THE TARGA FLORIO
VICTORY FOR NU VOLARI WITH HIS ALFA ROMEO AFTER LONG DUEL WITH ACHILLE VARSI
ON A BUGATTI.
TAZIO NUVOLARI, driving one of the new 2,300 c.c. straight-eight Alfa-Romeo racing cars won the twenty-second race for the Targa Florio which was run over the Long Madonie Circuit in Sicily on Sunday, 10th May. Second place was captured by Borzac.chini on one of the older model 1,750 c.c. 6-cylinder cars of the same make, finishing five minutes ahead of Achille Varzi on one of the new 2,300 c.c. Bugattis with the double overhead camshaft engine, which just got in ahead of Guiseppe Campari, also on a 6-cylinder Alfa-Romeo. The feature of the race was the terrific duel between Nuvolari and Varzi, who are the two great rivals among present day Italian drivers, in which the weather finally took a most unexpected hand.
Old Course Used.
When some time ago it became known that a landslide had carried away part of the road near Polizzi which has been used in the Targa. Florio course ever since the War, it was feared that the prospects for the twenty-second race of the series were seriously jeopardised. The event, however, was not sufficient to overcome the energy anti resource of Cav. Vincen.zo Florio, the organiser of the race. If the ordinary course was impossible, it was always open to him to run the race over the old and longer Madonie Circuit, which was used for the first races from 1906 to 1911, and which rises from sea level to 4,000 ft., with a total length of 90i miles. Thus it was announced that the 1931 Targa Florio would take place on 10th May, according to plan. For the past six years, Ettore Bugatti has regularly sent a team of cars to Sicily for the race, and five out of the six times he has proved victorious. Some little time ago, however, the famous constructor was involved in an accident while driving his 15-litre “Golden Bugatti,” and for
some time was confined to his bed. Now at Molsheim things move solely under the all-seeing eye of “le patron,” and with M. Bugatti ” hors de combat” temporarily, some disorganization was unavoidable. Thus although the new racing model with the twin overhead camshaft engine was ready and had proved its worth in the Monaco Grand Prix and elsewhere, it was announced that the Bugatti team would not take part in the Targa.
This decision, however, by no means pleased Achille Varzi, last year’s winner of the race, and this year a member of the Bugatti team. He had his new racer in Italy, and in the Grand Prix Bordino at Alexandria it had apparently proved itself faster than the new Alfa-Romeo. Thus he decided that he at any rate would start in the Targa, and attempt to repeat his victory of last year.
On the grounds that the nationality of the driver was more important than that of the car. Varzi painted his Bugatti bright red, but the device did not deceive the Italians, who determined that the coveted trophy, which had been brought back to Italy last year, should not again go abroad.
In the first place the firm of Alfa-Romeo of Milan had made its preparations. Two of the new 2,300 c.c. straight-eight racing cars had been got ready, and these were entrusted to the firm’s most dashing and skilful drivers, Tazio Nuvolari and Luigi Arcangeli. In addition the stalwart Guiseppe Campart had one of the older type 1,750 c.c. 6-cylinder cars, which has long been his favourite mount for the Madonie Circuit, and two other cars of the same type were entrusted to Borzacchini and d’Ippolito.
The Maserati Team.
If Alfa-Romeo were to fail, however, Italy had a second string to her bow Alfieri Maserati of Bologna had also pre
pared a team of three cars of the wellknown 2i-litre type and, these were to be driven by Fagioli, Biondetti and Dreyfus, the rising stars of the Maserati team.
As well as these nine professionals four amateurs had determined to try their luck in the most difficult road race in the world. Magistri and Pelegrini were both to drive 1,750 c.c. Alfa-Romeos, Piccolo a Bugatti and Cast agna a Salm,son.
Thirteen starters is not a large number for the Targa, but the quality of the entries promised a most thrilling struggle. When Sunday morning dawned, however, instead of a brilliant Sicilian day we were faced with black clouds hanging low over the mountains. Signor Jano, the chief engineer of the Alfa-Romeo concern, however, was prepared for every eventuality, and mechanics busily set about fitting front wings to the racing cars from Milan. Alone Luigi Arcangeli, the impetuous, refused to have his car encumbered in. this way ; poor Arcangeli, he was to regret his decision. The other drivers looked ominously at the sky and hoped for the best.
