We wish you a Happy New Year!

2020 looks as though it will be another busy one for the Alfa Championship with several new challenges as we move from the BRSCC to the 750 Motor Club and a revised set of regulations to get used to. The Classic Alfa Challenge also has a strong programme and we are happy that there are no date clashes. We hope that the Alfa Romeo F1 team will have a more consistent year and there is also the exciting news that Romeo Ferraris will be preparing an electric Giulia to race in the new ETCR, albeit at the probable loss of the Giulietta in World TCR.

“Autosport” Magazine celebrates 70 years

Next week sees what is generally recognised as the start of a new season and 2020 is no exception with “Autosport International” running between Thursday, January 9th and Sunday, January 12th at the NEC, celebrating 70 years of magazine production on the way.  Thursday and Friday are Trade Days and for those who still have running BRSCC membership free admission is available by following an internet link that you should have been sent. However, the 750 Motor Club will be our new “home” and can be found on Stand 2280 in Hall 2. Many may not recall that Competition Secretary Giles Groombridge raced in the Alfa Championship very competitively in 2001 and 2002 with a 33, while fellow director Chris Tate was an Alfa competitor on occasions between 1992 and 2002, running a Giulietta and 75 with Avon Racing. Add BRSCC refugee Bernard Cotterell as a clerk of the course and you can see that we have several friends there.

Silverstone starts the year

Our original 2020 calendar has seen one change in that the opening meeting on the Silverstone National circuit will now be over the weekend April 4th/5th. This means that our season will be less compact but, on the other hand, means that we don’t have so long for it to start, so swings and roundabouts. One of the most interesting things in running with the 750 MC will be to see what other race series we shall be running with and the year calendar reveals that at the opening meeting we shall join Classic Stock Hatch, 750 Formula, Clio 182, Formula Vee, Hot Hatch, Locost, the Mazda (can’t get away from those!!) MR2 Championship, Sport Specials and Type R Trophy – quite a selection!

Take a look at the 750 MC website to see all the championships with which they are involved. After Silverstone, the next meeting for us is at Donington in May, where the other races will be much the same as at the opening rounds.

Alfa F1 news

The winter hardly started well for the Alfa Romeo team when their first 2020 chassis was written off during the mandatory crash tests which took place at the CSI facility in Milan. This may delay their preparations for the new car (C39) launch and the four days of testing scheduled for February. However, on the positive side, the team now has a brand new simulator which should help speed up development and this may be one of the reasons why Alfa has signed up the experienced Robert Kubica as test and reserve driver after leaving Williams at the end of 2019. It is well known that Kimi Raikkonen is not a great lover of simulators but Antonio Giovanazzi was well regarded in that role at Ferrari before he joined the Alfa team last year. So a Giovanazzi/Kubica simulator team could be quite powerful. Kubica is joined at Alfa by his Polish sponsor, petrol giant ORLEN, which becomes part of the team’s title for 2020.

Romeo Ferraris goes electric

There was some interesting news on the Alfa Romeo touring car front when it was revealed that the Romeo Ferraris team will be joining the ETCR (Electric Touring Car Championship) in 2020 with a racing version of the Giulia. Not too much technical detail has been revealed so far but the car will presumably be rear wheel drive. The likelihood is that the Giulietta Veloce which has enjoyed spasmodic success will no longer be part of the petrol driven WTCR unless a private team takes it on. Team Manager Mario Ferraris says that there is certainly no budget to do both although  they will happily give technical support to any private team that wants to run the Giulietta, as well as continuing to prepare and sell cars to Denmark, Japan and Australia.

Incidentally, in Friday Fix 91, we inadvertently cut short Team Mulsanne’s season in Macau. In fact there was one meeting to still to go, in Shanghai, which produced one of the Romeo Ferraris Giulietta’s best results of the year with Kevin Ceccon finishing a fine second in the final round.

Arna – The unlikely race car (1993 to 2001)

At a time when the 33 was starting to take over Class F from the Alfasud in the Alfa Championship, there was an interloper that appeared in 1993 that was going to produce a surprise result in the hands of Nick Baughn. Originally Nick, and Steve Colbourne of RS Race Engineering, had built a new 33 but this was destroyed in a start line accident with Ian Connell’s similar car at the first race of the year at Silverstone. Despite this major setback, Nick looked around for an alternative and his eyes lighted on a discarded roadgoing Arna 1.5 Ti. Could that be prepared in time for round 2 at Brands Hatch?

The Arna was the result of a joint venture between Alfa Romeo and Nissan which was first proposed in April 1980 with an accord by both companies signed in October that year, The name of the new company was “Alfa Romeo Nissan Autoveicoli Spa. A new factory at Pratola Serra near Naples was to be built and the first pre-production cars rolled out in September 1982.  A year later 200 cars a day were being produced. Although the new cars would be using Alfa mechanical components, bodywork would come from Nissan, the shape already being familiar from other models sold by the Japanese giant. Cars that came to the UK were initially known as the Nissan Cherry Europe but it became clear that Nissan dealers couldn’t cope while UK Alfa dealers were looking for a car to fill a gap after the disappearance of the Alfasud. The 1.2 version was re-badged as an Alfa Romeo, followed by a 1351cc version.  Not really an auspicious beginning but Alfa GB made sure that notice was taken of their new bottom of the range model by pricing it very competitively indeed at £4470.

The Arna 1.5 Ti, the first example I drove, arrived in 1985 and in my headline for the AROC magazine I wrote “The Editor tests the most sporting version of the ARNA range and finds it a far better car than he expected and good value for money – now £5590”. I recall it as being quite an enjoyable car to drive and the gearchange was the best that I ever encountered on an Alfasud variant. But there was one memorable failing – if you opened one of the from doors after being out in heavy rain, you got a lap full of water!!” But did I think of it as a race car – well, no not really. How wrong I was.

