Tripoli Grand Prix

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Poster promoting the 1933 edition of the Grand Prix.

The Tripoli Grand Prix in Libya was first held in 1925 and concluded in 1940 following the onset of World War II. Part of the Grand Prix circuit, the race was first held on a 71.10 kilometer road course in Tripoli until 1933 when a new track was built, bringing the best drivers in the world to compete for the £80,000 purse, a substantial amount at the time.

With Libya becoming a colony of Italy, the new circuit was opened at Mellaha Lake on May 7th, 1933 by the country's governor, Marshal Italo Balbo. The new track was a 8.165 mile long (13.140 kilometer) affair with 15 turns situated in a salt basin between Tripoli and Tajura. From 1933 to 1938 the race was held as a Formula Libre event, meaning no weight or engine restrictions were enforced on what was then the fastest track in the world. By 1939 the Italians had tired of Germany's domination and they turned the event into a Voiturette race for smaller, 1500cc cars. Still, a specially-built W165 Voiturette Mercedes driven by Hermann Lang won. In 1940, with only the factory Alfa Romeo and Maserati teams plus independents in attendance, Dr. Giuseppe Farina took his only major pre-war victory on a 158. The race was never held again.

1933 - Accusation of Foul Play

The Grand Prix was held in conjunction with the Libyan state lottery and, in the case of the inaugural Mellaha Lake event, there have long been accusations of result fixing. From October of 1932 to April 16th of 1933, the government sold 12 lire lottery tickets and, after taking their cut, they put up the rest as the prize for a special lottery based on the outcome of the race. Thirty attendance tickets were drawn at random eight days before the event and assigned to a corresponding race entry. The holder of the winner's entry would receive three million lire, second place two million, and third one million. The story, first publicized in Alfred Neubauer's 1958 book Speed Was My Life (Männer, Frauen und Motoren: Die Erinnerungen des Mercedes- Rennleiters), alleged that Tazio Nuvolari, Achille Varzi and Baconin Borzacchini, along with their respective ticket holders, conspired to decide the outcome of the race in order to split some seven and a half million lire together. Research suggests that the story is a popular myth.


By year

Year Driver Constructor Location Report
1940 Italy Giuseppe Farina Alfa Romeo Mellaha Report
1939 Germany Hermann Lang Mercedes-Benz Mellaha Report
1938 Germany Hermann Lang Mercedes-Benz Mellaha Report
1937 Germany Hermann Lang Mercedes-Benz Mellaha Report
1936 Italy Achille Varzi Auto Union Mellaha Report
1935 Germany Rudolf Caracciola Mercedes-Benz Mellaha Report
1934 Italy Achille Varzi Alfa Romeo Mellaha Report
1933 Italy Achille Varzi Bugatti Mellaha Report
1930 Italy Baconin Borzacchini Maserati Mellaha Report
1929 Italy Gastone Brilli-Peri Talbot Mellaha Report
1928 Italy Tazio Nuvolari Bugatti Mellaha Report
1927 Italy Emilio Materassi Bugatti Mellaha Report
1926 France François Eysermann Bugatti Mellaha Report
1925 Italy Renato Balestrero OM Mellaha Report


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