Alfa Romeo P3

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Alfa Romeo P3
Alfa Romeo P3
Category Grand Prix 750 kg
Constructor Alfa Romeo
Team/s 1932 - Alfa Corse
1933/1935 - Scuderia Ferrari
Designer Vittorio Jano
Drivers 1932 + Tazio Nuvolari, Rudolf Caracciola, Giuseppe Campari, Baconin Borzacchini
1933 + Louis Chiron, Luigi Fagioli,
1934 + Guy Moll, Achille Varzi, Brian E. Lewis, Carlo Felice Trossi, Gianfranco Comotti
1935 + Raymond Sommer, Comte George de Montbressieux, Richard Shuttleworth, René Dreyfus, Vittorio Belmondo, Mario Tadini, Antonio Brivio, Guido Barbieri, Pietro Ghersi, Renato Balestrero,
1936 + "Charlie" Martin, Comte José María de Villapadierna, Giovanni Battaglia, Clemente Biondetti, Austin Dobson
Chassis channel section side members
Suspension (front) Semi elliptic leaf springs, friction dampers
1935 independent Dubonnett system with trailing links
Suspension (rear) Semi elliptic leaf springs, friction dampers
1935 reversed quarter elliptic leaf springs
Engine Front mounted, Alfa Romeo,
Straight-8 (two straight 4 blocks),
Twin Roots Superchargers

1932 - 2654 cc,
1934 - 2905 cc,
1935 - 3165 cc, bored out for German Grand Prix

Gearbox Alfa Romeo 4 speed manual
c.1934 Alfa Romeo 3 speed manual
Wheelbase Template:Auto in
Track Front Template:Auto in, Rear Template:Auto in
Dry Weight 1,545 lb (700 kg)
Tyres 1932 - Dunlop
1933/35 - Englebert
Debut 1932 Italian Grand Prix, Tazio Nuvolari, 1st
Constructors' Championships Not applicable before 1958
Drivers' Championships Not applicable before 1950
Race victories 46
Last season 1935

The Alfa Romeo P3, P3 monoposto or Tipo B was a classic Grand Prix car designed by Vittorio Jano, one of the Alfa Romeo 8C models. The P3 was first genuine single-seat Grand Prix racing car and Alfa Romeo's second monoposto after Tipo A monoposto (1931). It was based on the earlier successful Alfa Romeo P2. Taking lessons learned from that car, Jano went back to the drawing board to design a car that could last longer race distances. The P3 was the first genuine single seater racing car, and was powered by a supercharged eight cylinder engine. The car was very light for the period, weighing just over 1,500 lb (680 kg) despite using a cast iron engine block.

The P3 was introduced in June, halfway through the 1932 Grand Prix season in Europe, winning its first race at the hands of Tazio Nuvolari, and going on to win 6 races that year driven by both Nuvolari and Rudolf Caracciola, including all 3 major Grands Prix in Italy, France and Germany.

The 1933 Grand Prix season brought financial difficulties to Alfa Corse so the cars were simply locked away and Alfa attempted to rest on their laurels. Enzo Ferrari had to run his breakaway 'works' Alfa team as Scuderia Ferrari, using the older, less effective Alfa Monzas. Alfa prevaricated until August and missed the first 25 events, and only after much wrangling was the P3 finally handed over to Scuderia Ferrari. P3s then won six of the final 11 events of the season including the final 2 major Grands Prix in Italy and Spain.

The regulations for the 1934 Grand Prix season brought larger bodywork requirements, so to counteract this the engine was bored out to 2.9 litres. Louis Chiron won the French Grand Prix at Montlhery, whilst the German Silver Arrows dominated the other four rounds of the European Championship. However the P3s won 18 of all the 35 Grands Prix held throughout Europe.

By the 1935 Grand Prix season the P3 was hopelessly uncompetitive against the superior German cars in 6 rounds of the European Championship, but that didn't stop one final, legendary works victory. The P3 was bored out to 3.2 litres for Nuvolari for the 1935 German Grand Prix at the Nürburgring, in the heartland of the Mercedes and Auto-Union empire. In the race, Nuvolari punctured a tyre early on while leading, but after the pitstop he carved through the field until the last lap when Manfred von Brauchitsch, driving the far superior Mercedes Benz W25 suffered a puncture, leaving Nuvolari to win the race in front of 300,000 stunned Germans.

