The Mille Miglia was by now firmly ensconced within the Italian psyche. For Brescians the end of winter brought the sound of motors unshackled by normal decorum. A preponderance of young men and women in a hurry juxtaposed against a still mostly rural background. In each town where there lived dreams of motoring laurels a nervous excitement greeted the prospect of deeds backing up words. A champion of the living room or of the dining table would now have to be confirmed on those 1000 terrible miles. The starting list that year had nearly doubled over the previous. There was a changing of the guard at the upper echelons of Italian motorsports with the ascendancy of Nuvolari and Varzi and their great rivalry that would continue from two to four wheels. All of Italy it seemed would split into two camps, each proclaiming their champion was the greatest of those that put hand on wheel.
The impeccable man from Galliate just outside Milan whose tailor made overalls made him appear the antithesi of the rough-hewn Mantovan in his peculiar racing attire of yellow jersey and blue trousers or leather jerkin only they knew the awful truth, that at the core of their being they both coveted the same piece of road. Other drivers often remarked that the two would continue to fight their own personal battle after all hope of overall victory was no longer possible. A battle that cast the other drivers also rans irrespective of their actual positions. For Varzi it seemed that only Nuvolari existed, that only Nuvolari needed to be beaten for victory to be assured and for another week at least it would be to Varzi’s name that the newspapers of Italy would direct their accolades.
With an eye towards increasing the number of entries new classes were added to the race allowing anyone basically to take their family car and go racing! The organizers introduced special prizes for ‘non-expert’ entrants, not included in the main list of participants and who are not directly or indirectly part of a manufacturer’s team. This initiative was reinforced by the Gazzetta della Sport, which published a column called ‘Volunteer drivers for the Mille Miglia’ to enable aspiring young drivers to advertise their availability to car owners.This resulted in nearly doubling the amount of entries but did nothing for the competition because by then Alfa Romeo had clearly stamped their dominance by employing three of the top drivers in Campari, Varzi and Nuvolari. To this effort was added the semi-works team of Scuderia Ferrari and an additional 3 Alfa Romeos.
This is not to say that they were without rivals, chief amongst them were O.M. and Maserati with their new 8C but most observers were placing their bets on one of the Alfa Romeos. A new entrant from Germany did pique some interest. Driven by a young German driver with an Italian sounding name, Rudolf Caracciola was 29, driving a Mercedes-Benz SSK.
After coming in 3rd in 1929 Varzi was ready to assume the top rung. Campari, the winner of the last two events did not figure to give up his crown so easily. This year’s race began at 11:00 am. Though they were required to have co-drivers both Varzi and Nuvolari were determined not to let go of their respective mounts. The Maserati of Luigi Arcangeli, a motorcycle racer of some repute took the early lead closely pursued by the Alfa Romeo of Nuvolari. To Bologna he led, the fastest part of the course but with fading brakes Arcangeli crashed out in the Apennines and Nuvolari assumed the lead on time.
Having started behind Varzi who was now in second but ahead of Nuvolari on the road the Mantovan crept ever closer to his rival. Legend has it that he had switched off his lights in the early light of dawn only to switch them on as he overtook the surprised Varzi. Other reports had it that Vittorio Jano, fearing that his leading cars would ruin themselves fighting for first place actually told Varzi that he was leading and to ease up. In Nuvolari’s case Jano knew that words were not enough to slow down the Mantovan and had attendants carry him off to rest. In any case Nuvolari had the race well in hand at that time setting a new record average speed of 100 kph. The cars of Alfa Romeo would come in 1-2-3-4.
It was a good race and from Rome onwards I never had any doubt that I should win. The car was wonderful and never gave a moment’s trouble. I could have driven much faster had I wished to do so. The hardest part of the race for me was when Sig. Jano locked me up in a room at Bologna on the return journey and compelled me to rest for five minutes or more and had me washed and fed. I was in such a frenzy to get off that I almost fought with the pit attendants. I was much too excited to listen to arguments that I had the race in the hollow of my hand and could afford to take it easy. Tazio Nuvolari
Varzi, was seething with rage, furious that all along the latter part of the course and at every control he was informed that he was in the lead. This he said caused him to slacken his pace over the last 100 miles only to find Nuvolari directly on his heels. And so this famous rivalry that would enthrall a nation deepens …