1. Varzi (Auto Union)||45m59.8s|
|2. Wimille (Bugatti)||47m08s|
|3. Etancelin (Maserati)||48m39s|
|4. Farina (Maserati)||50m02s|
|5. Comotti (Alfa Romeo)||50m03s|
|6. Sommer (Alfa Romeo)||50m06s|
|7. Barbieri (Alfa Romeo)||52m02s|
|8. Chambost (Maserati)||53m19s|
|9. Hartmann (Maserati)||54m26s|
After a lengthy pit stop Nuvolari returned to the race but after 12 laps he finally retired his Alfa with lubrication trouble.
The event as a race was now more or less over. Varzi was in full control and could afford to ease up. Wimille's Bugatti was slower on the straights than the Auto Union and he lost four to five seconds per lap to the leader. After
one hour (12 laps) Wimille was 1 min. 14 sec. behind and Etancelin was still third.
Sommer was driving a good race. He managed to pass Comotti for 5th position and then also passed Farina for 4th.
At around lap 15 Wimille had a scary moment when the bonnet of his Bugatti came off and almost hit his head. He was able to continue but his speed suffered a bit after rhe incident.
The race order after 15 laps:
|1. Varzi (Auto Union)||1h08m53s|
|2. Wimille (Bugatti)||1h10m24s|
|3. Etancelin (Maserati)||1h12m55s|
|4. Sommer (Alfa Romeo)||1h14m49s|
|5. Farina (Maserati)||1h14m52s|
|6. Comotti (Alfa Romeo)||1h15m06s|
|7. Barbieri (Alfa Romeo)||1h17m45s|
|8. Chambost (Maserati)||1h19m34s|
|9. Hartmann (Maserati)||1h22m10s|
|10. Fevrier (Bugatti)|
From lap 15 onwards Etancelin had lost all gears on his Maserati apart from the top gear and he was losing 20 seconds per lap on the leader. Soon Varzi closed in on him and put him one lap down. Now only Wimille remained on
the same lap as the leader.
On the 16th lap Comotti came in to change plugs. After 17 laps Wimille had lost 1m46.4s to Varzi while Etancelin was 4m39s behind and falling back. Sommer was closing in on Etancelin by about 4-5 seconds per lap.
The situation after 20 laps:
|1. Varzi (Auto Union)||1h31m47s|
|2. Wimille (Bugatti)||1h33m44s|
|3. Etancelin (Maserati)||1h37m32s|
|4. Sommer (Alfa Romeo)||1h39m14s|
|5. Comotti (Alfa Romeo)||1h43m06s?|
On the 21st lap Varzi made his planned fuel stop. While the mechanics worked on the car, chain smoker Varzi jumped out and quietly smoked a cigarette. After the 1m27s stop Varzi rejoined the race, 11 seconds in front of Wimille,
who relentlessly was chasing the faster Auto Union. Varzi drove a few faster laps increasing the gap again. Wimille eventually made his fuel stop as well and the gap to the leader increased once more. On the 22nd lap Etancelin made
his fuel stop leaving third position over to Sommer. Fevrier also made a stop to replace a broken wheel on his Bugatti.
On the 25th lap Rey missed the corner at Soucra, destroyed his left rear wheel and spun. The driver was not injuried but his Bugatti was in no condition to continue.
On lap 26 Sommer, after having driven a good race, was the next retirement with a broken connecting rod. It is not entirely clear if he had already made his fuel stop before that, dropping back to fourth position, or not.
After 27 laps Varzi was leading Wimille by 2m30s and Etancelin by 4m15s. Mablot (Bugatti) retired with a broken steering rod. After lap 30 Varzi's lead over Wimille was 2m37s:
|1. Varzi (Auto Union)||2h19m41s|
|2. Wimille (Bugatti)||2h22m18s|
|3. Etancelin (Maserati)||2h29m32s|
|4. Comotti (Alfa Romeo)||2h34m03s?|
|5. Farina (Maserati)||2h34mm32s|
The race now continued in a quite monotonous way. Nothing could hinder a Varzi victory except for possibly the wind that came in gusts, blowing across the main straight from right to left and making the drivers' job difficult.
After 35 laps Varzi's lead over Wimille was up to 2m57s. Some of the crowd already began to leave the stands.
Suddenly on the straight at full speed Etancelin more felt than saw a thing flying through the air gracing his face. It was a part of a shock absorber that had come loose on his Maserati, fortunately without causing any harm.
At the end of the 40th lap Varzi took the chequered flag with Wimille finishing second 3m49.6s behind. Etancelin, having used top gear for 25 laps, managed to take his Maserati to the finish but he had been lapped twice.
Comotti took the only remaining Ferrari Alfa Romeo to a rather disappointing fourth position. He was followed by the Maseratis of Farina, Chambost and Hartmann. "Raph" was the last finisher.
Varzi was carried in triumph to the official gallery, where the Resident General congratulated him and he was offered a bouquet of flowers in French and Italian colors.
Varzi said that the race had not been long but difficult and that he would have liked it better if there had been no wind.
|1.||34||Achille Varzi||Auto Union AG||Auto Union||A||4.4||V-16||40||3h05m40.2s|
|2.||36||Jean Pierre Wimille||Automobiles E. Bugatti||Bugatti||T59||3.3||S-8||40||3h09m29.8s||+ 3m49.6s|
|3.||8||Philippe Etancelin||Scuderia Subalpina||Maserati||6C-34||3.7||S-6||38|
|4.||6||Gianfranco Comotti||Scuderia Ferrari||Alfa Romeo||Tipo B/P3||2.9||S-8||37|
|5.||40||Giuseppe Farina||L. Rovere||Maserati||6C-34||3.7||S-6||37|
|6.||20||Albert Chambost||A. Chambost||Maserati||8CM||3.0||S-8||35|
|7.||48||László Hartmann||L. Hartmann||Maserati||8CM||3.0||S-8||34|
|8.||32||"Raph"||B. de las Casas||Alfa Romeo||Tipo B/P3||2.9||S-8||32|
|DNF||28||Maurice Mablot||M. Mablot||Bugatti||T51||2.3||S-8|| >20||steering rod|
|DNF||16||Raymond Sommer||R. Sommer||Alfa Romeo||Tipo B/P3||2.9||S-8||26||connecting rod|
|DNF||44||Pierre Rey||P. Rey||Bugatti||T51||2.3||S-8||25||wheel|
|DNF||30||Ferdinando Barbieri||F. Barbieri||Alfa Romeo||Tipo B/P3||2.9||S-8|| >15|
|DNF||50||André Fevrier||A. Fevrier||Bugatti||T35C||2.0||S-8|| >15||mechanical|
|DNF||4||Tazio Nuvolari||Scuderia Ferrari||Alfa Romeo||Tipo B/P3||3.2||S-8||12||broken piston|
|DNF||14||Eugenio Siena||Scuderia Subalpina||Maserati||8CM||3.2||S-8||9|
|DNF||42||Juan Zanelli||J. Zanelli||Alfa Romeo||Monza||2.3||S-8||9||driver stomage|
|DNF||26||Benoît Falchetto||Ecurie Braillard||Maserati||8CM||3.0||S-8||~8||mechanical|
|DNF||24||Luigi Soffietti||L. Soffietti||Maserati||8CM||3.0||S-8||~6||supercharger|
|DNF||12||Pietro Ghersi||Scuderia Subalpina||Alfa Romeo||Monza||2.3||S-8||~6||gearbox|
|DNF||18||Renato Balestrero||Gruppo Genovese San Giorgio||Maserati||26M||3.0||S-8||~6||ignition|
|DNF||22||Robert Brunet||Ecurie Braillard||Maserati||8CM||3.0||S-8||4-6||ignition|
|DNF||10||Goffredo Zehender||Scuderia Subalpina||Maserati||6C-34||3.7||S-6||2-6||crash|
Fastest lap: Achille Varzi (Auto Union) on lap 4 in 4m28.4s = 169.0 km/h (105.0 mph)|
Winner's medium speed: 162.9 km/h (101.2 mph)
Pole position lap speed: 166.8 km/h (103.6 mph)
Weather: sunny, windy.
