AUTO-UNIONS’ FIRST 1938 WIN
NUVOLARI SCORES A SURPRISING AND WELCOME VICTORY IN THE ITALIAN GRAND PRIX. FATAL ACCIDENT IN MILAN GRAND PRIX
THE glorious uncertainty of motorracing was never demonstrated better than in the Italian Grand Prix of 1938. After a string of victories that had begun to verge on the monotonous, a sweeping success for the Mercedes-Benz team was confidently predicted. Lang had made the fastest time in practice, and there seemed no reason to suppose that the finishing order would be very different from that of any of the recent Grand Prix races in which the Stuttgart cars have been successful.
The weather was very unsettled during the practising periods before the race. The first two days were fine, then came a day of drenching rain, followed by unofficial practising in the wet on the Saturday, and a magnificent, hot day for the race itself. It was this wide variation in the temperature and humidity of the atmosphere which was blamed afterwards for the failure of the Mercedes cars in the race. However, on every day the fastest times were put up by Mercedes drivers. The Auto-Unions made only brief appearances, and when they did so they seemed
to be quite outclassed. The Maserati folk were dogged by ill-luck, and couldn’t get their cars to shape properly, while Farina’s new sixteen-cylinder Alfa-Romeo was obviously untried. “The Doctor” had a tremendous skid, involving several complete tee-a-queues, and finishing up against the straw bales with no damage done. The 1,500 c.c. Alfas were terrific in practice, being actually faster than Farina, while Arthur Dobson only arrived in time to join in the unofficial practising on Saturday. His misfortune was added to when he broke an oil pipe and his E.R.A. slung oil onto the track—a performance which is always regarded with the utmost distaste by drivers at Monza, where the terrible day when Campari, Borzacchini and Czaikowski all met their deaths from this cause will never be forgotten. Signor Dino Alfieri, Italy’s Propaganda Minister, kept the drivers and spectators waiting nearly half-an-hour beyond the
scheduled starting time. Then he inspected the cars and spoke to all the drivers, nearly overlooking Dobson, who was tucked away in the last row. The latter, believing that when in Rome— or Milan—one should do as Rome does, gave a very brisk Fascist salute, which resulted in his getting a bigger cheer from the crowd than any of the local favourites. When the flag fell, Dobson shot forward in his usual rapid style, only to break a half-shaft almost immediately, coming to a standstill right in front of the stands. Sommer streaked into the lead on one of the Alfas, but he then developed chronic mis-firing and was passed by Luigi Villoresi’s Maserati. This position was held by Luigi for four laps, when he experienced engine-trouble, giving way to his brother, Emilio, who was driving an Alfa-Corse. Sommer kept on stopping for plugs, for which the little Alfa seems to have a voracious appetite, but in between whiles he put in the fastest lap of the race in 2 min, 42.6 secs., at a speed of 94.8 m.p.h. Emilio continued on his way for the rest of the twenty-five laps, running out a winner at 91.70 m.p.h. by one second from Seven i on a sister car. Armand Hug, after being slowed by clutch-slip throughout the race, finished third, with Cortese (Maserati) and Bagliano (Maserati) fourth and fifth. Pietsch went very well until his retirement, lying third for some time. The fourth Alfa was driven—and very expertly—by our old friend Marinoni, who
finally blew up near the finish. ‘Twas said that he was testing certain modifications. Tire end of the race was marred by the tragic accident to Marazza. This is what happened. Sommer’s car caught fire just before the line, and the driver pulled up in a dense cloud of smoke. Behind him came Marazza, who apparently did not realise that the race was over and roared by at full speed. But the smoke was thicker than he thought, and he completely misjudged the Lesino corner. His Maserati spun round several times, turned over, and crashed into a tree, around which it became entwined. The unfortunate driver was impaled on a branch of the tree, which pierced one of his lungs, and he died in hospital during the following night. Marazza’s death is deeply regretted in Italian motor-racing
