In stark contrast to the wind and rain at Anglesey on 23/24 July, Festival Italia day at Brands Hatch was hot – no, I’ll rephrase that… HOT, a day of blue skies and uninterrupted sunshine, delightful for spectators but torrid work for preparers and helpers and mobile ovens for drivers. Nevertheless it was a great day’s racing for the HITEK Alfa Romeo Championship – a healthy grid of 24 cars, some new faces and 11 different Alfa Romeo models taking to the track and giving us 2 cracking races…

In the Modified class, in addition to regular competitors Scott Austin (156 Turbo class leader) and Andy Page (Giulietta 116 Turbo) we welcomed back 2021 Champion Barry McMahon for his first outing of the season, not in his ultra rapid 156 Turbo on this occasion but in his similarly liveried Giulietta, and George Osborne having his second outing of the season in his stunning black 75. The Jamie Porter-prepared Alfa Workshop MiTO 2.0 that appeared on our grids a couple of years ago piloted by Riccardo Losselli was entered with none other than Ted Pearson at the wheel having his first outing in the Championship for some 20 years, the car looking superb and surely in the running for an outright race win. Experienced racers Keith Waite in his Alfa 75 and Daniel Wood in the famous ‘Big Yella’ Alfa 164 were also making a welcome return to the Championship and completed an impressive 7-car line up for the class.

In the V6 class, Championship leader Tom Hill headed the entry list in his Revs Italia prepared Alfa GT along with Graham Seager (147 GTA), Dave Messenger (156 GTA), and Gabs Iaccarino (GT), and making a very welcome return to racing was Paul Webster’s 147 GTA. Paul has had a string of trying technical issues with the car but we were all hoping that these had now been sorted out, and Paul was using the meeting essentially as a shake down session for the car, with Alfa Romeo specialist Richard Drake on hand to help as necessary.

The sole Power Trophy class entry was John Griffiths’s 156 – a car that hasn’t raced in the Championship for many years – making a welcome return in place of the 147 John raced at Anglesey.

The Twin Spark Cup class was as competitive as ever with 12 cars entered. At the start of the day the impressive Andrew Bourke in his Bianco 156 was only one point behind points leader Tom Hill and Andrew was determined keep the pressure on but it wasn’t going to be easy in such a competitive field. Close rivals James Ford (156) and Jon Billingsley (147) were bound to be highly competitive and Jon was joined by his father Giles for this meeting in a 156, some family rivalry adding spice to the occasion. The ever improving Toby Broome was sure to be in the podium mix as would 2021 class winner Richard Ford in their respective 156s, Andy Winterton was entered in his ex-Dave Messenger 156, and Andreas Georgiou was making his second appearance of the season in his 156. The rest were new or returning drivers: James Browning back after a 4-year absence in a 156, Jon Tortolani in the ex-Luther Blissett 156, Adrian Norman in his newly acquired and very well presented 147, and Wil Arif in a 145 having an outing to test the competitiveness of the car against the regular competitors – and how welcome it was to have a 145 back on the grid!

It was also a pleasure to see some good friends of the championship on the day. Ron Davidson produced a magnum of red wine to add to our Driver of the Day award – a lovely gift,  thanks again Ron! It was great to see Gethin Llewellyn and partner Hannah for the first time this season, Geth promising to rebuild his 156 over the coming winter. Chris Healey and Ian Brookfield came along, Jamie Porter was looking after the fabulous MiTO for Ted Pearson, and a special mention must go to Roger McMahon – it was terrific to see the big man back in the paddock again!

QUALIFYING

Qualifying got under way on schedule at 10.30 with all competitors present except – sadly – for Adrian Norman whose 147’s alternator had failed. He tried to make it under battery power but would eventually have to qualify out of session while his team sourced and installed a new battery and alternator.

