How good it was to get back to some racing again and to see old friends at Silverstone three weeks ago.
Hopefully, it will be the last meeting where spectators are not allowed and that if you take a walk away from the paddock, as I did to Becketts, you will encounter more than one solitary other person apart from the marshals. Having said that, it was worth the effort and an excellent spectacle – very close and, on occasions enough to cause an intake of breath – but never looking as though we were going to have to kind of door banging that we used to experience several years ago. In fact I had to express my admiration for the driving standards as a whole! And none of the racing was totally predictable, particularly in race 2. Did we expect George Osborne to lead through Copse of lap 1 or Richard Ford to emerge as the eventual Twin Spark winner, making double joy for the Ford family? Another highlight was to see Gareth Haywood back for the first time since 2012, driving the ex Graham Seager GTV. He is going to be one to watch in 2021. So, roll on Donington.
MORE F1 DISAPPOINTMENT FOR ALFA TEAM
It seems that little is going right for the Orlen sponsored Alfa Romeo team at the moment with several small things turning into major dramas. Practice and qualifying seem to go quite well at both Portimao and Barcelona but a top 10 (Q3) result was not possible at either circuit. However, at this level, there is little to excuse Kimi Raikkonen’s mistake in Portugal when he became distracted by a change he was making to a steering wheel setting and ran into the back of his team-mate Antonio Giovanazzi. Then in Spain, one of a fresh set of tyres that was about to be fitted to Antonio’s car was found to have a puncture and as you cannot (under the rules) just fit one tyre – it has to be all four (!) – the pit stop took 35” instead of the more normal 2,9”. Actually, in Spain Kimi used a one stop strategy and got himself up to 5th place before the necessary stop dropped him back. Where a safety car would have left him is anyone’s guess but it could have won a whole load of points. It was good to see Alfa making use of their reserve drivers, Callum Illott getting a run in Portugal and Robert Kubica in Spain.
Giovanazzi’s 12th place finish in Portugal and then a repeat for Raikkonen in Spain was disappointing as the C41 seems so much better than it predecessor in many ways. Now it is on to Monaco in the hope that the car will be suited to special characteristics of the Monegasque circuit.
164s IN THE CHAMPIONSHIP
Seeing the photograph of Ron Davidson’s 164 in the For Sale section of the website sent me looking for the Championship history of the model between its first appearance in Ron’s hands in 1991 and the most recent outing at Festival Italia 2020 with Daniel Wood at the wheel. Unlike so many other models, the 164 was not immediately considered as a potential race car but fortunately for us, Mike Buckler and Ron Davidson took a different view and Mike, in particular, was always looking for a car that would stand out from the crowd. It certainly did that!
The first appearance of Mike and Ron’s project was at Oulton Park for round 1 of the 1991 Championship and in the AROC magazine I wrote “Arousing much interest in Class D was the 164 of Ron Davidson and remembering the squealing understeering cars of the 164 Celebrity Challenge, it was going to be interesting to see how it would go with a little thoughtful work”. Competition in the class was strong, with Clive Hodgkin (75 Twin Spark) and Will Winterson (33 1.7) locking horns in their big class rivalry year. For Ron this was a hard duo to beat and on this occasion “out in the country, he braked at the wrong point before the Island circuit hairpin, lost control and swiped the tyre barrier hard. Thinking that the car was not too badly damaged, he continued but from the pits we could see what he obviously couldn’t from the driver’s seat!”. However, he did finish, notching up championship points in the process. Not the debut that Mike Buckler had hope for though and it was not until round 4 at Cadwell Park that the car reappeared. With the GTV6s of Richard Harman and Chris Gladwin joining the fray, it only got harder for the still underdeveloped 164. Nonetheless, with good races at Knockhill and Mallory Park, Ron would end up 5th in class at the end of the season, improving to 4th the following year with fine class race wins at Snetterton and Brands Hatch.
