With Christmas and New Year celebrations now a distant memory, and the Autosport Show done and dusted, we can now look forward to another very busy year of Motorsport.

However, there has been one cloud hanging over the sport for some time and that has been the threat from Vnuk. For those who haven’t been following  this, a new EU insurance directive could have required any off road vehicle to have third party insurance, including those taking in part in competitive events on race circuits. As our friend Andy Hancock (Grove & Dean) told us some time ago, that would have made club motorsport uninsurable and placed heavy demands on racing at other levels. It could all have been brought to a grinding halt. The latest news from Strasbourg and Brussels is more reassuring and although the exclusion still has to be confirmed by a vote in the European Parliament, it is assumed that the steering committee’s vote will be followed. Although motor sport may escape, though, it doesn’t stop implementation of insurance requirements in other off road areas, so make sure you know whether your ride-on mower or golf buggy are covered!!

I recently came across this picture of Charles and Jean Mortimer taking part in a Sprint held on an old airfield at Cockfosters just after the war when any opportunities to compete were grabbed with both hands and I wondered what the insurance implications might have been!! 

Autosport Show

The first Trade Day at Autosport International saw me back at the NEC, negotiating my way through revised car parks to the five halls being used for the first time this year. These are at the Birmingham International Station end of the complex. The last time I remember being there was the first occasion that the NEC hosted the Motor Show, back in 1978. The crowds were huge and I recall never wanting to go there again! The Autosport Show changed all that. This year, the BRSCC were able to have a bigger stand to accommodate cars from most of their major championships. The Alfa Romeo Championship had the much admired Filippo Berio liveried 147 of Andrew Fulcher and once again it seemed to be attracting a great deal of attention. As usual, it was nice to meet old friends as well as those who were showing interest in what the Alfa Championship has to offer and I think that this was a pattern repeated over all four days. It will be interesting to watch registrations over the next couple of months and I know that Andy Robinson, who I spoke with on the stand, is very optimistic that we are heading towards a season with fuller grids.

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While I was there, we were visited by ex Eligibility Scrutineer Colin Barnett and he was able to tell us that he will be part of the BRSCC’s Scrutineering team when we go to Brands Hatch in March. Another very cheerful arrival was Graham Heels, telling us that he and Alistair Iles were building a couple of cars for the Porsche Club Championship. Graham, though, was at pains to point out that he will only be the “reserve” driver behond Alistair and one of their customers. Double Anglesey winner last April, Mervyn Miller was present with Barry and Arthur McMahon, making up an Irish contingent and telling Andy that he is going to leave his car and trailer here for the season with the hope of taking part in as many rounds as possible, Nick Anderson visted the stand with Louise West and Charlotte Smith but we heard a few days later that Nick will have to stop racing as he is having an internal heart defibrillator fitted (today) and that precludes getting a competition licence. His cars and trailers will therefore be for sale (watch the website). Nick is not unnaturally extremely sad about this turn of events, as are we, but he plans to visit race meeting during the year and to get involved as a marshal.                                               

During the day I had a chat with TCR UK Championship Manager Jen Mouratsing about their forthcoming season as we shall be at three of their meetings (Snetterton, Croft and Donington). At the moment it doesn’t look likely that there will be an Alfa Romeo entry after the 2018 problems but you never know. During the day I also went down to the Formula W stand and chatted to their PR Manager and confirmed that this is quite clearly a very serious and well funded operation. With the Alfa Romeo connection we shall be keeping an eye on progress.

It was good to see that Bianco Auto Developments representatives had been able to organise a stand at the last minute with the University of Hertfordshire, showing John Symes’ lovely GTAm replica, as raced at Donington last October. Part of the stand was also given over to a display of LMA products. The company has been bought from Stuart and Margaret Cumming by Paul Plant and Emma Karwacki with Paul’s brother Tom Herbert also much involved. Harry White, Tom and Alex Hearnden were manning the stand and there will be some interesting news in the near future as Bianco are on the move – not far, just down the road to Shipley Bridge – with a major upgrade of facilities including four ramps and a rolling road. LMA will operate from a mezzanine floor above.

There was so much to see at the Show that a single day is hardly enough to take it all in but I was interested to have a moment to look at a group of current or near current F1 cars next to the BRSCC stand. Pink, or not, I have to say that I admired the 2018 Force India but I realised how big they all are now as compared with something like a Jim Clark Lotus 33 or Graham Hill BRM from the early 60s.

Alfa Champions on the Website

As you will have undoubtedly noticed, Matt Daly has been progressing well with a very smart re-vamp of the ARCA website. Part of this has been an update of the Champions section with photographs from the archives, many of which I have enjoyed finding and sending across. It is certainly worth a look if you are into championship nostalgia.

Driver Profiles

If you’re planning to race this year and would like to write a driver profile including info on your racing history and your plans for 2019, please email Matt Daly ([email protected]). Andrew Fulcher and Paul Webster have started us off if you need some inspiration.

Touring Car Racing 1958 -2018. A History of the BTCC.