Varzi the Favourite.
In front of the tribunes at Cerda stood Achille Varzi’s Bugatti which had drawn the number 2 and which was to start first in the race. Throughout the town of Palermo were to be seen notices, giving news of the arrival of the competitors in Sicily, etc., and among them was the significant remark, ” Varzi against the rest 1″ The Bugatti then was to be the hare. Now its engine was running, the driver was ready, the starter’s flag dropped, and the twenty-second Targa Florio had begun. The pack followed at five minute intervals, for on a long course like this it was thus possible to spread out the competitors, an important consideration in view of the fact that passing was impossible on many parts of the circuit. Rene Dreyfus on the
Maserati started off by himself, for his mechanic had developed all the worst symptoms of sea-sickness when going round the course in practice, and the driver therefore preferred to fill the passenger’s seat with a large spare oil tank.
From the start at Cerda to Caltavutoro, a distance of 18 miles of difficult uphill road, Varzi took advantage of the clear run his starting position gave him, to cover the distance in 25 minutes 13 seconds. Borzacchini was the next fastest, taking 19 seconds longer and Fagioli was third at this point, taking 25 minutes, 41 seconds. Bugatti, Alfa-Romeo, Maserati, this race was going to be thrilling indeed ! A dozen miles from the start however, Cast agna apparently came to the conclusion that the Madonie Circuit was a bit too much of a good thing and abandoned his Samson by the roadside.
Two miles beyond Castellana, however, a more important car was eliminated. Coming down a steep hill at high speed, Fagioli entered a difficult bridge over a mountain torrent too fast, his Maserati skidded and hit the parapet, bending the axle almost double. Fortunately the driver was not seriously hurt, but the chief hope of the Maserati team was now out of it. At Petralia, 38 miles from the start and 3,200 ft. above sea-level, Varzi still led and Borzacchini was still hot on his heels. Together they climbed another 500 ft. to the summit of the mountain, and then when the descent began the Bugatti began to increase its lead sensibly, howling downhill on second and third speeds. When the tribunes were reached once more Varzi had a lead of nearly three minutes over his nearest competitor. The order at the end of the first round, after 90f miles had been covered was as follows 1. Varzi
1. Varzi (Bugatti), 2h. 3m. 54s.
2. Borzacchini (Alfa-Romeo), 2h. 6m. 6s.
3. Nuvolari (Alfa-Romeo), 2h. 6m. 1 ls.
4. Campari (Alfa-Romeo), 2h. 6m. 35s.
5. d’Ippolito (Alfa-Romeo), 2h. 9m. 31s.
6. Biondetti (Maserati), 2h. 1 lm 54s.
7. Arcangeli (Alfa-Romeo), 2h. 12m. 21s.
8. Dreyfus (Maserati), 2h. 22m. 52s.
9. Piccolo (Bugatti), 2h. 39m. 578. 10. Pelegrini (Alfa-Romeo), 2h. 50m. 33s. Magistri with the remaining AlfaRomeo failed to appear, and it was learnt that he had abandoned his car in the mountains with a broken timing gear. At the end of the first round Nuvolari drew
in at his replenishment pit to change two tyres as a precautionary measure, and immediately a terrific excitement ensued as the car was not expected until after the second round. As a result, the stop took 2 minutes 5 seconds and Nuvolari dashed off to try and make up for lost time. Varzi’s first lap, which was a record for the circuit, was destined to be his fastest, for as he set out on his second the rain began to fall, at first as a light drizzle and then harder. Immediately the advantage to the Alfa-Romeo team conferred on them by their car’s front mudguards became apparent, and Signor Jano’s foresight was amply rewarded. Varzi’s second lap took more than ten minutes longer, after allowing for pit stops, than his first, while Nuvolari’s time increased by less than seven. The roads on part of the circuit were not so good as those comprising the short Madonie Circuit, and under the bad weather conditions soon became a sea of mud. Near the summit of the mountain Biondetti, blinded by the mud and water, misjudged a bend and crashed in much the same manner as had Fagioli on the first lap. It was an unlucky day for Maserati, for Dreyfus, his third driver, being in sufficiently acquainted with the Sicilian circuit, had been off the road several times, and in addition was suffering from plug trouble. At the end of the second round, after 181 miles had been covered, the order was as follows :
