In two weeks time, Formula One will burst into life again with the first of two pre-season tests at Barcelona.

Exactly what surprises await us there remains to be seen with everyone keeping as much of their plans under wraps as they can. Even then, the final design of the cars may change significantly before they arrive for the second tests in Bahrain. There will certainly be paintwork that will not give us the final look and the internet is full of “teasers”, Whether Sauber/Alfa C42 will turn up with something to keep us guessing remains to be seen. What we can say is that the final Alfa design will incorporate new sponsors which, hopefully, have been brought by their new Chinese driver, allowing them to get nearer to the price cap in their 2022 spending. In time for FF118 we shall undoubtedly know more.

ALFA ROMEO “TONALE

I have to say that I am looking forward to seeing Alfa’s new “Tonale” smaller SUV in the metal. I am not going to give a technical run-down here but for anyone who is interested I would direct you to the AROC website. It is all there in considerable detail. Release date in Italy was supposed by 8th February but whether that actually happened I am not quite sure – things tend to be a little fluid these days.

STELLANTIS COMPETITION FULL HOUSE

With Alfa Romeo already in Formula 1 and Maserati joining Formula E in 2023, there is one area of international competition in which the Stellantis group is missing – the World Rally Championship. With the appearance of boss Carlo Tavares in a Lancia Stratos in the historic section this year’s Monte Carlo Rally, there are now wild rumours circulating in Italy that this will herald a return of Lancia to the world rallying scene. Now wouldn’t that be wonderful! It seems that Tavares was an enthusiastic competitor in French and Portuguese national rallies between 1983 and 1993, mainly in a variety of Renaults.

A LOOK AT THE 145 IN THE ALFA CHAMPIONSHIP

There are times when you look at new car and think that no-way will it make its mark as a racer, let alone a championship winner. I am sure that there were many for whom the 145 fell into that category, whereas the 146 which entered production around the same time would, because it looked more aerodynamic, be a better proposition. As it turned out, both would succeed over time although in the Alfa Championship, it was the 146, as driven by Graham Heels, that would take the overall title first in 2003. The initial 145 had in the Championship had appeared in 2002, prepared by Gus Lambrou at Alfatune for Phil Donaghy. It was in 1.8 form for Class F and did little that year although apart from Phil, it was also driven on one occasion by ex Formula Ford and saloon car racer Ashley Ward at Brands Hatch.                                                                       

2003 found Phil’s car fitted with a 2 litre engine for Class E where it would come up against the 146 and the much more popular 156. Phil entered for the Silverstone round and qualified an excellent 3rd in class but got no further than lap 1 before he was eliminated after an incident with Jeff Kite’s 75. However, everything went much better during a visit to Knockhill and his persistence was rewarded with two second places, both behind Graham Heels and the 146 but ahead of Paul Bessant’s rapid 75.

The next two season’s saw Phil with a very limited season but 2004 did produce an excellent runner-up spot to Chris Finch (156) at Oulton Park while the following year he enjoyed a 3rd place finish there behind Chris and Graham Heels. But it was 2006 when things started to get into gear – more races,  with wins at Oulton, Silverstone, Donington and Mallory. Had Phil managed a full season, he might have been able to challenge Alfatune team mate, the ever consistent  Andy Woodall (146), for the class title. As it was he finished ahead of triple class winner Philip Ellwood (156).

Interest in the 145 was definitely on the increase for 2007 when four 145s made appearances for Phil Donaghy, Keith Williams and Will Inglis (Avon Racing), and briefly David Hughes. Phil Donaghy was on fine form with his example and took five class E wins to leave himself on the cusp of winning the overall championship title. An end season referral to the Stewards after a protest from Neil Smith was rejected and Phil was declared a well deserved winner. The other outstanding 145 driver that year was Keith Williams who managed to take excellent wins at Oulton Park and a wet Pembrey.

The number of 145s in the Championship doubled for 2008 with the addition of Martin Jones (moving from a class F 33) Richard Salt (another previous Class F 33 competitor) Phil Snelling (with his favourite race number 94) and Chris Snowdon (in a car owned by John Norrington). Phil Donaghy wore his number 1 as champion from the previous year little but did gain a 3rd in class at Silverstone. Martin Jones had an amazing year, starting and finishing all 15 races, a tribute to Bianco’s preparation skills, with a best result of 3rd at Snetterton. The only disappointment was that he didn’t manage a class win and would end 4th in class at the end of the year. Keith Williams crashed his car at Cadwell but thereafter managed a best of 2nd in class at Rockingham. Surprise of the year was probably Will Inglis who took a class win at a wet Castle Combe and then a 2nd place on Anglesey while Richard Salt was a splendid 2nd at Donington. Phil Snelling only managed four races in his very smart red 145 with a best of 2nd and 3rd at his home Cadwell circuit. Chris Snowdon was only seen at Cadwell where a technical infringement ruled him out of the results.

