Reports of the first round of the Top Hat GTA Challenge and the first Alfaholics track day from the Alfa Romeo Owners Club – UK magazine (volume 36 number 3). Reprinted by kind permission
10×8 prints taken of each individual car in action at the Track Day are available from Ken Carrington on 01245 473455
The penultimate race of the GTA challenge series was held at the Spa-Francorchamps Circuit over the weekend of 13-15 September 2002 as part of the Spa six hours meeting.
As at Chimay, earlier in the year, all Top Hat Competitors ended up in a single, one hour two driver endurance race i.e. GTA Challenge, 50’s Touring Cars and pre’65 Touring Cars.
An impressive entry of 53 cars from Mustang to A40 showed the popularity of racing at Spa and the chance to experience the thrill of Eau Rouge!
Eau Rouge during practice on Friday
For Alfaholics, the weekend started to go wrong right from the outset when Andrew, on leaving Bristol, had a spark plug blow out of his 75 twin spark and had to go back for the 155 Q4, only just making it in time for the ferry at Dover.
Then, having left the racer and equipment in the paddock at Spa ready for practice the next morning, we were almost at our hotel, when entering a sharp bend in the dark, the 155 slid off into a deep ditch, breaking a wheel, bottom wishbone and cracking the gearbox casing. The lorry immediately in front had evidently overfilled it’s tank and deposited an enormous trail of diesel all round the corner. So here we all were, luckily completely unhurt, but 500 miles from home in the pitch dark, with a car that was completely kaput. An extremely helpful Peter Rutt (another GTA Challenge entrant) came out with Simon Whiting of Gran Turismo Engineering, who was our guest driver for the race, and brought us back to the hotel.
The next day a Belgium customer, William Mairesse, son of the legendary Ferrari Formula 1 and sports car driver of the sixties, Willy Mairesse, kindly arranged for the car to be retrieved by the local garage.
We have always prided ourselves on racing our road car. Now it was time to prove it! The 155 would have to go home on the trailer not the GTA replica!
Driver change – Simon Whiting is strapped in for his half-hour
Practice on Friday morning was a mere half hour, representing 4 laps each for Andrew, who had never seen the circuit before, and guest driver Simon, who had never driven the car before, nor driven at Spa for 4 years! Nevertheless, it netted them 12th overall which they improved to 11th in the race and 3rd in the GTA Challenge section. A decent result and importantly NTB (our GTA replica) was in good health for the non-stop overnight run back to Devon.
NTB following faithfully. Q4 on the trailer
Not the most relaxing of weekends, but ultimately a satisfying one. Two and a half hours of hammering round Spa and 495 miles on the road, all in a weekend’s work for an Alfaholics GTA replica. Mission completed!
4am ferry sailing
Safe arrival! Andrew & NTB at Calais
Andrew still happy, despite racing the day before and being up all night
The second round of the Top Hat GTA Challenge was held on the 4.5km road circuit at Chimay in Belgium over the weekend of 6th/7th July 2002.
All Top Hat competitors comprising, Pre 65 Historic Touring Cars, 1950’s Touring cars & GTA Challenge were put together in one 50 minute race for one or two drivers with an enforced pit stop.
Andrew Banks sensationally put the Alfaholics GTA Replica in pole position, having been fastest in both 30 minute practice sessions.
However, he was out dragged off the start up to the first corner by Simon Garad’s phenomenally fast 2.3 litre BMW 2000 and had to be content with running nose to tail behind it (making up the distance pulled by the faster car by braking later and flying through the corners!) until the driver change at half distance.
Andrew jumped out the Alfa and back in again joining the track once again right behind the BMW, this time with Graeme Dodd driving. They came out immediately behind the safety car which allowed Mark Hales in the Anglia & the rest of the field to close up behind.
Cars under the safety car at Chimay
As soon as the safety car pulled off & racing recommenced Andrew was able to outbrake the BMW into the last of the four bus stops and then proceeded to pull out an impressive 13 second lead, before easing off to win by 3.5 secs.