Matt James (Editor of Motorsport News) and Evro Publishing have produced a new history of the British Touring Car Championship and I was lucky enough to be given a copy for Christmas. Essentially it is the photographs that make the book, with several of the Napolina and John West Cars raced by Alfa Romeo Dealer Team. However, there was also a surprise with a picture from 1976 of the Campari sponsored Alfasud being driven by Jon Dooley, skirting the Thruxton barrier, that I had not seen before. The years of the John Handley, John Lyon, Stan Clark and Tony Dron 2000 GTVs and 1600 GT Juniors are also covered. The highlights of each year are on a single page which makes it hard to go into much detail, but I was disappointed to find that Jon had been robbed of his hard fought 1981 Championship class win in the Napolina Sud Ti with completely wrong facts giving victory to Richard Longman’s Metro. For £60.00 (and with David Addison also involved) I would have expected better and it puts question marks over the book as a research tool. However, the pictures are great!

Andy Rouse – Top BTCC driver

It was probably to be expected that Andy Rouse would be chosen by “Autosport” and “Motorsport News” readers as the top driver in BTCC’s 60 year history. However, what is so often forgotten is that in 1983 Andy drove a GTV6. Owned by Pete Hall it had been one of the cars used by Luigi Racing in the 1982 European Touring Car Championship. Originally it was to be driven by Pete but he couldn’t get on with it and after four rounds invited Andy to take over the driving and preparation of the car. The result was a certain amount of embarrassment for Jon Dooley and Alfa Romeo Dealer Team, Andy going on to win both the class and championship overall that year. A small compensation was the Alfa also won the Manufacturers Award and it agreed that we would keep the glass bowl awarded to the winners which I have on a shelf in my office. Andy, of course, went on to have great success with a Rover and then the Ford Sierra Turbo, winning the title again in 1984 and 1985, adding to the earlier championship he gained in 1975 with a Triumph Dolomite Sprint.

Alfa will return to WTCR with Team Mulsanne

Michela Cerruti, General Operations Manager of Romeo Ferraris, has announced that Team Mulsanne will once again be running Alfa Romeo Giuliettas in World TCR.  Drivers have yet to be made public but it seems odds on that Kevin Ceccon will remain with the team while the experienced, DHL sponsored, Tom Coronel will join him. There is a limit for each manufacturer of two, two car, teams but Romeo Ferraris may just stick to one as they did in 2018.

Meanwhile, in the TCR China Finale at Guandong, Ma Qing Hua took victory in a  Freely Racing entered Giulietta. News just announced is that there will be two Giuliettas running in TCR Australia under the Garry Rogers Motorsport banner. This is a team that is already heavily involved in Australian Supercars but the  programme with Alfa Romeo marks the second time that GRM have been involved with the Italian marque as they ran a 155 for Steven Richards in the 1995 Australian Super Touring Car Championship. They have been particularly impressed by the support they have received from Romeo Ferraris and look forward to racing the latest version of the Giulietta.

When did we first use the Snetterton 300?

Over the years, since it first opened in 1953, the Snetterton circuit has undergone numerous changes of layout. As a fifteen year old, I remember going there for the first time by train, getting off at the halt just down the road and walking up to find this new venue in the wilds of Norfolk. Since then, the old 2.71 mile  layout, part of which ran beside the A11, has gone to be replaced by shorter circuits, the last of which, before the current choice, being 1.95Miles in length. When Jonathan Palmer and MSV took over the circuit in 2005 they were soon publishing plans for its reconstruction but it was some four years before a final version was agreed, with construction being started in 2010.  So now we have the 100, 200 and 300, the last named, 2.97 miles in length being the one that we shall be using over the Easter weekend, April 20/21.

The first time we used the “300” was on April 24 2011,  the second meeting of the year after a visit to Silverstone had attracted 22 cars. Amazingly, although 12 of those didn’t enter for Snetterton, the entry there was still 21! The previous year’s champion, Mel Healey, led the Championship once again by 1 point from Roger Evans, with Chris Snowdon, Graham Seager and Dave Messenger tied for third but only Mel was on the Snetterton entry list. She was also running number 1 for the first time after having use her old number at Silverstone. After a third place at Silverstone, Steve Dymoke (156 Turbo) was hoping to go one better and also win class A2 in the absence of Chris Snowdon in the Lahoma 33 16v although there was another entry in the class in the welcome form of Nick Anderson’s 8v 33. Notable in the list were four production class 33s for Paul Plant, Chris Healey, Gethin Llewellyn and Steve Fletcher.

Qualifying left Anthony George (156 Turbo) with a massive 5” advantage over Steve Dymoke with Alastair Iles’ 147 GTA a further 5” back, Keith Waite chasing him hard in his 75b 3 litre. Paul Plant led the production 33s while Chris Finch (156) led the healthy Class E (Twin Spark) class fractionally ahead of the impressive Mel Healey with Neil Smith (147) 3rd.  The new high spectator bank overlooking the approach to Riches on one side and the new complex on the other had proved popular with spectators, with plenty of dusty off track moments to keep them entertained while the area near the new Murrays corner (ex Russell) was still considered best for photography.

