1938, The “Circuito di Mogadiscio” the Grand Prix of an African city
By Abdullahi Elmi Shurie-In 1938 a car race took place on the streets of Mogadishu, which had great echo also in Italy. The competition was emphasized by the most important sports magazine of the time “Il Littoriale”. The governor Francesco Saverio Caroselli was the first who start the “Circuit of Mogadishu”.
The car race was taken by many thousands of people and started in “Corso Vittorio Emanuele” (current “Viale Somalia”) of the Somali capital, where the main stands were.
On the streets of Mogadishu there were many Somalis who enjoyed themselves with enthusiasm to follow first a car race in their country.
The car race was similar (though minor) to those made in other Italian colonies: the Asmara Circuit in Italian Eritrea and the Tripoli Grand Prix of the world in Italian Libia. The “Circuit of Mogadishu” was repeated in 1939, but the 1940 edition was not performed due to the beginning of the Second World War.
The Littoriale wrote: The race was conducted without incident and recorded the following results: Battle on “Alfa Romeo 1750” was the winner for the Sport category at 111 km / h, while Lombardi won the “1500cc” category and Ciccotti won the Tourism Category on “Lancia Di Lambda”.
The most important category was dominated by the Alfa Romeo 1750, a racing car built under the supervision of Enzo Ferrari who won in many other circuits (such as the Christmas circuit of Asmara in 1938).
According to Gianluca Gabrielli there were 7 stands (2 stands for the native population) and the magazine “Corriere della Somalia” reported that in 1938 more than 10,000 spectators enjoyed the two series of races (cars and motorcycles).
The car races were also promoted by the Italian government to increase the image of Italy (within the colonial populations and in the world) as a technologically advanced country with a cutting-edge mechanical industry.
Indeed, in 1938 Mogadishu was the second manufacturing city – after Asmara – in the AOI Africa Orientale Italiana.
The Mogadiscio-Genale-Villabruzzi triangle was the most developed area of the Italian colony, with one of the largest concentrations of vehicles (per inhabitant) in all of Africa: almost 3,000 vehicles in 1939.
After World War II the “Mogadiscio Circuit” was only realized with motorbike races and was called “Grand Premio Motociclistico della Somalia” (Moto GP of Somalia). It was celebrated from 1950 until 1954, when the Italian government obtained the “Somalia Trusteeship” from the UN know as A.F.I.S. Amministrazione Fiduciaria Italiana Somalia, the race was held on the coastal roads of Mogadiscio, near the port and on the “Lungomare Corni”, and it was long several miles. The captain (later General of the Army Corps), Attilio Di Nunzio won the 500cc category from 1950 to 1952 with his self-taught Guzzi.
Those competitions found prominence in Italian sports magazines including the “Corriere delle Sport”, “Sport illustrated” and in magazines specialized in motorcycling.
Di Nunzio won the race of the 500cc category, on a 2-kilometer track to be covered for 30 laps.
“The boldness of the civil competitions – wrote a chronicler of the time – suffered a whammy because the overall winner was a soldier.” The bike had built him using pieces of Guzzi, Norton, BSA collected here and there in Mogadishu.