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The 18th French Grand Prix at Reims was the second event run on the 5-Hour international Formula, and it would count towards the 1932 European Automobile Championship.
Earlier the Sporting Commission of the Automobile Club de France had met in Paris to decide the rules and regulations for the 1932 Grand Prix of France. The race was to last over five hours for racecars without any limits of weight or engine capacity. The driver who covered the longest distance would be the victor. Those who participated in the French Grand Prix would be quali- fied to take part in the German Grand Prix, which was the third event in the 5-Hour In- ternational Formula. The results of these two events together with Italian Grand Prix were to be added up to determine the European Champion for 1932.
Maserati decided not to participate in the French GP, leaving it to be a straight battle between Bugatti and Alfa Romeo. It was expected that Bugatti would try every means possible to win the race, whereas Alfa Romeo would concentrate on adding another victory to their list of 1932 wins. The standings in the European Championship before the French Grand Prix were one point for Nuvolari, two for Fagioli, three for Borzacchini, four for Campari, five for Dreyfus, and six each for all others. In the championship for Manufacturers Alfa Romeo was first with one point, Maserati second with two points, and Bugatti next with six points.
The race took place at noon on July 3, a nice Sunday with a blazing sun. Spectators not only filled the grandstand, but also lined up a large part of the circuit. As the checkered flag was low- ered, 16 blue, red and green cars darted out of a cloud of bluish smoke. Caracciola’s red Alfa Tipo B leapt ahead to the front as the cars disappeared towards Geux village. He finished the first lap in 3m21s.
By lap four, Nuvolari had worked himself into third place. After surpassing Varzi on lap eight, he managed to overtake his teammate and went into first place, shaking his fist while passing Caracciola in front of the grandstand. As Nuvolari was breaking the lap record in 3m00s, equal to 160 km/h, Varzi had to retire with a broken gearbox bearing on lap 12. This seriously dimin- ished the opposition for Alfa Romeo. Now an Alfa Romeo trio was leading the way — Nuvolari, Caracciola, and Borzacchini.
As the Alfa Romoe P3s increased their lead over the rivals after lap 30, a contest also began be- tween Caracciola and Nuvolari for the lead. After two hours, with 38 laps completed, Nuvolari got back in the lead. At around half the race, Nuvolari made a pit stop to change rear wheels and fill up, so Borzacchini had a turn in the lead. In his subsequent chase after Borzacchini, Nu- volari repeated his fastest lap of 3m00s. By the end of the third hour with 56 laps completed, Nuvolari had led with an average speed of 151.434 km/h.
After four hours on lap 77, Nuvolari remained in the lead. Rumor has it that as the race was drawing to an end, the second-placed Caracciola slowed down to execute the plan by Vittorio Jano, who would like to see all three cars simultaneously crossing the finish-line to play up the result. Jano was also said to signal to Nuvolari to slow down in order for Caracciola and Borza- cchini to catch up, but Nuvolari did not seem to understand the sign. In the end, Nuvolari fin- ished first with Borzacchini and Caracciola placing second and third.
The Italian team successfully took the first three positions for its new P3 monoposto. In the 2.3- litre Bugatti Type 51, Chiron finished one lap behind the leading Alfa Romeos in fourth place. He was followed by Dreyfus and Williams, who came in fifth and sixth, each driving a Type 51.
Nuvolari, Winner of the Coppa Cino 1932, #30
The 1932 international motorsport week at Livorno included a 200-km race for the Coppa Ciano. The presence of the Alfa Romeo works team contributed an exciting highlight to this event. To Nuvolari, Borzacchini and Campari of this Italin team, the only serious rivalry came from their countryman Varzi in his red Bugatti. Eventually Nuvolari won by a new record time. He was followed by two teammates with Varzi relegated to fourth place. Only 10 of the 17 starters reached the finish line.
The Montenero circuit near Livorno had been a race course since 1921. The 22.5-km circuit was shortened to 20 km in 1931, and the 1932 event was the 12th time that a race was held on the
Circuito del Montenero. The Coppa or “trophy” was donated by Italian Navy hero Costanzo Ciano in 1927 for a local sports car race. After the sports car race was dropped in 1929, the name Coppa Ciano was used in reference to the racecar event for the first time. It was held an- nually since then, and 1932 marked the sixth running of the Coppa Ciano. The 20 km circuit had to be lapped ten times by cars over 1100 cc, whereas smaller cars up to 1100 cc had to cover only eight laps.
The class over 1100 cc had 26 entries, where the main contenders were Tazio Luvolari and Mario Umberto Borzacchini, each in a 2.6-liter Alfa Romeo Tipo B monoposto, plus Giuseppe Campari in a 2.3-liter Monza. Their strongest rival was last year’s winner Achille Varzi with his 2.3-liter Bugatti. There were four independent Bugatti entries and four independent Maserati entries, as well. The Scuderia Ferrari sent four 2.3-liter Alfa Romeo Monzas for Piero Taruffi, Pietro Ghersi, Guido D’Ippolito and Conte Antonio Brivio.
Some 60 000 spectators watched the race. Also present were the Cup donor Signor Ciano, Min- ister of Communications, Vincenzo Florio and other celebrities. The twisting and hilly Monten- ero Circuit was too dangerous for a concurrent start. So the cars were sent off three at a time, starting from 3:30 pm, with one-minute interval to the next row. The Alfa Romeo works cars were in the fourth and fifth groups for the start-off.
