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Tripoli GP - Lottery fraud


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#1 Don Capps

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Posted 06 January 2000 - 10:25

I am generally a strong supporter of Motor Sport, but there is an article in this month's issue that is just flat wrong: "The Great Grand Prix Swindle" which purports to be an article on the 1933 GP di Tripoli.

I have sent them two email letters and enclosed my 4 August RVM as proof of how screwed up the article is.

The other articles are the usual good stuff, especially the visit to Clermont-Ferrand. The track test of the 012 Tyrrell and the Lauda encounter with the March 721X are good stuff.

Also, interesting reading the thoughts on the future of F1.

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#2 Marcel Schot

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Posted 06 January 2000 - 13:16

Please enlighten us, Don. How wrong are they? I read the article last night as the first one of the issue, since it seemed the most interesting to me. Must say that it looked all a bit too unlikely and almost comical, but I'm not quite aware of how it really happened or whether that was what happened.

#3 ed

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Posted 07 January 2000 - 03:40

Don read the article as well. The tenor of the piece seems definately tongue in cheek. Generally, impressed with Motor Sport. The old race circuts and historical articles are imformative. 1st post here. Enjoy the knowledge which is provided by some of the posters. Like history and racing.

#4 Don Capps

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Posted 09 January 2000 - 12:56

Here is the original text of my column from 4 August 1999:

Rear View Mirror for 4 August 1999
Don Capps


The Corsa dei Milioni, the 1933 Gran Premio di Tripoli – the Race that was Rigged?


As is often the case, legend – or myth – often makes for a better story than the plain ol’ truth. In his book, Speed was my Life, Alfred Neubauer, the team manager of the Mercedes-Benz teams of the 1930’s and the 1950’s, wrote a chapter entitled, “The Race that was Rigged.” Our good friend Dennis David has graciously consented to make that chapter ( http://www.ddavid.co...a1/trip1933.htm ) available for you to read before we get started. It is actually very entertaining and reads very quickly. I must also thank the wonderful Betty Sheldon for her great work in unearthing the details of this race and surprising even your Scribe with what she found. Betty and her husband Paul have performed feats of magic digging up the murky details of past races and many of us owe them a great deal of thanks for filling in those annoying gaps in our records. Thanks to both of you, Dennis and Betty, for your help with this article!

The Neubauer version of the 1933 Gran Premio di Tripoli is accurate in several instances: it did take place in 1933 at the Mellaha circuit outside Tripoli; it was won by Achille Varzi; Tazio Nuvolari was second; there was a lottery connected to the race results; the unfortunate Sir Henry Birkin did die several weeks after the race; and, there was some sort of collusion as to the outcome of the race. As for the rest, especially the wonderful and colorful details (I really liked the mysterious Sophia, the blue smoking jacket, and white scarf with the genuine pearl scarf-pin and just the entire hotel room scene – almost as much as Campari and the bottle of Chianti…), well, Neubauer was never one to let mere facts get in the way of a good story. Unfortunately, the Neubauer version of things served as the basis for many – inaccurate – articles in magazines from Sports Car Graphic to Car and Driver to Autosport. Now to try to separate Myth, Legend, and Truth from each other:

On 7 May 1933, the 30 starters of the VII Gran Premio di Tripoli sat on the grid of the Mellaha circuit just outside the city and waited to start the first of the race’s 30 laps around the 13.1 kilometer circuit, a distance of 393 kilometers. The outcome of the Corsa dei Milioni and the Lotteria dei Milioni were going to be decided after – well, being decided.

The grid, as was the norm for that time, was determined by drawing ballots and the race numbers applied accordingly – even numbers starting from the pole, # 2 all the way back to the last on the grid, # 60. Luigi Premoli in PBM-Maserati was on the pole with the Scuderia Ferrari Alfa Romeo 8C-2300 of the great Tazio Nuvolari next to him on the first row of the grid. The field was arranged in row of four. Achille Varzi, was on the outside of row two in a works (Automobiles Ettore Bugatti) Bugatti 51. And on the fourth row of the grid was Baconin Borzacchini in another Scuderia Ferrari Alfa Romeo.