1993 saw Ron run a full season and with wins at Pembrey and Snetterton (twice) to his name he ended the year 2nd in class, only beaten by the Alfasud Sprint of Keith Fawdington and leading the other V6 engined cars home. He missed Castle Combe, leaving Mike Buckler to score an excellent class win, beating Keith in the process. For most of the season, though, Mike was into another of his “off the wall” experiments with a diesel engined 164, running in Class E against all the usual Alfettas and Giuliettas. Cadwell and Pembrey brought two 4th places, equalled in a guest drive at Castle Combe by TV commentator, Ben Edwards. I remember driving the diesel in an AROC practice day at Mallory Park and having to get used to the very early up-changes because of the excellent torque characteristics of the diesel engine.
For the 1994 season, Ron was joined by another 164 in the hands of Jane Cheffings who, up until then, had been cutting her racing teeth with an Alfasud 5M. In her grey and green car (Ron’s was now painted orange) it didn’t take Jane long to get to grips with a much larger car and more power . From the results point of view, though, it was a less good year for the 164s, in the face of the GTV6s of Chris Gladwin and Gavin Watson. Nonetheless, Ron did take a class win at Mallory while Jane notched up a run of 4th places which brought her within 1 point of Ron at the end of the season in the battle for third.
For 1995, Mike Buckler decided on a new project for Ron Davidson which was to be a Q4 spec 155. still running in the increasingly popular Class D. But Jane (her 164 now in the colours of sponsor Prospero Motor Insurance) was joined by Class F winning Alfasud and 33 driver Martin Parsons who was to enjoy a very successful season, bringing the 164 its first championship class victory. Throughout the year, it was a constant battle between Martin, Jane and, once again, the GTV6s of Chris Gladwin and Gavin Watson. It was a close run thing at the end, Martin and Gavin ending on the same number of points, victory going to Martin in the end by virtue of Gavin’s dropped scores. Sadly, at Oulton, in the penultimate round Jane crashed her 164 badly, but did return for the Donington final in a GTV6 to cement a well deserved third in class.
Martin Parsons continued to race his 164 with more success in 1996 to win the class for a second time but with commitments elsewhere he raced it less in 1997 before switching to another 164 in 1998, this time with a 24v engine. With sponsorship from Alfa dealer “Citywall”, this proved to be an exceptionally quick race car which he ran in both Class A (modified on slicks) and Class D at various times although not often enough to make a championship challenge. Between 1999 and 2001, most of its appearances were in A, with a best end year result of 6th in 1999. Sadly this car was eventually sold to someone who wanted to do track days and hillclimbing with it. I always thought that if I was going to go racing, that 164 3.0 24v would have been my choice of car.
In 2002, Tony Soper who had been racing in an Alfasud Sprint in both the Alfa Championship and Italian inter-marque, decided that an ex Davidson/Parsons 164 would suit him for a move up the field, into Class A. Fitted with a 3.3 litre engine, 17” wheels, and slicks, this was a car that immediately started to make its mark on the Championship, backed again by Le Mans Motorsport. Having to face the likes of Graham Presley (75 Turbo), Andy Page (Giulietta Turbo, Julian Birley (75 V6 and 1.8 Turbo) not to mention Roberto Giordanelli’s GTAm replica was not an immediate recipe for success but Tony regularly impressed with his speed in the 164. Consistency was his target on the way to a final 3rd in class but he also took a couple of overall podiums at Oulton and Croix-en-Ternois. Then, at the end of the season, Chris Snowdon shared the 164 with him to take a fine second place in the rain-hit Kevin Griffiths Trophy mini-endure at Brands behind the Julian Birley/Ian Flux 75 3.5 24v. Interestingly, Martin Parsons and Ron Davidson were sharing Ron’s Production GTV, finishing 4th.
We didn’t see a 164 in the Championship in 2003 but, for the following year, Ian Brookfield bought Tony’s yellow modified car and enjoyed an excellent season with it, running in Class A. There were quicker cars in the class such as Paul Buckley’s 75 2.0 Turbo, Andy Page’s Giulietta and the 2.0 Turbo of Nick Humphrey but again it was consistency that brought the regular big points finishes that took Ian to an end-year 2nd in class behind the equally consistent Paul Buckley. On the way, Ian took several third place finishes, plus a win at Mallory and second at Snetterton. He ran the car again on occasions in 2005 with a best finish of 2nd at Anglesey.