Race day was sunny and dry with only one 20 minute race on offer. Amazingly it was the quick starting rear wheel drive 75 of Keith Waite that led into Riches. His moment of glory didn’t last long as the slow-away Anthony George, Steve Dynoke (his transmission repaired after a problem in qualifying) and Alastair Iles making their way by. It was then a race at the front between Antony and Steve but the white  Stonemanor 156 Turbo always held the advantage, eventually coming home 7” ahead although the fastest lap by both cars was with a tenth of a second of each other. There was a battle to the end between Alastair Iles and Nick Anderson, Alastair being hampered by gear selection problems – “like stirring syrup” he said afterwards. However the 147 just held on to the flag. Keith Waite brought his 75 home 5th, despite a splitter breaking off-circuit moment, with John Griffiths Class B 156 6th. Paul Plant led the production 33s home while Neil Smith headed Mel Healey in E and Sarah Heels had an excellent drive to win C and finish 9th overall.

Mel left Snetterton leading the Championship with 39 points from Steve Dymoke (32) and Sarah Heels (28) with the next round at Cadwell Park.

 “More Alfa than Sauber in 2019”

That was the headline in the latest issue of “Autosprint” that arrived on my doormat yesterday. It is clear that Alfa are ramping up their involvement in the team and there is even talk of them taking over completely and setting up a new legal structure before the end of 2019. For the moment, though,  the team continues to be led by the highly effective Fred Vasseur with Simone Resta, ex Ferrari, in charge of the design of the new Sauber C38. This will make its debut at Fiorano on February 14th before moving onto Barcelona four days later for the official launch and the first test of the year.

It seems that most of the mid field teams think that the Kimi Raikkonen and Antonio Giovanazzi will have a strong package to head that mid grid bunch with even the chance to trouble Red Bull if their new Honda engine proves less effective than the Milton Keynes team predict. The first round of the 21 race championship in Australia will give us a clue but there are often strange results in Albert Park that don’t actually relate to what happens later. No news so far of Tatiana Calderon’s continued involvement with the team but she has been keeping herself busy testing in Formula E, having a resounding second quickest time in the first session at Marrakesh recently before ending 7th over the whole four sessions.

Les Paul

We were very sad to hear the other day about the death of Les Paul at the age of 85. Les was one of the earliest members of Alfa Romeo Owners Club with membership number 142 which even preceded mine. He was probably best known for his ownership of a 1929 1750SS which he had rebuilt over a number of years, taking it to a Goodwood Practice Day in 1987 and then to many other events both here and abroad. However, he also owned modern Alfas including odd-balls such as one of the Bell & Colvill turbocharged Alfetta GTs that I remember him displaying at a Knebworth National Alfa Day in the late 70s. I also used to meet Les at Motor Books in St.Martin’s Court, off the Charing Cross Road, which he owned for many years. He would often talk about his flying exploits, taking his plane over to Jersey for tea! His knowledge and unfailing good humour will undoiubtedly be missed and we send our condolences to his wife Sarah and the rest of the family. Les’s funeral will be held on Friday, February 1st at the Easthampstead Park Cemetary, Bracknell RG40 3DW – 1.30pm (please arrive 20 minutes earlier).

Spartaco Dini 1943 – 2019

Back in the 60s and 70s there was a group of young Italian drivers, headed by the likes of Andrea de Adamich and “Nanni” Galli who were seen three wheeling their Autodelta built Alfas around the classic circuits of Europe in the European Touring Car Championship. Perhaps not quite so well known but nonetheless very successful was Spartaco Dini who died recently at the age of 75. Dini’s career started in 1964, hillclimbing a Giulia Ti before moving on to ASA and then a Lotus Cortina. He was soon asked by Carlo Chiti to be part of the Autodelta team, racing the 2 litre 33 alongside outings in the 1600 GTA winning its class in the 1969 ETCC round at Aspern and finishing 2nd at the Nurburgring later in the year with De Adamich.

At the end of the year Dini was ETCC class champion and also won the Touring Car Division in the European Hill Climb Championship. The GTAm, 1300 GTA Junior brought more good results, as did outings in Alfettas  including a class win at Vallelunga in 1976 while a year later he took victory at the same circuit with a T33SC/12 with Vittorio Brambilla. Later in his career he switched his allegiance to Ferrari and was instrumental in the development of the 512BB, racing six times at Le Mans. He will be badly missed in Italian Historic Car circles                                             

We hope you have enjoyed reading the first “Friday Fix” of 2019. We hope to continue keeping you  up to date with matters Alfa during the year ahead and if you have any stories that you would like to see included, please do let us know on [email protected] or [email protected] . Also make sure that you keep an eye out for Andy Robinson’s Paddock Bulletins relating to important current championship news including race day information, regulations and registrations.

Michael Lindsay