“Friday Fix” has enjoyed a short break since the last edition in mid September, so there is plenty to report on, not least the proposed tie-up between PSA (Peugeot) and FCA (Fiat/Chrysler), Alfa Romeo’s trials and tribulations in F1, the first triple Alfa Championship winner Tom Hill, and the final Classic Alfa Challenge race at Castle Combe.
Will Fiat/Chrysler tie-up with Peugeot come to fruition
It seems that you never quite know what is going on in the motor industry. I well recall the shenanigans surrounding the takeover of Alfa Romeo in 1986 – first it was Ford who were going to be the new owners and then came the almost inevitable involvement of the Italian government which finally resulted in the merger with Fiat. Back in June this year, there seemed a strong possibility that FCA would merge with Renault, but once again government interests (French this time as a major shareholder) would dictate the collapse of negotiations. Now, there seems to be a “done deal” between Peugeot and Fiat to form a new group with interests all over Europe and in North America. It is interesting when considering PSA/FCA to see what brands will be involved and I have listed them below –
- Alfa Romeo
The proposed new grouping would still lag behind VW and Toyota in terms of global sales with VW leading the way with 10.8 million (according to 2018 figures), against Toyota’s 8.9m with Fiat/Chrysler/PSA on 8.6 million. However, one major plus for Fiat would be gaining access to a lot of electric car technology where they are currently lagging. Carlos Tavares (as CEO) and John Elkann, Gianni Agnelli’s grandson, will be the leading lights tasked with making all this a success. So far, Tavares – a noted cost cutter – has said that this can all be done without shutting factories but inevitably there is nervousness in the UK about the Vauxhall plants at Ellsemere Port (cars) and Luton (vans). However, the first to go might be FCA’s large factory in Poland that produces the Fiat 500L. What will happen to Alfa Romeo is less than clear. Updated versions of the Giulia and Stelvio were recently launched but there is no sign of the promised Giulietta replacement or the electric Alfas promised by Sergio Marchionne which are not on the 2022 “Portfolio”. The latter could certainly be helped by PSA technology.
Peugeot has an even longer history than Alfa Romeo and Fiat, beginning life with a steel foundry producing products such as band saws, bicycles, umbrella frames and coffee grinders. Jean-Pierre Peugeot was born in 1734 but it was his two sons Jean-Pierre Jnr and Jean-Frederic who really pushed the company forward, taking over in 1810. The Lion sumbol was used from 1847 to “represent the strength and sharpness of the products” according to the official company history but it was not until the next generation that Armand Peugeot’s fascination with anything mechanical saw its first “motorised” vehicle in conjunction with steam engine specialist Leon Serpollet in 1889. A year later Peugeot had abandoned steam in favour of petrol and their Daimler powered quadricycle appeared. In 1929 the company unveiled its first mass produced car – the 201.
Tom Hill becomes our first three time Champion
The final two races of this year’s BRSCC Alfa Romeo championship at Donington brought a third title for Tom Hill, following his earlier successes in 2016 and 2018. This is a remarkable achievement and puts Tom ahead of previous double champions – Ted Pearson (1991 and 1992), Chris Snowdon (1994 and 1995), Clive Hodgkin (1987 and 1989), Dave Streather (1997 and 1998), Neil Smith (2004 and 2008) and Roger Evans (2012 and 2013). Tom has enjoyed the support of Bianco Auto Development through all of his six seasons in the championship, with a strong level of preparation and spare cars if needed at various times. And in all this he has had the constant backing of parents Vik and Lynda, as has been the case since he started racing karts at the age of six, attending pretty well every one of Tom’s races. And how would he have managed without his father’s polishing skills– worth important fractions of a second a lap no doubt!! We don’t yet know what his plans for 2020 will be.
Motorsport Days LIVE
The Championship had two cars present at MotorsportDays LIVE last week. The Power Trophy MiTo and the Bianco TS renta offered potential race competitors and industry professionals the chance to sample Alfa race cars on Silverstone’s International Circuit.
Classic Alfa Challenge – Castle Combe
Julius Thurgood’s Historic Racing Drivers Club’s third Classic Alfa Challenge race of 2019 took place on a chilly October 5th at Castle Combe. Julius had gathered a healthy 27 car entry which included many who had been at the previous races plus several newcomers. Topping the list once again was Chris Snowdon in the Richard Melvin owned Alfetta GTV, the 2 litre engine GT Junior of Richard Merrill and the Alfasud Trofeo of Ted Pearson. Ted was making his first appearance of the year as he has been concentrating on his Historic Formula Ford exploits. Also back was the quick Sprint GT of David Alexander.
