Tazio Nuvolari

Tazio Nuvolari

Infobox Person

image_size = 200px
name = Tazio Nuvolari
birth_date = birth date|1892|11|16
birth_place = Castel d'Ario, Italy
death_date = Death date and age|1953|08|11|1892|11|16
death_place = Mantua, Italy
occupation = Racing driver
spouse = Carolina Perina (1917-1953)
parents = Arturo Nuvolari
Elisa Zorzi
children = Giorgio Nuvolari
Alberto Nuvolari

Tazio Giorgio Nuvolari (November 16, 1892 – August 11, 1953) was an Italian motorcycle and racecar driver, known as "Il Mantovano Volante" ("The Flying Mantuan") or "Nivola". He was the 1932 European Champion in Grand Prix motor racing. Dr Ferdinand Porsche called Nuvolari "The greatest driver of the past, the present, and the future." [cite web | url = http://www.historicracing.com/top100.cfm?otdother=2&driverID=1353&selMonth=3& | title = Top 100] .

Tazio Nuvolari started out in motorcycle racing in 1920 at the age of 27. In 1925 he captured the 350cc European Championship. From then until the end of 1930, he competed both in motorcycle racing and in automobile racing. For 1931, he decided to concentrate fully on racing cars and agreed to race for Alfa Romeo's factory team, Alfa Corse. In 1932 he took two wins and a second place in the three European Championship Grands Prix, winning him the title. He won four other Grands Prix including a second Targa Florio and the Monaco Grand Prix.

After Alfa Romeo officially left Grand Prix racing, Nuvolari stayed on with Scuderia Ferrari who ran the Alfa Romeo cars on a semi-official basis. During 1933, Nuvolari left the team for Maserati after becoming frustrated with the Alfa Romeo's performance. At the end of 1934, Maserati pulled out of Grand Prix racing and Nuvolari returned to Ferrari, who were reluctant to take him back, but were persuaded by Mussolini, the Italian prime minister.

The relationship with Ferrari turned sour during 1937, and Nuvolari raced an Auto Union as a one-off in the Swiss Grand Prix that year before agreeing to race for them for the 1938 season. Nuvolari remained at Auto Union until Grand Prix racing was put on hiatus by World War II. The only major European Grand Prix he never won was the Czechoslovakian Grand Prix. Upon his return to racing after the war, he was 54 and suffering from ill health. His final race, in 1950, saw him finish first in class and fifth overall. He died in 1953 from a stroke.

Personal and early life

Nuvolari was born in Castel d'Ario near Mantua on 16 November 1892 to Arturo Nuvolari and his wife Elisa Zorzi.cite web |url=http://www.tazionuvolari.it/bio_uk.htm |title=The years from 1892 to 1929 |accessdate=2007-04-18 |last=Cancellieri |first=Gianni |publisher=Tazio Nuvolari - The Official Site] The family were well acquainted with motor racing as Arturo and his brother Giuseppe were both motorcycle racers - Giuseppe was a multiple winner of the Italian national championship and was particularly admired by a young Tazio.

Nuvolari was married to Carolina Perina, and together they had two children: Giorgio (born 4 September 1918), who died in 1937 aged 19 from myocarditis,cite web |url=http://www.tazionuvolari.it/bio2_uk.htm |title=The years from 1930 to 1953 |accessdate=2007-04-18 |last=Cancellieri |first=Gianni |publisher=Tazio Nuvolari - The Official Site] and Alberto, who died in 1946 aged 18 from nephritis.cite web |url=http://www.nivola.org/nuv1e.asp |title=Life of Tazio Nuvolari |accessdate=2007-04-18 |publisher=Nivola International]


Motorcycle racing

Nuvolari gained his license for motorcycle racing in 1915 at the age of 23. His motorcycling career was postponed, however, by the outbreak of World War I and Nuvolari served as a driver in the Italian army. Once the war had ended, he resumed his sporting career and took part in his first race at the Circuito Internazionale Motoristico in Cremona in 1920. During this period, Nuvolari also dabbled in car racing, winning a reliability trial in 1921.