At the start, Carlo Gazzabini, on the second row next to Sir Henry (Tim) Birkin, Maserati 8C-3000, took off like a rocket in his Alfa Romeo 8C-2300 grabbing the immediate lead. However, as the field came around to complete its first lap, Birkin was leading the race. Birkin was followed by Nuvolari, Giuseppe Campari (works Maserati 8C-3000), Goffredo Zehender (Raymond Sommer-entered Maserati 8CM) who started from the fifth row, pole-sitter Premoli, and the rest of the pack. When the field came round the next time, it was led by Campari who passed both Nuvolari and Birkin and was starting to already draw out a cushion. On this lap Luigi Fagioli peeled off and pitted his Maserati 8CM for a plug change.

Just short of the halfway point, 14 laps, Campari pitted. His oil tank coming adrift and causing problems with lubricating the engine. After several quick, frantic attempts to bolt it in place, the offending tank was secured in place with rope found in the pits. However, after several more laps Campari was forced back into the pits to retire. Yet another attempt to make further repairs was halted once it became apparent that the lack of oil had produced a death rattle in the engine of the Maserati.

On the same lap that Campari originally pitted, so had Birkin. Birkin pitted his Maserati to refuel. The stop was utterly routine, the only drama being Birkin accidentally getting a burn on his arm from the exhaust pipe, an all too common occurrence and an occupational hazard in those days. Birkin was to die on 22 June 1933, from what most initially thought was as the result from the burn he received.

When Campari pitted, Nuvolari swept into the lead. Varzi and Zehender were in second and third places, and Birkin, fourth, going very well and showing no apparent ill effects of the burn suffered during his pit stop. After 23 laps, Nuvolari roared into the pits for the modern equivalent of a “splash-and-go.” The pit stop took only 20 seconds, quite a remarkable time when it is realized that most pit stops of the day were measured in minutes.

Nuvolari screamed out of the pits after Varzi. Over the last several laps of the race Nuvolari carved big chunks of time off the lead Varzi had built up. On the last part of the last lap Nuvolari was almost literally side-by-side with Varzi. Going into the last turn before the finishing straight, however, the advantage lay with Varzi. His Bugatti could still both out-brake and out-accelerate the Nuvolari Alfa Romeo. And Varzi was using all the road and his Bugatti was as wide as he could make it. Despite the frantic efforts of Nuvolari to pass him before last turn, Varzi braked later into the corner and then rushed away from Nuvolari. At the finish line Varzi was a scant 0.2 seconds ahead of the Flying Mantuan after Nuvolari’s heroic effort to catch the Bugatti simply fell short. Had there been a 31st lap, the finish could have easily been reversed.

Gee, this is the same race that Neubauer described? It most certainly isn’t and yet it is. This was the race as it was described in L’Auto Italiana, R.A.C.I., and Motor Sport, all leading racing journals of the day. It was an exciting race in which Varzi was fortunate to eke out a win by the narrowest of margins over one of the best drivers of his day. Nuvolari did not meekly follow Varzi across the line; if it had been possible, the victory garland would have been around Nuvolari’s neck, not Varzi’s.

But what about Louis Chiron? Sorry, he wasn’t even there! What about Borzacchini and the oil drums? The Alfa he drove retired with transmission problems, not from contact with any of the scenery, particularly oil drums. What about Marshal Italo Balbo? He didn’t become the Governor of Tripoli until the Spring of 1934, almost a year after the race. And didn’t Tim Birkin die on 22 June 1933 of septicemia as a result the burns he received during his pit stop? True, that is the date Birkin died, but it now thought that the actual cause of his death was from recurrent malaria, a result of his service during the Great War. But what about The Fix? There was one, wasn’t there? Yes, there was an agreement about the finish, but hardly the sort of affair that Herr Neubauer dreamed up. In fact, the truth is maybe more interesting in many ways than the myth!

