Tomorrow, January 16th 2021, marks another major milestone in the long and tortuous history of Alfa Romeo. As part of the Fiat Chrysler Automobile group, it will be formally merged with Peugeot S.A under a new umbrella name – Stellantis – joining several leading manufacturers together and pooling resources on a global scale. On the FCA side we have Fiat, Alfa Romeo, Abarth, Chrysler, Dodge, Jeep, Lancia, Ram and Maserati. Peugeot adds Citroen, DS, Opel and Vauxhall plus the mobility services under the “Free2Move” name.

From our point of view, it is the future of the Alfa Romeo brand that is of greatest interest and it is not the first time that changes in the control of the marque have come about, or nearly come about, in its 110 year history. As recently as 1986 Alfa was almost taken over by Ford but a last minute intervention by the Italian government in conjunction with Fiat scuppered that. At the time, the 75 had just been introduced and production of the 33 was in full flow, attracting buyers who could not afford to buy upmarket GT cars but still wanted to be seen driving something with Italian flair. We then went on to the 155 and through to the highly successful 156 period with other Alfas such as the 916 GTV, GT and later Giulietta and Mito offering something to the slightly less indulgent buyer. Now, however, we have seen Alfa switch away to more expensive cars such as the Giulia and Stelvio, while we wonderi whether the Tonale will bridge the gap. There is no longer a small cheaper Alfa Romeo and we are back to the company’s origins when a 6C 1750 or a 2300 might have represented the Alfa norm.  Will there ever be a smaller, cheaper Alfa again? A car that derives from a Peugeot/Vauxhall/Opel design brief but uses Alfa Romeo mechanical elements and badge with the odd bodywork tweak? Somehow, I doubt it.

BRIAN JONES (1935 to 2021)

Very sad news reached us in early January when we heard that our very good friend, commentator Brian Jones had died on New Year’s Day at the age of 85. I first met Brian back in the days of the Dealer Team but there were more occasions when we were establishing the Alfa Championship that we bumped into each other, mostly at Brands Hatch, and I was able to provide him with information that he could use while commentating. One day, I needed to take him news of something or other that meant my going to the Brands commentary box which, in those days, you reached via the timekeeper’s “wing” over the pit road by climbing up a somewhat rickety staircase. When I had delivered my message he said “why don’t you stay and join in” which I did! Thereafter, he was always so encouraging and very pro Alfa. I was Brian’s guest in the commentary box on so many occasions over the years and I always recall the first time he said, as I arrived, “Ah good. There you are,  I can go and have a cup of coffee now while you do the commentary”! From Brian that was a much valued appreciation of my own capabilities and one that I treasured. But actually the best times I enjoyed with Brian was when we both had a headset and could share a race – a kind of conversation that I know from the comments I used to get afterwards, that people appreciated. So many of our competitors also will have joined Brian on the podium for post race interviews and realised how closely he would have observed their successes.

Brian, of course, wasn’t just a commentator. After leaving BP he became a highly successful driver media coach for many drivers, including his own son Tim who raced in Formula Ford. I thought I would also take a look at the website of the Brian Jones Organisation (www.brianjones.net) and was staggered to see the list of all the events, organisations and different sports with which he had been involved. Offshore power boat racing was one of his favourites, as was rowing while he also ventured abroad to Le Mans (with Audi) and Monza for a World Cup Touring Car race and more recently with the BRSCC to Zolder. Apart from being resident commentator at Brands Hatch for 36 years he would also be seen regularly at Silverstone,  where amongst other things he commentated on the 24 Hours race between 2005 and 2010, Snetterton and up at Knockhill. He was a staunch BRSCCC member and for many years would present the club’s awards at their annual dinner with his usual knowledge and good humour.

We send our condolences to Brian’s wife Ros, daughter Charlotte and son Tim and daughter Fay by a previous marriage. We shall miss him greatly. Race meetings at Brands in particular will never be the same.

ALFA CHAMPIONSHIP CLASSES 2005/2006

We are continuing our look at the Championship classes that we started back in September as part of FF100 which covered 2002 to 2005 and followed up with more photographs from those three seasons in December. In this issue, we describe two more seasons, 2005 and 2006. The latter was important as Alfashop became our title sponsor and we introduced Class G, that was to morph into a revised Class E and eventually to the Twin Spark Cup. The first Class G car, prepared by Bianco Auto Developments for Sarah Heels, was on the BRSCC stand at the 2005 Autosport International and by the end of the season we had five committed competitors. For the last two races of 2006 that had more than doubled.                     

