With the 2019 season now well underway there is plenty of action to talk about, apart from our own championship, the last round of which at Snetterton was reported on by Andy Robinson a week ago.
Alfa and Formula 1, Formula Woman and the Banks brothers in U2TC at Donington are all included in this edition of “Friday Fix”. We have also looked back at some fascinating in-car video footage from a hard fought 1999 Alfa Championship season and the brief life of a 1930s star Alfa Romeo Grand Prix driver.
Alfa Romeo promise in China undone by the rules at Baku
Moving on from China, the Grand Prix circus arrived in Baku for one of the most challenging races of the year on a street circuit that is quick, and both wide and narrow in parts. Practice 1 was disrupted by a loose manhole cover but in practice 2, Antonio Giovanazzi outpaced Kimi Raikkonen, the position being reversed in practice 3 when they would end up 10th and 12th although race pace was somewhat more encouraging. Qualifying saw both drivers get into Q3 but not able to lead “class B” as they had hoped, this honour going to the Racing Point of Sergio Perez. However, Giovanazzi knew that he was going to suffer a 10 place grid penalty for taking a third engine management replacement. For Raikkonen it was ever worse as his times were deleted when it was found that his front wing was deflecting too much and he had to start from the pit lane. In the race, both drivers showed strong pace. Raikonnen stopped early to change from Softs to Mediums and then just put his head down to emerge eventually in a point scoring 10th. Giovanazzi more than matched his team mate’s times, repaying some of the faith shown in him by the Alfa Romeo team but it was still not enough to take him beyond a final 12th place finish.
This weekend, the teams are back at Barcelona, a track they all know (over) well. If testing form is repeated, Ferrari will emerge ahead of Mercedes. They will have a new version of their V6 engine but neither Alfa or Haas will be using it, preferring to stick with what they know to be reliable.
Barcelona Alfa test for Callum Illott
It is always interesting to see who is next out of the Ferrari Driver Academy pack to be offered a drive at one of the F1 test days. At Bahrain both Alfa Romeo and Ferrari used Mick Schumacher to good effect. After the Spanish GP, the Circuit de Catalunya hosts a couple of days running and it seems that Alfa Romeo will have 20 year old British driver Callum Illott in action. This seems logical as he is a member of “Sauber Junior Team by Charouz” in Formula 2 this year after finishing 3rd in GP3 in 2018 with ART GP. Illott started his career in Karting in 2011 before moving on to FIA Formula 3 in 2015 with the Carlin Team. With Prema in 2017 he won six races and finished 4th in the standings.
Still with Alfa in a reserve driver role, Tatiana Calderon is hoping that she will get another chance to driver a current car during 2019. Unfortunately, her debut in F2 hasn’t been entirely stellar and at Barcelona she will be handicapped with a grid penalty after indiscretions in the opening rounds. However, she is familiar with the Barcelona circuit which should help.
Formula W underway at last at Hockenheim
Not before time, it seems to have been acknowledged in official results information that the Formula W Tatuus is powered by an Alfa Romeo derived engine. And it was this that took championship favourite Jamie Chadwick to a win in the opening round at Hockenheim, four seconds clear of Alice Powell, who hasn’t raced single seaters for five years and Spanish driver Martia Garcia. Chadwick had dominated both practice and qualifying sessions before losing the race lead my misjudging her braking into the first corner. Helped by a safety car re-start she never looked back and now leads the championship points table. It will now be interesting to see if the order in shaken up at Zolder when racing resumes on May 18th.
After a deal with Channel 4, the races can all be watched live with Lee McKenzie as lead presenter. David Coulthard in a commentary role joining no.1 commentator Claire Cottingham while the renowned technical guru, Ted Kravitz will be in the pit lane.
WTCR – Budapest:
After a disappointing opening three races in Marrakech, things got little better for Team Mulsanne with the Giulietta Veloce when the WTCR appeared for its second meeting of the year in Hungary. Neither Kevin Ceccon nor Ma Qing Hua were on the pace, the best finish was 11th by Ma in race three.
Stop Press: There is some encouraging late news for Alfa after Ma Qing Hua took his Team Mulsanne Giulietta Veloce to 3rd place in first qualifying at the Slovakiaring today, only headed by two Hyundai 130Rs. Kevin Ceccon backed him up by ending 6th to make this their best performance so far this year.
