Alfa Romeo victory in 1933 Swedish Winter Grand Prix

Racing over snow and ice in the 1933 Swedish Winter Grand Prix, Alfa Romeo takes victory. Wiktor Widengren crosses the line 4 minutes ahead of E. Bjornstad, also driving an Alfa Romeo


Jockeying for position amid a cloud of snow-dust. The car in the foreground is S. O. Bennstrom's V.8 Ford, while on the right can be seen Hans Torrell's Riley 9.

The Swedish Winter Grand Prix, held at Ramen, is the big motoring event of the year in Scandinavia, and every year is becoming more popular both with competitors and spectators alike. For most of the forty-six kilometres the course is over a road deep in snow, but on two occasions, at Ramenshyttan and Sellnas, a wide sweep is taken over frozen lakes, and here ice takes the place of snow as a surface. In order to obtain a grip, many competitors fit steel spikes to their tyres, but as these are very expensive there are always a few drivers who use normal tyres.

This year, in spite of grey skies, an immense crowd of between 40 and 50 thousand people attended the race, most of them being on the lakes, where their cars were parked in long rows. There were six non-starters, namely Bergstrom, J. E. Messon, Alan Vesterblom (Reo-Mercedes), Thostrupp, who thought he had no chance of winning, P. Pietsch (Alfa Romeo), and A. Johnsson (Bugatti).

The start was most impressive, jockeying being difficult owing to the cars sliding on the ice. The noise of the 31 odd cars was terrific, for no silencers are used. Immediately, W. Widengren with his 2.3 litre racing Alfa Romeo took the lead, closely followed by his brother, Henken, driving a green Invicta, the rest of the cars in pursuit in a solid mass, On the first lap this jockeying for position had its inevitable result of two cars being ditched, namely B. Lundborg (Paige), M. Stromberg (Chevrolet), while the popular Finnish dare-devil driver, Keinanen, had to retire with a broken universal joint. His Chrysler had been greatly shortened in wheelbase, and apparently the stresses had not been properly calculated.

Half an hour passed, and the crowd at the start fixed their eyes on the spot where the road runs out onto the lake, waiting for the first car to appear. As was expected, it turned out to be the Alfa Romeo driven by W. Widengren who had drawn well ahead of the rest of the field and set up a record standing lap at 91.2 k.p.h. Then, nearly two minutes later, another car appeared, this time the British Invicta, driven by Henken Widengren. He, in turn, was two minutes ahead of the next man, Anders Olsson (Chrysler). after which the remainder followed in close formation, the first to come by being S. 0. Bennstrom (V8 Ford), E. Bjornstad (Alfa-Romeo), C. G. Johansson (VS Ford), and Karl Ebb (Mercedes-Benz). Everyone was surprised that Ebb should be so far behind, until it was realised that his white Mercedes was not emitting the usual scream of its supercharger—the gears were not engaging and he did not rectify the trouble until half way through the race.

The next man to drop out was G. F. Lafrenz whose Chrysler broke One of its pistons, and not long after Hans Torrell, driving a British Riley Nine, accompanied by an English mechanic named Kilby, had the misfortune to skid off the road, damaging his front axle on a rock. It appeared that Torrell was so interested in a car in the process of being ditched ahead, that he lost control of his own machine. On the second lap an amusing incident took place. W. Widengren lapped a German driver named Wimmer, who was driving a Bugatti, and the latter was so chagrined that he promptly retired !

Widengren still led at the end of the 2nd lap, but on the 3rd lap A. Ohlsson (Chrysler) had moved up into 2nd place, owing to the retirement of H. Widengren, whose Invicta had come to a standstill. After changing plugs and testing the compression it was found that the magneto drive had sheared. His retirement was greatly regretted by the crowd, who admired the silent speed of the Invicta. After refreshing themselves with coffee and brandy at a neighbouring farm Widengren and his mechanic walked 3 miles to the nearest official control-point. Widengren expressed himself delighted with the performance of the Invicta, having on one occasion touched 107 m.p.h. Incidentally, Widengren’s visor was so greatly admired by other drivers when he was practising that many persuaded their wives to make them for the actual race !

On this lap Dahlin pulled into the pits, and after examining his front springs which had been damaged in practice, decided to retire. Another retirement was that of a very fine sportsman, F. M. Weyer, with a Dodge Special, nicknamed by the crowd the “Woolworth car.” Weyer’s car was built up from scrap for less than £100, and he could not afford to buy new tyres, so that when he punctured both his rear tyres he was forced to withdraw ! On the next lap Gunnar Thorsen ditched his Chevrolet, and as the cars came past the starting point for the fourth time, i.e., at half distance, the order was as follows :