In 1925, Nuvolari became the 350 cc European Motorcycling champion by winning the European Grand Prix. At the time, the European Grand Prix was considered the most important race of the motorcycling season and the winners in each category were designated "European Champions".cite web |url=http://racingmemo.free.fr/M%20HISTOIRE/M-HIST%201925.htm |title=History of the motorcycle race: 1925 |accessdate=2007-04-18|publisher=Racing Memory|language=French] Nuvolari also won the Nations Grand Prix four times between 1925 and 1928cite web |url=http://racingmemo.free.fr/M%20GRAND%20PRIX/MGP-PALM-ITA.htm |title=History of the Nations Grand Prix and the Italian Grand Prix |accessdate=2007-04-18|publisher=Racing Memory|language=French] and the Lario Circuit race five times between 1925 and 1929, all in the 350 cc class and each time on a Bianchi motorcycle.cite web |url=http://racingmemo.free.fr/M%20COURSES%20INTER/MOTO%20LARIO.htm |title=Il Circuito del Lario |accessdate=2007-08-20|publisher=Racing Memory|language=French]

It was also in 1925 that Nuvolari was asked by Alfa Romeo to have a trial in their Grand Prix car. The car's gearbox seized and Nuvolari crashed,cite book |last=Walker|first=Murray|authorlink=Murray Walker|coauthors=Simon Taylor|title=Murray Walker's Formula One Heroes|pages=pp. 17-20|isbn=1-85227-918-4] severely lacerating his back. Despite his injuries, he competed in the Nations Grand Prix at Monza six days later, winning the race after he had persuaded staff at the hospital to bandage him in a manner such that he could sit on his motorcycle and receive a push start.

A switch to four wheels

1931-1932: Alfa Corse

"Related Article: Alfa Corse"


In 1930, Nuvolari won his first RAC Tourist Trophy (he won one more time in 1933). According to a legend, when one of the drivers broke the window of a butchery, Nuvolari, when passing by it, drove on the pavement and tried to catch a ham cite book |last=Skořepa|first=Miloš|authorlink|title=Miloš Skořepa, Dejiny automobilových pretekov|pages=pp. 191|] .According to Sammy Davis who met him there, Nuvolari showed a great sense for dark humour and seemed to enjoy situations when everything went wrong. For example, he told Enzo Ferrari after he got a ticket for a journey home from the Sicilian Targa Florio "What a strange businessman you are. What if I am brought back in a coffin?"Nuvolari and his co-driver Battista Guidotti in Alfa Romeo 6C 1750 GS spider Zagato won the Mille Miglia, becoming the first to complete the race at an average speed of over convert|100|km/h|mi/h|0|abbr=on. Due to starting after his team-mate Achille Varzi, he was leading the race despite still being behind Varzi on the road. In the dark of night Nuvolari tailed Varzi for tens of kilometres, riding at speed of convert|150|km/h|mi/h|0|abbr=on with his headlights off, thereby being invisible in Varzi's rear-view mirrors; he then switched on his headlights before overtaking "the shocked" cite book |last=Skořepa|first=Miloš|authorlink|title=Miloš Skořepa, Dejiny automobilových pretekov|pages=pp. 191|] Varzi near the finish at Brescia [cite web | url = http://www.ddavid.com/formula1/mille_miglia_1930.htm | title = Mille Miglia 1930] .


Towards the end of 1930, Nuvolari made a decision to stop racing motorcycles and to concentrate fully on car racing during 1931. The new season saw a change in the regulations which meant that Grand Prix races had to be at least 10 hours in duration.cite book |last=Pritchard|first=Anthony|title=A Century of Grand Prix Motor Racing|pages=pp. 47|isbn=1-899870-38-5] After drawing ninth place on the grid at the Italian Grand Prix, Nuvolari started the race in an Alfa Romeo shared with Baconin Borzacchini. However, the car had to retire with mechanical problems after 33 laps. Nuvolari then teamed up with Giuseppe Campari and the pair took the race win,cite web |url=http://www.racing-database.com/Race.asp?GP=IX%20Gran%20Premio%20d%B4Italia |title=IX Gran Premio d´Italia|accessdate=2007-05-08|publisher= [http://www.racing-database.com Racing Database] ] although Nuvolari could not receive the championship points from it. Apart from a second place at the Belgian Grand Prix, the only other European Championship race, the French Grand Prix, resulted in a disappointing 11th place finish. Aside from the main European Championship Grands Prix, Nuvolari took victories in the Targa Florio and the Coppa Ciano.


