Team orders - a health warning

ACHILLE VARZI won the 1936 Grand Prix of Tripoli after Auto Union's team manager Karl Feuereissen ordered Hans Stuck to slow down and ordered Varzi to drive flat out. This he did, setting a new lap record on the last lap of the race and, catching Stuck completely unawares in the last few meters of the race.

The two drivers explained, at great length and volume, their mutual displeasure before their manager spoke to each man in turn and explained that new instructions had been sent from extremely high authorities. As the governments of Italy and Germany were seeking to forge an alliance word had been sent that, wherever possible, Italian drivers should win on Italian soil and German drivers on German soil. After all, even racing drivers must learn that to be seen taking victory from one another in their own back yards might undermine the all-conquering power of either party.

At the gala prizegiving things took a turn for the worse. Marshal Balbo, the ruler of Italian North Africa, closed his speech by calling for a toast to Stuck, the "real winner".

Varzi fled to his hotel room where he found he was unable to sleep. His lover Ilse Pietsch decided to help out and introduce him to the therapeutic powers of morphia. In the course of 1937 Varzi slipped into a drug-fuelled decline and it was several years before he was able to conquer his addiction.

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