Born in Biella, Italy to an aristocratic family on the 27th of December 1905 the Marchese “Tonino” Brivio began racing with a 1,199cc supercharged Derby in 1927. In 1934 he joined Bugatti, and drove a Type 59 to 2nd place while setting fastest lap in the Belgian GP. The German teams boycotted the race when the Belgian Customs Authorities attempted to levy a 180,000 franc duty on their special racing fuel. He would gain his greatest success in sports cars winning the Targa Florio in 1933 and again 1935 driving for Alfa Romeo . He turned down an offer from Auto Union in 1936 to stay with Scuderia Ferrari, with whom he won the Mille Miglia in 1936.
The 1936 Mille Miglia was complicated by deteriorating international conditions, in particular Italy’s military occupation of Ethiopia. Race organizers set up special classes for cars powered by alternative fuels, including (but not limited to) gasogeni. These were fuels based upon coal, wood or charcoal. Brivio’s winning Alfa Romeo 8C 2900A however was fueled with a mixture of 44 percent ethanol, 44 percent methanol, 12 percent avgas—and a dollop of castor oil.
Brivio would later relate that his entry for the event was totally unexpected and that Ferrari had wanted Tazio Nuvolari to drive the car instead. Ferrari then chose Mario Tadini an accomplished hill climber but perhaps more importantly a major investor in Scuderia Ferrari and the initial president of its Board of Directors to take his place. When Tadini suffered a sudden illness it was left to Brivio to take up the drive.
During World War II Brivio served as an air force pilot. Brivio coming from a winter sports area was also an Olympic bobsledder and competed in the 1936 Winter Olympics at Garmisch-Partenkirchen.
After retiring in 1937 Brivio would continue being involved in motorsports, later become president of the Commissione Sportiva Automobilistica Italiana (CSAI). He would make one last competitive drive in the 1947 Mille Miglia teaming up with one of the founders of the event, Aymo Maggi. Later it was said that he had proposed the new Formula 1 World Championship.