The 2022 Hitek Alfa Championship eventually came to life on the Silverstone National Circuit at the end of April and as usual produced some excellent racing which Andy Robinson has already reported on in full for the website.
It gave us hopes for a busy season ahead although it all seems rather spread out both in terms of dates and venues. The weekend after next we go to Croft in North Yorkshire and despite the distances involved it would be nice to think that the Championship has enough support to generate a good grid for the two day event. Meanwhile, the HRDC Classic Alfa Challenge kicked off last Sunday at Mallory Park and saw some of the best Alfa racing we’ve seen for a while with Chris Snowdon and Ambrogio Perfetti fighting it out inches apart during some 40 minutes action, reported on below. Formula 1 returned to action with a brand new circuit close to in Miami and although it was not without controversy, the general opinion was that it should, with a few tweaks, remain on the calendar, making a third US date with Austin and Las Vegas coming up later in the year. At the other end of the scale, the Romeo Ferraris team have once again selected the Electric World Touring Car Championship for the efforts in 2022, starting off a couple of weeks ago on the fabulous and historic Pau street circuit in Southern France but without luck in an event dominate by Cupra.
THE HRDC CLASSIC ALFA SERIES GETS UNDERWAY AT MALLORY
If you wanted to see some super-close Alfa racing last weekend, Mallory Park was the place to be when Julius Thurgood’s Classic Alfa Challenge made its 2022 debut. Rather than a single 30 minute race, Julius had decided on two 20 minute races with the combined times deciding the final result. This provided an enthralling 40 minutes with Chris Snowdon (Alfetta GTV) virtually tied to the 105 series 2000 GTV of Ambrogio Perfetti throughout – nose to tail, side by side, the result was always in doubt. Multi class racing has given Chris a well honed ability in traffic but even so, he had to wait until the final lap to line up Ambrogio going into the Esses for that essential pass that took him across the line just 0.288” ahead. Jonny Horsfield had been able to keep the leaders in sight to begin with in his Alex Jupe prepared Alfetta but drifted away to finish some 41” adrift at the flag although he was winner of the “Nord” class. It was good to see Peter Smart in 6th place with a Giulia Ti, winning the “Monza” class ahead of the always impressive Gavin Watson (Giulietta Ti 1600). Sadly a gearbox problem ruled Peter out of race 2.
The second 20 minute race was almost a repeat of the first, except that this time Chris Snowdon couldn’t find a way past Perfetti, however hard he tried. Traffic again played a major role and maybe on a longer circuit he could have had more opportunities to pass. As it was, the gap at the flag was a mere 0.885”. Jonny Horsfield was much more competitive this time, finishing only 15” behind Chris to win the “Nord” class while highest placed “Monza” this time was John Wagstaff’s 2000 GTV. A delighted “Monza” winner was Gavin Watson. Eagerly awaited was confirmation of the combined result which gave a happy Ambrogio Perfetti the anticipated win, the final gap being 0.6” – try judging that by eye!! Jonny Horsfield took the third podium spot and a win in the “Nord” class with his ever improving son Frank (Giulietta 116) an excellent 6th overall. Gavin Watson continued to “punch above his weight” as Chris Snowdon put it, ending up 8th just 5” behind Richard Ibrahim’s Alfasud Sprint.
In passing, it was interesting to note that 10 of the 17 entries had, at one time or another raced in the Alfa Championship. Start years are shown in brackets – Chris Snowdon (1993), Jonny Horsfield (1988), Richard Ibrahim (2004), Gavin Watson (1994), Geoff Turral (2021), John Symes (1988), Peter Smart ((1997), Max Haycocks (1995) and Richard Drake (1984).
VALTTERI BOTTAS MAKES HIS MARK.
Ex Sauber driver and Swiss TV pundit Marc Surer reckons that the arrival of Valtteri Bottas at the Alfa Romeo team is the best thing that could have happened. The retirement of a tired Kimi Raikkonen and the replacement of Antonio Giovanazzi was long overdue and there has been a noticeable boost to morale. Bottas himself is a much happier person without the pressures of Mercedes and at the Emiglia Romana Grand Prix he must have chuckled to finish right on the tail of George Russell in 5th place and to see erstwhile team mate Lewis Hamilton down in 12th. In Miami, had it not been for worsening tyre graining and a mistake right at end which let both Mercedes past, he might have repeated the 5th place finish. As it was he was still 7th at the flag and is currently 8th in the driver standings as we approach the Spanish GP this weekend. Zhou Guanyu had to retire in Miami and is still very much learning his trade.
