Today in Transportation History – 1892: The Birth of Il Mantovano Volante

Tazio Nuvolari, whose world-renowned racing career encompassed both motorcycles and cars, was born in the commune of Castel d’Ario in northern Italy. He eventually became a longtime resident of the nearby city of Mantua.

Nuvolari’s racing career first took shape in 1920 when he began racing motorcycles. His achievements at this point in his career included winning the 350 cc (cubic centimeters) European Champions Grand Prix motorcycle race in 1925. That same year, Nuvolari also started racing cars. He began focusing full-time on racing with this mode of transportation in 1930.

Nuvolari’s car racing victories included winning the European Drivers’ Championship event in 1932. The following year, he finished first in both the 24 Hours of Le Mans endurance racing event (paired with Raymond Sommer of France as part of the Alveo Romeo automobile team) and the Belgian Grand Prix motor race. Another one of Nuvolari’s triumphs took place in 1935 when he won the German Grand Prix while competing in an outdated Alveo Romeo model. His victory in this race marked the only time between 1935 and 1939 that a non-German car won a European championship race.

World War II stalled Nuvolari’s career, but he resumed it after that global conflict ended. His post-war victories included finishing first in the 1946 Albi Grand Prix in France. Nuvolari’s final racing competition was the Palermo-Monte Pellegrino hillclimb in Sicily in April 1953; he died four months later in Mantua at the age of 60.

During his career, Nuvolari won a total of 72 major car races. He won each major European car racing event except the Czechoslovakian Grand Prix at least once. His accomplishments behind the wheel earned him both the nickname “Il Mantovano Volante” (“The Flying Mantuan”) and widespread fame. “Tazio Nuvolari was not simply a racing driver,” stated British writer Cyril Posthumus. “He was Il Maestro.” Automotive pioneer and manufacturer Ferdinand Porsche once hailed Nuvolari as “the greatest driver of the past, the present, and the future.”

Approximately 30,000 people – at least half the population of Mantua at the time – attended Nuvolari’s funeral. For the mile-long funeral procession, his coffin was placed on a car chassis pushed along by his fellow racecar drivers Alberto Ascari, Luigi Villoresi, and Juan Manuel Fangio. An inscription above the entrance to Nuvolari’s tomb reads: “Correrai Ancor Piu Veloce Per Le Vie Del Cielo” (“You will race faster still on the streets of heaven”).

For more information about Tazio Nuvolari, please check out https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tazio_Nuvolari.

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