Classic Car Catalogue
V GRAND PRIX DE MONACO
|Monaco Grand Prix
|23 April 1933
|Circuit de Monaco
|Race 1 of 5 in the 1933 Grandes Épreuves
Motor SportMay 1933AN HISTORIC MONACO GRAND PRIX
ACHILLE VARZI (BUGATTI) AFTER A TENSE DUAL WITH NUVOLARI (ALFA ROMEO) WINS ONE OF THE MOST THRILLING RACES EVER KNOWN
MONTE CARLO, Sunday Night.
NEVER has there been a more thrilling race! For the whole distance, occupying nearly 3½, hours, the blue and the red, France and Italy, Varzi and Nuvolari, Bugatti and Alfa Romeo, have waged a battle that will live for ever in the annals of motor-racing history. As the two cars roared up the hill on that last 99th lap, and Nuvolari's car slowed down in a wreath of smoke, I have never seen such intense, hysterical excitement in a crowd before. But let me begin at the beginning.
On the first day the new Caracciola/Chiron team of Alfas made fastest time, both getting within one second of the record. Then, in trying to better this, Caracciola had one of his brakes seize, crashing badly on that tricky little twist between the Quai de Plaisance and the Quai d'Albert. The car skidded sideways, crashed into some steps, and the force of the impact fractured Caracciola's thigh. So, to his great chagrin the German driver was a non-starter in the race. On the second day it was wet, but in spite of this Varzi equalled his own record of last year with a time of 2 mins. 2 secs.
A word about the cars.
Nuvolari and Borzachini drove Alfas with the 2.3-litre chassis and two-seater bodies, but fitted with 2.6-litre engines from the famous "monoposto" cars, tuned to give 25 extra h.p., making about 210 b.h.p. in all. These Alfa Romeos weighed 14 cwt. The official Bugattis of Varzi, Williams and Dreyfus were the usual "2.3's," but with geared-up blowers, and developing about 180 b.h.p. Earl Howe drove his last year's 2.3 Bugatti, and Sir Henry Birkin, after failing to obtain delivery of a 3-litre "Monoposto" Maserati from Bologna, rushed to Milan, secured a 2.3 Alfa-Romeo, drove furiously to Monaco, was delayed by an accident en route, fitted a new front axle, and arrived just in time for the race. The Maseratis of Sommer and Zehender were the new 3-litre "Monoposto" cars with hydraulic brakes.
The day of the race dawned fine and clear, the hot sun being tempered by a cool breeze. An enormous crowd had gathered all round the course by the time the cars were lined up in threes. On the suggestion of M. Charles Faroux the order of the cars was decided by their fastest lap speeds in practice, so that the front row was Borzacchini (Alfa Romeo), Chiron (Alfa Romeo) and Varzi (Bugatti). Nuvolari was in the second row.
The noise was simply deafening as the cars revved up when the drivers saw the flag raised. Then, with a rising note the whole pack roared away, leaving a blue haze behind them. Who would be round first? It must be one of the first row. Yes, it was Varzi, with Borazcchini (Alfa Romeo), Lehoux (Bugatti), who had started in the second row, and Nuvolari all close on his heels. Round they came again, Varzi still in the lead, but Nuvolari had passed Lehoux. On the third lap he caught Borzacchini, and went after Varzi - the duel had begun. Then a great cry rang out all round the course. Nuvolari was in the lead! But Varzi was equal to the occasion, and to the accompaniment of a still greater shout, once more led the field. For 30 laps there was only one second between them, both giving a flawless display of driving, until on that lap Nuvolari managed to slip by at the Gasworks Corner.