1932 saw a revision of the previous year's regulation change, with the race duration being reduced to between five and ten hours. The season was the only one in which Nuvolari regularly had one of the fastest cars, the Alfa Romeo P3.cite book |last=Pritchard|first=Anthony|title=A Century of Grand Prix Motor Racing|pages=pp. 60|isbn=1-899870-38-5] A consequence was that in the three European Championship Grands Prix, he took two wins and a second place - winning the championship by four points from Borzacchini. He took four other wins during the season, including the prestigious Monaco Grand Prix and a second Targa Florio. His mechanic Mabelli said about this race: "Before the start, Nuvolari told me to go down on the floor of the car everytime he shouts, which was a signal that he went to a curve too fast and that we need to decrease the car´s center of mass. I spent the whole race on the floor. Nuvolari started to shout in the first curve and wouldn't stop until the last one." cite book |last=Skořepa|first=Miloš|authorlink|title=Miloš Skořepa, Dejiny automobilových pretekov|pages=pp. 203|]

On 28 April that year he was given a golden turtle badge by the famous Italian writer Gabriele d'Annunzio which symbolised the opposite of his speed. He wore the turtle ever since and it became his talisman and also his symbol.

1933-1937: Scuderia Ferrari and Maserati

"Related Articles: Scuderia Ferrari, Maserati"


The 1933 season was the first year of a two year hiatus for the European Championship, and saw Alfa Romeo stop their official involvement in Grand Prix racing. They did not disappear altogether as they were represented by Enzo Ferrari's privateer outfit. For economic reasons, the P3 was not passed on to Ferrari and they were forced to use the Monza, the predecessor of the P3.cite book |last=Pritchard|first=Anthony|title=A Century of Grand Prix Motor Racing|pages=pp. 49|isbn=1-899870-38-5] Maserati were their main opposition with a highly improved car.

Nuvolari is often reported as having been involved in a race-fixing scandal at the Tripoli Grand Prix. It is said that he, along with Achille Varzi and Baconin Borzacchini, conspired to fix the race in order to profit from the Libyan state lottery. The lottery saw 30 tickets drawn before the race - one for each starter - and the holder of the ticket corresponding to the winning driver would win seven and a half million lire.cite book |last=Tibballs|first=Geoff|title=Motor-Racing's Strangest Races|pages=pp. 103-106|isbn=1-86105-411-4] However, this story is said by some to be a work of fiction by Alfred Neubauer, the team manager of Mercedes-Benz at the time and a well-known raconteur with a penchant for spicing up a story.cite web |url=http://www.kolumbus.fi/leif.snellman/trip33.htm |title=Tripoli 1933: A hard look at the legend |accessdate=2007-05-31 |publisher=The Golden Era of Grand Prix Racing|author=H. Donald Capps] Some of the facts in Neubauer's version do not hold true with documented records of events, which point to Nuvolari, Varzi and Borzacchini agreeing to pool the prize money should one of them win, as opposed to Neubauer's claims of race fixing.

Alfa Romeo announced that for the 24 Hours of Le Mans, Nuvolari would be competing in a team with Raymond Sommer.cite book |last=Tibballs|first=Geoff|title=Motor-Racing's Strangest Races|pages=pp. 107-109|isbn=1-86105-411-4] Sommer argued that he would be drive the majority of the race as he was more familiar with the circuit and Nuvolari would likely break the car. Nuvolari countered that he was a leading Grand Prix driver and Le Mans was a simple layout that would not trouble him, to which Sommer backed down and they agreed to divide the driving equally. The race itself saw Sommer and Nuvolari take a two lap lead before their fuel tank developed a hole, which was plugged by chewing gum whilst in the pits. Several more pit stops were necessary as the makeshift repair came undone several times during the race. Nuvolari drove from then until the end of the race, breaking the lap record nine times and winning the race by approximately 400 yards (366 m).

