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TAZIO NUVOLARI

The great enterprises of Tazio Nuvolari



THE LEGEND OF TAZIO NUVOLARI

| Main | The life | The opponents | Messages |




THE MYTH



THEY HAVE SAID ABOUT NUVOLARI
"Nobody else like him join an incredible sensitivity of the car with an inhuman courage"

Enzo Ferrari


"He was a man that outraged the reality and he did things that were absurds... for youngs of that period, and me among them, Nuvolari represented the courage, an unlimited courage. He was the myth, the unreachable."

Michelangelo Antonioni


"Nuvolari is the greatest driver of the past, the present and the future"

Ferdinand Porsche


"Until in the world it will be spoken about automotive sport, will remember Nuvolari"

Lord Howe


" Nuvolari, as well as being my greatest opponent, is the best driver in all times. He is not a master but an artist of driving. A master could teach. The art can't be taught."

Achille Varzi




INDEX

The turtle and the poet
The world-wide records with Alfa "bimotore"
A kiss from Nuvolari...
One against all
Nuvolari fractured himself and the day after races
The challenge
One-way ticket
Nuvolari conquests America
Damaged and winner
The nest of quails
An unprecedented victory
The accidents
An unforgettable victory...
The shouts
Nuvolari drives with only an hand



The turtle and the poet

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Nuvolari took care over his image and raced with a particular "uniform": azure trousers, yellow jersey with his logo on the right (composed by a "T" and an "N" crossed) and, fixed to the breast, a gold turtle. Gabriele D'Annunzio (the famous Italian poet) gave this turtle to Nuvolari in 1932, with dedication: "to the fastest man, the slowest animal". Tazio loved this gift and considered it a good-luck piece. The poet was a friend of the Mantuan, often hosted Nuvolari to the Vittoriale (the name of D'Annunzio's palace) and invented the famous nickname "the flying Mantuan".



The world-wide records with Alfa "bimotore"

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15th June 1935: Tazio Nuvolari tries to establish, on the Firenze-mare motorway, two world speed records with the "monstrous" Alfa Romeo "bimotore", created by Enzo Ferrari to hold out against the invicible Mercedes and Auto Union.
The day that the team chose isn't good: there is a strong wind but Nuvolari leaves just the same. When the car runs at about 320 km/h (200 mph) a strong gust of wind causes a terrifying skid of over than 200 metres. But incredibly the Mantuan is able to control the car, demonstrating an exceptional energy and self-control: the car is 1300 kg heavy and it is very difficult to control just at 150 km/h (93 mph)!! In spite of this frightful "incovenience" Tazio continues, neutralizes another similar skid (!) and estabilish two world records: 321,420 km/h (199,721 mph) on launched kilometre and 323,125 km/h (200,780 mph) on launched mile (with a top-speed of 360 km/h - 224 mph).
"I never faced a terrible danger like this, not even when I caught fire at Pau" he'll declare after some years, remembering the episode.....




A kiss from Nuvolari...

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Spain, circuit of Stiges, 1923. Stiges is an oval track with two terrible banked bends, that the drivers have to run 350 times, for a total of 700 km (435 miles). During the practice session Nuvolari enchants the public and the journalists: he dares over the limits and in the two dangerous banked bends scores the fastest speed and skimmed over the extreme outer edges. Moreover: he makes a bet and leaves to come aboard at his side the daugther of the owner of the hotel where he lodges and kiss the girl at over than 150 km/h (93 mph), just at the highest point of the banked bend. The girl faints and at the finishing line, when she regains consciousness, slaps the champion....



