Since our last Friday Fix we have seen a further rapid shutdown of all motor sport activity in the UK until at least 30th June.
Under the present government rules, the first possible date for the Alfa Championship would be July 18th.19th at Snetterton. International events have suffered just as badly with Grand prix after Grand Prix cancelled or “postponed”. The French GP at Paul Ricard at the end of June is now being listed by the FIA as the first possible round of the 2020 World Championship. However, the coronavirus situation in France will, I would have thought, have had to improve greatly before an event of that size could take place. This brings the British Grand Prix into focus as the next possible race, in mid July. The end of this month is decision time for Silverstone. A race behind “closed doors” is possible.
So what has everyone being doing to fill their “lockdown” time. Fortunately, with the advances in communication technology, working from home is no longer the major problem that it was and the other day I found myself involved in a “Zoom” conference call which was a new experience. But our thoughts go out to the huge number of people who do have to go our to work on the essential front line and if some of our readers fall into that category, particularly the NHS, we hope that the weekly clapping does show we are all with you.
For those of us who don’t have to go out and are not working, it is a matter of occupying ourselves, if not gainfully, then enjoyably. A new element, of course is Virtual Racing and a couple of days ago I watched the Australian Supercars e-series from the virtual Silverstone GP circuit. Like the virtual Grand National a couple of weeks ago (watched by 5 million or so!), it was remarkably realistic apart from cars that had crashed disappearing into thin air, just as fallen horses had at Aintree. I hope that somehow those of us who are not actually racing will be able to see the races on our screens (down to our tech wizards this!)
I hope that you saw the last Friday Fix with the photo-biography of Phil Snelling. I was delighted to get an appreciative call from Phil shortly afterwards. He had been alerted to the item by Graham Heels, so at least we had two readers! This issue takes a look at the career of Andy Inman – so long an integral part of Avon Racing and now being looked after by Roger Evans. Going through his results, it amazes me that he didn’t start racing until 2001 and was not with us when we took the Championship to Spa in 2000 which seems like yesterday!
Sir Stirling Moss 1929 – 2020
Before that, however, we have to mark the loss of Stirling Moss at the age of 90. His career has been and will be covered in minute detail elsewhere but I thought I would share a couple of my own favourite photographs of Stirling. – The first was from 1953 when I turned up for Goodwood 9 Hours practice and found various promotional activities going on before the on-track action started. Included was Stirling Moss sitting patiently in a C type Jaguar with radio and TV celebrity (Gilbert Harding of 20 Questions fame) as they prepared to film a sequence promoting “Craven A” cigarettes. The second is of Stirling with his long-time chief mechanic Alf Francis at Monza in 1959.
As far as I am aware Stirling Moss never raced an Alfa Romeo although in October 1951 he did have a few laps in a 159 at Monza when he was offered the car during a gap in BRM V16 testing. Fangio had been driving the car earlier and Alfa team manager Guidotti thought it would be interesting give Moss a run. A search in the Alfa Romeo archives has never revealed a photograph but there is no doubt that it did take place and that Stirling was reasonably quick in the car although he found the drum brakes not a patch on the BRM’s discs. I seem to recall that there was a possibility that he might drive a 1900 saloon as Oulton Park once but the entry never materialised. I did have the pleasure of watching many of his wins, in particular in the 1957 British GP at Aintree, having taken over Tony Brooks’ Vanwall, and at Pescara on a scorching hot day in August that year.
It is misleading to say that Moss’s “career” came to an end with his Goodwood crash because apart from racing competitively in historics over the years, many forget that he contested the British Saloon Car Championship with an Audi in 1980 and 1981 and Rob Kirby, who was racing a Dealer Team Sud Sprint in the same class in 1981, remembers well many pithy comments afterwards if he had been in the maestro’s way!
Andy Inman – 75 Twin Spark, 156 TS and now 156 GTA
Over the years, since he joined the Championship in 2001, Andy Inman has been one of the most regular and consistent of our competitors, urged on for much of the time by Clive and Christine Hodgkin at Avon Racing and since 2016 by the expert hand of Roger Evans. He will also have valued the contribution of the Fletcher family. Initially, Andy raced a 75 Twin Spark, racking up points finishes all through 2002 and 2003 to finish 4th in Class E in both years with best results of two 3rd places at Silverstone and Brands Hatch. However, it was when he switched to a 156 in 2004 that although he only finished 5th at the end of the season, he faced strong opposition from the likes of Chris Finch, Graham Heels and Jeff Kite. After Cadwell Park we reported in our newsletter “Alfa Romeo Motorsports News” that Andy “drove perhaps his best ever race to finish 2nd in class and take the Driver of the Day Award”. The following year brought Andy a memorable Championship class win with the 156 which also left him a fine fourth overall behind Anthony George (33 16v), Andy Page (Giulietta) and Class F winner Nik Mantikas (33).
