THE HISTORY Of THE RIO DE JANEIRO GRAND PRIX AN EYE WITNESS ACCOUNT OF THE SERIES OF RACES HELD IN THE ARGENTINE OVER THE LAST FIVE YEARS
TH. great race has two other names, the Gavea Motor Race and the Trampolin Do Dial” After the Argentines had first competed over the course, they .gave it this latter name, which is really a nickname. Translated into plain English it means ” The Devil’s Springboard,” and from a driver’s point of view this is probably the most apt name one could possibly give to the exceptionally tricky course. To the spectators, the course is full of interest. The start is in the centre of the town, at the head of a wide tram-lined street leading to the sea front, a distance of about One and a half miles. This asphalted road forms one of the fastest sections of the course. At the sea front the course turns right, and then one is well on the springboard. For now it runs alonab the very edge of a cliff which rises sheer from the sea to a height of a hundred feet. A narrow three-foot wall is the only safeguard offered to any car which might become involved in a crash near the edge. A mile further on comes a sweeping right-hand turn, leading back inland through a couple of left and right-hand turns. -Then up, right up between two soaring mountain peaks. And here the course Snakes in a night mare fashion. Every known type of corner seems to be crammed into the shortest possible space. To watch Pintacuda slip his eight-cylinder AlfaRomeo through those bends is a sight which arouses awe rather than excite ment. The road down from the top winds just as badly, left and right-angled
corners -abounding. Again only a low wall indicates to diivers that a sheer drop down would inevitably result from any direct miscalculation on the corners. After this tortuous passage over the mountains comes another very fast section. The road straightens considerably and continues back to the town. Along this stretch it is said that Von Stuck with his Auto-Union attained a speed of 150 m.p.h. And so it will be seen that the ‘ Devil’s Springboard ” embraces all kinds of curves, corners and straights, every one calculated to test a car and driver to the utmost. It was in 1933 that the Brazil Automobile Club: organised the first Gavea Motor Race. Even though the prize money offered was definitely very attractive the actual meeting was a relatively
small affair. Several Argentines had been invited to compete, and with a few Brazilians the field was complete.
The cars were, to say the least, a mixed assortment. There was an Alfa-Romeo of 1930-32 Vintage, a G.P. Bugatti which stood out from others of the same make, a ” Special” called a Hopson and various popular makes among which were Fords, Hudson, Chrysler, Amilcars„ Fiats and the like. In all, seventeen cars came to the line for twenty laps of the 11 kilometre 160 metres course. Only seven finished. The G.P. Bugatti driven by an Argentine, V. Coppoti, clocked the fastest lap time of 8 mins. 30 secs. The Alfa-Romeo driven by a Brazilian, M. Teffe, won easily in 3 hrs. 19 mins. 35 secs. from :—
P. Floresi (Ford V8), Brvzil, 3h. 31m. 43s. Crespl (Bugatti), 3h. 32m. .8s.
Mac Carly (Chrysler), Frump, 31). 34m. 2:3s. None of the Argentines completed the
course. The race was a very exciting affair and was keenly followed by some 40,0(X) spectators.
Owing to the success of the previous meeting, the 1934 Gavea Motor Race attracted many more competitors and
spectators. The meeting was graced by the presence of His Excellency the President of the Republic, Senor Qetulio Vargas, and many other state officials.
Forty-five competitors took the line to battle before a crowd of 100,000. Brazil had twenty-three representatives, Argentine had .sixteen and Italy six. The race was over twenty-five laps of the 11 kilometre 160 metres course, and was packed with incident.
Whilst duelling with a Ford V8 over the mountainous section of the course, N. Crespi, at the wheel of a Bugatti, was killed when he hit a lamp-standard. Another driver managed to escape with minor injuries he received when his car left the road and came to an abrupt halt against a tree.
Out of the whole field, only eleven cars finished, the remainder retiring at different stages of the race from a variety of reasons.