Meanwhile, Lehoux (Bugatti), after a magnificent start, had to retire, but another driver was making a performance that would firmly establish him in the front rank of racing drivers. It was the wealthy French sportsman, Phillipe Etancelin, at the wheel of his new 2,3 Alfa Romeo, and who was now lying third, being ahead of Borzacchini (Alfa Romeo), Dreyfus (Bugatti), and Chiron (Alfa Romeo). At 40, and 50 laps he was still third, only once faltering, when he turned right round at that dangerous "kink" on the Quai de Plaisance. Then, on the 60th lap his differential broke, and Etancelin was out. Birkin started slowly, for his Alfa Romeo was not properly run in, and after a short run retired with the inevitable back-axle trouble, when lying seventh. Earl Howe was another back-axle sufferer, and was forced to retire on the 40th lap, being then in 9th position. Sommer dropped out with magneto trouble on his Maserati - the same defect he experienced at Tunis.
At 60 and 70 laps Nuvolari still led, winding his steering wheel fiercely from side to side, and sitting bolt upright. Another sensation, Varzi was in the lead, but only by 10 yards. On the 90th circuit Nuvolari was ahead again, but on the 93rd Varzi pushed his Bugatti to the fore. What a race! Everyone was on tip-toe with excitement, for at this rate a really terrific finish would result. At the end of the 98th, Nuvolari appeared first, and as the cars streaked up the hill to the Casino the spectators, eyes glued to the two flashing specks of colour, suddenly uttered a tremendous roar. Nuvolari's red Alfa Romeo, its driver keeping in third gear all the time, had slowed, smoke pouring from the bonnet, and in a trice Varzi was past. By the time Nuvolari had finally coasted to a standstill Varzi had the race in his pocket, but Nuvolari, never admitting defeat for a moment, courageously began to push his car with the assistance of his mechanic and others, reaching the line in an exhausted condition. Varzi, to the terror of his pit-staff, drove like one possessed, even though his nearest rival was out of the race, and on the last lap set up a new record for the circuit in 1 min. 59 secs., or 59.9 m.p.h. Nuvolari, not having finished under the power of his Alfa Romeo, was unplaced - appallingly bad luck! Borzacchini was second, 2 minutes behind, and Dreyfus completed the triumph of Bugatti by finishing third.
1. A. Varzi (Bugatti), 3h. 27m. 49s. 57.01 m.p.h.
2. B. Borzacchini (Alfa Romeo), 3h. 29m. 49s.
3. R. Dreyfus (Bugatti), 3h. 30m. 10s.
4. L. Chiron (Alfa Romeo), 3 laps.
5. Count Trossi (Alfa Romeo), 3 laps.
6. P. Zehender (Maserati), 6 laps.
Varzi's Bugatti was equipped with Dunlop tyres.
Motor SportJune 1933
THE 5th GRAND PRIX DE MONACO
A CLASSIC STRUGGLE BETWEEN VARZI (BUGATTI) AND NUVOLARI (ALFA ROMEO).
THE race at Monte Carlo, the original of all the Round the Town races, has come to be regarded as the first important racing-car race of the season, after the preliminary spar at Tunis. For the 5th Grand Prix Nuvolari was of course the favourite, and was supported by the other members of the Scuderia Ferrari stable, Borzacchini, Count Trossi, and Siena. The monoposto cars were not used, but Nuvolari and Borzacchini were using 2,600 c.c. engines as fitted to the single seater cars. The two-seater cars weighed 15¾ cwts. and the 2.3 engines were said to develop 180 h.p., giving a road speed of 152 m.p.h., while the 2.6 engines delivered another 20 to 25 h.p.
The Bugatti official team drove two-camshaft cars similar to those used last year, but with superchargers running at a higher speed. In last year's trim they weighed 16¾ cwts., and the engines developed 165 h.p. with a speed on the level of 133 m.p.h., but the additional 15-20 h.p. forthcoming this year would raise this figure considerably. Owing to not having to compete with the monoposto Alfas, the new 2.8 cars did not appear, and the rumour that Varzi's car would be fitted with one of the larger engines was unfulfilled.