Tom Hill led the field out onto the circuit as usual and immdiately went for a quick time as only he can and set his fastest time on only his second lap: a 54.936 which put his V6 class GT on pole initially until Ted Pearson surpassed it in the MiTO on his 3rd lap with a time of 54.559. Ted then worked his way down to a time of 53.903 on his 13th and final lap to claim the overall pole, a fine performance in his first competitive outing in the car. Modified class leader Scott Austin meanwhile was well down the timesheets in the early stages till posting a time of 55.540 on his 6th lap but he then backed off again and until his final lap he was still only 4th quickest behind Tom and George Osborne as well as Ted. A lap of 54.823 on that final lap then put him second quickest to line up on the outside of the front row beside Ted. No one else could eclipse Tom’s early lap time which therefore placed him 3rd on the grid

Unfortunately the qualifying session was punctuated by two red flags. After the session had been running for around 8 minutes John Griffiths, exiting Clearways, got his left rear wheel off the circuit and lost traction; he spun sideways across the track and collected the unlucky Wil Arif’s 145 – minding its own business on the Brabham Straight – spinning it through the gravel on the outside of the track, with John colliding with the barriers himself on the opposite side. It was an unfortunate incident and brought the red flags out with both cars in a dangerous position and there ensued a 12-minute delay. Wil was able to make it back to the paddock with the 145 under it own steam, albeit with some side damage and covered in dust, but the frontal damage John sustained to his 156 made him a non starter for the races. Eventually the session restarted but there was only time for 2 more laps before Richard Ford spun off into the gravel exiting Paddock and brought the session to a halt for a second and final time. It was hoped that the races would be less ‘eventful’!

George Osborne knows Brands like the back of his proverbial hand and he gradually went quicker and quicker as the session went on and posted a best time of 54.947 just before the first red flag came out to put him alongside Tom on the outside of the front row. Barry McMahon isn’t used to seeing any cars ahead of him on an Alfa Romeo grid but his Giulietta isn’t as quick as his 156; he was on the pace quickly though and his best lap of 55.308 was posted early on. He was 1/10th ahead of Graham Seager’s V6 class 147 GTA who posted a best time of 55.403, not too far adrift of Tom Hill so we were hoping for another epic battle between the two of them. Graham in turn was 4/10ths quicker than Gabriele Iaccarino whose 55.790 was posted mid session, a fine effort  by the ever improving Gabs.

Dave Messenger was 3rd quickest early on and did go quicker as the session progressed to record a best time of 55.976 just before the first red flag to put him on the outside of the fourth row. Andy Page was next in his Giulietta 116 in a time of 56.497 ahead of Daniel Wood and Keith Waite who were both in the 58s in their 164 and 75 respectively. Paul Webster’s 1:05.981 clearly showed that he had stuck to his resolve to treat the very recently rebuilt car gently and he completed the front section of the grid, albeit he elected to start from the pit lane to continue running the car in.

Andrew Bourke had interposed his 156 Twin Spark between Andy Page and Daniel Wood in the overall time sheets and took a dominant pole for the second section of the grid with a best time of 58.534, some 4/10ths clear of James Ford’s 58.923 in second. Andrew’s pace was looking ominous for his rivals and, if he got a good start, one of his signature flag-to-flag class wins looked on the cards. The 4 years since James Browning’s last race in the Championship had certainly not affected his pace and he recorded a 59.134 to put himself 3rd on the Twin Spark grid, a superb effort and 3/100ths of a second ahead of the always rapid Jon Billingsley’s 59.165.

Richard Ford has endured a succession of car problems during the season and 5th quickest Twin Spark (59.189) signalled something of a return to form but unfortunately his ‘off’ at the bottom of Hailwoods Hill that brought out the second red flag left him needing a new radiator, oil cooler and cam belt and the time taken to complete the repairs rendered him unable to take the start of the first race given the compressed day’s timetable. He’s a very quick driver but he’s just having one of those runs of misfortune that plagues all drivers from time to time. The experienced Giles Billingsley was next in his first outing in the Championship as he quickly learned the car and recorded an impressive time of 59.215 on his final lap and looking like there was better to come. The competitive Toby Broome was the final driver to break the 1-minute mark and his lap of 59.724s put him on the inside of row 4.