It is very possible that the entire truth may never be known. What follows is based the best information available. Between Betty Sheldon and Valerio Moretti, When Nuvolari Raced, this is what appears to be as close to the truth as I can get.

The story starts with the Italian colony of Libya in North Africa. It is looking for sources of income to offset the balance of payments from Rome. Tourists are not being attracted in as large a numbers as desired, much less immigrants. The Italian government is looking for ways to entice people to visit and then settle in Libya. So far, the results have not been encouraging. With motor racing a p

#5 Felix Muelas

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Posted 10 January 2000 - 06:19

Don,
By one of those coincidences that life shows from time to time, I am presently re-reading the spanish version of Canestrini's "Una vita con le Corse" that I gather was written sometime around 1960.
By reading what he tells I guess Mrs Sheldon simply "ignored" his point of view (in my opinion, Canestrini's position in Mrs Sheldon article appears too "guilty") and decided that he was probably involved in the distribution of money even for himslef. I will not like to take a position here, if only because I found your own article the best and most accurate of all, and hence respect your authority to heavily critisize the mess Mark Hughes has made with his article.
But if what Canestrini says is of any interest, I could try to make some translation, and post it here in a couple of days. You tell me...
Un abrazo
Felix


#6 Dennis David

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Posted 11 January 2000 - 09:39

Don - After reading your article I didn't bother reading the one in MotorSport. Look's like you and I should consider submitting articles as their atandards have lowered enough, we may have a chance. ;-)

BTW I'm in Seattle and will be away until this weekend.


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#7 Don Capps

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Posted 12 January 2000 - 23:49

Felix,

If you would be so kind to do the translation from Canestrini's "Una vita con le Corse" concerning the race I would really appreciate it.

As you noticed in the article, my opinion is that Canestrini is more "gray" than Mrs. Sheldon paints him, but certainly not by any stretch of the imagination guiltless.

Thanks for the kind words, by the way. When I finally started looking into this race, I was amazed how few had actually done any real research on it. And the truth is far more interesting than the myth in this case.

Oh, no reply from Motor Sport as of yet. No surprise there.

DD,

I really think you have a point there! If the Tripoli article is what we are to expect, and apparently it is, have at it!

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Yr fthfl & hmbl srvnt,

Don Capps

Semper Gumbi: If this was easy, we’d have the solution already…



#8 Marcel Schot

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Posted 13 January 2000 - 00:34

Thanks for all the info guys, this makes it all much more real. Now I wonder why a respected magazine as Motorsport would put on such an article? After reading some more, I have to say this is the weakest issue I've read (ok, I've only been with them since July last year, since I didn't find it available in Holland any sooner). Especially the article on the future of Formula One seems a bit misplaced in the context of the magazine.

On the other hand I enjoyed the Clermont-Ferrand and Lauda articles. Never realized Lauda was a pay driver... strange to think up the row Lauda, Diniz, Rosset ;)


#9 Paste

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Posted 13 January 2000 - 00:35

It's amazing how twisted the facts got! Your work on that story was incredible, Don. A great read!

#10 Stephen Herbert

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Posted 15 January 2000 - 07:54

Don,
The article in 'Motor Sport' tries to link the race 'fix' with Sir Henry Birkin's death.
It states that a last-minute rule change occurred (probably pushed through by the conspirators' teams) which stated that only one designated mechanic could work on each car. Maserati only sent one mechanic to the race to look after both Luigi Fagioli's works car and Birkin's customer version, so they naturally designated him to Fagioli. Birkin had to enlist the help of a local garage mechanic.
When Birkin made his first pit stop he found his mechanic to be drunk and asleep under a tree (this sounds very fanciful) and had to change his tyres and refuel the car himself. It was here that it concluded he was burnt.
The article contains a picture of Birkin working on his own car, but this picture may not have been taken during the race.
Do you know of any last-minute rule change? Or if Henry Birkin did tend to his own car during his pit-stops?
I too love Motor Sport magazine but found your article on the Tripoli GP 1933 so much better.

[This message has been edited by Stephen Herbert (edited 01-14-2000).]

