Tazio Giorgio Nuvolari
(Italian pronunciation: [ˈtattsjo ˈdʒɔrdʒo nuvoˈlaːri]
; 16 November 1892 – 11 August 1953) was an Italian racing driver. He first raced motorcycles
and then concentrated on sports cars
. A resident of Mantua
, he was known as 'Il Mantovano Volante' (The Flying Mantuan) and nicknamed 'Nivola'. His victories—72 major races, 150 in all
—included 24 Grands Prix
, five Coppa Cianos
, two Mille Miglias
, two Targa Florios
, two RAC Tourist Trophies
, a Le Mans 24-hour race
, and a European Championship
in Grand Prix racing. Ferdinand Porsche
called him "the greatest driver of the past, the present, and the future."
After Alfa Romeo officially withdrew from Grand Prix racing Nuvolari drove for Enzo Ferrari
's team, Scuderia Ferrari
, who ran the Alfa Romeo cars semi-officially. In 1933 he won Le Mans in an Alfa Romeo as a member of Ferrari's team, and a month later won the Belgian Grand Prix in a works Maserati
, having switched teams a week before the race. Mussolini
helped persuade Ferrari to take Nuvolari back for 1935, and in that year he won the German Grand Prix
in Ferrari's outdated Alfa Romeo
, defeating more powerful rivals from Mercedes-Benz
and Auto Union
. It was the only time a non-German car won a European Championship race from 1935 to 1939.
The relationship with Ferrari deteriorated during 1937, and Nuvolari raced an Auto Union in that year's Swiss Grand Prix
. He rejoined the Auto Union team for the 1938 season and stayed with them through 1939 until Grand Prix racing was put on hiatus by World War II
. The only major European race he never won was the Czechoslovakian Grand Prix
When Nuvolari resumed racing after the war he was 54 and in poor health. In his final appearance in competition, driving a Cisitalia-Abarth Tipo 204A
at a Palermo
hillclimb on 10 April 1950, he won his class and placed fifth overall. He died in 1953 from a stroke.
Personal and early life
Nuvolari was born in Castel d'Ario
on 16 November 1892 to Arturo Nuvolari and his wife Elisa Zorzi.
The family was well acquainted with motor racing as Arturo and his brother Giuseppe were both bicycle racers - Giuseppe was a multiple winner of the Italian national championship and was particularly admired by a young Tazio.
Nuvolari was married to Carolina Perina, and together they had two children: Giorgio (born 4 September 1918), who died in 1937 aged 19 from myocarditis
and Alberto, who died in 1946 aged 18 from nephritis
Nuvolari obtained his license for motorcycle racing in 1915 at the age of 23.
He served in the Italian army as an ambulance driver in World War I
, and in 1920
took part in his first motorcycle race at the Circuito Internazionale Motoristico in Cremona
but did not finish.
He also raced cars, winning the Coppa Verona reliability trial in 1921.
In 1925 he became the 350 cc European Motorcycling champion by winning the European Grand Prix. At the time, the European Grand Prix was considered the most important race of the motorcycling season and the winners in each category were designated European Champions
He won the Nations Grand Prix
four times between 1925 and 1928,
and the Lario Circuit race five times between 1925 and 1929, all in the 350 cc class on a Bianchi
It was also in 1925 that Alfa Romeo
, seeking a driver to replace Antonio Ascari
, who had been killed in the French Grand Prix
in July, tested Nuvolari in their Grand Prix car with a view to running him in the Italian Grand Prix
in September. He crashed when the gearbox seized,
and severely lacerated
He was not picked for the team. Six days later, in bandages, with a cushion strapped to his stomach, and lifted onto his motorcycle by Bianchi mechanics for a push-start, he won the rain-soaked Nations Grand Prix at Monza
1930-1932: Alfa Corse
Nuvolari (fifth from left), with other Alfa Romeo drivers and Enzo Ferrari
In 1930, Nuvolari won his first RAC Tourist Trophy
(he won again in 1933). Motor racing legend has it that when one of the drivers broke the window of a butcher's shop, Nuvolari drove onto the pavement and tried to grab a ham as he passed.