Primary sources researched for this article:|
Il Littoriale, Roma
Echo de Paris, Paris
La Stampa, Torino
L'Express du Midi, Toulouse
Le Figaro, Paris
Le Petit Nicois, Nice
Motor Sport, London
MOTOR und SPORT, Pössneck
6 May 1935:
Luis Fontes (Alfa Romeo Monza 2.3L) wins the JCC International Trophy handicap race at Brooklands, England.
11 May 1935:
Donington Second Meeting at Donington Park, England.|
Handicap races were won by P. Maclure (Riley 1.1L), H. G. Dobbs (Riley 1.6L) - two races, and
Miss Fay Taylour (Frazer-Nash 1.5L). A five lap 1500cc scratch race was also held with following results:
IX° GRAN PREMIO DI TRIPOLI
Autodromo di Mellaha (I), 12 May 1935
40 laps x 13.1 km (8.14 mi) = 524.0 km (325.6 mi)
Mercedes-Benz against Auto Union
by Leif Snellman
Tyres played a major role in the race on the fast Mellaha course. Alfa Romeo introduced their Bi-motore but the cars were in trouble from the very start. Nuvolari made two pit stops for tyres during the first six laps of the
race and Chiron was struggling. Caracciola (Mercedes-Benz) held an early lead but two early stops for tyres put him a lap down. The Auto Unions of Varzi and Stuck took command until the planned pit stops when Fagioli
(Mercedes-Benz) held the lead for a short time until he also had to make his stop. Stuck retired when his car caught fire. Varzi decided to do the second half of the race non-stop. After a third pit stop Caracciola made
a long stint at high speed advancing from 12th place all the way to second position, which he held despite making a fourth pit stop. With just five laps remaining, after a needless duel with Nuvolari, who already was a lap
down, Varzi had to make an emergency stop for a new tyre and Caracciola was able to catch him. The last laps were a close fight between Varzi and Caracciola until Varzi suffered yet another tyre failure and lost the race to
Caracciola. Fagioli finished third and Nuvolari was a distant fourth.
The Tripoli Grand Prix, organized by the Automobile Club di Tripoli, was held on the Mellaha circuit, the fastest road circuit in the world at that time. The circuit had been improved with the corners straightened out
and now top speeds were expected. As usual the race was run to "formula libre" with no weight demands on the car. The traditional state lottery guaranteed a large field of cars. 30 lottery winners were drawn and each of them
was assigned one of the car numbers only minutes before the start of the race to avoid a repetition of the 1933 swindle. The prizes went to the lucky persons with the lot numbers corresponding to the car numbers of the top
four cars in the race. The overall winner received over 6 million Lire, corresponding to some Ł100,000 or half a million US dollars, a tremendous sum at the time. There were 50 consolation prizes and to attract selling of
lots four of the sellers would also win prices.
3,328,159 lots had been sold at 12 Lire apiece. The seller obviously got 2 Lire for himself leaving 10 Lire a lot for a total sum of over 33 million Lire. Once 3,993,790.80 Lire was spent on taxes (12%), 6,656,318 Lire on
organization and lot selling (2 Lire for each lot), 5,204,350.40 Lire on charity and 1,814,079.50 Lire to the Automobile Club di Tripoli, 15,613,051.30 Lire remained as prizes to be distributed as follows (numbers were
rounded off to 5 centesimo) (Note 1).
|Lottery winner with winning car number||39%||6,080,990.00|
|Lottery winner with 2nd finisher||19%||2,966,479.75|
|Lottery winner with 3nd finisher||9%||1,405,174.60|
|Lottery winner with 4nd finisher||4%||624,522.05|
|26 other lottery winners of 60,050.20 Lire||10%||1,561,305.15|
|50 consolation prizes of 34,348.70 Lire||11%||1,717,435.70|
|Seller of winning ticket||0.9%||140,517.45|
|Seller of 2nd prize ticket||0.45%||70,258.75|
|Seller of 3rd prize ticket||0.25%||39,032.60|
|Seller of 4th prize ticket||0.15%||23,419.60|
|30 start money of 15,613,05 Lire||3%||468,391.50|
Regarding the race itself, apart from the lottery premiums and start money for a total of 975,815.65 Lire there were 175,000 Lire in race prizes plus special prices of 2,000 Lire for the leaders at the
10th, 20th and 30th laps.|
|Driver||Prize ||Lottery ||Start ||Total |
The high prize money attracted the full GP elite using almost every competitive race car available. The German teams made their Tripoli debut.
Daimler-Benz sent three cars for Rudolf Caracciola (#109996/8), Luigi Fagioli (#105196/6) and Manfred von Brauchitsch (#105195/5) . The team went to Libya straight from the Monaco Grand Prix, embarking on a ship at Nice on
Tuesday 23 April in order to have time for extensive tyre tests. The race cars had M25B engines while the practice car (#105194/4) had a M25A engine.
Auto Union sent two cars in early 1935 configuration with big windscreen and high cockpit sides. Achille Varzi raced #76002, a rebuilt 1934 car, while
Hans Stuck had the new #76012 that featured enlarged inlet valves (39.5 mm against 35.5mm on Varzi's car). That Varzi used his Tunis car as claimed was surely not the case. The two cars were to have a short test at the Avus
on 26 April before being sent to Naples for shipping on 3 May. After the race the plan was to rush the cars back from Naples to the Zwickau factory with express train but
even then the cars would hardly be available for the Avus race. With experience from speed record attempts at Firenze-Lucca in February Auto Union was less worried about tyre wear than Mercedes-Benz.
Scuderia Ferrari arrived in full force including two new Alfa Romeo Bi-motore cars, first tested at the Milano autostrada on 10 April. Designed by Luigi Bassi the cars had been built by Ferrari in Modena with a body based on
the 1934 streamliner. The lengthened chassis had two Tipo-B 8-cylinder engines, one in front of and one behind the driver. Tazio Nuvolari's car had two 3167cc engines for a total of 6335cc giving 540 hp while Louis Chiron's
car had two 2905 cc engines for a total of 5811cc giving 510 hp. However the cars weighted about 1000 kg, far too much for them to be able to run in other races than in formula libre events, and the brakes also proved too small for
the power. Chiron's smaller car proved to handle better than Nuvolari's. However the main problem with the cars was to find tyres that could stand the heavy car at speed. The cars used 20" x 5.5 " at the front and 21" x 6.5"
at the rear. Unlike Auto Union the team did plan to enter the same cars for the upcoming Avus raceas well.
The Scuderia also entered three Tipo B/P3s, two of them with Dubonnet independent suspension for René Dreyfus and Mario Tadini and one older model for Antonio Brivio, using 19" wheels on the cars.
In addition the team raced under their banner Carlo Pintacuda in the Tipo B/P3 #5001 two-seater owned by Lucca Sannini. There were two other independent Tipo Bs in the race. Fernando Barbieri probably raced #5002 owned by Carlo Gari
while Raymond Sommer entered his own blue #5003.
