It seems amazing that we should have reached Issue 100 of “Friday Fix” which first appeared on alfaracer.com on 14th March 2014.
It was Matt Daly’s idea originally as a way of communicating weekly with competitors and supporters of the Championship with news of all things Alfa connected. However, I remember Matt telling me of a comment by Dave Messenger that he would be hard pushed to keep it going every seven days but, nonetheless, it has remained a regular “read” even if it is not weekly. This is largely due to Matt’s ability to turn around anything he is sent quickly – and that includes Race Previews and Reports and we should express our since thanks for that and hope that his enthusiasm will see us through to issue 200!!
It was good to get back to racing, albeit in rather strange circumstances, at Snetterton and Brands (Festival Italia) and we were rewarded with some excellent racing and some stand-out performances by the likes of Graham Seager, Scott Austin, Riccardo Losselli, George Osborne and Dave Messenger. One point of interest is that if you want to win races you have to have black car! And a Champagne moment for me was the side by side final lap at Brands Hatch’s Paddock Hill Bend by George and Riccardo in race 1 at the Festival.
Reverting to “Friday Fix”, my original contributions came under the heading of “News and Gossip” but that has since given way to a regular look at the history of the Championship, using my own extensive photo archive in support. Reaching issue 100 made me think hard about what the central subject should be. I have often thought that Alfa Championship class podiums have never received the attention they deserved once a season is over, a survey written and the annual prize giving held. The number of classes we ran always accentuated this but I thought that Friday Fix might give us an opportunity to put it right, if only in a limited way. But where to start? Although the Championship is now entering its 39th year, it seemed that the first three years of ARCA might be of interest, covering the seasons from 2002 through to the end of 2004. Rather than go back to the early days, many of those involved will be familiar to our readers and there may be some names that you don’t expect!
After the split from AROC at the end of 2001, we were lucky to have a large and enthusiastic group of drivers and preparers who wanted to continue Alfa racing and by the end of that year had accounted for 109 in six classes. A & B were for Modified cars, C for Production Modified, D & E Production split at 2000cc and finally, the most numerous of all, F: Production up to 1750cc. 88 drivers scored points and 24 were class winners. Of course this was the heyday of the 33 which accounted for 44 (!!) of the 109 registered and we can only wish that we had a similar situation with a current model today. We also enjoyed the stability of a continuing sponsor, with the support of Julian Birley and Powermods. Sadly, though, not everything in 2002 was happy, as a black cloud was thrown over proceedings by the only fatal accident in the Championship’s history when Kevin Griffiths crashed at Mallory Park on 30th June. However, he had done enough in the first half of the year to have amassed enough points to leave him as the posthumous Class B winner at the end of the season with Bob Godbold the runner-up ahead of Darren Carter’s Alfasud Sprint.
At one point it looked as though Julian Birley would win Class A and the Championship but at Oulton Park his season started to come apart when his favourite 3.5 engine gave out in qualifying. Thereafter it became a battle between Anthony George whose 33 was dominating Class C ahead of Nev Simpson’s Alfetta GTV and, Simon Bird’s 156. Bryn Griffiths who looked likely to take Class E in his 156 after Graham Heels’ 146 had suffered a brake failure at Snetterton and after being rebuilt by Bianco never quite caught up despite pole positions, fastest laps and class wins. In Class A, Graham Presley (75 1.8 Turbo) scored a couple of confidence boosting wins at Croix-en-Ternois and was on a roll after that, finally taking a clear class championship ahead of Andy Page’s Giulietta Turbo and the yellow 164 3 litre of Tony Soper. Nobody challenged Sam Laird with his 75 3 litre in Class D although he didn’t always make it easy for himself with accidents at Silverstone (his fault) and Snetterton (not his fault!). Busy was the green and white ex Steve Dillon 75 2.5 that was driven to class wins by Peter Sloan and Chris Tate. Anthony George would emerge as eventual class C winner but also as overall champion.
