The Bleacher Report Grand Prix Hall of Fame: Tazio Nuvolari by Michael Griffin

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The Bleacher Report Grand Prix Hall of Fame:  Tazio  Nuvolari by Michael Griffin

 

Tazio Giorgio Nuvolari (November 16, 1892August 11, 1953)

 

Tazio Nuvolari, a legend in his own era and ours today, was known as the Flying Mantuan, acquiring that name for his understanding of how a car would handle, even in the most unknown of conditions.

Nuvolari epitomized courage and determination to win or get the best result possible, whatever was holding him or his car back. For over 30 years, he amazed the motorsport fraternity with his performances and natural ability on both two and four wheels.

He was born November 18, 1892 in Casteldrio near Mantua. His uncle Guiseppe was a dealer in Bianchi and soon he introduced his nephew to a phenomenon which would soon become his life. After Tazio served his time in the Italian Army as a driver, he began to race competitively on motorcycles when he was 28, a relatively late age when you look at motorsport in the modern era.

In his time, he raced Nortons, Saroleas, Garellis, Fongris and Indians. His riding was soon noticed by the incredibly powerful team Bianchi, of which he soon became a member and then national champion of motorcycling in Italy.

At the Monza Grand Prix for motorcycle racing, Tazio crashed heavily in practice and was lucky to survive. He suffered two broken legs, which to any normal person which leave them immobile, but not Tazio Nuvolari.

After the doctors put both of his legs in plaster, they told him it would be a minimum of one month before he would even be able to stand, never mind walk, and much longer before they would allow him to race again.

The next day, Tazio instructed his engineers to tie him to the bike and give him a push start, which they did, and Tazio went on to win the race...the legend was born.

Nuvolari began racing motorcars in 1924 when he was 32, still competing in motorcycle series at the time. Three years later he started his own team, buying a pair of Bugatti 35b’s which he shared with his partner Achille Varzi, who also happened to be a successful motorcycle racer.

Unbeknownst to the pair, this friendship would soon turn into a heated rivalry.

Nuvolari soon began to win races at the expense of Varzi, who soon grew agitated with the success and talent of his team-mate, and decided to leave the team. Varzi, the son of a wealthy merchant banker, could easily afford better equipment and soon bought a pair of Alfa Romeo’s.

Nuvolari soon joined his team and became embroiled in a heated rivalry with Varzi again. The rivalry reached its climax in the best possible way, in the 1930 Mille Miglia. Nuvolari took the brave decision of driving with no lights on in the night, to let Varzi believe that he was well ahead of him.

With just three kilometres left in the race, Nuvolari pulled alongside Varzi, smiled at him, gave him a cheeky wink, and flashed on his headlights and stormed off into the lead. That drive is widely regarded as one of the bravest, and funniest performances of all time.

Then, in the Targa Florio of 1932, he requested a mechanic from Enzo Ferrari (you may have heard of him), a man as light, if not lighter than Tazio himself. Nuvolari took the young and inexperienced little man and told him that he would warn him of any particularly scary or tight corners so not to frighten the poor lad (don’t you feel sorry for the young lad?).

As they approached a corner, Nuvolari would bark an order at the young man to tell him to duck under the dashboard of the car. After the race and yet another victory for Nuvolari, Ferrari asked how the mechanic had survived the ride of his life.

“He shouted at the first turn, and finished at the last. I was under the car all the time, quite boring but it was ok, I guess”

In 1933 he scored many more victories but soon became estranged from Ferrari and signed with Maserati. That year also saw Tazio travel to Northern Ireland to compete in the Tourist Trophy Race and drive a supercharged MGK3 Magnee.

Somebody calmly asked him if he liked the brakes, but Tazio said he could not tell as he did not really use them...that is actually rather scary.

In 1935, Nuvolari made a return to Alfa Romeo and scored one of his greatest victories at the Nurburgring. Driving an obsolete Alfa against the technical might of the Germans, he drove at the very edge and over it quite often.

The relentless pursuit of the “Flying Mantuan” caused one of the Mercedes' to blow a tyre and that meant that Nuvolari could then cruise to victory in front of an entourage from the Nazi party. They were not happy, understandably.

In 1936, Nuvolari had a serious accident in practice for a Grand Prix and was rushed to hospital, but he soon escaped, hailed down a taxi and drove the spare to seventh in the race, and was then hired by Auto Union, later to become Audi, when their driver Bernd Rosemeyer died in 1938.

Ferdinand Porsche insisted that they turned to an Italian with the total understanding of how to drive a mid-engined car. They turned to Tazio, and he won the British Grand Prix in Donington.

After that it was only the Second World War that could stop Nuvolari from obliterating his opposition, and he returned to racing after the war at the age of 53. In a minor race, Tazio had the steering wheel fall off the car he was driving, yet somehow he managed to steer the car back to the pits with the steering wheel in one hand and the column in the other.

