Our 2020 racing season – along with all other club racing and most other sports – was completely thrown up in the air by the Covid 19 pandemic.
From March onwards the country went into lockdown for many weeks and all motor racing was cancelled. When the restrictions began to be eased in June/July racing clubs began the hard work needed to salvage whatever parts of the racing calendar could be rescheduled and we were eventually able to get under way at the Snetterton 200 circuit on 18th July. It was also our first race meeting as part of the 750 Motor Club, an eagerly awaited event in itself, and we felt genuinely welcomed and valued as an addition to their roster. There followed 3 more double headers at Brands Hatch Festival Italia, Snetterton 300 and Oulton Park, so we were able to complete 8 of our scheduled 14 races, which was fortuitous in difficult circumstances.
Our drivers are our most critical asset, so this season’s review report is going to be structured around each of them in the order in which they finished in the Championship points table.
Tom Hill, Quadruple Champion!
Tom was already a triple champion when he elected to move up from the Twin Spark Cup to the Power Trophy class for 2020. Over the winter a deal had been agreed with Roger Evans at Revs Italia to build a new Alfa GT 3.2 V6 for the class. Testing went well with Tom establishing a set up that suited his driving style and set the pace in the class from the outset. In qualifying at Snetterton he was 1.5 seconds quicker than Dave Messenger and he won the class in both races by 7 and 10 seconds respectively and set a new class lap record in the process. On a slippery track at the Brands Festival Italia meeting things went to plan initially with Tom qualifying on the class pole, but in Race 1 George Osborne got ahead of him at the start and try as he might Tom could not find a way past and with Dave Messenger pressuring him strongly from behind he outbraked himself at Paddock and went off into the barrier, damaging the front end significantly and ending his participation in the meeting.
However, at Snetterton 300 in September he took the overall pole, led outright for several laps, and broke the Power Trophy lap record by 3.7 seconds to take a dominant win in the first race and won the second equally decisively. At Oulton Park in September he was untouchable in the wet, again leading outright initially and winning the class by a huge margin. When the dropped scores came into play he finished a worthy and dominant champion for a record fourth time.
Andrew Bourke dominated the Twin Spark Cup class in 2020. No other driver in the class ever got in front of him either in qualifying or in the races other than Gethin Llewellyn for just one corner at Snetterton, such was his dominance. His preparation was meticulous and he executed 5 out of 6 class wins faultlessly.
Only two things dropped him behind Tom Hill in the standings. A mistake at the start of the first race at Snetterton 200 resulted in a warning in extenuating circumstances but a second one in Race 2 at Brands resulted in two penalty points on his licence which had to be deducted from his total at the end of the season. Surprisingly also he did not record fastest lap in two races, one at Snetterton 300 and one at Oulton Park, where Richard Ford and James Ford respectively claimed the point. Nevertheless Andrew had an outstanding season and fully earned the runner up position.
In the previous four seasons in the Championship Dave Messenger had finished 3rd, 5th, 6th and 2nd in the Championship, first in his Twin Spark 156 and subsequently in his Power Trophy class 156 GTA, both in their distinctive Darnells and Solo Italia colours. Naturally he was hoping to go one better in 2020 but although he drove extremely well it was not to be.
At Snetterton 200 he was within a second or two a lap of Tom Hill’s times but could not get within reach to mount a challenge. At Brands he took a class win and a class 2nd after Tom’s demise but thereafter he was a distant second in class behind Tom in the remaining races. Apart from George Osborne in race 1 at Brands he finished in front of all the other Power Trophy runners behind Tom and third place in the Championship was just reward for his strong consistent drives.
I’ve often said that George Osborne’s Alfa 75 in the most beautiful 75 I’ve ever seen and its meticulous presentation and quality of engineering are oustanding. As a driver George is no slouch either as I well know from personal experience, and an outright race victory at Brands in August was an outstanding result.