There were five Alfa Romeo "Monzas" in the race; the independent entries of Felice Bonetto and Costantino Magistri, Renato Balestrero's car raced under Gruppo San Giorgio and two Scuderia Subalpina cars for Pietro Ghersi and
Scuderia Subalpina also entered two 3.7 litre 6-cylinder Maseratis (#3025 & #3026) for Philippe Etancelin and Goffredo Zehender. Giuseppe Farina raced Gino Rovere's #3023 Maserati. The three cars and drivers arrived straight from the
Tunis GP. Additionally Hans Rüesch was to race his own #3022 Maserati.
The last six entries were listed as 3 litre Maserati 8CMs independently entered by Guglielmo Carraroli, Luigi Premoli, Archimede Rosa, Luigi Soffietti, Piero Taruffi and Per Viktor Widengren. Soffietti, who had suffered a
supercharger failure at Tunis, was unsure if he could get his car ready for the race. P.V. Widengren had managed to find a Maserati to replace his familiar Alfas Romeo Monza, which was raced the same week end in Finland by his brother
Henken. There had been four independent Maseratis at the Tunis race. Perhaps Widengren was racing one of them?
Siena's car was listed as a Maserati but wasa Monza as can clearly be seen on pictures. Perhaps he had swapped car with his team mate Ghersi since Tunis? Film evidence shows that Balestrero's and Rosa's car numbers probably
had been swapped for some unknown reason.
Two entries were missing. The SEFAC for Marcel Lehoux was not ready and Earl Howe found himself busy with the Royal Silver Jubilee Celebrations, 6th - 12th May.
Continental came well prepared with a stock of 300 tyres and had made special tyres for the race with reduced thread depth. The German cars showed their class during practice. Practice times did not count for places on the
Varzi was fastest during Thursday practice with a lap in 3m37 s (217.3 km/h) followed by Stuck 3m42s, Nuvolari 3m44s, Caracciola 3 m45s?, von Brauchitsch 3m50s? and Fagioli 4m14s. The Maseratis and Alfa
Tipo Bs reached nowhere near to those times. The Bi-motore proved to be exceptionally fast on the straights but the car had to be braked early for the corners. The impression was made that too little consideration
had been taken about the handling and braking. After concern about tyres in earlier tests the team tried Dunlops but the tyre company could not guarantee that their tyres would stand the speed and a batch of Englebert tyres
were quickly sent to Libya.
There was no practice on Friday but the cars were back on the track the next day. Zehender, Sommer and Soffietti, who all had retired at the Tunis Grand Prix, had received spare parts by plane from Italy and Ferrari had
obtained the Englebert tyres for the Bi-motores.
Stuck went three seconds faster than Varzi's time on Thursday and established a new lap record of 3m34s (220.373 km/h). Nuvolari made a lap in 3m39.6s, Caracciola in 3m42s and Etancelin in 3m50s.
Before the start there was fear that the tyres would not stand the combination of heat and a fast circuit. Relying on the test results the Mercedes-Benz team planned to do 15 laps between their stops, Auto Union had decided
on 13 laps and Alfa Romeo on 11 laps. An auxiliary pit was created halfway along the circuit for emergency tyre changes. The problem was that even the largest teams had hardly any personnel available for the auxiliary pit
so any stops there could take a long time. As we will see tyres, regardless of brand, were easily destroyed if pushed during the first laps but once run in they would stand the forces quite well. Most of the teams would only
find out about that the hard way during the race.
On race day the sky was a bit cloudy and wind blowing from the sea made the conditions tolerable. 20,000 spectators were gathered at one of the finest grandstands in the world and all along the course race-loving spectators
from all countries had gathered as well as natives who appeared in huge crowds to see one of the fastest and exciting races in the world.
At 2.30 p.m. the race cars were rolled to the grid. The grid positions had been decided by drawing lots and drivers like Stuck, Chiron and von Brauchitsch were at the far back.
The dignities arrived including the Libyan Governor Italo Balbo, Cavaliere Egido Sforzini, chairman of the organizing committee, and Monsieur Marcel Peyrouton, French Governor-General of Tunisia. This was the tenth anniversary
of the founding of the Tripoli Automobile Club and the starter of the original 1925 race, the Duke of Spoleto, president of the Reale Automobile Club d'Italia (R.A.C.I.) made a guest appearance at Tripoli and was given the honor
as official starter of this race.
First there was an event in which the car numbers were assigned to the lottery winners. On the terrace of the signal tower a youth drew the tickets from a tiny urn while assisted by a public notary.
The event was of course being broadcasted live on Italian radio.
Governor Balbo had a short chat with the drivers, who then received last minute instructions from the Clerk of Course, Renzo Castagneto, before they climbed into their cars at 2.55 p.m. At three o'clock the light at the time
box went green as the "million race" started. The 28 cars shot away in a cloud of smoke passing the Duke of Spoleto, who was waving the chequered flag.
Fagioli took an early lead in his Mercedes but at the end of the first lap it was his team mate Caracciola who held first position after doing the lap in 3m44s. Fagioli followed 30 meters behind with Nuvolari a
further 100 meters back. Then came Etancelin, Varzi, Dreyfus, Brivio, Zehender, Farina, Tadini, Chiron, von Brauchisch, Sommer, Stuck, Ghersi, Barbieri, Siena, Magistri, Rüesch, Widengren, Rosa, Balestrero, Soffietti,
Pintacuda, Carraroli and Bonetto (the list is incomplete as Premoli and Taruffi are missing).
Caracciola drove the second lap in 3m41s. Nuvolari was pushing his Bi-motore and passed Fagioli for second position in front of the stand to the delight in the spectators. Behind them followed Varzi, Etancelin, Dreyfus and
Farina. Siena with his Alfa Romeo Monza was the first retirement of the day.
Stuck was advancing through the field from the back of the grid to join a good battle between Brivio, Etancelin and Farina. Brivio then had to make a pit stop for minor repairs.
After three laps Varzi was up to third position since Nuvolari had to stop for a new left rear tyre. Balestrero also made a pit stop.
After four laps Brauchitsch had to retire because of supercharger problems. Starting far behind in the sixth row, he had never really been able to properly perform in the race. Barbieri, who suffered transmission problems,
and Soffietti with an engine failure also retired. Varzi had overtaken his countryman Fagioli for second position and Stuck had moved to fourth place.
Nearing the end of the fifth lap, Caracciola, who had opened up a decent gap to the rest, suddenly saw a piece of tread flying by him and felt his left front tyre going soft. He immediately turned into the pits.
The situation after 5 laps looked like this:
|1.||Caracciola (Mercedes-Benz)||18m47.2s||(209.2 km/h)|
|2.||Varzi (Auto Union)||19m12.4s|
|4.||Stuck (Auto Union)||19m35.8s|
|7.||Dreyfus (Alfa Romeo)|
|8.||Chiron (Alfa Romeo)|
|9.||Nuvolari (Alfa Romeo)|
|11.||Tadini (Alfa Romeo)|
Luckily for Caracciola the puncture had been right at the end of the lap. With the Mercedes pit crew doing a great job the stop lasted only 20 seconds and Caracciola returned to the course in fourth position behind
Varzi, Fagioli and Stuck. Farina passed Etancelin for fifth position in an internal Maserati duel. Rüesch and Bonetto stopped at the pits, the former retiring with a broken oil-pump as did Premoli while Bonetto had to
retire a lap later. Stuck passed Fagioli for second position.
Nuvolari made his second stop on the seventh lap, because the left rear tyre had failed again. He lost 55 seconds in the pit apart from the time he lost cruising with the damaged tyre. As he returned to the race he was
already nearly a lap behind the leading cars. Chiron was in similar trouble and slowly arrived at the pits for a tyre change.