According to Sammy Davis
who met him there, Nuvolari enjoyed dark humour and situations when everything went wrong. For example, after he got a ticket for a journey home from the Sicilian Targa Florio
he said to Enzo Ferrari
, "What a strange businessman you are. What if I am brought back in a coffin?"
Nuvolari and co-driver Battista Guidotti
won the Mille Miglia
in a Zagato
-bodied Alfa Romeo 6C
1750 GS, becoming the first to complete the race at an average of over 100 km/h (62 mph). At night, leading on elapsed time but still lying behind his teammate Achille Varzi
on the road because he had started after him, he tailed Varzi at speeds of up to 150 km/h (93 mph) with his headlights switched off, so that he could not be seen in the other car's rear-view mirrors. He eventually switched them on to overtake "the shocked"
Varzi near the finish at Brescia
Towards the end of 1930, Nuvolari decided to stop racing motorcycles and concentrate fully on cars for 1931.
Regulations for the season
required Grand Prix races to be at least 10 hours long.
For the Italian Grand Prix
, Nuvolari was to share an Alfa Romeo
with Baconin Borzacchini
. The car started from ninth place on the grid, and when it retired with mechanical problems after 33 laps Nuvolari teamed up with Giuseppe Campari
. The pair took the race win,
although Nuvolari could not receive the championship points. Apart from the Belgian Grand Prix
, where he came second, the only other European Championship
race was the French Grand Prix
, where he finished 11th. The same year, he won both the Coppa Ciano
and the arduous Targa Florio
, which was run on the 92-mile (146 km) Grande
variant of the super-twisty course that year.
, Grands Prix had to be between five and ten hours long. It was the only season in which Nuvolari regularly drove one of the fastest cars, the Alfa Romeo P3
and he took two wins and a second place from the three European Championship Grands Prix, plus victory in the championship by four points from Borzacchini. He achieved four other race wins that year, including the prestigious Monaco Grand Prix
and a second Targa Florio
. Of the latter, his mechanic Mabelli said: "Before the start, Nuvolari told me to go down on the floor of the car every time he shouts, which was a signal that he went to a curve too fast and that we need to lower the car´s center of mass
. I spent the whole race on the floor. Nuvolari started to shout in the first curve and wouldn't stop until the last one."
On 28 April the writer Gabriele d'Annunzio
gave him a golden tortoise badge. Thereafter Nuvolari wore it as a talisman, and it became famously associated with him.
1933-1937: Scuderia Ferrari and Maserati
"Tazio Nuvolari was not simply a racing driver. To Italy he became an idol, a demi-god, a legend, epitomising all that young Italy aspired to be; the man who 'did the impossible', not once but habitually, the David who slew the Goliaths in the great sport of motor racing. He was Il Maestro."
The 1933 season
began a two-year hiatus in the European Championship, and although Alfa Romeo ceased official involvement in Grands Prix their cars continued racing with Enzo Ferrari
team. For economic reasons, the P3 was not passed on to Ferrari so they used its predecessor, the Monza.
Maserati, with a much-improved car, provided the main opposition.
It has been alleged that Nuvolari was involved in a race-fixing scandal at the Tripoli Grand Prix
. The story is that he conspired with Achille Varzi
and Baconin Borzacchini
to fix the race in order to profit from the Libyan state lottery, in which 30 tickets were drawn before the race—one for each starter—and the holder of the ticket corresponding to the victorious driver won 7.5 million lire.
Others say the allegation was unfounded and that it originated with Alfred Neubauer
, the Mercedes-Benz
team manager at the time, who was well known as a raconteur
with a penchant for spicing up a story.
Neubauer's version does not altogether hold true with documented records of events, which indicate that Nuvolari, Varzi, and Borzacchini
agreed to pool the prize money should one of them win.
For the 1933 24 Hours of Le Mans
, Alfa Romeo teamed Nuvolari with Raymond Sommer
Sommer asked to drive the majority of the race as he was more familiar with the circuit and thought Nuvolari would probably break the car.
When Nuvolari countered that he was a leading Grand Prix driver and Le Mans was a simple layout that would not trouble him, they agreed to divide the driving equally.
