Covid-19 or not, there is a lot going on at the moment.
From the Alfa Romeo Championship Association point of view, we have the brilliant new logo which is the work of our in-house graphic designer (and website developer) Matt Daly. The one it replaces has served us well for twenty years but it was about time for a modern replacement. So well done Matt! We also have a 2021 provisional calendar to digest and plan for, and regulation updates to absorb. Looking further afield, there have been two more F1 races since FF102 and success for Jean-Karl Vernay and the independent Romeo Ferraris built Giulietta Veloce in WTCR. And congratulations to the Alfa Romeo Owners Club for being awarded the Best Club accolade by Classic & Sportscar magazine. That would have pleased Jon Dooley. Much has been due to the efforts of Guy Swarbrick as the editor of “Alfa Romeo Driver”, setting up the Club’s podcasts and the virtual racing league that was so active during lockdown.
I somehow don’t associate Turkey with rain but then the only time I have been there it was summer and it was hot! So, how wrong you can be was shown by the experience awaiting the drivers and teams for round 14 of the 17 round World Championship. For Alfa Romeo, qualifying was something of a success as both cars made it into Q3 and would start the race 8th and 10th. On a horribly wet track it was a struggle for everyone to keep their cars on the road and amazing that Lance Stroll’s Racing Point would be on pole and lead the race for 34 laps before tyres and a poor strategy let him down. Inevitably it was Hamilton at his best, with a bit of luck as well, who came through to win but for the Alfa duo it was a point-less afternoon, Giovanazzi retiring with gearbox failure and Raikkonen a poor 15th, a lap adrift.
After a two week break, the “show” moved to Bahrain for the first of two races on different versions of the Sakhir circuit. The first would be a twilight/night race on the the longer track using the infield layout and would bring high drama on Sunday. But before that we had the sight of Robert Kubica back in Raikkonen’ car for FP1 on Friday and seeming to be much more on the pace then previously, ending quicker than Giovanazzi. In qualifying neither Giovanazzi or Raikkonen could get into Q2. The race produced the high drama of Romain Grosjean’s fiery accident and miraculous escape with his life but in motor racing, the show must go on, and the remaining 19 drivers were back on the grid an hour or so later, certainly reflecting on issues like the effectiveness of the Halo in such a situation as a 137 mph attack on an Armco barrier. Unfortunately for Kimi Raikkonen, damage on the first lap after the re-start compromised his race and he would come home a lowly 15th. Antonio Giovanazzi, on the other hand, made good progress at the original start but less so at the re-start and spent most of the race just outside the points, running 11th at one point, fighting the Ferraris. But a late pit stop for soft tyres during a safety car period near the end of the race, which continued to the chequered flag, left him unable to improve on an eventual 16th place.
The main emotion at the end of the race was inevitably that of relief that Romain Grosjean was alive and comparatively well and it was good to see him talking from his hospital bed later in the evening. There were many issues for the FIA to look at but at least one of their main safety improvements of recent years – the Halo – had undoubtedly saved a life.
Romeo Ferraris,Team Mulsanne and Jean Karl-Vernay
Alfa Romeo has a history of being represented in international events by private teams, both with and without manufacturer support but none has been more notably “independent” than the Romeo Ferraris team which has competed in both World TCR and also local series, including very briefly TCR UK. Racing the Giulietta started in 2016 with Michela Cerruti at the wheel but it was concluded that it needed a lot of development to be fully competitive and plans were made for a big re-launch the following year. Meanwhile, Michela had moved into the role of Operations Manager for the team, based in Opera near Milan, with the aim of finding clients for the car worldwide, as well as supporting those running under the Team Mulsanne banner in TCR races.
The failure of the factory based TC1 touring cars championship at the end of 2017 opened the way for World TCR in 2018 and this was the opening that Romeo Ferraris needed for their Giulietta. Star drivers Fabrizio Giovanardi and Gianni Morbidelli were signed up but it was soon clear that they would be up against strong teams backed by Hyundai, VW and Honda and somehow the Alfa effort didn’t gel and both drivers quit during the summer. Their replacement, ex GP2 driver Kevin Ceccon, who had no experience of racing touring cars, made the car work for him, winning with it at Suzuka and cementing his involvement for 2019 when an improved “Veloce” version was homologated. Ceccon was joined by the Chinese driver Ma Quin Ha who took another win for the team in Slovakia. Some thirty race prepared Giuliettas have now been sold around the world, racing with various amounts of success in the USA, Australia, Denmark, Japan and China although the cars that came to the UK in 2018 did not complete the season and were returned to Italy.