In qualifying it was Ted Pearson who eventually emerged quickest with a time over half a second ahead of Chris Snowdon with Richard Merrell 3rd but the surprise (and I was watching at Camp Corner and he looked quick) was ex Alfa championship racer Antony Ross in his light blue Spider. Also going well (despite a very lurid moment) at Camp was James Wright in his 75 Twin Spark, 8th quickest. Best of the Alfettas, after Chris Snowdon, was another ex Alfa championship driver Jonathan Horsfield with his Alex Jupe prepared car while Gavin Watson’s Giulietta Ti was a splendid 11th, giving him a sixth row start.
The race itself developed into a fantastic, at times door handle to door handle, tussle between Chris Snowdon and Ted Pearson. Chris led across the line on laps 1 and 3 before Ted established a small lead and Chris worked out how he was going to get back ahead. With just 2 laps to go, Chris had clawed his way back to be just 0.102” adrift as the two cars crossed the line, a lap later it was 0.365” and Chris knew that it was now or never at Quarry. However, they were lapping a backmarker as they arrived at the corner and, going for the inside line and nosing ahead, Chris was in trouble just stopping the Alfetta and spun. He was able to recover but it was now Ted’s race, the Sud passing the flag 10” clear. Chris recovered to second and there in third place was Antony Ross who headed home Drew Nicholson’s GTV, David Alexander Sprint GT, Jonathan Horsfield’s Alfetta and the 75 of James Wright. It had been a highly entertaining race, which I was able to watch with Marcus Pye in the commentary box with some excellent midfield battles.
Julius Thurgood is working hard on plans for 2020 and there is talk of at least four Alfa races. I am sure he will want to return to the Castle Combe Classic weekend and we know that he is keen to hold another standalone meeting at Lydden Hill. He might also make a bid to join us at Festival Italia.
While planning this “Friday Fix” I also came across under the headline “Biscione di Passione” details of the Alfa Revival Cup which has been running in Italy for the past few seasons for cars built between 1947 and 1981. It seems to have the same kind of regulations as the HRDC series and regularly attracts 30 car grids with a class formula based on age and power to weight. Circuits visited regularly include Monza, Imola, Mugello, Misano Adriatico and Varano (near Parma). Another full season is planned for 2020, so we will keep an eye on that.
Alfa’s Grand Prix struggles to produce the results
There have been five Grand Prix since the last “Friday Fix” – Singapore, Russia, Japan, Mexico and the US (Austin Texas last weekend). After a relatively successful mid season, everything seemed to fall apart with a car (the C38) that was proving difficult to dial in with the current generation of Pirelli tyres. As a result, Kimi Raikkonen has scored no championship points since Hungary in August and after coming 11th at Austin reckoned he might just as well have come home last! Having said that, it was a better performance as he ran as high as 9th early on before two stops, fist for hards and then back to softs dropped him out of contention for points. Antonio Giovanazzi has made some noticeable progress, eclipsing Raikkonen in qualifying and scoring a point with a 10th place finish in Singapore. This has been enough for him to fight off the possibility of Nico Hulkenburg being drafted into the team for 2020 and at the recent re-launch of the Giulia and Stelvio, Giovanazzi was confirmed alongside Raikkonen for another year.
Concerning perhaps are reports that Alfa/FCA are not happy with the results achieved by the Sauber run team this year and that they may pull out of continuing as title sponsor in 2021 when new regulations and their commitment to a new Concorde Agreement will have to be given. At a time when the FIA and Formula One are trying to provide cars that can race properly against each other and to sort out the financial imbalance in the sport, this would be a pity but with the PSA/FCA merger in the background, it may not be entirely in their hands.