The monoposto Maseratis driven by Sommer and Zehender were striking in appearance, and with their narrow bodies and absence of fairings at the rear had a certain resemblance to the "Terror." Weighing only 13¾ cwts, and fitted with an eight-cylinder engine developing 210 h.p. these alarming vehicles were said to have a maximum speed of 162 m.p.h. They were fitted with hydraulic brakes operated through armoured piping. They must have been very tiring to drive on a circuit which called for much gear-changing, for the clutch and brake pedals are arranged on each side of the steering column, while the gear-lever comes up between the driver's legs. The Maseratis had terrific acceleration, but their lightness made them very difficult to hold on corners. Fagioli's car was an old two-seater which had been seen in many events.
Chiron and Caracciola were running as team-mates on two-seater Alfas, and Etancelin, Wimille, and Sir Henry Birkin were driving similar vehicles. The English driver had actually arranged to drive a Maserati when news was received that the Alfa would be ready in time for Monaco, and since this car was more suitable for the sinuous Monte Carlo course, a last minute change was made. Unfortunately on the road from Turin a car coming round the corner on its wrong side ran into him, damaging the front axle, and he was unable to reach Monte Carlo till early in the morning of the second day of practise.
Lord Howe was driving the 2.3 Bugatti which he used at Monaco last year. He was suffering from phlebitis in one of his legs, but undeterred by this was going well until his car was disabled by mechanical trouble. The Bugattis driven by Lehoux and Benoit, or Falchetto, to give him his surname, were prepared by the famous Friderich of Nice, and were chiefly remarkable for their dry sump oiling system, which circulated five gallons of oil. As on the works cars, the blowers were geared up.
The Circut of the Grand Prix of Monaco.
Most of the drivers took things quietly on the first day of early morning practise, but Caracciola and Chiron would have none of this. Faster and faster they lapped, the German in front straining every nerve to make his car go faster, while Chiron followed a short distance behind, keeping up apparently with little effort. Both drivers equalled the lap record. Caracciola's usual calm and judgment seemed to have deserted him that morning, and coining to the corner at the top of the Port, he put off using his brakes until much too late. When at last he did apply them, the car snaked in a terrifying manner, then the driver gained control again. Not soon enough, for just as the car was threading the narrow gap between the harbour balustrades and the
steps leading down from the upper road, the back wheel struck the side, and Caracciola was almost flung out of his seat with the force of the impact. The car then shot sideways with little jumps for about thirty yards, happily without turning over, and came to rest. The driver's leg was crushed by the force of the blow, and this injury will prevent him from racing again for about three months.
Nuvolari also misjudged the corner later on that morning, and struck the wall, smashing the back axle of his car. The second day of practise did not provide any excitement, while on Saturday the course was wet from the rain which had fallen during the night. In spite of this Varzi did a lap in 2 min. 2 sec., equalling his record lap in 1932.
Scrutineering took place on Saturday morning, but it did not take long, as the inspectors were merely concerned with clearly painted numbers and trying the exhaust systems to see whether they disturbed the dust. Rain then began to fall, which led to much speculation as to how the various drivers would fare on a wet course.
The champions at Gasworks' corner. Nuvolari (Alfa Romeo) has just gained the lead from Varzi (Bugatti).
Sunday morning set all fears at rest, for a blue sky and bright sunshine, tempered by a cool breeze, put everyone in the best of spirits. From an early hour the town was filling with sports cars bearing French and Italian numbers, with a few G.B.s and D.s. The new Fiats and Lancias had noticeably good lines. Interested spectators were walking and taking photographs on the course, and following the example, we took a last survey of the points of interest.
The start and finish is on the Boulevard Albert I, one of the two level and straight stretches of the circuit and roughly 500 yards in length. Swinging right at St. Devote corner, the cars climb the Boulevard de Monte Carlo, 500 yards of 1 in 12, then swing left round the Hotel de Paris, right through the gardens above the Casino and down a steep slope to an acute right turn. A further 100 yards of descent brings the cars to the station, with a left-hand hair-pin, then a sharp right turn leads to the road along the sea. After negotiating the tunnel under the pigeon shooting terrace, brightly lit up but yet contrasting with the glare outside, the course passes the breakwater, and runs along the Quai de Plaisance, in which occurs the kink called "La Chicane." A row of sandbags is the only means of preventing a skidding car from falling into the harbour. At the corner of the harbour, where Caracciola's accident occurred, balustrades and steps down from the road above leave only a narrow passage through which the cars swing left on to the Quai Albert I. This is about 500 yards in length, parallel to the Boulevard of the same name, and the fastest part of the course, a speed of about 90 m.p.h. being reached. Before the cars have really got going, they are brought down to 30 m.p.h. again by the acute gas-works hair-pin, thus regaining the straight stretch past the Start.