The P3's agility and versatility enabled it to win 16 of the 39 Grands Prix in 1935. The P3 had earned its place as a truly great racing car.

1933 Alfa Romeo P3 at Wheels Of Italy
1933 Alfa Romeo P3 at Wheels Of Italy
1933 Alfa Romeo P3 at Wheels Of Italy

Races Competed in:

1932 Italian Grand Prix, Tazio Nuvolari
1932 French Grand Prix, Tazio Nuvolari
1932 German Grand Prix, Rudolf Caracciola
1932 Coppa Ciano, Tazio Nuvolari
1932 Coppa Acerbo, Tazio Nuvolari
1932 Monza Grand Prix, Rudolf Caracciola
1933 Coppa Acerbo Luigi Fagioli,
1933 Grand Prix du Comminges Luigi Fagioli
1933 Marseille Grand Prix Louis Chiron,
1933 Italian Grand Prix Luigi Fagioli
1933 Masaryk Circuit Louis Chiron
1933 Spanish Grand Prix Louis Chiron
1934 Monaco Grand Prix, Guy Moll,
1934 Alessandria Grand Prix Achille Varzi,
1934 Tripoli Grand Prix Achille Varzi,
1934 Casablanca Grand Prix, Louis Chiron,
1934 Targa Florio, Achille Varzi,
1934 Internationale Avus Rennen, Guy Moll,
1934 Mannin Moar, Hon. Brian Lewis
1934 Montreux Grand Prix, Comte Trossi
1934 Penya Rhin GP, Achille Varzi,
1934 Grand Prix de France, Louis Chiron,
1934 Grand Prix de la Marne, Louis Chiron
1934 GP de Vichy, Comte Carlo Trossi,
1934 German Grand Prix Tazio Nuvolari
1934 Coppa Ciano, Achille Varzi,
1934 Grand Prix de Nice, Achille Varzi,
1934 GP du Comminge, Gianfranco Comotti,
1934 Circuito di Biella, Comte Trossi,
1935 Grand Prix du Pau, Tazio Nuvolari
1935 Bergamo Circuit, Tazio Nuvolari
1935 GP de France, Raymond Sommer
1935 Biella Circuit, Tazio Nuvolari
1935 Lorraine GP, Louis Chiron
1935 Marne GP, René Dreyfus
1935 Dieppe GP, René Dreyfus
1935 Varese Circuit, Vittorio Belmondo
1935 German GP, Tazio Nuvolari
1935 GP du Comminges, Raymond Sommer
1935 Coppa Ciano, Tazio Nuvolari
1935 Nice GP, Tazio Nuvolari
1935 Coppa Edda Ciano, Mario Tadini
1935 Donington GP, Richard Shuttleworth
1935 Coppa della Sila, Antonio Brivio
1935 Brooklands Mountain Championship, Richard Shuttleworth

Race History Details

265hp 2,992cc dual overhead camshaft inline eight-cylinder engine

  • twin Roots superchargers
  • live axle front suspension with semi-elliptical leaf springs, live axle rear suspension
  • twin torque tube drive to bevel gears with semi-elliptical leaf springs
  • four-wheel mechanical drum brakes
  • Wheelbase: 2,650mm

Vittorio Jano joined Alfa Romeo in 1923 from FIAT where he had worked on the Type 405 Grand Prix engine. His first charge from Nicola Romeo was to design a competitive grand prix car. Designated the P2, it had an eight-cylinder engine of 1,987cc, dual overhead camshafts and a small Roots supercharger running at 1.33 times crankshaft speed. The small blower gave, according to Lawrence Pomeroy’s The Grand Prix Car, 0.7 atmospheres boost, and the engine produced 156hp at 5500 rpm. In its first racing appearance Giuseppe Campari’s P2 outran Europe’s best including Bugatti, Fiat, Delage, Miller and Sunbeam at the 503 mile 1924 European GP at Lyon and conclusively established Alfa Romeo’s sporting reputation.

The P2 was a consistent grand prix winner through 1929. Its 1925 World Championship is the reason why every subsequent Alfa’s badge is surrounded by the laurel wreath of victory.

When the bar was raised for the 1931 season, Jano created two very different automobiles. One, the Tipo A, was powered by a pair of 6C 1750 engines mounted side-by-side and driving the rear wheels through a pair of transmissions, driveshafts and differentials into a single solid rear axle. The Tipo A was powerful, but its complication brought unreliability and its career was short.