In the race, they built a two-lap lead before a leaking fuel tank forced them to stop at the pits, where the leak was plugged by chewing gum.
More stops were necessary as the makeshift repair came undone several times.
Nuvolari, driving through to the end of the race, broke the lap record nine times and won by approximately 400 yards (370 m).
"Let any who say it was foolhardy at least be honest and admit it was one of the finest exhibitions of pluck and grit ever seen. By such men are victories won!"
, on Nuvolari racing in the 1934 AVUS-Rennen with a broken leg in a plaster cast
Nuvolari driving an Alfa Romeo P3 in the 1935 Grand Prix de Pau
Nuvolari after winning the 1935 Grand Prix de Pau
In April 1934 Nuvolari entered the Monaco Grand Prix
in a privately owned Bugatti
and worked up to third place before brake problems forced him back to fifth at the finish, two laps behind the winner, Guy Moll
Racing in heavy rain at Alessandria
in the Circuito di Pietro Bordino
race, he crashed and broke a leg: balked by Trossi
's Alfa Romeo P3
, he lost control of his privately entered Maserati 8CM
, which skidded, rolled, and hit a tree.
Bored in hospital, he decided to enter the AVUS-Rennen
just over four weeks later.
As his left leg was too badly injured to operate the clutch, his Maserati was modified for him to work the pedals with his right foot.
Troubled by cramp
, he finished fifth.
By the time of the Penya Rhin Grand Prix
in late June, Nuvolari's leg was finally out of plaster but still painful. He retired his Maserati with technical problems.
, Nuvolari set his sights on a drive with the German Auto Union
It lacked top-line drivers but relented to pressure from Achille Varzi
, which did not want Nuvolari in the team.
Nuvolari then approached Enzo Ferrari, who at first rebuffed him as he had previously walked out on the team.
Italy's prime minister Mussolini
helped persuade Ferrari to take Nuvolari back.
This was the year that Nuvolari achieved the 'Impossible Victory',
which many regard as the greatest win in all of motor racing history:
driving an outclassed Alfa Romeo P3 (3167 cc, supercharged, 265 hp) in the German Grand Prix
at the Nürburgring
, he beat all the dominant German cars—five Mercedes-Benz W25s
(3990 cm³, 8C, supercharged, 375 hp (280 kW) driven by Caracciola, Fagioli, Lang
, von Brauchitsch
, and Geyer), and four Auto Union Bs
(4950 cc, 16C, supercharged, 375 hp (280 kW) driven by Rosemeyer
, Varzi, Stuck
, and Pietsch
). The crowd of 300,000 applauded Nuvolari, but the representatives of the Third Reich
Nuvolari had a big accident in May during practice for the Tripoli Grand Prix and it is alleged that he broke some vertebrae. Despite a limp, he took part in the race the following day and finished eighth.
At the beginning of 1937
, Alfa Romeo took its works team back from Ferrari and entered it as part of the Alfa Corse
Nuvolari stayed with Alfa Romeo despite becoming increasingly frustrated with the poor build quality of its racing cars.
At the Coppa Acerbo
, Alfa Romeo's new 12C-37 car proved to be slow and unreliable. Frustrated, Nuvolari handed his car over to Giuseppe Farina
mid-race. Not wanting to leave Alfa Romeo, he drove an Auto Union in the Swiss Grand Prix as a one-off. After the Italian Grand Prix
, Alfa Romeo withdrew from racing for the remainder of the season and dismissed Vittorio Jano
, its chief designer.
1938-1939: Auto Union
Although Nuvolari started 1938
as an Alfa Romeo driver, a split fuel tank in the first race of the season at Pau
was enough for him to walk out on the team, critical of the poor workmanship that was exhibited. He announced his retirement from Grand Prix racing and took a holiday in America. At the same time, Auto Union was having to rely on inexperienced drivers. Following the Tripoli Grand Prix
they contacted Nuvolari who, having been refreshed from his break, agreed to drive for the highly successful German team, who were running radical mid-engined cars.
Nuvolari found further success with Auto Union; now driving a faster and more reliable car that enabled him to compete for victories, Nuvolari won his home Grand Prix at Monza and won the Donington Grand Prix in England.
