What an extraordinary and frustrating year 2020 has been.
Just when we thought we were going to able to complete our truncated season with a double header at Silverstone, along comes Lockdown 2. Andy Robinson was confident that we were going to have a 25 car grid and that would have returned us to the numbers that turned out for out opening round on the Snetterton 200 circuit in July. But at least it should give the 750 Motor Club confidence that the move of the championship into their portfolio looks worthwhile as we enter our 40th year and we hope that a good calendar will emerge for 2021. Congratulations to Tom Hill on his fourth Championship title (see Andy Robinson’s latest Bulletin for the full story) and to Graham Seager and Andrew Bourke for their class wins.
Things are Looking Up for Sauber Alfa Romeo Team
One can’t say that this has been an easy season for the Alfa Romeo team but the Portuguese Grand Prix on the Portimao circuit in the Algarve was to give them some encouragement although the eventual result must have been a disappointment. Qualifying brought the usual exclusion after Q1 but the race was a different matter as the uncertainty produced by a slight, and short-lived, drizzle gave Kimi Raikkonen the opportunity to show his skill by leaping up 9 (!) places on lap 1 and gaining the further spot on lap 2 as he passed no less than Charles Leclerc and his Ferrari to run 6th although he was repulsed by Max Verstappen on lap 2. He stopped to change his soft tyres for Mediums on lap 11, dropping to the back of the field before driving hard to an eventual 11th place, just missing out on the points when his old friend Sebastian Vettel passed him with 12 laps to go. Still, he would end up ahead of Alex Albon’s Red Bull and Lando Norris’s McLaren. Giovanazzi was on another strategy, starting on the Mediums before changing to the Hards on lap 28 and although he too made good progress on lap 1, he drifted back and could only finish 15th.
Portimao had been an enjoyable experience for F1 and there also some spectators with a much reduced Paddock Club. Now it was on to Imola for a return to a circuit that had not been used for a Grand Prix for many years. Some aero tweaks on the C39 had looked promising in Portugal and it was hoped that they would be more beneficial on the faster Italian track. No spectators here, though, as the Italian Government had said “no” at the last minute.
Qualifying again failed to move the Alfas up the grid although track limit infringements probably robbed Raikkonen of a chance to get into Q2. However, in the race he drove a very long stint on Mediums before changing to Softs and at one time was able to run as high as fourth before stopping. He was able to finish an excellent 9th although he might have been higher up but the fall-out from a late Safety Car after Max Verstappen’s race ending tyre failure. Giovanazzi suffered another poor qualifying and would start last, but a 6 place again on lap 1 and subsequent good drive would net him 10th place and another championship point and a double points finish for Alfa.
For much of the summer there had been uncertainty about who would be driving for Alfa Romeo in 2021. It was said that Kimi Raikkonen had still to tell the team if he wanted to go on for another year while there were doubts about whether Antonio Giovanazzi had done enough to persuade Ferrari that he should continue in a seat that was in their gift. Rumours that Mick Schumacher, Sergio Perez (out of Racing Point) or super-sub Nico Hulkenburg were hovering around kept the gossip-mongers happy. However, just before Imola, team principal Fred Vasseur put everything to rest by saying that both Kimi and Antonio would be staying for another year – Kimi is an established part of the Sauber-Alfa family and Antonio is highly regarded at Maranello, so perhaps there was never really any doubt.
Our last visit to the Silverstone National Circuit
Having intended to take a look back at the Alfa Championship’s last visit to the Silverstone National circuit before we raced there next weekend, I thought that I might still reflect on it briefly. It was a one-day double header on July 28th and it was mainly wet! Qualifying and both races were dominated by Graham Seager with his familiar black GTV but it was good to see Ray Foley emerge 2nd and Power Trophy winner in Race 2 after retiring in Race 1. Impressive in the ex Ian Brookfield 155 3.0 V6 was Scott Austin who took a 2nd and 3rd overall while not far behind him in both races was Chris McFie in his Fiat Punto Abarth which is always so competitive on a wet track. Tom Hill, on his way to his second championship, took Twin Spark wins in both races in his Bianco prepared 156 but there were surprises behind as Kristian Leith and Riccardo Losselli were in the other podium spots both times. The event was notable for the re-appearance of the ex Tony Soper/Ian Brookfield 164 in the hands of Daniel Wood who performed very creditably to finish clear of all the Twin Sparks. It was also good to see the re-appearance of Robin Eyre-Maunsell (156 GTA) and Mel Freeman (156 TS), both having their first races for a while. Pity the weather didn’t help them. The Driver of the Day award went to Scott Austin.
Really sad news came from Paul Plant recently that Sally Clifford, a very familiar face around the paddock during Emma Karwacki’s years in the Championship had died from an aggressive form of cancer earlier this year at the age of 46. Tragically the original diagnosis had come three months after the birth of her son Matthew in 2017 and although in January Sally had been given an optimistic time of five years, she continued to fight the cancer with the usual treatments although it was spreading.
Even more tragically her sister Nicky, who it had been agreed would look after Matthew, has developed the same cancer, with her condition worsening. This will mean that there is no family to bring up Matthew. As Paul writes
“Sally was a lovely lady, always happy and loved racing and being Emma’s sidekick at meetings”.