The other was an eight-cylinder based on the bore and stroke of his six-cylinder 1750. Intended for both sports and grand prix competition, Jano used two pairs of fourcylinder aluminum blocks with steel cylinder liners and detachable aluminum double overhead camshaft cylinder heads. The camshafts were driven by a helical gear train between the pair of blocks to minimize inertial loadings and torsional cam timing variations.

With the 6C 1750’s 65x88mm bore and stroke the eight displaced 2,336cc. It breathed through a single Roots supercharger and dual throat Memini carburetor and produced 178hp at 5,400rpm. Designated 8C 2300, it earned the nickname it bears to this day, “Monza”, when 1924 Lyon winner, the stocky baritone Campari, teamed with the diminutive and mercurial Figlio del Diavolo, Tazio Nuvolari, to win the 10 hour 1931 Italian GP at the Autodromo Nazionale Monza.

While the 8C 2300 was eminently successful in the 1931 season, a new 750kg formula for 1932 convinced Alfa Romeo a new car was necessary.

The Alfa Romeo Tipo B “P3”

Putting the complicated Tipo A behind him, Jano returned to proven principles for the 1932 Tipo B, designing his first purposebuilt grand prix car around the demonstrated effectiveness of the Monza but with attention to detail and execution that made it Alfa’s greatest single seat grand prix car. The Tipo B retained the Monza’s layout but cast the cylinders and heads integrally in the fixed head, testa fissa, configuration that had proven successful with the 6C racers. The centrally located camshaft drive gear train used straight cut gears for more precise timing. Also driven from the center of the crankshaft were two small Roots superchargers, each with its own Weber carburetor and supplying four cylinders. Jano recognized that smaller superchargers put less stress on the engine, had less rotational inertia and were more thermally efficient. Crankcase and sump were cast in magnesium, one of Jano’s objectives being to reduce the engine’s weight. Initially displacing 2,654cc, it produced 180hp at 5600rpm with 0.75 atmospheres boost.

The Tipo B’s chassis was equally based on proven principles but conceived and executed with attention to road-holding and lightness. The chassis layout was conventional, with solid axles front and rear sprung by semi-elliptic leaf springs, however, great attention was paid to keeping all masses low and unsprung weight to a minimum. Nowhere was this more apparent than in the rear axle drive system. Drawing on the Tipo A’s split drive arrangement, Jano placed the differential at the back of the Tipo B’s transmission with two short driveshafts running at angles to simple bevel gears just inside each rear wheel driving stub axles. The axle tube itself was very light and the centrally located driver could sit low, between the two driveshafts.

Ferrari’s factory-entered Tipo Bs dominated grand prix racing in 1932. At the time Alfa consistently referred to these monopostos as Tipo B, but never objected to the public’s and journalists’ use of “P3”, a designation that could only remind competitors of the Alfa P2’s grand prix domination. It was the best kind of advertising hyperbole – that backed up with performance – and it is as the P3 that the Alfa Romeo Tipo B is best known through its long and successful history.

Alfa Romeo Tipo B “P3” Grand Prix History 1932

Alain de Cadenet in 1932 with Alfa Romeo P3

The P3 quite literally obliterated its competition in the 1932 season, winning seemingly at will and frequently backed up by Monzas in GP configuration. Its first appearance came at the Italian GP at Monza on June 5. While in earlier years grands prix had been 10 hour races, along with other revised regulations the three Championship races, the Italian, French and German GPs, were held over a length of “only” five hours, a sprint race by the standards of the day. New and daunting cars were built for the 1932 formula by the major constructors. Maserati unleashed a 4,904cc twin-engined monster, the V5, powered by a pair of eightcylinder 26M engines which it entrusted to the great Luigi Fagioli. Bugatti countered with two supercharged 4,972cc Type 54s driven by Louis Chiron and Achille Varzi.

