Coppa Acerbo

The Coppa Acerbo was an automobile race held in Italy, named after Tito Acerbo, the brother of Giacomo Acerbo, a prominent fascist politician. Following Italy's defeat in World War II, and the consequent demise of fascism, the race was renamed the Circuito di Pescara, and in some years was also referred to as the Pescara Grand Prix (Gran Premio di Pescara) and 12 Hours of Pescara (12 Ore di Pescara). The race was run between 1924 and 1961 and over the years was held to a variety of vehicle class regulations and durations. In 1957 the Pescara Grand Prix formed a round of the Formula One World Championship, a race which still holds the record as having the longest circuit length ever used for a Championship event.

Coppa Acerbo / Circuito di Pescara
Pescara Circuit
Circuit Pescara.svg
Race information
Number of times held27
First held1924
Last held1961
Most wins (drivers)Italy Giuseppe Campari (3)
Most wins (constructors)Italy Alfa Romeo (10)
Circuit length25.579 km (15.894 miles)
Race length460.42 km (286.09 miles)
Last race (1957)
Pole position
Fastest lap

Pescara CircuitEdit

The Coppa Acerbo races were held over a 24–26 km (15–16 mi) circuit, beginning and ending at Pescara, on the Adriatic coast. The course layout featured an inland route through the Abruzzo hills, that passed through several villages, followed by a long, straight descent back to the coast, where a tight right-hand corner led on to a four-mile (6 km) long straight running next to the sea. The pit and paddock complex was located at the end of this straight. In an effort to slow competitor speeds past these pits the Pescara circuit became one of the first to have an artificial chicane installed, just before the pit lane. The Pescara circuit layout holds the record as the longest circuit to ever to host a Formula One World Championship event, with the Nürburgring Nordschleife coming second at about 23 km.

Pre-war racesEdit

A sculpture, placed between the villages of Cappelle sul Tavo and Spoltore at the highest point on the Pescara Circuit, commemorating the pre-war Coppa Acerbo racers.

The first Coppa Acerbo was staged in 1924 and was won by Enzo Ferrari. It was Ferrari's fourth and final grand prix victory before he retired to create Ferrari and become head of the Formula One team Scuderia Ferrari. The race was run for the top class of international competition, the only real limiting factor on vehicle specifications being the cars' ability to transmit power through the inadequate tyres of the day. Although never itself a Grande Epreuve, or later a constituent of the European Championship, the Coppa Acerbo was considered one of the most prestigious races of its day. These early races were dominated by home-grown cars and drivers, and Alfa Romeo in particular was almost unbeatable. The Milanese manufacturer won seven of the first nine editions; only in 1926 were they beaten by the Bugatti T35, and again in 1930 by Italian star-driver Achille Varzi driving a Maserati.

Alfa's domination of the race came to an end with the introduction of the 750 kg Grand Prix regulations in 1934, a race that was also marked by tragedy when Guy Moll, one of the most promising young drivers of the day, was killed. Germany's state-funded Silver Arrows of Mercedes-Benz and Auto Union would come to eclipse all their rivals for the subsequent five years. Although the race was again won by two Italian drivers during this time, including a second victory for Varzi, it was only when the organisers decided to run the Coppa to the 1.5 litre voiturette formula in 1939 that any other manufacturer could stand a realistic chance of winning. Perhaps fittingly it was Alfa Romeo, with their new 158 Alfetta car, that took the honours in this last competition before the outbreak of World War II. In 1939 a "Coppa Acerbo Song" (with music by maestro Ignazio Civera and lyrics by Franzi) was published.[1]

Post-war racesEdit

After WWII the race remained suspended for a year during post-war rebuilding. When it was finally run again in 1947 the name of the race was changed, because of its fascist connections, and it became known as the Circuito di Pescara. For the first three years the race was run for two-seater sports cars and was a fairly minor constituent in the European racing calendar. However, in common with many race organisers around the continent, with the introduction of the Formula One World Championship in 1950 the race organisers saw their chance to return the Pescara event to its former position of prominence. Although, once again, not a World Championship event the race did attract many top-name teams and drivers over the following two years. Despite it being an Italian event, and himself a former winner, Ferrari decided to withdraw his team from the 1950 event, but the Alfa Romeo, Maserati and Talbot-Lago works teams did attend, along with many privateer and amateur racers. The 1950 race was won by future World Champion Juan Manuel Fangio driving for Alfa Romeo. The following year Ferrari did attend, and the race was won by Fangio's Argentinian compatriot José Froilán González driving one of their 375 cars.