One against all

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In 1935 German cars become to rule the International competitions. It seems that there are no possibility for others constructors, particularly for Alfa Romeo, the most glorious of all. The scuderia Ferrari, after numerous defeats, arrives to the German Grand Prix, at Nurburgring (28th July 1935), with the modified "P3" that, in theory, has no-chance of victory. The Italian car is a 3800cc eight cylinders with 330 cv against the 3990cc and 400 cv of Mercedes W25 M 25 B 8 cylinders and 375 cv of Auto Union "type B" 4950cc 16 cylinders; the weight is the same for all.
Moreover the German cars are numerous and have superlative drivers (Caracciola, Fagioli, Lang, Von Brauchitsch and Geyer for Mercedes and Rosemeyer, Varzi, Stuck and Pietsch for Auto Union) against Nuvolari, Chiron, Brivio and Balestrero. Recently the Mantuan had also an accident and his last victory in a GP was 5 months before. He's 43 years old and seems at the end of the career. The result of the GP is taken for granted. Under the eyes of the nazi dictatorship and of 200.000 spectators the triumphal parade of the German cars is ready.
The Mantuan is the only that thinks to have a chance: the Nurburgring is very difficult and Nuvolari likes it. There are numerous and difficult bends and few fast ways. It is a very exacting circuit (28 kilometres - 17,4 miles - and 174 bends!), where "Nivola" thinks to regain the enormous technical disadvantage confiding in his driving capability and in the higher manageability of Alfa Romeo.
The day of the Grand Prix is dull and cloudy. When the race starts it rains and Caracciola goes in first position while the car of Stuck has a problem and remains motionless; Varzi bumps Stuck and the Italian does some laps and then he has to retire. After six laps the Mercedes are at the head of the race and the Alfa and Auto Union are all retired, except Nuvolari and Rosemeyer: the rhythm is infernal. When the rain stop Nuvolari attacks, drives over the limit, recovers positions taking advantage in bends and at 11th lap, under the eyes of the amazed spectators, reaches the first position, passing Von Brauchitsch, Fagioli and Caracciola.
After some laps Fagioli retreated. During the pit-stop for the refuelling Tazio has a problem: the petrol pump doesn't work and the mechanics have to do the refuelling with drums and funnel! The race seems lost: the delay from the first three drivers (Von Brauchitsch, Rosemeyer and Caracciola) rises over the minute. Nuvolari comes back to the track and unleash himself, trying to recover the disadvantage.
The Nurburgring is a terrible track, especially for the cars: the Mercedes are the most powerful but are also the most stressed. After the 13th lap Rosemeyer and Caracciola have mechanical problems: the first has to retire and the second has to slow down. The "flying Mantuan"... flew to the second position and drive faster and faster to reach also Von Brauchitsch that begin to has problems with the tyres.
Nuvolari knows the problems of his opponent and insists on his assault. The German wants to brought the Mantuan and to win the race with a great advantage: he doesn't slow down to keep the tyres. Von Brauchitsch doesn't have the pit-stop for change the tyres and continues to drive over the limit, stressing his car over the possibilities. He hopes that the tyres will resist even if he knows that they're completely consumed.
At the last lap Von Brauchitsch is in first position and for the spectators the race is finished and foreseen! At the finishing line the German autorities prepare the prize-giving: they heave the Reich flag, the German National anthem is ready on the record player and the generals are waiting the winner.
Suddenly, from a distance, a roar breaks the silence, and slowly it becomes more and more loud. From the long distance of the straight stretch, confused by the haze, a car appears. The crowd is amazed and falls silent: the car isn't silver but it's red, the car is the Alfa Romeo of Tazio Nuvolari!! After a moment of astonishment and incredulity a long applause from the crowd explodes and the Nurburgring gives the right tribute to the impossible victory! The record of the Italian National anthem is founded among the unused records and its notes seals one of the greatest victory of Nuvolari and one of the most fantastic and incredible deed in the history of motor sports competitions.
Montanelli (a famous Italian journalist) wrote: "While Nuvolari was covered with the laurel of the winner, some thousand of amazed blue eyes were fixing his exhausted car. They were seeking vainly the technical reasons of that absurd victory. They didn't find it and they found relief in invoking 'der Teufel', the devil."



