Something to celebrate!

Well here we are at Friday Fix number 75. It was all started by Matt Daly in 2014 and he originally planned to produce something every week but I recall Dave Messenger querying with him whether that was possible given the time required to put it all together. Matt’s work pressures have meant that he couldn’t carry it on alone and I have been able to add my contributions over time which we hope that people have enjoyed reading. But for me too, a weekly Friday Fix was impossible. Matt does all the layout, sources many pictures and adds content when he has time but our thanks should go to him for having the idea in the first place.

Charles Leclerc to Ferrari and Raikkonen and Giovanazzi for Sauber for 2019

In an earlier Friday Fix we hinted that for 2019 there might be a straightforward swap in the line up of the Ferrari and Sauber teams, with Charles Leclerc moving to Ferrari and Kimi Raikkonen going the other way to Sauber. In the end it hasn’t happened quite like that. To begin with, yes, Ferrari decided to stick with Sergio Marchionne’s plan that Leclerc would be at Maranello. Kimi was told at the Italian GP that he would not be part of the Ferrari team after this year’s Abu Dhabi race. On his own initiative, he immediately started to talk old friends at Sauber. Team principal Fred Vasseur liked the idea of the boost, both commercially and technically, it would give Sauber if Raikkonen moved there and a deal was quickly struck. As this was not a Ferrari initiative, it meant that their hold on one Sauber seat was not compromised. If they wished to move Antonio Giovanazzi there, or to keep Marcus Ericsson, they could do either. The outcome is that Giovanazzi has got the nod and is naturally delighted as he will be the only Italian on the grid.  Undoubtedly, though, Raikkonen has the ‘Wow’ factor for Sauber and for Kimi it will mean that he can cycle to work as he lives just up the road from Hinwil! Still, that hasn’t stopped the Italian press going “wild” as they herald a new Italian hero although it doesn’t quite match up with 1980 when there were 9 Italians in F1.

Photo: Alfa Romeo Sauber F1 Team

Meanwhile, since the last “Friday Fix” we have had the Italian, Singapore, Russian Grand Prix.  FP1 in Italy saw a monster accident for Marcus Ericsson whose DRS flap failed to shut on the approach to the first chicane at some 200 mph, pitching him into the barrier and then a multiple roll from which he was lucky to emerge unscathed. Neither Sauber managed to get beyond Q1 and in the race finished a disappointing 11th and 15th, even being beaten by the two Williams which were on better form at Monza. Singapore didn’t start well for Leclerc who knocked one front corner off his car with a small misjudgement, while qualifying only produced 13th and 14th quickest times. The race however saw both Leclerc and Ericsson in feisty form and Leclerc was to finish a fine 9th and Ericsson 11th. The Russian GP in Sochi was even better. Leclerc showed just why he has been chosen by Ferrari, finishing a superb 7th and leading what is now beginning to be referred to as Class B behind Mercedes, Ferrrari and Red Bull. Ericsson finished 13th, a lap down. Giovanazzi, who took over Ericsson’s car for FP1 also showed just why he had been chosen as Raikkonen’s team mate by setting 10th quickest time, five places ahead of Leclerc. Sauber test driver Tatiana Calderon had her best showing in GP3, taking a solid 7th place in race 2. She is still hoping to have a run in FP1 at some stage but that might be a bit optimistic!

Barrie Williams

The Saturday of the Goodwood Revival brought the very sad news of the death of Barrie Williams, one of the most prolific drivers, with over 800 races to his name since he started his career in as varied collection of cars as you could imagine, particularly when he switched his efforts from tin tops where he scored 11 BTCC class wins, to historics. He can be recalled driving the Ferguson P99 4 wheel Formula 1 car, ERAs, Aston Martin DBR1, A type Connaught, Tojeiro Jaguar to name just a few, with great verve. However, what has not been mentioned in any of the obituaries that I have read is his year with an Alfa in the 1977 British Saloon Car Championship. This was the ex Peter Hilliard 1300 GT Junior which had been bought for him by group of friends headed by Gerry Marshall (and probably including Tony Lanfranchi). The idea was that Barrie should pose a real challenge to Bernard Unett’s dominant Avenger in the 1300 class.

As it was, the car was never quite on the Avenger’s pace but that didn’t stop Barrie scoring a win with it at Silverstone and taking several class podiums. As the Dealer Team was helping him a little to run the car, I got to know Barrie quite well that year and thereafter whenever we met at circuits, dinners or shows, we would always have a good reminisce about what might have been. He was always the most friendly “name” that I have come across in racing and his presence will be sorely missed although I feel that he would never have been happy just watching from the sidelines. In recent years Barrie was also a proud President of the British Motor Racing Marshals Club, recognising how much we all owe to that dedicated group of people.