1934quote box|quote="Let any who say it was foolhardy at least be honest and admit it was one of the finest exhibitions of pluck and grit ever seen. By such men are victories won!"|source=Earl Howe, on Nuvolari's drive in the 1934 AVUS-Rennen whilst having one leg in plaster|width=21%|align=rightAt the start of 1934, Nuvolari entered the Monaco Grand Prix in a privately owned Bugatti. Having made it up to third place in the race, he suffered brake troubles and fell back to fifth at the finish, two laps behind the winner, Guy Moll.cite web |url=http://www.kolumbus.fi/leif.snellman/gp341.htm#3 |title=VI Grand Prix de Monaco |accessdate=2007-08-20 |publisher=The Golden Era of Grand Prix Racing|author=Leif Snellman, Felix Muelas] Whilst racing at Alessandria in the "Circuito di Pietro Bordino" race, Nuvolari crashed whilst avoiding Carlo Felice Trossi's stricken car.cite web |url=http://www.kolumbus.fi/leif.snellman/gp341.htm#4 |title=Circuito di Pietro Bordino |accessdate=2007-07-30 |publisher=The Golden Era of Grand Prix Racing|author=Leif Snellman, Felix Muelas] He broke a leg, but suffering from boredom in hospital, he decided to enter the AVUS-Rennen just over four weeks after his accident. His Maserati was specially modified so that he could use all three of its pedals with his left foot; his right was still in plaster.cite web |url=http://www.kolumbus.fi/leif.snellman/gp342.htm#10|title=IV Internationales AVUS-Rennen |accessdate=2007-07-30 |publisher=The Golden Era of Grand Prix Racing|author=Leif Snellman, Felix Muelas] Troubled by cramp, Nuvolari finished fifth.

By the time of the Penya Rhin Grand Prix in late June, Nuvolari's leg was finally out of plaster, but was still causing him troubles as he battled pain until he retired his Maserati with technical problems.cite web |url=http://www.kolumbus.fi/leif.snellman/gp342.htm#18 |title=V° Gran Premio de Penya Rhin |accessdate=2007-08-20 |publisher=The Golden Era of Grand Prix Racing|author=Leif Snellman, Felix Muelas]

In the Italian Grand Prix, Nuvolari debuted Maserati's new 6C-34 model. The car performed poorly and Nuvolari could only finish fifth, three laps behind the Mercedes-Benz of Rudolf Caracciola and Luigi Fagioli.cite web |url=http://www.kolumbus.fi/leif.snellman/gp345.htm#35 |title=XII° Gran Premio d'Italia |accessdate=2007-08-20 |publisher=The Golden Era of Grand Prix Racing|author=Leif Snellman, Felix Muelas]


For 1935, Nuvolari set his sights on a drive with the German Auto Union team.cite book |last=Rendall|first=Ivan|title=The Chequered Flag|pages=pp. 140|isbn=0-297-83550-5] The team were lacking top-line drivers, but relented to pressure from Achille Varzi who did not want to be in the same teams as Nuvolari. Nuvolari then approached Enzo Ferrari, but was turned down as he had previously walked out on the team. However, Mussolini, the Italian prime minister, intervened and Ferrari backed down.

In this year, Nuvolari scored his most impressive victory, thought by many to be the greatest victory in car racing of all times cite book |last=Skořepa|first=Miloš|authorlink|title=Miloš Skořepa, Dejiny automobilových pretekov|pages=pp. 191|] [cite web | url = http://alfalegend.com/nuvolari_page.htm | title = Alfa legend] [cite web | url = http://www.ddavid.com/formula1/nuvo_bio.htm | title = Nuvolari] [cite web | url = http://www.speedace.info/grand_prix_history.htm | title = The Greatest Victory of all time] , when at the German Grand Prix at the Nürburgring, driving and old Alfa Romeo P3 (3167cm³, compressor, 265HP) versus the dominant, all conquering home team's cars of five Mercedes Benz W25 (3990 cm³, 8C, compressor, convert|375|HP|abbr=on, driven by Caracciola, Fagioli, Hermann Lang, Manfred von Brauchitsch and Geyer) and four Auto Union Tipo B (4950cm³, 16C, compressor, convert|375|HP|abbr=on, driven by Bernd Rosemeyer, Varzi, Hans Stuck and Paul Pietsch). This victory is known as "The Impossible Victory" [cite web | url = http://www.nivola.org/nuv2e.asp#germ35 | title = One against all] . The crowd of 300,000 applauded Nuvolari, but the representatives of the Third Reich were enraged [cite web | url = http://www.speedace.info/grand_prix_history.htm | title = The Greatest Victory of all time] .