In many ways, 2005 was a strange season. The original calendar had been changed several times and we ended up with an unpopular start at Brands Hatch in March, a return to Kent three weeks later, albeit on the GP circuit, with three of the 12 scheduled rounds out of the way by April 3! Entries up to this point had been disappointing and it was until we reached Silverstone in early June that the Championship started to look like its normal robust self.

In Class A (Modified) Andy Page (Giulietta) almost had it to himself, with only Tony Soper (GTV 3.3 24v) for company before Paul Buckley (75 2.0 Turbo) and Ian Stapleton (GTV6 3.8) arrived on the scene. Such was the speed of Ian’s green GTV6 that he took a total of six wins mid year onwards but Andy had enough points in hand to take the class at the end of the season. Keith Waite came out for four rounds in his 75 3 litre and took a class win during our third visit to Brands and then another in a bizarre set of circumstances at Croft. Others seen briefly were Julian Birley (75 24v), Ian Brookfield who had bought Tony Soper’s 164 and John Griffiths with a rare 2.5 V6 156.

Luckily for championship supporters, Andy Page and Class B’s Tim Lewis provided some entertaining races overall at the front, taking 14 of the 15 races between them. Inevitably, then, Tim dominated Class B although his early season was not without problems but he then had a fine mid year run with wins at Silverstone, Snetterton and Brands. Bob Godbold might have challenged him with his 33 16v but then suffered expensive engine problems at Cadwell which left Bryan Shrubb to take two class wins at Cadwell, only missing out on Championship class 2nd by 2 points. Clearly going to be a strong contender in 2006, Adie Hawkins appeared for the final two rounds of the year at Snetterton, taking a class win and a second place. Andy Miller (Sud Ti), Maxim Banks (Giulia Sprint GT) and Mike Watson (33 16v) all made cameo appearances and I particularly remember a fine battle between Max and the Class D GTV 3 litre of Roger Evans at Snetterton.

From the start of the year, it was pretty clear that 2002 champion Anthony George would be a very strong contender once again, dominating the Class C results. Tony Matthews in his Brunswick prepared 33 tried hard but Anthony always had the edge although Tony did take a win mid season at Snetterton. Chris Healey was a welcome addition to the Class C runners and used an Alfasud Sprint, an 8v 33 and then a 16v to clinch third in class ahead of Steven Griffin’s GTV6. Chris Snowdon did a couple of races and took a class win at Donington with John Norrington’s GTV6. The class was full of drivers just doing one or two races, with Paul Legge (33 1.7 16v), John Clonis (33 16v), Nev Simpson (Alfetta GTV), Mark Bevington (33) and John Symes (GT Junior 2.0) all standing on the class podium.

Class D had some of the best turned out and most interesting cars in the Championship. Much of this due to the efforts of the Evans family. Roger had sold his 155 to Graham Seager and was running a GTV 3 litre for himself while brother Kevin had fitted a 3 litre engine into his 155. Roger’s GTV made its debut at Oulton, winning the class from Graham Seager. Thereafter, there were a few new car glitches but eight wins during the season was a fine tally which took him to the championship class win by just 2 points from Graham at the end of the season. Graham had led the class for most of the year but lost vital points at Silverstone with an unnecessary pit stop after an off-road excursion. Nonetheless, to end up ahead of the still competitive 75s of Andrew Bramah and Peter Sloan was a strong achievement.

At the start of the year you probably wouldn’t have put your money on Class E being won by Andy Inman (156). But there are several requirements from winning a title. You have to enter, you have to finish races and occasionally you have to have enough speed to win. In Andy’s case he had all those ticks on his CV. However, it was not until rounds 12 and 13 at Croft and Donington respectively that he actually fulfilled the winning part of the equation. Up until then, it had been mostly all about Chris Finch with another 156 who took 9 wins in all but in the end lost out to Andy by 14 points. Graham Heels would undoubtedly have challenged with his quick 146 but he had decided to run only a limited season after which he would end 5th in class behind Robin Eyre-Maunsell’s 75 and the 155 of John Day. Nick Suiter (146) won at Brands while Clive Hodgkin (75) saw the chequered flag first at Cadwell. 

