Guy Moll: One of Enzo Ferrari’s Greatest Drivers

I recently read a book on Enzo Ferrari by Gino Rancati entitled “Ferrari A Memory”.  In that book he often presents Ferrari’s opinions on topics related to racing.  I was curious about Ferrari’s opinions on the various drivers that he had seen over the many years that he was so closely involved in racing.  I expected him to mention that Nuvolari was at the top, but another name that he mentioned was a driver who’s name I recognized, but knew rather little about – Guy Moll.  Even though he had such a short career, Enzo Ferrari ranked Guy Moll one of the best drivers he had ever seen, and believed he might have become one of the best ever.  The Ferrari quote in Rancati’s book about Guy Moll reads “… in my opinion, he was the only racing-driver worthy of being placed side by side with Nuvolari, along with Moss.”  I decided that I needed to know more about Guy Moll.

Guy Moll: Nuvolari’s Equal?

Guy Moll was born in Algeria in 1910.  He started racing his own Lorraine-Deitrich in some local races in Algeria in 1930.  In 1932 he was noticed by Marcel Lehoux, the owner of a large trade company in Algeria and a successful driver as well.  Lehoux had raced mainly in Africa where he had won the 1924 Casablanca GP, 1928 Tunis GP and the Algerian GPs of 1928 and 1929. Lehoux was convinced of Moll’s potential and entered Moll in Lehoux’s own Bugatti 35C in the 1932 Grand Prix of Oran.  Guy Moll managed to lead that race for a few laps before ending up as DNF due to a mechanical problem.

Lehoux was impressed enough to enter Moll again in the Casablanca Grand Prix.  In that race, which was won by Lehoux, Guy Moll again was classified as a DNF.  This did not deter Lehoux, who convince Moll to try some racing in Europe against the top cars and drivers.  Moll entered the Marseilles Grand Prix at Miramas where he finished a sensational third, trailing the Alfa Romeos of Raymond Sommer and Tazio Nuvolari, who had been delayed by a flat tire.

Under advice from Lehoux, and without the problem of financing, Moll ordered a 2300cc “Monza” from Alfa Romeo for 1933. As it would take some time for the new car to be delivered, Moll started the season with another Bugatti on loan from Lehoux.  Lehoux and Moll entered a new event, the Grand Prix de Pau in February.   The weather, fine during the week, turned into a snowstorm on Saturday night. After a cancellation of the Grand Prix had been discussed, the race started with the track covered in snow, that soon turned to slush.  On the first lap Moll was already leading the race, and he would continue to do so until lap 15, when he was passed by  Lehoux.   This is how the race finished with Lehoux-Moll finishing 1-2.

The new 2300 “Monza” Alfa Romeo was delivered to Moll at the end of May in 1933.  He then entered this car in the Nimes Grand Prix held early in June.  This race was won by Nuvolari, who finished just ahead of Étancelin.  Moll had a great race finishing third. Not too shabby for his first outing in the car!

The next weekend he entered the 2.3 litre Monza in the  Grand Prix de l’ACF at Montlhéry.  This was a big-time Grand Prix race with 12 Alfa Romeos entered.  The Scuderia Ferrari team, which was the Alfa Romeo factory team included Nuvolari, Borzacchini and Taruffi driving 2.6-litre cars.  The non-Ferrari Alfa Romeos included Chiron, Sommer, Wimille, Étancelin, Felix, Zanelli, Villars, Waldthausen and Eyston driving 2.3-litre “Monzas”.   There were also two Maseratis for Campari and Zehender and a couple of Bugattis.  Guy Moll finished a very creditable 5th in this over 300 mile race.

The next week Moll entered his “Monza” for the Le Mans 24-hour race with Cloitre as his co-driver. Moll held 5th place during the first leg, advancing to 4th after four hours.  However at around midnight Moll had to quit due to a mechanical problem with the starter.  

Next at Reims on July 2, Moll had to pit from the lead on lap 48 of 50 and although he finished third on the race track behind Étancelin and Wimille, he was disqualified for outside assistance.

