didn’t know that…
…during the 1925
Belgian Grand Prix, the Alfa Romeo P2s of Ascari and Campari were
so far ahead that the crowd became disgruntled with the apparent
walkover. They were, therefore, brought into the pits for a light
snack, whilst the mechanics polished the cars. When the
competitors caught up, the Alfa Romeo team went back out to record
a somewhat closer victory.
…In the 1933 Mille Miglia, the first 10 cars across the line
were all Alfa Romeos.
…after the WWII, Alfa Romeo’s return to international motor
racing was made possible by the existence of five Alfa 158
Alfettas that had been dismantled and hidden in a cheese factory
in Melzo near Lake Orta, Italy.
…in the 1950s, Alfetta-powered speedboats won 25 European
26 World Championships and gained no fewer than 62 world records.
…in 1958, during a celebrated murder trial, the defence case
rested on the claim that it was impossible to drive from Milan to
Malpensa in less than an hour in an Alfa Giulietta. So the
prosecution tried it – and succeeded. The defendant got life
T H E R A C I N G
Alfa Romeo legend has mainly grown up on the back of sporting victories
that have been such a constant feature of our history. This long roll of
honour adds up to a fascinating account of people, passion, engines, new
and not-so-new technology and great celebrated races.
The successes scored by the red
Alfa sports cars over a thousand roads and circuits cannot be condensed
into a few pages. Suffice to say that so far Alfa has notched up 102
victories because over 90 years Alfa cars have won: 5 world championships,
11 Mille Miglia races, 10 Targa Florio races, 4 Le Mans 24 hour races, 13
European Touring Championships, 9 Makes Championships, 4 Drivers’
Championships, 10 Italian F3 Championships, 5 European F3 Championships, 5
European F3 Cups, 7 French F3 Championships, 3 German F3 Championships, 1
Motoring Tour of Italy, 1 German Touring Championship (DTM), 1 British
Touring Championship (BTCC), 1 Spanish Touring Championship, 2 Italian
Supertouring Championships (156-ST), 7 European Historical Gran Turismo
Championships and 4 European Classic Touring Car Championships. Alfa would not be able
to build the fine cars it produces today if it had not learned so much
about engines and mechanical assemblies on the track.
Alfa’s debut at the Targa
The story begins in 1911 on
the roads of Sicily, in a race invented by Vincenzo Florio, who was
inspired by other famous races of the day such as the Gordon Bennet and
the Vanderbilt. In May, the motoring world came out in force to try its luck over the
148 kilometres of the Targa race. Two 24 HP cars driven by Franchini and
Ronzoni stood at the starting post. The cars raced by the one year old
Anonima Lombarda Fabbrica Automobili were unlucky on this occasion, but
the adventure had begun.
Alfa’s engineers built up experience for about a dozen years
amid a merry-go-round of good placings, a few wins (Campari, for example,
arrived second in the 1921 Berceto Parma-Poggio race at the wheel of a
40-60 HP) and a few disappointments. The three withdrawals from the 1919
Targa Florio race was not one of Alfa’s greatest moments.
This period of learning must have
been well-spent, because by the beginning of the 20’s, Alfa
was beginning to drive off with all the most important races of the
period. In 1920, Campari won at Mugello and repeated his victory the
following year. In 1923, a team made up of Ascari, Masetti, Razzanti and
Sivocci triumphed at Cremona, Mugello, the Coppa Ciano and the Targa
Florio (after that date, all Alfa Romeo bodies sported a green four-leafed
clover against a white background). At the same time, the as yet unknown Enzo
Ferrari won on the Savio circuit. In 1924, a P2 fitted with an eight
cylinder in line supercharged engine brought victory to Campari in the
European GP and Ascari in the Italian GP. In 1925, Alfa won its first
World Championship at Monza with Brilli Peri at the wheel. Antonio Ascari
won the European GP at Spa in Belgium. Ascari, who was from Milan, died in
September of the same year at the age of 37 when his car skidded off a wet
track at the French GP in Montlhery.