Wil Arif had looked likely also to break the 1-minute barrier – the 145 went quicker and quicker throughout until the collision with John Griffiths sadly ended his participation in the session – he had just happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time and it was an unfortunate introduction to the Championship for him. Jon Tortolani had made some changes to his car since his last outing back in 2021 and was pleased with the balance of the car; 1:00.157 was a very respectable time, 1/10th clear of Andreas Georgiou’s 1:00.247, Andreas having his second race with us after Silverstone earlier in the season. Andy Winterton completed the Twin Spark grid in his 156 with a best lap time of 1:01.103, set mid-session. Adrian Norman had managed to complete the necessary laps to qualify out of session and would line up at the back.

RACE 1

The grid lined up for Race 1 without John Griffiths and Richard Ford, Richard hoping to make race 2 later in the afternoon, while Adrian Norman was hoping his battery would last the race without an alternator – a spare was on its way but had not arrived as yet. When the red lights went out for the front section of the grid both Scott Austin and Ted Pearson on the front row were swallowed up initially and George Osborne and Tom Hill led away from the second row. This was shortlived however and Scott crossed the line at the end of lap 1 with a 2.6 second lead over Ted, with George a close third and Tom a second or so further back. Graham Seager was close behind Tom and they were followed through by Barry McMahon, Gabs Iaccarino, Dave Messenger, Andy Page, Keith Waite and Daniel Wood in that order, with Paul Webster starting from the pit lane after the Twin Spark field had passed.

When the flag dropped for the Twin Spark start Andrew Bourke made a superb start from pole to take the lead and at the end of lap 1 had 1.5 seconds in hand over James Ford, the closest of the chasers. James was followed through by Giles Billingsley in 3rd; however, it transpired that Giles would receive a 10-second penalty for a jumped start. Although he is an experienced racer he had never experienced the pleasure of a flag start and rolled forward momentarily as the starter raised the flag. He stopped the car again when he realised the flag hadn’t dropped but was deemed to have gone too soon. Giles was followed by Toby Broome (a superb start from the 4th row), Andreas Georgiou, Jon Tortolani, Andy Winterton, Jon Billingsley (a difficult first lap), Wil Arif, and Adrian Norman, with pit lane starter Paul Webster a few seconds further back. James Browning had been 3rd on the grid but sadly did not complete the first lap. Some areas of grass off the circuit contain traps for the unwary and when James went through Surtees too quickly and spun off he found one of them. Attempting to circle round and regain the circuit at Clearways he found a grassy ‘ramp’; the car was launched into the air before nosediving into the ground breaking his oil cooler and causing some frontal damage which ended his race there and then.

At the front of the field Scott Austin was flying, extending his lead over the chasing Ted Pearson by a few 10ths each lap via a succession of sub 54-second laps while Ted was in the low 54s. It was a great drive as he dealt with lapping back markers efficiently and at undiminished pace – at the finish he was 27 seconds ahead of George Osborne in second place, Ted having dropped back into 5th place overall as a result of fuel starvation over the last few laps. Nevertheless the MiTO looked and went superbly on track and would be a serious threat in race 2 if the fuel problem could be solved. When the MiTO faltered the always impressive George Osborne was there to take advantage and finished a fine second, a few seconds ahead of a race-long nail biter of a dice between Tom Hill and Graham Seager for V6 class honours which had spectators holding their breath at times as they circulated in tandem only a few feet apart. Graham was able to get alongside Tom on occasions but each time Tom had the better line for the corner and was able to maintain his advantage on the exit; nevertheless it was a great display of clean close racing by both drivers and very exciting to watch as they took 3rd and 4th place overall respectively.