Nuvolari fractured himself and the day after races

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During the qualifying session of friday, at the GP of Tripoli in 1936, Nuvolari has an accident: he goes out of the road because of a tyre of his car explodes and banged himself into the track embankment. He is thrown out of the car and "flyes" violently to the ground. At the hospital the doctors checks various fractures that will take twenty days to recover. "Tomorrow I will race" Tazio declares.
The day after he's "inserted" into the car by the mechanics and starts: he wants to win! During the first laps he fights for the head of the race but at the middle of the GP the pain becomes more and more unbearable and he has to leave the first positions. Nuvolari continues the race in good position: it seems impossible that he races because, in addition to the very painful fracture, the GP is 500 kilometres long (310 miles) and the temperature is over than 40C (104F)!
The Mantuan, is spite of these "difficulties", is able to finish the race in 8th position! After his arrival he is "extracted" from the car by the mechanics and is celebrated more than Achille Varzi, the winner of the race.



The challenge

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The sport rivalry between Varzi and Nuvolari thrilled the fans and divided the Italians in two "factions". Frequently the journalists tried to compare the two champions and to establish who was the best and sometimes they proposed a challenge with the same car.
Varzi and Nuvolari, to calm these imaginative plans and to clarify their position, met together the journalists. Nuvolari said: "If in this challenge that you would organise I lose I will not pardon myself. If you lose" said turned to Varzi "obviously you equally suffer. Our friendship will probably finish. Worth the trouble to be ready to this game?". Varzi remained in silence, looked at his friend with his big blue eyes and with emotion shooke Nuvolari's hand.
Nobody never spoke about challenges.



One-way ticket

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Nuvolari before leaving for Sicily, for the 1932 Targa Florio, meets Enzo Ferrari at the railway station. Ferrari gives to Tazio the round-trip ticket. Nuvolari says: "I knew that you are a good manager but I see that it's not true! You had to buy only the one-way ticket because when a driver takes part in a race it is necessary to foresee the possibility that he comes back in a coffin".



Nuvolari conquests America

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In 1936 the Alfa Romeo organizes with his drivers (Nuvolari, Brivio and Farina) an "expedition" in the United States for taking part in the prestigious Vanderbilt Cup. The race is near New York and in the previous editions (from 1904) no Italians won the competition. It is the "battlefield" of the American drivers: the circuit is not asphalted and the Americans are specialists of the "derapage" technique and are very experts of the circuit. The German cars are absent.
At the arrival of the "Rex" in America the feast begin: Nuvolari is welcomed as a hero and an enormous crowd is waiting for the Champion, to see him, to shake his hand. The arrival of the Italian team conquests the first pages of the main newspapers and unleash the American fans. Nuvolari receives also threats from some "gangsters" that try to rig the race (they bet against Tazio), but they failed. The race is at Roosvelt Field Circuit, a new track, and there are more than 200.000 spectators and also famous celebrities.
The race is very hard, long and the local drivers skid as Nuvolari. They are as reckless as Tazio (they would defeat the best driver in the world), but the Mantuan has a technique and a "sensitivity" unreachable. At the first bend he is already first and at the fifth lap he becomes to double the opponents. The Alfa has a little inconvenience and works with 11 cylinders but "Nivola" continues. Suddenly, in consideration of the superiority of Nuvolari, at the loudspeaker, the organizer announce that who pass the Italian for a minute will win one thousand dollars. Nuvolari has the pit-stop for the refuel, but he remains first! He wins the race and demonstrates again that he is the best.
After the race the Americans and the numerous Italians immigrated celebrate Nuvolari and the festivities continue for some weeks, until the Alfa Romeo team leaves.



Damaged and winner

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1924, Tigullio Circuit. During the race Nuvolari drives like mad, many times goes out of the road, sometimes stopping sheer above the sea (!). "I stopped at 5 centimetres from the ravine and that's more than enough" he said.
Moreover: while Nuvolari is in first position, some kilometres to the finishing line, a tyre explodes and it causes an ugly accident. Tazio, the car and his mechanic crash ruinously in a ditch. The mechanic is stunned, the car is damaged, but the Mantuan asks some spectators to help him to throw in the car on the road for finishing the race! Thanks to the large advantage accumulated he wins the race just the same!
The newspapers describe his arrive: "Nuvolari arrived first in spite of he proceeded on the rims, without suspensions and with the coachwork destroied. The spectators viewed something incredible: inside all was out of place. Tazio drove without seat and, to replace the wheel, he used a monkey-wrench. On a corner, stunned, laid the mechanic covered with mud and oil"...!