First man borne was a Brazilian who was driving a considerably ” hotted up ” Ford VS. His time was $ hrs. 50 mins. 22 sees., a speed of 70.82 k.p.h. This time remained as a record until bettered by Pintacuda in his Alfa-Romeo in the great race of 1937.
The race this year attracted much more attention, and public enthusiasm ran high. From the start, the favourite was the winner of the previous year’s race, still driving his Ford V8.
There were forty-one starters this year, driving fourteen totally different makes of cars. The Ford’s previous victory had encouraged ten more of this make to turn out, together with seven Bugattis, four Alfa-Romeos, and five Fiat, with a generous sprinkling of touring cars all stripped for action. The field started away, four abreast, in fine style, but before they had covered a mile disaster over-swept the race. For Correa (winner in 1934), while jockeying for a good place in the lead, hit another car, swerved madly and went clean off the course. Fortunately there were no public enclosures in his path, but the crash was witnessed by a large number of people in an enclosure on the opposite side of the road. They saw the car uproot two trees and Correa hurled from his seat to be killed outright against the bridge of the canal running alongside the course. Even then the car was not
stopped, but continued on until it fell into the canal itself.
This tragic accident to Correa, Brazil’s most popular and promising young driver, renowned as he was for his great sportsmanship, lowered the enthusiasm of the public. Nevertheless the terrific driving Of another Brazilian in a Ford slowly brought back their thoughts to the race which was being grimly fought out before them. He led the field by a fairly comfortable lead into the twenty-first lap, but while trying to overtake! and pass another car he came into contact with it and skidded wildly for a few Seconds, before finally coming to a halt. Though slight the damage was sufficient to cause his imitiediate retirement, and with only four laps to go this mishap came as a real slice of bad luck, more especially so as victory went to a foreigner. Ricardo Cant, who ran into fourth place in the race the previous year, won the event in 4 hrs. 3 ruins. 20 secs. His average for the whole ?79 kilometres was 68.97′ k.p.h. The other places were as follows :—
2. Lerfeld (Bugatti), Portugal, 411. 3m. 31s., 68.74 k.p.h.
3. .1. de Araujo (Bugatti), Portugal, 41i. Ilm. 59s., 66.4 k.p.h.
4. R. M. Santos (Ford V8), Brazil, 4h, 17m. 48s., 64.9 k.p.h.
By now the fame of the ” Devil’s Springboard ” had spread overseas, and in this year the race developed into a real
international affair. Some 400,004 spectators gathered to watch this race, the race which promised to be the best ever witnessed in Brazil.
During practice for the event, :a Brazilian driver was killed. An official Scuderia Ferrari team was entered with Pintacuda and Marinoni both driving independentlysprung two-seater bodied All a-Romeos. Mlle. Helle Nice came out from France to participate with an Alfa-Romeo, and together with the usual Argentines, Brazilians, Portuguese and some Italians, the field totalled thirty-eight.
The race proved to be chock-full of interest from start to finish. Engine trouble put Marinoni out of the race before he had completed the first lap, but Pintacuda,, driving with great dash and determination, led from the start, and at half-way had established a
comfortable lead. on the twenty-first lap however, differential trouble developed and he was forced to retire. It was rather a coincidence that the car looked on as a certain winner in the previous year’s race was also leading at this distance and had to retire with engine trouble.
A Brazilian was driving in second place to Pintacuda before tins latter’S retirement, and he now came up to take the lead. This lead he held quite easily until only four laps remained, and then, to everyone’s utter mystification, he made a pit-stop for a refuel.
It was said that actually he had had sufficient petrol to last him out, but, anyway, the stop cost him two places. These were filled by two Argentines.
I. V. Coppolf (Bugatti), Argentine, 3h. 56m. 32s., 70.76 k.p.h.
2. R. Cam (Fiat), Argentine, 3h. 58m. 2s.
3. M. Teffe (Alfa-Romeo), Brazil, 3b. 58m. 23s.
4. C. M. Ported (Ford V8), Brazil, 3b. 59m. 15s.
A Ford also filled fifth position. Mlle. Helle Nice finished eighth. I think the heat and the bumpy surface affected her driving. The fact remains that in the Sao Paulo Race a little later on in the year she did very much better.
