It is just over a month since we published the last Friday Fix and there is plenty to report on.
No fewer than three Grand Prix have taken place – in Canada, France and Austria – and the British GP will be at Silverstone this weekend with the added good news that the BRDC have signed a new contract with Liberty Media to hold the race there for the next five years.
A Summer Trip to Switzerland
Our Giulietta Turbo Multiair again proved ideal transport for our holiday trip to Switzerland in the middle of June – 1700 miles there and back. Our destination was above Villars which was at the top end of the old Ollon-Villars Hillclimb. On the autoroutes and in the mountains the Giulietta always seems at ease, and also economical. An experiment we tried this time was to acquire a motorway tag to avoid messing about with cash or credit cards at toll booths. Inevitably, the first time your approach a barrier you wonder – will it work? After a very slow approach, there was a sudden “beep” and up went the barrier arm. Magic!! It never failed and we have just got the bill which seems to equate with the number of toll roads we used. For more information google “emovis tag”. While in Switzerland we once again enjoyed some of our favourite activities, including a visit to the Fondation Pierre Gianadda in Martigny which, apart from holding outstanding art and sculpture exhibitions also houses a superb car museum with some 40 vehicles going back to an 1897 Benz, several Swiss made cars such as the PicPic and a pristine Alfa 8C 2300. We also like trips on Lake Geneva paddle “steamers” and this time enjoyed “La Suisse” and the recently renovated “Italie” – a diesel electric vessel built in 1908 – from Villeneuve to Vevey and back. On board “Italie” was a very interesting exhibition showing, in particular, the quality of workmanship by master craftsmen renewing all the wood fitting on board. We are used to reading about car restorations. This was a project on a somewhat larger scale!
A clashing commitment meant that the July 6th/7th weekend saw us miss the trip to Croft for rounds 7 and 8 of the Championship so I was reduced to watching the live streaming of both races and also tsl’s usual live timing. Andy will be publishing his report in the near future but from my perspective it was good to see long time Alfa racers Bryan Shrubb and Andy Inman back on the grid with their 33 16v and 156 GTA respectively, and relative newcomer to us, Jamie Thwaites, at last getting some reliability from his 155. Also well done everyone connected with the Mito project.
Alfa Romeo lose, then regain, Grand Prix momentum
The Canadian Grand Prix in Montreal could have been the low point in Alfa Romeo’s Formula 1 season. It all looked good in FP1 with Raikkonen 6th but it was all downhill from there as the team seemed to lose its way, For the first time this year it was Antonio Giovanazzi who out performed his team mate in qualifying but neither reached Q2 although Antonio would start 12th. The race, however, was messy with Raikkonen forced into a two-stopper while Giovanazzi was compromised by damage early on. 13th and 15th places finishes was not exactly what team principal Fred Vasseur had been hoping for!
A return to sweltering Paul Ricard for the French Grand Prix was next on the schedule and this proved to be a reversal of fortunes for the Alfa contingent. This time, FP1 saw both drivers all at sea, down in 16th and 17th places. Thereafter they found time in the next two sessions before Giovanazzi put in perhaps his best qualifying of the year to get through to Q3 and end up 10th on the grid with Raikkonen 12th. Kimi’s situation allowed him to start on hard tyres and to run “long”, after which he was often on the TV screen as he was fighting Hulkeburg’s Renault and this was France after all! He finally finished 8th on the road before being lifted to 7th by a penalty given to Daniel Ricciardo’s Renault. Giovanazzi had had to start on”softs” and lost out in a two stop strategy. Nonetheless, the “AutoSprint” headline was “Alfa rinvigorita”.
A week later the F1 circus was In Austria at the Red Bell Ring which produced the most exciting race of the year and a controversial first win for Max Verstappen’s Red Bull – Honda in another Mercedes dominated season. Bringing two cars home in the points is always a target, and particularly amongst the hard fought mid field battle. Rivalry within the Alfa team was also strong in the Styrian Mountains, propelling both cars into Q3 and ending up 7th (Raikkonen) and 8th (Giovanazzi) with several more fancied runners behind them. Both cars enjoyed fine races to finish 9th and 10th in the same order – another plus being that Antonio Giovanazzi scored his first World Championship points. After a tough start, this showed that he was beginning to merit his place in the Alfa Romeo team and he received an enthusiastic reception in the team garage after the race.
And now, on to Silverstone. The C38 won’t lack straight line speed with its Ferrari engine but will its aerodynamics be up to the demands of the fast corners of the Northamptonshire circuit. However FP1 didn’t provide a great result as Raikkonen pulled off at Luffied with smoke coming from the back of the car and Giovanazzi was near the bottom of the times. Nonetheless, Giovanazzi is already a favourite of the Silverstone crowd, having performed well there in GP2. He will join Gary Anderson for a live “Autosport” podcast over the Grand Prix weekend. Before the French Grand Prix he was also awarded the prestigious Lorenzo Bandini Trophy, joining crowds in the Italian town of Brisighella, near Ravenna, with his team and many other Italian motor sport personalities headed by Cesare Fiorio.
The World TCR Cup enjoys some interesting street circuits and Vila Real in Portugal must be one of the best. Last weekend’s three races were as close fought as ever and although the Romeo Ferraris team are not having an easy year, Ma Qing-Hua managed to bring his Giulietta Veloce home to a fine 2nd place finish in the reversed grid, second race of the weekend.