So what did Class F have to offer? Well, to start with, 25 cars and drivers during the season which kept overall entry levels looking respectable. And as always, there was always something to grab our attention. 2005 was no different although some of it we would have preferred no to see as it involved car damage and some harsh words at times. However, two things were not in doubt. Lee Penn was the fastest driver in the class but didn’t do enough races early on but finally recorded 9 wins from 9 starts. Nik Mantikas, on the other hand, did all the races, won on four occasions and took the Class F title. Paul Lund won twice but left the Championship after his car was badly damaged at Castle Combe in August. The only other winner was Alastair Iles who took a superb victory at Silverstone in round 6, the last for an 8v engine 33 in 2005. James Burland was always a strong contender but lost out to Shaun Hazelwood in the battle for third place in the class when the latter switched to a 16v engine mid year. Alastair Iles ended 4th in the class, just ahead of the ever-improving Mel Healey with her 33 who edged out Martin Jones (33 16v) for 6th. Others to shine at times were Phil Astell and David Hughes while Ian Brookfield appeared in a 33 at the end of the year at Snetterton and took an excellent third place in race 2.

2005

A1.  ANDY PAGE (Giulietta t/ch)2. Ian Stapleton (GTV6 3.3)3. Paul Buckley (75 2.0 t/ch)
B1.  TIM LEWIS (Alfasud Sprint)2. Bob Godbold (33 16v)3. Bryan Shrubb (33 1.8)  
C1.  ANTHONY GEORGE (33 2.0)2.Tony Matthews (33 16v)3. Chris Healey (33/Sprint)
D1.  GRAHAM SEAGER (155 3.0) 2. Roger Evans (GTV 3.0)3. Andrew Bramah (75 3.0)
E1.  ANDY INMAN (156 2.0 TS)2. Chris Finch (156 2.0)3.  R. Eyre-Maunsell (75)
F1. NIK MANTIKAS (33)2. Lee Penn (33 16v)3.  Shaun Hazlewood (33)

Every season experiences ups and downs and 2006 was certainly no different. For one thing, the two grids at every meeting that we had become used to had, by mid season, changed to a single grid situation. This was in part determined by the MSA’s decision to increase permitted grid sizes at most circuits but also by the declining numbers in Class F and also by ever increasing entry fees that were stretching competitos’ budgets. However, the result of all this was that at Donington for round 5 we had the largest single grid for a championship race so far – 38 – which looked impressive. Significant for us was the arrival of a new title sponsor in the shape of Alfashop and also the start of a new class G which was for cars using the 2 litre tranverse 16v engine with a limited set of allowed differences from standard in an attempt to cut costs.

Class A saw the return of Graham Presley after a year off, his BLS prepared 75 Turbo sporting a new and easily recognised multi-colour livery.  Graham enjoyed a very strong season which might have seen him take the class championship with 3 class wins and a raft of good placings had it not been for a couple of retirements at Silverstone and Snetterton. This allowed Andy Page, who had crashed during the first round at Oulton but came back strongly as the season progressed,  to end 14 points clear. Ian Stapleton was well in contention with the continually improving GTV6 but suffered unreliability as the season progressed. Julian Birley had been a winner at Oulton but missed most of the season before taking a second place right at the end at Snetterton behind a surprised Tony Soper (GTV). We only saw Andy Miller once in the ex Ray Mears 33 Turbo which took him to third place at Donington.

In Class B, Tim Lewis had a magnificent season in his Alfasud Sprint, taking 11 overall and 12 class wins but his challenge for the overall title which derives from class successes was not helped by the lack of cars regularly competing in B. Also at Pembury he was defeated by the 33 16v driven superbly by Adie Hawkins. Others such as Bob Godbold (33 16v) and Bryan Shrubb (33 8V) were not seen enough to mount a challenge. Chris Snowdon, now in the Lahoma 33 2.0 16v might have done but did not race enough and suffered reliability problems when he did,  apart from a 2nd place at Cadwell.

It is always good to have a surprise and John Clonis provided that in Class C when he dominated the first part of the year and scored enough points, before not contesting the final five rounds,  to keep Nev Simpson’s Alfetta GTV behind him. Not that Nev had the class all his own way as Neil Smith took wins at Mallory and Brands Hatch with his superbly turned out 156. Steven Griffin (GTV6), with a couple of third places to his name, and Tony Matthews would finish the year 4th and 5th.

