A virtual magazine for a true passion!

Editor: Jaap Horst

Volume 2, Issue 3

75th del Gran Premio d'Italia:

Dream or Reality?

Author: Tjerk Stapel
Photographs: Jan Spiele
Translation: Jaap Horst

Note: "Brescia" is pronounced: "Bressja".

Where can we find the superlatives to describe the 75th birthday of the Italian Gran Premio del Voiturettes? Maybe in the Italian press describing the victory of Schumacher at Monza? Because as succesful as Ferrari was at Monza, so was the fourcylinder Bugatti Rally in Brescia. Three cars (Two T37 and my Brescia T23) came from the Netherlands to Desenzano del Garda, pied-a-terre of the Bugatti Club Italiana. Only two days before leaving Holland, I could be sure to go, because that was when my Brescia ran again, after an engine overhaul.

Okay, our Brescia had done eleven kilometers exactly after the overhaul, when we drank a pint at the Garda lake, thursday September 5. While Jan and I where still busy restoring the Brescia (clutch among other things), other participants came to claim their part of the parking lot. What a fantastic sight! All fourcylinders and "concorrente" with black hands (Brescia drivers always do their own mechanical work). Team Stapel/Spiele was far enough with the car so that at the end of the day a trial run could be made on Italian soil: Perfect! (6km) In passing parked cars. anti-theft alarms went off left and right due to the sound waves produced. For Italians though this is pure music and brings smiles to their faces. What a country!

Statistics: For the rally were entered: 30 Brescia's (two 8-valves, 18 x T13, 3 x T22, 6 x T23 and 1 T27), 5 x T37(A), 6 x T40 and eight other cars, almost 50 in all.
After a cheerful pizza and a good night's rest the party could begin. By that time Club president Guasti and his team had already demonstrated to have a perfect organisation...

Friday September 6

8.30 (really): start of the
"75 del; Gran Premio d'Italia"
Luckily for my engine the first 30km were flat, in contrast to the 190 to come. After a not-planned "detour" we drove in the direction of the mountains, escorted by the organisation and the police. We then still wore our coats, with as a consequence that some drops of sweat flowed. After a Gorgeous ride steeply into the mountains we arrived at the mountain village Bagolino: an oasis of silence. Certainly after the last Brescia kept silent. And then the Italian enjoyment. 10 o'clock: breakfast with small things to eat plus wine, wine and water (w,w&w). The crowd was enthusiastic like they can only be in Italy and so was the sun.
The second heat went even more steeply into the mountains. The coats were taken off and the hairpin-route offered a magnificent view; everybody tried to get the best out of his/her macchina to rush upmountain. Alas was there the awfully slow EB110 which had to compete for some reason. Due to this there was a queue that robbed various teams of a quick ride (clogged up carburettors and other nuisance). As a reward we got a perfect lunch at a hight of 2150 meters at the "Croce Domini". In between the skilifts was a mountain cabin where real Italian mountain food was served (with of course w,w&w). The Bugs were cooling down in the meantime, as in a real Caran d'Ache box..

What came after lunch was very unusual. What did the roads look like in 1921? Exactly, yes. 30 km's of unpaved road over the Monte Maniva that led us to the next plateau. Luckily it had rained heavily a week before, so there wasn't too much dust. But because of the holes (=puddles) we had to go easy. What an experience! The polished eightcylinders didn't join, so we felt victorious during the next stop.
After a cup of strong coffee (Ahum...) we started the descent to the Lago d'Idro. As a proof of the endured trial we had the mountain clay of 2150 meters sticking to our cars. As we went down it got warmer and warmer, and in the harbour village of Gargnano it had become even tropical. There we were waited upon by a class of schoolchildren. Each of them had a sign with startnumber and description of a Bugatti. At a walking pace we went through the frantic crowd, and parked on the historical square at the lake. "Our" child guarded the car while we were eating our "smallfood" and w,w&w. The cars performed well and the mood was excellent. Could it become even better? When we got back at the hotel we continued to do some restoring and then went on to the excursion boat (dinner on board) and a visit to Sirmione-by-night.