1. Varzi (Bugatti), 4h. 17m. 58s.
2. Nuvolari (Alfa-Romeo), 4h. 20m 2s.
3. Campari (Alfa-Romeo), 4h. 22m. 28s.
4. Borzacchini (Alfa-Romeo), 4h. 25m. 13s.
5. d’Ippolito (Alfa-Romeo), 4h. 29m. 46s.
6. Arcangeli (Alfa-Romeo), 4h. 34m. 2s.
7. Dreyfus (Maserati), 5h. 7m. 24s.
8. Piccolo (Bugatti), 5h. 8m. 41s.
9. Pelegrini (Alfa-Romeo), 5h. 42m. 36s. At the end of the second round, which was the mid-point of the race, practically all the drivers came in to replenish their cars. This time Nuvolari was expected, and filling up all round and, changing all four tyres took only 1 minute 38 seconds. Campari, however, was quicker over the same process, taking 1 minute 30 seconds, while Borzacchini took 1 minute 56 seconds. Varzi in addition changed his brakes in true Bugatti style, and got away again after a stop of 2 minutes 7 seconds. These stops for replenishment in the Targa Florio are, of course, unlike those in any other race, for any number of people are allowed to work on the cars. As a result when one of the racers comes into its
depot, the driver and his mechanic remain in their seats where they are given refreshment or a cigarette, while a posse of assistants jack up the wheels and dump fuel into the tanks. By now conditions had become truly deplorable, and up on the mountain visi bility wassaidto be only a matter of thirty yards or so. It was at this point, however, that the extraordinary ability of Borzacchini, who seems to like difficult driving conditions, became apparent. Varzi’s nett time for his third lap was some four minutes longer than that for his second. Nuvolari’s time went up by six minutes, and Campari’s by four, but Borzacchini actually cut his time down by 2i minutes, and covered the third lap faster than any other driver. At the end of the third lap the order was as follows :
1. Varzi (Bugatti), 6h. 38m. 10s.
2. Nuvolari (Alfa-Romeo) 6h. 40m. 28s.
3. Borzacchini (Alfa-Romeo) 6h. 43m. 45s.
4. Cam.pari (Alfa-Rotneo) 6h. 43m. 57s.
5. Arcangeli (Alfa-Romeo) 7h. 8m. 12s.
6. d’Ippolito (Alfa-Romeo) 7h. 57m. 8s.
7. Piccolo (Bugatti) 8h. 9m. 14s. 8. Dreyfus (Maser ati) 8h. 15m. 43s. At the end of the third round Varzi in at his at depot to change a plug, and, get a fresh pair of goggles, the stop costing him 1 minute 50 sec onds. His condition by this time was piti able, the colour of the car being quite unrecog nizable, and the brilliant b 1 u e overalls which he wole having been turned quite yello wby the mud. The driver’s face was caked in mud and as he drove h e attempted from time to time to wipe the mud from his goggles wit h
the back of a muddy glove. Arcangeli, when he arrived, was in even worse state for a flying stone had hurt his left eye and a patch of blood was the only recognizable feature of his mud-caked face. He was in no state to continue and Zehen
der took over his Alfa-Romeo in a desperate attempt to complete the fourth and final lap before the race was stopped.
