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  • Writer's pictureDPRAC




The Duke of Kent to-day started the fourth International Grand Prix, the most historic in the history of the Donington Park circuit, after he had flown to Leicester Airport at Braunstone, motored to the track, and been driven round the course by ‘Dick’ Seaman, the British ‘ace’ in the Mercedes-Benz team in a fast coupe.

Leaving Northolt at 10.10 a.m. the Duke was greeted by a large crowd when he landed at Braunstone, 35 mins later, in a blue and red Airspeed Envoy, which was piloted by E. H. Fieldon, Captain of the Kings fleet.




T. Nuvolari, the Italian veteran ‘ace’ driving a German Auto-Union, won the International Grand Prix at Donington Park this afternoon.

H. Lang (Mercedes-Benz) was second, and another Mercedes-Benz driven by R. Seaman, was third.

Nuvolari averaged 80.49 m.p.h. During the race he carried a tortoise talisman!

The German and Italian anthems were played as Nuvolari was carried shoulder-high to receive his prize from Frau Huhnlein, wife of the German motor-fuehrer.


When the cars were on the starting line being warmed up, the Duke of York, who started the race by dropping a small Union Jack, chatted with each driver, beginning with British entrants.

Fate dealt savagely with the Auto-Unions early in the race.

On his third lap Ian Kautz, who had already gone through the fence at Coppice corner. He was unhurt but his car was put out of action.

This blow was doubly tragic for his team, for Nuvolari, driving with the clockwork precision that has won him world-wide fame had taken the lead and was still holding it after 10 laps, at an average speed of 81.57 m.p.h.

Muller was heading Seaman into second place.

Lang and Brauchitsch, nephew of the German Army Chief, were close behind their British colleague, with Villoresi lying sixth in front of Baumer and Hasse.

The crowd at the Hairpin Bend had a thrill when Seaman, mounting the grass while trying to overtake Muller, skidded badly. He Quickly recovered control however.

After 26 laps Nuvolari was flagged into the pits. He got away remarkably quickly, but by the time he regained the track. Muller, Seaman, and Lang had slipped by.


Dreyfus had just dropped out of the race with engine trouble.

There was alarm near the Hairpin Bend when Hanson’s Alta flung a pool of oil on the track. Both Seaman and Nuvolari skidded wildly as they drove through it, and Hasse, who was thrown out of his car, had to retire. Hasse was unhurt.

The pace of the race was so terrific that at the half-way mark only eight of the original 17 starters were left.

Maclure and Cuddon-Fletcher had both gone leaving A. C. Dobson, W. E. Wilkinson, (now driving Billy Contton’s Car) and J. F. Connell to represent Great Britain).

These three in their E.R.A.s, were the only complete team left in the race, the Mercedes team’s chance had disappeared when Baumer’s car caught fire. Baumer managed to bring it into the pits and extinguishers were brought into play, but the car was definitely out of the race.

Muller and Nuvolari, robbed of the support of their two team mates, were going all out to establish Auto-unions’ mastery, but after the German cars had refuelled Lang took over the lead with Brauchitsch and Seaman retaining fourth and fifth positions.

The positions of the remaining competitors after 50 laps were: 1st Lang; 2nd Muller; 3rd Nuvolari; 4th Von Brauchitsch; 5th Seaman; 6th Dobson; 7th Wilkinson; 8th Connell.


Nuvolari – his talisman a tortoise – did the trick at three-quarter distance. He gained a second a mile for ten “do or die” miles on the Mercedes-Benz leader, and a storm of applause greeted him as he streaked into the lead in the 67th lap. No sooner had he done so than Dick Seaman passed Muller to give Mercedes-Benz third place.

Still lapping at more then 80 M.P.H. the Italian crossed the line half a lap in front of Lang and a lap in front of Seaman.

Result: 1 T Nuvolar, (Auto-union), 2 H. Lang (Mercedes-Benz), 3 R. Seaman (Mercedes-Benz), 4 H. P. Muller (Auto Union), 5 M. von Brauchitsch (Mercedes-Benz), 6 A. C. Dobson (E.R.A). 7 W. E. Cotton (E.R.A.) 8 I. F. Connell (E.R.A.)

Lang’s average speed was 79.79 m.p.h., Seaman’s 79.48 m.p.h. and Muller’s 79.01.

Fastest Lap of the day was recorded by Nuvolari, with a speed of 83.71 m.p.h.

Report from the Derby Evening Telegraph Saturday, October 22, 1938.

Tony Gamble


The story of….

The Tortoise . . .

Tazio Nuvolari is one of the greatest and fastest racing drivers of all time, and his victory in the 1938 Donington Grand Prix is one of his most famous.

So, why a tortoise?

This animal, in the form of a gold brooch was given to him by one of the most notable Italian poets Gabriele D’Annunzio, with the dedication:

‘Too the fastest man in the world, the slowest animal.’

Nuvolari then wore this brooch on his yellow racing jersey together with his distinctive ‘TN’ emblem.

The Stage

During practice, on the day before the1938 Donington Grand Prix, A stag emerged from the deer park near McLeans Corner and leapt into the road in front of Nuvolari’s Auto Union. He braked and swerved to avoid the animal, but his car hit and killed it instantly.

The car was only slightly damaged, but Nuvolari had cracked a rib against the steering wheel. He drove throughout the race with his chest heavily bandaged; typically he won regardless.

After winning the race, Nuvolari was mobbed as though he had won in his native Italy. He returned home to his villa in Mantua, taking away two trophies.

One was for winning the Donington Grand Prix, and the other was the stage’s head, now mounted on a plaque.

The stag’s head is now on permanent display in the Nuvolari Museum in Mantra, Italy.

And the Rose

The story goes, that after, Tazio Nuvolari won the Grand Prix, a young schoolboy picked up a rose which had dropped from the winner’s garland. He took the rose home and gave it to his mother as a souvenir. His mother planted the rose in their cottage garden, not far from Donington Park, and it grew into a flourishing rose bush.

This story inspired the rose bush, which was planted close to the Donington Grand Prix Collection’s main entrance, to commemorate the 60th anniversary of that great race, in 1998. It is surrounded by a wrought iron railing which features Nuvolari’s ‘TN’ logo.

Tony Gamble



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