It seems to have been quite a while since the last “Friday Fix” but there had not been too much to talk about apart from what was fully covered by Andy Robinson’s Paddock Bulletins 10 and 11.

I have also been having ongoing and frustrating computer problems which, happily,  now seem to have been sorted. We are, though, reporting on Formula 1 testing which started last week but regrettably may not be able to use any pictures from Barcelona as the tightening of EU copyright law means that we have to be very careful of the origin of pictures and whether we have permission to use them. Obtaining the necessary licences could be expensive and not feasible for organisations such as ARCA. “Race Retro” also took place last weekend at Stoneleigh.

Alfa launches the C39

Photo: Alfa Romeo Racing / Sauber Group

The Ferrari test track at Fiorano saw the first appearance of Alfa Romeo’s 2020 challenger, the C39, albeit in a shakedown livery which will undoubtedly give the makers of diecast/resin models another subject to reproduce. Things got rather more serious when we saw the launch of the “real thing” in its updated white and red livery in the pit road at Barcelona on the morning of the first F1 test session. At the same time we saw the full driving team of Kimi Raikkonen and Antonio Giovanazzi with Robert Kubica and Tatiana Calderon as test/reserve drivers. The team’s press release stated that “continuity is the word at Sauber Motorsport AG” as they announced an extension of the relationship with Calderon who also takes over the role of Team Ambassador, having impressed the team with her application since she first joined them in 2017.

I won’t go into all the technical details of the car as these can be found in generous detail elsewhere but it is clear that the excellent wind tunnel at the team’s base at Hinwil has been put to good use, aerodynamics continuing to be at the forefront of developments for the coming season.

Barcelona Testing 1

Interestingly, it was Robert Kubica who stepped into the C39 for the first morning of testing last Wednesday. Initially it appeared that there had been a closing up of the field but hopes were soon dispelled by the times set by Mercedes. Nonetheless both Red Bull-Honda and Racing Point (with Sergio Perez at the wheel) were right at the top of the times. Kublica was well in the mid field mix but Giovanazzi, who took in the afternoon, spent most of his time in and out of the pits (part of the programme), never doing more than one lap runs and ending bottom of the times.

Day 2 found Kimi Raikkonen at the wheel and in the morning he was quick in sections 1 & 2 only to disappoint with a slow section 3. The afternoon session saw him put it all together to record – wait for it! – the best time of the day (1’17.091”) just ahead of Racing Point’s Sergio Perez, quick again. This was on soft tyres but to put it into perspective, the best time over the two days so far had been 16.976” by Lewis Hamilton’s Mercedes on hards. For Alfa Romeo reliability was good until the car stopped with under twenty minutes still to go, having completed 134 laps, to bring out the only red flag of the two days. On day three, Antonio Giovanazzi showed why he secured the second seat at Alfa Romeo by ending up 5th quickest.

Barcelona Testing 2

Robert Kubica was back in the C39 for the first of another three days testing when the teams returned to the track earlier this week  It must have been heart warming for the whole Alfa Romeo team when he ended the day top of the timing sheets on day one although, as always, everyone was engaged in their own specific programmes and Robert was running the softest possible tyre (C5) at the time. Nonetheless the uplift of morale was welcome. The penultimate day of testing saw Giovanazzi damage the rear of his car with an off and did relatively little running thereafter. On the final morning it was Raikkonen back at the wheel but it was case once again of trying different set-ups, in particular for Melbourne in two weeks time.

If you want to see pictures from testing the “Alfa Romeo Orlen 2020” web page has plenty to offer.                                                                                  

Commentator’s conundrum

Toro Rosso’s change of name to “Alpha Tauri” is going to produce a problem for radio and TV commentators as they can no longer just refer to “Alfas” or “Alphas” running together but will have to use the full names to differentiate what they are looking at for the listeners. It will be interesting to see how Radio 5 Live’s Jack Nicholls and Jolyon Palmer sort this out.

Tom Hill and Dave Messenger celebrate success at BRSCC dinner

There were well deserved celebrations for Tom Hill and Dave Messenger as they received their 2019 overall and class win trophies at the BRSCC Awards Dinner in Stratford on Avon on February 1st from Chairman Peter Daly. Also there in support were Andy & Linda Robinson, Vik and Linda Hill, Julia Edwards and Michael and Diana Lindsay. It was a nice relaxed and friendly ended to our 38 year association.