Each successive year saw the Gavea Motor Race gain in popularity, both among drivers and among spectators. As the number of the latter steadily increased, so the quality of the drivers who competed became so good as to number among them some of the finest in the world. No longer could the enthusiastic Brazilian enter and compete with a “hotted up” Ford, all entries were sup posed to be of first-class quality. In actual fact though, two of the better Fords, whose drivers had proven their worth, were allowed to compete. The race this year was a scratch event, and thus we find Von Stuck’s Auto-Union matched against a very much inferior looking Bugatti or one of the Fords. The crowd at this year’s race was estimated at 750,000. Whether this is an exaggerated figure or not, one cannot say. But one thing is certain, and that is that thousands travelled from Sao Paulo (a distance of 800 miles) and the surrounding districts. They filled up all the special trains and air services which ran specially for the
occasion. Payments for seats were entirely voluntary, unless one required a position offering some special view. Then a sum varying from between ]0/to jl procured a grandstand seat. All this reflects credit on the Brazilian Automobile Club, whose efforts to popularise tnatOr racing in Brazil have been so successful. One is inclined to make some comparison between the status of motor racing in Brazil and in England.
For this year’s Gavea race, the course was completely asphalted, making it very much safer and, naturally enough, much faster. The approximate state to which it was made faster may be gauged from the old lap record of 8 mins. odd, and the record of 7 mins. 101 secs. which Pintacuda set up this year On his twentyfourth lap. The main interest centred on Von Stuck (Auto-Union), Pintacuda (eight-cylinder Alfa-Romeo), Brivio (twelve-cylinder Alfa-Romeo), Sameiro Of Portugal, Arzani from the Argentine, Lopes, Brazil, and Nascimento also of Brazil, and all on varied
types of Alfa-Romeo. One driver had Pintacuda’s 1936 two-seater Alfa-Romeo, which he unfortunately crashed during the race.
The start this year was according. to Continental custom, the cars lining up in order of lap times, with the first four of the above mentioned cars up in the first row. In spite of heavy rain at the start, all the cars managed to make a good getaway. Von Stuck, with his great acceleration, quickly took the lead, the rest tailing closely behind. Bri v io , A rzaiti, Pintacuda, Cam, Abrunhosa and Cazzabini, all on
Alfas, and all striving to gain good positions. Over the mountain section, Pintacuda came up very fast and was soon close
behind Von Stuck. Through some of the trickiest corners on the course, Pintacuda was pushing Von Stuck hard until at length he managed to slip past. To get by the speedy German crack on this particular section of the track was no mean feat of driving and was the prelude to many similarly exciting moments. As the ears flashed by the pits for the first time, the order was : Pintacuda, Von Stuck (50 yards behind), Brivio, Arzani, and
Nascimento. The standing lap was covered in ‘8 mins. 53 secs., the second lap in 8 mins. 37 secs., and the third in 8 mins.
