So we’ve got there at last!

National racing resumed at the beginning of July, as did Formula 1 – albeit behind closed doors – and last Saturday we joined the 750 Motor Club for the first time, for a double header at Snetterton as previewed already in full by Andy Robinson. By the size and quality of the entry, there is plenty of enthusiasm for the new venture and, as you will have seen, the Championship also has several new sponsors which is always a healthy sign. All we needed was a sunny day of exciting, safe and close fought racing to keep us all entertained. Which is what we got and Andy’s detailed report will appear in due course. MSV are now allowing a limited number of spectators with pre-booked tickets and this produced an atmosphere that was much nearer to a normal race meeting than we might have expected although only competitors, officials and team members were allowed in the paddock. If you weren’t there, there was some of the best Live Streaming TV that the Championship has ever had.

Formula 1 Returns in Austria (twice) and Hungary

It seems to have been a long time since the 10 F1 teams met for pre-season testing in Spain back in February. Then, of course, there was the abortive trip to Australia followed by factory shutdowns and endless negotiations to get to the point where a new calendar could be fixed. Of the races that disappeared, it was particularly sad to lose the returning Dutch Grand prix which was due to be held at Zandvoort which would certainly have attracted many UK visitors. From quite early on. however, the Austrian authorities were supportive of a date at the beginning of July on the Red Bull Ring, which then became a double header by adding the Styrian GP a week later. July 17/19 would see the circus move to the Hungaroring, just outside Budapest, making up what was effectively a triple-header. All, of course, behind closed doors although it was amusing to see the groups of people who had gathered on the Austrian hillside to watch the action from afar. After a gap, Silverstone will see two races on successive weekends at the beginning of August although there are no useful hills to perch on! This will be followed by Grand Prix in Spain, Belgium, Italy, and Tuscany (at Mugello). The latter reminds me of 1957 when several races are cancelled due to a fuel crisis and Pescara was added in August as a World Championship event. Before Styria, this was the only non National or European event to count for the World title.

For Alfa Romeo, and the other Ferrari powered cars a major talking point has been the loss of power suffered by the Ferrari engine in its latest form. It would seem that changes made following various FIA investigations in 2019 have resulted in a situation that is leaving Ferrari, Alfa Romeo and Haas in a less competitive position, particularly in qualifying. The situation in races doesn’t seem to be as bad – for Ferrari and Alfa Romeo anyway – and in Austria race 1, both Raikkonen and Giovanazzi were well able to run competitively mid field. Sadly, Raikkonen lost a wheel (for which the team were fined) but Giovanazzi drove well, benefitting from an unusually high level of unreliability in the field as a whole, to finish 9th and taken 2 valuable championship points.

Robert Kubica took over Giovanazzi’s car for FP1 for the Styrian race and did do so again with Raikkonen’s in Hungary as the team has a lot of confidence in the Pole’s development abilities. Qualifying for the second Red Bull Ring race was run in appallingly wet conditions during which the skill shown in keeping the cars on the track was notable. Unfortunatly, though, it caught out Giovanazzi before the end of Q1 and the subsequent red flag meant that Raikkonen had no chance to get himself out of the bottom five. The race saw both drivers battling well, in Kimi’s case despite having to avoid the double Ferrari clash on lap 1 and the C39 going into anti-stall. He managed to keep ahead of both Haas cars to the finish but 11th place wasn’t much reward. Giovanazzi had avoided the Ferraris and went went until fuel saving meant that he was passed by this team mate and both Haas cars.

Looked at from the outside, the Hungaroring was something of a disaster for the Alfa team. Qualifying left both cars at the back of the grid and although, once again, they went better in the race there was never going to be a chance to get on terms with the other mid field runners. So 15th for Raikkonen and 17th for Gionanazzi was a poor result. There will, I am sure, be a lot of head scratching before Silverstone. The rumour mill is churning around the possibility that Sebastian Vettel will sign for the Aston Martin (ex Racing Point) team for 2021 and that Sergio Perez could replace a retiring Kimi Raikkonen at Alfa Romeo. It will be recalled that Perez drove for Sauber back in 2011/12 and so is well known to the team. If Perez is to leave Racing Point the contract break date is apparently July 31st.