The Alfa Romeos were entered by Scuderia Ferrari, the private team supported by wealthy Italian sportsmen and managed by Enzo Ferrari that had been established in 1929 to campaign Alfa Romeos in grand prix and sports car competition. Two P3s were built by Alfa Romeo at Portello and prepared by Scuderia Ferrari for the Italian GP at Monza where they were driven by Tazio Nuvolari and Giuseppe Campari, backed up by four Monzas for Borzacchini, Caracciola, Ghersi and Siena. An epic battle ensued, one of the most stirring in an era of great races. First Nuvolari in the P3 and Chiron in the Bugatti swapped the lead. Shortly, however, they were surpassed by Fagioli in the twin-engined Maserati. After Chiron’s retirement Nuvolari and Fagioli engaged in a see-saw battle, the lightweight 2.9 liter P3 against the monster Maserati, until the day was carried by the incomparable Nuvolari in Jano’s lithe monoposto Alfa, repeating the P2’s accomplishment of achieving victory in its first competitive appearance.

Three Alfa Romeo P3s driven by Nuvolari, Caracciola and Borzacchini appeared at the French GP, the oldest and most prestigious race of the season, this year held at Rheims. They were opposed only by Bugatti which presented two Type 54’s for Varzi and Divo and a 2.3 liter Type 51 for Chiron. Ten privately-entered Alfas and Bugattis filled out the sixteen car field. At the end of the day the P3s swept the board with Nuvolari first, followed by Borzacchini and Caracciola. The third race of the 1932 Championship series, the German GP at the daunting Nürburgring likewise saw the P3s sweep the podium with Caracciola taking his home GP under team orders, leading Nuvolari and Borzacchini. The P3 captured a succession of other victories; during the whole 1932 season it was defeated only once when Nuvolari’s magneto was swamped in a rain-drenched Czechoslovakian GP at Brno on September 4 and repeated pit stops dropped the Flying Mantuan and his P3 to third at the finish.


Only six P3s were built by Alfa Romeo for the 1932 season and after the devastation they wreaked on the competition, Alfa, now in financial difficulty and nationalized as part of the Istituto Ricostruzione Industriale, officially withdrew from racing. The P3s were stored in Portello and Scuderia Ferrari competed with 8C Monzas increased in displacement to 2,632cc. They, however, were not competitive with the dedicated grand prix machines from Bugatti and Maserati and Enzo Ferrari finally pried the P3s out of the factory’s hands. Their first appearance was at the Coppa Acerbo on August 13. Luigi Fagioli in the P3 faced off against Nuvolari, now driving his own three liter Maserati, and once again the P3 was victorious. Fagioli also snatched victory in the Italian GP at Monza on September 10th but in the Monza GP Campari in the Alfa P3 was killed in an accident on the first lap of the second heat. The P3s took further victories, including Chiron’s wins in Czechoslovakia and Spain and Motor Sport’s unofficial tally of manufacturers’ points at the season’s end saw Alfa Romeo the decisive leader.


The Tipo B Aerodinamica variant with Guy Moll won the Avus G.P. in 1934.

Following the 1933 season Alfa Romeo announced it would build a limited series of enhanced P3s with 2,905cc displacement making 255bhp at 5,400rpm. Initially slated for delivery to clients, Enzo Ferrari succeeded in convincing Alfa Romeo to restrict availability of the 1934 P3s only to Italian clients, effectively locking up the new P3s for Scuderia Ferrari. In addition to more power the 1934 P3s also had improved chassis with hydraulic brakes, hydraulic shock absorbers at the rear along with friction dampers and a wider cockpit to meet regulations, but at the cost of an increase in weight although still well under the 750kg maximum allowed by the GP rules. Eventually some nine of these 1934 Alfa Romeo P3s were built while the earlier P3s were updated to meet the 1934 regulations.

Ferrari entered five 2.9 liter P3s for the Monaco GP driven by Varzi, Chiron, Guy Moll, Lehoux and Count Trossi, Scuderia Ferrari’s President. Ranged against them were three of the new Type 59 Bugattis for Dreyfus, Wimille and Nuvolari and a selection of Maseratis. Intruding on the scene, but not an official entrant, was Caracciola who took demonstration laps in the newest Mercedes-Benz GP car, a hint of things to come in the increasingly nationalistic grand prix competition.

Count Trossi, whose position as the President of Scuderia Ferrari was not an honorary one, set the fastest practice time which gave him the pole position in the first grand prix in which the starting grid was set by time rather than by a drawing. Rene Dreyfus took the lead in his Type 59 Bugatti at the start but was quickly passed by Louis Chiron who drove with verve, building his lead lap after lap. He was eventually pursued by Phillipe Étancelin driving his year-old Maserati 8CM until a mid-race accident sidelined the charging Maserati. Nuvolari, also in a Bugatti Type 59, and Piero Taruffi in one of the Scuderia Ferrari Alfa P3s tussled mid-race until they encountered mechanical problems. Through it all the young Guy Moll, in his first race for Scuderia Ferrari, drove consistently and eventually rose through the pack to lie second behind the great Chiron.