Nuvolari had a big accident in May during practice for the Tripoli Grand Prix and it is alleged that he broke some vertebrae. Despite a limp, he took part in the race the following day and finished eighth. [cite web | url = http://alfalegend.com/nuvolari_page.htm | title = Alfa legend] .


At the beginning of 1937, Alfa Romeo took their works team back from Ferrari and entered it as part of the Alfa Corse team.cite book |last=Rendall|first=Ivan|title=The Chequered Flag|pages=pp. 146|isbn=0-297-83550-5] Nuvolari stayed with Alfa Romeo despite becoming increasingly frustrated with the poor build quality of their racing cars.

At the Coppa Acerbo, Alfa Romeo's new 12C-37 car proved to be slow and unreliable. This frustrated Nuvolari, who handed his car over to Giuseppe Farina mid-race. Not wanting to leave Alfa Romeo, he drove an Auto Union in the Swiss Grand Prix as a one-off. After the Italian Grand Prix, Alfa Romeo withdrew from racing for the remainder of the season and dismissed Vittorio Jano, their chief designer.cite book |last=Rendall|first=Ivan|title=The Chequered Flag|pages=pp. 149|isbn=0-297-83550-5]

1938-1939: Auto Union

"Related Article: Auto Union"


Although Nuvolari started 1938 as an Alfa Romeo driver, a split fuel tank in the first race of the season at Pau was enough for him to walk out on the team, critical of the poor workmanship that was exhibited. He announced his retirement from Grand Prix racing and took a holiday in America. At the same time, Auto Union were having to rely on inexperienced drivers. Following the Tripoli Grand Prix they contacted Nuvolari who, having been refreshed from his break, agreed to drive for them.cite book |last=Rendall|first=Ivan|title=The Chequered Flag|pages=pp. 153|isbn=0-297-83550-5]

Post-war racing

In 1946, Nuvolari raced in the Milan Grand Prix using only one hand to steer; the other was holding a bloodstained handkerchief over his mouth.

Nuvolari's last race was in 1950 at the Palermo-Montepellegrino hillclimb, in which he came first in his class and fifth overall.

Death and legacy

Nuvolari never formally announced his retirement, but his health had deteriorated and he became increasingly solitary. In 1952 he suffered a stroke which left him partially paralysed, and he died in bed a year later from a second stroke.cite journal | quotes = no | date = August 24, 1953 | title = The Last Race | journal = TIME | url = http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,818755-1,00.html | accessdate = 2007-04-18] Almost the entire town of Mantua attended his funeral, which is said to have seen an attendance of between 25 and 55 thousand people. The funeral procession was a mile long, and Nuvolari's coffin was placed on a car chassis which was pushed by Alberto Ascari, Luigi Villoresi and Juan Manuel Fangio.

Nuvolari has had three cars named after him - the Alfa Romeo Nuvola,cite web |url=http://www.supercars.net/cars/35.html |title=1996 Alfa Romeo Nuvola Concept |accessdate=2007-07-31 |publisher=Supercars.net] the EAM Nuvolari S1, and the Audi Nuvolari Quattro.cite web |url=http://www.audiworld.com/news/03/geneva/nuvolari/content.shtml |title=Vision of the GT of the Future: Audi Nuvolari quattro |accessdate=2007-05-31 |date=2003-03-04 |publisher=AudiWorld]

Nuvolari was one of the early proponents of the four-wheel drift technique. The technique was later utilised by drivers such as Stirling Mosscite book |last=Skořepa|first=Miloš|authorlink|title=Miloš Skořepa, Dejiny automobilových pretekov|pages=pp. 191|] .


External links

* [http://www.tazionuvolari.it/ Official site] , including complete list of his races, with placements.
* [http://www.ddavid.com/formula1/nuvo_bio.htm Grand Prix History - Hall of Fame] , Tazio Nuvolari
* [http://www.vanderbiltcupraces.com/index.php/blog/article/1936_vanderbilt_cup_race_video Film of Tazio Nuvolari winning the 1936 Vanderbilt Cup Races] (VanderbiltCupRaces.com)
* [http://www.kolumbus.fi/leif.snellman/ The Golden Age by Leif Snellman]

NAME=Nuvolari, Tazio
DATE OF BIRTH=November 16, 1892
PLACE OF BIRTH=Castel d'Ario, Italy
DATE OF DEATH=August 11, 1953

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