SIMON DIFFEY (1964 – 2022)
It was a shock to hear of the death of Simon Diffey in a collision near his home between his vintage Bugatti T13 and an on-call ambulance. He was just 57. Simon and his late brother James were well known in Alfa circles and in 2001 they shared a GTV6 to win one of our mini enduros at Brands Hatch. He also took a third place in the modified class at the same meeting. Thereafter, he became a prominent competitor in historic events in a Connaught and then, more recently with a Maserati 250F, his odd elbows in the air driving style being remarked on by many commentators, particularly at the Goodwood Revival. He was a great Lotus enthusiast and shared a couple of Lotus 20s with his son George. In his business life, Simon was a printer, based in Luton, and I often took advantage of his skills to produce classy headed paper for AROC and Alfa Romeo Dealer Team and various other short run items. His personality and sense of humour was legendary and that is reflected in the social media response to the news of his death. He will be sorely missed and our condolences go to his wife Sarah who was at the Monaco Historique when the accident occurred.
MODERN GTA ANNIVERSARY
Dave Messenger reported on a great day he had enjoyed at Bicester Heritage when he joined the AROC’s 20th Anniversary celebration of the modern 156/147 GTA. The GTA road cars got to drive on the test circuit and at the end of the day Dave was able to carry out some demonstration laps in the race car that went down well! Mike Stark (white hillclimb 156) expressed an interested in coming to one of our race meetings and, of course, Bicester Heritage has lots of other car related restoration/industry around the site which is ever expanding.
A LOOK BACK AT THE ALFA CHAMPIONSHIP CLASSES IN 2013.
Every racing season has its own character, stand-out moments and peculiarities, and for the BRSCC Alfashop Alfa Romeo Championship in 2013 was no different. You can look through the archives and find many years when the outright wins were almost predictable before the season even started but this time it was refreshingly different. In the 14 races we had no fewer than 7 different overall winners and 18 names appeared on the podium. The classes offered similar variety. The season had started modestly at Rockingham with an overall win for Chris Snowdon in the class A2 Lahoma 33 16v. Anthony George then took both races at the Silverstone double-header in May. Neil Smith (156) had his only 2013 race win at Oulton, Bryan Shrubb (A2 33 16v) doubled up at Cadwell and Anthony returned to the top step twice at Snetterton. Adie Hawkins came back to winning ways with his invitation class 33 at Thruxton while Roger Evans took advantage of the absence of Modified cars to take victory with his 147 GTA at Brands. And to finish the season we had Ian Stapleton on a three race streak with his sinister black GTV6 at Donington and Silverstone International.
As far as the outcome of the Championship is concerned, this was more predictable with Roger Evans again dominant in Class C with 10 wins to his name although had it been wet more often, we could have seen Graham Seager getting his GTV to the flag first to make Roger’s task more difficult,
Class E, of course, provided the largest chunk of the grid and although James Ford was able to take a well deserved first championship class win, he did have to face some strong competition along the way which made his success even more notable. He was able to keep Roger Evans on his toes at the top of the points table throughout the year and 2nd overall was a fine effort. Moving up from 4th in 2012.
Looking at the classes individually:
CLASSES A1 & A2: For most of the year, the entry in both modified classes was smaller than we had hoped and it took the final races of the year to bring it all to life. We were delighted to see Anthony George at last getting some reliability from his 156 Turbo and it is a testament to Darren Snelling and the Damico team who have persevered through thick and thin that his reward was a class A1 Championship. Barry McMahon tried to develop a unique Giulietta engine 156 but more often than not had to revert to his old friend the 3 litre GTV and it was with this that his best races came, including a memorable fight with Guy Hale (147 GTA) at Oulton, only decided on the line. Finally, he enjoyed a very feisty race at the end of season Silverstone. All this was enough to gain him 2nd place in A1, with Chris Oxborough 3rd, just getting enough points in the year to hold off Ian Stapleton who only raced on three occasions. Roger Evans made us remember his modified credentials with a pole position at Silverstone in his rejuvenated GTV and he was hoping for good things from Andy Robinson’s 3.8 litre 156 after 2nd and 3rd places at Silverstone but an accident at Cadwell unfortunately curtailed Andy’s season.
In A2, Chris Snowdon, Bryan Shrubb and Nick Anderson plus the not eligible for points Adie Hawkins showed there was till life in the 33 year, taking five wins between them but in the end it was Bryan Shrubb who took A2, largely due to his already mentioned wins at Cadwell and a strong drive in the first race at Silverstone in October.
