So here we are at the final “Friday Fix” of the year.
We hope that you have enjoyed those that have gone before – it has been a pleasure putting them together with Matt and we hope to continue in the same vein in 2019. Basically, the idea is to keep you, our loyal readers, up to date with what is going on in the Alfa Romeo world beyond the Alfa Championship (although this one might be a slight exception) whether it be Sauber in F1, the various TCR championships worldwide or the new Classic Alfa Challenge organised by the Historic Racing Drivers Club. We also enjoy delving into the Alfa Championship archives and with almost four decade to look at, there is plenty of scope!
View from the Commentary Box
Once again I was given the opportunity to commentate on all our races in 2018, apart from Anglesey which Diana and I were unable to attend. However, we were able to add the Classic Alfa race at Donington on that very rainy day in October to our calendar. I feel very lucky to be made so welcome by all the regular commentators and I often marvel at the way they keep track of all the different categories that may be racing on any one day. I only have the Alfas to talk about, they have to be on the ball with millions of Mazdas or Caterhams, and then the highly individual series like the OSS prototypes. I was also pleased to be at Cadwell when Andy Fraser celebrated 50 years of commentating there.
2018 gave us another lively championship despite the difficulty of keeping grid sizes to a healthy level. Nonetheless, the racing was hard fought and I must congratulate Tom Hill on securing his second overall title, two years after the first in 2016, and thank his parents Lynda and Vik for all the support they gave him and the whole Bianco team – how many cars did Vik clean and polish during the season?! Bianco, of course, kept things alive in terms of the number of cars they were looking after. How they manage it, I am never sure, but how many hours did Harry White spend under 156s and 147s during the year? Looking out of the various commentary box windows there were many highlights, several of them at the “Festival Italia” meeting at Brands Hatch in August. On one of his rare appearances, Andrew Fulcher took his “Filipo Berio” 147 to victory, not once but twice. Now where did that come from? It was a popular result, as were the hard fought runner-up Twin Spark spots that day of Dave Mesenger and Simon Cresswell. But I think the battles between old and new for Brands overall wins in the shape of Chris Snowdon’s GTV and Ray Foley’s 147 GTA were the most memorable, with Ray leaping briefly to the front on lap 16 and then hustling Chris again in race 2.
We sadly lost two old friends of the Championship during 2018 in the shape of Mike Buckler and Peter West. Mike’s funeral brought together so many of his old customers and those he had been involved with in the early stages of their Alfa careers, Martin Parsons, Terry Stacey (Champion in 1988), Paul Lund, Paul Fasey and Tim Daniells, Jonathan Frankel, Will Winterson and Chris Snowdon to name just a few. Not quite on the same level, we said goodbye to Rockingham as a race circuit when we visited for the last time in September. Although, I never really liked the place, I have to admit that it had one of the best views from the commentary box on any circuit in the country. Being able to see the whole track was a luxury certainly not repeated at many circuits that have had money pumped into them. The wooden spoon goes to Silverstone although Oulton Park came close when we got there for the final meeting of the year to find that the Knickerbook box was not operating so that those of us (mainly me as Mike Cookson just handed over his headset!) in the main box were left to waffle on while the cars were out of sight negotiating the full circuit.
2019 Classic Alfa Challenge dates confirmed
Julius Thurgood has now been able to confirm his dates for the three Classic Alfa Challenge races he has planned for 2019, as follows:
Sunday, April 14th Silverstone
Sunday, June 2nd Thruxton
Saturday, October 5th Castle Combe
The Silverstone meeting is being organised by the VSCC and I was wondering when I last attended one of their events. A very long time ago, so it should be a good way to spend my birthday! Thruxton will be holding a Historic Celebration weekend when the Classic Alfas are there.
The latest issue of “Auto Italia” (January) carried a four page spread of the Donington race and through the good offices of Ted Pearson they used the race report that I did for our website in full. No editorial red pen to be seen! The article was complemented by some fine on track photographs by Steve Jones.
Congratulations to Grove and Dean
Winning any kind of award is a reward for one’s efforts, so many congratulations to Andy Hancock and his team at Grove & Dean for being judged “Motorsport Insurer of the Year” by Motorsport Awards. This was in one of 37 very varied categories where they were described as “small in number but massive in terms of high profile and successful clients”. For a while, I have been promising to send Andy a series of pictures of an Alfa Championship accident at Donington back in 1985 that I am sure he would have been glad not to be covering. Here are a couple of them showing John Myerscough’s Alfasud Ti having been hit by the Giulias of John Timpany and Chris Sweetaple who are then seen nose to tail behind, and the subsequent shortened Alfasud. The rest will be on their way to Andy in due course.
1982 and the Alfa Championship’s first visit to Brands Hatch
It has been good to see the 2019 calendar (even if still provisional) nice and early with a return to Croft as welcome date that I hope that competitors will give their full support to. The last time we were there was in 2016. However, we shall going to Brands twice – in March and August (Festival Italia) and I thought it would be amusing to look back to the first time that the Championship visited the Kent circuit – on November 21st (!) 1982. This was the last of six races that the BRSCC had run for us that year when we were still racing to a handicap formula. I wrote in the AROC magazine – many people “predicted that the chances of racing so late in the year would be slim as the track would either be covered in snow or blanketed in fog! Those with considerably more faith came well prepared for a very competitive race, for which we had gathered a 22 car grid. Amongst them were welcome newcomers to the series Martin and Linda Colvill with two “straight off the forecourt” Sud Ti 1.5s”. Also making his first appearance was Pietro Caccaviello with what promised to be handicapper’s (Me) nemesis a modified 2000 GTV. Rob Kirby and Andrew Thorpe were there with their 1.5 Sud Ti’s as was Peter Hilliard in the Alfetta GTV now owned by Richard Melvin and driven to victory by Chris Snowdon at Donington in October. AROC Chairman (at the time) was running his Junior Zagato and other well known faces were those of Paul O’Hanlon (scruffy GTA) and Harry White Snr in his Alfetta GTS.
