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1930 Mille Miglia


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#1 Roger Clark

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Posted 13 July 2001 - 23:17

The 1930 mille Miglia is famous as the race where Nuvolari outwitted Varzi by turning off his hheadlghts and passing his rival just before the finish. But did it really happen?

First, if it did, Nuvolari must have had the race aleady won, as the 1000 Miglia was a time trial with the cars starting at one minute intervals. Indeed, he must have won by a long way, because his race time was 10 minutes less than Varzi's. Second, the Nuvolari web-site says that the overtaking actually took place in daylight! However, all pictures I have seen of Nuvolari's car show it to be well supplied with driving lamps, suggesting that he either started or finished the race in darkness. His race time was over 16 hours.

Valerio Moretti's biography of Nuvolari says that the incident is a myth, yet includes a description of it by by Giovambattista Guidotti, who was Nuvolari's co-driver, and who claimed to have had the idea. Guidotti says that the incident took place at Peschiera, which I believe is about 30 kms from Brescia.

One thing that would help would be knowing Nuvolari's starting time. From that we could work out his finishing time and whether it would have been in darkness.

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#2 Hans Etzrodt

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Posted 14 July 2001 - 00:46

Here some excerpts from the book MILLE MIGLIA Edita S.A., Lausanne, 1981 by the authoritative Giovanni Lurani.

"The fourth Mille Miglia started at 11 am on April 16.

"Thirty cars out of a total field of 135 were six-cylinder, supercharged Alfa Romeos.

"The rivalry between Varzi and Nuvolari was evident. Nuvolari had the advantage of starting 10 minutes after his opponent, which enabled him to learn the situation at each control.

"At the Ancona control, Nuvolari was one minute ahead of Varzi and both of them were driving flat out. On the second passage through Bologna, Nuvolari/Guidotti had increased their lead to almost seven minutes, due largely to Varzi/Canavesi being delayed by two punctures.

"Nuvolari set up new records on all the Veneto sectors, closing up on Varzi who had left the starting line 10 minutes before him. At Feltre, Varzi had given up the struggle. On the descent at Arsié, he recognized Nuvolari far behind by the headlight arrangement. With Olympic calm, he turned to his co-driver--"it's him". But Nuvolari, not only wanted to win, he wanted to arrive at the finishing line before Varzi. It was at this point that the legend was born that Nuvolari closed up on his rival with his headlights off (it was dusk), switching them on suddenly as he overtook Varzi near Lonato on the outskirts of Brescia. Nuvolari went on to finish the race in record time. He and his partner, Guidotti, were the first drivers to have exceeded an average of 100 kilometers an hour--60 mph.".

#3 Hans Etzrodt

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Posted 14 July 2001 - 01:01

Fourth Mille Miglia - 1930
1. Nuvolari/Guidotti (Alfa Romeo) 16h18m59.2s
2. Varzi/Canavesi (Alfa Romeo) 16h29m51.0s
3. Campari/Marinoni (Alfa Romeo 16h59m53.6s
4. Ghersi/Cortese (Alfa Romeo) 17h16m31.0s
5. Bassi/Gazzabini (O.M.) 17h18m34.4s
6. Caracciola/Werner (Mercedes-Benz) 17h20m17.4s

#4 Roger Clark

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Posted 14 July 2001 - 07:28

Hans,

I agree that Lurani is an authoratitive writer but..

All the information I have says that the race was run on the 12 - 13 April. All the pictures I have seen of works and Ferrari Alfas in the race have the same headlight arrangement so I don't see how Varzi would have recognised Nuvolari from that. Lonato is not on the outskirts of Brescia but about 20 miles away.

however, none of that detracts from the main point.

If nuvolari finished at dusk (between 7 and 9 in the evening?) he must have started between 3 and 5 in the morning. I am assuming that the clocks were running throughout the event.

Posted Image

This picture appears in Moretti's book on Nuvolari. IT doesn't say, but the demeanour of the competitiors and the onlookers all suggest that it was taken at the start. (Although did they use the ramp start at that time?) The direction of the shadows is consistent with the car heading souh if it is early morning.The length of the shadows suggest the early morning, though perhaps not as early as 3 to 5.

All of this is consistent with Lurani's story, but not with the commonly repeated version that Nuvolari took Varzi by surprise by overtaking in darkness.

As an aside, if the race started at 11am on the Saturday, and the cars were started at one minute intervals, 135 cars would have been on the road by about 1:15. Nuvolari clearly couldn't have started that early orhe would have finished in the early hours of Sunday morning. I assume there was a break in the starting times, either to keep the fastest cars away from the slowest, or to minimise the amount of driving in darkness.

#5 Milan Fistonic

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Posted 14 July 2001 - 08:16

In Ian Morrison's book Motor Racing - The Records he states that
"The cars used to start off at one minute intervals, originally starting at 9.00 p.m. on a Saturday, but that was changed in 1949 to midnight. At the same time, cars were numbered in accordance with the time they set off....."

