Historic Alfa Romeo GP car has SA connection
Goodwood, West Sussex - The second South African Grand Prix in 1936 attracted an outstanding international entry, including a Bugatti Type 35, two Bugatti Type 59s, a Maserati 8CM, an Alfa Romeo 8C Monza and this car, Richard Shuttleworth’s one-year old Alfa Romeo P3 Tipo B Monoposto.
The single-seat Tipo B was a state-of-the-art Grand Prix car with a supercharged, dual-overhead cam straight eight and split rear differential. It weighed just 750kg and even by today’s standards, it was fast. It was the yardstick by which the Grand Prix cars of its era were measured and remains in huge demand among collectors and enthusiasts as a fast, reliable and eminently usable pre-war machine for historic racing.
Just 12 were built by Alfa Romeo in 1934; this was No.13, an extra one built by Scuderia Ferrari as a customer car and sold to aviator and racing driver Richard Shuttleworth for the 1935 racing season. During a busy season of circuit racing and hillclimbs, Shuttleworth notably won the inaugural Donington Grand Prix before heading out to South Africa.
The South African Grand Prix that year was run over eighteen laps of the 19km Prince George Circuit in East London, and the record shows it was won by Dr Mario Massacurati in the older Type 35 Bugatti. But the race didn’t end well for Shuttleworth, as a gale-force crosswind on the coastal section caused him to run off the road into the bush, where the car flipped and threw him out to sustain serious head and leg injuries.
Fellow entrants TP Cholmondeley-Tapper and Arthur Dobson contacted South Africa top head-injury specialist in Johannesburg, who chartered an aircraft for himself, his assistants and equipment, and set off for East London to attend to the unconscious Shuttleworth. The doctor eventually arrived in East London by car after his plane developed engine trouble, but he was able to bring Shuttleworth round for the first time since the crash.
Cholmondeley-Tapper later recalled that Shuttleworth told him “he vividly remembered being thrown high into the air and having a long, long way to fall before hitting the ground…”.
Shuttleworth only returned to England four months later; he had the Alfa shipped back from East London to the Scuderia Ferrari workshops in Modena, where it was rebuilt during the winter of 1938-39, but never raced again. When the Second World War broke out in September 1939 he joined the Royal Air Force, but was killed in an air crash in August 1940.
Now there’s another South African connection; Bonhams will offer this car for auction at the Goodwood Festival of Speed this weekend - and it comes complete with an invitation to the new owner to bring the car to South Africa in November, to join nearly 20 pre-war racing cars, including some of the actual Grand Prix cars that raced in East London between 1934 and 1939, for the South African Historic Grand Prix Festival in East London - hopefully without the drama.