80 secs. Brivio was right out of luck. He had persistent plug trouble throughout the race. Nevertheless, in spite of several pit stops, he managed to hold off his pursuers, though still being a long way behind Pintacuda and Von Stuck. By half-distance the two leaders had lapped the remainder of the field. On the sixth lap the lap record was smashed for the first time by Pintacuda in 8 mins. 16 sees. During this while Von Stuck had slowly fallen back, until on the sixth lap he was 20 secs. behind Pintacuda. Then he commenced to gain ground. Meanwhile Brivio, through a pit stop, had fallen back to seventh place-. Driving with all he knew, however, Brivio made up lost time and even gained on the leaders. From 81 mins, behind, he reduced to 24. mins. The pace was too great, however, and slowly he fell back. Von Stuck went round his ninth lap in 8 mins. 2 secs.,
still 12 secs. behind Pintacuda. The tenth lap saw 9 secs. separating the two and on the eleventh Von Stuck became the first driver to cover a lap in under 8 mins., taking the lead from Pintacuda with a lap in 7 mins. 58 secs., a speed of 84 k.p.h. On the twelfth and thirteenth Von Stuck was still gaining, trying to force a big enough lead to enable him to make the pit stop he was forced to have. It was to cost him nearly a minute. At the end of the fourteenth lap, Von Stuck drew in to
refuel. There followed the fastest pit stop ever Witnessed in Brazil. Von Stuck’s pit team, drilled to a split second as they were, excelled themselves The car was refuelled and both rear wheels changed in 57 secs., a feat which won for the mechanics the deep and genuine admiration of all Brazilian motor
racing enthusiasts. But in spite of this grand stop, Von Stuck was now too greatly handicapped to have any hope of catching the speeding Pintacuda. The rain stopped, and under the influence of the tropical sun the road dried quickly. Pintacuda made the most of it, and increased speed. Every lap saw him clip seconds off his previous time. Von Stuck, too, was driving faster. He went round the sixteenth lap in 7 mins. 57 secs., still, however, 48 sees. behind Pintacuda. The pace now became really hectic. The leaders were all forcing out that extra little reserve which most cars seem to have when handled by experts in a hurry. On the seventeenth lap, Pintacuda improved the best time Of the day with 7 mins. 44 secs. During this
same lap. Brivio made his final pit stop, still, however, retaining third place. Pintacuda put in a time Of 7 mins. 17 secs. for his .eighteenth lap, then, easing slightly, he followed with 7 mins. $5 sees.
Von Stuck, grimly driving against his unfortunate handicap, could not get below 7 mins. 40 secs. Them in a final brilliant effort, Pintacuda brought the tensed crowd roaring to its feet as he shot round the course on his twenty-third lap. The car seemed to slip round the corners, and then literally hurl forward. Pintacuda covered the lap in the record time of 7 mins. 10 secs. Truly a magnificent performance, and as he toured around the last lap the wildly enthusiastic crowd rallied together to give the popular winner the deafening
ovation he deserved. Meanwhile, Von. Stuck, driving like one possessed, was gaining hand over fist, and showing off to .advantage the tremendous power of his Auto-Union. During that last lap he gained some thirty seconds on the easing Pintacuda, and finished only 8 secs. behind. The field came in as follows : 1. Pintacuda (Alfa-Romeo), Italy, 3h. 22m. le,
2. Von Stuck (Auto-Union), Germany, 3h . 22m. 95.
3. Brivio (Alfa-Romeo), Italy, 79.9 k.p.h.
4. Sameiro (Ails-Romeo), Portugal, 77.7 k.p.h.
5. Arian’ (Alfa-Romeo), Argentine, 77.4 k.p.h. 6. B. Lopes (Alfa-Romeo), Brazil, 70.2 k.p.h,
7. Nascimento (Alfa-Romeo), Brazil, 75.2 k.p.h.
8. Abrunhosa (Alfa-Romeo), Brazil, 71.3 k.p.h.
9. N. Young (Ford V8), Brazil, 08.2 k.p.h.
These were the only cars to complete the course, the average speed of the first three being 82.67 k.p.h., 82.58 k.p.h., and 79.6 k.p.h. respectively.
Special mention must be made of the two Brazilians, Lopes and Nascimento, Jnr., who, although driving .old model Alfa-Roineos, kept good and regular lap speeds and. never varied their positions. from between fourth and seventh throughout the race.
This year the race, although a good one, was not so interesting owing to the absence of any opposition for Pintacuda, although Arzani on a 3.8-litre Alfa-Romeo of last year’s formula ran Pintacuda close, and even led in the opening laps, but besides that there was little of interest. The rain. before and during the race did not encourage many people to attend the race and the attendance was far short of last year’s. The Automobile Club Of Brazil claimed to have lost about /2,000 on the race.
Pintacuda and Tadini had two of the latest 3-litre Alfa-Corse cars.
