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Achille Varzi: ISO Info on Early Life


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#1 GPevolved

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Posted 31 March 2019 - 01:32

I am attempting to produce something productive in the form of an article exploring the rivalry (real versus media-imagined?) between Tazio Nuvolari and Achille Varzi.

 

I've sourced a lot of material about Varzi and Nuvolari starting from 1930 through the remainder of their careers. I also have plenty of material on Nuvolari's early life (for the purposes of my article). 

 

However, I can't seem to find much of substance on Varzi's early life. I thought I would start a thread here to see if anyone has any insight, anecdotes, or references addressing Varzi as a young man, motorcycle rider, and hopeful auto-racer.  

 

{Fair Warning: I do not read Italian}. 

 

Thanks in advance, I sincerely appreciate any information shedding light on this fascinating--even if flawed--individual.



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#2 Tim Murray

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Posted 31 March 2019 - 06:17

There are many earlier threads on various aspects of Varzi’s career. These two are probably the most comprehensive:

Achille Varzi

Achille Varzi

There’s a constant theme in most of these earlier threads: that so little is known about Varzi, and that his Italian biography Una Curva Cieca was never translated into English.

Probably the best biography in English is the chapter on him in Chris Nixon’s Racing the Silver Arrows, although it includes the myth that Ilse Pietsch introduced him to morphine at the 1936 Tripoli GP.

However, sadly, none of these sources contain any significant detail on his early life, so anything that you or others can come up with will be greatly appreciated by those many of us here who would love to know more about the man. :wave:

#3 Nigel Beresford

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Posted 31 March 2019 - 09:00

Like many, I have always found Varzi fascinating. Can you recommend a source for the truth regarding Varzi’s initial use of morphine? I read through the previous threads linked above but they make no mention. I read Roebuck’s potted biography of Varzi on the Motorsport website but that asserts that Ilsa Pietsch introduced him to morphine the night after the infamous Tripoli race.

https://www.motorspo...e-achille-varzi

Thanks, Nigel.

#4 Tim Murray

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Posted 31 March 2019 - 09:33

It may well be the case that Varzi first took morphine on the evening of his supposed humiliation at the 1936 Tripoli GP, but if so it could not have been Ilse Pietsch who introduced him to the drug, as she didn’t attend that race. Dr Aldo Zana has done much research on Varzi. Here’s what he posted in one of the threads I linked to above:

Plain talk is fun and opinions are fascinating.
On my part, I'd like to add some facts I came through in my extensive research on Varzi, made it easier by living in Milano (some 25 miles from his hometown Galliate). Some results of the researches are in the exhibit on Varzi currently open in the Galliate Castle (exhibit which I did together with my friend and designer Marzo Zannoni), in my article published in the Ruoteclassiche magazine and in some speeches I delivered on the subject.

Just a few proven facts:
1. Ilse was not at Tripoli 1936 GP.
2. Pietsch biography calls her Ilse Engel, born 1911 in Wiesbaden, then married to a Herr Hubach in Frankfurt before marrying him. We also know that, after Pietsch, she got married again with a Herr Franz Feininger, an opera singer living in Berlin. Pietsch also confirms that she died in Berlin after the war. I called Public Registrar Offices in Wiesbaden, Berlin, Freiburg i/B, Stuttgart: I learned that, while in Italy data recorded in such an Office are public (by definition) and open to everybody, Germany applies the Privacy Law even to the birth date and name of a person, both living or dead: personal data, apparently, could only be asked for by the relevant person, his/her wife/husband, sons. Nevertheless, I got answers from Berlin and Wiesbaden: no person with such a name was ever born in Wiesbaden, no person with such a name was dead in Berlin after 1945. So, where is the point for Pietsch to allow the writing of apparently false information, and why does he still refuse to speak on the subject, after 68 years and at his grand age?
3. No one of the rather distant relatives of Achille Varzi, still living in Milano, wants to talk about him.
4. In the Chemnitz State Archives, the file on Varzi is under privacy cover for at least a couple of decades.
5. Drugs were very common within elitarian environments: its presence in the motor race world should haven't been taken as a deadly sin at all.
6. To steal someone else's wife/girlfriend was, again, not so uncommon within racing fraternity: let's think about Rudi Caracciola and Alice Trobeck.
7. When I met Elly Beinhorn (and also in a long, taped interview dating back to 1986) she talked freely about all women of her motor racing word, but refused to say a word on Ilse.
8. Varzi was canceled from Italian social life and motor world with such a brutality, which seems rather unjustified.

Therefore, beyond the usual words taken/written by someone else's talk or script, there should be something more behind Ilse.