In my Review of the season I asked “Could Class F get better than this?”. 2002 saw some of the closest racing we had ever seen and more winners. Richard Connell ended the year with 5 wins while Dean Spurr and John Strickland, with 4 apiece, Andy Lilley (2) and Chris Finch (1) shared the spoils. The battle between Dean and John went down to the last couple of races at Snetterton with John showing unstoppable determination throughout while Dean had to contend with a returning Nik Mantikas. John was class champion with Dean runner up, an Adie Hawkins Motorsport 1 – 2 with Richard Connell 3rd. The two sub categories – Alfasud Cup and Single Spark Trophy were won by Jeff Kite (Alfasud Sprint) and Andrew Bramah (Alfetta GTV) respectively. The season ended with a mini-endurance race in memory of Kevin Griffiths. This was won by Julian Birley and Ian Flux in Julian’s 75 3.5, followed home by Tony Soper/Chris Snowdon (164) and Roger and Kevin Evans (155 2.5).
|A||GRAHAM PRESLEY (75 1.8T)||Andy Page (Giulietta Turbo)||Tony Soper (164)|
|B||KEVIN GRIFFITHS (Sud Ti)||Bob Godbold (33 16v)||Darren Carter (Sprint)|
|C||ANTHONY GEORGE (33)**||Nev Simpson (Alfetta GT)||Simon Bird (156)|
|D||SAM LAIRD (75 3.0 V6)||Peter Sloan (75 2.5 V6)||Clive Hodgkin (75 3.0)|
|E||BRYN GRIFFITHS (156 TS)||Graham Heels (146)||Chris Oxborough (75)|
|F||JOHN STRICKLAND (33)||Dean Spurr (33)||Richard Connell (33)|
In class A, this turned out to be a year of disappointments – Julian Birley’s new 75 never appeared, Paul Buckley’s new 75 Turbo proved a reluctant performer and Sam Laird couldn’t put a really competitive season together with his ex Julian Birley 75. This left Graham Presley, Andy Page and Tony Soper to repeat the previous year’s end of season result. However, a thorn in their side for the races at Donington and Brands Hatch was the exciting 33 16v Turbo of Ray Mears which was first home on both occasions. Tim Lewis enjoyed a strong season to win Class B with his Alfasud Sprint but Bob Godbold was always in contention, taking five class wins to Tim’s seven. The rest of the entry was very thin but James Bate did well enough in his Alfasud Sprint to claim 3rd in the class. Class C saw the Alfetta GTV TS of Nev Simpson further developed and he enjoyed a good season to take four wins and top the class from Jon Griffiths 2.5 V6 156 although if Anthony George had done more races he could probably have repeated his 2002 success. Others to show up well included Kevin Evans, his 155 now fitted with a 2.5 V6 engine and Bill Parker with a 33 8v.
The entry in Class D was woefully inconsistent but in the end if was Peter Sloan’s 75 3 litre who took victory from Chris Oxborough’s similar car. Neither contested the last five races which allowed a returning Julian Birley to star at Brands Hatch while Roger Evans won at Snetterton and Oulton Park in his 155 3 litre, Clive Hodgkin taking a win at Rockingham. Class E was completely dominated by Graham Heels with his 146 although he was challenged by the 156 of Chris Finch, so much so that after five races the Graham had three wins to his credit and Chris two. Chris, however, suffered an engine failure at Brands in August, the resultant loss of oil causing the notorious incident at the exit of Druids which almost destroyed Graham’s 146 among others. Chris didn’t return before the end of the season but another sterling effort saw Graham’s car rebuilt and he carried on to take four more wins, the class AND the overall championship. Chris’s absence allowed Jeff Kite to slip into 2nd in class with a Nick Suiter prepared 75 Twin Spark while Andy Inman, also 75 TS mounted would finish 4th ahead of a likely future contender, Andy Woodall and his Alfatune built 146.
Thirty two cars contested Class F (out of a championship total of 85) although less than half of that number could be counted as regular entries. In fact the class winner at the opening round – Dean Spurr’s 33 1.7 didn’t feature again. Instead it was the arrival of the 156 Sportwagon Diesel of Bryn Griffiths that shook up the field with three smokey wins at Castle Combe, and in a Snetterton double header. Spencer Shirley had actually started the season as class favourite but it took him until round 3 at Silverstone to secure a win. However, it was a double at Knockhill mid year that cemented his position and despite a blip at Brands Hatch he was able to ease to a comfortable win, even missing the final two races. Consistency and two wins (Brands Hatch and Snetterton) lifted Chris Forrest to second position with Bryn Griffiths and Andy Miller (33) next in line. However, in the final four races, Nik Mantikas gave notice of things to come with three wins and a second place. The Alfasud Cup was won by Tim Hayes (Sud Ti) while the Arese Trophy went to Andy Inman (75 Twin Spark).