Guy Moll was nearly two months shy of his 24th birthday when he took his first start as a member of Scuderia Ferrari. An Algerian, like fellow Scuderia Ferrari driver Marcel Lehoux, he had first risen to prominence two years before, driving Lehoux’s Bugatti to 3rd place in the Czechoslovakian Grand Prix. Moll acquired a 2.6 liter Alfa Romeo Monza in 1933 and showed a blend of consistency and quickness, which marked him as an up-and-coming driver. He was one of the private entrants who sent a deposit to Alfa Romeo for a customer P3 but unlike most of the disappointed privateers, when Alfa decided to restrict the P3s to Scuderia Ferrari Moll, along with his countryman and patron Lehoux were added to the team.

Showing fine balance between speed and reliability, Moll pursued the veteran Chiron, who had built his lead to nearly two minutes, almost a full lap, through the streets of Monaco. Then, on the penultimate lap of the 100 circuit race, Chiron miscalculated at the station hairpin and entangled his P3 in the sandbag barrier. It took him nearly three minutes to extricate the Alfa while Moll swept by and took the victory by just over a minute.

Dreyfus’s Bugatti interrupted a P3 train, finishing 3rd ahead of Lehoux, both a lap in arrears to Moll and Chiron.

The P3 swept the podium spots a total of four times in 1934 at Tripoli (Varzi, Moll, Chiron), Penya Rhin (Varzi, Chiron, Lehoux), the French GP (Chiron, Varzi and Count Trossi (with relief from Guy Moll)) and the GP de la Marne at Rheims (Chiron, Moll and Varzi/Marinoni). At Bordino the P3s were 1-2 (Varzi, Chiron) with Tadini 3rd in a 2.6 liter Monza. One of the more remarkable P3 wins came when Achille Varzi won the Targa Florio.

Guy Moll continued to run fast and carefully planned races, taking an important victory on the German teams’ home turf at the Avus-Rennen on the day before his 24th birthday in a special streamlined 3.2 liter Alfa Romeo P3. In the Coppa Ciano on July 22 Varzi and Moll battled throughout the 241 km event. The veteran Varzi eventually took the victory, but Moll’s talent and race-craft were now thoroughly evident.

At the Coppa Acerbo held on the 16 mile Pescara circuit on August 15 the German teams appeared in force with three of the eight-cylinder supercharged W25’s putting 350hp in the hands of Caracciola, Fagioli and champion motorcycle rider Ernst Jacob Henne and two 16-cylinder 295hp Auto Union Type A’s in the hands of Hans Stuck and Wilhelm Sebastian up against the 255hp Alfas. Their performance decisively showed where the rest of the season was headed, particularly the Mercedes team which were both fast and quick.

The race started on a wet track exploited by Caracciola who set a blistering pace. Stuck, Varzi and Fagioli (Auto Union, Alfa P3 and Mercedes respectively) battled for second until Caracciola was caught by a rain shower and crashed. Fagioli now led but had to pit for tires. The new leader? Guy Moll.

A fuel stop dropped Moll to third behind Varzi (who had taken over Pietro Ghersi’s Alfa P3) and Fagioli which became second when Varzi pitted for new tires. Running hard with only two laps of the 20-lap contest remaining, Moll came up to lap Henne in the Mercedes W25 on the Montesilvano straight. The Alfa twitched, some say blown off its course by the sirocco wind off the Adriatic Sea, spun off course, bounced through a ditch, hit a bridge and finally was arrested nearly a quarter mile away by the wall of a barn. Guy Moll, only twenty-four and the rising star of Scuderia Ferrari, died shortly thereafter.

A brilliant career was cut short, but not before accomplishing a feat – winning his first grand prix with a factory team – that few others have achieved. In Guy Moll’s case it came, further, at the age of only 23, in an era when experienced drivers enjoyed a distinct advantage. Guy Moll’s 1934 Monaco Grand Prix victory was an accomplishment that remained unmatched for well over a half-century – winning his first grand prix at the age of 23 years, 314 days. Source

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