Mike Hawthorn and Umberto Maglioli won the 1953 race in Ferrari 375 MM #0320AM.

When the World Championship switched to the slower Formula Two regulations, the organisers decided to abandon formula racing in favour of further sportscar events. During this period endurance sportscar racing was almost as prestigious as the top open-wheel series, and for 1952 the organisers changed the race's name, once again, to the 12 Ore di Pescara (12 Hours of Pescara). The change of format did not hinder Ferrari's chances of victory, however, and their cars and drivers took wins in both 1952 and 1953. Despite the success of the endurance format, though, when the Formula One engine capacity limit was raised to 2.5 litres from 1954 the Circuito di Pescara was quickly switched back to single-seat rules. The 1954 event was won by one of the most iconic Formula One cars of all time, a Maserati 250F, driven by Luigi Musso. This was to be the last race for two years, as in 1955, as a result of the disaster at the 24 hours of Le Mans, the race was cancelled. Sportscars returned once more in 1956.

The 1957 Pescara Grand Prix, held on 18 August 1957, was the seventh, and penultimate round of the 1957 World Drivers' Championship. The race, which was the only Formula One World Championship race at the track, is best remembered for being held at the longest ever circuit to stage a Formula One World Championship Grand Prix. It was also the first of the two consecutive Italian races, and after the subsequent race at Monza was complete, it became the first time that two Formula One races had been held in the same country in the same year. In a field dominated by numerous Maserati 250F cars, reigning World Champion Fangio used his example to set a pole position time of 9 minutes 44.6 seconds, at an average speed of over 157 km/h (98 mph). In the race, however, it was second-placed starter Stirling Moss in his Vanwall who took the initiative and victory. He led all but one of the race's 18 laps and finished over three minutes clear of Fangio in second place.

By the early 1960s, safety issues had become a major concern and the Pescara racecourse was seen as too dangerous for major international events. After a two-year break the race was downgraded to Formula Two status for 1960, a race won by future World Champion Denny Hulme in his first year racing in Europe. For its 1961 swansong once again, for only the second time in its history, the Pescara race was raised to World Championship status, this time in the World Sportscar Championship. Appropriately, for a race subtitled the 4h Testa Rossa, the final Gran Premio di Pescara was won by a Ferrari Testa Rossa, driven by Lorenzo Bandini and Giorgio Scarlatti and entered by Scuderia Centro Sud; an Italian team, with an Italian car and two Italian drivers, won the final iteration of this famous Italian event. With ever-increasing speeds and the fragile build-quality of most cars of the time, the race was discontinued after the 1961 event.

Race winnersEdit

Repeat winners (drivers)Edit

A pink background indicates an event which was not part of the Formula One World Championship.

Wins Driver Years won
3   Giuseppe Campari 1927, 1928, 1931
2   Luigi Fagioli 1933, 1934
  Achille Varzi 1930, 1935
  Bernd Rosemeyer 1936, 1937
  Giovanni Bracco 1948, 1952

Repeat winners (constructors)Edit

A pink background indicates an event which was not part of the Formula One World Championship.

Wins Constructor Years won
10   Alfa Romeo 1924, 1925, 1927, 1928, 1931, 1932, 1933, 1939, 1949, 1950
4   Ferrari 1951, 1952, 1953, 1961
3   Auto Union 1935, 1936, 1937
  Maserati 1930, 1948, 1954
2   Mercedes-Benz 1934, 1938

Repeat winners (engine manufacturers)Edit

A pink background indicates an event which was not part of the Formula One World Championship.

