In the mid 1930s, Germany dominated motor racing.
Mercedes and Auto Union were funded by government money.
Their cars were the finest, the most modern, most powerful ever seen.
They were called ‘The Silver Arrows’.
Their crowning achievement was to be the 1935 German Grand Prix.
It was a formality.
Mercedes and Auto Union entered nine cars between them just to make sure.
Against them were outdated racing cars from private companies.
Probably the best of these teams was Alfa Romeo.
They had a great driver in Tazio Nuvolari, now 43 years old.
The German cars were fifty per cent more powerful than Nuvolari’s.
But Nuvolari thought there was one thing they hadn’t allowed for.
The Nurburgring circuit wasn’t all about power.
It had 174 turns: it was a driver’s circuit.
As expected, the German cars blew everyone else off the track.
The German cars were more powerful in a straight line: they had better top speed, better acceleration.
But to Nuvolari, that was also their weakness.
They had to brake hard for all the corners, wearing rubber off their tyres, then accelerate out, wearing even more rubber off their tyres.
Nuvolari’s Alfa Romeo took the corners like a ballet dancer.
Maintaining maximum speed going in and coming out of every turn.
Maximum speed for minimum wear.
By lap ten Nuvolari had done the impossible, he was in the lead.
His main rival was Manfred von Brauchitsch in a Mercedes.
Both cars needed to stop for fuel.
Von Brauchitsch’s crew filled his car in 47 seconds.
But Nuvolari’s crew broke the filling pump, the fuel had to be poured in by hand from cans.
Nuvolari’s crew took 2 minutes 14 seconds to fill his car: giving Brauchitsch a minute and a half lead.
Nuvolari came out of the pits in sixth place.
Against the best cars in the world.
But lap after lap, one by one, he did the impossible: he reeled them in.
Until there was only von Brauchitsch in front of him.
Five miles from the finish line, but 35 seconds ahead.
How could he make up 35 seconds in just five miles?
And von Brauchitsch saw the little red Alfa Romeo in his mirror.
And von Brauchitsch put his foot down to blow off the Italian once and for all.
But all that cornering, braking and accelerating, had worn all the rubber away.
As he floored it, von Brauchitsch blew a tyre.
His rear wheel was just flapping around in shreds.
That was it, he was out of the race.
The red Alfa blew past ‘The Silver Arrow’ and over the finish line.
It was two minutes before any of the other ‘Silver Arrows’ caught up.
It was impossible, but it happened.
The best driver in the world had just beaten the best cars in the world.
And it made the most impact of all on the man who was in charge of the Alfa Romeo racing team that day.
Right there he had a vision, what would happen if I could put the best drivers in the world in the best cars in the world?
We could win everything.
And at that moment he realised he must leave Alfa Romeo to build his own racing cars.
The manager of the Alfa Romeo racing team that day was Enzo Ferrari.