[This message has been edited by Stephen Herbert (edited 01-14-2000).]

#11 Dennis David

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Posted 15 January 2000 - 12:25

Moretti in his History of the Tripoli GP makes no mention of this only that Birkin thought to help his mechanic and accidently touched an exaust pipe with his forearm. There was actually a documentury of Birkin which stared Rowan Atkinson (Mr. Bean) though I have not seen it. I have his biography Full Throttle but it covers an earlier period especially his Brooklands days. I doubt its validity. Birkin was not a slouch he would have not raced with such support.

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#12 Marcel Schot

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Posted 15 January 2000 - 18:46

Atkinson as Birkin....haven't seen it, but it sounds rather blasphemous :)

Birkin ofcourse, is not as much know as a Grand Prix driver as well as the designer of the legendary Blower Bentley.

#13 Lutz

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Posted 15 January 2000 - 08:29

The movie is called "Full Throttle" -like Birkins biography. It was produced in 1999. There is a video tape available. This is a description I found on the web:
"Sir Henry Birkin, played by Rowan Atkinson, was a race car driver whose constant quest to be the victor ended up causing him to lose all."
Doesn't sound like a very exact documentary after reading this thread, does it?
Has anyone seen this movie?

#14 Stephen Herbert

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Posted 15 January 2000 - 23:51

I have seen the movie 'Full Throttle' starring Rowan Atkinson. It was a one-hour drama that was broadcased on the BBC in February 1995.
From what I remember of the film it showed the incident when Birkin burnt himself as happening at the end of the race, he pulled into the pits and asked to be handed a cigarette and burnt his arm on the exhaust as he took it.
It was a pretty good movie. It was set just before the Tripoli GP with Henry Birkin writing his biography with a young journalist and looking back over his career.
Some of the filming took place at the Brooklands Museum and I would love to see it again.

#15 Ray Bell

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Posted 16 January 2000 - 07:25

I, too, am disillusioned. Did Neubauer's account of the Varzi decline have any real basis, then, or the various feuds he described?
Yet Monkhouse tells of 'Don Alfredo' mimicking Hitler in private sessions at restaurants and other things that show he wasn't altogether fanciful in his writing.
I have also long awaited a reply from Motor Sport.
But now I think the time is ripe to send them a story and see if they publish it. Let's raise the standard!

#16 Joe Fan

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Posted 16 January 2000 - 08:54

Don, this Tripoli GP article was written by Mark Hughes. Wasn't he the MotorSport writer who compiled the 100 list recently that everyone pissed, moaned and groaned about?

#17 Don Capps

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Posted 16 January 2000 - 11:01

1) It was normal in the early '30's that only one or two folks could work on a car during the pit stops - usually a mechanic and the driver were the two. The mechanic usually did the wheels and the driver refuelled. However, malaria got Birkin not the after-effects of the burn.

2) There was no last minute change at Triopli in 1933 and NO mechanic sleeping in the shade or other rubbish.

3) Don Alfredo was a genuine Character and truly a genius in racecraft and team management; however, he was also a wonderful bullshitter to be blunt when it came to certain aspects of history. His version of the Varzi Saga is greatly overwrought. Many of his stories were just that, an entertaining collage of fact, fantasy, and gossip that combined with his wonderful ability to spin a tale make them actually believeable.

4) Neubauer was no fan of the Nazis, but he did understand the purpose of the exercise and the nature of what Daimler-Benz was really up to. He was not alone in mocking Hitler, but he wasn't crazy either. Personally, I enjoy his stories, but take them as just that stories.

5) Mark Hughes seems to be the new Scribe at MS. I gave him some credit for his efforts in his Top 100 for not limiting the century to the last 10 years - and he did have the sense to pick Nuvolari as #1! After the Tripoli article, however, not very impressed. That is virtually mistake for mistake and word for word the same as at least a half dozen other articles I found in various magazines. Makes one think about his research abilities.



