A THOUSAND MILES OF DANGER
ALFAS DUEL ON WET ROADS IN THE 8th MILLE MIGLIA . RECORDS BROKEN IN LARGE AND SMALL CLASSES
ALFA-ROIVLEOS had it their own way in the large classes in this year’s Milk Miglia, not a single Bugatti or Mercedes being entered, but the one-make character of the race was compensated for, by the internal struggles which occurred in it. Tardini, one of the lesser-known drivers of the Ferrari stable retained a small lead over his fellowdrivers till Rome. Then Varzi pushed in front, Nuvolari displaced him at Bologna, only to be overtaken again in the final section. Taruffi’s terrific drive on the 1,100 c.c. Maserati was no less outstanding, while Penn Hughes and Count Lurani maintained British prestige on their M.G.
The course followed a route different from that used last year. Instead of taking the direct route from Brescia to Bologna over the pontoon bridge, it crossed the Po at Cremona and so ran westwards to Piacenza. The cars then took the main Milan-Bologna road, from Palma travelling over the same route as last year. From Bologna over the passes of Raticosa and Firth the roads were excellent, then rather rough over the Radicofaui Pass to Viterbo. From that town to Rome, to quote E. R. Hall’s classic expression, one encountered” soap on marble” if the surface were wet.
Narrow roads, many of them with rough surfaces, led to Ancona and the Adriatic coast, then some more” soap on marble” on the way to Bologna. A section of Autostrada was included near Venice, while the course was shortened to bring it down to the required length of 1,000 miles by avoiding the mountain roads round Feltre. The classes for utility cars were abolished for 1934, and only sports cars took part. Virtually the only restriction was that the cars should have two seats, wings and electrical equipment as laid down by the A.L.A.C.R. rules, so there were a number of 2.3 G.P. Alias, many of them running on dope. The Ferrari team, which consisted of Tardini, Chiron, Varzi, Bonetto and Ghersi had 2.6 litre cars, likewise Dusio and Battaglia. Nuvolari, who was driving with Siena, was using a
Lord Howe with his team of M.G. Magnettes made Milan their headquarters, and Hugh McConnell again proved himself invaluaDle as team manager. The various members of the team used their own cars for practising on the circuit, Howe and Penn-Hughes using their Alfas Hall was particularly satisfied with his 3i litre Bentley fitted with a light body, which allowed it to reach 100 m.p.h. without difficulty. He found it particularly stable on greasy roads. The new Magraettes were fitted with Roots type blowers, which overcame the oiling-up troulle experienced last year, but which did not deliver as high a pressure as the single rotor type. Conse
quently the cars were not so fast. For this reason the compression of Lord Howe’s car was raised, giving it a maximum speed of over 100 m.p.h., while the others were left unchanged. The only other English entry was the Le Mans four-seater Aston Martin driven
by Petit and Esson Scott. It was prepared rather hurriedly, but behaved well in the single practise lap which the drivers were able to make. Scrutineering was simply a matter of painting numbers, seeing that the exhaust gases did not stir up dust behind the car, and in a few cases checking driving seat dimensions. The formalities were carried out in the Piazza della Vittoria in Brescia, a magnificent square enclosed on one side with a range of grey marble buildings with pillared colonades and modern decorations. On the other sides stand the only handsome post office we have ever seen, banks and a fifteen story building in the clean-cut style of to-day. The cars were examined in a fenced-off space in one corner, the officials remaining there for the last three days before the race, and excitertient reached fever-pitch on Satur
day, when Nuvolari and the other” assi ” appeared with their cars.
tinder the new regulations, the race started at 4 a.m. instead of 7 in order to fit the whole race into one day. Consequently there were many fewer people at the Start than last year, and heavy rain further subdued those hardy ones who had put in an appearance.
