- August 08, 1904
- July 01, 1948
- Not Active
Achille Varzi (1904-1948) was an Italian racing driver and one of the pioneers of Grand Prix racing. He was active in auto racing between 1928 and 1948, winning more than thirty Grand Prix races and losing a life in a crash during practice for the 1948 Swiss Grand Prix at Bremgarten circuit.
Some great races he had won are Monaco Grand Prix, French Grand Prix, Spanish Grand Prix, Mille Miglia or Targa Florio.
Born in August 1904 in Galliate, Piedmont, as a son of a textile manufacturer, Achille Varzi started his racing career as a motorcycle racer. During the 1920s, he raced with Garelli, DOT, Moto Guzzi or Sunbeam motorcycles, participating among other races at Isle of Man TT.
Varzi switched to car racing in 1928, recording participation in some major races such as Mille Miglia or Gran Premio di Tripoli in Bugatti Type 35 cars. He retired at Mille Miglia and finished third in Tripoli. The race winner was Tazio Nuvolari.
In 1929, Varzi switched to Alfa Romeo and recorded his first victories. He won Coppa Ciano and Monza Grand Prix in an Alfa Romeo P2. At Mille Miglia, he was third in an Alfa Romeo 6C 1750 SS.
In 1930, Varzi repeated a victory at Monza Grand Prix in a Maserati 26M. He added Coppa Acerbo and Spanish Grand Prix to the list of his wins. In road races, he won Targa Florio in an Alfa Romeo P2 and finished second at Mille Miglia in an Alfa Romeo 6C 1750 SS.
In 1931, Achille Varzi won the French Grand Prix, one of three races of the inaugural AIACR Europan Championship. In that race, he was sharing a Bugatti T51 with Louis Chiron. In other Grand Prix events in 1931, Varzi won at Tunis Grand Prix and Circuito di Alessandria.
In June 1931, Varzi made a debut at 24 Hours of Le Mans. He was sharing the #4 Bugatti T50 with Louis Chiron, not finishing the race.
In 1932, Varzi participated in two championship Grand Prix events, retiring both in the Italian Grand Prix and French Grand Prix. In non-championship races, Varzi scored a victory at Tunis Grand Prix in a Bugatti T51.
In 1933, the highlight of the season was a victory at Monaco Grand Prix in a Bugatti T51. He fought for the lead against Tazio Nuvolari who stopped on the penultimate lap when his car was caught by fire.
Later that year, Varzi scored victories at Tripoli Grand Prix and AVUS race. In other races, he finished best in the second place in the Belgium Grand Prix.
The next great victory for Achille Varzi was at Mille Miglia in April 1934. In that race, he was sharing the #48 Alfa Romeo 8C 2300 with Amedeo Bignami. Later that year, Varzi also won Targa Florio, becoming the first driver who won both famous races in one season.
In the rest of the season, Varzi scored victories in five more Grand Prix events, marking the season as the most successful of all drivers. He won at Alessandria, Tripoli, Penya Rhin at Barcelona, Coppa Ciano and Nice. He achieved all that driving Alfa Romeos.
In 1935, the AIACR European Championship has been revived and Varzi participated in it as a driver of Auto Union team. He was without wins in the championship, finishing seventh in the points. In non-championship races, he won Tunis Grand Prix and Coppa Acerbo.
In 1936, Varzi stayed with Auto Union, scoring second-place finishes in Monaco and Switzerland to finish fourth in the championship. In non-championship events, he won Tripoli Grand Prix for the third time in a career.
In 1937, Varzi participated in just one championship race, recording DNF in the Italian Grand Prix at Livorno Circuit. Outside championship, he won San Remo Grand Prix in a Maserati 4CM. Varzi slowed down his racing activities in 1938 and then the World War II interrupted racing events in 1939.
After the was, Varzi returned to racing in 1946, travelling to the US to participate in the Indianapolis 500. He came there as a replacement for Tazio Nuvolari, who withdrew from the race due to a death of his son. However, Varzi failed to qualify for the race in a Maserati.
In 1947, Varzi scored victories in three Grand Prix events, two in South America and one in Europe. He won Rosario Grand Prix, Interlagos Grand Prix and Bari Grand Prix, all three races in an Alfa Romeo 308.
Early in 1948, Varzi raced in Argentina in an Alfa Romeo 12C-37, scoring one podium in the 1st Gran Premio Internacional San Martin. Back in Europe, he skipped most of Grand Prix events until July and Swiss Grand Prix at Bremgarten circuit.
On July 1, he was driving the #28 Alfa Romeo 158 when he crashed during practice on the wet track. A car flipped over and crushed Varzi to death. He wasn't the only victim of that year's Swiss Grand Prix. Three days later, the Swiss privateer Christian Kautz lost a life during the race in a Maserati.