This will be a slightly abbreviated “Friday Fix” but we thought that we shouldn’t let another week go by without highlighting one or two events in the Alfa world – not least of which is a win (at last!) by a Giulietta in the World TCR Championship, and not with either of the much heralded “old Guard” at the wheel.
Romeo Ferraris Giulietta wins at Suzuka
The 2018 WTCR season has not been exactly been a joyous one for the Team Mulsanne run Giuliettas but the penultimate rounds at Suzuka saw a complete reversal of fortune. It hadn’t looked good after the races in China, particularly as Fabrizio Giovanardi joined Gianni Morbidelli in leaving the team as he felt that the Giulietta had failed to be the competitive car that he expected. It is ironic, therefore, that ex GP2 racer Kevin Ceccon, who had earlier replaced Morbidelli, should bring the team its first win of the year as team leader following a number of changes to the car and help in running zero ballast. In race 2 he might also have won but received a time penalty, pushing him down to 2nd while in race e he was an excellent 3rd.
At Suzuka Ceccon was joined by Italian TCR front runner (and early championship leader) Gigi Ferrara who had won both TCR Italy races at Monza at the beginning of October. Unfortunately this was not enough to allow him to overtake points leader Salvatore Tavano who became champion with his Cupra with Ferrara second for Alfa Romeo.
More points for Alfa Romeo Sauber-Ferrari.
The first of two back-to-back races in the USA and Mexico brought mixed fortunes for the Alfa Romeo Sauber-Ferrari team. At Austin, Texas, Charles Leclerc qualified an excellent 9th but was then involved in an incident with Kevin Magnussen’s Haas in the race and later retired. Marcus Ericsson, on the other hand, suffered an accident in practice but then recovered in the race to take a point for 10th. On to Mexico City where qualifying went well, both Sauber’s getting through to Q3 and starting 9th (Leclerc) and 10th (Ericsson). In the race that saw Lewis Hamilton win his 5th World Championship, Leclerc drove a stormer to finish a superb 7th, with Ericsson 9th, again in the top 10. All this has left Leclerc 15th in the championship table with 27 points and the chance to catch both Pierre Gasly (Toro Rosso) and Romain Grosjean (Haas) just ahead of him with two races (Brazil and Abu Dhabi) still to go. In the Constructors Championship, though, Sauber will be fighting hard to keep their 8th place from an assault by Toro Rosso.
One very positive point from the USA G.P. was that Kimi Raikkonen took his first win for Ferrari since returning for his second stint with the team. At least when he moves to Alfa Romeo Sauber next year he will go as a race winner. He says that he has few regrets about leaving Ferrari and is relishing the new challenge that awaits him in 2019
Tatiana Calderon gets her test.
I recall being sceptical earlier in the year when 25 year old Columbian Sauber test driver and GP3 racer said that she was pushing for a run in the C37 before the end of the year. I am happy to be proved wrong as Tatiana had her wish come true when she took the wheel during a filming session after the Mexican Grand Prix. Despite maximum (permitted by the FIA) of 100 kms and the use of Pirelli’s special tyres for such events, it was clearly all a great success. Afterwards Tatiana recorded that “it had been an incredible experience. The power, braking and grip of this car are unbelievable and I felt very comfortable on track. After a few laps, you start getting used to the speed and I had lots of fun. I want to thank the Alfa Romeo Sauber F1 team (and my sponsors) for giving me this opportunity today and trusting me to do the job”.
Xevi Pujolar – Head of Track Engineering at Sauber F1 added “Tatiana drove a Formula One car for the first time today and did a very good job. We are happy to see her perform so well and once again were impressed by her dedication and work ethic. This event marks a positive step for our sport, and we look forward to seeing Tatiana continue to make progress”. Formula 2 beckons and, who knows, maybe an outing in a Grand Prix FP1.
Italian Bid gains Regional F3 with Tatuus-Alfa
The ACI (Italy’s equivalent of the MSA) and WSK who promote various major Karting series battled with the Renault Sport for the contract to run Regional F3 from 2019 onwards. The outcome is that the FIA have given approval to the ACI/WSK group, which already organises Italian F4 with Abarth engines, to run the new series which will hold four races in Italy (Monza, Imola, Mugello and Vallelunga) and four in other European countries (Austria, Belgium, Germany and Spain). As mentioned before, the Tatuus built chassis will feature an AutoTecnica prepared 1.8 turbo Alfa Romeo engine, derived from that used in the Giulietta, producing some 270 bhp.
BRSCC to organise Formula W powered by Alfa engines
It was always going to be controversial! A new European championship for women has been launched for 2019, with a prize fund of $1.5 million and it will have the BRSCC as its organising body. David Coulthard, Adrian Newey and former McLaren team manager Dave Ryan will all have significant roles to play. The whole idea is to bring young women drivers to the notice of teams in other championships far quicker than would be the case through the FIA’s current schemes and for that it is to be applauded. The twenty drivers who eventually make up the grid will have the use of virtually the same car that has been launched for Regional F3.
I suppose it was to be expected that several women drivers who have managed to establish themselves in male dominated championships such as Simone de Silvestro, Katherine Legge and Tatiana Calderon should see this is a step backwards but it seems to we shall be noticing names in 2019 and beyond that otherwise we might not have done, and that is all to the good.
One little note to the BRSCC though. In their press release, they failed to mention that the new car has an Alfa Romeo engine! I’m sure Scott Woodwiss will put that right in due course.
Donington Museum Closes
With good news, sometimes comes bad. I think we were probably happy that Jonathan Palmer had taken over the Donington circuit and would be pumping funds into its infrastructure for the future. A recent visit saw some of the first fruits of that. However, a few weeks ago, also came the news that the Donington Museum, established by Tom Wheatcroft in 1973, would close on November 5th. All the fabulous Grand Prix cars that have been admired by so many over the years will now either be returned to their owners or sold. I imagine this will include one of my favourite GP cars of all time, the 4.5 litre OSCA first raced by Prince Bira on Easter Monday 1951 at Goodwood. The car was really a 4CLT/48 Maserati chassis fitted with the OSCA engine that had been designed by Gordini – that’s a convoluted history for you! I have a framed picture of Bira sitting in the car that I took in the Goodwood Paddock before he went out to win the Richmond Trophy. The car later raced at the Silverstone International Trophy before being damaged in an accident in the San Remo GP. From that point on appearances were spasmodic but it did return to Goodwood for a Revival meeting. At any one time there were over 130 GP cars from various eras in the Donington collection, including the Bimotore Alfa Romeo, and one can but hope that, unlike many works of art, they will not just disappear into private hands and never been seen again. Some, I suppose might even join those that have return to Historic racing, like several Williams cars have already done. Otherwise, where would McLaren put all those cars that occupied Donington’s full McLaren hall.
Classic Alfa Challenge 2019
A late post this afternoon brought us a Newsletter from Julius Thurgood (Historic Racing Drivers Club) which, among other things gave us the date for the first confirmed 2019 date for the Classic Alfa Challenge – Sunday, April 14th at Silverstone. Other provision dates are Thruxton, Sunday June 2nd and Castle Combe, Saturday, October 5th. In addition two exclusive to HRDC track days will be held at Goodwood on March 5th and 18th. All races will be to the same format as Donington – 15 minute qualifying and 30 minute race – with four classes as before.
Diana and I look forward to seeing you at the Awards Dinner on November 10th. I hope that you have booked your tickets. Its only a week away!