Tazio Nuvolari and the underpowered Alfa that upset the Third Reich
On July 28, 1935 Germany hosted the German Grand Prix at the infamous and then 14.17 mile long Nürburgring in Nürburg, Germany. Under the Nazi flag, Germany was represented by Mercedes Benz and Auto Union with every expectation of taking the victory in cars that were much more powerful than their Italian rivals. Several Alfa Romeo Tipo B cars were brought to the Green Hell that day by Scuderia Ferrari who ran the Alfa Romeo racing teams in those days, one of which was driven by driven by Tazio Nuvolari.
When the race started, Nuvolari managed to get a jump on the German competition but fell back some laps afterward. Determined and driving a car that was 50-100hp down from the leaders, he passed Auto Union and Mercedes cars and eventually made his way into first place through raw talent and skill. At one point in the race when teams were all due for pit stops, Nuvolari brought his leading Alfa in for fueling. A sudden failure in the refueling pump cost Tazio almost two minutes in the pits as his team had to empty five 20-liter cans of fuel by hand. That incident put the team back into sixth place and with little time left in the race was surely the end of Alfas chance at a victory. Again, Nuvolari set off and made his way through the field and back up to second behind the crowd favored Mercedes Benz and in front of Hitler and his Nazi cohorts.
In 1935, tire technology was still evolving and unfortunately between the fevered pace of the cars and the brutality of the Nürburgring circuit, both cars had worn their tires down beyond their limits. On the final lap of the 14 mile circuit, the leading Mercedes blew a tire which then allowed Tazio and the Tipo B to take the lead and finish the lap to win the 1935 German Grand Prix.
It was reported that the German crowd was silent when Nuvolari crossed the start/finish line in front of Adolf Hitler. The highest-ranking Nazi leaders were in attendance and Korpsführer Hühnlein who was expected to give the victory speech, ripped it up in a fit of rage. It probably didn’t help that Nuvolari had supplied a record of the Italian national anthem to be played during the award ceremony while the Italian flag was hoisted high in the air. Nuvolaris achievement on that day became known as “The Impossible Victory”.
This particular Alfa Romeo Tipo B (P3) changed hands several times, living with owners in England, New Zealand, and Japan before finally landing in the United States where it is shown here at the Monterey Historics at Laguna Seca in 2016.