After his pit stop Caracciola had been running fast, passing Fagioli and Stuck and closing the gap to Varzi to 13 seconds. On the eighth lap on the fast straight along the seaside Caracciola felt the car shaking as he had
suffered a rear tyre failure but he was able to keep control and then slowly cruise the rest of the lap to reach the pit. The pit crew changed all four tyres and refueled the car in 1m10s. Caracciola rejoined the race in
10th position and was now a lap down coming out right behind the leading Varzi. But Caracciola chased after the Auto Union and soon un-lapped himself.
Farina was having a great race, in fourth place ahead of Dreyfus, while Etancelin and Zehender in the Scuderia Subalpina 6-cylinder Maseratis were also doing well but lacked the speed of the German cars, yet were gentler
on the tyres. Auto Union now held a double lead with Varzi first and Stuck close behind. During his furious pursuit through the field Stuck had made a new fastest time on the ninth lap in 3m36.6s.
The situation after 10 laps looked like this:
|1.||Varzi (Auto Union)||37m57.4s||(207.1 km/h)|
|2.||Stuck (Auto Union)||37m59.2s|
|5.||Dreyfus (Alfa Romeo)||41m00s|
|8.||Tadini (Alfa Romeo)||41m34s|
|9.||Nuvolari (Alfa Romeo)||41m36s|
|11.||Sommer (Alfa Romeo)||42m08s||1 lap behind|
|12.||Widengren (Maserati)||43m27s||1 lap behind|
Ghersi was the next retirement in this demanding race. On the 11th or12th lap Stuck had a tyre failure and made his pit stop for tyre change and refueling. He lost 2m10s in the pit but about 3˝ minutes in total and rejoined
the race in fourth place behind Farina.
On the 13th lap his team mate Varzi made a much faster planned routine stop, standing still 1m21s and losing less than 2 minutes in total. Varzi's tyres seemed to be in good shape but were still changed according to plan and
Varzi rejoined the race in second position and immediately chased after Fagioli.
Fagioli, who now was leading the race by about a minute, was very good in taking care of his tyres. He was doing lap after lap at about 3m50s pace, slower than the other German
cars but still at good speed and he had yet to make a pit stop.
Brivio, who with his P3 had been leading Chiron's Bi-motore, was involved in a serious accident. Fighting with Farina who was a lap ahead of him, a loose stone flew into Brivio's face with such force that he lost control
of his car. The Alfa Romeo made a series of somersaults in the air and another few of them on the ground before ending up as a wreck in the cactus woods. The unconscious Brivio who had been ejected from the cas was
carried away from the scene and sent to hospital. He eventually make a full recovery at Professor Putti's clinic at Bologna.
After 14 laps Fagioli led Varzi by 36 seconds and a lap later it was down to just 28.4 seconds. Stuck and Farina followed about half a lap behind. Nuvolari and Etancelin had lost almost a lap and Dreyfus, Zehender and Tadini
had already been lapped. Caracciola suffered yet another rear tyre failure at the start of the long straight and made a visit to the auxiliary pit dropping down to 12th position, 6m19s behind his leading team mate.
The race order after 15 laps looked like this:
|1.||Fagioli (Mercedes-Benz)||57m40.2s||(204.4 km/h)|
|2.||Varzi (Auto Union)||58m08.6s|
|3.||Stuck (Auto Union)||1h00m06.8s|
|5.||Nuvolari (Alfa Romeo)||1h01m14s|
|7.||Dreyfus (Alfa Romeo)||1h01m39s|
|8.||Zehender (Maserati)||1h01m59s||1 lap behind|
|9.||Tadini (Alfa Romeo)||1h02m00s||1 lap behind|
|11.||Sommer (Alfa Romeo)||1h02m56s||1 lap behind|
|12.||Caracciola (Mercedes-Benz)||1h03m59s||1 lap behind|
|13.||Widengren (Maserati)||1h04m31s||1 lap behind|
|14.||Taruffi (Maserati)||1h05m00s||1 lap behind|
|15.||Chiron (Alfa Romeo)||1h06m08s||2 laps behind|
|16.||Pintacuda (Alfa Romeo)||1h10m30s||3 laps behind?|
|17.||Carraroli (Maserati)||1h11m08s||3 laps behind?|
In his chase after Fagioli, Varzi had probably failed to run in his new set of tyres. On lap 17 he had almost caught the leading Mercedes-Benz when he suffered the consequences and had to stop for another tyre change. Meanwhile
Pintacuda, Magistri and Taruffi all three had retired from the race.
The Mercedes-Benz team had delayed Fagioli's pit stop a bit too far and on the 18th lap he suffered a tyre failure and had to stop at the auxiliary pit for a change. Then he probably had to make another stop at the main pits
for his planned re-fueling, because he lost more than 4˝ minutes on that lap, dropping to fifth position behind Stuck, Varzi, Farina and Nuvolari. But due to his huge earlier lead he remained un-lapped.
La Stampa published the situation after 18 laps (believing it to be after 15 laps):
|1.||Fagioli (Mercedes-Benz)||1h10m09.6s||(201.7 km/h) going to pit|
|2.||Stuck (Auto Union)||1h11m19.2s|
|3.||Varzi (Auto Union)||1h11m47.6s|
|5.||Nuvolari (Alfa Romeo)||1h13m00s|
On the18th or 19th lap both Farina and Nuvolari made pit stops. It was the first stop for the former and the third for the latter. Nuvolari's stop was the faster one and he returned to the race in front of Farina. Etancelin
also visited the pits about that time.
Stuck was in command of the race only for a short time. On the 20th lap an exhaust valve in the V-16 engine failed and started a fire. The driver was unaware of it and carried on with large flames belching from the rear of
the car. When Stuck finally realized the dreadful situation, the rear brakes were already gone and he had great problems to stop. The new Auto Union with its high cockpit sides was very tight and it lasted a moment before a
shaken Stuck was able to get out, assisted by nearby officials. Fire-marshals who rushed to the place were able to save the car from total destruction.
Varzi was now leading the race again with a margin of 1m48s over Fagioli. Caracciola, having nothing to lose, had been pushing quite hard and had now reached the battle between Dreyfus in his Alfa Romeo P3 and Zehender with the
Scuderia Subalpina Maserati, both probably about to make their pit stops soon. Half a minute behind Caracciola was Nuvolari, hanging on to his sixth position while trying to avoid being lapped.
The race order halfway into the race after 20 laps looked like this:
|1.||Varzi (Auto Union)||1h19m47s||(197.0 km/h)|
|3.||Dreyfus (Alfa Romeo)||1h22m18s|
|6.||Nuvolari (Alfa Romeo)||1h23m12s|
|7.||Tadini (Alfa Romeo)||1h23m40s|
|8.||Farina (Maserati) ||1h23m44s|
|9.||Sommer (Alfa Romeo)||1h23m46s||lapped?|
|10.||Widengren (Maserati)||1h25m54s||1 lap behind|
There is little information available about what happened between lap 20 and lap 27. There was time for Varzi to make his routine pit stop according to Auto Union's plans around lap 26 and he could probably have been able
to do it without losing his lead but there is nothing indicating he actually did it (see in retrospect for more details). After having fought for good positions during the first part of the race Etancelin had to retire his
Maserati due to carburettor problems.
Since his third pit stop Caracciola had been doing laps around 3m42s, closing in 10 to 12 seconds a lap on Fagioli and the German passed his team mate for second position on the 25th lap. Varzi made the 25 laps with a total time of
1h39m24s with Caracciola about 1˝ minute behind him.