Andy Page came home 6th  overall in his venerable Giulietta 116 Turbo. He ran 9th (his qualifying position) early on but got the better of both Barry McMahon and Gabs Iaccarino on lap 8 and thereafter engaged in a close battle with Dave Messenger until lap 18 when he found a way past and held a 2-second advantage over Dave at the chequered flag. Dave lapped consistently in the 56s throughout but sustained some side damage in a coming together with a back marker he was lapping. Barry McMahon and Gabs Iaccarino crossed the line close together in 8th and 9th some 20 seconds clear of a battle between Daniel Wood and Keith Waite. Keith held the position early on but Daniel squeezed past on lap 5; Keith maintained the gap for many laps but fell back towards the end as they were being lapped. Paul Webster finished some 3 laps down at the end but very relieved that he had had a trouble free run in his 147 GTA.

In the Twin Spark battle, Andrew Bourke capitalised on his good start to pull steadily away from the chasing pack. A 1.5 second lead at the end of lap 1 became a 5-second gap by lap 6 and 17-second gap at the chequered flag. It’s what Andrew excels at and he executed it perfectly. James Ford held second in class initially but his engine cut out on lap 5 and a 1:07 time saw him drop right back behind Giles Billingsley and Toby Broome. He lost another place to the charging Jon Billingsley on lap 8 but Jon was unable to pull away as James held the gap. The pair of them closed the gap to Toby Broome ahead as Toby’s pace dropped late in the race and Jon passed him on lap 20 followed by James on the last lap. Meanwhile, however, marshals’ reports had been coming in to Race Control: car 8, track limits at turn 3, car 8 track limits at turn 1, etc. and Jon wound up with a 5-second penalty for repeated track limits transgressions. This, coupled with Giles Billingsley’s 10-second penalty for a jumped start dropped them from 2nd and 3rd in class at the chequered flag to 4th (Giles) and 5th (Jon), a disappointing end for them for two good drives, and James and Toby reclaimed the two podium places.

Behind Jon there was a gap of 8 seconds to Andreas Georgiou whose lap times were remarkably consistent at just over the 1-minute mark, the variation between his quickest and slowest flying lap being less than 2 seconds. Behind Andreas, Andy Winterton’s and Wil Arif’s lap times were also close and consistent ahead of Jon Tortolani who was also showing improved pace; unfortunately for Jon a problem on lap 6 had cost him 10 seconds and he wasn’t able to recover the lost time. The final Twin Spark runner was Adrian Norman who retired on lap 12 as his battery power ebbed away but he had shown how competitive he could be with some strong lap times in his first Championship outing.

Fastest laps in class went to Scott Austin, Graham Seager and Andrew Bourke in what had been an excellent and exciting race throughout the field.

Race 1 Results

ClassWinners
ModifiedScott Austin
V6Tom Hill
Power TrophyNo starters
Twin Spark CupAndrew Bourke
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RACE 2

Given the relatively short time between races, the Bianco team were up against it in the searing heat trying to complete repairs to James Browning’s and Richard Ford’s cars in time for Race 2, but they did it with only seconds to spare, an absolutely outstanding effort. Fitting a new alternator to a 147 is not a quick job but Adrian Norman and team were doing their best to accomplish it in time for Race 2 but sadly they weren’t quite able to do it.

As the lights went out for the start of the front section of the grid, Tom Hill made a rocket start in his V6 class GT to take the lead and this time it took more than a lap for the Modified class cars of Scott Austin and Ted Pearson to pass him, which they did on lap 2, with Tom third ahead of George Osborne, Andy Page, Barry McMahon, Graham Seager (a slow start this time), Dave Messenger, Daniel Wood, Gabs Iaccarino, Keith Waite and Paul Webster in that order.