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Yr fthfl & hmbl srvnt,

Don Capps

Semper Gumbi: If this was easy, we’d have the solution already…



#18 Ray Bell

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Posted 16 January 2000 - 08:44

You've got to admit that research is difficult, but in this case you would think that the magazine's library of its own back issues would have given enough cause to question the affair.
I know that once I start researching I can't put it down until I dot every "I" and cross every "T" - hell, when I did the story on Longford I spent a week on the phone trying to prove whether one person's sneaking suspicion that there had been a meeting in 1952 was right or wrong. I had had the right answer in the first place, but I had to KNOW it was right.
I'm trying to do a story now about a certain driver's last race, but I won't finish it until I talk to his widow. I can't, because it's intended to be the definitive story, a story that won't ever be told again. You can't correct that later...

#19 Dennis David

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Posted 17 January 2000 - 04:14

You can but by then the damage is done.

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#20 Dennis David

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Posted 17 January 2000 - 04:22

If my memory serves me and at this age it's not always a given, There was not a limit on people who could work on the car while it was in the pits or at least as far it was more than one or two. There used to be more than one pit at many of these races so if it was a secondary pit it may have been manned by only one person. Birkin may have been weakened by malaria but my info is that the burn turned septic. I am open to more info on this. Also if he did light one up then he was a cooler hombre than I would have imagined as he was racing amongst the leaders at this time so I am more inclined to believe that it was just a cockup in the heat of the moment.

As far as Don Alfredo he was one of a kind and a legend even in his own lifetime.

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#21 Ray Bell

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Posted 20 June 2003 - 20:39

Not having read the item...

I think that judgement might be a little harsh. He blew the whistle on this episode how many years ago?

I just wonder if he has any say in whether or not the current day magazine can correct itself...

#22 Roger Clark

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Posted 20 June 2003 - 20:47

Originally posted by Ray Bell
Not having read the item...

I think that judgement might be a little harsh. He blew the whistle on this episode how many years ago?

I just wonder if he has any say in whether or not the current day magazine can correct itself...


It was 1969. I am sure that if he was still in control there would be no need for the magazine to correct itself.

#23 Ray Bell

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Posted 20 June 2003 - 21:08

I'm sure you're right, Roger...

As I'm equally sure that he must wince about some of the modern day inclusions.

#24 Vitesse2

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Posted 20 June 2003 - 22:27

Ensign has actually slightly misquoted. Here's the actual text: form your own conclusions as to who WB is having a go at ..... :) :p

I am flattered that in the long discourse on the 1933 Tripoli GP Lottery, Hilton says that it was my views on this, expressed in Motor Sport in the 1960s, that planted the seeds of doubt in the mind of Don Capps which induced him to investigate in detail this odd and often grossly inaccurately reported affair.



#25 550spyder

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Posted 22 August 2003 - 12:33

I would like to know the history about the Lottery fraud in the Tripoli GP before the wwII. I heard that the pilots have made a fix to manipulate the results and the case was an scandal.
Thanks for any help.

#26 Vitesse2

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Posted 22 August 2003 - 12:43

Forget everything you've ever read or heard about this and read this thread with an open mind:

http://www.atlasf1.c...s=&threadid=956

:)

#27 Marcel Visbeen

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Posted 22 August 2003 - 12:45

There have been a couple of threads about this, they should be easy to find when using the search-engine and the keywords: lottery, Tripoli, Nuvolari, Varzi, Birkin or any combination.
Don Capps himself has put an enourmous effort in putting this story straight and in his recent book on Nuvolari (Nuvolari by C.Hilton publ.: Breedon Books, 2003) Christopher Hilton uses his research for a reconstruction of the events of 1933.

Hope that that helps, good luck

#28 Leif Snellman

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Posted 22 August 2003 - 13:28

Don Capps' excellent analysis is available on my homepage at

http://www.kolumbus....lman/trip33.htm

#29 Doug Nye

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Posted 22 August 2003 - 15:04

Having just re-read Don's very good analysis of the Lottery affair he makes passing mention of 'Tim' Birkin's burned arm and subsequent demise, and mentions his Great War infection with malaria...which, once contracted, tends to recur intermittently.

