The Flying Mantuan

Nuvolari, Donington, Auto-Union

The wiry little man at the wheel of this Auto Union Type D Grand Prix car is the famous Italian Tazio Nuvolari. In common with many prewar and early postwar drivers, Nuvolari had started his career with motorcycles, graduating to cars in the 1920s and joining Alfa Corse, the Alfa Romeo factory team in 1932. Nuvolari then continued to drive Alfa Romeos for the Scuderia Ferrari, Enzo Ferrari’s factory-supported team, until the Swiss Grand Prix in 1937 when he made an appearance with Auto Union.  For 1938, after the Pau Grand Prix where he had a scary fire, he transferred to the German team, continuing with them until the War.

In this photograph Nuvolari is on his way around Red Gate corner at Donington on his way to his second victory of the season for Auto Union, this one at the Donington Grand Prix in England on October 22, 1938. For Donington there was a full entry of the all-conquering German cars with four each from Mercedes-Benz and Auto Union. In practice Nuvolari was second fastest behind the Mercedes of Hermann Lang and just in front of Lang’s teammate Manfred von Brauchitsch, the three cars separated by less than half a second. This was a good performance by Nuvolari, as he had hit a stag during practice, fortunately without injury to himself although the stag faired less well.

In the race, Nuvolari went into an immediate lead and drew away from the field until having to stop to have a spark plug changed from which he rejoined in fourth place. He took advantage of trouble for the Mercedes drivers on spilled oil and a fast refueling stop to cut into Lang’s lead. After Lang had to slow due to a smashed windscreen, Nuvolari was able to take the lead and cruised to the win.

The Flying Mantuan, as he was then known, also drove after the war, but his health had deteriorated markedly. Even so, he nearly won the 1948 Milla Miglia for Ferrari, retiring near the finish after a stupendous effort. He died from a stroke in 1953. Nuvolari was generally recognized as the greatest prewar driver and on a level with the likes of Juan Manuel Fangio, Jim Clark and Stirling Moss.

Photo by  Louis Klemantaski ©The Klemantaski Collection

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One comment

  1. Wasn’t there a grand prix type car built in the US around 1934-1935 which introducing the world to true race car aerodynamics in a fully closed streamlined body , and in ( yet to come ) height, weight, length and 6 inch ground clearance?
    The Europeans, for decades, love to lay claim to many advances in race cars, and street cars, in this case, the Honors go to the good old US.
    John

    Like

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