Romeo Ferraris had originally intended to concentrate on developing their Giulia Electric TCR project during 2020, deciding that the World TCR was too expensive. However, the “World” aspect became re-defined at “European” when Covid caused the cancellation of the far-away races, and it was decided to run a single Giulietta for which they signed up previous Audi front runner, Jean-Karl Vernay. This proved to be a wise move and Vernay has been in the mix throughout a truncated season which brought him a championship third place overall and the top independent prize after the two end of season weekends at Motorland Aragon. Heading into the final couple of races he even had a chance of gaining the outright title but team games played by other manufacturers mitigated against this, much to his disgust. However, he gave “big thanks to my team. I think nobody would have believed what we have done this year. I’ve never been so determined and I grew up a lot. For me it was a fantastic experience to be in a little team with a lot more responsibility and I really loved it. So thanks to Romeo Ferraris, we did great and you are a very good team, be sure about that”.
Motorland Aragon was also the venue for another important event for Romeo Ferraris, the launch of their 2021 ETCR Giulia which made an immediate impression in its all red livery. It follows on from the earlier launch of electric models from Cupra and Hyundai. Promoter, Marcello Lotti, admitted to being “stunned by the appearance of the car which continues the long history of Alfa Romeo in top-level touring car racing”.
2021 Alfa Championship Calendar
Nice and early, Andy Robinson has been able to post a provisional 2021 race calendar featuring six meetings with a start on Easter Saturday, April 3rd, at Silverstone. With a covid vaccine on the horizon, we can maybe start to be optimistic that the season will go ahead as planned. Actually, only four of the six dates are at 750 Motor Club meetings as we shall be returning to Brands Hatch under the MSV banner for the ever popular Festival Italia in August, having already been the guests of the Ferrari Owners Club for their Ferrari Festival at Croft in late June. I remember a discussion with the Ferrari Owners Club’s Steve Burns a few years ago about further involvement with them, so it is good to see that it has turned into something positive.
Andrew Bramah – A Decade with Avon Racing
I was reflecting recently on the key part played by Avon Racing in the success of the Alfa Championship and on the large number of drivers who raced under their banner, some over a long period of time, others for just a few races. Looking through the list, I noted the name of Andrew Bramah as he has visited race meetings since he “retired” in 2012 as an enthusiastic supporter and I thought I would look back on his career that began in 1999.
Andrew’s first race car was an Alfetta GTV, turned out in the blue and white colours with which he was to become familiar. He raced it four times that year with a best result of 4th in the then Class E at Cadwell Park. He would continue to race the Alfetta for the next three seasons, his busiest being 2000 when he took part in 7 rounds of the Championship. But the competition was stiff in a class won by Chris Oxborough’s 75 Twin Spark from the rapid Giulia Super of Jonathan Griffin and 155 of Tim Dackombe. In fact, there were 21 Class E competitors that year, so 8th at the end of the year was a good showing with best races, 6th place finishes at Snetterton (twice) and Oulton Park. Maybe more satisfying was to finish second to Jonathan in the Portello Cup (for non Twin Spark cars). We didn’t see much of Andrew in 2001 but he was back with the Alfetta a year later and this time won, the re-named, Single Spark Trophy in competition with the similar car of Andy Woodall and Giulietta of Steven Griffin.
A change of car came next for Andrew and it was to be the ex Steve Dillon 75 2.5 V6 that had been raced on a couple of occasions by Clive Hodgkin and Chris Tate. Although he didn’t take part in many races with it over the two following seasons, a 2nd in class D at Brands and a 3rd at Silverstone showed there was potential and this was to be proved in 2005 when Avon changed the 2.5 engine for a more potent 3 litre. With this, Andrew took part in 9 races and had a fine season with a win at Cadwell, four second places at Anglesey, Silverstone and Snetterton and a third, again at Snetterton. This would leave him 3rd in the class at the year end, only being beaten by the might of Peak Alfa in the shape of Graham Seager (155 3.0 V6) and Roger Evans (GTV 3.0 24v). Andrew continued to race spasmodically with the 75 in 2006, taking another two class seconds at Cadwell, before taking two years away from racing.
After another discussion with Clive Hodgkin, Andrew was attracted by the close racing offered in Class E (pre Twin Spark Cup) and decided move to a 147 and with this he would race for the next four years, notching up some good results although his only podium was in 2011 with a 3rd at Cadwell. Nonetheless, he would be 5th in the class at the end of 2010 with best 4th place results at Cadwell Park and Anglesey. Andrew’s final season with the 147 was in 2012 with three 5th places to his credit at Cadwell, Oulton and Donington. In many ways that might have been a disappointment, but the opposition was extremely strong in a class won that year by Neil Smith’s 147 from the 156 of James Ford.
