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You probably 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 Championships,
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 imprisonment.

T H E   R A C I N G

The 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 Florio
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.

Alfa Romeo P2This 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 time.

Alfa Romeo 6C 1750The 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 himself. Tazio Nuvolari Throughout 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 Homepage]

A driver named Ferrari
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. Young Enzo 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’.

Alfa Romeo P3Things 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.

World Champions
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.

Alfa Romeo Tipo 159 AlfettaThe 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 Championships
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.

Alfa 2000 GTAmIn 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 Montecarlo GP.

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 Giorgio Francia.

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!

Alfa 155 DTM The 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.

Single make trophies
Alfa 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 Trophy (1982).

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). 

Alfa Romeo GTV 3.0 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 Cup was 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 e
quality 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 🙂