It is unnecessary to labour the terrific strain put on car and driver on such a course, and watching the race from close quarters, one marvels to think that any car could stand up to 200 miles of it averaging nearly 60 m.p.h.
Varzi regains the lead at half distance.
The cars are seen on the Boulevard Albert I, one of the few straight portions of the course.
By midday the police were clearing the streets, ready for the arrival of the racing cars. The Bugatti team was the first to reach the pits, which face the harbour. Painted in the familiar light blue, with each driver's name painted in silver on the side of the body, they aroused the enthusiasm of the crowd. Equally popular was the debonair Chiron, setting a new fashion by wearing a blue knitted helmet. His dark blue car with its white line looked a picture of speed in the bright sunlight, but the driver probably felt the loss of his teammate.
Just behind him were the green cars of Sir Henry Birkin and Lord Howe, a number of " independants " and the Bugatti team, and lastly the bright red cars of the Ferrari stable, set off by their badge, a prancing black horse on a yellow shield. Borzacchini, broad-shouldered and laughing, was No. 26, and contrasted strangely with the other "as du volant " Nuvolari, who looked almost satanic with his lean face and wiry frame. He seemed more concerned about the coming struggle, possibly because his hunchback
mascot was not there to embrace him and bring him luck.
The minute hand on the Palace of Monaco is horizontal, and the cars are dispatched to their starting positions on the Boulevard Albert. The places this year were determined not by lot but in
accordance with the lap speeds achieved in practise. In the front row are Varzi, Chiron, and Borzacchini, the former being "a la corde," that is, in the inside berth. Nuvolari was in the second rank, but one did not anticipate he would remain there for long.
Benoit (Bugatti pulls over to allow Nuvolari and Varzi to pass, at the Quai du Plaisance.
Borzacchini is close behind.
The drivers exchange last minute handshakes, then "five minutes" said M. Charles Faroux, "to your cars." Mechanics leapt to the starting handles and pandemonium broke forth, the air full of the smell of the various dopes, suggesting boot polish and tinned pineapple!
The starter raised his flag, the crowds on the hill swayed and those in their balconies overlooking the course hung out even further. Down went the flag, and the howling pack roared away, the Maseratis leaving long black streaks on the road. Varzi is in the lead and the fastest cars have already drawn away from the others by the time the climb to the Casino is reached, while Hartmann, the Hungarian is well behind, a position
he occupied throughout the race.
The first cars are lost in view at the top of the hill, but soon appear again from the tunnel under the Tir aux Pigeons. Varzi leads, then Borzacchini, Lehoux and Nuvolari, with the field at a greater interval. On the second round Nuvolari
gained two places while two laps later a concerted cry from the hill revealed, before those in the stands could see, that he had claimed his accustomed place in the lead. Varzi was two car-lengths behind, then Lehoux, Borzacchini and Etancelin. The race was being run at a cracking speed and soon Hartmann had the unpleasant experience of being lapped by Nuvolari as he was rounding the St. Devote corner.
Varzi had no intention of being left behind and succeeded in getting the lead again in the seventh lap. Without the advantage conferred by the monoposto body, the Alfa Romeo did not seem to have any advantage over its French rival, and one had that rare thrill of watching an evenly matched contest between the world's finest drivers.
Descending from the Place du Casino. Another view of the Nuvolari—Varzi duel.
Seen at the hairpin corner by the Gasworks, the longer Alfa seemed slightly slower, but gained a little on acceleration after the corner. Coming after the Quai Albert, one of the few straight stretches on the course, the Gasworks corner called above all for good brakes and the front of the cars fairly hopped as their drivers trod on the pedal. Unlike the other cars, which generally took a medium course and cut the corner, the Maseratis went wide, the drivers locked over, and with a great piercing scream of tyres, the tails swung round. Dirt-tracking on concrete and what a strain on chassis and axles!