1. P. W. Widengren (Alfa-Romeo, 2,337 c.c. S.), 2h. 6m. 57.1secs. Average speed, 84.6 k.p.h.
2. Karl Ebb (Merce(W-Benz, 7,070 c.c. S.), 2h, 15m. 27secs.
3. A. Olson (Chrysler, 4,630 c.c.), 2h. 15m. 30.7 secs.
4. E. Bjornstad (Alfa-Romeo, 2,337 c.c. S.), 2h. 15m. 34.8secs.
5. C. G. Johansson (Ford V8, 3,620 c.c.), 2h. 18m. 40.2secs.
6. S. O. Bennstrom (Ford V8, 3,620 c.c.), 2h. 16m. 48secs.
7. J. Forsberg (Ford V8, 3,620 c.c.), 2h. 27m. 19secs.
8. T. Johansson (Ford V8, 3,620 c.c.), 2h. 27m. 20secs,
9. B. Lindh (Hudson, 4,170 c.c.), 211. 33m. 52.4secs.
10. K. G. Sundstedt (Bugatti, 2,260 c.c. S.), 2h. 35m. 37.2secs.
11. A. Larsson (Ford, 3,350 c.c.), 2h. 35m. 47.9secs.
12. E. Bake (Buick, 4,470 c.c.), 2h. 36m. 6 seCs.
13. 1. Hastings (Chevrolet, 3,180 c.c.), 2h. 38m. 13secs.
14. 8. Soderlund (Ford, 3,280 c.c.), 2h. 44m. 13secs.
15. T. Wistedt (M.G., 850 c.c.), 2h. 47m. 45.6secs.
16. 5. Lindblom (Ford V8), 2h. 47m. 57.9 secs.
17. H. Larsson (Ford, 3,860 c.c.), 2h. 50m. 5secs.
18. H. Andersson (Dodge, 3,620 c.c.), 2h. 53m. 6secs.
19. P.Niis (Nas Special, 2,830 c.c.), 2h. 57m. 28secs.
20. O. F. Wickberg (Bugatti, 1,990 c.c.), 3h. 12m. 30.8secs.
21. K. H. Rudolf (N.R.W., 3,120 c.c.), 3h. 17m. 18.3secs.

It will be seen that Ebb, having rectified the supercharger trouble of his “Merc.” was trying very hard to catch Widengren. Then came a whole crop of retirements, Rucloff (N.W.R.), H. Larsson (Ford 4-cyl.), with carburettor trouble, Wickberg ran his Bugatti into a snow-wall, and could not extricate it, Nas ran a camshaft on his Special, and Anderson dropped out with some elusive trouble with his Dodge. The M.G. Midget was lapping regularly, but was handicapped at the beginning by its driver, who had only just taken delivery of the car, thinking he was in top gear when he was really still in third ! The car seemed very good on corners, and sounded very healthy.

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A terrific scrap was going on between Ebb (Mercedes), Ohlsson (Chrysler) and Bjornstad (Alfa Romeo). On one occasion Nas, Ohlsson and Ebb arrived at a corner in that order. Nas skidded wide, so Ohlsson skidded still wider in order to pass him. Seeing this Ebb cut in close, and slipped by both of them-a fine piece of driving. Bjornstad was treating his new Alfa-Romeo with care, never exceeding 4,000 r.p:m. Then Ohlsson fell back through having a puncture, and Ebb continued his pursuit of Widengren alone. He cut down his lead by as much as 1 minute per lap, and then, in taking a pull at a bottle of sugar water in the car at speed, got into a skid and dashed into some trees. Ebb was knocked out by the steering wheel, but soon recovered, while his mechanic, who had been forced by Ebb to wear a crash-helmet, was thrown out onto his head, without injury.

Lindh, son of Alexandra Lindh, well known lady-driver in last year’s Monte Carlo Rally, (Hudson) pulled into the pits with a damaged axle, and soon afterwards I. Hastings ditched his Chevrolet but got going again. Bjornstad now held second place, and third came C. GJohansson’s V8 Ford, which was putting up a splendid performance. As the steel spikes on the tyres gradually wore down, so more care had to be taken by drivers, and near the end of the race some very wild skidding was seen. But nothing could stop Widengren from winning, so comfortable was his lead, and eventually he crossed the finishing line 4 minutes ahead of Ejornstad, who in turn was followed by Johansson’s V8 Ford.

1933 Swedish Winter Grand Prix results

1. P. W. Widengren (Alfa-Romeo, 2,337 c.c. S.), 4h. 27m. 32secs. Average speed, 82.98 k.p.h.
2. E Bj̈ornstad (Alfa-Romeo, 2,337 c.c. S.), 4h. 31m. 37.2secs.
3. C. G. Johansson (Ford V8, 3,620 c.c.), 4h. 39m. 24.9secs
4. S. O. Bennstr̈om (Ford V8, 3,670 c.c.), 4h. 40m. 46secs
5. A. Olsson (Chrysler, 4,630 c.c.), 4h. 44m. 1sec.
6. T. Johansson (Ford V8, 3,620 c.c.), 4h. 45m. 56.5secs.
7. J. Forsberg (Ford V8, 3,620 c.c.), 4h. 46m. 34secs.
8. A. Larsson (Ford 4-cyl., 3,350 c.c.), 4h. 58m. 18.2secs.
9. E. Bake (Buick, 4,470 c.c.), 5h. 11m. 28.5secs.
10. K. G. Sundstedt (Bugatti, 2,260 c.c. S.)•, 5h. 12m. 27.2secs
11. I. Hastings (Chevrolet, 3,180 c.c.), 5h. 15m. 4.2secs
12. T. Wistedt (M.G., 850 c.c.), 5h. 30m. 29.4secs.
13. S. Lindblom ( ), 5h. 36m. 47secs