In 1931 Alfa Romeo were still enjoying enormous success with their 1750 but there was even better to come. Yet again they had Vittorio Jano to thank for designing the basic eight cylinder 2.3 litre (later expanded to 2.6 litre and 2.9 litre) engine which was intended to prove it's worth in the Le Mans 24-hour race.
The Italian Grand Prix at Monza was the first success but the main target was the Le Mans 24-hour race; this it won every single year between 1931 and 1934. In 1931 and 1932 factory team racing driver Tazio Nuvolari came first in the Sicily Targa Florio race; this was one of the most difficult endurance races in Europe to compete in. The course ran around Sicily over treacherous mountain roads with many hairpin bends and tested not only a car's speed, but also it's strength, steering and brakes to the extreme. It also tested the nerves and courage of the drivers!
As usual various options were available to the buyers of this car; not only in engine size but also in the bodywork style that could be created by any one of a number of specialist coachbuilders, and so luxury coupes, sports cars and out and out single seater racers were created. This was really a racing car, first and foremost, which could be sold for road use.
Initially Alfa Romeo refused to sell it to private owners; it was rumoured that this was because the engine was considered too complex for everyday use, and in particular the lack of a separate cylinder head made valve maintenance very difficult. However by the end of 1931 they relented and even rebuilt a number of cars which had originally been designed as racers for road use.
Competition was intensifying however and by 1935, since the requirement to carry a mechanic during major races had been dropped, single seater racing-only models were introduced. The Monoposto (translation: single seater) with a supercharged 3.8 litre engine had a power output of 330 bhp but these met with only moderate success. A V12 engine designed by Vittorio Jano was tried out but it gave endless problems so it was dropped, and was probably the reason why Jano left the company the following year. Finally a strange two motor layout was tried; the car then had two 3.2 litre engines, one at each end! Yes it was fast but it chewed tyres and fuel so pit stops were lengthy affairs, losing valuable racing time. Not everything that Alfa Romeo did was successful but at least they were willing to give things a try!