Only four 145s took part in 2009 – Martin Jones, Keith Williams, Chris Snowdon and Graham Hall, the latter having bought Phil Snelling’s car. Chris Snowdon’s gained the model’s best results with 2nd places in an incident packed Snetterton and more straightforward Castle Combe after which the car was not seen again. Martin Jones decided on a more limited campaign but was an excellent 3rd at Snetterton and Rockingham. Keith Williams showed that he and the 145 were still a very competitive Class E combination and would end 4th in a class now dominated by 156s at the end of the year, with a 2nd place at Donington to add to his podiums. Graham Hall raced at Oulton and Silverstone with a best of 6th at Cadwell.  Neither Martin Jones or Keith Williams raced a frequently in 2010 but Anglesey brought a best of 3rd in the year for Martin and a second place for Keith, Andy Inman and Ray Foley dominating proceedings with their 156s. Right at the end of the year a new name appeared at Silverstone – Mick Donaghue confusingly racing the car owned by Phil Donaghy! 

2011 saw Martin Jones still enjoying himself in the yellow 145, taking a 4th place at Pembrey while Mick Donaghue did another race, this time into 6th place at Brands. Richard Salt returned at Oulton but had one of the most dramatic incidents we have seen in the Championship when he took off his sump in a off course excursion and had a flash fire which, fortunately, the marshals were able to deal with promptly.

Happily, the story of the 145 was far from over and we now came to a period when there was some young talent joining Martin Jones in the shape of Tom Eastwood, Matt Daly and Dave Peddie. Tom was particularly busy in 2012 when he compete in 9 of the nine of the 14 races in his smart orange example. His best results were 4th places at Snetterton and Castle Combe, leaving him 8th in a class that numbered 21 by the end of the season. The competition was extremely strong, led by Neil Smith’s 147 and the 156 of James Ford. Dave Peddie, blue 145 was ever present with a 5th place best at Castle Combe while Martin Jones raced more in the first half of the season, scoring a 4th at Oulton Park.

2013 – enter Matt Daly! Matt had been showing his talent with a 33 and even a 164 but his speed at the wheel of the 145 was a further confirmation and after a 2nd and 3rd at Cadwell, he would take a first win with the 145 at Thruxton. It should have been a double but a tyre failure at the end of race 2 put him off the track at the chicane when a win was in his grasp. That important first win had also come to Tom Eastwood earlier in the year on the Silverstone National circuit when he beat James Ford’s 156 in the wet. He would notch up other good results to finish the year 3rd in class, only beaten by James and Dave Messenger (156). Dave Peddie was also in action, with a 2nd at Donington to his name while Will Inglis also returned with a 4th at Thruxton in race 1 before crashing in race 2. The following year, Kristian Leith took over Dave Peddie’s 145 and managed thirteen races, missing only Snetterton. As he travelled all the way from Northern Scotland, this in itself was quite an achievement. Tom Eastwood continued to race regularly, with a best of 4th at Silverstone where he always seemed to go well. Sadly, this was to see the end of his racing involvement and he sold the 145 to Mark Hope who never really settled in to racing it.

If you have time to watch Class E racing at its best, take a look at the footage of the Championship races at Donington in 2015. For Matt Daly and his 145 it was a brilliant weekend – third in qualifying, second in race 1 and then a great win in race 2, taking the Kevin Griffiths Trophy in the process.

Although he did race the 145 again in 2017, he had to wait another two years before, having received some sponsorship from his company, he was able to race at three Championship meetings in the second half of 2019. This brought him a hard fought win and a 2nd at Brands Hatch and third places at Silverstone International, chasing Andrew Bourke’s 156, and another third at Donington.

Other 145s to appear as we near the end of the story were those of the enthusiastic Richard Stevens (in 2016 and 2017)and one built up by Roger Evans to keep him busy (if he needed it!) which he also shared at Silverstone in 2019 with Matt Abell.  Sadly this was not a trouble-free car but it did run strongly at Mallory Park in 2017.                                                                   

Over a period of twenty years, the 145 has certainly made its mark despite the number of cars taking part nowhere matching the 156 and it was good enough to take class wins,  and also the overall championship in 2007. It is to be hoped that there will be more races including the 145 still to come – we shall just have to wait and see!

Before that though we should pay tribute to those who have kept 145s running – notably Gus Lambrou (Alfatune), Avon Racing, Paul Plant and co at Bianco, Ian Brookfield and Gary Orchard, and latterly Roger Evans

MORE LIGHT PANELS IN 2022

An agreement between Motorsport UK and the British Motorsport Training Trust will see more hi-tech incident warning light panels installed at UK circuits. So far these have only been seen at Silverstone, Brands Hatch and Donington but in the coming year will appear at further MSV circuits, Snetterton and Oulton Park, Thruxton and Croft operated by the BARC, plus Knockhill. They will not replace flag marshals but will operate as an addition safety measure with quicker activation from Race Control and this should be particularly helpful in red flag situations.

CONGRATULATIONS

Our best wishes go to Bryony Snowdon and historic Jaguar saloon racer Grant Williams who got married last Tuesday. Talking to Bryony at Lydden last year she told me that she still had the 145 that Chris had raced briefly in 2009 and was busy persuading Grant to rebuild it so that she could race again. Chris tells me that is now running (if not up and!) so how about an entry for Festival Italia?

POSTSCRIPT

I have plenty of Alfa adverts from years gone by in my files, but there was one that caught my eye recently – I don’t think it would be acceptable today!!

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