PHOTOGALLERY: GALLERY 1922 - 19281922-1928 CONSTRUCTION AND FIRST RACES ON THE ORIGINAL TRACKS
Construction of the Monza Autodrome was decided in January, 1922, by the Milan Automobile Club to mark the 25th anniversary of the club's founding in March, 1897, in an embryonic form. The building of' a permanent, independent installation to be used for motor sports and testing was suggested by the technical and commercial requirements of the various Italian car constructors who, even then, looked toward foreign markets as a step in the development of production. Another stimulus was provided by the good technical and sporting results of the first Italian Grand Prix for automobiles which had been run in 1921 on the fast but poorly equipped semipermanent circuit of Montichiari near Brescia. The French driver Goux in a Ballot had established the respectable average of almost 145 kilometres per hour (90 mph) over a distance of 519 kilometres (323 miles) on this track.
The first problem was to find a location worthy of the Italian Grand Prix, which aimed at rivalling the already well-established Grand Prix of the French Automobile Club, founded at the beginning of the century.
Indeed, Monza, the final choice, has been for almost 70 years by now the natural venue for Italy's top automobile racing event. The need was also felt of having a permanent installation for carrying out tests and experiments on all kinds of motor vehicles. Segments of the layout were therefore included in the preliminary project which would allow continuous running at the highest speeds attainable at the time, together with segments with a more varied conformation capable of stressing all mechanical parts. Several possible locations were considered for the autodrome, the most convincing of which were in the "moorland" area of Gallarate, where Malpensa international airport now lies, and the Cagnola district which at that time was on the outskirts of Milan.
The draft projects for these two solutions called for a peripheral ring circuit with possible complementary courses inside it. But the final decision fell on the Villa Reale park in Monza which, at that time belonged to the Italian Veterans' Institute. Monza brought together several ideal conditions with its extensive open area and enclosed park at a short distance from Milan, with which it had good connections. To build the autodrome, the S.I.A.S, -- (Società Incremento Automobilismo e Sport - Automobile and Sport Encouragement Company) was set up at the Milan Automobile Club with entirely private capital. Senator Silvio Crespi was Board Chairman and the company's object was the construction and management of the installation. The job of drawing up the designs was given to Alfredo Rosselli, architect.
Initially it was though to lay out an autodrome including a speed track and a circular road track side by side for a total distance of 14 kilometres (8.7 mi) at an estimated cost of 6 million liras. The first stone was laid by Vincenzo Lancia and Felice Nazzaro at the end of February, 1922, but only a few days later the first ecological concern began to show up with the intervention of the under-secretary for Public Education, who ordered suspension of work for reasons of "artistic and monumental value and landscape conservation". As the intricate controversy developed the argument for the absolute necessity of the autodrome prevailed, even though with smaller size than originally planned, and at the end of April official approval was received. A circuit with features comparable to those originally called for, although with a total length reduced to 10 kilometres (6.2 mi), was built on an area of 340 hectares (840 acres).
Work began on May 15th with completion date set for August 15th: 3,500 workers, 200 waggons, 30 lorries, and a narrowgauge railway 5 kilometres (3.1 mi) long with 2 locomotives and 80 cars were employed. The autodrome was completed in the record time of 110 days and the track was entirely covered for the first time on July 28th by Petro Bordino and Felice Nazzaro in a Fiat 570.The circuit conceived by Alfredo Rosselli included a high-speed loop with a total lenght of 4.5 kilometres (2.79 mi) featuring two banked curves on an embankment rising 2.6 metres (8.5 ft) above surrounding terrain. These curves had a radius of 320 metres (1,050 ft) and made possible a theoretical top speed of 180-190 kilometres per hour (112-118 mph). They were linked by two straights, each 1,070 metres (3,424 ft) long. The road track was 5.5 kilometres (3.41 mi) long and included a curve with radii varying from 600 metres (1,920 ft) to 90 metres (288 ft) and maximum roadbed width of 12 metres (38.4 ft). The two straights were connected on the south by the "little curve" with a radius of 155 metres (496 ft) and slightly banked, The road and speed tracks intersected on two levels with an underpass in the Serraglio zone.
The straights were surfaced with tarred mecadam while all the curves were surfaced with concrete, also tarred. The public was received in two separate areas. The stands enclosure included the central grandstand with 3,000 seats, and six side stands with 1,000 seats each, entirely built of wood and measonry. The park enclosure included bleachers on the outside of the high-speed curves, the small south curve, and near the confluence of the two tracks. The track was officially opened on a rainy 3rd September 1922 with Premier Facta present, a race being run with Voiturettes and won by Pietro Bordino in a racing model Fiat 501. This was followed on September 8th by the motorcycle Grand Prix of Nations with overall factory going to Amedeo Ruggeri on a Harley Davidson 1000 and Gnesa making a brilliant showing with a 2- stroke Garelli 350 in the 500 class. On September 10th the second Italian Grand Prix for automobiles was again won by Bordino in a 6-cylinder Fiat 804.
All the events mentioned were run on the full 10-kilometre track, as they were in the following five years. The circuit fullfilled its assigned task excellently, both as to its show and testing-ground functions, even though within a very few years competition cars and motorcycles had greatly increased their speed and exceeded the limits provided for by the characteristics of the banked curves. In 1924 already, and even more in1925, the supercharged Alfa Romeo P2, winner of these first two Grand Prix races, reached speeds better than 220 kilometres per hour (136 mph), and the best bikes of the thirties came close to the fateful 200 km/h (l24 mph) limit.
Apart from the Italian Grand Prix, the most successful shows had motorcycles for their stars. The Grand Prix of Nations for 1924 was a triumph for the Guzzi 500, a one horizontal cylinder bike with overhead camshaft and four valves, ridden by Mentasti, who gave Italy its first victory in the exclusive world of champion 2- wheelers. Starting the following season a sort of standardization of mechanical values was established, which predominated over technical factors at Monza. From 1925 to 1929 the single-cylinder Bianchi 350 with double camshaft initiated a kind of dictatorship in its class thanks mainly to Tazio Nuvolari.
Then the Sunbeam with overhead valves had four consecutive wins in the 500 class ridden by Varzi, Arcangeli and Franconi. In 1926 the single-camshaft Moto Guzzi 250 made its debut and began setting a series of records difficult to equal and broken only in 1938 by Benelli, which took the first three places in the class. A similar situation developed in the 175 class due to Benelli.Minor events were also run on the full 10-kilometre circuit like the Tourism Grand Prix for motorcycles and the Sidecar Criterium, won respectively in 1923 by Rubbietti on a Bianchi, and Cavadini on a Norton; the automobile Grand Prix of the Fair, won in 1925 by Vaghi on a Sam, and in 1926 by the Fiat team; economy runs; and other events.
In the 1928 Grand Prix of Italy and Europe the first and most serious accident in the history of Italian motor racing occured, causing the death of the driver Emilio Materassi and twenty-seven spectators. This tragic event, caused by a collision on the grandstand straight, had a negative effect on the organization of the Italian Grand Prix at Monza, which was temporarily suspended.