The Italian Grand Prix held at the Autodromo Nazionale Monza, was one of the blackest days in Grand Prix racing history

Sunday 10th September 1933

The Italian Grand Prix held at the Autodromo Nazionale Monza, was one of the blackest days in Grand Prix racing history. Since the very beginning of automobile sport there had never been a tragedy of such proportions. Three of Europe’s greatest racing drivers had crashed fatally within a few hours of each other at almost the same spot in the South Curve: Campari, the most popular driver, the bulky, amiable Giuseppe, then Mario-Umberto Borzacchini, the great driver and famous friend of Nuvolari and finally Count Stanisłas Czaykowski, winner of the heat 1 race and the 1-hour world record holder. Many followers of international motor sport were deeply moved by this disaster, their hearts filled with grief. Campari crashed not due to excessive speed but the desire to remain in first place at whatever cost. He also obstructed poor Borzacchini who did not have sufficient time to react. Czaykowski’s crash has never been properly explained. Driver error was a comfortable excuse for organizers and officialdom to hide the inadequacy of the Monza banking with respect to the speed of the cars. The three heats were won by Count Czaykowski in his 4.9-liter Bugatti, then Balestrero and Lehoux both with Alfa Romeos. Lehoux also came first in the shortened final of the dreadful Monza Grand Prix.

Two days after this event, on September 12, AUTOMOBIL-REVUE provided the following report of heat 2:
“No one who has witnessed that race will forget it quickly. Again the drivers and mechanics push the racecars past the grand stands, the enormous crowd applauds again. Once Campari and Borzacchini become visible in the distance, a great fuss and waving commenced. The contest between these two drivers is anticipated with particular excitement. Campari walks on the right next to his red machine, a happy smile on his round face; he wears a pair of worn, normal trousers, a white jacket… things that are still deep in our memory. He waves with the hand and the spectators scream Campari, Campari!… New applause as Borzacchini, a lanky man passes by; he also waves, sending greetings to the grandstands. Castelbarco, Balestrero, Mlle. Helle-Nice, Barbieri and Pellegrini (all in Alfa Romeos) complete the field.
The restlessness begins already, as a car from the organizers sets off on the track, the occupants equipped with brooms. Only later is one told that thereby the oil patches have partially been removed. The spectators, accustomed to races being run without a hitch, begin to whistle and stamp their feet. The drivers have to wait needlessly for a long time. Finally the loud roar of the engines starts up and the seven machines storm away towards the North turn, headed by Campari. The minute waiting time passes by and to the right the first three appear again, coming out of the South Turn. They are Balestrero, Pellegrini and Mlle. Helle-Nice. Another half minute slips by – – where are the others? Somebody stands; soon the entire grandstand is standing. Calls for Campari and Borzacchini can be heard. Nobody is concerned; yet it is odd that exactly four machines don’t come any more and can no longer be seen already on the first lap. The three drivers appear again and now Balestrero gives horrifyingly signs with his hand. Now, all of a sudden, it is realized that something has happened that does not belong in the program. To the right at the turn they begin to run, suddenly a troop of nurses hurries away. Spectators, organizers, mechanics from the pits, all rush along towards the same target. Ambulances appear. It is obvious an accident has happened. Who is still interested to follow the race between the three remaining drivers, when even Balestrero, the leader, quickly stops at the pits to give a report?
The minutes on the grandstands become hours. Nothing is known, the organizers steadfastly keep silent. The press stand shows a nervous hastiness as never seen before. The Italians are pale from dismay. And always the wait, the wait, the monotonous announcements of the loudspeaker reporting about everything except the accident. It takes yet another good half hour before one is informed that Campari and Borzacchini have met with a serious accident and another until it is known that Campari is dead and Borzacchini severely injured. The spectators shout wildly in confusion, everyone asks the other and nothing factual is known until an official delegation of journalists is guided to the accident scene where everything is explained.
Then one knows the deeply disturbing truth, Campari is no longer alive and Borzacchini fights for his life. One hour later somebody comes running to bring the second news of death… No one is at all interested that Balestrero completed the heat in first place ahead of Pellegrini and Mlle. Helle-Nice.”

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