Two down & three to go in the GTA Challenge Series. Next race is Donington Park on 1st September and then Spa a fortnight later.
Remember all the parts used on our GTA Replica are available from Alfaholics. Most, including the Sports Suspension are stock items! Feel free to ring and discuss performance options with us at any time. Our 7″ GTA Replica Wheel will be available from the end of August.
Andrew Banks receives his GTA challenge trophy from Andrew Thorogood with
Julius Thurgood (who organises the GTA Challenge) behind
After a very successful year in 2002 when Andrew Banks contested the GTA Challenge in our 2 litre 75 Twin/Spark powered GTA Replica, this year’s objective was to contest enough English Club races to enable younger son Maxim to obtain his ‘A’ licence in time for the ‘Banks Brothers’ to contest the one hour, two driver Top Hat race together at Spa Francorchamps in September.
In order to do this, we needed to rejig the car with 1600cc single plug engine, shorten the gearing and put the car on a serious diet!
Maxim made his racing debut on Easter Monday at Castle Combe, covering himself in glory by finishing 7th overall and first in class against the more modern Alfas contesting the Alfa Romeo Championship Association Series. (ARCA)
Two good 3rd places at Snetterton followed before the car was unceremoniously smashed up the back by a Mk2 Jaguar whilst stationary at the side of the track during the Superprix meeting at Brands Hatch. The damage was so serious that it took over two months to repair and our dream of Spa was over.
Maxim was kindly lent a 2 litre Sprint GT which we hastily re-engineered for Donington Park in August. Result 6th overall and an excellent class win. This car became part of Alfaholics Motorsport when long time client Simon Arber (2000 GTV) decided he’d like to start racing a classic Alfa and would we look after it for him!
Simon’s race debut came at Mallory Park in October. Sharing the car with Andrew Banks in the one hour 2 driver Top Hat Touring Car Race, they finished 4th overall behind 3 Mustangs, with Andrew setting a new lap record.
Andrew contesting the lead – Mustangs everywhere and no one else in sight!
An hour later Simon was out again in the GTA Challenge race, starting from 6th position but winding up a sensational 2nd after a great scrap with Jonathan Griffin’s 2 litre Giulia Super.
Maxim, Simon and Richard obviously happy with the race result!
A month later, Simon shared his car with Maxim at a rain drenched 45 minute 2 driver race at Brands Hatch. 3rd in class was a sensible result against more modern opposition in quite atrocious conditions.
ALFAHOLICS MOTORSPORT 2004
Alfaholics Motorsport, under the expert guidance of Bob Dove, will be running two Sprint GTs in 2004 Top Hat Series races.
Andrew Banks and Simon Arber will contest the 2 driver one hour Top Hat races, whilst Maxim Banks will contest the GTA Challenge Series.
RESULTS OBTAINED BY ALFAHOLICS’ CUSTOMERS
We would like to be kept up to date on the competition activities of our many customers around the world who use our suspension packs, wheels, exhaust systems etc., for many different types of sporting events.
We hope to make this a feature of our 2004 Motorsport News.
First race meeting of the 2004 Top Hat Series was held at Castle Combe over Easter Bank Holiday Monday.
The familiar Alfaholics Giulia Sprint GT, now with 2 litre engine, was entered in the GTA Challenge for Maxim Banks to drive, whilst the similar car of Simon Arber to be co-driven by Andrew Banks was entered in the 1 hour Historic Touring Car Challenge, as well as in the GTA Challenge for Simon Arber.
Qualifying was going to be tough, the late race entry acceptance of a 3 litre GTV6 and several 3.0 litre Capris on modern race tyres gave them a huge advantage against the 60’s cross-ply tyres the 105 series Alfa Romeos had to run. Nevertheless, Maxim Banks utilised his one free lap to great effect and took pole by 0.7s . Simon Arber was 6th fastest.
ON THE LIMIT IN QUALIFYING!
