Motor SportOctober 1931
THE GRAND PRIX OF MONZA
MAGNIFICENT VICTORY FOR MASERATI
IN these days when the success of first-class events, at any rate for real racing cars, must always be somewhat doubtful, there is one man who can be counted on to score a triumph in their organisation, and that man is Cav. Vincenzo Florio: but the race which was run under his management at Monza on Sunday, 6th September, must be accounted a masterpiece even for the famous Italian sportsman. The weather favoured his enterprise, a record crowd gathered to watch the racing and no fewer than seventy really good racing cars engaged in a series of races which were as thrilling as they were interesting. Nearly all the crack continental drivers were taking part-the Italians Varzi, Nuvolari, Campari, Borzacchini, Minoia, Fagioli and the Frenchmen Chiron, Dreyfus, Etancelin, Lehoux, Scaron-to mention but a few.
The scene at the start of the 3,000 c.c. class.
Apart from the spectacular point of view, the race also contained an enormous element of technical interest. An assortment of 2,300 c.c. Bugattis with the double overhead camshaft engine, the straight-eight Maseratis and Alfa-Romeos of about the same size which have taken part in most of this year's Grand Prix races were present, but in addition each of these three manufacturers had decided to present a newer and faster type of car. The hopes of the Maserati firm were pinned to an entirely new model, a straight eight of the same general type as has been used in previous races but with the engine size increased to 2,800 c.c. Alfa-Romeo, however, had decided to send two of the new 12-cylinder 3½-litre cars, a brief description of which has already been given in MOTOR SPORT, and in face of these Italian preparations, Ettore Bugatti decided to enter two racing editions of the new 4.900 c.c. supercharged model, which had to be entirely built and prepared in a fortnight.
The Monza Grand Prix takes the form of a series of eliminating heats for cars up to 1,100 c.c., up to 2-litres, up to 3-litres, and over that limit, an additional heat for those who may have been unfortunate in the preliminaries, and a final for which the first four in each heat and the first three in the "rep chage" are eligible. The circuit used consisted of one half of the oval track proper which was joined to the "road" circuit by a road at right angles, the length of a lap being 6 kms. 861.
A win for Scaron.
The first event on the programme consisted of the race for cars up to 1,100 c.c. which had to cover 20 laps of this circuit, making a total distance of 137 kms. 220., or about 85 miles. In the absence of a Maserati and a Lombard which had been entered, the starters consisted of five Amilcars driven by Scaron, Dourel, Gerardi, Arco and Paschetta., Chevallier on a car also called an Amilcar but obviously chiefly of his own construction, Klinger and Ardizzone both on Maseratis, six Salmsons driven by Decaroli, Boucly, Marret, Premoli, Matrullo and Pratesi, Macher on a D.K.W., Plate on a B.N.C., and Giraud-Cabantons on a Caban, making a total of seventeen cars. The start was given at 10 o'clock in the morning before an enormous crowd which had already collected, and immediately Jose Scaron shot his blue Amilcar to the front, and behind him came Premoli on the Salmon, Count Arco on another Amilcar, Giraud-Cabantons and Klinger on the Maserati. The latter car made an excellent impression, being fitted with a 4-cylinder engine which is in effect one half of the bigger straight-eights; the chassis used was obviously too heavy for the power unit which should give a better account of itself when more suitably mounted. Of the seventeen starters ten finished, the final order for the Grand Prix des Voiturettes being as follows :
