The hour change took place last weekend, so at least that will be out of the way by time we arrive at Silverstone for the opening double header of the 2015 BRSCC Alfa Romeo Championship season on the International circuit.
First and foremost, we are in the happy position of starting what will be our tenth straight season with the same popular title sponsor, Alfashop, who now advertise as “The Independent Alternative” and have become synonymous with Alfa Romeo racing in the UK. At the same time, there is a major change in that we have slimmed down the class structure. Gone are the previously unwieldy six classes. These have re-organised into just three – Modified, Power Trophy (based on a power to weight formula) and the Twin Spark Cup, that takes over from the old Class E. With this in place, we look forward to another lively season with past overall champions Clive Hodgkin, Anthony George, Roger Evans, Chris Snowdon, Paul Plant and James Bishop all seeking to repeat their previous successes.
Under the new structure we have combined A1 & A2 back into one Modified class for the first time since 2009 and this where the likely race winners will come from. Last year, the smaller engined but nimble 33s in the hands of Chris Snowdon and Bryan Shrubb took five wins from 14 races and they could well see success again at circuits such as Rockingham and Cadwell Park. Otherwise, it is going to be the more powerful 156 Turbos of Anthony George and Vincent Dubois, V6 156s of Andy Robinson and Clive Hodgkin, the supercharged GTV of Graham Seager and the 147 3.8 GTA of Roger Evans that lead the way. It took a long time to make Anthony’s car reliable but although it only took part in three championship races in 2014 it won two of them. I would expect its success rate to be high again this year. The Q4 engined car of Vincent Dubois has already showed considerable potential and Vincent was planning more developments during the winter. This could be the dark horse of the class.
Another 156 will be the interesting Giulietta 1750 turbo engined car of Barry McMahon. What he manages to achieve with this will depend on consistency of preparation and the number of races he is able to take in. For many, the normally aspirated route is the better way to go and there is no doubt that Andy Robinson’s 3.8 litre 156 is a very rapid piece of machinery in a straight line. In preparing it for the coming season, Roger Evans was hoping to make the car more user-friendly to avoid the quirks that have caught Andy out on occasions. The other very rapid Modified 156 is the GTA of Clive Hodgkin with which he hopes to run a limited programme. With most of a full season, a class win and third overall under his belt, Graham Seager will aiming for more race wins at the very least in his supercharged GTV, looked after as ever by Peak Alfa.
The most avidly awaited new car will be the 3.8 147 GTA that Roger Evans ran for the first time at Silverstone last October. Delays with suppliers mean that he will not be there at Easter but the car is obviously a potential winner in Roger’s hands. Keith Waite has registered his well proven 75 3 litre and we could see the similar car of Chris Oxborough at some point during the year. Whether we shall enjoy appearances by Ian Stapleton’s GTV6 or the 147 GTA of Guy Hale remains to be seen.
When we saw the damage to the John Sismey’s 33 16v at the end of last year, we all wondered whether or not we would see the car again. But John and his supporters are nothing if not resourceful and enthusiastic. In Chris Snowdon’s hands the car had been going so well and they felt that they couldn’t just give up. So with repaired bodywork and suspension, a new engine and a smart re-paint, Chris was able to test it last Friday. Bryan Shrubb will be racing his superbly turned-out 33 16v (now with fuel injection remember) and will be hoping that we have some dry weather and none of the awkward tyre choices that have ruined some of his races in the past.
The Twin Spark Cup takes over from the ever competitive and strongly supported Class E in 2015 and we look forward to more great races. It will be interesting to see if James Bishop (156) can repeat his feat of starting and finishing every race, and never being off the podium. As James Ford is unlikely to do all the races JB’s task may be made slightly easier but a big challenge is likely to come from 18 year old Tom Hill when he gets the new car that Bianco is currently building for him. This will be Tom’s first full year in car racing but he has been racing Karts since he was 6 (!) and showed his potential at Anglesey and Silverstone last year. Going back to James Ford – we know that he has the speed to win every time he races and if he can avoid first lap incidents and enjoys better luck in 2015 he will undoubtedly notch up more successes. There are several others who will undoubtedly be “in the mix” during the season. Dave Messenger always races his 156 strongly and ended last season with a third and a second on the Silverstone International circuit.
Andy Hancock improved greatly as last season went on and is a driver I expect to feature well. 2009 Champion Paul Plant has the ability, we know, but his involvement with Bianco means that he has little time to devote to his own racing. Steve Potts (who won’t be at Silverstone) and Jon Billingsley will get some good results if they can become more consistent. Andy Inman raced in the first year of the Standard Production class in 2006 and is looking forward to competing with Avon Racing again, as is newcomer Paul Webster. Sadly Matt Daly will probably only be able to race at a couple of meetings with his 145 this year but he says that he “fancies Croft”. Chris Healey’s 156 may also only be seen occasionally but we are pleased to see that Luther Blissett’s rebuilt 156 will be at the opening meeting. 146s will be driven by Russell Anderson and Richard Ford and they will both benefit from more “seat time” as will Stacey Dennis with her 147. A wild card could be Gethin Llewellyn who has a newly built 156 ready to race.
There are also several new names on the list for 2015 – notably Simon Cresswell in the ex Tom Herbert 156, James Browning (147), Jeremy Chilton (156) and Richard Stevens (145). “Friday Fix 42” had news from Bianco of others who will appear in due course. It will be interesting to see how they fare. And as before, the class will have the usual mix of different models – 156, 147,145 and 146.
In between the Modified and Twin Spark Cup we have the new Power Trophy which is based on a power to weight ratio of 195 bhp per 1000 kg for petrol engine cars and 175 bhp for diesels. This re-think of the middle ground of the Championship comes after poor support for the old classes B, C & D. At the moment we don’t really know who will go down the Power Trophy route but we are hopeful that as time goes by there will be a number of competitors who will find it an attractive option. At Silverstone, we are only expecting Ray Foley’s 156 GTA now on slicks. This is the car he took over from Roger Evans for the final races of 2014 – but at Rockingham we hope to add Nick Anderson’s (33 8v) and Ron Davidson, the latter heralding the return of a 164 to Alfa racing. Louise West will be a welcome addition to the class at some point with her 33 8v while Dave Peddie and Proalfa’s plans for the Mito are unknown but this has the potential to be a class winner. Power Trophy cars are also likely to have some good overall race results
For the coming season we are pleased to welcome the Hibbins family – Judith as our new on-the-day Championship Co-ordinator and Mike who takes over as Eligibility Scrutineer from Brian Hopper. Also busy around the paddock on race days will be Tim Perry who will be acting as liaison between competitors and Judith and Mike. Tim will also be organising immediate post-race podiums although prize givings will remain as before.
The Championship will return to Brands Hatch for a single header in August and then goes to Croft in September for the first time since 2005. This is a meeting not to be missed! Otherwise we shall enjoy the familiar visits to Rockingham, Oulton Park, Cadwell and Snetterton, finishing off in October at Donington.