Entries were spasmodic from then on although it was always good to see the 164 on the rare occasions that it did appear, a 5th place for Ian at Silverstone in 2008 being one of its best results However, there was one outstanding occasion that sticks in the memory when Ian entered the car for Matt Daly at a Silverstone International circuit double header in 2013 as Matt’s 145 was out of action after an accident at Thruxton. Saturday afternoon qualifying was held on a circuit drying from an earlier heavy shower. In my report later I wrote “Very impressive throughout the session was Matt Daly, enjoying the grip offered by the big slicks on the 164 although afterwards he reckoned that he needed stronger arm muscles”. Both races were on the Sunday, the track was damp as race 1 got underway. Initially Matt was running 5th but then spun at Vale “and girated on the grass facing the pit entry, after which he gave himself an impromptu drive-through, making spinning signs to his team as he passed by!”. After being delayed by a number of class E cars, the 164 would eventually finish 9th. The weather had deteriorated by the time the cars came to the grid for Race 2 but Matt Daly was to have an excellent run to third place overall (!) behind Ian Stapleton’s GTV6 and the Fiat Punto Abarth of Alastair Kellett. Ian kept the car until 2017 when he sold it to Daniel Wood who has raced it at a couple of meetings since and gone well, but it would ne nice to see it more often.
However, this is not the end of the 164 story in the Championship. After over ten years racing a GTV, Ron Davidson had always wanted to get back to an example of the earlier car. In 2015 his wish came true with a Bianco prepared 164 and he was able to enjoy several enjoyable races with it during the next three seasons. In 2017 he would finish 2nd in the Power Trophy class and I particularly remember a race at Donington at the end of the season when the 164 took a fine 5th overall and 2nd in class, Ron finishing second in the class points table behind Paul Webster’s 156 3.2. At this point, a decision was made to fit a 24v engine but sadly the result didn’t live up to Ron’s hopes for it and the car is the one now for sale. Personally I hope that somebody buys it and races it in the Championship. It would be a waste otherwise.
I was sad to get a phone call a couple of days ago from Colin Barnett to say that John Monk had died following a major heart attack back in April. John served as our Eligibility Scrutineer between 2000 and 2012, having taken over the role from Colin. We also saw him later when we visited Brands Hatch where he became Chief Scrutineer for meetings such as “Festival Italia” and it was there that we met for the last time In August. We send our condolences to his wife Rita and members of the family.
Our photographs show John (left) and Colin just after an end of season eligibility check on Dave Ashford’s 33 at the end of 1999 as a result of which Dave received his championship winner’s “bubbly”. John was also a regular visitor to our motorhome for a cup of coffee with Diana.
MORE PICTURES FROM THE 2009 SEASON
Talking to people at Silverstone, it became clear that many were not aware that you could enlarge the smaller pictures on the website to full screen, with captions, by clicking on to each image individually.
CLASSIC ALFA CHALLENGE DATE ERROR
If you received a card the other day from HRDC giving their dates for 2021, there is an error. Brands Hatch is shown as July 15th. It should, of course, be AUGUST 15th as they are joining us for Festival Italia, a gathering to which we much looking forward. In the meantime, the series kicks off at Thruxton on June 13th.
ROMEO FERRARIS GO FOR EXPERIENCE
Following the signing of Stefano Coletti as one of its drivers for the new electric touring car championship, Romeo Ferraris have again gone for experience for the second Giulia. 35 year old Luca Filippi, who raced successfully for Team Mulsanne in the World Touring Car Championship during 2020, has re-joined the team for 2021 but he comes with many years of racing behind him in single seaters, GT and Touring cars. Like so many, he started in Karts and was then Italian Formula 3000 Champion in 2005 before becoming Honda F1 test driver in 2007/08. More recently he had a short spell in Indycar, including one podium and in 2019 raced a Hyundai in TCR Europe. It seems that each team has to run four cars in ETCR, so watch out for more driver announcements.
Mike Buckler was always coming up with something “different” – this was perhaps one of his oddest ideas, running a Ford Transit van at an AROC Goodwood Practice Day, seen here chasing a 75 through the chicane.
A review of the classes in 2010 will follow in due course, as will part 3 of our look at Women competitors in the Championship.
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