In the Twin Sparks, Andrew Bourke was not so quick away on this occasion and James Ford took the lead, leading at the end of lap 1 from Andrew, Jon Billingsley, Giles Billingsley, Toby Broome, Andreas Geourgiou, Wil Arif (an excellent start) Andy Winterton, James Browning, Jon Tortolani and Richard Ford. Unfortunately for James Ford, it soon became clear that all was not well with the car and, although his lap times hadn’t fallen off dramatically, he lost places first to Andrew, then Jon and Giles. Shortly after losing another place to Toby on lap 7, there was a tell tale puff of blue smoke as he exited Graham Hill bend and the car visibly slowed and he returned to the pits with what turned out to be an engine problem. Graham Seager was the next car along and he suffered a teeth rattling off on the resultant oil on the outside of Surtees. This necessitated him making his way to the pits where a damaged oil cooler resulted in no further participation in the race. Behind him, Dave Messenger was in a close dice with Barry McMahon and pulled to the outside of Barry on the Cooper staight, looking to make a possible pass into Surtees. Unsighted, he also hit the oil there and went straight off, bouncing violently over the arid infield. With the oil flag deployed, Dave’s car regained the circuit at Clearways and tried to continue. However, it soon became evident that the car had suffered damage which later turned out to include coolant and power steering fluid leakage so Dave retired the car at the bottom of Hailwoods Hill. The next group of cars along the track were a number of midfield twin sparks, all involved in their own battles. A number of them lost control on Paddock Hill bend and continued in a cloud of smoke and dust down the hill. Fortunately, they largely managed to avoid each other and continue but the incident immediately brought out the safety car in order that the track condition could be fully assessed. Independently, the pressure in Paul Webster’s 147 engine blew the side of his radiator off so when racing resumed three laps later on lap 12, 4 cars were out of the race.

In the confusion on lap 7 Jon Billingsley had managed to nip ahead of Andrew Bourke to take the Twin Spark lead with Giles Billingsley 3rd in class ahead of Toby Broome, Andy Winterton a fine 5th, Andreas Georgiou, Richard Ford, Jon Tortolani, James Browning, and Wil Arif. After the restart Andrew had an opportunity to retake the class lead as he and Jon approached Paddock Hill Bend with Keith Waite and Daniel Wood just ahead of them. How to get through? Andrew guessed wrong and tried to go around the outside while Jon dived for the inside and held onto the lead. There was then contact between them at Druids but again Jon held sway and was able to pull around half a second clear. Andrew never gave up but couldn’t get quite close enough to challenge for the lead again and Jon took the class win with Andrew second, Giles Billingsley 3rd, Andy Winterton an excellent 4th ahead of Toby Broome 5th. A 3-car spin fest at the bottom of Hailwoods Hill delayed Andreas Georgiou, James Browning and Will Arif but they all continued Andreas taking 6th in class ahead of James Browning, Richard Ford, Jon Tortolani and Wil Arif in that order.

In the front group, Scott Austin held the lead after the safety car restart and began to eke out a gap to the chasing Ted Pearson. He stretched it to over 5 seconds at the end of lap 15 but after that Ted began to reduce it. Scott was again experiencing the gearbox problems that have plagued him this season and couldn’t always engage the gears he needed. Ted closed the gap to 2.6 seconds but Scott held on to record another overall win by a diminishing margin. Behind them a battle between Tom Hill in 3rd and George Osborne 4th was attracting more and more interest. At the restart Tom pulled gradually clear by around 1.5 seconds but then George posted a succession of laps in the 54s which Tom couldn’t match and took 3rd overall at the flag by inches. Tom had the consolation of the V6 class win and (this time) fastest lap as well. Barry McMahon finished 4th overall ahead of Andy Page, Gabs Iaccarino, Daniel Wood and Keith Waite.

Race 2 Results

ClassWinners
ModifiedScott Austin
V6Tom Hill
Power TrophyNo starters
Twin Spark CupJon Billingsley

What an eventful race! Lap times after the restart had fallen away throughout because of the slippery surface but despite this Tom Hill set the fastest V6 class lap only 2 laps from the end evidencing his remarkable car control. Scott Austin’s and Jon Billingsley’s fastest class lap times came early in the race. Tom now leads the Championship by a narrow 3 points from Andrew Bourke. The Driver of the Day award went to Andy Page for two fine drives as a well earned reward for his great sportsmanship, technical know how, and irrepressible good humour.

‘If I’d known I was going to get the award I would have put a shirt on’

Andy Page on being presented with Driver of the Day!

Next up: Cadwell Park 17/18 September

Andy Robinson
Championship Coordinator    

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