Last week I mentioned the Ferrari Daytona (AKA
365GTB/4) which developed 350 bhp at 7,500 rpm. I asked what was the
red-line on the tachometer in an attempt to stymie all my ‘google’
users! The answer was 7,700 rpm.
So to this week. And this is one which might really
fix the web crawlers (I hope). Study this old B&W photo. This is a
woman who raced F1 and the venue was Spa in Belgium. The year? Well,
Stirling Moss was there, but Juan Manuel Fangio was not. That’s
enough clues! What is her name?
For the Automania FREE beer this week, be the first
correct answer to email automania @chiangmai-mail.com
The Great National
Gentle reader, please do not immediately jump to
the conclusion that there has been another attempt to alter the course
of chance (or justice) in the Thai national lottery. Quite the
contrary, the following tale is true and represents inspired thinking,
incredible collusion and damned hard work to bring it all off. And it
didn’t happen here.
At the outset, be aware that corruption has been
all around us, and I’m not talking Thailand. I am talking motor
sport. Le sport pure. And Grand Prix racing in particular. May I
present the 1933 Grand Prix of Tripoli!
The Tripoli GP was a star spangled affair, proposed
by Marshall Italo Balbo, the military governor and viceroy of Libya.
For 1933 they decided to throw in a nationwide lottery which would be
held in conjunction with the GP. The concept was simple. Twelve lucky
punters would draw one of the names of the twelve drivers, and the
winning driver and his ticket holder would share the prize money.
Prize money - ah, how does the equivalent today of 860 million baht
sound? It sounded then just like the large fortune that it is today
and enough to get some of the greatest racing brains more than
slightly revved up.
So the plot was hatched. Four of Italy’s best
drivers, Nuvolari, Varzi, Campari and Borzacchini got together with
the holder of the "Varzi" ticket and they agreed to pool
their winnings and share the proceeds, after Varzi had won the event
with their help.
Of course, there were eight drivers not "in
the know" and any one of these could ruin the master plan. In the
first few laps, that was just how it looked as Sir Henry (Tim) Birkin,
stiff upper lip and all, roared into the lead in his Maserati.
Fortunately, the Englishman developed tyre trouble
and after a botched pit stop rejoined well down. Unfortunately, Varzi
also had tyre trouble and his pit stop took even longer. During the
lengthy stop his engine temperature rose and when Varzi rejoined, the
Bugatti was definitely off song.
Meanwhile, at the sharp end of the race there were
the three Italian co-conspirators. On cue, Campari and Borzacchini
developed tyre and mechanical problems and they dropped out, leaving
Nuvolari in the lead.
Once again Birkin became a bother as he stormed
through the field to get within 10 seconds of Nuvolari, by the half
way mark, who was driving looking over his shoulder for the
Again luck was on their side as Birkin’s tyres
said enough and the English threat was over. However, there was now
another problem. No matter how slowly Nuvolari was driving, Varzi’s
Bugatti could not catch it. With great creative thinking, Nuvolari
began to make several unannounced pit stops, changing anything that
was changeable on the Alfa Romeo. This became so frequent that one
mechanic was heard to mutter, "We’ve rebuilt everything. If he
comes in again it must be for a pee."
Now while this managed to get Varzi back into the
lead, the locals began to get restive. They could smell a rather large
rodent. Race fixing was almost a national event in the camel racing
stakes, after all they had been perfecting it for over 2000 years.
There were more than mutterings from 90,000 enraged locals and 11
unhappy ticket holders.
Nuvolari then attempted a new ploy. He would break
his Alfa Romeo. Unfortunately, that Alfa Romeo was made of stout stuff
and refused to break, no matter what the little Mantuan tried to do to
it and it looked as if Nuvolari was going to be forced to win.
Again fate smiled on the "Varzi" ticket
holder, when his driver scorched into the pits, ripped off the air
filter and the Bugatti sprang to life again. Simultaneously Nuvolari
experienced genuine tyre problems and was forced to pit. When he
rejoined, Varzi was in the lead and the two Italians put on a
brilliant display of scripted choreographed racing, with Varzi getting
to the chequered flag first. He declined his "lap of honour"
and Nuvolari disappeared. But the race was not to end there.
There were numerous protests, probably ninety
thousand and eleven, but history has not recorded that fact. After
deliberations, the Club Royale degli Automobile di Libia cleared all
four drivers of any wrong doing. Cynics noted that within a few weeks
three of the five board members were driving new Lancias, the fourth a
new Alfa while the fifth suddenly found the money to visit an aged
uncle in Chicago.
The only real loser (other than the 11 remaining
ticket holders) was in fact Marshall Balbo who died a war hero after
being shot down by his own anti-aircraft gunners! Perhaps a fitting
So if you read in the future that Ron Dennis of
McLaren has protested about the size of Michael Schumacher’s rear
vision mirrors or something equally as fatuous, you can see just how
petty we have become since 1933. Races were run and won with panache.
And a fair bit of trickery to boot.
Since I was not around for this Grand Prix, I must
acknowledge the work and words of my late and greatly missed friend
Leo McAuliffe, who researched all the details for this article.