4C Picchio in CIVM
While we wait for Riccardo Losselli’s much anticipated 4C to make its Alfa Championship debut we can look to the Italian Mountain Championship (CIVM) to see how the 4C derived Picchio aer is performing in the hands of Alessandro Gabrielli. Quite well it would seem, winning its class on April 28th in the 29th Trofeo Scarfiotti at Sarnano near Ancona after a four and a half minute climb.
Regional F3 makes progress.
The new Alfa Romeo powered F3 series made a better showing on its second appearance at Vallelunga. 14 cars taking to the track as against 10 at Monza, David Schumacher (son of Ralf) taking one of the wins.
Banks win in U2TC at Donington
Andrew and Max Banks took their 1600 GTA to a comfortable victory in the U2TC race for pre 1966 Touring Cars at Donington (part of the MSVR Historic Festival) over the early May Bank Holiday.. After losing pole to the Andrew Jordan/Peter Chambers Lotus Cortina, they were never headed in the raceand romped home some 30” ahead of Shaun Balfe’s Cortina with a fastest lap in 1’23.166”.
Paul Bessant’s in-car Videos
Watching the in-car videos that accompany our race reports is now an expected part of the website coverage but back in 1999/2000 that was not the case. For one thing, we didn’t have a website and not many people had in-car cameras, and if they did the quality of the footage was not great. It was, therefore, a bonus when Matt discovered two hours of footage that had been posted on youtube by Paul Bessant covering six races during those particular years when he was racing a Class E 75 Twin Spark prepared by Avon Racing, winning the class in 1999 after a hard fought campaign against Chris Oxborough (75 TS) and Tim Dackombe (155). We thought our website regulars would be interested to watch the films and that a few notes to help indentify the cars and drivers involved would help the enjoyment. Also, we have split the coverage in two so that we don’t have over-kill, taking 1999 first. The battles between Paul and Chris Oxborough (silver Alfa 75 no.77) don’t need many explanatory words but other cars that come into view perhaps do. The featured races in 1999 at Oulton Park, Croft and Snetterton . There were six classes in those days and, depending on the entry, they didn’t always race together, so Oulton and Croft had E and F paired while at Snetterton it was A,B and E.
Oulton Park (July 24th): The first thing to note is that the race is being run on the Fosters version of the circuit which cuts out the long run to the Shell Hairpin and dives straight down from Cascades to Knickerbrook. I often think it would be interesting to have another meeting on this short configuration (lap time for a Class E car around 1’15”). Paul Bessant is on the fourth row of the grid with Adie Hawkins (Class F 33) on pole alongside Dave Ashford (33) who would go on to be that year’s overall champion. Graham Heels and Graham Saunders are both on the second row in their 33s with Brian Thorp (33) and Nick Barfoot no.25 (33) – white nose just visible – on row 3. Paul has Chris Lawton (33) no.10 beside him on row 4 but crucially, Steve Foley (yellow 75) no. 84 and Tim Dackombe (white 155) no. 35 are on the two rows further back, out of camera shot at the start. It is a hectic first corner for Paul as Steve Foley thrusts his way past and the camera car understeers onto the grass and loses several places, importantly to Tim, Kevin Kemplen (blue and yellow 33) and then Chris Oxborough, as he recovers. At the bottom of hill, Nick Barfoot spins off, stage left, and the story of the race is now set as Paul chases Chris Oxborough and Kevin Kemplen. It is not until Nick Barfoot the recovering re-appears just before Lodge several laps later and Chris mysteriously slows that it all changes and Paul moves into a final 3rd in class. Overall winner that day, now well out of sight, was Adie Hawkins, from Dave Ashford, Graham Heels and Graham Saunders, all in 33s. Steve Foley took a fine Class E win and 5th overall on his local circuit with Tim just 2.5” back showing how competitive the 155 could be. I had also forgotten what quick drivers John Whitbourn and Nick Barfoot (spin apart!) could be. They finished 4th and 5th in the Class F points table at the end of the year. John later went on to race successfully in Formula Ford.
Croft (8th August): For the 15 lap race on the popular Croft circuit that we shall be visiting again in July, Paul was back on the 6th row, two behind his main class E rivals, Tim Dackombe and Enzo Buscaglia (75 Twin Spark) and just behind the 33s of Derek Jones (no.50 – sporting Re-Lec stickers) and no.5, the white and red car of Nick May. The run into the Clearvaux Esses is always somewhat of a challenge and Paul had plenty of work to do as he chased first, Hazlewood, and then Barfoot, Buscaglia, May and Lawton through the rest of the lap. Coming onto the pit straight, you see May and Lawton make contact, Lawton goes sideways and is collected by Barfoot but both continue, albeit Lawton’s 33 having plenty of visible damage. There is more action between Bessant and May but what you can’t see is Paul being pursued by the Giulietta of Steven Griffin and 75 of Ray Foley, trying to rob him of the class 2nd place to which he is just able to hang on. The race was another win for Dave Ashford from Graham Saunders, Brian Thorp and Enzo Buscaglia.