The nest of quails

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In 1931 Nuvolari drives with Campari on his side for a training on the Sicilian roads of Targa Florio. During the training they go out of the road and the car crashes in an escarpment.
Campari recovers from the bump and calls desperately Tazio, that doesn't answer. When he dreads the worst hears a voice that, whispering, reproach him. Nuvolari is stretched on the grass and is watching something attentively: "Be quiet! There is a quail's nest with the little quails here and you are scaring the chicks! Come here to see them!"



An unprecedented victory

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In 1925 Nuvolari has the possibility to test for the first time the official Alfa Romeo.
In this period he races (and wins!) principally with Bianchi motorcycles, but takes part also in reckless races with the car where obtains good results. Thanks to these performances the Alfa Romeo, that is searching for young talents, organizes a test at Monza's circuit, where the Mantuan is invited. The car for the test is only one (a "P2" model) and Tazio is the last of the "list": he has to wait from morning to midday. When it's his turn he drives immediately very fast and at the second lap lowers the lap-times of all other drivers and goes very close to the record of Ascari.
But at this point the car has the tyres and the brakes consumed, exhausted by the tests of the day. The fantastic performance of Nuvolari comes to a bad end: a gear goes out and the car, with the neutral, turns round. The Alfa overturned and goes out of the track, over a barbed wire! Tazio has numerous wounds everywhere and the doctors of Monza's hospital declare that he could leaves from the bed after one month.
Seven days later Nuvolari will has to race with the motorcycle the "Nazioni" Grand Prix at Monza (class 350). This race is also a challenge against the most famous English champions (Handley and Simpson) and the waiting for the challenge is great among the fans and the drivers. Tazio doesn't stand the idea to give up and declares that he would race.
On Friday the fever is abating and Tazio calls his personal doctor from Mantua that receives the instructions for manufacturing an handicraft leather bust. Tazio says to Bianchi to prepare the "freccia celeste". Most people say that he is completely crazy and the doctors declare that "he is crazy like an horse! We could send him to a lunatic asylum!" and they disclaim all responsibility.
On Sunday his team help him to get up, they take off some troublesome bandages and they put Tazio on the bust and over this a red sweater. After more than an hour the "operation" is complete. Tazio is transported to the circuit in a big car and he's putted on the motorbike as a mummy. He can use only the hand-controls!
The race is very hard even for a full-strength driver: it rains, there are the greatest Italian and English champions and there are 300 kilometres (187 miles) to cover!!
During the first laps Tazio is cautious and after gains some positions. After that Handley has the pit-stop for refuelling Nuvolari takes the first position. He ramains first until the 28th lap, when Handley recovers the disadvantage and passes. Nuvolari tries to resist and throws the counter-attack. The English is not able to outrun Nuvolari and stresses his Rex Acme 350 over the limits to shake off the Mantuan. When remain two laps to the end of the race Tazio is still near Handley and when they pass in front of the tribunes, at the begin of the last lap, Nuvolari overtakes his opponent, unleashing the spectators. He will resist to the Handley's attack? The crowd wait for the arrive. After some minutes they hear the sound of an engine: Nuvolari, alone, is first and wins the race! Handley asked too much to his motorcycle and broke the engine.
The crowd acclaims and celebrates Tazio, that is "taked away" from the motorcycle and faints.
He wins with 130 km/h (80 mph) of average speed (better than the average speed of the 500 class)!
Some years later he declares: "...during the last laps, there were some moments where I didn't see the track. I was hallucinated, I feared to faint. I had to retire, I tought. I resisted not for the fear to fall and to broke my neck. I resisted because I feared that if I turned off the engine, with my heavy bandage and the bust, I would risk to fall and to remain immobile on the track as a target for my pursuers..."
An unforgettable triumph without precedents in the history of motorcycling!