I remember her that way and for her willingness to help out so enthusiastically around the paddock. Emma and Paul want to put together a book of photographs for Matthew so that he has something to recall his mother by as he grows up and if anyone has any pictures of Sally that they can add, then please e-mail them to Paul at [email protected]
J-K Vernay wins at Motorland Aragon
The arrival of Jean-Karl Vernay in the Romeo Ferraris Team Mulsanne has been quite a boost for the Alfa Giulietta Veloce in the Europe based World TCR. After races at Zolder and on a wet Nurburgring Nordschleife getting used to the car, Varnay took third place podiums at both the Slovakia and Hungaroring events before mounting the top step at Motorland Aragon in Spain to the joy of the small Italian team. This has moved Vernay into 3rd place in the points standings before the final two rounds. These should have been on the Adria circuit but work on an extension to the track has been delayed and so it was decided that the championship would return to Aragon on 14th/15th November.
A Three Week Cameo
Those with long memories will recall John Goodchild as a pivotal part of the AROC racing fraternity in the early days of the Club. He was also involved, alongside his old friend Brian Rouse, in helping Alfa Romeo Dealer Team at the start of the 1976 season.
While doing some research I came across a short article I wrote about John and Brian’s Easter that year which was intense to say the least and I thought I would share it might interest “Friday Fix” readers.
“What always impressed me about John Goodchild was that he never gave up in adversity and at no time did that show itself more than three weekends at the start of the 1976 season, the first for Alfa Romeo Dealer Team in the British Saloon car Championship. We were very much reliant on volunteer helpers then, many of whom had been an important part of AROC’s racing scene in its early days. John, with old friend and colleague Brian Rouse, had linked up to work on Jon Dooley’s Alfasud Ti engine for the first race at Brands Hatch but this was a disappointment, a puncture sending the car to the back of the field.
The Sud’s performance was also lacking by comparison with the 1300cc class winning Hillman Avenger of Bernard Unett. However, before the next race at Silverstone some new camshafts arrived from Autodelta, courtesy of Mario Deliotti – typicaly at the last minute and with no fitting or setting up instructions! John and Brian found themselves working through the night on the build of of team member Simon Kirkby’s engine and they telephoned me hourly reports on progress, the last coming at 5 a.m. in the morning to say that the engine was a runner. It actually went well for most of the race before a huge cloud of smoke heralded a major blow up.
As Jon’s engine had also expired, you can imagine the frantic work required with two rounds due at Oulton and Thruxton over Easter the following weekend! The rebuilds were successfully achieved but Simon managed to go off on the green flag lap, damaging the front suspension. If that wasn’t enough, Jon Dooley had an accident at Oulton (not his fault!) with his Radio 1 Prodsaloon 2000 GTV, badly damaging the rear end. Showing their usual determination John and Brian managed a rebuild “under the arches” at Hammersmith which satisfied the Snetterton Scrutineers which allowed Jon to race on the only “free” day over the Easter weekend – Sunday. At least the car repaid their efforts, finishing 10th after a close battle with Noel Edmunds’ Opel. Both Dealer Team Suds reached the finish line at Thruxton the day after, albeit only 3rd and 5th in class, but there was quiet satisfaction that some progress had been made and at least there was now time to draw breath!”
Congratulations to Antony Ross on winning the class based HSCC Historic Road Sports Championship with his lovely light blue 105 series 1750 Spider, 27 years since he last took the title with the same car! Antony did a few races with us in the Spider back in 1995 and, more recently, he has raced it in the HRDC Classic Alfa Challenge taking a fine overall third place at Castle Combe in October 2019, mounting the podium alongside Ted Pearson and Chris Snowdon. He has also been racing a Lola T150 quite effectively in the HSCC’s Historic Formula Ford series.
Alfas among the Racing Legends at Silverstone
Racing Legends were able to organise a very much last minute meeting on the Silverstone full 3.66 mile GP circuit on October 25th. This gave the Guest family (father Ian and son Frank) the opportunity to run their “Boule d’Or” GTV6 2.5, looked after by Chris Snowdon, in the Historic Touring car Challenge and Tony Dron Trophy race. Also taking part was Geoff Gordon’s Group 2 Alfasud Sprint, both cars finishing the 1 hour race. Results are not meaningful as there was a pretty fiersome 29 car grid with Ford Sierra Cosworths, Capris, Lotus Cortinas and a Nissan Skyline Skyline GTR but for the record, both cars won their classes in which they found themselves as the only entries. More importantly, the drivers had a lot of fun.
Assembly Areas Often Tell a Story
Pictures of Assembly Areas often remind you of enjoyable days racing and of cars and people who might have slipped your memory, although not I am sure in the case of Chris Snowdon and friends at Brands Hatch. There is also one Italian inter-marque interloper here.reminding us of the covered and highly polluted (!) assembly area that used to be a feature of Donington.
The rain at Oulton back in October reminded me of the many other rainy days we have seen there, sometimes on only one part of the circuit, while the grid forms up in the dry – a clerk of the course’s nightmare before the advent of trackside cameras. On one occasion, competitors were allowed to change tyres on the grid – a busy Ian Connell is seen with his Class F Sud Ti.
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