Alfa Celebrates 110 years

The re-opened Alfa Romeo Museum at Arese was the site of the company’s 110th Anniversary celebrations, necessarily restricted because of the Coronavirus pandemic, on June 24th. However, in conjunction with SKY, they did produce an excellent programme based on the Museum and its exhibits, many not seen for some time. Elegant host for the event was F1 commentator Federica Masolin and we were treated to several interviews by Alfa notables, including Head of the Alfa Brand, Arnaud Leclerc, Lorenzo Ardizio (Curator of the Museum) and Arturo Merzario, wearing a very individual quadrifoglio face mask. The one hour show can be found on the AROC website (scroll down on the item and click on “Here”)

Giulietta 116 in the Championship

Between 1977 and 1985, Alfa Romeo produced a model that always seemed something of an odd-ball and yet nearly 350,000 left the assembly lines, starting with 1.3 and 1.6 versions before going on to 1.8 and 2 litre models, a 2 litre turbodiesel in 1983 and a very limited production Turbodelta of which only 361 were made.  Running alongside the more popular Alfetta range, it was probably underrated as a driver’s car and it never made much of an impact in international competition circles. Nonetheless, there were a number that eventually made their way into our Championship from 1985 onwards, starting off with a 1600 version that Colin Roberts ran throughout the year to finish 3rd in Class A (eventually F) while Renny Burnside ran a 2 litre to finish 4th in Class B. It was Colin and Renny who flew the Giulietta flag high for the next two years, beating a mixture of Suds, Giulias and Alfettas to finish 1st and 2nd in Class E in 1987. Renny and Colin carried on for another year, being joined by Keith Payne and Jamie Soars while Alan Long raced a Giulietta competitively between 1989 and 1991.

In 1991 it was Sue Bland who led the way with her Avon Racing prepared car to take 5th place in Class E in which she was joined by Kevin Johnston and Ken Waite, the latter moving on from an Alfetta GTV, In 1992, Chris Tate (now a director of the 750 Motor Club) took over Sue’s car and continued to race it in 1993, taking part in 7 of the 14 races that season with a best of 5th in class at Silverstone. Sue Bland returned for three races in 1993, Clive Hodgkin doing two that year (including a 2nd in class at Oulton) and Nick (Surrey) Anderson two. The most successful though was an ever improving Ken Waite who finished the season 3rd in class behind the Alfetta GTVs of overall champion that year, Mark Peers, and Adam Stanhope but ahead of several other well known names such as Micky Bolton, Martin Clarke and Bob Ridgard.

The busiest Giulietta year was probably 1994. Stuart Hallewell bought Ken Waite’s car to finish a resounding 2nd in class E with Ian Roberts 3rd and Clive Hodgkin 4th. Sam Laird also had a run in the Avon car, producing a class win at Cadwell in a Giulietta 1-2 with Stuart while Geoff Westcott, Paul Legge and Keith Waite joined the fun, the latter pairing finishing 3rd in the Shared Drive competition. In 1995 Ian Seager took over the Avon car and would race it on and off for a couple of seasons while. Keith Waite and Paul Legge continued to enjoy their dark blue car and in 1996 had a satisfactory win in the Shared Drive Award while Paul placed 4th in Class A (Modified). Dave Harwood drove the Platinum Technology car to good effect ending up 5th in class.

Nick Suiter adapted to the Giulietta with enthusiasm and although he couldn’t do a full season was still quick enough for class wins at Castle Combe and Donington in 1997 which was the year that Andy Page took over the Legge/Waite Giulietta and started the longest love-affair of anyone in the Championship with the model although another name to stand out for several seasons was Steven Griffin in the ex Sue Bland white, green and orange car. Again Steven was unable to do a full season because of his commitments as a surgeon and also family holidays, but he nonetheless had some excellent drives including a 2nd in class at Croft and another at Cadwell with a best end-year result, 5th in class at the end of 1999.