Class D had always been popular with spectators, typifying the performance and style of the Alfa Romeo marque. Big cars with plenty of power and exciting to drive. Roger Evans was back in his GTV and would have a magnificent season that would not only win him Class D but almost the championship overall had it not been for a clutch failure at Donington in May which left him a mere 2 points adrift of Tim Lewis. As it was Roger enjoyed 13 class wins in the 14 races. Nobody else could match this but it was pleasing to see his brother Kevin make it an Evans 1-2 from Robin Eyre-Maunsell and Peter Sloan who shared an Avon Racing 75. Not to be left out was Clive Hodgkin who ran in only three races but took a win at Cadwell.

The arrival of the Standard Production class G meant that Class E was in a slightly anomalous position but that didn’t stop some highly entertaining racing and a healthy number of different winners. Andy Woodall (146) did most of the races and racked up sufficient points to win the class despite only winning once. Phil Donaghy ran strongly whenever he appear to win on four occasions, Philip Ellwood took five wins with his 156, Tim Childs (75) once, at Snetterton. However, at Cadwell, Graham Heels showed them all the way on his only appearance with his 146 and Nick Suiter had two 2nd place finishes in a similar car.

In Class F there were many quick drivers who registered but only did a handful of races but all credit to Martin Jones who entered all 13 rounds and finished ten of them to finish 2nd in class. Lee Penn only managed four appearances- and four wins! However, it was Shaun Hazlwood (33) who established himself in a uncatchable position with 6 victories to win the class at the end of year. Mark James showed that he had lost none of his speed and won at Brands and Oulton. Other good individual results were several third places by Alan Hudd, a 2nd by Chris Baker (33) at Oulton and 3rd by Neil Smith (33) at Donington. A driver who did well on occasions was young Christopher Wright who scored a best of 2nd in class at Donington and we were sad not see him return in 2007.

Finally, we had Class G.  With only five cars entered throughout the year, and only three on occasions, it was hard to judge the success or otherwise of this new category. On the other hand, those who took part seemed happy enough and there were certainly other drivers taking note. Andy Inman led the way with 9 wins to take victory but by the end of the year Paul Buckley had established himself as a winner before Phil Donaghy showed his future intentions with a 145. Sarah Heels started and finished in all the races to take an excellent 2nd place in the class.

And so we looked forward to 2007 with much thought given by the Championship Panel on changes that would reduce the number of classes back from seven to five, while retaining promotion of Class G into a new version of Class E. There seemed to be plenty of renewed interest and the promise of more Modified cars than we had seen of late. Couldn’t wait!!

2006

A1. ANDY PAGE (Giulietta t/ch)   2. Graham Presley (75 1.8T)3. Ian Stapleton (GTV6 3.3)        
B1. TIM LEWIS (Alfasud Sprint)2.  Adie Hawkins (33 16v)3. Bob Godbold (33 16v)
C1. JOHN CLONIS (33 16v)2.  Nev Simpson (Alfetta GTV)3.  Neil Smith (156 2.0)
D1. ROGER EVANS (GTV 3.0)      2.  Kevin Evans (155 3.0)3. R.Eyre-Maunsell (75 3.0)  
E1  ANDY WOODALL (146 2.0)2.  Phil Donaghy (145b 2.0)3. Philip Ellwood  (156 2.0)     
F1. SHAUN HAZLEWOOD (33) 2.  Mark James (33 16v)3. Martin Jones (33 16v) 
G1. ANDY INMAN (156 2.0TS)2.  Sarah Heels (156 2.0 TS)3. Paul Buckley (156 2.0TS)

We will do a follow up with some more 2005/06 related pictures before we move on to the next couple of seasons.

POSTSCRIPT

Some people can’t leave their toys behind! Ian Connell’s teddy graces the bonnet of his 1989 class winning Alfetta GTV.

Andy Robinson will undoubtedly be keeping us up to speed with the latest developments regarding motorsport in the UK and Covid 19 but we note that the BTCC has already postponed the opening of its season from Easter to the beginning of May although they are hoping that this will allow them to have spectators again.

Michael Lindsay
Tel: 01223-891219
e-mail:  [email protected]