Saturday September 7

8.30 (truly!) departure. Again escorted by the police we flew with a lot of noise over the cleared crossings. Mothers with prams were stopped on Zebra crossings and all traffic was pushed to the side. This is what you live for as an Italian motor police! The Audi that was kindly guiding us felt chased by the Brescia's that tried to pass left and right, and so we came, bare-armed, to the famous weapon factory of the Beretta family (since 1526). A beautiful collection and excursion and a decadent champagne "breakfast" later we went on our way again. A Dutch team in a T37 did a small match with the Italian police in a Alfa 155, and won! The winner received a badge from the police, making him an Italian parking officer.

What came then, overwhelmed the competitors. Guasti had announced that "his friend" had invited us for lunch in his home. Arriving at his little "hut on the hill" near Brescia we parked our thoroughbred fourcylinders on the gravel paths around it. A dozen of servants in white coats and equal gloves treated us first to "un apperitivo" (w,w&w) and later to a more than excellent lunch. The master of the Villa Pecori Giraldi had invited some 50 more guests and so some 150 people enjoyed this luxurious treat. The hour and a half we had here were really not enough to see all of the hut, so much was there to see: At the one side Brescia (the city) and the skyline of Milan, and at the other the snowwhite tops of the Alps. These people really live in this museum.

When it was time to continue, we received a bottle of red (own harvest) for on the way. Again we drove fiercely (220 km for today). We couldn't get enough of driving escorted. In each village the cafe's emptied to see the sight of all this power rushing by. Especially the older ones shined with pleasure. One that shined exceptionally was la Contesa di Maggi, widow of the organiser of the original Mille Miglia. At her villa we stopped shortly to refuel (w,w&w naturally). Again the beauty of the place was overwhelming. But the parade through Brescia called...

Before Brescia a regrouping would take place, but all Brescia's had pushed to the front and so we stormed through the streets of the city, four rows thick. The fantastic engine noise and the smell of Castor oil brought us to entrancement. This arrival at Brescia can be called the culmination, unforgettable! After the usual chaos when parking on the Piazza Loggia, the mayor of Brescia held a very inspired and emotional speech.

We had to hurry to be back in time for the gala dinner where all participants received a magnificent little statue and a memorial badge. But there was more....

Sunday September 8

At the time that Schumacher was in the lead with his Ferrari on Monza, thirty Brescia's were rounding the streetcircuit of Brescia, like the Bugattis had done 75 years before. Then the squadra Bugatti finished one to four (drivers Friederich, De Viscaja, Baccoli and Marco), an unequaled effort to which the sixteen valve Types 13, 22 and 23 thank their name. And lets not forget that Bugatti owes his great fame to this victory: With the success of the Brescia he could finance the step into the eightcylinder era.

The event was decorated with some period motorcycles, as well as a few biplanes. At the airport of Montichari some Bugattis did an accelaration test, which a Dutch T37 won (114kmh), even before the driving chicane EB110 (113kmh). Fastest Brescia was Raphael Rondoni (102 kmh) and undersigned officially did 86 kmh (alas unofficially 97 kmh).

Also the farewell was grand, after a real airbattle between two biplanes we had lunch in the hangar of the flying club, with plenty of w,w&w. At the presentation of the prizes the victorious Dutch received the cup from the Contessa di Maggi. We were moved when saying goodbye to our new and old friends and to an unequaled organisation-team of the Bugatti Club Italiana.

Two hours later the Brescia stood on the trailer and we were on our way home, like intoxicated. At the moment of writing this it still is all difficult to believe....

What made the event so very special was that there were no eightcylinder "showpieces" to steal the attention and the show. The charme and experience of the fourcylinder is more and more appreciated and we know for sure that the interest in the Brescia Bugatti will only increase. Mark our words!

The author showing his broken off gear lever. Luckily this happened the last day!

Opening Picture: Francesco Guasti, President of the Italian Bugatti Club and organiser of the event.

That my Bugatti was ready in time for "Brescia" may be called a miracle. I want to therefore thank all friends in the BCN who have helped to make this possible!
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