He finished second in class to Dave Messenger in the other race that day and apart from finishing behind Andy Inman in the first race of the season he regularly finished 3rd in class behind Tom and Dave with strong consistent performances. Fourth overall in the Championship was a fine achievement and well earned.
Simon has been a stalwart in the Twin Spark Cup for several years, loves his racing and is always in the mix among the front runners in the class. Always competitive, he has over the years continually improved his driving prowess, steadily eradicating driver errors from his performances. Class wins have been a rarity, however, which is why it was such a pleasure to see him topping the Twin Spark order in the second race at Brands this season.
He had to miss the Oulton Park meeting while waiting for the results of a Covid 19 test, which came through negative but too late for him to make it to the circuit, so that accounted for his dropped scores. In addition to his class win he recorded three 2nd places and two 4th places. Second in the Twin Spark Cup and fifth overall clearly demonstrated his consistently strong performances.
Richard Ford is a committed racer with a number of class wins under his belt in previous seasons, and he began the year in his trusty red 156 Twin Spark recording 3rd and 5th in class finishes at Snetterton 200, and a 4th and 3rd at Brands next time out.
He then signalled his ambition to progress by acquiring Tom Hill’s black and gold triple championship-winning 156 Twin Spark. Back at Snetterton in September he recorded a pair of 3rd place finishes but showed he was getting used to the new car with fastest lap in class in Race 1. In the wet conditions at Oulton, 3rd and 2nd place finishes followed and in race 2 his fastest lap was less than 2/10ths shy of Andrew Bourke. Definitely one to watch in 2021.
Graham Seager was the overall champion in 2015 and won the Modified class in 2020 yet again in his supercharged GTV. Scott Austin beat him in Race 2 at Brands and Barry McMahon beat him in Race 1 at Snetterton 200 and apart from these and a sheared wheel bolt which caused a DNF at Brands it was a clean sweep of class wins.
It must be said that he lacked consistent competition from other Modified class cars all of whom missed races for one reason or another but nevertheless he drove superbly well. Early on he had trouble getting his rear tyres warmed up but once he had sorted that out there was no stopping him. He has now sold his car to Gareth Haywood who will be racing it in 2021, but we hope and trust we will be seeing Graham back in the Championship in another car.
It was a treat to see Gethin Llewellyn racing his Horley Motors-sponsored 156 Twin Spark on a regular basis this season and he showed what a strong competitor he is. An amazing dice with Richard Ford at Snetterton was a highlight and Snetterton was where he performed best with 2nd and 4th place finishes on both visits.
A spin into the sand at Paddock at Brands was uncharacteristic but he bounced back with a good finish in race 2. Oulton was more difficult for him – an unfamiliar track in monsoon conditions but he brought the car home safely on both occasions despite a collision in Race 1 which was not of his own making.
James is an experienced racer and a former Twin Spark Cup winner back in 2014. In more recent times he has raced only occasionally but this season he was back racing regularly and he showed signs of a return to his best. However, Snetterton was not a happy hunting ground for him despite a 3rd in class in race 2 in July.
A brake disc coming loose, an exploding tyre, and a penalty for exceeding track limits made life very difficult for him and he did well to finish all the races, albeit down the order. Second places in class at Brands and Oulton Park were a truer reflection of his ability and in the final race of the season at Oulton in extremely wet conditions he set a fastest Twin Spark lap 1.4 seconds quicker than anyone else. Now that was more like it!
Andy has been rejuvenated since moving from the Twin Spark Cup to the Power Trophy a couple of seasons ago. His aging purple TSC car was much in need of a rebuild and he elected instead to race a 156 GTA instead. Such is his enjoyment of the car that he can’t wait for the next opportunity to race it!
And apart from a DNF after a spin at Brands he raced consistently well to take 4th place in the Power Trophy and 10th overall; moreover, if all his laps were as quick as his best laps he would very likely be further up the points table. Enjoyment is key to the spirit of club racing and Andy has that in abundance.