Driving a Tipo B monoposto, Nuvolari was the only one who completed the first lap under 14 minutes, followed by his teammate Borzacchini in 14m05s. Although Varzi completed the sec- ond lap in 14m01s, and Nuvolari in 13m55s, Borzacchini did even better, setting up a new record with 13m46.2s. After four laps the Nuvolari-Varzi duel changed to one between Nuvolari and Borzacchini.
Varzi fell to a constant third behind the leading Alfa monoposti. On lap five Nuvolari was still leading Borzacchini, but only by nine seconds, whereas the lead he held on Varzi had increased to over one minute. Six laps later, the gap between Varzi and Campari also began to lessen.
On lap eight the order was Nuvolari, Borzacchini, Varzi, and Campari. But change was on the way. Going into the ninth lap, Nuvolari increased his advantage to 26 seconds over Borzacchini. In the meantime, Varzi started to slow down, losing precious seconds from the advantage he had kept over Campari. As a result, Campari, who kept his lap times just around the 14-minute mark, was able to gain on Varzi continually.
At the end of the race, Nuvolari was the victor, Borzacchini came in second, and Campari, third. Once again, a glorious Alfa Romeo trio went down in motorsport history. It was true that Varzi crossed the finish line first without having been surpassed by anyone throughout the race. But since he had started three minutes before Nuvolari, victory duly went to “Nivola” as he com- pleted the race about one minute sooner.
Nuvolari, Winner of Coppa Acerbo 1932, #8
The Coppa Acerbo race added to Nuvolari’s winning streak in 1932, and this time he did it in a P3 monoposto loaned to Scuderia Ferrari. Caracciola came second in an Alfa Romeo works monoposto. Out of the 19 confirmed entries, only 10 finished the race.
When the Coppa Acerbo was initiated in 1924 to honor Capitano Tito Acerbo, a decorated war hero from WWI, it was a minor race. But over the years, it developed into one of the important Italian motorsport events. The 8th running of the Coppa Acerbo was held on the 25.5 km Pescara circuit.
The race started from the seaside resort of Pescara and continued along the shore for about one kilometer. Then the road made a wide right turn heading inland along a winding route up into the Abruzzi Mountains. From there, the road joined an 11 km straight down to the coast. A fast right turn at Montesilvano railroad station put one descending into the Lungo Mare coastal straight, which led back to the start and finish.
The Alfa Romeo works team had entered its strongest lineup: Nuvolari, Caracciola, Campari and Borzacchini, but Campari did not show up at all. While Campari was made to drive a 2.3-
liter Monza, Nuvolari raced with a loaned 2.6-liter P3 monoposto for Scuderia Ferrari. It was reported that this was meant to reward the Scuderia, since the P3 had proved to be a cut above all of its challengers, including the Alfa Romeo Monzas of the Scuderia Ferrari.
The Bugatti works team arrived with Varzi and Chiron in 2.3-liter cars. Maserati brought the 16- cylinder V5 for Fagioli and a 3-liter 26M for Ruggeri. Scuderia Ferrari came with three 2.3-liter Alfa Romeo Monzas and one P3 monoposto for Nuvolari. Two Mercedes-Benz sports cars ap- peared in racing trim for von Brauchitsch and Broschek. They were independent entries with minimal factory support.
The race started on the hot morning of August 14, and a total of 19 racecars took off at 10:15 am. Borzacchini had the best start and led the way up to Villa Raspa, where Caracciola overtook him, followed by Nuvolari closely behind. After four laps Caracciola had increased his advan- tage to eight seconds over Nuvolari. It was now becoming clear that the 2.3-liter Bugattis pilot- ed by Chiron and Varzi were no match for the Alfa Romeo monoposti. Nor was Fagioli’s16- cylinder V5 Maserati, which did one lap in 10m57s and still failed to bring him any closer to the leading P3s.
Going into lap five, with the 16-cylinder Maserati no longer posing a threat, the Alfa Romeo pits signaled its drivers to slow down and avoid overstressing engines or tires. Both Caracciola and Borzacchini obeyed, and their lap times went over 11 minutes, but Nuvolari slowed less and took the opportunity to surpass Caracciola and move into the lead.
After seven laps Nuvolari was ten seconds ahead of Caracciola. Chiron’s Bugatti was too far back to pose any real danger to the two leaders. But Enzo Ferrari was signaling from the pits, urging Nuvolari to increase his pace. This action did not seem related to the distant threat of Chiron’s Bugatti as much as to the proximity of Caracciola’s P3, who was driving for a rival, albeit a friendly one – Alfa works team. Following Enzo Ferrari’s signal, Nuvolari set up a fastest lap time in 10m25.4s on lap eight.
Until the end of lap 12, Nuvolari maintained an advantage of 8 to 20 seconds over Caracciola, which led him to win the race. Caracciola finished second to him. In retrospect, due to the enormous heat of a sweltering day, there was great concern among the drivers whether their tires would last the whole race. Some of their tires did not, and caused a lot of trouble. But Alfa Romeo cars were shod with a new type of Pirelli tire, which withstood the test.