I built an unproven theory, which could be either destroyed or strenghtened by comments of people of different culture and approaches. Please, have a careful look at those photos of Ilse, already posted here. Ask women and girls you trust to describe how do they feel looking at that creature and how would they depict the sex-appeal.
Maybe, now my comment with that "Lady" into brackets could appear less enigmatic: apologise for that.
Many thanks for any contribution.

(my highlighting)

#5 Steve99

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Posted 31 March 2019 - 09:44

Fascinating stuff! Thank you.



#6 Eric Dunsdon

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Posted 31 March 2019 - 10:15

I became fascinated by the career of Achille Varzi as a schoolboy after reading the few motor racing history books available at the time. A few years ago I bought a copy of the  Giorgio Nada Editore book  L'ombra oscura di Nuvolari  which is still listed on the Nada Website for 50 euros. I would recommend this to anyone interested in this  great driver. It is in Italian which sadly I am unable to read but the book contains a wealth of wonderful photographs and complete list of races competed in including the four Isle Of Man motor cycle Tourist Trophy races in which he competed winning two 'Visitors Trophies. I wouldn't be without this book. There is by the way a very active Varzi Face Book group in Galliate where an Achille Varzi day is held every year.


Edited by Eric Dunsdon, 31 March 2019 - 10:19.


#7 Nigel Beresford

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Posted 31 March 2019 - 14:05

It may well be the case that Varzi first took morphine on the evening of his supposed humiliation at the 1936 Tripoli GP, but if so it could not have been Ilse Pietsch who introduced him to the drug, as she didn’t attend that race. Dr Aldo Zana has done much research on Varzi. Here’s what he posted in one of the threads I linked to above:

(my highlighting)

 

Hello Tim,

 

thank you for your response. So as you say it seems it is possible that she did introduce him to morphine, but it was not in Tripoli. Roebuck's account offers some detail (i.e. his sleeplessness) that lends it an air of authenticity, but perhaps someone at some point misattributed the venue.

 

 

Thanks, Nigel



#8 guiporsche

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Posted 31 March 2019 - 14:49

This will sound a very stupid question for those well attuned to the difficulties of researching Varzi's life because they probably already looked there, but is there any possibility that in the Italian State, or in the Diplomatic archives there are any files on Varzi? As an Italian employed by a German team there might have been at least a couple of reports on him and his activities, his political loyalties, the money he earned, etc. 


Edited by guiporsche, 31 March 2019 - 14:49.


#9 Tim Murray

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Posted 31 March 2019 - 17:23

Hello Tim,

thank you for your response. So as you say it seems it is possible that she did introduce him to morphine, but it was not in Tripoli. Roebuck's account offers some detail (i.e. his sleeplessness) that lends it an air of authenticity, but perhaps someone at some point misattributed the venue.


Thanks, Nigel

It does seem that Nixon, Roebuck and other writers have accepted at face value the bullshit perpetrated by Alfred Neubauer in his memoirs. We demolished some of this in this earlier thread:

Achille Varzi and Tripoli 1936

Neubauer’s account of what passed between Varzi and Ilse in their hotel room after the race is fascinating; it even quotes part of their conversation. But Ilse was not in Tripoli.  ;)

As I suggested in that earlier thread, I think it would have been far more likely for Varzi to have started on the morphine after his horrifying high-speed accident at Tunis one week later.

#10 GPevolved

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Posted 31 March 2019 - 20:43

Got tied up. Just wanted to shoot off an immediate thanks for the thoughts and contributions.



#11 GPevolved

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Posted 31 March 2019 - 23:34

Thanks for the suggestion to buy the Mercedes Benz book. It has been on my shortlist for many years. I went ahead and ordered it.

 

I was also glad to see the links to such other great threads. I am perusing them now.

 

This forum is always a wealth on knowledge, so thank you to everyone who posted.



#12 Richard Jenkins

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Posted 01 April 2019 - 20:24

There's a little bit about Varzi pre-1922 here; http://www.comune.ga...o/Achille-Varzi from his local community; it doesn't say much but it does explain why he started in bikes and it mentions something about school. Probably not enough but maybe the Galliate local community may be able to help with more information re. Varzi.



#13 nexfast

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Posted 01 April 2019 - 21:21

The article says that he used bikes to get to school  - he and his brothers -  and also to do some errands for a business belonging to his uncle. His father encourage the kids to go as fast as possible  to school and that's how the race bug started. 



