Busy Historic Alfa Scene
The number of genuine or replica Alfas from the 1976 to 1988 Dealer Team period either being restored or already running is having something of a bonanza right now. We are already familiar with the Napolina liveried cars of Stephen Chase (Alfetta GTV) and Richard Drake (Alfasud Ti). Both these cars are replicas but I recently met up with Chris Whelan at the Autosport Show who now has the ex Jon Dooley 1981 British Saloon Car Championship 1300cc class winning Alfasud Ti. Over the past three years, this car has been immaculately restored and Chris hopes to race it in some CTCRC pre ’93 races during 2018.
Then, just before Christmas I had a real nostalgic treat when I was taken by Rob Kirby and his son Harry to Jonathan Wright’s workshops in Norfolk to see the two John West 75s which are currently being restored there. The car that Jon Dooley raced, first as a 2.5 V6 in 1986 and then as a 1.8 Turbo the following year is now back with a V6 engine. It already looks pristine although it has yet to receive the John West colour scheme apart from the original bootlid. The car that Rob Kirby raced in 1986 as a 2.5, winning its class at Thruxton first time out, before being fitted with a Turbo engine for the first part of 1987 and then reverting to the more reliable V6 mid season, has required much more work. It was badly damaged at Brands Hatch in ’87 when a wheel broke at Westfield, pitching Rob into the barriers. The car was never rebuilt although a new shell was finally acquired which arrived outside my house one day when it should have gone elsewhere! Actually, this shell was never used for the racer and it was the original damaged car that Jonathan took over. It is now well on the way to being a complete car again and I can’t wait to seeing it on the track.
After a convivial coffee break with Jonathan and his son James, and a look at some of Jonathan’s other cars we returned to Leos Racing in Fordham, near Newmarket, where Harry Kirby had already shown me the GTV 6 that he and Rob had acquired from Alex Jupe. After dipping, and the subsequent loss of rotten metal, Harry is going to build this car as a replica of the John West GTV6 with which his father won the 2500cc class of the Saloon Car Championship in 1985.
Elsewhere Chris Snowdon, who had owned the original JW GTV6 after buying it from Peter Hilliard, winning the Alfa Championship overall in 1994 and 1995, has now posted on facebook that Richard Melvin has asked him to rebuild the similar ex Jon Dooley car. This started life in Napolina livery, winning its class in 1984 Saloon Car championship, before becoming a John West car in mid 1985 when Napolina withdrew its sponsorship. It came to unfortunate “end” at that year’s Heart Foundation Day at Snetterton when a puncture saw it leave the track and roll at Riches. Jon had a passenger at the time who got himself out of the car and was seen escaping across the field. He later returned to the paddock asking if he could have another run!! From the pictures, the car looks in a pretty bad state but Chris is a genius at dealing with these things, and he tells me that it should be a runner again in about 6 months all being well.
We have a plan to organise a Dealer Team based demonstration run at Festival Italia and I recently talked to MSV’s David Scott to see if that would be a possibility. Maybe not in 2018 as all the cars may not be ready, but certainly in 2019. David assured me that it would be more than welcome. There are, of course, some cars we still have to trace. Where for example did the Alfasud Sprint raced by John Myerscough, Rob Kirby, Andrew Thorpe and Derek Brunt get to? This was the first Sprint, brought into the country by Leo Bertorelli who. I think, intended to rally it. However, he decided against it and the car passed to Alfa dealers Westune in Horwich. The other car is Andrew Thorpe’s Sud that ran in Napolina then John West colours in the Alfa Championship. Any ideas?
It is always interesting to hear from drivers who have been such an important part of the Championship over the years. A phone call from Martin Parsons brought back many memories of his 16 seasons with us. He started in 1986 with a blue Mike Buckler prepared Alfasud Ti, memorably sponsored by ANSA exhausts, and ended in 2001 with a silver 164 3 litre which sported prominent Citywall decals.
However, by the time the 164 came along Martin had already transferred his affections to endurance races, later with Brunswick and Dave Ashford. Martin’s most successful years were undoubtedly with the Sud, with which he won the highly competitive Class F in 1991 and then, in 1993 and 1994 with the first face-lift 33 to run in the Championship. Second place in F behind Nick Baughn’s surprisingly rapid ARNA was his reward in 1993 but he followed that by winning the class again in 1994 (also finishing 2nd overall) defeating the strong opposition of Phil Snelling and Dave Ashford.
More recently, Martin has raced in Belgium and in Britcar but a couple of years ago decided that it was time to retire as everything was becoming too expensive. However, he has now concluded that he could have at least one more year in Britcar, so it making a return to share a Chevron G8. We certainly wish him good fortune.
BRSCC Dinner/Dance and Prize Giving
Andrew Bourke was at the Crown Plaza, Stratford on Avon on February 3rd for the annual BRSCC Dinner/Dance and Prize Giving to receive his Alfa Championship trophy from new BRSCC Chairman, Peter Daly. Around Christmas Andrew had received some rare and excellent publicity from “Motorsport News” and “Autosport following his win, so It was sad to learn that he will not be racing in 2018 to defend his title – and to run with number 1. His cause was not helped by the destruction of his 156 at Mallory last September but the need to move to a larger house – he has four young children after all! – and also to a larger workshop as his business in canvas prints expands had stretched the budget somewhat. He is determined to return in 2019 and says that we shall see him around from time to time as he keeps in touch.
