Achille Varzi  Italy

  • Full name Achille Varzi
  • Birth date August 8, 1904
  • Birthplace Galliate, Italy
  • Date of death July 1, 1948 (43 years 328 days)
  • Place of death Bremgarten, Switzerland
driver portrait

Achille Varzi was one of the great drivers of the 1930s but had the misfortune that his career coincided with an even greater Italian driver, Nuvolari. As cautious as Nuvolari was reckless, he was consistently overshadowed despite some remarkable achievements on the track. In the circumstances, that Varzi died in only the second major crash of his career was unfortunate.

The son of a prosperous textile manufacturer, starting out racing bikes before moving to cars in 1928. Although initially driving a Bugatti, he soon switched to Alfa Romeo with immediate success in 1929. In 1930 he also drove a Maserati, and in 1934 Varzi enjoyed his best season winning six grand prix, a feat all the more impressive as that was the first year the highly-funded Auto Union and Mercedes-Benz were big players.

In 1935 he joined Auto Union and initially the relationship was successful, winning his first outing in Tunis, but he soon became embroiled in the politics of a team funded by and beholden to its Nazi government. He sought refuge in women - unfortunately with the wife of a team-mate - and drugs - he became a morphine addict - and his career was all but over by 1938.

He cured his addiction during the war and also got married, and afterwards made an unexpected comeback. In 1947 he won three minor grand prix, but practicing for the 1948 Swiss Grand Prix his car skidded and rolled, crushing him to death. The one legacy was that crash helmets became mandatory following the crash. Of the 139 races he started he won 33.
Martin Williamson

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