How I won the Grand Prix d'Europe

Browse pages
Current page

1

Current page

2

Current page

3

Current page

4

Current page

5

Current page

6

Current page

7

Current page

8

Current page

9

Current page

10

Current page

11

Current page

12

Current page

13

Current page

14

Current page

15

Current page

16

Current page

17

Current page

18

Current page

19

Current page

20

Current page

21

Current page

22

Current page

23

Current page

24

Current page

25

Current page

26

Current page

27

Current page

28

Current page

29

Current page

30

Current page

31

Current page

32

Current page

33

Current page

34

Current page

35

Current page

36

Current page

37

Current page

38

Current page

39

Current page

40

Current page

41

Current page

42

Current page

43

Current page

44

Current page

45

Current page

46

Current page

47

Current page

48

Current page

49

Current page

50

Current page

51

Current page

52

Current page

53

Current page

54

Current page

55

Current page

56

Current page

57

Current page

58

Current page

59

Current page

60

Current page

61

Current page

62

Current page

63

Current page

64

Current page

65

Current page

66

Current page

67

Current page

68

Current page

69

Current page

70

Current page

71

Current page

72

Current page

73

Current page

74

Current page

75

Current page

76

Current page

77

Current page

78

Current page

79

Current page

80

Current page

81

Current page

82

Current page

83

Current page

84

Current page

85

Current page

86

Current page

87

Current page

88

Current page

89

Current page

90

Current page

91

Current page

92

Current page

93

Current page

94

Current page

95

Current page

96

Current page

97

Current page

98

Current page

99

Current page

100

Current page

101

Current page

102

Current page

103

Current page

104

Current page

105

Current page

106

Current page

107

Current page

108

Current page

109

Current page

110

Current page

111

Current page

112

Current page

113

Current page

114

Current page

115

Current page

116

Current page

117

Current page

118

Current page

119

Current page

120

Current page

121

Current page

122

Current page

123

Current page

124

Current page

125

Current page

126

Current page

127

Current page

128

Current page

129

Current page

130

Current page

131

Current page

132

Current page

133

Current page

134

Current page

135

Current page

136

Current page

137

Current page

138

Current page

139

Current page

140

Current page

141

Current page

142

Current page

143

Current page

144

Current page

145

Current page

146

Current page

147

Current page

148

Current page

149

Current page

150

Current page

151

Current page

152

Current page

153

Current page

154

Current page

155

Current page

156

Current page

157

Current page

158

Current page

159

Current page

160

Current page

161

Current page

162

Current page

163

Current page

164

Current page

165

Current page

166

Current page

167

Current page

168

Current page

169

Current page

170

Current page

171

Current page

172

Current page

173

Current page

174

It has been said that this year’s race at Spa was an easy affair for the P2 Alfa-Romeos but just because my compatriot Giuseppe Campari and I happened to be the only two drivers to finish, one should not imagine the race was what you might call a “walk-over”. No, indeed; it was a very severe test of endurance, both for the racing cars and for their drivers.

My P2, as well as those of Campari and Count Brilli Perri, has been improved a little since last year’s race. It is an ideal machine for very fast racing. The eight-cylinder engine (61mm by 85mm; 1987cc) has overhead valves per cylinder driven by two separate camshafts and is supercharged which helps to give the enormous engine speed. During the race my revolution counter frequently registered 7000rpm and at this speed the engine develops nearly 175hp. The engine, clutch and gearbox are combined in a single unit and there are four forward speeds, the transmission having an enclosed shaft in a torque tube. All these cars were designed by Signor Vittorio Jano, who was formerly with the Fiat Company.

When testing my car before the race I was astounded at the wonderful improvement made in the engine and the feeling when at the wheel was that I was being propelled through the air by some indescribable power which at one moment would drive me through space at an incredible speed and the next become submissive to my will, or, to be correct, to the power of the braking system so necessary for safety in road racing.

After a couple of days spent testing in my car, it seemed as if we had grown up together and I went to the starting line full with every confidence of success. During the days of long preparation, my car had been the centre of great attention from the Alfa Romeo engineers and Signor Memini, who had made the special carburettors, was in constant attendance to give final adjustments.

At last we were ready to start and the wonderful scenery of Spa was a fitting stage for the great race [54 laps of the 8.4-mile circuit]. It was a disappointment when we heard that your Sunbeam cars would not start so we had to be content with a contest with the French Delage cars which, we had heard, were very fast indeed. Our plan as a team was to go as fast as possible and it appears our campaign was right, though the Alfa-Romeos were much faster, had rather more acceleration and better brakes.

The course, covering almost 500 miles over hilly and tortuous roads, had been well prepared but even so it was a very hard one for such speeds as the modem racing car is capable.

At the start, Campari and I took the lead with a very fast speed and my first lap was covered in 7min 20sec. This showed that the Alfa-Romeo was able to hold its own even though the maximum engine revolutions had not been reached. Without a mechanic it was difficult to know the progress of other competitors so, finding my engine respond to my call for more speed, I tried for a faster lap on the next circuit.

On the second lap I saw a Delage in trouble and learned later that it was Benoist with a leaky tank. His car’s frame had twisted and strained the tank beyond any hope of repair. Then, on the fourth lap, I saw another Delage in the pits with the engine running fitfully, so it seemed that the Frenchmen were just very unlucky.

Faster and faster we went until one lap was covered at over 80 mph, five mph faster than the best lap last year. One of the greatest helps in winning the race was the speed at which the corners could be taken; and, of course, the effect of supercharging on the lower gears gave a simply astounding amount of acceleration.

Lap after lap we thundered and screamed around the course, the eight cylinders giving out a rhythmic song which sang “Victory, Victory, Victory!” On, on we went with never a miss and, by this time, the changes at the corners and hills seemed almost monotonous in their regularity. I had singled out a landmark at each point where a change of gear had to be made and, but for the rush of wind past my ears and the stones which flew up when cornering, I might have been at the wheel of a fast touring car.

A little way past Francorchamps, Thomas’s car is spotted overturned and in flames — truly a bad day for the Delage team. I flash past, signalling my condolences and speed onwards without slackening the pace at all. At about the 18th lap I grow anxious about my tyres so, having the race well in hand, pull in to the pits for a new set. It was only just in time, too, for the rubber treads had nearly worn down through to the canvas and in another lap or two I might have been hurled off the track with a burst tyre.

The pit attendants then tell me what has been happening. All the French Delages are out of the race, my team-mate Brilli Perri has retired and so Campari and I are the sole survivors. The day is ours and — having driven our rivals out of the race by mechanical durability — we take no further risks in the race and continue driving the course in a rather less hair-raising fashion.

I shall never forget the ovation when we finally reached the finishing post for, even though we Italians are said to be an emotional race, my victory was most enthusiastically applauded by English, French and Italians alike. Cheers, bouquets, handshakes and even kisses were our welcome and I am proud to have again driven the Alfa-Romeo P2, that great masterpiece of Italian engineering, to victory in this great international event.

You may also like

Related products