Formula W Round 4
The impressive surroundings of the Norisring saw round 4 of the inaugural Formula Woman championship, following races at Hockenheim, Misano and Zolder. Despite its under 1 minute lap time it is still a difficult track and produced a third winner after Jamie Chadwick and Beitske Visser’s earlier victories as 18 year old Spanish driver Marta Garcia took first place. She was comfortably ahead of Visser and Chadwick who continued their battle for the title. Jamie Chadwick’s lead has now been reduced to just 10 points. The championship moves to Northern Holland (Assen) on 20th July and then accompanies the DTM to Brands Hatch on August 11th where the race will be on the Sunday instead of the usual Saturday running. An additional event will also be held at Assen with a reverse grid non championship race.
Over the years, there have been been many memorable rivalries in the BRSCC Alfa Romeo Championship but few will have been as intense as that between Mark Ticehurst and Mark James in 1995. The season was a great deal longer in those days and It started with a double header on March 19th at Brands Hatch and finished with two races over the weekend 4th/5th November at Donington – 21 (!!) races in all including a visit to Zandvoort in May. A lot of the meetings were single headers – people seemed happy then to travel long distances for relatively little track time. But the effort required from both drivers and all involved in the Bridge Motorsport Team, led by John Brooke and Mick Comber was considerable. The following statistics for the season show the scale of their achievements –
|Mark Ticehurst||Mark James|
Not that it all went smoothly. There was a major hiccup during the team’s September visit to Cadwell Park. Mark Ticehurst’s chances of winning Class F as well as the Championship overall were dealt what his local newspaper described as a “shattering blow” when he and Mark James, having qualified within 1/100th of a second of each other made contact which threw Mark Ticehurst’s car “off the track and into the barriers. The 33 rebounded off the tyre wall, and somersaulted more than once before coming to rest on its roof. Luckily Mark emerged with only a sprained neck and bruises” but the car was in a sorry state. This meant that Bridge Motorsport had to prepare a completely new car for the next round at Castle Combe, but within a week it was up and running and was taken down to Goodwood for a test session. Combe produced another one-two, with Mark Ticehurst back in front.
Perhaps the “Autosport” report in their October 19th issue best sums up the Class F year –
“Former karet Mark Ticehurst capped his first season of car racing by clinching Class F of the Chris Knott Insurance Alfa Romeo Championship with second place behind Bridge Motorsport team-mate Mark James at Oulton Park on Saturday. Nine class wins have given the 25 year old Southern Water engineer the edge over James (who has won eight times) in the most competitive class within the BRSCC administered series. More than 40 Class F drivers are registered, warranting exclusive races. Ticehurst and James hold lap records at every circuit they have visited except Mallory Park.” The only time that the pair were beaten during the year was at Snetterton in July when a fine victory went to Phil Snelling (by a mere 0.29”) in his Alfasud Ti. The season ended with Mark Ticehurst having to give best in the overall title race to Chris Snowdon in his modified (then Class A) GTV6 but ahead of Graham Presley who drove both his 75 Turbo and an Alfasud Ti during the year. Mark James ended 7th.
Mark Ticehurst continued to compete in 1996 with opposition once more from a reinvigorated Phil Snelling, Adie Hawkins and Dave Ashford but he was still able to take a second class championship. Mark James had a year out but would return in 1997 to finish 2nd in the class by which time Mark Ticehurst had moved on to become a reserve driver for BTCC squad Triple Eight and Vauxhall.
On Sunday, August 18th we return to Brands Hatch for Festval Italia and rounds 9 & 10 of this year’s Alfa Championship. We are certainly hoping for a bumper grid as this is our most prestigious event of the year and there might be the odd surprise in the entry. MSVR have strong support from “Auto Italia” , Abarth UK and the Abarth Club of Great Britain. We have no doubt that the Alfa Romeo Owners Club will be there in force as well. In 2018 the biggest attraction was provided by a demonstration of several historic F1 cars, the noise of the V12 and V10 engines bringing everyone running to the spectator banks to hear what Grand Prix cars used to sound like before the V6 hybrid era!
And so Full Circle to Silverstone
When I went to Silverstone for the Classic Alfa Challenge race at Easter, I was marking 70 years since I first went there in 1949 for the “Daily Express” International Trophy meeting. On that occasion I sat in the Stowe Grandstand and watched Alberto Ascari’s Ferrari win the main race. There have been huge changes since those days, of course, as the accompanying photograph from 1950 bears witness. The actual circuit layout is very different and the pits were moved from just after Abbey to the straight between Woodcote and Copse in 1952. And even those have been rebuilt more than once. The Wing is a much more recent addition but what I miss most is the old pits balcony where I watched in amazement the multi-car accident in 1973 started by Jody Scheckter’s McLaren but also took some much treasured photographs over the years. The news that Silverstone’s Grand Prix contract has been renewed is a relief as I can’t see the prospect of a London race being realistic. I won’t be at Silverstone on Sunday (glued to live Channel 4 instead!) but my oldest grandson will be there, watching from the Luffied Complex, and I shall look forward to hearing his impressions.