After 27 laps Varzi still held control of the race with Caracciola 1m15s behind and closing in but having yet to make his pit stop. Il Littoriale published the situation after 27 laps believing it to be for lap 25:
|1.||Varzi (Auto Union)||1h47m13.4s||(197.9 km/h)|
|4.||Nuvolari (Alfa Romeo)||1h51m09s|
|5.||Dreyfus (Alfa Romeo)||1h53m33s||1 lap behind|
Farina retired his Maserati after having made a great impression during the first half of the race. At 30 laps Caracciola had reduced Varzi's advantage to 42 seconds. At about this time Fagioli made his second and final pit stop.
At 30 laps the order was:
|1.||Varzi (Auto Union)||1h58m56.6s||(198.3 km/h)|
|4.||Nuvolari (Alfa Romeo)||2h02m42.6s|
|5.||Dreyfus (Alfa Romeo)||2h05m38s||1 lap behind|
|6.||Chiron (Alfa Romeo)||2h08m25s||2 laps behind|
|7.||Sommer (Alfa Romeo)||2h08m47s||2 laps behind|
|8.||Zehender (Maserati)||2h12m41s||3 laps behind?|
|9.||Widengren (Maserati)||2h12m44s||3 laps behind?|
Soon afterwards Caracciola made his final stop as well. It was a fast stop lasting less than a minute and he ended up about 2 - 2˝ minutes behind Varzi and with less than ten laps to go with little hope for a victory.
But on the other side of the circuit an odd event was about to happen. Exactly how it developed is not known but Nuvolari since the 20th lap had been about a lap behind the leader. Possibly Varzi had closed in on him and
put him a lap down or then he had already been lapped by Varzi a bit earlier. Regardless, the two old antagonists suddenly found themselves close to each other and Nuvolari decided to show Varzi the power of the Bi-motore. On
the straight he went flat out, un-lapping himself and leaving the Auto Union like it was standing.
No one will know if Varzi, having raced for two hours in the heat, lost his situation awareness and really thought that they were fighting for positions or if he just could not resist the challenge but the result was that
Varzi increased his speed. The two Italians where racing side by side for a moment but then Nuvolari had totally destroyed his tyres and had to slowly come in for his fourth pit stop while Varzi could continue unchallenged.
The race order after 35 laps:
|1.||Varzi (Auto Union)||2h18m34.4s||(198.5 km/h)|
|4.||Dreyfus (Alfa Romeo)||2h26m09s||1 lap behind|
But the duel had taken its toll on Varzi's tyres as well and just as he passed the grandstand with 5 laps to go the tread of the right rear tyre flew high up in the air and in the next moment the tyre went flat. The Auto Union
driver had to make almost half a lap with the damaged tyre to the auxiliary pit. The hub was jammed on the wheel and while Caracciola was getting closer and closer the Auto Union mechanic was frantically working with the
copper hammer. Varzi managed to come out from the pits just a few seconds in front of the Mercedes.
After 37 laps the gap between the two cars was just around 100 meters. Caracciola made the 38th lap in record time of 3m34.2s (220.2 km/h) closing in further and then went past Varzi on the 39th lap. Varzi never had a
chance to run in his last set and in the middle of the last lap Caracciola could see in his mirror how the Auto Union disappeared. Varzi's left rear tyre had blown and the race was over. Caracciola took the flag
of his first victory in 1935, a season that would become one of his greatest. Varzi slowly passed the line over a minute later to take second position ahead of Fagioli in third place. Nuvolari finished fourth despite his late
stop that had delayed him by several minutes because Dreyfus had made a late stop as well. Dreyfus lost fifth position to Chiron, who had made just two pit stops with his Bi-motore during the race, because he had misread the
pit signals and he ended up a second behind Chiron. Sommer finished seventh as best independent driver while Zehender, Carraroli and Tadini were flagged off. Rosa and Balestrero had retired late in the race.
And in the very heart of Rome, Gaetano Giacomini, 48 year old senior clerk at the local tax office and owner of lottery ticket P69726, who had followed the radio reports from the race with great interest, suddenly pushed
wife and kids into two cabs and disappeared with them. He had decided he deserved a long holiday.
Due to the improved course all times above were faster than Chiron's previous lap record of 3m55.4s.
|Stuck (Auto Union)||3m36.6s|
|Varzi (Auto Union)||3m37.2s|
|Nuvolari (Alfa Romeo)||3m38.4s|
|Brivio (Alfa Romeo)||3m54.2s|
|Chiron (Alfa Romeo)||3m54.2s|
A problem with this race was that while there were several reports they often contradicted each other. They could not even agree on whether Caracciola was leading Varzi or vice versa after the last pit stop or
on what street in Rome the lottery winner lived! During the pit stops the race had been hard to follow with lots of changes in the situation and it was not helped by, as Il Littoriale report put it, "an information
service that was rich in useless releases, but deficient of useful news".
Finally I decided to trust only the published intermediate times and made out the whole race in graphic form on paper. This report is the result of the graphic
analyses and the results differ in several cases from what has been published. This is in regard especially on which laps certain on which laps events happened. Interestingly both La Stampa and
Il Littoriale had results from wrong
laps in their results, a proof that the press service was not doing its best that day?
Caracciola spend two whole chapters in his biography Meine Welt about the Tripoli race. Even if the report is fairly accurate there appear a few oddities. For example Caracciola
says he let Nuvolari by so the latter could challenge Varzi. Hardly likely! Caracciola would have made his pit stop by then and must have been half a lap away from the confrontation.
Did Varzi make three or four pit stops?
This is a mystery. Automobile Revue claims Varzi made four stops during the race but no source mention anything about what would have been the third one. Auto Union had claimed the tyres lasted about
13 laps and was on a strategy with stops planned approximately for laps 13 and 26. Varzi made his second stop on lap 18. To suddenly try doing 22 laps on one set seems suicidal from a strategy point.
Il Littoriale said that all cars were cruising saving tyres from lap 20-30.
Looking at Varzi's average lap speeds from lap 19 to 35 they look like this, a very straight speed with no much time for any pit stops:
It would be possible to put in a short pit stop on lap 25 if Varzi had gone flat out from lap 21 onwards but there is nothing to indicate that happened.
In his book Tripoli Grand Prix Valerio Moretti claims there had been a clash between Italian and German mentalities in the pit where Varzi has arrived for the first stop with the tyres in excellent condition.
Had the team changed strategy after the two early stops satisfied with that the lap 18 stop could replace the one planned for lap 26? Or was Varzi refusing to stop again trying to make a point to the team that he knew best?
|19 - 20||3m59.7s|
|21 - 25||3m55.4s|
|26 - 27||3m54.7s|
|28 - 30||3m54.4s|
|31 - 35||3m55.6s|
Nuvolari's pit stops
Most sources agree that Nuvolari made four pit stops changing 13 tyres. The four stops were about laps 3, 6, 19 and 35. So we can surely dismiss the stories that Nuvolari late in the race came out of the pits
with new tyres and destroyed them immediately with his duel with Varzi.
What happened to Widengren?
He was present at 27 laps. Then there is no information about him in either the results list or list of retirements. Motor Sport said: "Widengren was disqualified for not finishing the lap following the
arrival of Nuvolari, otherwise he would have been placed fifth" whatever that means? Widengren could definitely not have finished fifth. To do so he would have needed to make the last ten laps with average lap
times under 3m39s!
1. Comparison to modern currency is hard but think of a 1935 Lire as a little bit over a Dollar or Euro to get an idea of the magnitude. The main source for the tables are Il Littoriale and Automobil-Revue.
Interestingly it seems the prizes for the 26 also winners were wrongly calculated, Il Littoriale promising each 2.70 Lire more than they ought to get!