What do our racers get up to in the winter?

At the dinner Dave told me about the fun they had been having restoring a Ferguson TE20 tractor. Later he sent me a picture of his “team” including Brian and Ashley with the tractor and I noticed that they added an Alfa Romeo badge above the radiator grille. “Runs like clockwork” say Dave.

This set me thinking about an actual Romeo agricultural tractor that had been produced between 1919 and 1924, an example of which can be seen in the Museum at Arese. This was at a time when horse power or steam dominated the fields of Europe and used a horizontal 8 litre, two cylinder, engine. Metal rimmed wheels with no rubber tyres were fitted front and rear but the rear wheels had the addition of tread bands to improve grip in the mud while a secondary flywheel provided drive for belts to other farm machinery. In his book “Alfa Romeo – The Legend Revived” David Styles reported that one of the great advantages of the Romeo machine was that it could run on Petrol or Kerosene so was flexible and economical. Running at 500 rpm it was rated at 20 HP. “The engine was also immensely reliable as it never ran fast enough to wear anything out!”

Electric World TCR to be launched at Festival of Speed

The new all electric TCR World series will be launched at this year’s Festival of Speed and it would be nice to see the Romeo Ferraris Giulia on display, or even better, going up the hill. However, as it is not an official Alfa Romeo project it may well not be there, which is a pity. A rallycross style elimination format has been announced together with four dates for the second half of 2020.

Alfa celebrate 110 years in June

Alfa Romeo, or associated organisations such as the Scuderia del Portello, have a long history of celebrating anniversaries. Many will remember the “Eurotropheum” that took place in the summer of 1990, Alfa taking a host of cars, including many from the UK, to what were then the twelve capitals of Europe. In fact, the cars spent a lot of time in England and Northern Ireland and AROC members were invited to join the fun with events at Peckforton Castle in Cheshire, the thermal baths in Bath, Badminton, Horse Guards Parade (that was a coup in itself!) and a superb lunch in the palace of Whitehall. For much of this we had to thank Richard Gaddaselli who was in charge of Fiat Corporate Communications here at the time. Diana and I were also able to go to Paris for a parade and dinner that took place in a huge marquee at La Defense. I doubt that we shall ever see something that expansive (or expensive!!) again

The 100th Anniversary was celebrated in Milan with two major exhibitions, a parade to the centre of the city and visits to Monza and the Alfa Museum. Special pleasure was given by the exhibition of 100 different Alfas or Alfa based vehicles such as fire engines (!) set up privately by “Alfa blue team” in the Parco Esposizioni Novegro, out near the Linate airport. This even included an Alfa engined powerboat racer.

Apart from the powerboat, my photos show Giuliettas being herded by the polizia arriving at the Castello Sforza from Rho and one of Alfa’s displays with the just launched new Giulietta. It will be interesting to see what is planned for the 110th year since ALFA first took to the roads. Whatever, Coronovirus permitting, it will be in and around Milan at the end of June.

And What was it like to drive in an Italian city over 100 years ago?

Alfa’s origins lie not in Milan but Naples where Darracq started assembling cars in February 1905 from French made components. It was clearly not going to be a commercial success and the company was moved to Milan in 1909 after purchasing land on which the Portello factory was built. It didn’t work out in Milan either and was soon taken over by a group of Milanese businessmen who founded Anomina Lombarda Fabrica Automobili or A.L.F.A. in 1910, and the rest we know!

1910 15HP Berliet

However, I have always found it amazing that my grandfather drove his 15HP Berliet (given to him as a 21st birthday present!) to Italy soon after and recorded the experience of what it was like to drive in Italy at that time (particularly in Rome and Naples) for an issue of “The Car” Magazine published in 1912.

“Undoubtedly Italy is the country in which the rule of the road is least observed and, if any word can be found to describe the traffic conditions in Rome and Naples it can be nothing less than the Anarchy. Narrow streets are rendered impassable by endless tramways, the lines of which are mostly sufficiently above the ground making steering a nice calculation of how far the car will shoot to one side when one wrenches  the front wheels across the metals, Irresponsible cabs, private carriages and cars, together with heavy carts fight for supremacy on any part of the road, the only law applied being that of the survival of the fittest. Crowded corners are apt to be blocked by two vehicles facing one another, both drivers violently gesticulating until one gives way, the imploring suggestions of the harassed policemen being greeted with howls from the crowd of delighted idlers. To make room, whether rightly or not is regarded as the one and only mortal sin………….”          