For a few years, the Alfa Romeos
were forced to surrender first place in the Targa Florio to the small,
nimble Bugattis. At least until the 21st race in 1930, when Achille Varzi
drove an epic race. First he threw away his spare wheel to reduce weight,
and then he crossed the finishing line with flames licking at his neck
(fuelled by a petrol leak). From then on, many tried to topple Alfa
Romeo’s absolute supremacy, but in vain. The Targa went to Alfa Romeo for
six years without a break. In 1931 Nuvolari won in an 8C 2300. Mantovano
drove the same car to victory in 1932. Brivio won in 1933, Varzi in 1934
and Brivio again in 1935.
The Mille Miglia (Thousand Mile) race
The story of the famous Targa
Florio is followed by that of an even more famous race: the Mille Miglia.
First run in 1927, it was a 1000
mile route from Brescia to Rome and back. This was purely a speed trial
reserved for touring cars. The four instigators intended the race to
attract the public to the sport of car racing and overcome the slump into
which Gran Prix racing had fallen at the time. Their intuition was correct
even though fewer than 150 thousand cars were on the road in Italy at the
The rest of the work of pulling the crowds was done by the
Mille Miglia Cup itself, which Alfa Romeo won without a break from 1928 to
1938. The only race it failed to win was the fifth Mille Miglia, won by a
Mercedes SSKL driven by Caracciola. Alfa owed its success to drivers such
as Campari, Farina, Borzacchini, Pintacuda, Brivio and Biondetti. Though
it could not have done without the superbly-engineered Alfa Romeos
designed by the indefatigable Vittorio Jano: the 6C (1500, the 6C 1752
SS), the 6C 1750 GS, the 8C 2300 cc and the 2900 A Type B with its amazing
power rating of 220 bhp.
A racing legend
Tazio Nuvolari deserves a paragraph to
these years, this driver was the true idol of the crowds gathered at the
dusty roadsides to watch the Mille Miglia race. The legend was fuelled by
the seven victories notched up by the Mantuan driver during the 1932
racing season alone (four years later, he succeeded in achieving 13); the
kilometre and mile speed records he set on the Florence coast road in 1935
when he drove a twin-engined Alfa at more than 320 km/h; his feats on the
track in 1936 (he won the Vanderbilt cup in New York the same year) and
his compelling duels with his arch-nemesis Achille Varzi. This great
rivalry was distorted by many fabricated stories, for example it is said
that ‘Nivola’ once turned his headlights off and surreptitiously overtook
his adversary, who had set out five minutes earlier in the 1930 Mille
Miglia race. The only true stories are the sporting feats of Nuvolari, such as the record set when he won the Mille
Miglia race at the fantastic average speed of more than 100 km/h. [Tazio Nuvolari
A driver named
In 1952, Alfa Romeo sent Ferrari
a telegram to congratulate him on his company’s first World Championship
win. Enzo Ferrari replied: «… You can be sure that I still feel all the
dewy-eyed tenderness of first love for our own Alfa Romeo…». You see,
before he became known as ‘Drake’, before he won boundless fame and before
he became an inimitable manufacturer in his own right, Ferrari was a
driver for none other than Alfa Romeo.
entered the world of racing cars in 1919 when he took part in the
Parma-Poggio race in Berceto at the wheel of a CMN (placed 4th in its
category and 11th overall). By the following year, he was already racing
for Alfa and came second in the Targa Florio at the wheel of a 40-60 HP.
His first victories came in 1923 and 1924 at the Savio Circuit and again
in 1924 at the Coppa Acerbo, where he raced an RL ‘Targa Florio’.
Things changed again in 1938,
when Alfa Romeo went back to running its own racing activities and set up
its own racing division known as Alfa Corse. Scuderia Ferrari was
reabsorbed in the new division. Alfa’s relationship with Enzo Ferrari
continued, however, and he became a consultant to the new organisation
with responsibility for designing and developing new racing cars.