When I did a pretty detailed feature on Birkin for 'Classic & Sportscar' some years ago I went through a mass of old papers concerning the Bart's demise. It became apparent that fellow Bentley Boy and Harley Street microbiologist Dr Benjafield did his best to help his old friend fight off the septicaemia which claimed him - derived directly, it would appear, from the infected burn on his arm - but Birkin was certainly judged to have been weakened by what had become recurrent bouts of malaria, and was also suffering a grumbling appendix which had it burst could itself have caused peritonitis/septicaemia.

In short - in those pre-antibiotic days - the poor blighter didn't have much going for him...but I'm pretty sure the direct cause of death was classified as 'septicaemia'.

DCN

#30 Don Capps

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Posted 22 August 2003 - 16:37

I think Our Doug gives a good case for Birkin's demise being a bit more complicated than even I suggested. As usual, the truth is always a bit complicated and so the cause of death being 'septicaemia' is perhaps more warranted than I earlier surmised. Thank you, Doug! :up:

#31 HDonaldCapps

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Posted 08 August 2007 - 14:40

Not having seen the broadcast myself, I was informed that the crew covering the race and providing the commentary for the recent Hungarian F1 event for Speed mentioned on the air that the 1933 GP di Tripoli was "fixed."

After trying to find a means to send an email to the team, I finally found that there is a "feedback" mechanism on their Web site. I wrote a message which provided a link to the article on Leif's excellent site as well as suggesting that they take a look at Christopher Hilton's book on Nuvolari. However, I think that it would be a bit of a stretch to even imagine that such a message will get read by one of the IT minions much less making its way to the guys in the broadcast booth. If anyone has a better way to contact them, I would urge that they make them aware of the error. I would appreciate it.

Thanks,

Don

#32 Jim Thurman

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Posted 08 August 2007 - 17:28

Originally posted by HDonaldCapps
Not having seen the broadcast myself, I was informed that the crew covering the race and providing the commentary for the recent Hungarian F1 event for Speed mentioned on the air that the 1933 GP di Tripoli was "fixed."

After trying to find a means to send an email to the team, I finally found that there is a "feedback" mechanism on their Web site. I wrote a message which provided a link to the article on Leif's excellent site as well as suggesting that they take a look at Christopher Hilton's book on Nuvolari. However, I think that it would be a bit of a stretch to even imagine that such a message will get read by one of the IT minions much less making its way to the guys in the broadcast booth. If anyone has a better way to contact them, I would urge that they make them aware of the error. I would appreciate it.


Don, it was coverage of the previous round - the European Grand Prix at Nurburgring, and rather than the announcing crew, it was a voice over announcer in the intro that mentioned this, not one of the booth talent. II would feel confident that a missive actually finding it's way directly to Bob Varsha could lead to something...hopefully.

#33 HDonaldCapps

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Posted 09 July 2008 - 21:05

Libyaonline on the Tripoli GP

Just thought the last line was interesting: "Research suggests that the story is a popular myth."

#34 HDonaldCapps

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Posted 09 July 2008 - 21:09

I am finally getting around to the article for submission to Motor Sport, which is to say that it got lost when ol' Sparky croaked and I finally figured out where it was.....

#35 D-Type

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Posted 09 July 2008 - 22:50

Don,

See it as acknowledgement of the research you have put in.

#36 Barry Boor

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Posted 10 July 2008 - 09:03

Like many others, I have always been aware of that race in Tripoli but I am ashamed to admit that until 10 minutes ago, I had no really clear idea of the circumstances.

Thank you so much, Don, for that article (and to Leif for hosting it). The research Don carried out seems to me to clear the whole thing up - although I guess there will always be people with 'different' versions.

Anyway, a really enjoyable read and once again, the old adage, 'you learn something new every day' rings true.