And so back to 1993. Martin Parsons, Ian Connell and Paul Smith were the initial pace setters in their 33s but by Brands Hatch, mid season, Nick Baughn had got the Arna up to speed and took four wins against Paul’s one with Phil Snelling taking a win at the penultimate Mallory Park round and Graham Heels wrapping up the year with a win in his Sud at Mallory after working 3” clear of a fantastic tussle involving Nick, Paul Smith, Paul Edwards (Sud Ti), Dave Ashford (Sud Sprint), Phil Gibbs (Sud Ti) and Martin Parsons (33) – six cars covered by 2.6”. Nonetheless, Nick had amassed enough points to take Class F ahead of Martin Parsons, Paul Smith and Graham. A surprise outcome that might have been different if Ian Connell had not disappeared from the scene after five races.

Ian Johnson 1994Ian Wilson 1994

1994 saw two Arnas taking part, driven by Ian Wilson and 1986 Champion, Ian Johnson. Ian Wilson scored points at Oulton and Donington in class F while Ian Johnson built a car for Class C. The latter black car only made rare appearances but enjoyed an excellent 3rd in class at Pembrey behind the 33s of Richard Sikes and Andy Curtis. His only other race was at the infamous end year Donington that started almost in the dark with lights on and was red flagged after a collision between Rob Giordanelli’s GTA and Mark Riddle’s 33 after 7 laps. The race was declared after 6, without which Ian might have bettered his already excellent 4th place. As it was he took his first Class C victory.

Ian Wilson continued in the 1995 season with a repainted Arna but only raced it 6 times. But he did take an excellent Class second when the Championship went to Zandvoort and a 5th later in the year at Oulton. Ian Johnson had decided to stop racing and early in 1996 sold his Arna to Dave Streather who bought it on the advice of Nick Humphrey. He started racing it in May at Mallory Park, repainted red and white,  and went well enough to finish 2nd in Class C at the year end behind Dave Walker’s Championship winning 33.   A full season was planned for 1997 and this was to produce no fewer than 13 wins in 16 races and, strikingly, an overall championship win, topping Nick Baughn’s success four years before. His strongest opposition was to come from Bryan Shrubb’s Alfasuid Ti. This result was to be repeated in 1998 with a further 10 wins but with less strong opposition. In reality, the Championship should have gone to Steve Foley’s 75 Twin Spark that year. All that Steve had to do, at the final Donington round on a damp track, was to keep the car on the road. He didn’t and gifted the Championship to Steve. Another Arna appeared in 1998 on just one occasion at Cadwell in the hands of Phil Snelling. He told me afterwards that it still had its 1351cc engine but still finished 5th in class F.

Colin Barnett North Weald AutotestDave Streather 1998Dave Streather Champion 97 and 98Ian WilsonShane Crumpler 2000Shane Crumpler Class C Champion 99Phil Snelling Cadwell 98

At the end of 1998, Dave Streather decided to go Modified with a 33 16v and sold his Arna to friend Shane Crumpler who continued the car’s run of successes taking 10 class wins in 1999 and another class championship ahead of Ian and Graham Seager in their 8v and 16v 33s respectively. Life was a little harder in 2000 as Shane had to give best to the GTV6 of Nick Suiter and 156 of Danny Wright, but he still passed the flag ahead in Class C three times to finish 3rd at the end of the year. In 2001 he only raced twice, albeit with a 3rd at Donington and 2nd at Mallory before his work as a police officer determined that he no longer had the time to race and he retired. The whereabouts of this, the most successful of the Arnas, became a mystery but perhaps it will surface one day!

One last oddity in the story – our one-time Eligibility Scrutineer, Colin Barnett, competed with a Nissan Cherry Europe, fitted with Alfa grille, in AROC autotests at places like North Weald and various Sprints.

Luigi Cimarosti – Founder of Luigi Racing dies age 90

There are many that don’t realise that Luigi Racing was a Belgian racing team founded by Luigi Cimarosti and his brother-in-law, top racer Jean Xhenceval in the 1970s. They ran an official BMW agency and it was only natural that they would race cars such as the BMW 3.0CSL taking their category in the ETCC in 1976 before the “icing on the cake” of a class win at Le Mans with Spartaco Dini as one of the drivers. Although I had watched Luigi Racing cars in such events as the Tourist Trophy, the operation first made an real impact on me when Luigi was nominated in 1982 as one of the teams, with Imberti Racing, to run the works backed Alfa Romeo GTV6s in the ETCC second division. This arrangement lasted for four years although the cars changed from the original yellow to the colour schemes of Boule D’Or and Ton sur Ton. Helped a little by a quirky points scoring system, Alfa won the Manufacturer’s Trophy four years running between 1982 and 1985. The first time I saw a Luigi GTV6 was at Donington in May 1982 but it was not to be their weekend as it was the similar Imberti car of Lella Lombardi and Anna Cambiaghi that won the class. The Luigi Imberti rivalry continued intensely throughout their time running the GTV6s. Luigi Racing also prepared several Alfa rally cars including those for the successful French driver, Yves Loubet.

Luigi Racing GTV6 Donington 1982Luigi Racing GTV6 TT Silverstone

Over the next few years, Luigi Cimarosti prepared a number of Ford Sierra Coswoths for both racing and rallying as well as embarking on his last major project, a Dodge Viper which competed at Le Mans in 1994 in the hands of Rene Arnoux, Justin Bell and Bertrand Balas, finishing a fine 12th in the General Classification. Luigi will be sadly missed by all his friends across the motorsporting world.                                   

Finally, make sure that you Register for this year’s Championship and join the 750 Motor Club now.

Michael Lindsay