This year the race had twenty-two starters consisting of ten Alfa-Roineos, ranging from 2.3-litre to 3.8-litre models, one old Maserati of a Frenchman (the first Maserati seen in Brazil), four Bugattis, four Ford V8s, two Chryslers and a 4.5litre Fiat.
Best time in practice was made by an Argentine, Arzani, on the 3.8-litre AlfaRomeo, with Pintacuda, Tadini and a Portuguese, Manoel de Oliveria on a V8 Special Ford, next in order and they occupied the front rem. The next row had four Alfas. The race started in a drizzling rain which made the road dangerous at speed. The cars went off with plenty of noise and the announcer up in the mountain
announced that the Ford of one N. Jung had caught fire, but it died out and he was able to come to the pits and retire. As the cars came round on the first lap, Arzani was in the lead, followed by Tadini, Nascimento, Jur. (2.9-litre Alfa), F. Landi (2.8-litre Alfa), B. Lopes (Alfa 3.2-litre) and Pintacuda, with the rest bringing up the rear. The time for the first lap was 7 mins. 50 sees.
The second lap Arzani still led from Tadini, but Pintacuda who had made a bad start came up and was now in third place. Lap time 7 mins. 52 secs. Landi .(2.3-litre Alfa) was fourth and Nascimento fifth.
The third lap saw Pintacuda another step up with Tadini third and the others as before. Lap time 7 mins. 51 secs. On this lap B. Lopes (3.2-litre Alfa) gave up as his car was not going well. Another driver to retire Was D. Lopes (no relation to the other one) on a 2.3-litre Bugatti.
The fourth lap saw the rain coming down in buckets and it slowed the lap time considerably ; Pintacuda being an experienced driver could keep going faster than Arzani and he took the lead on the fifth lap, Arzani having left the road when he skidded up in the hills, though without damaging the car, and he got under way immediately. The lap time for the fourth lap was 9 mins. 5 secs. Descaroli (Maserati) and Caraboti (Chrysler) retired, presumably because they did not like the rain. Lap time on the fifth was 8 ruins. 57
secs. The order was now Pintacuda, Arzani, Tadini, whose car had given a spot of bother, Nascimento Jnr., Landi and Braga (2.3-litre Alfa). Some of the back numbers retired. On this lap Nascimento came in to clean his window screen I Pintacuda had a lead of a quarter of a mile over Arzani.
The sixth lap saw a new driver come into the picture, M. de Oliveria, who at the end of the first lap was twelfth ; he was now sixth in front of Braga’s Alfa. Oliveria’s Ford is a really fast one as will be seen. Pintacuda had a lead of 44 secs. on the seventh lap. Lap time .8 mins. 57
secs. Tadini came into the pits with oiled plugs but left without losing third place. Oliveria stepped up yet another place into fifth place by passing F. Landi (2.3-litre Alfa) in seventh and eighth place, having had -a .scrap with Braga and Q. Landi (brother to the other driver) on a 3.5-litre Fiat.
The eighth lap saw Pintacuda 48 secs.
In. front of Arzani. Lap time 8 mins. 54 sees. The first two were away in
front of the rest of the field, Tadini was taking it easy and nursing his :engine, but still a quarter of a mile or so in front of the nearest Brazilian in fourth place. On the ninth lap both leaders lapped in 8 mins. 49 secs. Oliveria on his ultra fast Ford was now challenging Nascimento
for fourth place. The brothers Landi were keeping each other close company in sixth and seventh positions. On the tenth lap the order was unchanged, Oliveria had closed to within
50 yards of Nascimento’s Alfa. Pintacuda lapped in 8 mins. 44 sees. On the eleventh lap Tadini came in and changed a plug ; Oliveria now passed Nascimento into third place as Tadini had dropped two places and was now
fifth. The order was now Pintacuda (lap time 8 mins. 44 ‘aces.), second Arzani (lap time 8 mins. 39 sees.), third Oliveria (Ford V8), fourth Nascimento, fifth Tadini, sixth F. Lanai (2.3-litre Alfa), seventh Q. Landi (3.5-litre Fiat).