The start and finish both took place on the Venice road, on the outskirts of the town, and as the hour of four approached, the 1,100 c.c. cars assembled there. Lord Howe and his team of M.G.’s were given a fine reception, and Taruffi on the Maserati and some of the Fiat drivers also found favour with the spectators. Out of 23 entrants, 18 were Ballila Fiats. Several of them had the Siata overhead valve gear. No. 1 was a non-starter but at 4.1 a.m., amid gradually increasing rain, Facchetti on a Fiat was given the signal to go. Lurani and Penn Hughes on one of the team M.G.’s followed and Hall and Mrs. Hall at 4.5. Taruffi was No. 8, Lord Howe No. 16; while Fork and Charly,
two German drivers on Nuvolari’s T.T. M.G., completed the non-Fiat entry.
Twenty minutes elapsed before the five 4 litre cars were sent off, headed by Petit and ESS011 Scott on the Aston Martin. There were only three cars over three litres, the ten two-litre Alia Romeos and, finally after a further twenty minutes, the nineteen 2.3 and 2.6 Alfa Romeos.
Before even the whole field had been dispatched, rumours of an accident reached the start, and it was later learnt that Petit on the Aston Martin had run into one of the stone posts which border the road only twenty miles from Brescia. He brought up short against a house, without injury to himself or his passenger. Argentiero on a 11 litre .Alf a crashed at the same spot a short time afterwards and Borelli on a ” 2.3.” came to grief at the same spot later on.
Meanwhile Lord Howe had been driving most valiently on the M.G. despite the streaming roads, and reached Bologna with a lead of 6 minutes over Taruffi. Hall was a little behind and finally Lurani some distance in the rear. When the general classification came to be announced one was surprised to hear that Tardini held first place at the amazing speed of 95.5 m.p.h. Bonetti was three minutes behind with Varzi four minutes further back. Nuvolari at this stage was only seventh. After negotiating the tramline repairs of Bologna, the cars began immediately the long winding climb to the summit of the Raticosa Pass, 3,200 feet above sealevel. The road is well-graded and banked and with a good surface, but the corners which occur at least every hundred yards provide a tremendous test for car and driver. The first cars still had their head-lights as they roared through the clouds and rain, with visibility at times down to ten yards. These conditions persisted over the Parr Pass, which follows immediately, and then a watery sun made its appearance. This sun proved Lord Howe’s undoing:. for the glare off the wet road made it°irnpossible to judge a corner just before Florence. The car slid off the road at some 70 miles an hour, scraped along • a wall, and finished up by knocking down a telegraph post. Lord Howe’s crash hat
undoubtedly saved his life, and he escaped with a wound on the temple, while Thomas, his mechanic was uninjured.
The leadership of the race remained unchanged at Florence but Nuvolari had worked up into fourth place. Hall was two minutes behind Taruffi in the 1,100 c.c. class, but was forced to retire after Siena owing to a core plug shifting in the cylinder head, allowing water to escape into the cam-case and thus into the crankcase. In the open class Varzi had managed to displace Bonetto from second place. One period of the race was watched from a vantage point at the lower end of the Radicofani Pass. The cars arrived considerably later than had been announced in the official bulletin, owing to the wet roads, but at last with much waving of green umbrellas the local inhabitants announced the sighting of a ” macchina rossa ” which was seen with the aid of binoculars to be Taruffi on the Maserati. His compact red car tackled the steep and rather loose bends fast and steadily and roared away with a ferocious exhaust note. A wait of twenty minutes and the surviving M.G. appeared driven by Lurani, whose knowledge of the mountain roads was proving useful. Gilera who came ten minutes later was the first of the Fiats. These little cars all looked very neat with their two-seater bodies but varied a good deal in performance. Next came Nardilli on his Astura Lancia saloon, going well, and then some time before he was expected Tardini on the 2.6 litre Alfa Romeo. Varzi was 8 minutes after him, which meant that according to the starting time Tardini was 4 minutes ahead. Nuvolari thundered up two minutes later, looking the picture of grim determination, but nevertheless nine minutes to the bad. Tardini was evidently no ordinary driver to have gained this advantage over the Mantovano. Ghersi, another of the Ferrari drivers was evidently well up but Battaglia, the ” independa.nt,” whose 2.6 Alfa
was self-tuned and ” tres modifide ” as he put it, had actually gained half a minute. Ruesch, the Swiss driver, who was the last man to start, was going at great speed, and presented rather a contrast to Giovanelli on the Itala which was actually running on heavy oil.