circles. His record to date had been first at Naples, second at Varese and third at Livorno, and he was generally considered to be one of Italy’s most promising young drivers. What is more, he had an extremely likable personality. The opening laps of the Italian Grand Prix showed that the moderate performances of the Auto-Unions in practice had been deceptive. Lang (MercedesBenz) managed to make the best of his front rank position to take the lead, but he was closely chased for several laps by Muller (Auto-Union), Seaman (Mercedes-Benz) and Nuvolari (Auto-Union). Caracciola, the Mercedes favourite, made his first error of judgment for many a year when he spun round twice on the second lap, charged the straw bales, and
stopped his engine. (I believe the last time he went off the road was in the first season of Mercedes formula racing at Pescara.) Rudolf was not a bit dismayed, however, and calmly detached his steering wheel and hung it onto one of the driving mirrors. Then he pushed the car until it was going at a fair speed, hopped into the cockpit, fixed on the steering wheel, put the car in gear, let in the clutch—and was off once more. It was not his lucky clay, though, and the car then started to run very hot, probably due to the faulty carburation. At half distance he handed over to Von Brauchitsch at the refuel (the latter having already retired on the twentieth lap). Meanwhile Kautz had stopped on
the second lap, followed by Seaman on. the sixteenth. Seaman had passed the pits and was completing another lap slowly when he found that his machine was in flames. He drove towards some officials, who obviously wished he hadn’t, for they did nothing, and after some palpitating minutes the fire went out of its own accord. Twenty minutes later a perspiring soldier arrived with a single Pyrene !
Lang was the next of the Mercedes. drivers to go, and now only Caracciola’s car was left in the race. Von Brauchitsch had soon got tired of having his feet roasted, and politely handed the car back to ” Carratsch,” who stuck it out and suffered a burnt foot for his pains.
Nuvolari was now in the lead, driving extremely well, followed at a short distance by Stuck and Muller, who quite definitely has a great future before him. Stuck retired on the forty-third lap, and it really looked as though Muller was at last going to have the success he has.
deserved all this season. But no, fate struck once more, and he had to retire with engine trouble two laps from the finish!
This allowed the plodding Farina to. appear in the picture in second place, with the by now thoroughly grilled Caracciola third, and so they finished.
Nuvolari’s victory, of course, was tremendously popular with the Italian crowd, but not quite so much, perhaps, as it would have been had he been driving an Italian car. However, half a loaf is better than no bread at all, so they gave him some really rousing cheers all round the course. Personally, we were immensely glad to see the Little Man. scoring a Grand Prix win once more. It was quite like old times, except that he should have been handling a dark red Alfa ! There were several reflections to be made after this race. First of all, the Auto-Unions are apparently finding their
real form at last. Secondly, Nuvolari has now mastered the different feel of the car to his satisfaction.. Thirdly, in Muller, Germany and Auto-Union have a man who I believe will be a second Roserneyer. And finally even the most confirmed favourites, such as Mercedes-Benz were at the beginning of this race, can be upset by rapidly changing weather conditions.
RESULTS Milan Grand Prix
I. E. Villoresi (Alfa-Romeo), 175 kms. In lb.
11m. 48., speed 91.71 tn,p.11.
2. Seven i (Alfa-Romeo), lh. 11m. 5s.
3. Hug (Mascrati), 111. 14m. 5s.
4. Cortese (Maserati), 111. 14in. 33s.
5. Bagliano (Maserati), lb. 16m. 35s.
Italian Grand Prix 1. Nuvolari (Auto-Union), 420 kilns. in 2b.
1. Nuvolari (Auto-Union), 420 kilns. in 2b.
41m. 49.6s., speed 90.76 m.p.h.
2. Farina (Alfa-Romeo), 2h. 45m. 16.6s.
3. Caracciola (Mercedes-Benz), 2h. 52m. 39.4s. The rest flagged off.