Everything started with a phone call in July, 2012. It came from the United States by an Italian-American journalist friend named Antonio Lombardi, who asked for some details about the Grosseto-Livorno car competition of 1901. We have fallen from the clouds, considering that we never heard about it, astonishment was transformed immediately in enthusiasm when Lombardi told us about the competition, which had been won by the pilot Felice Nazzaro, in his debut.
We started a thorough research at the library of Livorno consulting the copies of “La Gazzetta Livornese” from that period, and also in the archives of the newspaper “Il Tirreno” to find information about the competition on “Il Telegrafo” (which was the name of the newspaper from Livorno in that era.)
We also found journalistic reports that provided us interesting news, which enabled us to define better the event:
First of all, the start took place from Piombino due to the abundant precipitation that made the road of Grosseto impassable; therefore, the predicted route of 150 km was reduced to 82 km.
Then we discovered that the count Camillo della Gherardesca, who was the owner of the car (a F.I.A.T. 12 HP Race), was declared the winner. His car was indeed driven by Felice Nazzarro, already hired from the Turin’s industry.
It was also a great achievement that the FIAT, which was established two years before, could surprisingly win beating the powerful Panhard Levassor 32 HP.
We even found the Council resolution related to the race and some precious photographs of the start in the historical archives of the municipality of Piombino.
It is weird that we have not found any trace of this event in motoring history books and promotional material published by FIAT itself, except for a brief mention in “The History of the Tuscan motoring” by Leonardo Ginori Lisci and “Lampi sul Tirreno” of Maurizio Mazzoni .
The motoring event, organized by the Committee for Celebrations of Livorno, scheduled on Saturday August 24th the race of resistance from Piombino to Livorno; a parade from Antignano to Cisternone on Sunday August 25th at 10 am; the acceleration race of 500 Meters to Antignano on Monday August 26th at 10 am, and a competition of ability at the traffic circle of Ardenza at 5 pm.
The vehicles registered in the competition were divided into different categories:
1st category, big cars over 1.000 kg,
2nd category, light vehicles less than 1.000 kg,
3rd category, small cars not more than 450 kg,
4th, the category of tricycles,
5th, the category of motorcycles.
Winners, “Grand Prix His Majesty the King“ speed competition from Piombino to Livorno, 82 km, 24 August 1901:
cars over 1.000 kg:
Felice Nazzaro on Fiat 12HP Race in 1,49’54 average 44,77 km/h
cars under 1.000 kg:
Galileo Serafini on Panhard in 2.08’57 average 38,15 km/h
small cars, less than 450 kg:
Edoardo Werheim on Darracq in 2.02’07 average 40,29 km/h
Gaston Osmond on De Dion in 2.08’57 average 38,15 km/h
motorcycles: nobody arrived to the finish line, Renzo Mazzoleni on Ceirano gave up in Vada while the engineer Emanuele Rosselli on Rosselli of his fabrication, gave up after the start because of the difficulty on the road, which was reduced to a wetland due to the inclement weather.
The acceleration race, Antignano, 500 meters, 26 August 1901:
cars over 1.000 kg :
Felice Nazzaro on Fiat 12HP in 25’’ average 72 km/h
cars under 1.000 kg:
Fiamberti on De Dion in 31’’ average 58,064 km/h
small cars, less than 450 kg:
Edoardo Werheim on Darracq 32’’ average 56,250 km/h
Gaston Osmond on De Dion 21’’1/5 average 84,905 km/h
Renzo Mazzoleni on Carcano in 26’’1/5 average 68,702 km/h
No accident occurred during the race, and it was a great success (as reported by the chronicles of the time). Even though, the tram stayed in service during the acceleration race with evident danger at Antignano.
The event had also a wordly resonance with speeches, toasts, refreshments, and magnificent final awards with medals and cash prizes.
Some Motor enthusiast flocked from distant locations; the story of the travel to Livorno from Torino that Carlo Biscaretti of Ruffia, who was the father of Italian collectors and the future founder of the Automobile Museum of Torino, did with his father in the small family car.
The Piombino Livorno was the first competition officially organized in Tuscany. Until then, cars were just for excursions to the countryside with intermittent challenges among gentlemen. After this event, competitions spread rapidly (the most famous event was “La Coppa della Consuma” promoted by the marquis Ginori) and they contributed to the spread of cars, which revolutionized man’s mobility at the beginning of the century.
The memory of the Piombino-Livorno is a great opportunity to recall a forgotten race and relive an event, which marked the beginning of the motoring sport in Tuscany.
Sources: Il Telegrafo, La Gazzetta Livornese, L’automobile, the narration of Carlo Biscaretti.