In some respects it was a season in the Twin Spark Cup that promised much for Steve but the results did not quite reflect that. His pace improved noticeably as the season progressed and as he developed the analysis and application of his performance data. A 3rd in class place at Brands was his best result but he was often on the pace only to drop down the order in the latter stages.
An accident at Brands could be forgiven as the track conditions were atrocious but a mistake at Oulton resulting in a DNF, admittedly also in difficult conditions, dented his points total. He just needs more consistency in his race pace. We must also thank Steve profusely for his sterling work in promoting the Championship through social media and sponsorship.
A major engine problem at the second Snetterton meeting sadly brought Scott’s season to a premature end. After missing almost all the 2019 season due to engine and budget issues, Scott returned to the fray at the start of the season with a new Fiat 20v turbo in his 155 moving him into the Modified class. He was modest about his chances for the season, saying he would be developing the car as he went along and arrived at Snetterton in July having not even been able to test it beforehand.
There were some teething problems in qualifying but a 3rd and a 2nd overall there was a fine effort. There were more mechanical issues at Brands with a DNF in Race 1 but he sorted these out for Race 2 to record a superb overall win, fending off a late challenge from Graham Seager after a safety car interlude had cut his huge lead to almost nothing. Scott is a superb driver and just needs greater mechanical reliability for his results to reflect this.
Jon entered the Championship mid season, initially in the blue Bianco 147 Twin Spark before acquiring Martin Jones’s 156 for the final meeting at Oulton Park. We know what Jon is capable of: a double class win at Snetterton a year or two back amply demonstrated that when he showed a clean pair of heels to Tom Hill amongst others – no mean feat.
With only doing the 2 meetings in two different cars he never got fully into his stride, not helped by having to pit to have his screen cleared at Oulton when visibility had reduced to nil. I’m certain that a consistent run in his new car will really show what he can do.
The debut of the Alfa Workshop’s Modified class MiTO 404 was eagerly awaited after some impressive times set in testing, with Ted Pearson scheduled to drive, but a last minute medical issue meant that Ted was unavailable and Ricky Losselli stepped in. Some teething problems were to be expected with such an impressive specification and a broken wategate actuator rod delayed the car in its first race although Ricky did make it to the finish 3 laps down and a fuelling problem led to its retirement in Race 2.
However, reliable runs at Brands landed a 2nd and 3rd place overall as the car began to show its potential. Jamie Porter then set to work making some changes to the car but a house move and then Covid 19 restrictions meant Ricky was unavailable and the car did not reappear. What we really want to see is Ricky racing his 4C and Ted in the MiTO – let’s hope that happens in 2021!
Loss of the Southgate Racing’s workshop and the cost of getting established in a new one restricted Simon to the first 2 meetings at Snetterton and Brands. He was due to reappear at Silverstone but the meeting was cancelled. At Snetterton the Abarth’s power disadvantage on the 200 circuit was significant but a characteristically strong drive in Race 1 netted him 8th place overall before an unusual mechanical failure in Race 2 meant a retirement with a seized gearbox.
Fourth overall at Brands in Race 1 was a superb effort before he finished just behind brother Chris in 7th in Race 2. Sadly, budget restrictions meant that was his last appearance; we hope to see much more of him in 2021.
Ex-karter Luke made a welcome debut in the Championship in 2020 and acquitted himself very respectably. Driving technique in a front wheel drive Alfa 147 Twin Spark is very different to that required in karting and some acclimatisation was inevitable in his first car race, particularly as he was preparing the car himself.
He recorded good finishes in both races at Snetterton but things didn’t go quite so smoothly at Brands: a spin into the gravel on a slippery track at Paddock meant that he completed too few laps to be classified and a cracked sump in race 2 meant a DNF. Back at Snetterton he again performed very respectably, just delayed by a couple of minor driver errors but these are costly in the Twin Spark Cup! Unable to race at Oulton due to work commitments meant the end of his season but the experience this season should give him a platform to go really well in 2021.
