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Achille Varzi

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Achille Varzi (August 8, 1904, Galliate – July 1, 1948, Bremgarten bei Bern) was an Italian motorcycle and car racing driver. Born into a wealthy family, he was the third child of Menotti Varzi and Pina Colli Lanzi. His father and uncle founded the Manifatture Rossari e Varzi, a major textile company in Galliate, Piedmont. Varzi began motorcycle racing in 1922, inspired by his brother Angioletto. He quickly excelled, winning the Italian Senior Championship in 1923. Competing for Garelli and later Sunbeam, Varzi often raced against Tazio Nuvolari, his lifelong rival and friend. He notably defeated Nuvolari in the 1929 speed championship, becoming the Italian absolute champion in the 500cc class. In 1928, Varzi transitioned to car racing, initially sharing a Bugatti Type 35C with Nuvolari. He later acquired an Alfa Romeo P2 and then returned to Bugatti, winning several major races. In 1934, he joined Alfa Romeo as an official driver under Enzo Ferrari. Varzi’s rivalry with Nuvolari produced many memorable races, including the 1930 Mille Miglia and the 1933 Monaco Grand Prix. In 1935, Varzi joined Auto Union, causing controversy among Italian fans. After developing a morphine addiction, his performance declined, and he was released from his contract. Following a period of detoxification, Varzi was re-signed by Alfa Romeo. He married Norma Colombo in 1940 and, despite the war, returned to racing in 1946, winning in Turin and Bari. In 1948, he placed second in the Mar del Plata Grand Prix in Argentina. On July 1, 1948, during practice for the Swiss Grand Prix in Bern, Varzi lost control of his Alfa Romeo and died instantly. He is buried in Galliate and is mentioned in Lucio Dalla’s song “Nuvolari.”

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