Nanni Galli (1940 – 2019)
We learned recently of the death of Nanni Galli at the age of 79. Anyone who was a visitor to European Touring Car races in the mid and late 60s will recall the wheel lifting antics of those driving Autodelta’s 1600 GTAs and 1300 GTA Juniors, amongst them Galli who, after starting in Italian national racing in 1962 was picked by Carlo Chiti to become a regular team member, joining the likes of Andrea de Adamaich, Carlo Facetti and Roberto Businello. Later he became a regular driver in the Autodelta T33 team and scored probably his greatest success in the 1972 Targa Florio, finishing 2nd with Helmut Marko. However, Nanni Galli had always set his sights on a regular Grand Prix drive and in 1970 that chance came, thanks to a deal between Alfa Romeo and McLaren to run a V8 engined M14D for De Adamich. At Monza for the Italian Grand Prix a second car, an M7D was added for Galli. Sadly he didn’t qualify. For the following year, a new deal was inked with the rising March team and he and De Adamich would share a 711 with that unmistakable front wing. Galli drove the car on four occasions, finishing 12th in Germany and Austria. Sadly, Alfa withdrew after that to concentrate on the T33 programme (of which Galli was a part) but he did have the honour of a single drive for Ferrari, deputising for an injured Clay Regazzoni in the 1972 French GP at Clermont Ferrand. No more Ferrari drives came his way as he reckoned that Enzo Ferrari always thought of him as an Alfa Romeo driver. In 1973, though, Galli became involved with the Pederzzani brothers Tecno project, sharing the flat 12 engined F1 car with Derek Bell but although Galli reckoned there was potential, Tecno never had the money to develop it properly. For 1973 he joined forces with Frank Williams, racing the ISO Marlboro for five races with a best result of 9th in Argentina. In 1978 he returned to Williams, not as a driver, but by introducing the American company “Fruit of the Loom” as a sponsor.
Nanni Galli, who ran the family’s textile business, will be missed in Italian motorsport circles. A proud achievement had been receiving of one of “AutoSprint”’s prized “Caschi d’Oro” trophies in 1966 for his results with Alfa Romeo that year.
Silverstone unlucky for Ted Pearson title challenge
A couple of weeks after winning the Classic Alfa race at Castle Combe, Ted Pearson was at the HSCC finals hoping to win the over 50s title in HSCC Formula Ford. He e-mailed “Silverstone was a disaster! (After finishing 8th overall and second in class in race 1, ahead of title rival Rob Smith) Got hit from behind (in race2) and launched into the wall at Maggotts minus two corners from the car. Nobody hurt and everything is repairable which is the main thing. Ended up 2nd in the Radio Caroline over 50’s Championship. Should have won it but there you are……….” Ted plans to continue in Formula Ford next year which might again limit his outing in the Alfasud.
It was good to see Avon Racing so well represented at Donington, Christine Hodgkin being accompanied by Graham and Angie Fletcher, supporting Andy Inman in his new venture with the 156 GTA and Paul Webster with the 156 that Clive drove so well in his final races at Croft. Another ex Avon driver there was Peter Sloan talking about the possibility of racing his GTV in the Classic Alfa Challenge once it has been rebuilt by Roger Evans. It was also really good to see Andy Page (who lives in nearby Kegworth) with his children Jason and Victoria. A sad element of the day was saying goodbye to those in the BRSCC’s Midland Centre who have helped us for so many years – notably Rita and Lucy Ashman, both at times as Secretaries of the Meeting – and also Dominic Ostrowski who will soon be leaving his role as BRSCC Competitions Director to have a well earned career “break”.
“La Cucina and Altre Produzione Alternative”
It was interesting to see this headline in the latest “Quattuoruote” concerning an exhibition at the Alfa Museum over the weekend October 19th/20th. Alongside was a picture of the Alfa Romeo badged cooker that was produced soon after the war as a useful way of occupying the workforce and generating some cash. There were no details of other items on show although a Romeo tractor and various aero engines are there on permanent display. I would have liked to see at Alfa trolleybus or lorry – familiar in the days when I first visited Italy in 1956!
ONLY ONE WEEK TO GO TO THE AWARDS DINNER
Please make sure you are there if you have a trophy to collect but also to support those who have been winners in 2019. Details can be found below.
Motorsport Media Battles
Regular readers of “Autosport” must have been somewhat taken aback, as I was, to learn that their favourite weekly read was about to have its price raised from 3.99 to a whopping 10.99! It was rumoured that the next move by owners Motorsport Networks would be to cease publication (along with Motorsport News) altogether. However, the considerable amount of adverse publicity from all quarters has been enough “for the foreseeable future” (whatever that means!) to see the price return to its former level where we hope it will stay subject to normal inflationary costs. Although I have been critical of the level of coverage given to certain parts of UK club racing which even saw our Donington finals not mentioned in a report that covered all the other races, the loss of “Autosport” in a global sense would have been considerable. Meanwhile, there are also battles going on over picture Copyright. Again Motorsport Networks are involved, having bought not only the LAT photo library, previously owned by Haymarket, but several others in order to dominate the market but also charge inordinate amounts for what they consider to be unauthorised use even if provided by legitimate third parties such as F1 teams and car manufacturers. I think that this one has a lot to play out yet!