1. Jose Scaron (Amilcar), 1h. 0m. 47s. (average speed 85.4 m.p.h.).
2. Premoli (Salmson), 1h. 3m. 6s.
3. Arco (Amilcar), 1h. 3m. 27s.
4. Giraud-Cabantons (Caban). 1h. 4m. 18s.
5. Klinger (Maserati, 1h. 5m. 4s.
6. Dourel (Amilcar), 1h. 6m. 25s.
7. Plate (B.N.C.), 1h. 7m. 47s.
8. Pratesi (Salmson), 1h. 8m. 48s.
9. Bouncly (Salmson) 1h. 11m. 38s.
10. Macher (D.K.W.), 1h. 15m. 42s.
The twenty-three entries in the 2-litre class were reduced to sixteen starters by the absence of the three 1,500 c.c. Grand Prix Talbots, a couple of Bugattis, a Maserati and an Alfa-Romeo. The ten Bugattis which remained were driven by Czaikowski, Rey, Balestrero, Toselli, Romano, Biondetti, Antonaci, Eminente, Mademoiselle Helle-Nice and Morand, and had against them four 1,750 c.c. 6-cylinder Alfa-Romeos driven by Pirola, Cazzaniga, Cobianchi and Yonsch, and a couple of older-type Maseratis handled by Ruggeri and Pedrazzini. It is interesting to note that this class which used to be the one on which manufacturers concentrated has now been left behind and relegated to amateurs with older type racers. This class had to cover 14 laps, a total distance of 96 kms. 054., or just under 60 miles, and when the start was given the whole field got away well in a bunch. Ruggeri on the Maserati, however, soon captured the lead, hotly pursued at first by Czaikowski, who, however, was passed before the end by Biondetti, also on a Bugatti after the latter had set up the fastest lap speed of the race. On the third lap Toselli who was driving his Bugatti with considerable abandon, missed a corner, without apparently causing any damage although he retired shortly afterwards. Otherwise the race was without particular incident, and of the sixteen starters eleven finished in the following order :
Etancelin in the Alfa-Romeo 8C 2300.
1. Ruggeri (Maserati), 38m. 42 3/5s. (Average ,speed 92.2 m.p.h.).
2. Biondetti (Bugatti), 39m. 25 4/5s.
3. Czaikowski (Bugatti), 39m. 42 1/5s.
4. Pedrazzini (Maserati), 39m. 56 4/5s.
5. Morand (Bugatti), 40m. 18 1/5s.
6. Balestrero (Bugatti), 40m. 54s.
7. Romano (Bugatti), 40m. 56s.
8. Antonac (Bugatti), 41m. 28s.
9. Mlle. Helle-Nice (Bugatti), 43m. 47s.
10. Eminente (Bugatti), 43m. 59s.
11. Cazzaniga (Alfa-Romeo), 44m. 10s.
As the time drew near for the 3-litre heat public interest increased. Non-starters consisted of a couple of Bugattis and a Maserati, but the eleven cars which remained included the two new 2,800 c.c. Maseratis which were making their first appearance, driven by Fagioli and Dreyfus, a couple of the older 2½-litre cars of the same make driven by Cerami and Castelbarco, four of this year's 2½-litre Grand Prix Alfa-Romeos driven by Minoia Borzacchini, Minozzi and Etancelin, two 2,300 c.c. double overhead camshaft Bugattis driven by Lehoux and Ghersi and an older single-camshaft Bugatti driven by Dafarra. This class also had to cover 14 laps, and as soon as the flag dropped, Fagioli, making a magnificent start shot ahead, followed by his teammate Dreyfus. Behind came Minoia on the Alfa-Romeo and Lehoux and Ghersi on the two new-type Bugattis.
A Terrific Duel.
But Etancelin (Alfa-Romeo) made a poor start and was left far in the rear. Gradually the two Maseratis drew away from the field, but the race lost none of its interest thereby for their Italian and French drivers were having a first-class duel on their own. Fagioli covered the second lap at 100 m.p.h. but thereafter Dreyfus began to close up on him, and on the fifth lap gained the lead. Two laps later Fagioli was once more in front, on the eleventh lap Dreyfus got ahead again and then on the twelfth lap Fagioli once more regained the lead and never lost it until the finish.
1 Fagioli (Maserati), 36m. 56 4/5s.
2. Dreyfus (Maserati). 36m. 57 3/5s.
3. Minoia (Alfa-Romeo), 38m. 19 1/5s
4. Lehoux (Bugatti). 38m. 21 4/5s.
5. Ghersi (Bugatti), 38m. 29 1/5s.
6. Minozzi (Alfa -Romeo), 39m. 1 1/5s.
7. Etancelin (Alfa -Romeo), 39m. 1 4/5s.
8. Borzacchini (Alfa-Romeo), 39m. 29 3/5s.
9. Castelbarco (Maserati), 40m. 9 2/5s.
10. Cerami (Maserati), 40m. 12s.
3,000 c.c. Class Events.
