Racing Biography: Driver Tazio Nuvolari

About the person many consider the greatest race car driver of all whose daring exploits became famous in the world of motosport and motor racers.

Tazio Nuvolari was born near to the town of Mantua in Italy, 1892. His main influence towards motor racing came from his uncle who sold Bianchi vehicles. Nuvolari was obviously immediately in love with automobiles, so when it came to the time for national service, he managed to acquire the job of driver for the army.

At the age of 28 he started racing motorcycles competitively. It wasn't long before a big team noticed him; such was his skill and daring. Perhaps his uncle had had a word in the ear of somebody important at the Bianchi team, because it was they who snapped up the prodigious talent.

Talk to anybody passionate about motor racing, and just as they are almost certain to know of the Italian great, the first attribute that springs to mind when discussing him is his bravery. To those outside of the sport, who never realised what the thrill of racing meant to this man, they would most likely label him as completely insane! The first example of this came in the early 1920's at the motorcycle grand prix of Monza. The day before the race, Nuvolari suffered a bad accident in practise. He was taken to hospital, put in pot and told it would be a long time before he would race again. Undeterred, the driver returned to the track, and with the help of his team strapped himself to the motorbike. As, in this position he was unable to balance, the mechanics were forced to hold him up at the start, and waited at the finish, possibly more in hope than in faith. They were astonished to see Nuvolari win the race and had to hurry to catch him when he stopped!

In 1924, he entered the world of motorcar racing, and formed a team with another Italian great Achille Varzi. The latter became jealous when Nuvolari began to regularly beat him - there could be no excuses as the cars were the same. Varzi left the team, and because he was from a wealthy family was able to buy a superior car, an Alfa. It was his turn to win, but Nuvolari would have the last laugh.

Team Alfa Romeo were not able to ignore the talent of "˜The Flying Mantuan' for very long, signing him in 1928. This renewed the great rivalry between him and Varzi, who found themselves teammates once again. In the Mille Miglia of 1930, a gruelling race through the Italian countryside Nuvolari hatched a daring yet ingenious plan. Trailing Varzi by a small distance, he turned off his headlights, and used the leader's instead as a guide. Near the finish, he pulled out, flicked on his lights and sped past the unsuspecting Varzi. Apparently, the latter was rather put out by this tactic, but at least it proved that Nuvolari had immense belief in his teammate's driving!

The next decade saw the living legend achieve great success in motor racing. A young Enzo Ferrari was for a while his mechanic, and throughout his life Ferrari regarded Nuvolari as the best ever. In 1935 Nuvolari won a race at the Nurburgring, in a car far inferior to the Mercedes of the Germans. This left many watching Nazis dismayed. In 1936, his immense courage (or lunacy) was displayed again when he escaped from hospital in Tripoli after a terrible crash in practise. Although he did not win, it highlighted just what racing meant to him.

The Second World War interrupted the career of the great man, but he resumed after its completion. In all Tazio Nuvolari spent thirty years in motor racing and as was his wish, was buried in his uniform when he died after a long illness in 1953.

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