#14 Tim Murray

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Posted 02 April 2019 - 07:04

Here’s a translation of the complete article, mainly courtesy of Google Translate but with a few changes made by me after consulting my Italian dictionary. No guarantees as to accuracy:

Achille Varzi

The life and exploits of the great champion from Galliate, from his debut on bikes to his triumphs with cars.

Achille Varzi was born on 8 August 1904, the third son of Menotti Varzi and Giuseppina Colli Lanzi. Menotti was the brother of Ercole, industrialist and later a senator, founder of Manifattura Rossari e Varzi.

Achille's first sporting love was the motorbike that he used first for pleasure, going to school and running errands for the company, and soon for competitive sport.

"You may question why I started with motorcycles when I had such passion for cars. Simply, the motorcycle happened to be the first - how to say? - motorized transport in my hands. We had to go to school, my two brothers and I, as fast as possible according to my father. So it was that we began to ... do it quickly, that is, to race ”. - Achille Varzi

From 1922 onwards he became one of the leading contenders in motorcycle sport. He raced a "Garelli 350", smoked "Macedonia" blond tobacco and projected his own image: crew-neck sweater, knickerbocker pants and leather boots.

In 1923 he had his first successes in the Italian championships and, immediately, his first Italian title. In 1924 he moved into the 500 class. He raced a Frera, then switched to Norton and then to a "Sunbeam". His first clashes on track with Tazio Nuvolari began.

The years which followed were years of national and international victories where Varzi and Nuvolari took turns on the podium.

Tazio Nuvolari was born in Castel d’Ario (Mantova) in 1892. He was a legend of motorcycling and motor racing in the pioneering era, known for his exceptional courage and great ability to get his vehicle to the finish in every kind of adverse situation.

In 1926 the automotive saga of Achille Varzi began, with one of the legendary "Bugatti 1500, four cylinder" cars. The legendary rivalry began between Varzi and Nuvolari on the Monza track, in the Mille Miglia, the Targa Florio and other international circuits. Varzi and Nuvolari would become team mates at Alfa Romeo, under the direction of Enzo Ferrari.

"This racing driver was a real man: intelligent, calculating, aggressive when necessary, quick to take advantage of the first weakness, the first error, the first problem for the opponent. I would say ruthless and not easy to understand ... stubborn as few people are ... ".
Enzo Ferrari

1933 should be remembered as the official birth of what we now call the Lottery Race. For the first time a lottery was combined with a car race: the Tripoli Lottery that in that year was won by Varzi followed by Nuvolari.

In the mid-1930s he switched to Auto Union and began a relationship with the charming Ilse Hubach, wife of driver Paul Pietsch. With the competitive season underway he began suffering serious pain caused by appendicitis. He didn’t want to interrupt his racing, so Ilse suggested he soothe the pain with morphine. This had a devastating effect that jeopardised his growing sporting career.

Achille Varzi had a renaissance after the war. In May 1945 drivers, engineers and journalists combined to form a committee to revive motor racing. Varzi appeared transformed and started to race again, with new successes in Buenos Aires, Rosario, Interlagos. He got to know the "Argentinian Equipe" and its drivers, in particular Juan Manuel Fangio, son of Italians who emigrated to Argentina.

On Thursday 1 July 1948 he was in Switzerland practising on the Bremgarten circuit. In the late afternoon steady rain was falling. Varzi was at the wheel of an Alfa Romeo 158. After a few laps the car hit a stream of water. Suddenly, near the Jordenrampe curve, the car skidded on the wet asphalt at more than 170kmh and began to spin, striking the barrier. After a bend it left the road along the embankment that ran along the spur and slowly turned over, trapping the driver. The rescuers found Varzi already lifeless, crushed by the weight of the car. He died that afternoon. The tragedy, triggered by Varzi's first real mistake, cost him his life.

At the funeral, in Galliate, all the champions of the time were present except for Tazio Nuvolari, whose health was rapidly declining: the previous year he had collapsed at the finish of the Mille Miglia. The Equipo Argentino drivers moved to Galliate, first in the Villa Varzi, then in Via Carducci, giving life to the team that, led by Fangio, picked up Varzi's sporting legacy.

On August 11, 1953, Tazio Nuvolari died. His had been a slow but inexorable decline. His lungs, which had breathed gasoline fumes for years and years, had finally given way.

The Formula One was upon us.



#15 Tim Murray

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Posted 04 April 2019 - 10:28

Here’s a list of Varzi’s motorcycle racing results:

http://achillevarzi.com/motociclismo/

and here’s another potted biography (in French) which also suggests he started taking morphine to relieve the pain caused by appendicitis:

http://boowiki.info/...ille-varzi.html