He continued to win races, but years of inhaling exhaust fumes finally took its toll in his body, with his last win coming in the 1948 Mille Miglia.

Tazio Nuvolari had declared many times that his ultimate dream was to die whilst racing, as he knew he was too quick for anyone else to die. Unfortunately for him, he was denied that dream, and died on August 11, 1953 of a stroke.

Nuvolari is still remembered to this day as the man that heralded the beginning of preparations for Formula One, and many drivers still aspire to be like him. He was like no other driver to ever compete in the sport, and is still remembered to this day as the ultimate racing driver. Dr Ferdinand Porsche called Nuvolari "The greatest driver of the past, the present, and the future."

 

 

 

Major Wins

Year

Location

Vehicle

1924

Savio Circuit

Chiribiri Monza (1.5 litre)

1924

Polesine Circuit

Chiribiri Monza (1.5 litre)

1924

Tigullio Circuit

Bianchi 20 (2 litre)

1927

Rome Grand Prix

Bugatti T35

1927

Garda Circuit

Bugatti T35c

1928

Tripoli Grand Prix

Bugatti T35c

1928

Pozzo Circuit

Bugatti T35c

1928

Alessandria Circuit

Bugatti T35c

1931

Targa Florio

Alfa Romeo 8C 2300 Monza

1931

Coppa Ciano

Alfa Romeo 8C 2300 Monza

1932

Monaco Grand Prix

Alfa Romeo 8C 2300 Monza

1932

Targa Florio

Alfa Romeo 8C 2300 Monza

1932

Italian Grand Prix

Alfa Romeo Type B/P3

1932

Grand Prix de L'A.C.F

Alfa Romeo Type B/P3

1932

Coppa Ciano

Alfa Romeo Type B/P3

1932

Coppa Acerbo

Alfa Romeo Type B/P3

1933

Tunis Grand Prix

Alfa Romeo 8C 2600 Monza

1933

Alessandria

Alfa Romeo 8C 2600 Monza

1933

Eifelrennen

Alfa Romeo 8C 2600 Monza

1933

Nîmes Grand Prix

Alfa Romeo 8C 2600 Monza

1933

Belgian Grand Prix

Maserati 8 cm

1933

Coppa Ciano

Maserati 8 cm

1933

Nice Grand Prix

Maserati 8 cm

1933

RAC Tourist Trophy, Ards

MG K3 Magnette

1934

Modena Grand Prix

Maserati 6c 34

1934

Naples Grand Prix

Maserati 6c 34

1935

Pau Grand Prix

Alfa Romeo Type B/P3

1935

Bergamo Circuit

Alfa Romeo Type B/P3

1935

Biella Circuit

Alfa Romeo Type B/P3

1935

Turin Circuit

Alfa Romeo Type B/P3

1935

German Grand Prix

Alfa Romeo Type B/P3

1935

Coppa Ciano

Alfa Romeo Type B/P3

1935

Nice Grand Prix

Alfa Romeo Type B/P3

1935

Modena Grand Prix

Alfa Romeo 8c-35

1936

Penya Rhin Grand Prix

Alfa Romeo 12c-36

1936

Hungarian Grand Prix

Alfa Romeo 8c-35

1936

Milan Grand Prix

Alfa Romeo 12c-36

1936

Coppa Ciano

Alfa Romeo 8c-35

1936

Modena Grand Prix

Alfa Romeo 12c-36

1936

Vanderbilt Cup

Alfa Romeo 12c-36

1937

Milan Grand Prix

Alfa Romeo 12c-36

1938

Italian Grand Prix

Auto Union Type D

1938

Donington Grand Prix

Auto Union Type D

1939

Belgrade Grand Prix

Auto Union Type D

1946

Albi Grand Prix

Maserati 4cl

[edit] Complete European Championship results

(key) (Races in bold indicate pole position)

Year

Entrant

Make

1

2

3

4

5

EDC

Points

1931

Alfa Corse

Alfa Romeo

ITA
Ret

FRA
11

BEL
2

   

8

13

1932

Alfa Corse

Alfa Romeo

ITA
1

FRA
1

GER
2

   

1

4

1935

Scuderia Ferrari

Alfa Romeo

BEL

GER
1

SUI
5

ITA
Ret

ESP
Ret

4

24

1936

Scuderia Ferrari

Alfa Romeo

MON
4

GER
Ret

SUI
Ret

ITA
2

 

3

17

1937

Scuderia Ferrari

Alfa Romeo

BEL

GER
4

MON

 

ITA
7

7=

28

Auto Union

Auto Union

     

SUI
5

 

1938

Auto Union

Auto Union

FRA

GER
Ret

SUI
9

ITA
1

 

5=

20

1939

   

 

Inductee profile by Michael Griffin

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