Steering wheel adrift on his Cisitalia D46, Nuvolari finishes 13th in the 1946 Coppa Brezzi
In 1946 Nuvolari took part in thirteen races, winning the Grand Prix of Albi in a Maserati 4CL
, finishing 4th in the Grand Prix of Nations and 13th in the Coppa Brezzi, and retiring from the others.
It was noted that when he raced at Milan in September, he steered with mostly one hand; the other held a bloodstained handkerchief over his mouth.
Through 1947 and 1948 he raced eleven times, winning twice. He finished 2nd, 3rd, 4th, and 7th, and retired from the remaining five races. His Maserati did not qualify for the 1949 Marseilles Grand Prix.
Battered by health problems as well as the loss if his two sons, Nuvolari was nevertheless persuaded by Enzo Ferrari to race in the 1948 edition of the Mille Miglia. Paired with mechanic Sergio Scapinelli, Nuvolari took the lead in the early stages of the race. He was eventually forced to retire the car in Reggio Emilia
when he had a 27-minutes lead.
His last appearance in competition was at the Palermo-Montepellegrino hillclimb on 10 April 1950, driving a Squadra Carlo Abarth Cisitalia
-Abarth 204. He won his class and finished fifth overall.
Death and legacy
Statue of Nuvolari in Castel d'Ario
"…there will never be another Nuvolari and I shall always think of him as incomparable, the greatest of them all."
From editor John Cooper's Nuvolari obituary in The Autocar
, 21 August 1953
Nuvolari never formally announced his retirement, but his health deteriorated and he became increasingly solitary.
In 1952 a stroke left him partially paralysed, and he died in bed a year later from a second one.
Between 25,000 and 55,000 people, at least half the population of Mantua, attended his funeral
in a mile-long procession, with the coffin placed on a car chassis that was pushed by Alberto Ascari
, Luigi Villoresi
, and Juan Manuel Fangio
He is buried in the family tomb in the Cimitero Degli Angeli, on the road from Mantua to Cremona. The inscription over the door reads: 'Correrai Ancor Più Veloce Per Le Vie Del Cielo' (You will race even faster along the roads of heaven).
The Museum Tazio Nuvolari is located in his homestead at Giulia Romano via N. Sauro in Mantua.
In Castel d'Ario there is a bronze statue of Nuvolari on a marble plinth inscribed Nivola – Campione Automobilistico di Tutti Tempi
(Nivola – Champion Driver of All Time); and at the end of Mantua's Via delle Rimembranze, the street where he lived towards the end of his life, is a square that is now called Piazza Nuvolari.
Nuvolari was an early exponent (if not the inventor, according to Enzo Ferrari) of the four-wheel drift cornering technique which was later utilised by drivers such as Stirling Moss
The online video interview platform Tazio is named after him.
A Six Metre racing yacht built in the 1978 for Luca and Tony Bassani was named Nuvolari in honour of the racing driver. That yacht was restored in 2016 and currently races in Victoria, BC.
Complete European Championship results
) (Races in bold
indicate pole position) (Races in italics
indicate fastest lap)
Complete 24 Hours of Le Mans results
Post WWII Grandes Épreuves results
) (Races in bold
indicate pole position; races in italics
indicate fastest lap)
- ^ "Tazio 'Nivola' Nuvolari". Top 100. Archived from the original on 16 June 2009.
- ^ a b c d Cancellieri, Gianni. "The years from 1892 to 1929". Tazio Nuvolari - The Official Site. Archived from the original on 22 July 2011. Retrieved 6 June 2009.
- ^ a b c Cancellieri, Gianni. "The years from 1930 to 1953". Tazio Nuvolari - The Official Site. Archived from the original on 22 July 2011. Retrieved 6 June 2009.
- ^ "Life of Tazio Nuvolari". Nivola International. Archived from the original on 13 March 2007. Retrieved 18 April 2007.
- ^ "History of the motorcycle race: 1925" (in French). Racing Memory. Retrieved 18 April 2007.
- ^ "History of the Nations Grand Prix and the Italian Grand Prix" (in French). Racing Memory. Retrieved 18 April 2007.