There were changes to the Class format and regulations for 2006, with the establishment of “Class G” as the forerunner to what was to become Class E and then the highly competitive Twin Spark Cup. In that first year only five cars scored points with Andy taking another win but by 2007 the entry had ramped up somewhat, as had the level of competition. Andy had to be content with 5th chasing Phil Donaghy (145), Graham Heels (147), Ray Foley (156) and Keith Williams (145). He was able to improve on that in 2008 and at the end of the season was only 2 points behind class winner Graham Heels with wins at Silverstone, Snetterton and Anglesey. He was able to keep this going in 2009 with more wins, at Snetterton and Cadwell before Paul Plant arrived on the scene from Class F, sweeping all before him although it was Andy’s Avon Racing team mate Paul Buckley who actually won the class that year.
Andy may well look back on the 2010 season as the one that should have produced that major goal of any of our drivers – the overall championship. The three leading class and overall points leaders arrived at Donington for the final round with just four points separating them – Mel Healey, her father Chris and Andy Inman. However, the entry was one of the strongest of the year with several drivers who could take points away from the main contenders. In fact, Chris Finch did just that by winning the class. Mel was a close second with Andy dropping back to third after being distracted with something loose in the car. However, it was enough for him to end 2nd overall in the Championship behind Mel.
The 2011 and 2012 seasons were reasonably competitive, Andy finishing 3rd in class in the latter behind Neil Smith (147) and James Ford (156) with a best result of 2nd in class at Donington. However, the arrival of the “young guns” in the class left him somewhat breathless. Two good races at Zolder seemed to revive his morale but with Clive Hodgkin now missing, the preparation was taken over by Roger Evans at Peak Alfa. The familiar purple 156 was no longer its previous reliable self, suffering numerous age related problems, although Andy and Roger soldiered on with it but if Andy was to continue racing, there had to be a new project. And what a result! A change of car, class, power and a move from control tyres to slicks was decided as they way to go and by Croft in mid summer last year. Andy had a smart red 156 GTA to get used to. When we got to Mallory I was amazed to see the determination with which Andy chased Dave Messenger (156) and Jamie Thwaites (155) in the second race, and then again finishing 2nd in class (and 5th overall) in race 1 and 3rd in class in race 2 at Donington after a spirited chase of the 155. If we ever get to race in 2020, Andy will again be one to look out for. In the meantime, he can’t even go to watch his beloved Newcastle United but, to cheer him up, I have included a picture of his 156 wearing their colours.
The Lost “Art” of the Pit Signal
Something that is largely missing from motor racing these days is the pit board, the whole business of team to car communication having been taken over by technology. In club racing, including the Alfa Championship, we are not allowed a radio link with the drivers but for lap times they all have on-board timing equipment. I thought it might be amusing to look at a few pictures of pit signals that we have on-file. One thing the images do show is how easy it used to be show pit boards without the ever present debris fencing with small gaps to push the board through. In a long race, such as a 6 hour relay drivers still welcome this type of contact and, of course, it is vital in telling them when to come in for a car changeover.
Ted Pearson e-mailed me a couple of days ago with the very sad news that Ralph Bee, a stalwart part of the BLS team, had died from a cancer related illness. Those who have followed the Championship over the years will have come across Ralph wherever Bryan Shrubb, with father Tom, Mark Riddle or Graham Presley were racing and Ralph will be very much missed. Ralph can be seen in the picture standing behind the door of Bryan’s 33 in the Castle Combe assembly area.
This Week’s Postscript
During the life of the Alfa Championship there have been occasional awards for the best presented car, either at individual races or over the course of the season. We found a photograph of Colin Barnett presenting such an award to Graham Heels, Martin Jones, Austin Sheward and the Alfasud Ti raced by Graham.
(We should like to thank the following for pictures included in Friday Fix 95 – Mary Harvey, Steve Jones, Maria Salt, Paul Stone, Katy Read and Michael Lindsay).
So, good luck with the Virtual Racing – no doubt the “results” will appear on alfaracer.com for those not able to make the connection live.