#6 alessandro silva

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Posted 14 July 2001 - 08:31

The 1930 MM was in April 12/13.
Nuvolari’s starting time, according to Canestrini, was 1:22 p.m.
In the early MM no starting ramp.
In the early MM arrivals were at night.
No known break in the start sequence: a fixed interval between 1 and 2 minutes in each MM.
The extra lampgear was due essentially to the Feltre-Primolano-Bassano section, very difficult and very dark with practically no straight-lines and villages to cross.
Between Ancona and Bologna (200 kms) Nuvolari had chunked six minutes out of Varzi’s advantage (in the Ancona checkpoint the cars were divided by less than 1 minute in actual time and both drivers were told by the Scuderia to keep their speed) It took 200 more kms. for Tazio to take the other four minutes when he was spotted by Varzi between Bassano and Vicenza. The “It’s him” story is belivable, since drivers were constantly in touch with the situation of the race and the last checkpoint was in Treviso, some 40 kms before.
After Bassano it was all flat out to Brescia, about 120 kms. It is likely that the two cars cruised towards home, when, around 5:20 a.m., between Peschiera and Lonato (30 kms off Brescia) , or wherever, Nuvolari turned off his lights (no need for them anymore) and asked Varzi for road.
Hence the legend.
Nuvolari, no longer a young man, desperately needed a legend, this MM being by far his most popular of the scarce wins he had up to then. Varzi, his junior by several years, had always been a step ahead of him.
When the English-speaking press discovered Guidotti some 20/30 years ago, the old man decided that his big moment had come at last. His interviews are filled with trivia with little regard to actual truth, and sometimes he tells farfetched or even made up stories to make the interviewer happy. Of course the MM headlight story was then unearthed and furiously re-told.

#7 Hans Etzrodt

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Posted 14 July 2001 - 09:29

AUTOMOBIL-REVUE 1930, No. 32, page 4: ....."The contest will take place from Saturday, 12th to Sunday, 13th. As starting time 11:00 a. m. has been scheduled....."

AUTOMOBIL-REVUE 1930, No. 34, page 3: ....."Over 130 cars entered for the start, which was given in two series. With an incredible participation from the public the first segment, commercial vehicles and racing cars up to 1100 cc, were sent into the race at 11 a. m....."
....."After a short lunch break followed the start of the aces....."

AUTOMOBIL-REVUE 1930, No. 36, page 3: ....."In Brescia at the start, the whole town was up on its legs, stayed up -more or less- and when the first cars returned Sunday morning, they were still up. At the Piazza Centrale stood an illuminated display board to show telegraphic news. When at 4 a. m., the news arrived that the drivers had reached Feltre, a torchlight procession moved to the place of arrival....."

Quote from the Lurani post: It was at this point that the legend was born that Nuvolari closed up on his rival with his headlights off (it was dusk)
This must be a mistake in the English translation. It could not have been dusk, because it was dawn. In German dawn and dusk is the same (=Dämmerung), but you add the word morning or evening to specify the time of the day. Maybe Italian is similar and the translator erred.

#8 alessandro silva

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Posted 14 July 2001 - 09:39

I think it is ascertained that the story went pretty much as I told it. It was DAWN;
Hans, there is no generic Italian word that could be translated with TWILIGHT;
I neve heard before of a lunch-break between starts! You certainly never know enough in my Country!

#9 alessandro silva

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Posted 14 July 2001 - 09:42

Hans
"...commercial vehicles .."?????????

#10 Hans Etzrodt

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Posted 14 July 2001 - 09:57

I translated ‘Commercial Vehicle’ from the German language AUTOMOBIL-REVUE, where it reads 'Nutzfahrzeuge'. I looked this word up in my dictionary, which reads 'Commercial Vehicle'. It is possible that the writer meant vehicles used in normal life, but not necessarily trucks or busses but something different than racing or sports cars. It is also possible that the word 'Nutzfahrzeug' had a different meaning at that time, since the car was only 44 years old in 1930.

#11 Roger Clark

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Posted 14 July 2001 - 10:04

Does anybody know when this story started? What did Neubauer say in his autobiography?:)

#12 Hans Etzrodt

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Posted 14 July 2001 - 10:36

Neubauer and Caracciola have nothing in their books about the 1930 MM. Only very little is to be found in Molter's 1995 book about Caracciola. What are you looking for, Roger?

#13 Roger Clark

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Posted 14 July 2001 - 11:25

I was interested in when the story, about Nuvolari catching Varzi with his lights out so that the laater was unaware of his presence until it was too late, really started. Alessandro mentioned interviews by Guidotti 20/30 years ago but I'm certain it started before that. It was mentioned in several British obituaries of Nuvolari. The reference to Neubauer ws intended as a joke, as he seems to have been the source of at least one other racing myth.

#14 David McKinney

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Posted 14 July 2001 - 11:25

Nuvolari by Count Lurani describes the race in great detail. It states that Nuvolari switched his lights off as they left Pescheira, which was itself brightly lit, and drove on Varzi’s tail-lights until 3km from the finish, when he surprised him by passing. I don’t know when that was written, but my English-language edition is dated 1959 - before the 20/30 years ago that "the English-speaking press discvovered Guidotti". On the other hand I suspect Lurani's source for the story was Guidotti, and happily accept Alessandro's views on its likely veracity

:)