Drivers from the 40s

A Louis Chiron Tale


One of those wonderful stories which you sort of take with a grain of salt but still relate for the sheer enjoyment of telling is the tale related by the veteran racing driver from Monaco, Louis Chiron. Seasoned bench-racers will remember that he and Nuvolari both were piloting Alfa Romeos, the Italian cars then being much-loved underdogs in an era of German motor racing successes. In 1934, however, the Alfas amazed everyone by beating the Germans on their own home ground, the Niurburgririg, coming home 1-2-3 in the German Grand Prix of that year. It was during practice for this memorable race that the following incident is supposed to 'have' occurred.

Chiron and Nuvolari were taking coffee together, and eventually 'the conversation (as it always does) got around to lap times achieved in practice. Chiron suddenly looked up and with a twinkle in his eye, said that he knew very well that he Chiron, could turn in a record lap. Nuvolari looked skeptical, saying that of course you can't go that fast on the 'Ring, especially in the Alfa. With that, Chiron stuck out his hand and the bet was on. Nuvolari "placed his stopwatch at his elbow and unconcernedly began to play a game of cards while his friend sped around the course. Chiron was busy making a fast turn on the 'Ring and buzzed around regularly enough until he came to the right-hand bend that sweeps up the hill towards Karussel; at the apex of this corner there is a seldom-used 30 % testing hill which 'cuts cross-country up through some woods, coming out onto' the regular circuit just at the top of the hill at a place called Hohe Acht, or "high point." Chiroh slewed off the main road and roared up this hill, the Alfa in bottom gear. He saved a good 10 or 15 seconds by doing this and arrived back at the pits well within the time he predicted. Nuvolari was completely shaken. He was so surprised to see the Alfa return so soon that he almost didn't have time to punch the clock. The astonished Maestro took one look at this record time and couldn't believe his own: eyes. He bounced up and strode over to his own Alfa, telling the mechanics to warm it up. He was going out to break this latest lap record on the Nurburgring. He'd be damned if some Frenchman was going to beat Nuvolari on this circuit. Tazio never went around the 'Ring as fast as he did that day in his attempt to beat Chiron's supposedly new lap time. Keeping to the regular full Niirburg circuit, the Flying Mantuan drove like a madman, all but killing himself in the attempt. Chiron sweated out his friend's return with real anxiety. When the smoking Alfa pulled into the pits and people swarmed around Nuvolari to congratulate him on establishing still another record, Chiron ,didn't dare tell him how he had made his own time. In fact, it was not until many years later-until,'the story goes, the time he had lost sufficient hair to avoid being scalped by one extraordina'rily irate Italian racing driver.

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