April 23, 1933. Over 100,000 spectators descended upon the principality of Monaco to watch ‘the fight of the century’ opposing Tazio Nuvolari to Achille Varzi. After three and a half hours of leapfrogging, the last lap would decide on the winner.
1933 was looking like Nuvolari’s season. A win in the Tunis Grand Prix and a win in the Mille Miglia made the Mantovan very much the man of the moment. But he was well aware of the fact he was facing a more difficult task at the Monaco Grand Prix.
No Tipo B
Alfa Romeo had pulled out of racing, leaving its racing operations in the hands of Enzo Ferrari and his Scuderia Ferrari. Unfortunately, Alfa Romeo decided against handing over the dominant P3 ‘Tipo B’ single-seater, leaving Ferrari to defend Alfa’s honour with the older Monzas. The Monza was powerful, but also heavy.
Bugatti comes prepared
In 1932, Nuvolari came out the winner at the Monaco Grand Prix. In doing so, he broke Bugatti’s hegemony at the Monaco race, the blue cars having won in 1930 and 1931. With Bugatti wanting its crown back and with Nuvolari’s rival Achille Varzi behind the wheel of the T51, ‘Nivola’ knew he would have his work cut out in Monaco. Unbeknown to him, Bugatti came to Monaco with a slightly better-prepped engine for Varzi, giving him 12 hp extra and an extra 5 kph in top speed.
Clash of styles
The duel between Varzi and Nuvolari was a clash of styles as much as it was a matter of talent. Nuvolari was the abundant one, overdriving the car to extract a performance level hitherto unknown. Varzi on the other hand was the elegant, calculated tactician, biding his time and waiting for the perfect moment to strike. There was no telling who was the strongest here, in the days leading up to the Monaco Grand Prix.
The crowd would find the race living up to their expectations. It was a thriller that lasted for 100 laps. The full recount of the race is told in detail by our historian-in-residence Chanh Lé Huy in the second issue of Tazio Magazine, beautifully illustrated by Rafael Varela.