On-the third lap Catnpari stopped for 54 seconds to reftx a mudguard which had broken loose. When the weather conditions looked so ominous at the beginning of the race this stalwart veteran had become a hot favourite, especially as his little 1,750 c.c. racer was rightly considered easier to handle than the faster 8-cylinder Alfas, but now it was being proved that his younger team-mates were capable of standing up undaunted to the most appalling conditions. Nuvolari came in to change a plug, which cost him 43 seconds, but as he set out on his last lap the wiry nervous ” ace ” of the Alfa-Romeo team was full of hope that he might yet pull off the race. A great rivalry exists between Nuvolari and Varzi who may be considered as the two best drivers, certainly in Italy, and probably in the world, to-day. Last car in the 1,000 Miles Race, it may be remembered, Signor Jano had to tell Varzi that he was leading when really Nuvolari was ahead, in order to avoid an internecine strife which might have wrecked the AlfaRomeo hopes of victory. However, last year Varzi won the Targa Florio, and this year Nuvolari was determined that victory should be his. In the meantime both Piccolo, who however, had proved himself the best of the amateurs with his Bugatti, and Dreyfus with the third Maserati had come to the conclusion that there was no chance of finishing within the time limit and abandoned the race at the end of the third lap. The struggle among the leaders, however, continued unabated. With weather and road conditions becoming momentarily worse, Varzi took nearly ten minutes more for his fourth lap than for his third, and no less than twenty-four minutes longer than for his first when the weather had been fine. Nuvolari’s time for his last lap, however, was less than half a minute slower than that for his third, and aided by their mudguards both he and Borzacchini took less than thirteen minutes longer for their last than for their first laps. By this hard driving both of them got ahead of Varzi, and Tazio Nuvolari when he finished his last dash at 115 m.p.h. along the 5-mile straight by the sea-shore was the winner of the twenty-second Targa Florio. ‘I he final result was as follows :— 1. Tazio Nuvolari (Alfa-Romeo), 9h. Om. 26s. (Average speed 40.3 ni..p.h.)
2. Borzacchini (Alfa-Romeo), 9h. 2m. 54s.
3, Varzi (Bugatti), 9h. 7m. 53s. 4. Campari (Alfa-Romeo), 9h. 8m. 10s. Arcangeli-Zehend.er (Alfa-Romeo). d,’Ippolito (Alfa-Romeo).
Piccolo (Bugatti), covered 3 laps. Dreyfus (Maserati), covered 3 laps.
Zehender on Areangeli’s car and d’Ippolito were still running when the race was declared finished, and were not officially timed. Several interesting conclusions may be drawn from the result of this race. In the first place it provided a striking proof that real foresight can be as important in a race as pure skill in. driving. Undoubtedly the Alfa-Romeo drivers were enormously assisted when it began to rain by the fact that their cars were fitted with mudguards, and judging by the result of the first lap, it seems that Varzi would have won if the weather had remained fine. On the other
hand the chances of racing are incalculable, for if the cars had been kept going harder under better conditions mechanical defects might have altered the whole course of events. As it was one Bugatti and five Alfa-Romeos started and all six cars came through without any sort of mechanical failure, which is a wonderful tribute to their manufacturers.
The Alfa-Romeo organisation was really wonderful, and in order to deal with the great length of the circuit used, the firm established wireless telegraph installations at all its depots round the course by means of which the drivers could be kept in close touch with the progress of their competitors. Maserati on the other hand was exceptionally unlucky, for Fagioli proved himself exceptionally fast over the first section and his performance in the recent Monaco Grand Prix proved that he has great staying power. We are still of the opinion, however, that Maserati’s day will come eventually. He has been unfortunate lately in that his best drivers, just as they are reaching a stage in their career when victory should fall to them, are continually attracted away to other teams. If he can keep Fagioli, however, he will have a driver who should one day win the Targa.
The winning Alfa-Ronieo used Dunlop tyres, as did all the other competitors with the exception of Varzi, who ran on Michelins. Tyres gave excellent service and only had to be changed once as a precautionary measure in the middle of the race. Nuvolari’s car was also equipped with Rudge-Whitworth wheels, Champion sparking plugs and a Menaini carburettor. With a final gear ratio of 4.5 to 1 the car was capable of 115 m.p.h. on the level, and with a higher ratio this maximum speed could undoubtedly have been increased.