2. Entry lists have Balestrero as #34 and Rosa as #36 but picture and video of the Tripoli pit shows that #34 was a Maserati and #36 a Alfa Romeo Monza so I have swapped the race numbers (with thanks to Francesco Ferrandino).
Primary sources researched for this article:|
El Mundo Deportivo, Barcelona
Frankfurter Zeitung, Frankfurt
Il Littoriale, Roma
La Stampa, Torino
Motor Sport, London
MOTOR und SPORT, Pössneck
Rudolf Caracciola: Meine Welt
Valerio Moretti: Grand Prix Tripoli, 1925-1940
Eläintarharata - Helsinki (FIN), 12 May 1935
50 laps x 2.000 km (1.243mi)= 100 km (62.1 mi)
Karl Ebb's second home win
by Leif Snellman
Ebb (Mercedes-Benz) took the lead on the first lap of the fourth Finnish Grand Prix while Bjřrnstad (Alfa Romeo) stopped early at his pit and Henken Widengren (Alfa Romeo) first lost time behind Sundstedt's
Bugatti and then retired with a gearbox trouble. Ebb now dominated the rest of the race to win from Sundstedt with Ramsay finishing third to win the sports car class.
Suomen Automobiili Klubi (SAK) did not want to take the financial risk to arrange the 1935 event. Instead Helsingin Moottori Kerho (HMK) was joined by Suomen Kilpa-ajajat ry (Finnish racing drivers' society)
in the arrangements. As usual the event was held on Mother's Day on the same 2 km long circuit as before. This time the car race was divided into two classes, one for race cars and one for "sports cars",
i.e. rebuilt specials, usually with American chassis and engines.
The prizes for the top four finishers in the car classes were 10,000, 5,000, 2,000 & 1,000 Fmk in the racing class and 5,000, 2,500, 1,000 & 500 Fmk in the sports car class.
Half of the field consisted of racing cars. From the seven entries four were from Sweden. The entry list included Finnish driver Karl Ebb with his old white Mercedes SSK and Norwegian Eugen Bjørnstad
with his Alfa Romeo Monza, red with blue and white cross lines. (Ebb seems to always have used Englebert tyres on the SSK while one usually associates the German cars with Continental.)
Per Viktor Widengren was at the Tripoli Grand Prix with a 3 litre Maserati, so his brother Henken came from England via Sweden to race Per-Victor's Alfa Romeo Monza, blue colored with a yellow bonnet.
The car was totally unfamiliar to Henken.
There were three Bugattis in the entry list. Ivar Lindh raced a blue T37A voiturette, Karl-Gustav Sundstedt a steel grey ex-Chiron T35B and Finnish driver Emil Elo had recently bought John
Isberg's T35C "Blĺen" or "the blue one".
The smallest car in the field was Helmer Carlsson's nice looking "firebrigade red" 600 kg Amilcar.
The remaining entries, racing in their own class, consisted of rebuilt Chryslers, Fords and a Chevrolet. All drivers apart from Swede Gunnar Thorsell were from Finland. Thorsell's Chevrolet and
Arvo Sorri's Chrysler were blue colored. Baron Ramsay raced S.P. J. Keinänen's Chrysler, prepared for the race by Keinänen. Einar Alm, whose notorious "tail Ford" had been banned from the race in 1934, had now cut off the
tail of the car in an attempt to pass scrutineering.
The five Swedish and the single Norwegian car with drivers and mechanics arrived onboard steamship SS Oihonna from Sweden om Thursday 4 p.m. Widengren had arrived earlier by plane and was waiting at the
harbor and thus became witness of the accident when the steamer made an awful maneuver and crashed, creating a four meter long hole in the quay. Fortunately there was no damage to the ship, passengers or
cargo and the cars were soon lifted ashore. The drivers had a chance to study the circuit by foot during Thursday and Friday but as the park and the roads were not closed there were no practice sessions
The grid was decided from a 300m acceleration test. The exact time and place of the test was kept secret to prevent spectators gathering as there were limited safety arrangements. The event took place
on the start-finish straight at 3:30 a.m. on Saturday morning. The drivers were alowed two attempts to set a time but most of them were satisfied with their first attempt. Bjřrnstad proved to be fastest
followed by Sundstedt and Widengren. The full results can be seen on the grid table.
After the acceleration test a one hour free practice session was held followed by an hour session for the motorcycles. During the session Elo, unfamiliar with his new Bugatti, braked too hard at
the "death curve", lost control of the car and went off the track. The car made a forward somersault but luckily caught a telephone pole between a rear wheel and the body so that the car got struck
upside down leaning against the pole with spare room for the driver to crawl out. A straw bale in front of the telephone pole had protected the driver from injuries.
Several of the drivers were unfamiliar with the circuit and Andersson had several spins.
Alm's Ford failed the scrutineering this year as well as the engine was not properly attached to the chassis. Andersson was allowed into the race only on the condition that he changed tyres.
Sunday sky was overcast with a chilly wind, but that did not hinder 26,650 paying spectators from arriving at the park. At 1:45 p.m. the traditional and popular railway train with its grandstand
coaches departed from downtown to go to its position on the railway embankment overlooking the main straight where it arrived to the cheers of the spectators. At 2 p.m. the event started with the motorcycle
races. The weather had improved a bit with the sun shining but it was still quite chilly. About 3:15 p.m. it was time for the car race and the 13 cars were driven from the Eläintarha athletics sports
field, used as paddock, to the grid. Elo's Bugatti had been repaired during the night and showed no visible signs of the crash.
|* Alm (Ford) 15.9s|
Bjørnstad took the start but was immediately in trouble with an ignition problem and was passed by Ebb. The race order was Ebb, Bjørnstad, Sundstedt, Widengren, Ramsay, Lind, Patama, Andersson,
Wallenius, Elo, Sorri, Thorsell and Carlsson. Bjřrnstad was also passed by Sundstedt and the Norwegian made a lengthy pit stop at the end of the first lap. On the last corner before the main straight
Anderson's Ford went wide, overturned, and made a double somersault, the driver ending up in hospital with a fractured thigh. Elo's Bugatti was slow and had a strange engine noise. The only real
challenger for Ebb was now Widengren, but he lost the second place to Sundstedt on one of the first laps as he was trying to get used to the unfamiliar Monza. Widengren had great problems to re-pass
the blocking Bugatti driver. After some fist shaking and then a warning to Sundstedt from a flagman, Widengren finally went past at the main straight on lap 8 but had lost a lot of time to Ebb.
The order after 10 laps:
|1. Ebb (Mercedes-Benz)||12m09s|
|2. Widengren (Alfa Romeo)||12m24s|
|3. Sundstedt (Bugatti)||12m34s|
|4. Ramsay (Chrysler)||12m34.8s|
|5. Patama (Ford)||12m40s|
|6. Lindh (Bugatti)||12m42s|
|7. Wallenius (Ford)||12m53s|
|8. Carlsson (Amilcar)||13m14s|
After having lost 10 minutes in the pit, Bjørnstad rejoined the race without driver's cap and goggles. Once away he immediately became the fastest driver on the circuit driving 1m09s laps against Ebb's 1m11s.