Rain had fortunately stopped by this time, and the upper stretches of the roughsurfaced Radicofani Pass were for once free from mist. Fast times were made to Rome, and, as will be seen, Nuvolari had crept up another place.
Rome Control. 427 Miles. 1. 5h.
1. Tardini-Barbieri (Alfa-Romeo 2.6), 5h. 50m. or 73.11 m.p.h.
2. Varzi-Bignami (Alfa-Romeo 2.6), 5h. 51m. or 72.91 m.p.h.
3. Nuvolari-Siena (Alfa-Romeo 2.3), 5h. 55m. or 72.09 m.p.h.
4. Battaglia-Bianchi ( Alfa-R omeo 2.6).
5. Chiron-Rosa (Alfa-Romeo 2.6).
6. Ghersi-Carraroli (Alfa-Romeo) 2.6.).
1,100 c.c. Class. 1. Taruffi-Bertocchi 6h. 25m. or 66.47
1. Taruffi-Bertocchi (Maserati), 6h. 25m. or 66.47 m.p.h.
2. Lurani-Penn Hughes (M.G. Magnette), 6h 59m. or 62.59 m.p.h.
3. Gilera-Manzoni (Fiat 998 c.c.), 7h. 05m. or 60.22 pan.h.
The first three drivers had therefore beaten Borzacchini’s record of 71.23 m.p.h. from Brescia, put up last year, a truly magnificent effort in view of the weather conditions, and Tardini gained the cup presented by Ii Duce for the first car to arrive at Rome. The first three cars in the 1,100 c.c. class also beat the record put up by Eyston and Lurani last year, which was a speed of 60.06 m.p.h. In the winding roads which lead from Rome to Terni Varzi and Nuvolari both succeeded in passing Tardini, but Varzi managed to retain a two minute lead over his rival. Perugia, Tolentino, Macerata, winding amongst the mountains on rough roads sometimes not wide enough for two cars abreast, Varzi kept his lead, but at Ancona, on the sea-coast there was only a matter of four seconds 1 Meanwhile at Bologna the crowds were waiting expectantly at the control, which is placed where the road from Forli meets the northbound route to Venice. Carabinieri with curious cocked hats, military officers and uniformed Fascists all talked excitedly, checked a little by a heavy downpour of rain. Suddenly a bell rang, and the murmur of the crowd grew into a clamour. Is it Nuvolari ? No, it was Taruffi on his fierce little Maserati, which
was built in the factory not two kilometres away. His control disc was punched within ten seconds and he roared away round the corner amid cheers. Heavy rain, and again the bell rang. ” Nuvolari ” piped the crowd, and this time they were right. Terrific excitement and cheers, a half-minute stop to refuel with an umbrella held over the drivers’ heads and they were away again. A third time the bell rang, this time to
announce Varzi. Consultation of stopwatches showed that he was over three minutes behind Nuvolari, and few drivers could catch the latter on his home ground of Lombardy. Chiron, who has been putting up a splendid performance in his first race on the Mile Miglia circuit was the next to arrive, and Tardini dropped back to fourth place.
Meanwhile something very peculiar had happened to Nuvolari, for when the arrival times at Venice were written up, Varzi was found to be in front again, this time with an eight minute lead. It was said by several people who saw Nuvolari on the wet roads that Varzi seemed very much steadier, which would discount Nuvolari’s possible greater skill in cornering on dry roads. However this may be, we were informed by Penn Hughes that the surface on the Venice Autostrada was like glass that night, and that extreme determination was called for to exceed 60 m.p.h., even on the straights.
The belt of rain stretched at far as Brescia, and darkness was falling as the spectators gathered to welcome the finishers of the 8th Mille Miglia. Strings of electric lamps blazed almost with the power of sunlight, and. the crowd, four deep behind ropes, made that half mile of road on the outskirts of the town a memorable scene. Almost before it was expected, the loud-speakers babbled some unintelligible remark and with the crowd swaying on tip-toe to see the first arrival, Taruffi, who from Florence had been first at each control in his 1,100 c.c. Maserati, crossed the line in triumph.