#37 HDonaldCapps

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Posted 10 July 2008 - 11:03

Digging further, Doug's comment, "In short - in those pre-antibiotic days - the poor blighter didn't have much going for him...but I'm pretty sure the direct cause of death was classified as 'septicaemia,'" certainly seems to be the case. It seems that whether Birkin burned his arm during refuelling or during the race through accidental contact with the exhaust pipe -- someone has mentioned it was when he reached for his cigarette lighter -- the burn was not treated properly and became infected. Whether this was due to a lack of medical care at Tripoli or Birkin's either not being aware of the seriousness of the wound and not following through on any treatment or it triggering other problems which were not caught in time is difficult to ascertain at this distant point in time. This wound, in possible combination with another medical condition -- various problems have been suggested -- and a possible recurrance of his malaria did not bode well for Birkin. Whatever the combination of medical aliments that accumulated that finally led to Birkin's death, it seems very clear at this point that the burn suffered at Tripoli was clearly the catalyst and the main culprit.

#38 D-Type

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Posted 10 July 2008 - 11:27

If anybody is interested, the Neubauer version is posted on Dennis David's site

#39 Vitesse2

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Posted 10 July 2008 - 15:04

Originally posted by HDonaldCapps
Digging further, Doug's comment, "In short - in those pre-antibiotic days - the poor blighter didn't have much going for him...but I'm pretty sure the direct cause of death was classified as 'septicaemia,'" certainly seems to be the case. It seems that whether Birkin burned his arm during refuelling or during the race through accidental contact with the exhaust pipe -- someone has mentioned it was when he reached for his cigarette lighter -- the burn was not treated properly and became infected. Whether this was due to a lack of medical care at Tripoli or Birkin's either not being aware of the seriousness of the wound and not following through on any treatment or it triggering other problems which were not caught in time is difficult to ascertain at this distant point in time. This wound, in possible combination with another medical condition -- various problems have been suggested -- and a possible recurrance of his malaria did not bode well for Birkin. Whatever the combination of medical aliments that accumulated that finally led to Birkin's death, it seems very clear at this point that the burn suffered at Tripoli was clearly the catalyst and the main culprit.

At the inquest into Birkin's death, Benjafield was asked if the burns had been dressed in Tripoli: "I do not think any care was taken of them until some time afterwards. Monday, May 22, was the first time I saw him. I then judged from the state of his arms that the burns were superficial."

Benjafield had actually been called to see Birkin on that day: he had a temperature of 102 and thought he had malaria. The doctor noticed "small dressings" on the arms - this was the first he knew of the burns, which he thought were "almost healed". He had Birkin admitted to a nursing home and "got further medical assistance": the next day, he diagnosed septicaemia, confirmed "bacteriologically" the following Sunday.

The "further medical assistance" appears to have been Dr Alec Landale Clark, who told the Coroner that Birkin was "extraordinarily predisposed to skin infection".

Source: The Times, 24th Jun 1933

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#40 HDonaldCapps

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Posted 10 July 2008 - 15:35

Thanks, that is what I had found and which fit with some of the information I had discovered earlier in my digging. The actual injury, the burn itself, seems to have been over a relatively small area from what I can gather. It was a terrible situation, which while not necessarily commonplace, was an all too frequent occurrance prior to the introduction of antibiotics.

#41 MrAerodynamicist

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Posted 10 July 2008 - 19:16

Originally posted by HDonaldCapps
Libyaonline on the Tripoli GP

Just thought the last line was interesting: "Research suggests that the story is a popular myth."

All that is lifted directly from the Tripoli Grand Prix article on Wikipedia, which had the "it's a myth" theory referenced as a direct consequence of the discussion here.

#42 HDonaldCapps

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Posted 10 July 2008 - 19:44

Originally posted by MrAerodynamicist
All that is lifted directly from the Tripoli Grand Prix article on Wikipedia, which had the "it's a myth" theory referenced as a direct consequence of the discussion here.


Not a surprise, I suppose, given the seeming aversion to originality on the internet. It was sheer happenstance that I looked at the Libyan site.

As ever, please credit Bill Boddy and Betty Sheldon along with several others for asking questions and digging into this when no one else bothered to say peep.