The most exciting of the preliminaries had yet to come, however, and took the form of the heat for cars of more than 3,000 c.c. This event attracted only five competitors, but their quality was such that they kept everyone of the huge crowd of spectators on tip-toe with excitement. To begin with there were Louis Chiron and Achilli Varzi, the two best Bugatti drivers, with their new 4,900 c.c. supercharged Bugatti racers ; and against them were the Alfa-Romeo cracks, Guiseppe Campari and Tazio Nuvolari on the 3,500 c.c. double-six Alfa-Romeos, and Ernesto Maserati on the 4-litre 16-cylinder car.
The five cars were drawn up on the starting line for another sprint of fourteen laps. The starter's flag fell, and Louis Chiron was the first off the line, followed by his team-mate Varzi, Nuvolari, Maserati and Campari. On the first lap Varzi got ahead of Chiron and Campari passed Maserati, and on the second lap Nuvolari also passed Chiron. Now began one of those famous Varzi-Nuvolari duels which are such a feature of present-day Italian racing. Nuvolari covered a lap at 99.3 m.p.h., Varzi replied with one a mile an hour faster, but although the Bugatti seemed to have slightly more speed than the Alfa-Romeo, Nuvolari was showing such skill on the bends that he was gradually catching up. He covered a lap at 101.2 m.p.h. and at the end of the eighth round the two leading cars passed the grandstands neck and neck. On the ninth lap Nuvolari actually got ahead, but the terrific speed was imposing an enormous strain on the tyres and almost immediately afterwards the Alfa-Romeo cast a tread. Nuvolari dashed into his pit, the wheel was changed in the incredibly short time of less than a quarter of a minute, but by the time he got away again he was behind Varzi, Chiron and Campari. Varzi now had the race well in hand, but Nuvolari managed to catch Campari before the finish, and the final order was as follows :
Chiron (Bugatti) leading Dreyfus (Maserati) and Varzi (Bugatti) on one of the banked bends of the course.
1. Varzi (Bugatti), 36m. 21s. (Average speed 98.5 m.p.h.)
2. Chiron (Bugatti), 36m. 48s.
3. Nuvolari (Alfa-Romeo), 37m. 7s.
4. Campari (Alfa-Romeo), 37m. 22s.
5. Maserati (Maserati), 38m. 37s.
After the excitement of the heat for unlimited cars, the "rep chage" was designed to act as a breathing space before the climax of the final; unfortunately, however, it was marred by a terrible accident which was the one blot on the otherwise successful record of the meeting. For this extra heat only four cars lined up, and all belonged to the 3-litre category, where the competition had been keen, but in which the successful cars had a good chance in the final. The four cars consisted of the three 2½-litre Alfa-Romeos driven by Borzacchini, Minozzi and Etancelin, and the 2,300 c.c. Bugatti driven by Ghersi.
It is claimed that the three Italian drivers got away about a second before the fall of the starter's flag, and that the latter did not intervene to declare a false start. At any rate Etancelin did not get away until well after the others, and it was not until the end of the fourth lap that he came up with Minozzi. For two laps the two drivers on cars of similar type had a neck and neck struggle, the more exciting as only the victor would be qualified for the final. Then on the seventh lap Etancelin attempted to pass Minozzi on the outside of a corner, skidded, hit a boundary stone and went off the road. Unfortunately at this point the spectators had pulled down the pallisading to get right up to the side of the road where they could have a closer view of the racers as they flashed past, and the Alfa-Romeo struck the crowd, killing three people and injuring ten others. Etancelin himself was unhurt and returned to the grandstands to exonerate Minozzi from all blame. The other three finished in the following order, and were all automatically qualified for the final.