|A||ANDY PAGE (Giulietta T/ch)||Graham Presley (75 1.8 T)||Tony Soper (164 3.0)|
|B||TIM LEWIS (Alfasud Sprint)||Bob Godbold (33)||James Bate (Sprint)|
|C||NEV SIMPSON (Alfetta GTV)||John Griffiths (156 2.5 V6)||Anthony George (33)|
|D||PETER SLOAN (75 3.0 V6)||Chris Oxborough (75)||Julian Birley (75)|
|E||GRAHAM HEELS (146)||Jeff Kite (75 TS)||Chris Finch (156)|
|F||SPENCER SHIRLEY (33)||Chris Forrest (33)||Bryn Griffiths (156 JTD)|
We had become used to ultra close qualifying sessions in Class F over the years but 2004 brought more extremely close times at the top of other classes as well. In Class A we expected Julian Birley’s new 75 to make its mark. In each of the three races he started he took the race lead but in the end his best result was a 3rd overall and 2nd in class at Oulton Park. Having overcome some of its earlier problems, Paul Buckley’s 75 Turbo – now with an attractive new blue and white colour scheme – showed that most of its 2003 development problems had been overcome and he was able to take wins in the first four races before meeting stiffening competition which meant that he could only win once more, at Cadwell. Nick Humphrey took his 75 to wins in the next three races, after which Andy scored four (including a storming drive to win the Kevin Griffiths Trophy at Donington), Graham Presley (75 Turbo), Ian Brookfield (164) and Tony Soper (GTV) took one apiece, The result of all this was that Paul Buckley won the class with Ian Brookfield, in the ex Tony Soper 164, runner-up after a very productive season and Andy Page 3rd. Keith Waite finished a fine second in the opening round at Castle Combe while Sam Laird took a second at Silverstone and third at Oulton.
Class B was mainly the property of Tim Lewis and his Alfasud Sprint with no less than 11 class wins to his name, with John Griffiths (156), Anton Mets (156) and Bryan Shrubb (twice with his 33 1.8) the only others to top the class results. Nick Sismey grabbed a couple of second places with his 33 as did Simon Bird, also 33 mounted. Tim was a clear class winner (and overall runner-up) with John Griffiths and Bryan Shrubb next in line. Bob Godbold was expecting to mount a challenge but a fire at Castle Combe and other maladies meant that he missed several races.
In my report of the year, I wrote about Class C that if you wanted to win the Championship overall, let alone a class, you had to look at the possible opposition. Neil Smith did just that, although in the end the class was the largest – and potentially the most varied – apart from class F, with 24 points scorers during the year. Nonetheless, Neil set out his stall strongly from round 1 at Castle Combe, leading home Chris Snowdon’s 156 2.5. From that point on he took a further 10 wins to win both the class and the overall championship. Other class C winners were Kevin Evans (155) at Oulton, Anthony George (Silverstone and Snetterton and Sean Woodard (33) at Cadwell. However, it was the consistent Bill Parker and Chris Healey, both in 33s who would end up second and third in the points table while Chris Snowdon managed three more second places in races later in the year.
Class D was poorly supported in 2004 with only eight points scorers providing a solid win for Roger Evans and his 3 litre engine 155 from the 75s of Martin Williams and Peter Sloan. In Class E, following his win in 2003, Graham Heels decided to pick and choose his races in 2004.
Nonetheless he still managed two wins in his 146 and a final third in class but it was Chris Finch who dominated proceedings with eight wins. Jeff Kite (75) took the chequered flag first on three occasions and Nick Suiter (146) once but surprisingly perhaps it was the 146 on Andy Woodall that amassed enough points to head the similar car of Graham Heels at the end of the season. The entry for Class F was not quite as large as in previous years but pleased everyone with the unpredictability it brought. Nik Mantikas started the year well with wins at Castle Combe and Silverstone. It was Andy Miller’s turn at Oulton, followed by a Silverstone domination by James Burland, after which Andy again took wins at Pembrey, Brands Hatch and Rockingham, Paul Lund headed the class at Donington, Snetterton and Mallory before Lee Penn arrived to dominate prodceedings in the final two races. The net result was a class championship for Andy Miller ahead of James Burland and Nik Mantikas. Looking through the race results it was interesting to see the debut of Gethin Llewellyn, taking a couple of seconds and a third with Gary Walker’s Alfasud and strong races for Phil Astell, Alastair Iles, David Hughes and Harvey Townson.