HRDC Classic Alfa Race at Donington

It was good to hear from Julius Thurgood that he has attracted 27 cars for his pilot 30 minute Classic Alfa Race to be held at Donington on Sunday, October 14th. It looks as though it is going to be a pretty varied collection of cars, including original GTA and GTAm cars, a quartet of Napolina team cars (I imagine Alfettas for Chris Snowdon and Stephen Chase and Suds for Chris Whelan and Richard Drake), several Giulia 105s, 101 Giuliettas (Gavin Watson will certainly be there in EXL 69), a 2600 Sprint and a 1900 CSS (who will certainly want to keep away from all the battling that’s likely to go on!).

Also entered, as expected, is Ted Pearson with his Trofeo Sud which he was due to test at Cadwell again on October 3rd. He was then hoping to get a testing slot at Donington before the Classic Alfa race as he hasn’t raced there for four or five years. Meanwhile, the latest on his Historic Formula Ford Merlyn Season – last outing was at Cadwell where he qualified on pole but spun in race 1, finishing 5th, anf finished 2nd in race 2 with fastest lap after nearly taking the lead at Chris Curve on the final lap.  An Alfa Championship “old boy” on good form then!

Alfa engine could power new Regional F3 car

International Formula 3 will replace GP3 as part of the Grand Prix package in 2019 with a regional F3 championship formula  providing part of a new “ladder” for drivers wishing to take a step up from F4. Italy is one of two countries planning  to make a bid to run the  new F3 series with Tatuus providing the chassis and Alfa Romeo’s well known 1750 Turbo unit being nominated as the mandatory engine. This will be supplied by Autotecnica who have been Abarth’s partner for Italian F4 and also in Asian F3.  The Regional F3 version will produce some 270 bhp at 6,000 rpm. Magneti Marelli will provide the engine management system and a 6 speed Sadev gearbox will be used. At each meeting there will be three 30 minute races. The cost of the chassis is 77,000 euros and the engine 23,000 euros which will also cover one rebuild at 10,000 km. The first completed car was tested recently at Vallelunga and Massimo Rivola,  who runs the Ferrari Driver Academy, is hoping that the FIA will approve the Championship for super-licence points thus helping to attract strong team and driver participation.

Happy 70th Birthday at Silverstone.

October 2nd marked the 70th anniversary of the first major race at Silverstone – the 1948 RAC Grand Prix. A year later, I made my first visit to a circuit that was very different from the one we know today,  for the 1949 Daily Express International Trophy, starting a run of events sponsored by the Express. Since then, I have been there to so many events, although in more recent times they have not included the Grand Prix or such major gatherings such as the Silverstone Classic.

By 1949 the original layout which took cars into the middle of the old airfield, racing towards each other at over 150 mph before reaching two closely matched hairpins, had been revised, only using the perimeter roads, with  a chicane at Club. It gave me my first opportunity to watch such heroes as Alberto Ascari, who won the final in his Ferrari, Giuseppe Farina, Luigi Villoresi and Prince Bira. I would have many similar opportunities later and many highlights. The next year, Alfa Romeo were back in Grand Prix racing with their 158s and perhaps that sparked my enthusiasm for Alfas and my eventual first purchase of a Giulia Ti in 1964. During the winter, there may be an opportunity (Matt permitting!) to look back at other Silverstone highlights.

A smaller SUV included in Alfa production plans

A September Special Issue of “Auto Express” carried more detail of Alfa Romeo production plans for the next few years and there is no doubt that they are, in many ways exciting. However, one has to be sad that there will no longer be Alfa Romeos in the part of the market once occupied by the Alfasud, 33 and Mito – in other words affordable for those who can’t splash out on a new Stelvio or Giulia. This also, of course, affects the availability of cars that might one day be raced in an Alfa Championship.

So what shall we being seeing on the roads in two or three years time? At the top of the list will undoubtedly be a small hybrid SUV (as yet un-named) due in late 2020. Alfa reckon that this could be their best ever seller while the current Stelvio will remain in production with a slightly larger version in the pipeline for 2021 with a brand new 400 bhp hybrid engine. The current Stelvio is due for a mid-life upgrade at the same time. The Giulietta will be completely reworked as a rear wheel drive hatchback, based on a shortened version of the Giulia chassis. Alfa has gone ahead with the design of a new  8C which will be aimed at the McLaren 720S, Ferrari 488 GTB and Lamborghini Huracan market. This will have a new carbonfibre monocoque and a twin turbo V6 engine and should arrive on the market in 2022. Of greater interest to many potential Alfa owners, however, will be an all new GTV. The previous 916 series model went out of production in 2005 and there has been a distinct gap in the range since then. The new GTV will basically be a two door version of the Giulia, with four wheel drive, and is being designed to accommodate four people in comfort. It is scheduled to go into production in 2021. As usual, it is not clear which, if any of these models will appear in right hand drive versions but one would imagine that any new Giulietta, Giulia, Stelvio and smaller SUV will do so.

TCR UK and Italy

Alfa Romeo woes have continued in TCR UK with neither of the DPE run Giuliettas making an appearance at Croft for the penultimate round at the beginning of September. Lack of parts was given as the reason. However, it is hoped that all will be well for the championship finals which take place at Donington over the weekend of 13th/14th October and that Derek Palmer Jnr and Robert Gilmour will have a last chance to end the team’s season on a high note.