Into this the first ALFA was born.

Ray Wolland in Class F

Occasionally names pop up that send me delving into the archives, and this happened recently when a twitter item appeared on alfaracer from Russell Wolland about his father Ray who raced with us between 1996 and 1998, mainly in an Alfasud Ti. 1997 was his busiest season, concentrating on the Alfasud Trophy (run as a sub class as the 33 dominated Class F). Ray did well enough to finish 4th from 7 starts behind winner Graham Warner, Paul Edwards and Martin Jones.

In 1998 he did  enough to score Class F points at Castle Combe, Silverstone and Donington. It was at Donington he had what was probably best ever drive to finish 8th overall (ahead of Paul Buckley’s 75 Twin Spark) and 7th in class on a wet track. This was to be his final race. The picture shows Ray’s Sud Ti in the Donington assembly area alongside Paul Edwards (2), Leon Bailey (4) and Steven Pahlke (27) awaiting a re-start following a red flag.

Race Retro at Stoneleigh

There are many people who prefer Race Retro at Stoneleigh to the much more commercial Autosport Show and I think that I am now one of them. It seems to be much more relaxed as I discovered last year when I went for the first time in several years. Before leaving home last Friday I had been concerned about the possible state of the car parks after all the recent rain but I need not have worried as a lot of extra gravel was in evidence and the grass areas didn’t seem too soft. The 750 Motor Club was there with six cars on its stand although we had been offered a space, no one had been in a position to take it up. It was good to chat with Bernard Cotterell (late BRSCC Chairman) and Chris Tate (ex Rockinghan and Donington, also an Alfa racer in the past) both now part of the set-up at the 750MC. It was clear that they were both very pleased with our move from BRSCC and hope that we will thrive in our new environment.  Race Retro has much for the club and historic racing enthusiast to enjoy and if you are looking for a book, picture or some memorabilia that you missed out on first time around, you could spend many a happy hour here.

Will Dick after Donington win 1988

As was the case last year, I bumped into many old friends and past Alfa racers including Dave Hood and Will Dick, so there was plenty to reminisce about including a wins that both had at Donington, Dave in a Classic Alfa race and Will with his modified 33 in 1988 (see picture). I enjoyed a long chat with Richard Drake who seemed to have several projects on hand, including the preparation of the ex Ray Foley 147 GTA for Paul Webster and a car for Chris Rea to run in the Classic Alfa Challenge.

Silverstone Classic slot for HRDC Alfas – July 31st to August 2nd

News that Julius Thurgood had secured a place for the Classic Alfa Challenge at this year’s three day “Silverstone Classic” had clearly filtered through to those I spoke to at Race Retro and now I am able to pass on more details. The meeting celebrates the Classic’s 30th Anniversary and there will be a 20 minute Alfa qualifying session on the Friday followed by 20 minute races on each of the following afternoons. The races will be open to any production based Alfa from the 750 to 116 range of models, through the Giulia and Alfetta ranges as recognised by the FIA, HSCC ror HRDC. Alfasuds, Sprints and a 75 Twin Spark have all taken part in HRDC races but there is no mention of those. However, this is quite a coup for Julius and we hope that he will be able to gather together a stunning grid to entertain what is normally a large crowd but also to impress event sponsors Alfa Romeo UK.

From the Archives

It is always interesting to dig out pictures from the Championship’s past, and this time I came across one that had been sent to me in 1999 by Giulia Super driver Jonathan Griffin of one his rivals in Class E. It shows a rather disgruntled Tim Dackombe and his 155 at Snetterton, having just “won” his class. The car which had only been finished a few hours before qualifying had been thrown out for being underweight.

However, nothing daunted, Tim went on to enjoy an excellent season, finishing 3rd in class after wins at a later Snetterton and Silverstone. He was 3rd again in 2000 although with only a single win this time, at Cadwell. He raced in the Championship between 1993 and 2002, firstly with a Sud Ti and then a 33 in Class F before acquiring the 155. Business commitments meant that he only raced once in both 2001 and 2002 but showed he was still competitive with a 3rd place at Brands Hatch and 4th at Silverstone.

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

Michael Lindsay