1. Borzacchini (Alfa-Romeo), 37m. 48s.
2. Ghersi (Bugatti), 37m. 57s.
3. Minozzi (Alfa-Romeo), 38m. 0s.
These three together with the first four in each heat were now eligible for the final, but none of the 1,100 c.c. or 2-litre cars elected to start as they considered that they had no chance against the bigger machines. Ghersi also decided to scratch and Campari failed to bring his 12-cylinder Alfa-Romeo to the starting line having discovered that something was broken in one of its gearboxes. This left Chiron and Varzi on the two 5-litre Bugattis ; Nuvolari on the other 12-cylinder Alfa-Romeo ; Fagioli and Dreyfus on the 3-litre Maseratis ; Lehoux on his 2,300 c.c. Bugatti ; and Minoia, Borzacchini and Minozzi on 2½-litre Alfa-Romeos. The three great marques of the present day racing world were going to come to grips in a thrilling race for 35 laps of the circuit, a total distance of 240 km. 135 or nearly 150 miles.
As soon as the start was given Fagioli proceeded to show his amazing skill and the terrific get-away of the new Maserati by shooting off first from the line. Chiron however, was right on his heels, Dreyfus third and Varzi fourth. The Maseratis and Bugattis were evidently the best off the mark. On the first lap Varzi got ahead of Dreyfus, but his great rival Nuvolari had made a poor start, and at the end of the first round was only running sixth. On the second lap Varzi managed to pass his team-mate Chiron, who was overtaken a lap later by Nuvolari also, who had thus worked himself into position behind Varzi. Then began the usual thrilling duel, for Nuvolari was now going all out and by the sixth lap his Alfa-Romeo had worked up till it was nearly level with the Bugatti. At the end of the lap, however, Nuvolari dashed in to his pit. A mechanic leapt out onto the track, swung first one engine, then the other of the Alfa-Romeo, which got away again, but only for one lap when Nuvolari decided to withdraw, having decided that the trouble was a broken piston.
In the meantime Varzi was straining every nerve to get ahead of Fagioli, and behind them Chiron and Dreyfus were fighting out a thrilling duel. The roadholding and suspension of the Maseratis was admirable, but on the heavier Bugattis no tyres could stand the terrific speed. At the end of the thirteenth lap Varzi pulled up at his pit with one tyre completely shed, and shortly afterwards Chiron lost a tread which severed his front brake cable, with the result that disaster was only averted on the next bend by the consummate skill of the driver.
The Bugattis' tyre troubles had left the two Maseratis comfortably in the lead, but shortly afterwards Fagioli also burst a tyre and the lead passed to Dreyfus until he too had to stop for a change of plugs. In the meantime Minoia was flagged in to the Alfa-Romeo pit and Nuvolari took his place in an endeavour to improve the fortunes of the marque. Varzi was now running third, but he was soon forced to stop again for a tyre change and while thus engaged he was passed by Borzacchini's Alfa-Romeo which throughout had been running with remarkable regularity. It was this car which was destined to do best for the Milanese firm, for shortly afterwards Dreyfus dropped out with a broken piston, and Borzacchini became second. His was the only car to go through without a stop, but there was no catching the flying Fagioli, who finally flashed over the line the winner at 96.6 m.p.h. Nuvolari was unable to catch Varzi, and three minutes after Fagioli had finished the enthusiastic crowd invaded the track and prevented the rest of the field from finishing. The final order was therefore as follows :
FINAL, GRAND PRIX OF MONZA.
1. Fagioli (Maserati), 1h. 32m. 39 2/5s. (Average speed 96.6 m.p.h.).
2. Borzacchini (Alfa-Romeo), 1h. 33m. 54 4/5s.
3. Varzi (Bugatti), 1h. 36m. 19 3/5s.
4. Minoia and Nuvolari (Alfa-Romeo), 1h. 37m. 22s.
5. Minozzi (Alfa-Romeo), 1h. 36m. 35s.
6. Lehoux (Bugatti), 2 laps behind.
7. Chiron (Bugatti), 9 laps behind.