On lap 15 a gearbox trouble forced Widengren to retire, leaving Ebb to dominate the rest of the race. After 20 laps Ebb already held almost a one minute lead over Sundstedt, who was closely followed by Ramsay:
|1. Ebb (Mercedes-Benz)||24m10s|
|2. Sundstedt (Bugatti)||25m07s|
|3. Ramsay (Chrysler)||25m08s|
|4. Patama (Ford)||25m16s|
|5. Lindh (Bugatti)||25m22s|
|6. Wallenius (Ford)||25m24s|
|7. Carlsson (Amilcar)||25m39s|
Ebb continued to dominate and had already lapped all the other competitors at least once. After 30 laps he was leading by 1m37s. Ramsay was still challenging Sundstedt. Carlsson had passed Wallenius, whose engine
was overheating. Situation after 30 laps:
|1. Ebb (Mercedes-Benz)||35m57s|
|2. Sundstedt (Bugatti)||37m34s|
|3. Ramsay (Chrysler)||37m35s|
|4. Patama (Ford)||37m38s|
|5. Lindh (Bugatti)||38m00s|
|6. Carlsson (Amilcar)||38m17s|
|7. Wallenius (Ford)||38m18s|
Wallenius made a pit stop to fill up the radiator and fell back in the order. Both Sorri (Chrysler) and Patama (Ford) were warned for reckless driving, the latter after having spun and stopped sideways
on Nordenskiöld street, blocking the road.
After about 35 laps Bjřrnstad, still being the fastest driver but 9 laps behind the leader, caught Ebb and followed him for some laps but then fell back 20 seconds as stones were thrown up in his face from
the Mercedes. The order after 40 laps:
|1. Ebb (Mercedes-Benz)||47m44s|
|2. Sundstedt (Bugatti)||50m08s|
|3. Ramsay (Chrysler)||50m10s|
|4. Lindh (Bugatti)||50m27s|
|5. Carlsson (Amilcar)||51m04s|
|6. Patama (Ford)||51m05s|
|7. Wallenius (Ford)||51m27s|
Wallenius made yet another stop for water. In the minds of the referees Patama's driving had not improved and he was eventually black flagged.
Ebb took the victory with Sundstedt second but almost two laps behind. During the last laps he had pulled away a bit from Ramsay, who was the winner of the sports car class and third overall. They were followed
by Lindh in the voiturette Bugatti and Carlsson in his little Amilcar. Wallenius was second in the sports car class followed by a struggling Elo, who had lost almost seven laps to Ebb. Then followed Sorri,
Bjřrnstad and Thorsell.
|1.||4||Karl Ebb||K. Ebb||Mercedes||Benz SSK||7.1||S-6||50||59m34.2s|
|2.||3||Knut Gustav Sundstedt||K-G. Sundstedt||Bugatti||T35B||2.3||S-8||50||1h02m31s||+ 2m57s|
|3.||7||Johan Ramsay||J. Ramsay||Chrysler||Special||5.1||S-6||50||1h02m48.2s||+ 3m14s|
|4.||6||Ivar Lindh||I. Lindh||Bugatti||T37A||1.5||S-4||50||1h03m24s||+ 3m50s|
|5.||2||Helmer Carlsson||H. Carlsson||Amilcar||C6||1.1||S-6||50||1h03m40.5s||+ 4m06.3s|
|6.||10||Asser Wallenius||A. Wallenius||Ford||50||1h05m06s||+ 5m32s|
|7.||1||Emil Elo||E. Elo||Bugatti||T35C||2.0||S-8||50||1h07m38.6s||+ 8m04.4s|
|8.||11||Arvo Sorri||A. Sorri||Chrysler||50||1h08m20s||+ 8m46s|
|9.||5||Eugen Bjørnstad||E. Bjørnstad||Alfa Romeo||Monza||2.3||S-8||50||1h10m36s||+11m02s|
|10.||8||Gunnar Thorsell||G. Thorsell||Chevrolet||50||1h11m21s||+11m47s|
|DSQ||14||Alexi Patama||A. Patama||Ford||Special||~45||reckless driving|| |
|DNF||15||Henken Widengren||H. Widengren||Alfa Romeo||Monza||2.6||S-8||15||gearbox|
|DNF||12||Gunnar Andersson||G. Andersson||Ford||1||crash|| |
Fastest lap: N/A|
Winner's medium speed: 100.7 km/h (62.6 mph)
Weather: sunny but with a chilly wind.
The fastest lap was not announced but one can guess it was made by Bjřrnstad with a time somewhere around 1m07s-1m08s.
This is one of those races were news reports differ a lot and one has to do educated guesses. Two newspapers listed times for every five laps but there are some major errors in the list. Especially Lindh lost
a minute between laps 31-35 and then gained it back during the last five laps of the race. So either Lind indeed made a stop, not reported in any papers, and was then flagged off one lap early by mistake,
or then there is a mistake in the lap tables for Lindh at laps 35, 40 & 45. I have assumed the latter, giving Lind 50m27s instead of 51m27s at 40 laps.
Primary sources researched for this article:|
Helsingin Sanomat, Helsinki
Suomen Urheilulehti, Helsinki
Svenska Pressen, Helsingfors
Uusi Suomi, Helsinki
I CIRCUITO DI BERGAMO / COPPA CITTA DI BERGAMO
Circuito di Bergamo (I), 19 May 1935
70 laps x 2.92 km (1.81 mi) = 204.4 km (127.0 mi)
The battle inside the town walls
by Leif Snellman
The race was run on a very tight circuit in the old walled medieval part of the city. Nuvolari led the race from start to finish with his Scuderia Ferrari Alfa. His team mates had a harder time, Pintacuda
working himself up to third from a low start position and Comotti finishing fifth having lost three laps due to radiator repairs. Instead it was Farina in a 4-cylinder Maserati who was Nuvolari's main
challenger, keeping up with Nuvolari's speed during the first part of the race and being the only other driver to do all 70 laps. Soffietti finished fourth in an Alfa Romeo Monza.
On 19 May the first Coppa Citta di Bergamo was held on a 2.92 km circuit in the old walled medieval "upper town" Citta Alta of the industrial city of Bergamo, some 30 km north-east of Milan. The Algerian Grand
Prix, planned for the same day, had been scratched so there was no clash with any other race.
Starting off at Piazza S. Agostino near former monastery of St. Agostino the circuit went clockwise between walls, with climbs and sudden drops and with some sneaky corners and at one point actually going through
an archway. The course went like this: Piazza S. Agostino - porta S. Agostino - porta S. Giacomo - Colle Aperto - la Boccola - mura della Fara - Piazza S Agostino.
The circuit was very tight is most places with few opportunities to pass. Due to the shortness of the circuit the race was limited to 12 cars.
Scuderia Ferrari entered three Alfa Romeo P3s for Tazio Nuvolari, Gianfranco Comotti and Carlo Pintacuda, all three cars having 3.2 litre engines. Pintacuda's car had Dubonnet independent
front suspension. The team also entered a 2.6 litre Alfa Romeo Monza for Mario Tadini. On this tight circuit Nuvolari used 16" tyres instead of the normal 18".
Soffietti did not race his usual Maserati but an Alfa Romeo Monza. The car was red with white bonnet and claimed to be entered by a certain Ecurie Versoix from Switzerland.
Renato Danese and Giovanni Minozzi, cousin to Alberto Ascari, entered Alfa Romeo Monzas as well, while marquis Cornaggia-Medici entered an Alfa Romeo 8C-2300 stripped touring car.
Scuderia Subalpina entered four Maseratis, a 6C-34 for Pietro Ghersi, two 8CMs for Felice Bonetto and Piero Dusio and a 1.5 liter 2-seater, possibly a 4CTR (?), for Eugenia Siena.
Farina raced a Maserati 4CM with a 2.5 liter engine, probably entered by Gino Rovene, while 1.5 litre 4CMs were entered for Giacomo Clerici, Ferdinando Barbieri, and Giuseppe Tuffanelli.
There were also two Bugattis entered by Sergio Carnevalli and Emilio Romano while someone named Morini entered an Alfa Romeo.