Snetterton (30th August): Qualifying had left Tim Dackombe, Paul Bessant and Chris Oxborough covered by under half a second, so a tense race was in prospect with a tight battle at Riches on the first lap. And so it turned out to be. The arrival of Jonny Heynes ( Class B 3) at the Esses on lap disrupted things somewhat as the modified car was slower in the corner than the Class E 155 and 75, as a result of which Paul ran into the back of the 155, dislodging the latter’s bumper and one wondered for the rest of the race whether Tim would be black flagged. There was a splendid passing move by the 155 at Coram, overtaking Chris Oxborough and by three quarter distance, the silver 75 had been demoted to 3rd in class with Tim Dackombe taking a narrow win from Paul.
Next time we’ll take a look at races held in 2000 at Mallory Park and Knockhill.
Photo: 1999 Class E protagonists (l to r): Paul Bessant, Tim Dackombe and Chris Oxborough.
In an era when, if you are not in F1 by your early 20s, you might think your chance had gone, we equally tend to think that all Grand Prix drivers just pre and post war were grizzled veterans – Carracciola, Nuvolari, Fangio, Farina, Chiron…… where were the youngsters? Years ago (January 1983 to be precise) I wrote an article for the AROC magazine about one such – Guy Moll. Enzo Ferrari was convinced that he was going to be one of the very best but, sadly, his career would only last a very short time before he lost his life in an Alfa Romeo P3 at Pescara In August 1934 at the age of just 24.
With a French father and Spanish mother, the Moll family had emigrated to Algiera, which was then a French colony and Guy started racing with a Lorraine-Dietrich in 1930 before he was spotted by established star Marcel Lehoux who ran a trading company in Algiers. Lehoux offered Moll his Bugatti for races at Oran and Casablanca, leading the former before retiring. However, his performances persuded Lehoux to bring Moll to mainland Europe and in his first race – the Marseilles Grand Prix – on the fast banked Miramas track he finished 3rd behind the Alfas of Raymond Sommer and Tazio Nuvolari. After starting 1933 with a Bugatti, he was able to buy an 8C 2300 Alfa and with this really started to make his mark with a series of second places and a near win at Reims. For the following year Lehoux and Moll intended to buy two of the P3s that were being built for private sale. But Enzo Ferrari decided on a change of plan. The cars would not be sold and both drivers were to be incorporated into the Scuderia Ferrari alongside Chiron and Achille Varzi. The season started for Moll with several second and third places, plus his first big win, in the Monaco GP when Chiron hit the sandbags lining the road with just two laps to go. For the ultra fast Avusrennen, Moll was handed the streamlined P3, specially built for the race and defeated the new Auto Union team led by Hans Stuck. Second place in the Targa Florio and third in the French GP at Montlhery all added to Moll’s strong CV and then it was down to Pescara for the Coppa Acerbo.
Alongside the Nurburgring, the 16 mile road circuit on the Adriatic coast represented one of the toughest challenges in Grand Prix racing, combining to exceptionally long (4 mile!) straights with a climb into the hills and through a number of small villages. When I visited the circuit in 1957 for a one-off World Championship race, it seemed to have changed little from the challenge that must have faced Moll- narrow, bumpy and tree-lined. Three Mercedes (led by Carracciola, Fagioli and Henne) and two Auto-Unions were there, lined up against Alfa and Maserati, and at the end of the first lap, Moll lay an excellent fourth. Refuelling and tyre stops shuffled the order, leaving Moll 2nd and closing on Fagioli’s Mercedes. At this point he came up to lap Henne’s Mercedes on the long Montesilvano Straight at around 160 mph. The cars touched, Moll’s Alfa snapped sideways, hit a house at undiminished speed. Moll was thrown out into a ditch and died at the scene thus robbing the motor racing world of a talent who might have been Alfa Romeo’s leading star of the post war period alongside Jean Pierre-Wimille and and Juan Manuel Fangio. Sad to relate, such were the constant dangers in motor racing then, that Lehoux was also killed two years later when his ERA collided with Farina’s Maserati in the Dieppe GP.