Meanwhile, the Romeo Ferraris built Giuliettas continue to run strongly in the Italian TCR Championship although Luigi Ferrara has lost the initial lead he had established in the points table. Nonetheless, in the penultimate races held two weekends ago at the Vallelunga circuit, near Rome, Ferrara scored two fighting second places, although he really needed to win to have a realistic chance of catching championship leader Salvatore Tavano’s Cupra. The final races are at Monza this coming weekend.

Rob Austin leads at last!

Rob Austin was able to enjoy his best BTCC outing for some time at Silverstone (September 15th/16th ) and for a while it looked as though he might be able to get back onto the podium. Race 2 saw him finish 9th but it was in race 3 that it looked as though he had a real chance of getting home in the top 3.  For 20 of the 25 laps he ran third, then dropped to sixth but was able to re-pass Tom Chilton’s Ford Focus to move back into 5th place before the finish.

Photo: Pat Cranham

The final three races of this year’s BTCC were held on the Brands Hatch GP circuit last weekend and to begin with nothing seemed to go right for the Giulietta. Severe understeer held Rob Austin back to 14th in qualifying. Race 1 produced a disappointing run to 15th but things improved in race 2 with 9th which gave Rob pole for the reversed grid race 3. For five glorious laps, the Giulietta  held onto the lead but returning understeer meant that after 5 laps he had to give way at Paddock but was still able to keep a well deserved third place to take the team’s second podium finish of the year. What a relief to end the season on a high note after all the frustrations they have had.

Was I at Rouen for the French GP in 1968?

A recent e-mail from Ted Pearson posed the question “Was I at Rouen for the 1968 French Grand Prix?”. If not, there was somebody looking very like me in a film entitled  “1968 Millionaires – Colin Chapman” that had appeared on Youtube, leaning against a fence opposite the Rouen pits. Well, the answer to the question was “yes” I was there and I logged onto the link Ted had given me. Sure enough, half way through the film, there I was (confirmed by Diana and two old friends who were staying with us at the time Ted’s e-mail arrived!) but did I have that much hair? “Yes” was again the reply!

I had got to the track by ferry from Newhaven to Dieppe, then by train and bus and as the race was late starting (at 4.20), I had serious worries about making my connections on the way back but I made it in the end. The race itself was mostly run in the rain and won by Jacky Ickx’s Ferrari from John Surtees (Honda) and Jackie Stewart’s Matra Ford. However, it was notable for the fiery fatal accident to Jo Schlesser who was driving the experimental air-cooled Honda. This happened right in front of Ed McDonough who I didn’t meet until much later but who then related the horror of it all when he learned that I had been there too.

That’s It then (almost) at Rockingham

Looking out from the commentary box, housed alongside race control and the timekeepers in the main grandstand, it seemed strange to think that this would be last time that the Alfa Championship would race there. The circuit will finally close at the end of the year and there is an all-comers farewell meeting planned in late November. While taking photographs in qualifying near the Tarzan Hairpin, I got into conversation with someone who had been involved in the construction of the complex in 1998 and had been to almost every race meeting there since, which is some commitment!

Not unnaturally, he was extremely sad about it all and confirmed that a lot of people in nearby Corby were equally unhappy, even if the new owners are saying that jobs will be protected. As we have said before, the loss of any UK circuit is to be deplored  and it is the first major track to go since Aintree (1964) and Crystal Palace (1972) if we discount the Birmingham street circuit and the temporary closure of Mallory.

Lots of Friends at Oulton

Oulton Park is another of those circuits that attracts old friends of the Alfa Championship, and there were plenty there this year led by Christine and James Hodgkin, Paul and Rachel Buckley and Graham and Angie Fletcher. I was talking to Roy Jefferies about a photograph I had of him at a Stanford Hall National Alfa Day with Cubley’s Mike Halliday when who should appear but Mike himself, now happily retired at the early age of 55. So more reminiscing! Tim Newman came along for a chat – you may remember him working wonders a few years ago to get Andy Page’s Giulietta back racing after it had thrown its propshaft in qualifying. Richard Murtha from AROC was there as well, talking about the ex Dave Messenger 75 3 litre that he races and the forthcoming Classic Alfa race at Donington. I was also talking to 105 Spider owner Clive Woodward who should have been commentating from Knickerbrook but, on arrival, found that the electrics had failed. As a by-product, that left me with plenty of talking to do at the invitation of main commentator, Mike Cookson. It was good to see Peter Sloan, no doubt wondering how the ex Ian Fisher 3 litre he drove in 2010 (then with a 2.5 engine) would get on in the hands of current owner James Ford. Peter actually much preferred the 75 he also drove that year. We also had a long chat with main Cadwell commentator Andy Fraser who was there to witness the scattering of Oulton legend Tom Dooley’s ashes alongside the grid in a lunchtime ceremony.

Michael Lindsay