Andrew is the kind of driver we need in the Championship – not necessarily to race all the time but to swell the grid and race strongly when they do appear. As we head into a new season, we hope that the Championship will prove attractive in the face of a constantly growing number of new series being pushed by the organising clubs to generate more income.
What did you do during Lockdown?
Echoing the postwar question – “what did you do in the war Daddy?” – there might be many who look at how they spent time at home during Lockdowns 1 and 2. Reading books that haven’t been opened for many years was an obvious choice and I derived great pleasure going back to the four books written by Prince Chula about the early racing career of his cousin Bira – “Wheels at Speed”, “Road Racing 1936”, “Road Star Hat Trick” and “Blue and Yellow”. If you want to get a flavour of the early days of Donington, competing at Brooklands and Crystal Palace, and racing as a talented and high regarded independent in the voiturette category (would be formula 2 today) on the Continent in the second half of the thirties then these books give a fantastic flavour of the time. I also took time to re-read Tony Rudd’s “It was Fun” telling of his life at Rolls Royce, BRM and Lotus which I think I enjoyed more second time around as it is very detailed in an engineering sense with a lot to absorb.
However, I thought it would also be worthwhile to take another look at the tapes and DVDs in a series called “Motorfilms Quarterly”, edited by that great motor sport historian Doug Nye, in association with David Weguelin. One of the first I took out of the shelves was issue no.17 which included a privately made 30 minute film of the 1951 British Grand Prix to which Alfa brought four of their all conquering (up to then!) 158s to be driven by Fangio, Farina, Sanesi and Bonetto who all appear in vivid close-ups. It would also mark the only real Grand Prix outing for the BRM V16s. Most of the film is shot in the Silverstone paddock and therefore gives a fantastic view of what Grand Prix racing was like at the time and how incredibly relaxed it all was. The colour and quality of the film is superb and, of course, it recorded the first time that the 158 was beaten by Ferrari, the winner on this occasion being Froilan Gonzalez. Also on the DVD is a tribute to commentator Raymond Baxter, his easily recognised voice following the fortunes of the Rootes Group Sunbeam Tigers and Hillman Imps on the 1965 Monte Carlo Rally, with much snow and some excellent on-board footage. If you ever find this DVD for sale somewhere, grab it!
Before long I am also going to return to a 10 volume (tape) collection under the title “A Gentleman’s Motor Racing Diary”. This features the travels of John Tate, father of ex Alfa racer Chris from 1953 until the middle of the 70s and covers much club racing in the UK, multiple forays abroad and events such as the London to Brighton veteran car run. The collection was given to me by Clive and Christine Hodgkin after a particularly successful Alfa Championship season and is always much appreciated when I have the chance to settle down to an hour or so’s motorsport indulgence.
Have you ever fancied a bit of hillclimbing? Back in the days before the Alfa Championship – so that is pre 1982 – visits to Prescott, Shelsley Walsh or Harewood were a regular part of an Alfa competitor’s programme (our picture courtesy of Motor Racing Photographers, Towcester) shows Nigel Rosser coming through the farmyard at Harewood in 1974 in his 1750 engined Giulia Super. The Alfa entry that day was inevitably dominated by 105 series cars but did also include a Montreal!
Next year the Bugatti Owners Club, who own the venue which first opened in 1938, are organising a Prescott Italia event. We are not sure exactly what the format will be and whether the runs up the hill will be competitive, in classes, but we do have the date which is Sunday, May 30th. When we have more details, we will let you know.
What some people do to their Alfas!
There are many Alfa models that have exercised their owners’ ingenuity In turning them into something for which they were not originally intended! Here are a few examples:
For those who never miss an event at Goodwood – either by being there or watching on the circuit’s superb live streaming, here are their 2021 dates:
|15th/16th May||78th Members Meeting (moved from original April|
|8th to 11th July||Festival of Speed|
|17th to 19th September||Revival Meeting|
As I am in the process of thinning out some of my photographs that do not relate to racing, I recently sent a collection of Alfasud and Alfasud Sprint pictures to add to the AROC Alfasud Register archive being run by Ian Brookfield and Gary Walker. While doing that, I found a picture that I think illustrates a very rare use for a Sud – as a taxi! The picture was taken outside Scarborough station in the summer of 1976.
We hope to bring you another “Friday Fix” before the Christmas break. This morning’s snow (!) will keep me indoors to get started……………
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