The five world titles won by Alfa
Romeo were gained on the track and began with Brilli Peri’s 1925 win in a
P2 at Monza. After that date, Alfa cars continued to win over all the
circuits of the day: at Montecarlo (Nuvolari in a 2300 Monza in 1931),
Nurburgring (Caracciola in a P3 in 1932 and Nuvolari again in 1935), Vichy
(Trossi in 1934) and Rio (Pintacuda in 1938). We had to wait until the end
of World War II, however, for Alfa to become world champion again and gain
its first F1 title in the process.
year was 1950 and Italy was being rebuilt. Alfa Romeo
cars reigned supreme: eight Grands Prix, eight wins. So Nino Farina and
his 158 won the day. The same happened again the following year.
This time Juan Manuel Fangio was the driver at the wheel of the ‘Tipo
159’, known also as the ‘Alfetta’ (8 cylinders and 1479 cc with
double-stage compressor for a power output of 425 hp!).
Alfa Romeo withdrew from F1
racing the following year. Although it later made a comeback through its
collaboration with Brabham and stables such as Autodelta and Euroracing,
it never won another world championship. Instead it contented itself with
wins in the World Makes Championships of 1975 and 1977: by the 33 TT 12
and the 33 SC 12 respectively.
From F3 to Super Touring
Between the Seventies and the Eighties, Alfa entered the world of rallies with a clutch of drivers. During 1980, the team of
Pregliasco-Reisoli driving a GTV 2.0 Turbodelta group 4 won the Danube
rally. Later on, all the Alfa cars entered in various European national
championships were driven by private individuals. The best performance
recorded by an Alfa car was a win in the 9th Motoring Tour of Italy by the
team of Biasion-Siviero-Patrese in a 75 Turbo Evoluzione IMSA.
In 1979, the year it returned to
F1, Alfa Romeo also began to supply engines for Formula 3 racing, which
was considered a training ground for young drivers. The first was the 4
cylinder 2 litre Alfetta engine that won the Italian Championship during
its first season when fitted to a March driven by Piercarlo Ghinzani. Its
superiority was confirmed in 1980 by Michele Alboreto, who opened the
continental series with five consecutive wins. The Twin Spark version
arrived in 1987. Overall, this Alfa engine notched up five European
titles, the same number of European cups and about twenty championship
titles in Italy, France, Germany, Switzerland and Scandinavia. Not to
mention hundreds of victories, eight of which were in the prestigious F3
The Alfa 75 that took part in the
‘world’ touring championship of 1987 was a development of the standard
production 1.8i turbo saloon. The car was entered in Group A and prepared
by Alfa Corse. The car was entrusted to outstanding names such as Jacques
Lafitte and Michael Andretti and obtained its best result at the
Silverstone 500 kilometre race.
In 1988 Alfa Romeo and the 75
helped launch the Italian Championship for touring cars by entering the
drivers Riccardo Patrese, Alessandro Nannini and Nicola Larini. Alfa won
the first two places in the final rankings with Gianfranco Brancatelli and
Alfa took time out to try the US
Indy Formula in 1989. The methanol-driven power unit built for the race
was an 8 cylinder unit in a 90· V with turbocharger. It boasted a cylinder
capacity of 2648 cc and a power output of some 700 bhp. It was fitted
first to a March 89 CE, then to a Lola T9000 and lastly to a Lola T9100.
The 1991 season will be remembered above all for the reliability of the
power unit: 10 placings in 17 races.
