The flying man from Mantua
On April 13, 1930, just after 5:00 am, the silent shadows beside Lake Garda are shaken by the rumble of an Alfa Romeo 6C 1750 Gran Sport spider Zagato driving at 93 mph with its headlights turned off. At its steering wheel is Tazio Nuvolari, from Mantua, nicknamed “Nivola”. Beside him, Gian Battista Guidotti, chief Alfa Romeo test driver at the Portello factory.
It’s a key moment of a mythical Mille Miglia race. The race leader and presumable winner is Achille Varzi. However, some miles before the lake, in Verona, Nuvolari and Guidotti had come up with the unbelievable idea to turn off their headlights. Their only hope of beating their rival was to take him by surprise.
Dawn was approaching. After the lake, the placid countryside would lead to the finishing line in Brescia. It was here that Varzi and his co-driver Canavesi detected the echo of another engine, but before they realized what was happening, they’d been overtaken by an identical car to their own.
Nuvolari went on to win. His average speed was 100.45 km/h. This was the first time ever that the 100 km/h average speed barrier had been broken in this legendary race, a record that made the front pages all over Europe. 10 minutes later, a stunned Varzi came second. Third to arrive was Giuseppe Campari. Fourth was Pietro Ghersi. Different kinds of drivers with one thing in common, they were all racing in the Alfa Romeo 6C 1750. In the following hour and a half, other 6C models arrived, altogether 8 out of the first 11 finishers.
A case of what’s called absolute supremacy, which was to be repeated that year with top-3 finishes in the Spa 24-hour race in Belgium, and in the Belfast Tourist Trophy. The 6C 1750 was simply the fastest car of its era.