The Alfasud Cup provided a win for Martin Jones from Richard Drake and Tim Hayes, while Jeff Kite dominted the Arese Trophy for 75 Twin Sparks, ahead of David Brown and Ian Fisher. The popular end season mini-Enduro at Brands Hatch was run in pouring rain and produced a win for Nick Sismey who elected to run solo in both races with the Lahoma 33. In the end he would take the win by a mere 2.9” from Tony Soper and Rob West’s GTV with the Ian Stapleton/Nev Simpson Alfetta GTV third. Production class winners were Chris Snowdon and John Griffiths (156 2.5 V6) ahead of Andy Lilley and Chris Forrest’s 33.
|A||PAUL BUCKLEY (75 75 t/ch)||Ian Brookfield (164 3.0)||Andy Page (Giulietta)|
|B||TIM LEWIS (Alfasud Sprint)||John Griffiths (156 2.0)||Bryan Shrubb (33)|
|C||NEIL SMITH (156)||Bill Parker (33 1.7 8v)||Chris Healey (33 16v)|
|D||ROGER EVANS (155 V6)||Martin Williams (75 3.0)||Peter Sloan (75 3.0)|
|E||CHRIS FINCH (156 TS)||Andy Woodall (146)||Graham Heels (146)|
|F||ANDY MILLER (33 1.7)||James Burland (33 16v)||Nik Mantikas (33 16v)|
Inevitably we had many more pictures to choose from and will try to show a few more from the years 2002 to 2004 in FF 101!
Classic Alfa Challenge
The first race in this year’s reduced Classic Alfa Challenge programme took place at Thruxton on August 16th, sadly clashing with Festival Italia which meant that it was not possible attend both events as a spectator. Chris Snowdon was probably the only competitor affected although he was unable to take part in the qualifying session in the morning as he was on his way from Silverstone where he had been looking after two of his Sports 2000 customers. Starting from the back of the grid in Richard Melvin’s Alfetta GTV, he worked his way to second place in pursuit of Richard Merrell’s Giulia coupe before a gasket failure halted his chase with 3 laps to go. Richard Merrell scored a well deserved win ahead of James Wright (75 Twin Spark) and Jonny Horsfield (Alfetta GTV). Ex Alfa Championship racers – Richard Ibrahim (Alfasud Sprint), John Symes (GTAm) and Gavin Watson (Giulietta Ti) finished 5th, 6th and 7th. The next Classic Alfa race is at Lydden Hill on Sunday, September 13th.
Some small encouragement for Alfa in F1
In terms of overall results the 2020 season has hardly been one that will illuminate Alfa Romeo much in future histories of the marque. Nonetheless in terms of the season itself, the races in Spain and Belgium did see the Sauber built C39 perform better in the hands of Kimi Raikkonen. A “Class C” is now being talked about which is basically Alfa, Haas and Williams, Although qualifying remains woeful, Kimi went well enough in Spain to score a fine 10 in Autosport’s post race survey, joining Lewis Hamilton and Max Verstappen, albeit with a 14th place race result. At Spa he jumped to a 12th place finish, beating both Ferraris (!!) in the process but was only given an 8 in the survey, as his start was poor. By comparison, Antonio Giovanazzi looks in danger of losing his seat for 2021 with a 16th place finish in Spain and a hard late crash (again) in Belgium. The Italian Grand Prix at Monza comes up this weekend followed a week later by a first time at Mugello for the Grand Prix of Tuscany. Shall we have a happier story to tell?
TCR gets underway
Romeo Ferraris built Giuliettas have been in action in the USA, Japan and Australia but their decision to race a single car in the World TCR has gained attention over the past few days. After looking through the list of available drivers, and probably the funds available, the team has signed Jean–Karl Vernay for the 6 meeting, 16 race, programme, all ironically in Europe. Vernay is perhaps the most experienced driver to have driven a TCR Giulietta having started his career in single seaters (including A1 GP) before moving on to GTs with Porsche. More recently he has been racing for Audi in TCR but the car was not particularly competitive and he will hoping for better things with Alfa. The season kick off at Zolder over the weekend September 12th/13th and ends at the Adria Raceway in November after visiting the Nurburging, Slovakia, Hungary and Aragon in between.
On occasions we haven’t need a pandemic to keep spectators away – two hardy souls brave the weather at a very wet Snetterton a few years ago
Alfa Championship rounds 5 & 6 will be held on the Snetterton 300 circuit – a one day double header again on Sunday, September 13th. Do come along to watch if you can but tickets must be pre-booked with MSV (see the Snetterton website). We look forward to seeing you there.