The twelfth lap saw Pintacuda lap in 8 mins. 41 secs., Arzani 8 mins. 38 secs. The brothers Landi both came into their respective pits (no reason was given for this), but they carried on again.
The thirteenth lap Pintacuda lapped in 8 mins. 30 sees., and Arzani in 8 mins. 41 sees. Arzani was a minute behind still. On this lap Braga (2.3-litre Alfa)
parted the brothers Landi and took seventh place.
On the fourteenth lap Pintacuda lapped in 8 mins. 31 aces. Arzani was Much slower. Oliveria had increased his lead over Nascimento. Arzani came in for fuel and took a tong time about it, but he did not loge second place ; he was now 5 minutes behind Pintacuda.
On the fifteenth lap Pintacuda lapped in 8 mins. 27 secs. and on the sixteenth he slowed up to take a breather. Tadini came in and changed two plugs in 2 minutes. When he got going again he was just in front of Laiuli and Braga. On the seventeenth lap Pintacuda put his foot down again and lapped in 8 mins. 25 sees. On this lap Braga skidded on the fast part of the circuit and charged into the spectators, mowing many down, but how many were injured or killed is hard to say, owing to this crash being
censored. Something like a dozen or more were injured though. The eighteenth lap Pintacuda lapped in 8 mins, 28 secs., Arzani in 8 mins. 31 sees. Pintacuda had nearly a lap lead ; M. de Oliveria was now actually gaining on Arzani ! Although he was a long wav
behind, he must have been lapping at about 8 mins. 30 secs.
Nineteenth lap : Pintacuda 8 mins. 22 sees., Arzani 8 mins. 82 sees.
On the twentieth lap Tadini came in again and lost fifth place to F. Landi on the ALfa.
On the twentieth lap and the four remaining laps Arzani put his foot down and went round in 8 mins. 19 sees., 8 mins. 17 secs., 8 mins. 14 secs., 8 mins. 11 secs., and 8 mins. 10 secs. • Pintacuda also opened up a spot and did 8 mins. 26 sees., 8 mins. 25 secs., 8 mins. 17 secs., 8 mins. 16 secs., and 8 mins. 18 secs. The end came with only two changes. M. de Oliveria (Bugatti) passed Landi into fifth place ; Landi had had bad luck as his tyre went off with a bang, damaging his wheel, and he had to retire with only two laps to go. The final placings were as follows :
1. C. Pintacuda (3-litre Alfa-Corse), Italy, 3h. 33m. 37s., 78.37 k.p.h. (49 m.p.h.).
2. C. Arzani (3,8-litre Alfa-Borneo), Argentine, 311. 40m. Os.
8. M. de Oliveria (Ford V8 Special), Portugal.
4. Nasctmento 3 nr. (2.9-litre Aha-Ronteo), Brazil.
5. C. de Oliveria (2.3-litre Bugatti), Portugal.
6. M. Tadini (3-litre (Alfa-Corse), Italy.
7. Q. Landi (3.5-litre Fiat), Brazil.
Those were the only cars left at the end. Only two completed the whole distance. The prize money this year was large : 1,000 for the winner and 1:600 for the second. Many other prizes were going as well, such as money for the best Brazilian placed, and so forth.
I should like to see an B.R.A. out there in that race ; it should be worth while travelling there for the race, and if you win you have quite a lot left over after expenses are paid.
It is interesting to notice how the prize money mounted year by year.
1933. Approximately 1,250 for the first man home.
1934. Approximately 925 for the first man home.
1935. First man received about £550; second £200; third L:100.
1936. Ll ,000 (approx.) went to the first driver ironic ; £600 to the second.
The Brazilians were always encouraged in their efforts by additional prize money which went to the first Brazilian placed.
To sum up, the Gavea Motor Race has become yearly more and more popular. The speeds and the resultant thrills grow year by year, offering to enthusiastic spectators the maximum of motor racing enjoyment.
And looking back on the five years of this event, one cannot help speculating on the great thrills which have yet to come.