For the upcoming 24 Hours of Le Mans in 1938, “Alfa Corse,” the newly-founded Alfa Romeo racing department, was up in arms. They were determined to win! To this end, an 8C 2900 B was developed that was fitted with a coach-built body and a high-performance engine.
Alfa Romeo contracted the renowned coachbuilder Touring to customize a closed-top body (Berlinetta) based on its famous expertise in aerodynamic styling and Supperleggera or lightweight construction. This resulted in a stunningly beautiful and futuristic-looking car, fully equipped to take on the race.
The veteran drivers Raymond Sommer and Clemente Biondetti teamed up to race the new car with starting number 19 at the Sarthe. Never before in Le Mans’ racing history had there been such a dominant car as the 8C 2900 B Speciale would turn out to be.
In the 20th hour, the Alfa duo was leading by 11 laps or approximately 160 km, when their car, flying at full speed, had its right front tire burst.
Raymond Sommer managed to steady the car, stay on the track, and make a pit stop. It was found that the ruptured tire had also damaged the engine mounting bracket, and there was an oil leakage. Not ready to give up yet, Clemente Biondetti resumed the race. But only two laps later, a broken valve added the last straw, forcing the team to resign to its fate.
A seemingly certain victory for the Alfa slipped through their fingers in a matter of seconds. Le Mans 1938 was the only race in which the 8C 2900 B Speciale with a Superleggera body made an appearance.