He beat last year’s record time, set up by Eyston and Lurani, by two hours and twenty minutes, and was fifth in the General Classification.
Hardly had this excitement died down when there was another announcement and a roar in the distance and a low red car shot into the lane of light. No. 48, Varzi, who had succeeded in keeping
Nuvolari at bay. The latter finished eight minutes later amid even greater cheering, but was so overcome with his efforts and possibly disgusted with the result that he retired into the timekeeper’s box. How much the final result was due to Nuvolari only having a 2.3 litre car cannot be easily determined. A pause of nearly an hour and another car was heard approaching. This proved
to be Penn Hughes and Lurani in the M.G. Their car went perfectly though not as fast as had been hoped, and both drivers stepped out of the car fresh and not even deaf from their seventeen hours on the road. Chiron and Battaglia finished soon afterwards, and then a motley string of cars of all capacities. So ended the Eighth Mille Miglia. In spite of the unfavourable weather conditions, which fully compensated for the faster course, both Varzi and Nuvolari beat Borzacchini’s record of 14h. 59m. 19s. (68.29 m.p.h.) set up in 1932. As
regards the British entries Count Lurani and Penn Hughes must be congratulated for their fine run which was just an hour faster than last year’s best 1,100 c.c. time. Lord Howe’s accident meant the loss of a car faster than and with quite as good acceleration as that of Taruffi’s Maserati. Fork’s M.G. Magnette, incidently, finished. 21st. Another thing worthy of mention was the performance of Gilera’s
unsupercha.rged. Ballila Fiat with Siata modifications, which averaged 56.3 m.p.h.
I. Varzi-Bignann (2.6 Alfa-Romeo), I4h. 8m. 53. Speed, 70.98 m.p.h.
2. Nuvolmi-Siena (2.3 Alfa-Romeo), I 4h. 16m. 58s. Speed, 70.33 m.p.h.
3. Chiron-Rosa (2.6 Alfa-Romeo), 15h. 24m. Speed, 65.21 m.p.h.
4. Battaglia-Bianchi (2.6 Alfa-Romeo), 15h. 29m. 34s. Speed, 64.85 m.p.h.
5. Tartuli-Itertocchi (1,100 c.c. Maserati), 15h. 39m. Is. Speed, 64.16 m.p.h.
6. Sanguineti-Balestrero (2.3 Alfa-Romeo), 161′. 21m, 31s, Speed, 61.16 m.p.h.
7. Dusio-Aymini (2.6 Alfa Romeo), 161′. 38. 10s. Speed, 60.13 m.p.h.
8. Pertile-Jonoch (1,750 Alfa-Romeo), 1611. 55in . 29s. Speed, 59.06 m.p.h.
9. Pintacttda-Nardilli (Lancia Astura Saloon), 161′. 58m. 565. Speed, 59. m.p.h.
10. Lurani-Penu-Hughes (M.G. Magnette), 17h. 1m. 145. Speed, 58.78 m.p.h.
II. Marocchina-Comotti (1,500 c.c. Alfa-Romeo), 17h. 32m. 55s. Speed, 56.83 m.p.h.
12. Gilera-Manzoni (Ballila Fiat), 17h. 46m. 32s. Speed, 56.3 m.p.h.
Class Winners. 1,100 c.c. Class.
I. Taruffi (1,100 c.c. Maserati), 151′. 39m. Is.
2. Lurani and Penn-Hughes (M.G. Magnette), 171′. I in. 145.
3. Gilera and ManzonI (Fiat), 17h. 46m. 32s.
11-Iltre Class. 1. Signoria Marocchina-Comotti (Alfa-Romeo),
17h. 32m. 553.
I. Pertile-Jonoch (1,750 c.c. Alfa-Romeo), 16h.
55m. 29s. 3-litre Class,
1. Varzi-Bignami (Alfa-Romeo), 141′. 8m. 55.
Over 3-litre Class.
I. Nardini-Pentacuda (Lancia Astura saloon), 161′. 58m. 56s. Signorina Perdnzzi, who finished 11th, was the first woman driver to figure in the classification of the Mille Miglia,