The Alfa That Did Not Race

Alfa Romeo, Hans Ruesch, Crystal Palace, klemcoll

Here we have an Alfa Romeo 8C35 being driven by the Swiss Hans Ruesch during practice for The Crystal Palace Cup which took place on July 1, 1939. at London’s Crystal Palace circuit. When Ruesch acquired his Alfa Romeo from Modena’s Scuderia Ferrari at the end of 1936 it had already experienced an important history with the Scuderia, then acting as the racing department for Alfa Romeo, having been driven by no less than Tazio Nuvolari. The first appearance of the Ruesch Alfa was at Donington Park at the end of the 1936 season when its owner shared it with Richard Seaman and the pair won outright.

The Alfa 8C35 had been designed by Vittorio Jano as  possible competition to the Mercedes-Benz and Auto Union Grand Prix cars and in fact on shorter circuits Nuvolari had some meaningful success with the 8C35. For 1937 a new twelve cylinder car had been created by Ferrari and Alfa Romeo, the 12C36, which had more power than the prior eight cylinder engine of the 8C35. Thus Scuderia Ferrari was then willing to sell its older Grand Prix cars to private owners. Ruesch used his 8C35 extensively between 1937 and 1939 in Europe, South Africa and England. Due to the a possible war in Europe, the Crystal Palace race would probably mark the end of his racing activities.

Seeing Ruesch in this photograph is part of a small mystery because at the time of this race at Crystal Palace, the Ruesch Alfa Romeo already had been sold to a British driver, Robert Arbuthnot. When that sale actually took place during the first half 1939 is not known, although Ruesch had used the Alfa at a race at Crystal Palace in late May. It is probable that Arbuthnot allowed Ruesch to participate in practice as the Alfa had already been entered by Ruesch for the second Heat of the Cup race which would be run in two Heats and a Final.

However, the Alfa never started its Heat having been withdrawn due to the ownership change, as was reported in contemplorary race accounts. The sale by Ruesch of his Alfa most likely reflected his pessimistic view of the coming conflagration in Europe. He left England for his home in Switzerland not long after this photograph was taken.

Photo by Louis Klemantaski ©The Klemantaski Collection –

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