Chiron, unruffled as usual, was effortless, but his motor lacked the get-away of the Scuderia Ferrari cars. Etancelin, his cap back to front, was working hard, and did two fast laps in 2 mins. 4 secs. The English drivers, Lord Howe, Sir Henry Birkin and Williams, were as neat as any. Birkin's car seemed to have tremendous power, its wheels spinning as it got away, Lord Howe's car, though not as fast as the team Bugattis also accelerating well, in spite of the discomfort which the driver must have felt. Williams was particularly neat in his gear changing, snicking in bottom gear while on the turn.
Nuvolari was very close behind Varzi, almost overlapping him in fact, and regained the lead in the ninth lap.
Lehoux (Bugatti) leading an Alfa along the Quai du Plaisance.
An early victim was Siena on an Alfa, who retired with clutch trouble. The new Maseratis were not outstanding, being apparently difficult to handle on the corners, and so at tremendous disadvantage on the Monaco circuit.
At the rate at which the leaders were going it seemed impossible for the second man ever to pass the one in front, unless the latter went very wide. A disturbing place to watch was the corner where the Boulevard Albert joined the Boulevard de Monte Carlo, leading up to the Casino. Gradually increasing in curvature, it required the greatest skill to steer a correct course. Chiron seemed the most successful. The only way to pass was what seemed to the ordinary observer bad driving, that is, coming into the corner apparently much too fast and scrambling round the man in front "somehow," tyres squealing and back wheels sliding across the road. The sight of the drivers skimming the pavement not six feet away and then crabbing their way round the bend would have stirred the most phlegmatic race-fan to wild excitement.
The two leaders kept changing places, but Varzi actually held first place at the 20th and 30th laps, in each case by one second. Etancelin was driving in a very dashing manner, and at the 30th lap had ousted Borzacchini and was holding third place, one second behind Nuvolari. Birkin went out of action with axle casing trouble before he had really got going, bad luck because his car was running
well in 10th place and would have been amongst the leaders at the finish. Sommer gave up with a hole in his crankcase.
Nuvolari (Alfa Romeo) in action.
The battle of the leaders continued and Nuvolari was practising his inimitable style, sitting right back in his car with the enormous steering wheel at arm's length. At a corner like that from the Quai de Plaisance to the Quai Albert he was obviously much faster than most of his rivals, winding at the steering and correcting incipient skids before they took effect. In spite of his efforts he was only one second ahead of Varzi. Etancelin skidded when taking the "chicane," the kink in the Quai de Plaisance near which Chiron came to grief last year, hit the sandbags and turned round. He lost his place to Borzacchini, but continued more fiercely than ever. Nuvolari ran on to the pavement a little further back, but continued at undiminished speed. He equalled the record lap with a time of 2 mins. 2 secs., and Varzi put up two laps at the same speed.
The pace was beginning to tell and Lehoux retired at this stage with gearbox trouble, and Lord Howe soon afterwards with a broken back axle.
Willams came in to adjust his brakes. Varzi then gained the lead again, with the two Ferrari Alfas in second and third places, while Etancelin made the most tremendous efforts to displace Borzacchini and succeeded in taking a second off the record time in his 51st lap. At the Casino he was noticeably fiercer than the leaders and shot away down the hill towards the station at tremendous speed, not slowing down for the corner half way down until the last possible minute. This descent down a hill of 1 in 12 with a right-angle turn at the bottom forms the greatest test on the course, and the sound of brakes and tyres made one fancy each time a car went round that a terrific accident had happened, yet marvellous to relate, no one even touched the sandbags. The station hairpin is so sharp that all the drivers take it in a similar fashion, but Nuvolari was noticeable for the way in which he swung the wheel over with his right arm while leaning over the left side of the car in order to skirt the pavement. The cutting round the back of the Terminus Hotel was thick with the fumes of assorted "dope" and drivers welcomed the keen air of the sea-front. The tunnel under the Tir aux Pigeons was brilliantly lighted so that the return into the glare of the sun was not too dazzling.