From this point on, it was all about Andy Page really. When he got hold of two ex Dealer Team 1.8 Turbo engines, the car really started to motor and was able to complete with the quickest of the competition such as the 75s of Graham Presley and Julian Birley, Tim Lewis’s Alfasud Sprint winning Class A for the first time in 2003 (3rd overall), again in 2005 (2nd overall) and a third time in 2006 (4th overall in Tim Lewis’s championship year). His race win at Donington in 2004 gave him the coveted Kevin Griffiths Trophy. The Giulietta was less reliable in 2007 and there was always the possibility (as with all the transaxle cars) of a propshaft exploding through the floor. Andy’s racing became more spasmodic with heavy business and family commitments but he managed five races in 2009 including a second place behind Tim Lewis at Oulton, followed by 2nd places at Oulton and Donington in 2010. There was a brief outing at Silverstone in 2013 but, thereafter, we had to wait until Oulton Park again in 2016. I have already mentioned the potential fragility of Alfa’s transaxle cars and Andy’s Giulietta had one last shock in store for us as it went up Deer Leap in qualifying at the which point there was a “loud bang, clatter, clatter” with smoke and loss of forward motion. However, we should have had more faith than to write off Andy’s day – he was certainly determined not to miss out and with the help of past Alfa racer Tim Newman, he was soon stuck in to the task of rebuilding it for the first race. With only seconds to spare and a pit road start, Andy made the first race and finished an excellent 3rd behind Graham Seager and Andy Robinson, before taking advantage of Graham’s retirement in race 2 to grab 2nd place and end the Giulietta’s career on the podium.

There several other drivers who raced Giuliettas not already mentioned, including Steve Coates, Jamie Hunter, Pru Barwell, Julian Nicholson, Jeremy Robinson,  Daniel Pevsner, Rob Emberton, Adam Stanhope and Greg White. More recently, the ex Nick Suiter Giulietta, now owned by Julius Thurgood and prepared by Richard Drake has made several appearances in HRDC Classic Alfa Challenge races On reflection, the Giulietta 116 can’t be thrown in the failure bin and it was actually a much better bet for racing than the Alfetta saloon, being lighter and some think more aerodynamic. However, I can never forgive Alfa’s Centro Stile for the awful design of the original dashboard, with counter rotating dials, and clunky looking steering wheel!

Championship Racers in Action

Four current or ex Alfa Championship racers  lost no time in getting back into action – Barry McMahon with his 156 Turbo (which we saw at Snetterton), Ted Pearson back in his Historic Formula Ford Merlyn and Chris Snowdon in Historic Sports 2000 with his Tiga plus Antony Ross with his well known light blue 2 litre engine 1750 Spider. Barry took part in the two Britcar 50 minute races held at Croft the weekend before last and in qualifying set a time that would have smashed Tim Lewis’s old lap record by some 2 seconds, to line up 13th and first in class for the first race. He was running well before a turbo hose problem dropped him to the tail of the field. In race 2 he would come 10th overall to win his class with a best lap in 1’32.466”.

On the Brands Hatch GP circuit, Ted Pearson had settled in well with his Merlyn 11/17 to finish 10th and was looking forward to race 2 but sadly this fell foul of the Brands curfew after earlier delays and did not take place. Chris was another to have mixed fortunes, qualifying 3rd in class and then retiring after 2 laps in his first race before going on to a class win (9th overall) in race 2.  Antony was also at Brands and after his sparkling HRDC race at Castle Combe at the end of last year, it was no surprise to see him qualify the Spider 9th in the 31 car field and then go on to 8th in the 20 minute race amongst various Lotuses and Ginettas.

The Hands Say it All!!

If anyone feels like sending us captions for one of the following, please do.

Classic Alfa Challenge Calender

Julius Thurgood and the HRDC have been able to put together a compressed three meeting calendar for the Classic Alfa Challenge, sadly two of which clash with our races at Brands and Anglesey. The dates are –

August 15th / 16thThruxton
September 13thLydden Hill
October 4thCastle Combe

Postscript

The European Alfa Challenge has hosted some monster grids over the years at Spa and from time to time the Clerk of the Course has had to bring competitors to order , In this case in 1996 all drivers were told to get out of their cars and come to the front of the grid for a lecture, after which they are seen returning, somewhat chastised!

Michael Lindsay
[email protected]
01223-891219