During August Guy Moll finished third in Grand prix races at the Grand Prix de Nice, the Grand Prix de Comminges and the Grand Prix de Marseille. 

Next was September 10, 1933, Grand Prix racing’s “Black Sunday”. The Italian GP was held in the morning, with Fagioli winning in an Alfa Romeo, Nuvolari finishing second in a Maserati, and Geofredo Zehender in third place, also in a maserati.  In this race Guy Moll finished in 8th position.  In the afternoon racing continued with the Gran Premio di Monza but oil on the track cost the lives of Borzacchini, Campari and Czaykowski.  Despite the pall over the race Guy Moll finished second overall behind his former mentor, Lehoux.

Alfa Romeo P3 campaigned by the Scuderia Ferrari

For the  1934 season, Enzo Ferrari decided to ask Guy Mollin to join his Alfa Romeo team. In his first race with the Scuderia Ferrari, the Monaco Grand Prix, Guy Moll won the race after Chiron, in another Scuderia Ferrari Alfa Romeo, ran into the sandbags at the Gas Station hairpin with only two laps to go.   Chiron recovered to finish second with Rene Dreyfus finishing third in a Bugatti Type 59.

Guy Moll follows Dreyfuss in the Bugatti T59 at Monaco

Enzo Ferrari and Guy Moll Celebrate the Monaco Grand Prix Win

On May 6, the Tripoli Grand Prix was taking place at Mellaha. The Scuderia Ferrari team consisted of Chiron, Varzi, Trossi and Moll in the Alfa Romeo Tipo B cars.

The race developed into a straight fight between Varzi and Moll. In the last corner Moll tried to pass Varzi but the veteran driver was prepared for the attempted pass and closed the door. The result was that Varzi won by a car length.  Chiron finished third in another Scuderia Ferrari Alfa Romeo.  Moll later accused Varzi of trying to squeeze him off the road.

At the Avus race in Berlin, Ferrari entered a streamline version of the Alfa Romeo with an enlarged engine for Guy Moll to drive, whilst both Chiron and Varzi raced the normal Tipo Bs.  Nuvolari and Lord Howe entered Maserati 2900s and Pietsch had 2600 Alfa.  Three of the new 16-cylinders Auto Unions were entered in this race.   Mercedes-Benz, although originally expected to make their debut here, did some practicing there, did not participate in the actual race. From mid-race onwards, Guy Moll led the race to win it from Varzi with Momberger finishing third in an Auto Union.

Guy Moll Drove this model of streamlined Alfa Romeo P3

 

Design Engineer Paravicini and Alfa Romeo Designer Jano with the aerodynamic version of the Alfa Romeo P3 

 Guy Moll After his Victory at Avus

Guy Moll next was entered in the French Grand Prix at Monthery as a reserve driver for the Scuderia Ferrari team.  The entry list included the Mercedes-Benz team with a driver team of Caracciola, Fagioli and von Brauchitsch. Two Auto Union cars were entered with drivers Stuck and Momberger. Also present were two Maseratis for Étancelin and Zehender, three improved Bugatti 59s for Nuvolari, Benoist and Dreyfus and three Scuderia Ferrari Alfa Romeo Tipo Bs for Varzi, Chiron and Trossi.  Moll would end up taking over Trossi’s car, lying in sixth position, but with first and third gears out of use. Nonetheless he would finish the race in third position, just 20 meters behind Varzi, whilst Chiron in the other Scuderia Ferrari team Alfa Romeo  won the Grand Prix.

Scuderia Ferrari of Varzi, Chiron, & Trossi at the French Grand Prix

At the Grand Prix de la Marne at Reims-Gueux in July, three Tipo Bs were available for Chiron, Varzi and Moll, two Monzas 2600 for Soffietti and Balestrero, two Bugattis T51 for Lord Howe and Brunet, and no less than six Maseratis for Nuvolari, Étancelin, Hamilton, Sommer, Straight and Zehender.  Chiron won the race from Moll, with Varzi/Marinoni finishing third, and Hamilton in a Maserati was third.

On the following weekend at the German Grand Prix at Nurburg, Guy Moll was forced to retire with a broken gearbox on lap 6.  Stuck won the race in an Auto Union.