Etancelin would not be denied and in spite of Borzaccini's fast time in the 58th lap, he displaced him from third place. It seemed incredible that the leaders could maintain an average speed of 57 m.p.h. but they showed no signs of slacking off, Nuvolari taking the lead again. Fagioli retired at this stage with magneto trouble, and Zehender stopped to adjust his brakes. Etancelin's cornering proved too much for his Alfa and he retired at the 65th lap with a broken axle shaft. Chiron, usually the star turn at Monte Carlo, could manage no better than 10th place, but went up four places by the 70th round.
Benoit (Bugatti) closely persued by Lord Howe (Bugatti) at the corner at the top of the harbour.
Varzi passed Nuvolari at the 79th lap but could not get more than 10 yards ahead, Chiron and Boracchini close behind, but four laps later the red car was seen in front of the blue again. The loud speaker boomed continually "85th (or 86th round)—Nuvolari, puis Varzi, puis Borzacchini," and it seemed as though Nuvolari would once more carry off the prize. Ninetieth lap, the same order, Nuvolari now 4 seconds ahead and was increasing his speed. Benoit, the last of the independents, if we exclude Hartmann, who is 15 laps behind the leader, retired with the usual back axle trouble.
Watching a race like this, one has a numb feeling of helplessness trying to will the second man, who happened to be one's choice, to catch up with the leader. But Varzi did actually have something in hand, and crept up lap by lap till he was within striking distance of the Ferrari car.
On the 98th lap he caught him, and the crowds were on tip-toe with excitement. Along the harbour they dashed, Varzi a few yards in front, but at the gasworks corner Nuvolari scraped ahead. Together they screamed along the return road, then suddenly ascending the Avenue de Monte Carlo the red car was seen to slow. Varzi had taken his engine up to 7,500 r.p.m. on third and Nuvolari trying to do the same. had met with disaster. Both cars disappeared from view, then in a few seconds Varzi appeared out of the tunnel. With no thought for his rival he roared along the top of the harbour, a final braking and locking over at the gas works and he was roaring over the line, victor of the 5th Grand Prix de Monaco.
The Varzi-Nuvolari duel by R. A. Nockolds.
Nuvolari had meanwhile come into sight, a sad figure as he pushed his smoking vehicle towards the pits. An oil pipe had burst as the result of his over-revving on the hill. His mechanic leapt out of the pits and helped him to push the car home, which entailed disqualification, a matter of little moment now he had lost the race.
Borzacchini crossed the line two minutes. after Varzi and left his car where it was, apparently unable to go any further.
Dreyfus was not far behind and seemed little affected by his fast and steady drive. The crowd now beseiged the course and the remaining drivers slowed up and came in.
If the Alfa had held up for the last lap the finish would have been even more spectacular, but as Varzi established a
record lap of 1 min. 59 secs. (60.39 m.p.h.) on his 99th lap, the result would probably have been the same. Dreyfus of course was third and Williams, the other member of the official Bugatti team, was running at the finish, being delayed in the earlier part of the race by trouble with plugs and brakes.
This result suggests that Bugatti and Alfa Romeo will this season meet on more even terms than in 1932, which will help to maintain interest in the finest of sports.
1. A. Varzi (Bugatti), 3hrs. 27 mins. 49 secs. Speed 57.01 m.p.h.
2. R. Borzacchini (Alfa-Romeo), 3 hrs. 29 mins. 49 secs. Speed 56.5 m.p.h.
3. R. Dreyfus (Bugatti), 3 hrs. 30 mins. 10 secs. 56.41 m.p.h.
L. Chiron (Alfa-Romeo), 97 laps.
Count Trossi (Alfa-Romeo), 97 laps.
F. Zehender (Maserati), 94 laps.
W. Williams (Bugatti), 90 laps.
Hartmann (Bugatti), 86 laps.