The accidents

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During his long career Nuvolari has seven "mortal accidents", as defined by technicians and doctors.
He always survives and often recovers his strength in short time, thanks to his iron will, determination and his athletic body. As you can read also in these pages happened that after heavy accidents Tazio comes back to the track after some days, even if with bandage or fractures...
Once a newspaper, after a terrible accident with the motorcycle, announces his death. After some days, in an interview, the Champion reply with irony: "when someone announce my death, you have to wait three days before crying... everything is possible..."



An unforgettable victory...

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Nuvolari, the Saturday evening before the race at the "Tre Provincie" circuit, calls his mechanic Compagnoni and informs him that the day after they will take part in the race. It isn't the first time that he decides to race the day before.
They arrive on Saturday morning, before the beginning of the race. The circuit is very hard and is 130 km long (80 miles), with a lot of bends and Tazio doesn't know it.
After the departure of Ferrari and Borzacchini it's his turn: he leaves and immediately drives over the limit. He arrives at a level crossing with breakneck speed and doesn't slow down. The car suffers a tremendous blow. The mechanic clings to the straps but they come off. He jumps out of seat and risks to flying out of the car but Nuvolari, while is driving, seizes Compagnoni by the foots and drags his mechanic inside!
The terrible blow has stalled the accelerator that doesn't work anymore: Tazio has to stop the car. Compagnoni opens the bonnet and understands that the spring is broken. He takes off one's waistband, ties it to the rod that adjust the flux of the petrol and passes the waistband through the bonnet. They restart but have to drive in two: Nuvolari uses gear, clutch, brakes and the wheel while Compagnoni pulls the waistband and accelerates! Because of the road surface in terrible conditions, the numerous bends and the ups and downs (continuos jumps and skids), without straps, the mechanic has to clutch to the chassis, on the outside of the car. Consequently his hand is subjected on terrible "shooting" of stones and gravel.
Tazio doesn't gives in: to make up for Ferrari's handicap (Borzacchini is retired) he drives madly on the road of Abetone pass.
Meantime Ferrari, that left before, at the finishing line is already celebrated as the winner. But Enzo, for scruple, remains and waits Nuvolari. He controls the detaching with the chronometer. Suddenly Tazio arrives "as an avalanche" and Ferrari is stunned: he is beaten for few seconds!!
Nuvolari is carried in triumph, wins with his Alfa 1750 6 cylinders, realises the new absolute record of the race and defeats the Alfa 2300 8 cylinders of the scuderia Ferrari! But the hand of Compagnoni will have forever the mark of that... unforgettable victory!



The shouts

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For the 1932 Targa Florio Nuvolari requests a lightweight mechanic. Enzo Ferrari, his team manager for the race, introduces to Tazio Paride Mambelli, a very thin young man. The Champion asks if he has fear to race with him. After that he suggests to pay attention to his shouts: in bends faced with excessive speed and where is foreseeable to go out of the road, he has to throw under the dashboard of the car, to be sheltered in case of overturning.
When they come back from Sicily Ferrari asks Mambelli about the race: the young answers: " Nuvolari started to shout from the first bend and finished to the last. So I remained under the dashboard for all the race"!!



Nuvolari drives with only an hand

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During the qualifying sesion of 1932 Monza Grand Prix Nuvolari (Alfa Romeo P3) fights with Fagioli (Maserati 16 cylinders). The two champions drive faster and faster to prevail. But all at once Fagioli skids frightfully and Tazio, that follows, has to dribble his opponent with an acrobatic manoeuvre. The car seems to go out of the road but the Mantuan is able to control his Alfa Romeo. During this terrible moment "Nivola" sprains his wrist. The doctors bandaged his hand and the day after Tazio starts the race.
During the GP Nuvolari is in first position and resists to his pursuers, but the pain is very acute. Tazio turns back often bacause he fears to be passed and on the straights, at over than 200 km/h (125 mph), he takes tha hand off the steering-wheel for resting the wrist and drives with only an hand! The pain when he covers the bends is terrible: he has to grip strongly the wheel with both hands to control the car. Unfortunately he is unlucky: at the last lap, when he is sure of the victory, remains without petrol and arrives third!





(Nuvolari at full speed drives with only three wheels - Brno, 1936)



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