Moll, Varzi and Trossi took part in the Coppa Ciano on the Montenero track. With both Auto Union and Mercedes-Benz absent due to two other Grand Prix races that weekend, the main players were Nuvolari with the Maserati and the three Scuderia Ferrari drivers with their Alfa Romeo Tipo Bs. The race developed into another fight between Varzi and Moll.

I found this quote from Enzo Ferrari:

“Moll had just overtaken Varzi, but immediately after had a puncture quite close to the pit box. Varzi overtook Moll then, but just after changing the tyre, Moll chased Varzi like a madman and, after just one lap, was breathing over his neck. I decided to make him a signal to hold positions; I do not think it is a good idea for a team to engage the drivers in such battles, which might sometimes be too close of provocation. So I prepared the signal, but just in the moment that I was showing it to Moll, his car started a frightening spin in the middle of the corner. Moll changed gears and managing a science-fiction maneuver solved the spin, whilst at the same time he waved his hand at me telling that he had read and understood my message! I have to reckon I was puzzled. I had never witnessed such coolness, such a self-belief and confidence all mixed-up in the middle of an obvious moment of danger. I understood that, at that precise moment, danger for him was more related to others than to himself. He was ready to solve a difficult situation even with an unorthodox maneuver, and probably that was exactly what he did.”

I suspect that this helped establish in Ferrari’s mind that Guy Moll was one of the great drivers.

Both the Mercedes-Benz team and the Auto Union team sent full entries to Pescara for the Coppa Acerbo on August 15, 1934, with Caracciola, Fagioli and Henne racing for Mercedes and Stuck and Sebastian for Auto Union. Varzi, Chiron, Moll and Ghersi raced for the Scuderia Ferrari, Nuvolari, Straight, Lord Howe, Hamilton and Zehender raced Maseratis while Brivio’s works T59 was the only Bugatti in the race.

It had been raining and when the race started the track was still wet and slippery. Rain specialist Caracciola immediately took the lead. Through attrition and driving skill Guy Moll had worked his way up to second position late in the race.  Moll while in second place clocked the fastest lap of the race in a desperate attempt to catch the leader Fagioli in a Mercedes-Benz.  By the 16th lap Moll had narrowed the gap to just 29s, and if he could maintain that rate of gain he might still win. All around the long circuit the excited home crowd began to scent the possibility of victory for their inspired young hero, who continued to drive, in the words of a contemporary account, “as though possessed of a kind of madness”. On the 17th lap Moll lost time that he could so ill afford when he skidded and stalled.

Off again at full speed clearing the village of Capelle, on a very narrow Montesilvano straight Moll caught up with the famous German racing motor cyclist and record-breaker, Ernst Henne, a full lap behind and having his first taste of real Grand Prix racing. Inevitably, accounts of what then happened vary. Some say that Moll was an inexperienced driver “driving over the top of his head”; some that the inexperienced Henne’s driving of his Mercedes “was known to be wild and suspect”; and some even mention that Moll had got well clear of Henne before the accident.

Putting all accounts together something like this happened: suddenly Henne, racing at 260 km/h, saw the front wheels of the Alfa near his rear wheels. Realizing that the Alfa driver wasn’t going to wait for a wider section further forward but was going to overtake on the narrow section on the still damp track Henne prepared himself for a crash that however, according to him, never happened as Moll suddenly disappeared. Probably hit by the scirocco-wind the Alfa swerved sideways without warning. Moll possibly braked, lost control, nearly missed Henne, ran off the track, almost regained control but then ran into a ditch and the Alfa overturned. The car hit some trees, bounced into a bridge and continued spinning for 400 meters before coming to rest against a barn wall. The 24-year-old Scuderia Ferrari star died shortly after the crash and racing lost driver who in Enzo Ferrari’s mind was the equal of Nuvolari and Moss.

Guy Moll’s Tragic Accident Scene

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1 Response to Guy Moll: One of Enzo Ferrari’s Greatest Drivers

  1. Francesco (sundance76) says:

    Guy Moll is my greatest hero.

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