CONTINENTAL NOTES, September 1953
By the Continental Correspondent.
On the Tuesday following the German G.P. the Seuderia Lancia arrived at the Nurburgring to carry out some testing on their Latest sports cars, and at the same time gain some knowledge for the 1,000-kilometre race over the same circuit. They had with them three of the new open two-seater” Spyder ” care, of the type that Gonzalez and Bonetto had used in the recent Portugal sports-car race. These cars follow the general lines of the Le Mans coupes, having identical front suspension with trailing arms and transverse leaf-spring mounted high above the wheel centre line, and vast inboard brakes with universally jointed shafts coupling them to the wheels in the manner of f.w.d.
At the rear, however, the i.e.& of the coupes gives way to de Dion on the open cars, with a similar layout to Ferraris, which is to say the de Dion tube is located by a central slide and double-radius arms on each side. As on the i.r.s. cars the suspension medium of a transverse leaf-spring is retained, together with long thin telescopic shock-absorbers. The gearbox is in unit with the differential housing and inboard brakes arc again used, reducing unsprung weight to an absolute minimum. The chassis frame is of the small-diameter tube ” space-frame ” variety, with the tubes forming a box around the engine compartment, the power unit being lowered down into place through the opening in the top. Having right-hand control, the cockpit has the regulation door on the right and here the weakness in the “space-frame,” due to this door, is provided for by a stressed skin construction of aluminium panelling some 10 in. wide.
The engine of these cars is 2.9 litres and is the pure racing wideangle six-cylinder in Vee formation, having two sparking plugs per cylinder fired by coil ignition, each inlet camshaft having a sixcylinder distributor mounted at its rear end. In the centre of the Vee, three Weber 420CF4 carburetters are mounted, fed by an air box incorporated in the detaehable bonnet top. With the type of frame used, the body is naturally all-enveloping, but kept to very small dimensions and the fuel tank is mounted just in front of the rear axle with a filler rising vertically into the headrest behind the driving seat. A lid in the tail gives access to the spare wheel and battery. These latest ears have engines using, for the first time, Vandervell bearings and one of the tests being carried out was to discover the wearing properties of this type of big-end in the Lancia engine. The three ears were continually driven round the circuit alternately by Titrudi, Bonen°, Mattoon, Castellotti, Piodi and Palmeri, and at various times both Tartiffi and Bonetto lapped in 10 minutes 43 seconds, which compares favourably with the previous Sunday’s Grand Prix times, for on the works Maserati Bonetto clocked 10 minutes 40 seconds.
The whole of the Scuderia Lancia equipment, ears, spares, wheels, tools’ mechanics, and so on, arrived in what must surely be the last word in transport. On a vast six-wheeled Lancia diesel chassis, with the driving cab about eight feet ahead of the front wheels, the firm had had built an all-metal van body large enough to take four of the coupe ears with ease in two tiers. Operated by compressed air from a built-in compressor, a hydraulic lift at the back of the lorry lifts the cars to either the first or second floor level and they can then be driven into the vast interior; When all the cars are loaded the lift mechanism is folded up by hydraulic rams and packs away flat against the rear of the body, the large double doors then being closed behind it. Capable of averaging over 30 m.p.h. on a transcontinental run, this Lancia cruises at 55 m.p.h and can be taken ov r mountain passes with ease for it has the usual Lancia steering lock. The cab is like a very spacious living room, with all amenities for day-and-night non-stop Motoring. Finished in blue and white, with ” Senderia Lancia” written along each side it seems obvious that such equipment is not juqt ified by mere sports-car racing—and Yet no one will say officially !hat the. 1954 Grand Prix team is under construction!
While it is with regret that I have to record the death Lt the age of 61 of ‘Fazio Nuvolari, it is with a certain degree of relief that I received the news, for it has long been a sciurce of chagrin that the greatest driver the world has ever known was desperately ill in a
nursing home in Italy, passing away the last years of a life of fantasy in slow suffering decline.
From 1920-1939 the name of Nuvolari featured prominently in the results lists of motor racing, and even in motor-cycle racing for the first 10 of those years, and his list of 12 wins in car races is a sure testimonial to his ability. While this dark, wiry little man had a driving style that was unique, it was more his ability to achieve the impossible that earned him the title of “il maestro.” It is unlikely that any driver will ever approach Nnvolari’s record, and if he does, he certainly will not improve on the legendary nature of the exploits of” Nivola,” to give him his Italian nickname. Even in his earliest days he created a stir by winning motor-cycle and car races on the same days and when he took to car racing seriously, in 1930, his legendary aspect grew apace. Winner of the Milk Miglia; Le Mans and the Targa Florio he made his name with the British public when he drove an M.G. Magnette to victory in the 1933 Ulster T.T. He had never before seen a preselector gearbox, his travelling Mechanic spoke no Italian and he was up against stern opposition, but he won nevertheless. In 1935 he drove an Alfa-Romeo, outdated in speed and handling, against full teams of Auto-Union and Mercedes-Benz at the Nurburgring, the Germans’ home ground, and beat the lot of them. The same year he took records at 212 m.p.h, on a narrow Autostrada with the monstrous bi-motore AlfaRomeo that most people viewed as an uncontrollable menace. In 1936 he went to America and won the Vanderbilt Cup on a cindertype surface that was home-from-home to the Yanks. Nuvolari took one look, saw how the corners should be broadsided and romped away with the race. When Alfa-Romeo finally succumbed to the German onslaught Nuvolari was offered an Auto-Union, at a time when that firm had ” out-scienced ” itself and built a rear-engined car that many drivers of orthodox cars viewed with misgivings. A brief try, with his tongue in his cheek, and Nnvolari won the 19313 Italian G.P. and Doningtora G.P. at the very time when Mercedes-Benz were apparently unbeatable and had the most powerful team ; rather like Ferrari last year. By this time Nuvolari was 46 and only the war stopped him racing ; he actually won the last race Auto-Union ever competed in, the Buthipest G.P. on September 3rd, 1939.
During the war he suffered badly from ill-health and when he reappeared in a Maserati in 1946 he was a very, sick man. He refused to give up and kept appearing at infrequent intervals, but was clearly too ill to ever regain his pre-war farm. His one final effort, and a glorious one, was when he drove an 1,100-e.e. Cisitalia in the Milk Miglia in 1941, finishing second in pouring rain, having led most of the way in a drive that was typical ” Nivola,” a drive that apart from his finishing position was astounding in its perfect madness. After that the great little man was finished, with the exception of a smell National Italian race, which he wen with an Abarth. A few weeks ago the World’s Greatest Driver passed into a paralytic coma front Which he never recovered.
In writing this obituary I clearly recall the last occasion when I saw Tazio Nuvolari, it was at Monza in 1950 when he started tho Sidecar race of the G.P. des Nations, standing on a little platform on the edge of the track, just to.my left. He was dressed in a cream suit and wearing a Panama hot, that iron jaw still jutting out as it did when he was driving. Tazio Nuvolari may be dead, but his memory will live as long as Grand Prix racing, and longer, for his exploits are legendary and that is surely the ultimate. To attain fame in life SO great that it r asoes.into legend in death, none could wish for more. —I). S. J.