Story Mike Spicer
Photos Public Domain and Mike Spicer
Tazio Nuvolari is an Italian racing driver every car enthusiast should know. Enzo Ferrari credits him as the inventor of the “four wheel drift” allowing him to beat superior competition. His accomplishments are legendary, could he be the best of all time?
Racing motorcycles at the age of 27 he won the 350cc European Championship in 1925. From there his career climbed fast. He began exclusively racing cars in 1930 and won the 1932 European Championship with Alfa Romeo. His success didn’t just make him a household name but an Italian icon that was admired by the entire country, as well as the world!
There are many stories of how he would routinely wield his magic to win races. Once while driving in Brescia at night behind his teammate Achille Varzi, he tailed him at high speeds with his headlights off so not to be seen in the rear-view mirrors. He eventually switched his headlights on to overtake the surprised Varzi near the finish. Crazy stuff like this would obviously not be possible today.
Many regard his 1935 German Grand Prix victory at the Nürburgring as the greatest auto racing win of all time. Driving an underpowered 1934 Alfa Romeo Tipo B (P3), he beat all five of the dominant German Mercedes-Benz W25’s and four Auto Union entrants in front of 300,000 spectators.
I was able to see his 1934 Alfa Romeo Tipo B (P3) German Grand Prix winner (Owned by Jon Shirley) at the Forest Grove Concours d’Elegance . It’s fascinating to see the cockpit firsthand.
Tazio Nuvolari is definitely a racing driver many car enthusiasts are already familiar with, but with the passage of time sometimes we forget to look back far enough. There are many versions of top 10 lists incorporating the greatest drivers of all time. While it’s hard to compare between eras, in many people’s opinion he was simply the best.