Giuseppe Campari (1892 - 1933)

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Giuseppe Campari (1892 - 1933)

Giuseppe Campari
Giuseppe Campari (centre right), with his team mate Antonio Ascari (centre left), celebrating his victory in the 1924 French Grand Prix at Lyon. For this race, Campari drove Vittorio Janos brand new Alfa Romeo P2 in its first major event. He was awarded the Hartford Shock Absorber trophy, which consisted of a ten-stone, twelve-foot sausage. Also note the glass of vino!
THEY CALLED GIUSEPPE CAMPARl Il Negher - or 'The Negro' in the dialect of his Milanese birthplace - because of his swarthy, suntanned complexion. Obviously such a term could never be used today given the racial connotations, however early last century it was used with affection and without malice.

It's difficult to imagine anyone who looked less like a racing driver than the portly 16-stone lover of good food and grand opera, who was liable to burst into an aria from Rigoletto, in his fine baritone voice, whenever he felt elated. In fact Campari, born in 1892, was a natural.

He joined Alfa as a test driver, making his first mark on motoring history by coming fourth in the 1914 Targa Florio. The Targa was his first post-war venture too, but, like his fellow competitor Enzo Ferrari, Campari was unplaced. In the first race on the tricky Mugello road circuit, however, Campari achieved his (and Alfa's) first victory, winning at 37.8mph over a distance of 242 miles.

Campari won at Mugello again in 1921 and took third place in the Targa Florio. In the Gran Premio Gentleman at Brescia, his 1914 GP Alfa retired when leading, with a holed radiator, just a lap from the finish. With the same car, he came eleventh in the Targa Florio in 1922, but it was Vittorio Jano's new P2 Alfa Grand Prix car that really clinched Campari's claim to fame. The combination won the 1924 French GP at Lyon, the first major race in which the P2 had appeared.

The Hartford Shock Absorber Trophy Sausage

Appropriately, Campari won the special Hartford Shock Absorber trophy for this feat - a 12 ft long, ten-stone sausage, garlanded with ribbons. Campari led the 1925 French Grand Prix at Montlhery until the halfway mark; then, learning of the death of his team-mate Ascari, he (and Count Brilli-Peri in the third Alfa) retired in mourning. The Monza GP, later that season, saw Brilli-Peri first and Campari second; he was second, too, in the 1927 Circuit of Milan.

The year 1928 witnessed the first of Campari's two successive victories in the Mille Miglia, inaugurated in 1927 over a course covering all types of road, from main highways to mountain passes. In 1928, Campari and his partner Giulio Ramponi averaged 5I.9mph;. in 1929 their speed was 55.69mph. Their mount was an Alfa-Romeo 1750 sports: Campari's performance with this model in the 1929 Targa Florio was not quite so impressive, for he came fourth; his team-mate Brilli-Peri was first, with Bugattis second and third. The Alfas were not as invulnerable as they had once been.

Other 1928/9 successes included first place in the Coppa Acerbo at Pescara in both years and second in the European Grand Prix at Monza in the P2 Alfa. Of course, Campari was there for the 1930 Targa Florio: he and Nuvolari were driving the new 1750 Alfa sports, while the third member of the team, Achille Varzi, was driving his old, battle-scarred P2. Too dangerously powerful for the twisting Targa course, claimed the pundits but they were wrong and Varzi won, leaving Campari the poor consolation of fourth place and a new lap record.

Three weeks later, in the Rome GP, Campari's Alfa was again fourth but the Ulster Tourist Trophy saw Campari take second place with his blown 1750 Alfa. Spring 1931 saw the debut, in competition, of the new straight-eight Alfas: the 2.3 sports and the P3 racer. For the Mille Miglia, however, Campari stayed with the older six-cylinder model. It was a wise choice, for the fast 2.3 Alfas (see AC 2300 review) tore their tyres to shreads-Nuvolari had to change eighteen covers - and, although slowed a little by tyre trouble, Campari came second behind Caracciola's far more powerful Mercedes.

Giuseppe Campari at Susa-Mount Cenis in 1928
Campari leaving the start line during the Susa-Mount Cenis race held during 1928.

Mussolini's Telegram - 'Start-and win!'

Campari drove one of the new P3S in the 1931 Italian Grand Prix. In practice, Arcangeli's twelve-cylinder Alfa left the track, killing the driver. The shocked Alfa team planned to withdraw, but Mussolini telegraphed: 'Start-and win!' - so they did their best. Nuvolari drove the twelve-cylinder car for the first two hours, but the team manager brought him in and, for the next eight hours, Nuvolari and Campari took turns to drive the P3.

They fulfilled Mussolini's command. Campari shared his P3 with Borzacchini in the 1931 French GP, taking second place; he won' the Coppa Acerbo in one of the Type A twin- twelve-cylinder-engined models, probably the ill-starred monster car's best performance

Il Negher was Maserati-mounted for the French Grand Prix of 1933: he was lying only two seconds behind the leader, Etancelin (Alfa), when he had to make a pit stop. The car wouldn't restart, and it took two mechanics and a bystander to get it going.

It was a breach of the rules, but Campari, who won, was only fined-a nominal 1000 Francs by the race committee. It was to be Campari's last victory: after his next race, he announced, he would retire, devoting himself to opera.

In the first heat of that race, the Monza GP, Count Trossi's Duesenberg voided its sump on a fast bend, the oil being casually covered with sand between heats. Carnpari and Borzacchini came hurtling into the bend in the lead of the second heat. The two cars skidded and crashed; Campari was killed instantly, Borzacchini died later. It was a black day for F1 racing...later on, when the race was restarted, the vehicle of Polish driver, Count Stanislas Czaykowski, crashed and caught on fire, burning him to death.
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