- ^ "Il Circuito del Lario" (in French). Racing Memory. Retrieved 20 August 2007.
- ^ a b c d Skořepa 1980, p. 191.
- ^ "Mille Miglia 1930". Grand Prix Racing. Retrieved 20 November 2015.
- ^ "IX Gran Premio d´Italia". Racing Database. Retrieved 8 May 2007.[dead link]
- ^ a b c d e f Tibballs 2004, pp. 103–106.
- ^ a b Capps, H. Donald. "Tripoli 1933: A hard look at the legend". The Golden Era of Grand Prix Racing. Archived from the original on 11 June 2007. Retrieved 31 May 2007.
- ^ Tibballs 2004, pp. 107–109.
- ^ Snellman, Leif; Muelas, Felix. "VI Grand Prix de Monaco". The Golden Era of Grand Prix Racing. Retrieved 20 August 2007.
- ^ Snellman, Leif; Muelas, Felix. "V° Gran Premio de Penya Rhin". The Golden Era of Grand Prix Racing. Retrieved 20 August 2007.
- ^ Snellman, Leif; Muelas, Felix. "XII° Gran Premio d'Italia". The Golden Era of Grand Prix Racing. Retrieved 20 August 2007.
- ^ "Autofotka týdne: Vzácné maserati bylo na pár dnů v Praze". Zdroj (in Czech). 27 April 2014. Retrieved 20 November 2015.
- ^ "One against all". Archived from the original on 4 November 2014.
- ^ a b "Alfa legend". Archived from the original on 29 December 2007.
- ^ "Nuvolari". Grand Prix History. Archived from the original on 6 February 2005. Retrieved 13 February 2005.
- ^ a b "The Greatest Victory of all time". Grand Prix History.
- ^ Russell, Scott. "Motorsport and WWII - The 1939 Belgrade Grand Prix". globalf1.net. Archived from the original on 18 July 2007. Retrieved 18 November 2012.
- ^ Nuvolari e l’ultima Mille Miglia tr. "Nuvolari and the last Mille Miglia " 1 May 2018, www.motoremotion.it, acceessed 9 April 2021
- ^ a b "The Last Race". Time. 24 August 1953. Retrieved 18 April 2007.(subscription required)
- ^ a b Widdows, Rob (February 2010). "On the trail of Tazio". Motorsportmagazine.com. Motor Sport. Retrieved 16 April 2014.
- ^ "Museum Taxio Nuvolari". Museum Taxio Nuvolari. Retrieved 20 November 2015.
- ^ Owen, Richard. "1948 Cisitalia 202 SMM Nuvolari Spider". Supercars.net. Supercars.net Publishing. Archived from the original on 16 April 2014. Retrieved 16 April 2014.
- ^ "Vision of the GT of the Future: Audi Nuvolari quattro". AudiWorld. 4 March 2003. Retrieved 31 May 2007.
- ^ "THE GOLDEN ERA – OF GRAND PRIX RACING". kolumbus.fi. Retrieved 11 October 2017.
- ^ "All Results of Tazio Nuvolari". racingsportscars.com. Retrieved 17 October 2017.
- ^ "Tazio Nuvolari – Biography". MotorSportMagazine. Retrieved 28 August 2018.
- Hilton, Christopher (2003). Nuvolari. Derby: Breedon Books Publishing Co. Ltd. ISBN 1-85983-349-7.
- Pritchard, Anthony (1998). A Century of Grand Prix Motor Racing. Croydon: Motor Racing Publications. ISBN 1-899870-38-5.
- Rendall, Ivan (1995). The Chequered Flag. London: Weidenfeld and Nicolson. p. 140. ISBN 0-297-83550-5.
- Skořepa, Miloš (1980). Dejiny automobilových pretekov. p. 191.
- Tibballs, Geoff (2004). Motor-Racing's Strangest Races. London: Robson. ISBN 1-86105-411-4.
- Walker, Murray; Taylor, Simon (2001). Murray Walker's Formula One Heroes. London: Virgin. pp. 17–20. ISBN 1-85227-918-4.
Last edited on 9 April 2021, at 22:42
Content is available under CC BY-SA 3.0
unless otherwise noted.