This coming weekend (June 4th/5th) the fifth and sixth rounds of the 2016 BRSCC Alfa Romeo Championship will take place in Belgium.
The venue will be the Circuit Zolder, the fourth overseas track we have visited, following on from Zandvoort, Croix-en- Ternois and Spa-Francorchamps. Sadly, though, the meeting has attracted a very small entry but it does give Twin Spark Cup drivers the opportunity to be the focus of attention as they make up the bulk of the entry. In fact, the only non Twin Sparks are late entries for Ray Foley’s Power Trophy 147 GTA and Herbert Bergmayr’s Invitation class 75 3 litre.
Tom Hill has dominated the Twin Spark Cup (and the Championship) so far, with a 100% success rate in the races. However, Silverstone showed that he could be challenged as the season progresses. A superb pole position and the race two fastest lap by Andy Hancock and fastest race 1 lap by James Browning saw Tom having to work hard work hard for his victories but his confidence will be high going into the next part of the Championship. Unless he suffers problems at Zolder he should be able to consolidate his position at the top of the points table. Nonetheless, there will undoubtedly be several drivers seeking to make his life difficult although James Browning will not be amongst them, choosing to give this meeting a miss. On past performances, top of the list must be Paul Plant who has absented himself from the Alfa grid so far this year to go Renault Clio racing on the TOCA package. With a refreshed 156 he should have everything he needs to challenge Tom. Very impressive so far this season has been Andy Hancock and he was rightly frustrated to lose the benefit of his Silverstone pole with a clutch failure as he arrived on the grid. He more than made up for that in the second race, storming his way through from the back to finish only 1.5” adrift of Tom Hill. That he now has speed as well as consistency should stand him in good stead at Zolder.
So who else should be running near the front? Well you can never discount either Steve Potts or Dave Messenger. Steve took two excellent third places at Snetterton but missed Silverstone, while Dave wasn’t at the opening rounds but then suffered mechanical woes at Silverstone. Simon Cresswell has probably been disappointed with his results in the early rounds but if he gets his head down at Zolder, he could well spring a surprise. As could Stacey Dennis and Andy Inman who have both showed determined form in 2016. A dark horse could be Jon Billingsley who we haven’t seen for a while but who will be returning to a 147. Jeremy Chilton has really got to grips with his 156 now and he will be aiming to keep Richard Ford’s 146 behind him although Richard will undoubtedly have other ideas!
By rights, the races overall should be won by Ray Foley or Herbert Bergmayr but this will depend on many factors other than pure performance. Ray’s best result has been a 3rd overall at Snetterton, otherwise reliability issues have blighted his season. Herbert, who is an Alfa and Fiat dealer near Munich, last raced with us at Silverstone in 2013 where he took a competitive 5th place with his smart 75 3 litre.
The 2.49 mile Zolder circuit was built in 1963, holding the Belgian Grand Prix on ten occasions in the 1970’s and 1980’s. Unfortunately it is probably best remembered as the scene of Gilles Villeneuve’s fatal accident in 1982 when his Ferrari collided with the McLaren of Jochen Mass. However, Alfisti will recall Zolder as the scene of Alfa Romeo’s return to Grand Prix racing in 1979 when Bruno Giacomelli brought out the Tipo 177 for the first time. In more recent times, the circuit has hosted the World Touring Car Championship, Masters F3 and the Blancpain GT series plus, amazingly in 2007 a Champ Car World Series round. The BRSCC have made several visits with Caterhams featuring strongly on the programme, as they do this time. Zolder is situated near Hasselt, east of Brussels. The current problems in France mean that it will be important to have fuel tanks topped up before crossing the Channel and then to take advantage of availability in Belgium before the return trip.