Luke made a welcome debut in the Championship in 2020 in the third Southgate Racing Abarth Punto and enjoyed himself thoroughly. As with the McFie brothers, his appearances were limited to the first 2 meetings but he acquitted himself well with good finishes in 3 of his 4 races with only a spin into retirement in race 2 on the Brands ice rink leading to a DNF.
The experience will have done him the world of good in terms of technique and pace and we very much hope to see him back next season.
The Southgate Racing Punto Abarths are always beautifully and professionally prepared and it was therefore something of a surprise for Chris to have to retire in 2 of his 4 races, firstly with collapsed suspension at Snetterton and secondly with a broken drive shaft at Brands.
In the other 2 races he gave strong driving performances as always and his dices with brother Simon are always an absolute treat to watch – evenly matched, competitive and fair and with total confidence in each other. They are a credit to the Championship and we look forward to seeing them more often next season.
The awesome grip and power of the Delta Integrale combined with Richard’s considerable bravery and skill always make him a candidate for outright race wins.
Sadly a persistent problem with a slipping clutch limited his appearances to the first Snetterton meeting only where he did finish both races but not where he would normally be due to the clutch problem. In that context, finishing 3rd overall in Race 2 was a monumental achievement. Later in the season the slippage problem was solved but not in time for him to race with us again. Let’s hope he is back on full song in 2021!
The delayed start to the season and the imminent arrival of a daughter to Matt and Lottie (welcome Poppy!) meant that Matt didn’t race until the final meeting at Oulton, and not in his trusty 145 but in the Daves Peddie/Faithful MiTO.
The monsoon conditions made it very difficult for Matt to assess the performance of the MiTO with any degree of clarity but it was great to see both the car and Matt back on the track again and also the Peddies father and son and Ian Brookfield back with us in the paddock again. We are hoping to see this partnership flourishing in 2021 together with the continued development of the MiTO’s performance.
In one sense it is crazy to see Barry in 21st place in the Championship but his main focus was the Britcar championship in 2020 and calendar clashes meant that he was only able to appear in his Modified 156 Turbo with us at Snetterton in July.
When he did so the performance was awesome – 5 seconds quicker than anyone else in qualifying and finishing race 1 nearly a minute clear of Graham Seager in second place. Truly spectacular! Unfortunately that was it as shot rear brake pads made him a DNS in Race 2 and it now seems he is moving on from Alfa racing. He will be sadly missed. Somebody please buy his car and race it with us!!
Martin Brundle recently said of Valterri Bottas that if he didn’t have bad luck he’d have no luck at all and the same can be said of Martin Jones. Engine failure sidelined his 156 Twin Spark at Snetterton in qualifying. At Brands he finished 7th in class in Race 1 and 5th in Race 2 so it seemed that things were looking up.
fHowever, back at Snetterton in September he completed qualifying but suffered engine failure on the first lap in Race 1, ending his participation in the meeting. It was a great disappointment for him, so much so that he sold his car. However, he was due to appear again in a Bianco rental car at Silverstone before Covid 19 restrictions led to the cancellation of the meeting so we can only hope he gives things another go next season. He’s a great character to have around the paddock and surely his luck will change!
Daniel acquired the ex-Ian Brookfield 164 a couple of years ago and made one of his occasional appearances with it at Brands in August and acquitted himself extremely well in Race 1 finishing 5th overall.
Considering that the car was still running with the old 3.0 litre 12-valve engine that it’s had for many years it was a superb drive. In Race 2 the ultra slippery track led to several ‘moments’ for Daniel before he elected to park it to avoid damaging it. We’d like to see much more of Daniel + 164 – please come and race some more!
Vincent appeared at the first two meetings in his mighty Integrale-engined 156 hoping to put its reliability problems behind him. Unfortunately this did not turn out as hoped. He did finish the first race of the season at Snetterton in a respectable 4th place overall but was hampered by a problem with the sequential gearbox which put him out of race 2.
A cracked sump in qualifying at Brands made him a non starter in both races and sadly he did not reappear on the entry list after that. In full cry the car is a mighty beast indeed but sadly its future is now unknown. Vincent says he will be back in 2021 helping Keith and Tommy Waite with their cars so thankfully the Championship will still benefit from his expertise.
Alastair came down from Scotland to make a welcome one-off appearance in his Fiat X19 at the Brands Festival Italia meeting. He finished a fine 6th overall in Race 1 but when the track conditions became a skating rink later in the day he was hampered by an almost total lack of grip and eventually decided to retire after a few laps.
There was were some nice videos on social media labelled ‘X19 Drift Car’ though and the little car certainly added some visual appeal to the Championship. The car won a Scottish Championship and has an impressive build sheet. It was up for sale but I’m not sure if it still is; it would be nice to see it again.
Will’s Motus One motor racing consultancy bought two 156 Twin Sparks from Bianco with the aim of renting them out to drivers in the Alfa Championship. That hasn’t yet come to pass but he and colleague Sean Hurley brought them along to Brands to race.
The cars were extremely well presented and Will finished 6th in the Twin Spark Cup in Race 1, lapping very competitively in the 59s. He elected not to go out in Race 2 so as not to risk damaging the car in Race 2 due to the treacherous conditions. Hopefully we will see the car on track again in 2021.
Former Championship regular Jeremy Chilton made a welcome reappearance at the Snetterton meeting in July, renting a 147 Twin Spark from Bianco. He finished 7th in class in Race 1 but sadly had to retire the car with mechanical problems after 11 laps in Race 2. It’s always a great pleasure to see Jeremy back in our paddock and racing an Alfa and hopefully he will do so again.
Sean raced the second Motus One 156 Twin Spark at Brands alongside colleague Will Powell finishing 15th overall and 8th in class. Like Will he elected not to go out for the second race and hopefully we will see the smart black and red car in 2021 with a regular driver.
Stacey made a welcome appearance at the Snetterton 300 meeting with her well known black and pink 147 Twin Spark having done brilliantly at the circuit on her last visit in 2018 winning the Driver of the Weekend award. Unfortunately luck was not on her side this time; she managed to qualify but only completed 3 slow laps with clutch failure.
Bianco changed the clutch and she was the final finisher in Race 1, hauling the car gamely around the circuit having experienced power steering failure. Bianco thought they had cured the problem for Race 2 but sadly it recurred and Stacey retired the car after one slow lap. Stacey has already registered for 2021 so we are hoping to see her on track more regularly this coming season.
Jon acquired the ex-Luther Blissett 156 Twin Spark and prepared it himself for the 2020 season. At the first race meeting at Snetterton he completed the qualifying session but it was clear that he had a problem with the engine which was down on power. He started the first race but retired after only 2 laps with the engine sounding very rough and smoke filling the cockpit, ending his involvement in the meeting.
At Brands with another engine installed the big end failed in qualifying, making him a non starter. Jon later explained that one thing he hadn’t factored into his planning for the season was an engine problem. He therefore set about building an engine himself rather than taking one out of a road car and installing it in his race car and plans to be back in 2021. He clearly knows what he is about and we are looking forward to seeing how he fares.
It beggars belief to find Jamie at the foot of the Championship table after an Alfa racing season that promised so much. His 155 looked absolutely stunning with its half-red half-black paint and with a newly installed 3.2 litre V6 we were expecting great things.
A fire extinguisher fault at Snetterton was sorted out but the car then blew a head gasket, and at Brands the bonnet flew open smashing the windscreen. Business commitments caused him to miss the second Snetterton meeting and the Oulton Park date clashed with the Ferrari Championship meeting so he chose the latter as he was in with a chance of winning the Championship. He duly won the Ferrari Championship with a superb drive from the back of the grid! It would be great to see him battling to do the same with the Alfa Championship in 2021.