It was good to see Paul Webster at the Prize Giving where he picked up his award for winning the Power Trophy in 2017. In an e-mail afterwards he said that he certainly enjoyed driving the 156 3.2 after struggling with the red Twin Spark which was getting tired and somewhat down on power compared to the rest of the field. He added that he will get have it refreshed at some point “as I would like to be competitive in the TS Cup where there are more drivers. I just hope there are more people in the Power Trophy next year as it can be a bit lonely at times running between the Modified and Twin Spark people. The race at Snetterton with Paul Plant was a definite highlight for me last season. The cars were pretty evenly matched overall, me with a little bit extra in straight line speed when I got god exits from the corners and Paul with the better set-up and suspension giving him an edge in some of the corners. More of that would be great next year!” I would agree with Paul there – the Power Trophy has the potential to be an excellent, varied and close fought class.
At the dinner to fly the ARCA flag were Andrew and Sarah Bourke, Andy and Linda Robinson, Paul and Samantha Webster, Paul Plant, and Michael and Diana Lindsay.
Alfa Team Joins World TCR
With the demise of TCR International championship it was clear that the Romeo Ferraris built Alfa Romeo Giuliettas would have to find somewhere else to race. The demise of the overspec WTCC and the elevation of TCR to FIA World Championship status was the team’s obvious destination and this was recently confirmed by their Chief Operations Officer, Michela Cerruti. As before, the cars will be entered by an independent team and no drivers have yet been named although I would love to see Michela having another chance.
The 2018 season kicks off on April 7th/8th in Marrakech, on a circuit already used this year for Formula E. At the moment, the World series is not coming to the UK, although there is still a gap in the schedule. If you want to see the action, why not pop across to Zandvoort over the weekend May 21st/22nd. Each meeting will have three races and the calendar is spread over four continents – truly international! None of this will impact immediately on the other international aspect of TCR in that 19 countries, including now the UK, have their own TCR Chmpionships. For those who don’t know what this is all about the technical regulations cater for front wheel drive, four/five door saloons or hatchbacks using turbocharged production engines with a capacity between 1750 and 2000cc. A maximum power output of 350 bhp is stipulated. Several manufacturers have, or are in the process of homologating TCR cars, including Alfa Romeo, Audi, Ford, Honda, Hyundai, KIA, LADA, Opel, Peugeot, Renault, SEAT, Subaru and Volkswagen. To date more than 600 (!) TCR cars have been built and sold to the customer teams who must run them. Of course, we are anxious to see how TCR UK develops. There have been rumours in the motoring press that the initial flood of interest has not been matched by registrations but the organising team remain confident that by the time we get to Silverstone for the opening rounds, all will be well. We hope so. As yet, though, no UK Alfa entry is confirmed although Romeo Ferraris were at Brands for the Taster Day.
BTCC Alfa Launch
In contrast to TCR UK, Alfa of course does have an interest in the BTCC. The Giulietta to be driven by Rob Austin this year was unveiled at the Thursday Trade Day of the Autosport Show and, inevitably drew a great deal of interest.
We have to use our imagination a little here as the car to be raced does not as yet have an Alfa Romeo engine but relies on the well tried TOCA one-fits –all unit. I wonder what our reaction would be if, in a few years time, the car is acquired by someone wanting to race it in the Alfa Championship? No doubt, the all encompassing “invitation class” would create a home, joining Roger Evans’ long awaited Giulietta with its 4.7 engine from the 8C.
Alfa Romeo Sauber (Ferrari)
A real old mish-mash this one! Well it is more of a Sauber – Ferrari than anything else but will be entered under the Alfa Romeo name. All this harks back to pre-war days when Scuderia Ferrari entered Alfa Romeos in Grand Prix racing. Look under the engine cover of the new car though and we are led to believe that the V6 Turbo unit will be badged “Ferrari” rather than Alfa Romeo. But more than that, the “Quadrifoglio” that has always graced Alfa Romeo GP cars will not be on the Sauber but will stay on the Ferraris to be raced by Vettel and Raikkonen! So, once more it is smoke and mirrors in the interests of marketing. Having got that out of the way, I am sure that the launch of the new car on February 20th will be greeted with enthusiasm by Alfa Romeo enthusiasts and we will all be hoping that Charles Leclerc and Marcus Ericcson can post some good results in 2018 with the latest Ferrari engine behind them.
One interesting aside – “AutoSprint” recently reported that Sergio Marchionne had had some discussion about Alfa/Ferrari becoming the third engine supplier for the Indycar Championship, joining Honda and Chevrolet. It would not be the first time that Alfa have been represented at Indianapolis. Look back to 1990 when Roberto Guerrero and Al Unser raced the March 89CE fitted with an Alfa badged Ferrari engine. This time, it is probably just another wild rumour to give Liberty Media a nudge following the threat to withdraw Ferrari from F1 if they don’t like what they see for 2021.