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We stood by the cars and waited. Music drifting across in snatches from the grandstands was interrupted by the occasional roar of an engine, and on the terrace of the timekeeper's hut the lottery numbers were drawn. I listened for a moment; I would have liked to know who had drawn my number. But down here not a word could be heard; the commentator's voice sounded like the barking of dogs.
We were waiting for Marshal Balbo. I was in the third row next to Varzi. At last the Governor arrived, preceded by twelve men on motorcycles; he was riding in a large open touring car.
The Giovinezza (the Italian national anthem) sounded, the people in the stands rose and the soldiers on the grass strip before the stands stood at attention.
Balbo stopped right in front of the drivers. Walking through their rows, he exchanged a word with them all. Addressing me in German, he asked, "Are you quite fit again?"
"That's good then. In bocca allupo!" [Good Luck]
He walked on, a slim man of middle height with copper-colored hair and beard. We climbed into our cars. The large clock over the pits showed 2:57 P.M.
One minute to three. Marshall Balbo gives a quick order to one of the soldiers standing on the wall. The soldier runs to execute it.
The engines are started, the mechanics run to the side of the circuit, which is now clear.
The marshal raises his flag.
I no longer look at him but at the signal lights on the timekeeper's hut. Perhaps that is the quickest start technique, I say to myself. When the green light comes on, I am off. That is all I think about.
There's the light.
I am in gear and off, past the others, in the lead.
Full throttle into the straight. Every action is almost mechanical from sheer practice. I know the circuit well enough to drive on it in my sleep. There, the white tower, the stands and the pits! I pass them; there is no signal.
First lap, second lap.
Past the pits again, now they signal:
Cut off, brake, and stop at the pits. A white car flashes past...Varzi. A swallow of water, a damp cloth on my head. Two cars pass, Stuck and Fagioli.
The last blows with the copper hammer on the front wheel. Press on, 20 seconds lost. Thank God only 20 second. Stuck and Fagioli are not far ahead. I drive into the dust cloud they have stirred up on the bend.
Start of the eighth lap, the pits show:
So I have made up seven of the 20 seconds. Varzi will also have to stop sometime.
Eighth lap: the long straight along the sea. A shock through the ear. I cannot see it but the tread is off one of the rear wheels. I can still control the car but I must reduce speed. A white car rushes by - Stuck or Fagioli, I do not know which.
Only now am I beginning to realize how hot it is. My overalls are sticking to me and my lips are dry and cracking. Must stop at the pits. Neubauer bellows like a bull and gesticulates wildly. I cannot hear what it is all about.
They change all four wheels and put in fresh fuel. It takes one minute and ten seconds. Eight cars whiz by in the meantime. I have dropped back to tenth place. I feel everything vibrating within me. A mechanic yells into my ear that others are also bound to have tire troubles. Neubauer stands there and frowns at his watches.
One minute ten seconds. As I leave the pits a whit car passes me to enter the bend - Varzi in the Auto Union. He has now lapped me and leads the field. His lead is almost unassailable; things are really hopeless. If I continue it is only for the sake of works prestige. I get on the tail of Varzi and catch him up. But what's the good of it?
The heat is awful. My head drums, my tongue feels like dried leather. Thirst...thirst...and all hope is gone.
I did not think it would be like this! I really thought that this time fate would give me a clear reply. And now I have to drop back because of this stupid tire trouble. The leg is alright. It is even good, only sometimes there is a little pain in the pelvic region. But it is hardly worth bothering about, the thirst is much worse.