Once the Indy formula chapter had closed, Alfa Corse began to concentrate on the Touring category that had
always brought Alfa cars the greatest satisfaction. The 155 2.0 i turbo
16V GTA was ready for the 1992 Italian SuperTouring championship. The four
GTA cars won 17 of the 20 races!
following season, Alfa entered its 155 V6 TI in the DTM (Deutsche
Tourenwagen Meisterschaft – the German touring championship), a race that
has more followers than F1 in Germany. The 155s were fitted with a power
unit featuring 6 cylinders in a V of 2498 cc, 24 valves and a power output
of 400-420 bhp. The car was four wheel drive, the body was entirely
rebuilt out of carbon fibre parts and the gearbox was sequential with six
speeds. On its first outing, the Alfa prevailed against tough German
opposition and Larini won the DTM at the end of a season.
Alfa entered the 155 T.S. in
various national championships within the newly-created D2 category, which
is slightly less demanding than the German championship. In 1994, Gabriele
Tarquini won the prestigious BTCC (British Touring Car Championship).
Adrian Campos won the Spanish championship and Antonio Tamburini came
second in the Italian championship. In the ITC (International Touring
Championship) raced over the world’s major circuits, the 155 was placed
only nine points behind the winner. The 155 T.S. won its last victory
driven by Fabrizio Giovanardi, who won the Spanish SuperTouring
championship in 1997.
In 1998 the Alfa 156 S.T. made its debut in the Italian Super
Touring Championship and won the tricolour trophy with Fabrizio Giovanardi
at the wheel. He repeated the triumph in 1999.
Romeo has always done its best by its sporting customers. Between 1976 and
1983, special races were organised throughout Europe that were designed to
allow hundreds of drivers to have a go at motor sport without spending a
lot of money. The stars of these hard-fought and passionate championships
were firstly the Alfasud ti 1.3 and later the Sprint Veloce 1.5. The races
began in Austria and Italy. The initiative was then extended to France and
Germany as the European Alfasud Cup was introduced for the first time.
Between seasons, the cars also took part in the spectacular winter races
held as part of the Snow and Ice Trophy (1977-81) and the Alfa Romeo Ice
This ‘National Sport’ was
introduced in 1984 and quickly became one of the best-suited track
competitions for non-professional drivers. All the cars were fitted with
the same engine, a practically standard Alfa Romeo 2.5i V6 (later replaced
by the 3 litre 164 engine in 1991).
Half-way through the 90’s,
the "Il pilotino" (Junior Driver) selection was introduced. A few young
Alfa Romeo customers were able to don a driver’s suit following a careful
selection process and a safe driving course.
1998 saw the introduction of the
Alfa Romeo Challenge raced between sporting customers who intended to race
Alfa Romeo cars in the Italian Speed Touring Championship. The 1998 season
was won by a seasoned driver Gordon De Adamich, who also won the Italian
national title in a Alfa 146 prepared by Nordauto.
The Alfa GTV Cup introduced in
1999 was reserved for gentlemen drivers. The trophy, awarded for ten
races, gave 150 customers from all over Italy the chance to put on a
driver’s suit and race an Alfa GTV 3.0 V6. The Alfa 147
introduced in 2000.
For more than 30 years the GTA logo has been used to identify Alfas
prepared for racing. Nordauto’s close link with Alfa has resulted in the
Nordauto GTA Racing Team competing with the new 156 GTA in the European
Touring Car Championship (ETCC). After a superb performance in 2001 – (1st
and 2nd place with Giovanardi and Larini in the Drivers Championship, and
1st in the Team Championship), Alfa Nordauto have done it again! First
place for both driver and team in ETCC 2002. The Alfa team did great all
through the 2002 season with 13 wins out of 18! The domination was in fact so strong that FIA
midway in the season decided to
make new rules to "optimise the equality
of performances between the cars". Front-wheel drive cars (Alfa Romeo and
Volvo) was loaded by 15 kg ballast and rear-wheel drive cars (BMW)
had the weight reduced by 15 kg. Alfa Rules! [www.teamnordauto.com]
Source: The basis of this article was
found on the Net, but I I don’t know who wrote it. If anyone out there recognizes
it, give me a hint. I would like to
give credit where credit’s due 🙂