The track stayed dry throughout and fastest in qualifying were the two Napolina Suds, closely pursued by Peter Hilliard. The Cacciaviello GTV was hardly on the radar as I would learn to my cost. On the limit mark – with an advantage of 2 laps (it was a 12 lap race) while husband Martin had 1 lap and 20” over the scratch cars. One attraction of Handicap races is that spectators can watch several starts and various drivers’ starting techniques while dealing with traffic quickly is vital.
With the race underway, Harry White quickly eradicated Linda Colvill’s advantage while Pietro Caccaviello was “eating up his deficit in great style”. “Rob Kirby was determined to get his nose in front of the Hilliard Alfetta. Coming up to Paddock on lap 7 they came across Cacciaviello’s GTV which slowed more than Hilliard expected. The Alfetta went to the left only to find Kirby’s Sud was almost in the same space” They made contact which broke one of the Sud’s drive shafts and sent him spinning down the hill, happily not hitting anything” .Paul O’Hanlon had been working his way to the front while Richard Gamble (eventual champion that year) and Chris Sweetapple (GTV) were both going well. As the flag dropped, it was Pietro Cacciaviello’s race, a full 24” clear of Paul O’Hanlon who just caught Harry White and Martin Colvill before the line. 17 of the final 19 starters finished.
Afterwards, commentator Brian Jones reckoned that the Alfa race had been one of the most exciting of the day – even if you didn’t know who was winning. A year later, with my handicapping skills more honed, I got Peter Cabrol (Sud Ti), Rob Kirby (Sud Ti) and Micky Bolton Alfetta across the line together to the point that the officials had difficulty deciding who had won! In the end it was Micky Bolton.
World TCR never sleeps
Team and drivers connected with the WTCR have been seen testing over the weeks since Macau. Alfa are no exception to this, having run a two day session for Kevin Ceccon, the experienced Tom Coronel, touring car regular Ma Quing Hua and Jono Lester a GT racer from New Zealand. Both Coronel and Quing Hua raced for Thierry Boutsen’s Honda team in the 2018 WTCR. Is Boutsen contemplating a link with Alfa?
The December 11 issue of “AutoSprint” carried a revealing article on the Team Mulsanne/Romeo Ferraris Giulietta effort in 2018, highlighting some of the problems that they faced. It is clear that Gianni Morbidelli felt that it should have been possible to develop the car into a competitive proposition from the base that they had at the start of the year. Fabrizio Giovanardi tried to drive round the handling problems but eventually had an amicable split with the team, “Two big names and very different in the way they went about things” said manager Michela Cerruti. In particular, Morbidelli had never raced a front wheel drive touring car. The arrival of Kevin Ceccon and Gigi Ferrari coincided with the results of some hard work by the Ferraris technical team, led by Mario Ferraris. The win at Suzuka was recorded by Michela as the “most beautiful day of my second life. I miss driving and my new role is much harder work and difficult, with more stress mentally but it has been very worthwhile”. Interestingly, Romeo Ferraris have produced 17 TCR Giuliettas (sold worldwide). Where are they all?
“Andiamo a Milano” 2019
For some time, Ken Carrington has been talking about another – and final – “Andiamo a Milano” trip and it seems that this will now take place in between June 22nd and July 7th next year. Details are given on the AROC website although I think there will be interesting detail to emerge as time goes by. There will be 50 cars involved and anybody wanting to go is advised to contact Ken quickly as many of the places have already been taken by those who went on earlier trips. Although I was never able to join for the full itinerary, I have fond memories of the parts that I could take part in, including in Milan, Turin, Monza, Balocco and Maranello. Ken’s organising skills were certainly put to the test but he always managed to come up trumps over hotels, visits on the way and just creating an enjoyable atmosphere for all those taking part. If you are interested you can contact him on 01245 473455 or 07770 524326.
Autosport International Trade Days
The Thursday and Friday of the Autosport Show weekend (January 10th and 11th) are always the loosely called the trade days and if you are a BRSCC member you are entitled to free entry. However, you need to book your ticket in advance and should have been sent the link by the BRSCC that makes it quick and easy. The Alfa Championship will be represented by Andrew Fulcher’s “Felipo Berio” liveried 147 – double winner at Brands Hatch in August.
“AutoSprint” held the 53rd edition of its prestigious annual awards ceremony in Milan last weekend with Charles Leclerc taking the top “Caschi d’Oro” trophy which he accepted alongside Ferrari team manager Maurizio Arrivabene. However, for Alfa enthusiasts it was almost better to see two drivers who are part of the marque’s history over a long period of time – Arturo Merzario and Bruno Giacomelli- receiving “Caschi Legend” awards from the President of the ACI, Angelo Sticchi Damiani.
Alex Wurz to lead Formula W judging team
Ex Formula 1 and World Endurance driver, and now Chairman of the Grand Prix Drivers Association, Alex Wurz will lead the team judging the 55 accepted nominations to be whittled down to 18 for the new all women series using the Alfa Romeo powered Tatuus based on their Regional F3 car.
Thinking of next year’s post Brexit holidays?
I’m always coming across amusing photographs and I thought that this one might relate so some of the uncertainty at the moment!
Wishing everyone a very happy and relaxing Christmas and a successful new year on track and elsewhere.