Class A1 Results:
1. Anthony George – 156 Turbo – 121pts
2. Barry McMahon – GTV 3.0 – 103pts
3. Chris Oxborough – 75 3.0 V6 – 72pts
Class A2 Results:
1 . Bryan Shrubb – 33 16v – 102pts
2. Chris Snowdon – 33 2.0 16v – 75pts
3. Nick Anderson – 33 8v – 54pts
CLASS B: In a class that allowed a wide variety of models and specifications, without having to go overboard on bodywork lightening, Darelle Wilson (now to be found in TCR) was the dominant driver in Class B all year with his Proalfa prepared GT Diesel. Not that his season was without problems with loose turbo pipes and a hard accident at Cadwell. This allowed John Griffiths, Robin Eyre-Maunsell and Clive Hodgkin to take class wins, to finish the season in that order in the points table. It is surprising , given Darelle’s speed that there are not more diesels racing – in fact it was only the fourth to appear in the 32 years of the Championship. But then perhaps a trail of black smoke some was something of a put-off!! Tom Andrew with his 147 Diesel only raced at Cadwell before disappearing.
Class B Results:
1. Darelle Wilson – GT Diesel – 189pts
2. John Griffiths – 156 2.0 – 113pts
3. Robin Eyre-Maunsell – 75 3.0 V6 – 111pts
CLASS C: As I have already said, it looked pretty certain that Roger Evans would dominate Class C but we were all surprised when a great move by Graham Seager at Silverstone’s Copse corner in May, on a damp track, demoted Roger to second. Graham was then able to repeat the pass at Donington. Still, you can’t argue with 10 wins and two seconds which took Roger to back- to- back class and overall championships. Graham Seager and Ray Foley enjoyed some good scraps but it was Graham who eventually took the runner-up spot ahead of Ray.
Class C Results:
1. Roger Evans – 147 GTA – 239pts
2. Graham Seager – GTV 3.0 – 188pts
3. Ray Foley – GTV 3.2 – 168pts
Class D: This class virtually died in 2013 and it was only at Donington that two 33s appeared. David Lambourn took the class win after Tom Herbert had slid off into the gravel.
Class D Results:
1. Dave Lambourn – 33
CLASS E: As was now the norm in the Championship, and remains so with the Twin Spark Cup today, Class E produced the largest part of the entry at most meetings and inevitably most of the best racing. Having lost out to Tom Herbert at Rockingham and to Tom Eastwood in the first race at Silverstone in May, James Ford was into his stride by round 3, leading home Tom and Dave Peddie. Thereafter there was little to stop him, apart from Adie Hawkins (147) at Oulton and a brilliant Matt Daly with his 145 at Thruxton. * class wins and 4 second places would take him to a comfortable class win. No other driver in the class managed more than one victory but each of these was well deserved, apart from those already mentioned, going to Dave Messenger and Jon Billingsley. Interestingly, the 145 had quite a resurgence of form in 2013, taking two really good wins, but the 156 still dominated.
Behind James Ford,the battle for points was intense, so much so that Dave Messenger, Tom Eastwood, Andy Inman and Dave Peddie all arrived at Silverstone in October with a shot at the runner-up spot. In the end, by virtue of two third places, it was Dave Messenger who edged out Tom by just three points. Had he been able to start the season earlier, James Bishop would undoubtedly have been in contention too. Class E was also pleased to welcome the 25th woman driver in our history when Stacey Dennis ran at Silverstone in October and despite the atrocious conditions performed admirably. We look forward to seeing her back in 2014.
Class E Results:
1. James Ford – 156 2.0 – 226pts
2. Dave Messenger – 156 2.0 – 136pts
3. Tom Eastwood – 145 2.0 – 131pts
INVITATION CLASS: Although this is was not strictly part of the championship and drivers did not score points, it often provided us with some great entertainment. Most of the time it was populated by Irish championship Fiat Punto Abarths and on two occasions during the year we actually saw one in the race lead, with Fraser O’Brien at Thruxton and Alastair Kellett at Silverstone. At Thruxton, Adie Hawkins made a successful appearance in his Radical gearboxed 33, while Neil Smith brought his SuperTurismo 156 to Donington, winning on the road before suffering a 30” penalty.
We also ran two races for Pre ’91 Alfas but unfortunately didn’t get the support we had hoped for, despite the attraction of Cadwell and Donington as the venues. Nonetheless, we were happy ton congratulate race winners Ted Pearson and Ian Stapleton.
Sad news at the end of the year was that Graham Heels had decided to relinquish the position of Championship Co-ordinator after just two years of the three he had originally. This was due to business and family reasons but we reflected on the work he had done to expand the role with more TV and hospitality and an expanded website. The amount of time consumed was a major factor and I was able to appreciate that only too well. Just keeping sponsors happy is a job on its own and in 2013 we were thankful to longtime title sponsors, Alfashop, Toyo (for control tyres) and Tyres South Shore, LMA, and MMC Motorsport Insurance, through Andy Hancock, and to the BRSCC at its HQ and the various centres that run the actual race meetings around the country.
We looked forward to seeing what 2014 would bring us.
A jig saw puzzle for Graham Seager and Peak Alfa (as it was in 2013) to sort out.