With the advent of the Second World War, all racing in Europe, except the 1940 Mille Miglia and Tripoli Grand Prix, ceased by spring of that year, as hostilities heated up between the Allies and Axis powers. By year’s end, auto racing ceased worldwide. Once the geopolitical dust had settled, fans starved for racing were ready to watch anything that went fast. Good thing too, because 6 years of war had greatly reduced the available stock of race cars.
While functioning race cars, tires and fuel were in short supply, the driver pool was deep and talented, if a bit rusty. Jean Pierre Wimille, Achille Varzi, Tazio Nuvolari, Raymond Sommer, Luigi Villoresi and Louis Chiron all returned to action. Alfa Romeo disinterred it’s unused pre-war Grand Prix design, the 158, from behind a false brick wall at their Portello plant and mopped the floor with the competition. Out of the ashes of war, the FIA was founded to oversee motor sport. New race car constructors like Cooper and Ferrari emerged…and new drivers too like Alberto Ascari, and a 19 year old terrorizing British club racing, Stirling Moss. You’ll see them all, and much more, in today’s installment of the Shell Films documentary, The History of Motor Racing.
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