With just 12 cars admitted the drivers actually had to qualify for a position in the race. Back in 1935 this was usually handled by running heats and a final but not in this case.
Nothing is known of the sessions except for the results shown on the grid with times given by Sheldon, Nuvolari taking pole
position with a time of 1m59.2s.
However, it is interesting to notice that several nimble voiturette Maseratis qualified while for example Ghersi with the 3.7 litre 6C-34 failed to do so, showing that there was no advantage with a big engine
on this circuit. Scuderia Ferrari driver Mario Tadini also failed to qualify.
Race day came with excellent weather and a decent number of spectators gathered around the circuit, especially near the start and finish at Parco della Fara. Among those present at the presidential box were
Prince Adelberto, Duke of Bergamo, and speed record pilots Colonel Guglielmo Cassinelli and Leutnant Francesco Agello, the latter being the fastest man on earth at that time having done 709.2 km/h with a
Macchi M.C. 72 seaplane. (The record still stands as the world's fastest by a propeller-driven seaplane.)
The twelve cars lined up in five rows like this. Obviously new race numbers must have been given after qualifying. The race numbers used during practice/qualifying are not known.
At 3.30 p.m. the flag was dropped and the race was on its way. Nuvolari took an immediate lead followed by Farina, Comotti and Soffietti. Nuvolari made the first lap in 2m08s (85.4 km/h). He was closely
followed by Farina and Comotti. The other competitors were unable to keep up with the trio. Nuvolari made the second lap in 2m03s. Further down the field a fight had developed between the 1.5 litre Maseratis
of Siena and Barbieri. Barbieri managed to pass Siena on the fourth lap but the duel continued for several laps.
Nuvolari made the first five laps in 10m 28.4s (83.6 km/h). Farina was still just 2s behind him. On the 6th lap Nuvolari went down to 2m01.2s (86.7 km/h) but Farina still managed to follow him closely,
only losing 3 seconds to the leader during the first 10 laps. Comotti was 10 seconds behind and Soffietti in fourth position had lost over a minute. The race order:
|1. Nuvolari (Alfa Romeo)||20m42.4s|
|2. Farina (Maserati)||20m45.6s|
|3. Comotti (Alfa Romeo)||20m55s|
|4. Soffietti (Alfa Romeo)||21m45s|
On the 11th lap Nuvolari went even faster, setting a new lap record of 2m00.8s (87.0 km/h). On lap 13 Pintacuda passed Barbieri for 5th position. Comotti would soon lose 3 laps in the pit with radiator
problems, giving Soffietti the third position. He was followed by Pintacuda, Barbieri and Minozzi. At 20 laps Nuvolari was leading Farina by 13 seconds with Soffietti the only other driver still on the same lap:
|1. Nuvolari (Alfa Romeo)||41m11.6s|
|2. Farina (Maserati)||41m24.6s|
|3. Soffietti (Alfa Romeo)||43m06s|
|4? Pintacuda (Alfa Romeo)|
|5? Barbieri (Maserati)||43m34s|
Nuvolari continued keeping up a high pace. After 30 laps his average speed was up to 85.3 km/h and eventually Farina started to lose ground. Minozzi had to retire his Monza with a broken axle and after 30 laps
Pintacuda managed to pass Soffietti for third position but by now the duo was already a lap behind Farina. Comotti was charging through the field trying to make up for lost time. At half distance (35 laps)
the situation was as follows:
|1. Nuvolari (Alfa Romeo)||1h11m49.4s|
|2. Farina (Maserati)||1h12m25.4s|
|3. Pintacuda (Alfa Romeo)||1h14m57s|
|4. Soffietti (Alfa Romeo)||1m14m59s|
The duel between Siena and Barbieri ended when the former retired with plug problems. By 50 laps Nuvolari held a 25s lead over Farina with Pintacuda third over 3 minutes behind:
|1. Nuvolari (Alfa Romeo)||1h42m42.4s|
|2. Farina (Maserati)||1h43m07s|
|3. Pintacuda (Alfa Romeo)||1h46m14.3s|
|4. Soffietti (Alfa Romeo)||1h47m10.6s|
On the 57th lap Barbieri crashed against a tree. The Maserati was badly damaged but Barbieri suffered only a slight knee injury. Near the end Dusio managed to pass Cornaggia for sixth position.
On the 67th lap Nuvolari made a new lap record with a time of 2m00.4s (87.3 km/h).
Nuvolari took a dominant victory, 2 minutes from Farina, who had done an excellent race throughout. Nuvolari's team mates Pintacuda and Comotti finished third and fifth. Soffietti was fourth with his
Monza, Dusio 6th, Cornaggia-Medici 7th and Romano was classified as 8th as Barbieri had retired.
|1.||2||Tazio Nuvolari||Scuderia Ferrari||Alfa Romeo||Tipo B||3.2||S-8||70||2h23m28.2s|| (Note 2)|
|2.||4||Giuseppe Farina||L. Rovere||Maserati||4CM||2.5||S-4||70||2h25m38.0s||+ 2m09.8s|
|3.||18||Carlo Pintacuda||Scuderia Ferrari||Alfa Romeo||Tipo B||3.2||S-8||68||2h23m53.0s|
|4.||8||Luigi Soffietti||Ecurie Versoix||Alfa Romeo||Monza||2.6||S-8||67||2h24m43.0s|
|5.||6||Gianfranco Comotti||Scuderia Ferrari||Alfa Romeo||Tipo B||3.2||S-8||67||2h25m09.8s|
|6.||20||Piero Dusio||Scuderia Subalpina||Maserati||8CM||3.0||S-8||66||2h24m42.2s|
|7.||16||G. Cornaggia-Medici||G. Cornaggia-Medici||Alfa Romeo||8C-2300||2.3||S-8||60||2h25m30.0s?|
|DNF||24||Ferdinando Barbieri||F. Sardi||Maserati||4CM||1.5||S-4||57||crash|
|8.||14||Emilio Romano||E. Romano||Bugatti||T51||2.3||S-8||56||2h24m56.0s|
|DNF||10||Eugenio Siena||Scuderia Subalpina||Maserati||4CS||1.5||S-4||50||engine|
|DNF||12||Giovanni Minozzi||G. Minozzi||Alfa Romeo||Monza||2.6||S-8||21||half shaft|
|DNF||22||Giacomo Clerici||G. Clerici||Maserati||4CM||1.5||S-4||13||oil pipe|
Fastest lap: Tazio Nuvolari (Alfa Romeo) in 2m00.4s = 87.3 km/h (54.3 mph) |
Winner's medium speed: 85.4 km/h (53.1 mph) (Note 2)
Pole position lap speed: 88.2 km/h (54.8 mph)
Weather: nice and sunny.
Farina's good performance at Bergamo might have been one of the factors for Enzo Ferrari's decision to sign him on as works driver for 1936. Farina's involvement with
Scuderia Ferrari/Alfa Romeo would then go on through the war culminating in winning the F1 championship 1950.
1. Grid positions from La Stampa and photo evidence. Qualifying times are from Sheldon.
2. All three contemporary sports newspapars Il'Littoriale, La Stampa and Automobile-Revue give 2h23m28.2s as winner's result but the winning speed of 85.382 km/h given by all three papers
corresponds to 2h23m38.2s! The results surely are copied from an official source but it is impossible afterwards to know whether a wrong number ("2 " becoming a "3") was used for counting the speed or if
there was a writing error in the official results (with "3 " becoming a "2"). 2h23m28.2s would correspond to 85.451 km/h (if using three decimals).
Primary sources researched for this article:|
Il Littoriale, Roma
La Stampa, Torino
Special thanks to: