The Festival Italia event at Brands Hatch commenced in 2016 and has been steadily growing in scope and popularity ever since.
On track there are Alfa Romeo, Ferrari, and Allcomers races, and demonstration laps by significant Italian historic race cars. Off track there are major displays of Italian road cars, grouped by marque in Owners’ Club areas, an Italian food market, live singing, and other attractions. It is a great pleasure for the BRSCC Alfa Romeo Championship to be part of the event and gives us the opportunity to showcase and promote Alfa racing in front of a large crowd.
Fittingly, we have our largest entry list of the season: 19 cars, consisting of 6 Power Trophy cars, and 12 Twin Spark Cup cars. Exciting races are in prospect with close competition in both classes guaranteed. Let’s start with the Twin Spark Cup field…
Tom Hill is leading the Championship overall in his black and gold 156 and, in the absence of Power Trophy Class leader Paul Webster who is 2nd overall, has the opportunity to extend his lead this weekend. Apart from being on the receiving end of mechanical and incident problems not of his own making at Snetterton in June, Tom has been a dominant force in the Twin Spark Cup, winning both races at Silverstone (in April and again in July), Cadwell in June, and finishing first and second at Anglesey in May. In addition he has been the fastest Twin Spark in qualifying at every meeting so far. He is quick off the line, his race craft has been exceptional, and he must start as favourite to continue his run at Brands.
However, this is far from being a foregone conclusion. Richard Ford has been coming on in leaps and bounds this year, frequently setting fastest lap in the class and recording 2 class victories at Snetterton. He has been narrowing the gap to Tom in qualifying but has often lost ground in the early stages of the race and by the time he has recovered Tom has been too far ahead. If he can get off the start line quickly he will have a genuine chance of a class win. Dave Messenger has the opposite issue – he has usually started quickly but then had to defend rather than building a gap to those behind him; however, he had a brace of class victories at Brands in 2016 and will undoubtedly be extremely tough to beat here again.
After a few years away from racing Kristian Leith has been getting quicker and quicker as the season has progressed, culminating in a brace of second places last time out at Silverstone. He has the speed and competitiveness to do well again this weekend. Riccardo Losselli is another relatively new driver who has become increasingly competitive: from being near the rear of the field early in the season he has been picking up podium finishes in recent races as his extensive knowledge of the dynamics of racing has progressively fed through into his own driving performances. Mike Tydeman was well up in the Championship standings this season until a crash at a motorbike track day caused injuries which forced him to miss the rounds at Snetterton and Silverstone. It’s great to see him back this weekend and he’s another driver who could feature strongly.
The more of this preview I write, the more I realise how difficult these races are to call. There are many drivers who are capable of running at the front of the Twin Spark class and that includes the 6 I haven’t mentioned yet as well as the 6 I have!
Stacey Dennis achieved her best ever results in the Championship at Snetterton in July with a brace of 2nd places and although she did benefit from others’ misfortunes her lap times were as quick as anyone’s, demonstrating how quick she can be. Budget restrictions have limited her racing this year but she is another one to watch in her distinctive pink 147. As we are speaking of female drivers we must mention Mel Freeman next. Mel was our overall Champion in 2010 and after a few years away from racing she returned to the Alfa Championship last time out at Silverstone. Wisely she drove sensibly on her return, playing herself back in after a long absence, but she made visible progress over the weekend and we can expect a further improvement here – there is great driving talent there. Cip Nistorica gave us a glimpse of what he is capable of with a fine qualifying performance at Silverstone. Although the very slippery conditions there caught him out once or twice in the races he is another new driver who has been steadily improving his race pace.
Truck racing commitments have restricted Andrew Fulcher’s Alfa racing this season and this will be his second outing this year after Silverstone in April when he ran in midfield. He’s a great character and it’s a pleasure to have him back racing with us this weekend, and his Filippo Berio-liveried 147 is always a magnet for the cameras! Another driver making a welcome return to the Championship this weekend is Nick Anderson in his yellow Alfa Spider, giving us a welcome contrast to the 156s and 147s that dominate the Twin Spark class numerically. Nick is a very experienced racer; a succession of setbacks delayed his return to the track this season and it’s great to see him back on track at last.
Finally, and last but, I suspect, by no means least, Avni Ropica has arrived for his first race in the Championship in his 156. Avni has raced before in a number of formats, including F3, but has been accustoming himself to Alfa racing quietly so far this season, doing track days and testing days. If the whispered information about his lap times that has been leaking out from Bianco is accurate then he could spring a major surprise…
The Power Trophy class has now been running for some 3 years now and early on it struggled for numbers but this year there have been healthy entry levels, and that’s reflected in 6 very competitive entries this weekend. Class leader Paul Webster isn’t here so that gives Scott Austin and the McFie brothers in particular a golden opportunity to close the gap on his points total and even overtake it potentially. Scott is 2nd in class and 4th overall in the Championship having acquired the ex-Ian Brookfield 155 over the winter. Before this year he had not raced for around 20 years but in the late 80s and early 90s he featured strongly in Ford saloon racing championships. His driving skill is obvious for all to see but there has been a development process necessary for the car as well as Scott himself getting back into the swing of racing. His progress has been such that he was our Driver of the Day at Silverstone last time out. However, Ray Foley’s reappearance in the Championship mid-season in his rapid 147 GTA has really shaken up the running order: an overall win and a class win at Snetterton were followed by a DNF and another class win at Silverstone, and Ray is a realistic candidate for an overall win at Brands – no pressure there then Ray!
Next we have the rapid Punto Abarths of Chris and Simon McFie, both riding high in the Championship, always competitive and always a treat to watch. Simon’s 2 overall wins at Cadwell were perfectly executed in the circumstances and Chris’s battle with Paul Webster at Snetterton, which he just edged, must be the dice of the season so far.
Finally, we have 2 returners to the Championship – Chris Snowdon and Keith Waite and what a great pleasure it is to have them back racing with us at Brands. Chris needs no introduction as he is renowned (I mustn’t over use the word ‘legend’) – in Alfa racing circles; he last raced with us a couple of years ago in the John Sismey-prepared Modified 33 – now sadly sold – and is a top class driver. It will be fascinating to see how his GTV6 measures up against the more modern machinery around him and Chris is guaranteed to get the best out of the car. Keith Waite also makes a welcome return in his 75. Keith has raced in the Championship at least once every year since the 1980s and is now extending that fantastic record by another year. Welcome back Keith!
We will be stationed in the Lower Paddock at Brands (can’t imagine why those lowly Ferraris always get the pit garages, lol) on the side nearest the road. Stephen Green will be in charge of organising the Paddock space, which is always a great help, so teams and drivers should ensure they make contact with him first before setting up. It promises to be a great day on Sunday – please let’s have close exciting racing with all drivers doing their utmost to avoid contact with each other! This is a showcase event and our chance to show how good our drivers are as well as promoting our Championship and Alfa Romeo racing in general. As always, see you there!
Andy Robinson – Championship Coordinator
PS. Dont forget to check travel info on Sunday. There is reports of some disruption here.