Classic Car Catalogue

Rome Grand Prix

Royal Grand Prix of Rome
7 June 1931
Littorio Circuit


Entries and results:
No.   Driver: Car: Engine:   Entrant: Class: Position: Final:
    Ernesto Maserati Maserati 4-litre     3000→ 1st 1st
    Fagioli Maserati 2½-litre     2000→3000 2nd 6th
    Dreyfus Maserati 2½-litre     2000→3000 3rd 2nd
    Biondetti Maserati 1,750 c.c.     1100→2000 1st 3rd
    Achille Varzi Bugatti 2,300 c.c.     2000→3000 1st dnf
    Jean Scaron Amilcar       →1100 1st  
    de Caroli Salmson       →1100 2nd  
    Camotte Salmson       →1100 4th  
    Ardizzone Ardizzone       →1100 3rd  
    Sair Maserati 2-litre     1100→2000 2nd dnf
    Cerami Maserati 2½-litre     2000→3000 4th 5th
    Castelbarco Bugatti 2-litre     1100→2000 3rd dnf
    Minozzi Bugatti 2-litre     1100→2000 4th  
    Tazio Nuvolari Bugatti 2,300 c.c.     2000→3000 5th  
    Ruggeri / Balestrero Talbot 1,500 c.c.     1100→2000 5th 4th
    di Vecchio Itala-Hispano       3000→ 2nd  


Motor SportAugust 1931

ERNESTO MASERATI, the younger brother of the manufacturer, won the " Reale Premio " (an untranslateable phrase) of Rome, which was run on Sunday, 7th June, on the new Littorio track near the Italian capital. The day was a great one for Maserati, for Rene Dreyfus, driving one of the 2½-litre straight-eight racers of this marque, was second, and Biondetti, on one of the new 1,750 c.c. models, was third. The new track proved itself exceptionally fast for one comprising " road " characteristics, and permitted of lap speed in excess of 100 m.p.h.
In spite of the counter attraction of the Grand Prix of Geneva, which was run on the same day, the race attracted quite a good field. The contest consisted of a series of eliminating races for cars up to 1,100 c.c., 2 litres, 3 litres and over that limit, and a final to decide the ultimate winner. The fastest cars entered included Ernesto Maserati's 4-litre 16-cylinder racer, the two official 2½-litre Maseratis, driven by Fagioli and Dreyfus, and the new 1,750 c.c. racer of the same make handled by Biondetti, which had as their chief rival the great Achille Varzi on one of the new 2,300 c.c. Bugattis. In addition the 1,100 c.c. class had attracted Jean Scaron on his Amilcar, Camotte and de Caroli on Salmsons, and Ardizzone on a car more or less of his own construction ; Sair was driving one of the older 2-litre Maseratis, and Cerami one of the later 2½-litre models from the same factory ; Castelbarco and Minozzi had 2-litre Bugattis, and Tazio Nuvolari himself drove a 2,300 c.c. Bug. "en amateur" ; Ruggeri and Balestrero had their 1927 Grand Prix 1,500 c.c. Talbot racer ; and finally, di Vecchio was brave enough to appear with the old 1925 Targa Florio Itala, powered with one half of a Hispano-Suiza aero engine which was built by the late Emilio Materassi.
The eliminating races were run over 25 laps of the circuit, making a total distance of 100 kilometres, or about 62½ miles. The first heat for 1,100 c.c. cars resulted in an easy win for Scaron, who covered the fastest lap on his Amilcar at 96.6 m.p.h. Then came the turn of the 2-litre cars, and Minozzi on the Bugatti rapidly got the lead and covered a lap at 96.7 m.p.h. Thereafter, however, he found trouble, and victory went to Biondetti on the new Maserati, which had been going well in second place. The 3-litre class provided the thrill of the opening races in the form of a Bugatti-Maserati duel, not to mention the fact that it provided a meeting between the great rivals, Achille Varzi and Tazio Nuvolari, both on Bugattis. The latter's car, however, was of the older single camshaft type, and Varzi, after covering a lap at 101.6 m.p.h., just managed to get home in front of Fagioli's Maserati by the narrow margin of 5 seconds. Finally, Ernesto Maserati set off against a single adversary in the form of the Itala-Hispano, and after showing what he could do by covering a lap at exactly the same speed as Varzi, toured home to win comfortably by more than 6 minutes. The results of the various classes in the eliminating races were as follows :
1,100 C.C. CLASS.
1. J. Scaron (Amilcar), 45m. 53 3/5s. Average, 81.7 m.p.h.
2. de Caroli (Salmson), 49m. 12s.
3. Ardizzone (Ardizzone), 50m. 59s.
4. Camotte (Salmson).
1. Biondetti (Maserati), 41m. 23s. Average, 90.6 m.p.h.
2. Sair (Maserati), 42m. 40s.
3. Castelbarco (Bugatti), 42m. 51s.
4. Minozzi (Bugatti).
5. Balestrero (Talbot).
1. A. Varzi (Bugatti), 37m. 47 1/5s. Average, 99.3 m.p.h.
2. Fagioli (Maserati), 37m. 52s.
3. Dreyfus (Maserati), 38m. 5s.
4. Cerami (Maserati).
5. Nuvolari (Bugatti).
1. E. Maserati (Maserati), 40m. 14 3/5s. Average, 92.5 m.p.h.
2. di Vecchio (Itala-Hispano-Suiza), 46m. 52s.
All those who had qualified in the eliminating races were then drawn up for the final, which was run over 60 laps of the circuit, or rather over 150 miles. Achille Varzi with the Bugatti took the lead at the outset, hotly pursued by the Maserati team in the order, Ernesto Maserati, Dreyfus and Fagioli. Then Varzi burst a tyre and dropped back considerably while he stopped to change the wheel. He got going again, however, and by the 30th lap had regained third place, after covering one round at 101.9 m.p.h. Soon afterwards the Bugatti driver was again in at his pit, and after working on his engine for a few moments, finally retired from the race. Fagioli in the meantime had also had trouble, but got going again, and Sair, the amateur driver of a Maserati, retired on the 53rd lap, to be followed a couple of laps later by Castelbarco's Bugatti. The official Maseratis, however, now had the race well in hand, and the 16-cylinder machine finally came home the winner by about a minute from its stable companion driven by Dreyfus. The final order was as follows :
1. Maserati (Maserati), 1h. 34m.. 32 1/5s. Average, 95.2 m.p.h.
2. Dreyfus (Maserati), 1h. 35m. 36s.
3. Biondetti (Maserati), 1h. 39m. 26 3/5s.
4. Ruggeri (Talbot), 1h. 39m. 49s.
5. Cerami (Maserati), 1h. 41m. 10s
6. Fagioli (Maserati), 1h. 50m. 2s.