Wins Manufacturer Years won
10   Alfa Romeo 1924, 1925, 1927, 1928, 1931, 1932, 1933, 1939, 1949, 1950
4   Ferrari 1951, 1952, 1953, 1961
3   Auto Union 1935, 1936, 1937
  Maserati 1930, 1948, 1954
2   Mercedes-Benz 1934, 1938

By yearEdit

A pink background indicates an event which was not part of the Formula One World Championship.

Year Driver(s) Class Vehicle Race title
1924   Enzo Ferrari Grand Prix Alfa Romeo RL TF I Coppa Acerbo
1925   Guido Ginaldi Grand Prix Alfa Romeo RL TF II Coppa Acerbo
1926   Luigi Spinozzi Grand Prix Bugatti T35 III Coppa Acerbo
1927   Giuseppe Campari Grand Prix Alfa Romeo P2 IV Coppa Acerbo
1928   Giuseppe Campari Grand Prix Alfa Romeo P2 V Coppa Acerbo
1929 Not held
1930   Achille Varzi Grand Prix Maserati 26M VI Coppa Acerbo
1931   Giuseppe Campari Grand Prix Alfa Romeo Tipo A VII Coppa Acerbo
1932   Tazio Nuvolari Grand Prix Alfa Romeo Tipo-B 'P3' VIII Coppa Acerbo
1933   Luigi Fagioli Grand Prix Alfa Romeo Tipo-B 'P3' IX Coppa Acerbo
1934   Luigi Fagioli Grand Prix Mercedes-Benz W25 X Coppa Acerbo
1935   Achille Varzi Grand Prix Auto Union B Typ. XI Coppa Acerbo
1936   Bernd Rosemeyer Grand Prix Auto Union C Typ. XII Coppa Acerbo
1937   Bernd Rosemeyer Grand Prix Auto Union C Typ. XIII Coppa Acerbo
1938   Rudolf Caracciola Grand Prix Mercedes-Benz W154 XIV Coppa Acerbo
1939   Clemente Biondetti Voiturette Alfa Romeo 158 XV Coppa Acerbo

Not held
1947   Vincenzo Auricchio Sports car Stanguellini-Fiat 1100 XVI Circuito di Pescara
1948   Giovanni Bracco
  Alberto Ascari
Sports car Maserati A6GCS XVII Circuito di Pescara
1949   Franco Rol Sports car Alfa Romeo 6C 2500 SS XVIII Circuito di Pescara
1950   Juan Manuel Fangio Formula One Alfa Romeo 158 XIX Circuito di Pescara
1951   José Froilán González Formula One Ferrari 375 XX Circuito di Pescara
1952   Giovanni Bracco
  Paolo Marzotto
Sports car Ferrari 250 S 1° 12 Ore di Pescara
1953   Umberto Maglioli
  Mike Hawthorn
Sports car Ferrari 375 MM 2° 12 Ore di Pescara
1954   Luigi Musso Formula One/Two Maserati 250F XXIII Gran Premio di Pescara
1955 Not held
1956   Robert Manzon Sports car Gordini T15S XXIV Gran Premio di Pescara
1957   Stirling Moss Formula One Vanwall VW5 XXV Circuito di Pescara

Not held
1960   Denny Hulme Formula Junior[3] Cooper T52 - BMC XXVI Gran Premio di Pescara
1961   Lorenzo Bandini
  Giorgio Scarlatti
Sports car Ferrari 250 TRI 1961 4h Testa Rosa

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ ""La Canzone della Coppa Acerbo", song lyrics about a classic road race".
  2. ^ a b c d Higham, Peter (1995). "Coppa Acerbo/Pescara Grand Prix". The Guinness Guide to International Motor Racing. London, England: Motorbooks International. pp. 416–417. ISBN 978-0-7603-0152-4 – via Internet Archive.
  3. ^ Autocourse Review of International Motor Sport 1960 Part Two. 1961. p. 164.

External linksEdit

  Media related to Coppa Acerbo at Wikimedia Commons