In the Top Hat Touring Cars, Andrew Banks also took pole position, doing so by over a second and a half from ex Lotus GP driver Jackie Oliver in a Mustang.
Two races, two pole positions for the Alfaholics Alfa Romeos! However, what promised so much, produced nothing later in the day.
RACE – GTA CHALLENGE
After a slowish start from pole position, Maxim was 3th into Quarry which, after 5 laps, gradually became 2nd right on the bumper of Chris Snowdon’s Alfa Romeo GTV6.
FIRST LAP, FIRST CORNER!
However, after only 10 minutes of the 30 minute race, a wildly understeering, but admittedly quick in a straight line 3 litre Capri, chose the one corner, Old Paddock, that precludes intelligent overtaking, to try such a manoeuvre. Understeering in a very high speed right hand bend, the Capri hit Maxim hard behind the right rear wheel, sending him into the tyre wall. The Capri then hit the tyre wall hard itself, bounced off and hit the Alfa once again.
NOTE THE RIDICULOUS CAMBER ON THE RIGHT FRONT WHEEL, NO DOUBT A CONTRIBUTING FACTOR TO ITS UNDERSTEER!
Mixing cars with differing tyre grip requires a certain level of appreciation by the drivers. The problems occur when people drive around in their own little world. We were the unfortunate recipients and, as a result we are now faced with a 2 month bodyshell rebuild. The car requires jigging thanks to a bent chassis leg and also requires a new front panel and front right wing; two very hard to find panels, even for Alfaholics!
What a way to start a season with a car that promised so much. We had rebuilt it completely over the winter and were looking forward to a great season. We hope to be out for Dijon in early July, but it may not be until Chimay at the end of July. Fortunately, Simon Arber finished 2nd in the GTA class, after a reasonably uneventful race.
HISTORIC TOURING CARS
Andrew started off the race from pole position but was outdragged by the extra power of the Mustang on the long run up to the first corner, Quarry.
These two pulled away from the rest of the field, but Andrew was never able to head the Mustang which was too fast on the fast part of the circuit, but a well driven mobile chicane on the twisty section.
FIRST LAP INTO TOWER
CLINGING ON TO THE MUSTANG!
It was all academic for, after 5 laps, the lever had to be held in the gears and after 15 laps only 5th gear was available to him. Despite this Andrew still managed to set the fastest lap. Poor Simon didn’t even get a drive and still requires one more signature to remove the novice’s cross off the back of the car. At least this problem is easy to fix unlike the other car!
CHASING THE MUSTANG, HOLDING THE CAR IN 4th GEAR WITH ONE HAND, WHILST CONTROLLING THE DRIFT WITH THE OTHER!!!
We went to Chimay full of expectations for the 2 driver Top Hat Historic Saloon Car race; the so called ‘Dream Team’ was united for the first time, Andrew and Max Banks would share the Alfaholics GTA Replica for the first time, greatly improving our chances of success. We also fitted our newly aquired double adjustable Koni race shock absorbers to replace the road Bilsteins we used to use and thus, were confident of the car’s ability to utilise the chicane kerbs to our advantage.
Max slings the car through the 4th chicane in qualifying
We returned from Chimay disillusioned from another retirement after 25 minutes of the one hour race: yet another problem with Jim Evans’ ‘dog’ selection gearbox which is proving too fragile to continue using – a seemingly typical issue with Jim’s parts!
The good news is that indeed the pace of the car and the new driver pairing were indeed too much for any of our Top Hat rivals. This further cemented our opinion that the extra couple of tenths per lap that the dog box may save is not required, such is our pace; durability is our new priority!
In order to improve the race entry, several cars were included that were not of Top Hat type or regulation. This included a Chevrolet Camaro reputedly with 600bhp, a ‘Knobbly’ Lister Jaguar, an extremely rapid Porsche 911 and a 3.0 Cologne Capri, all running on semi-slick tyres.
Max spinning up the rear tyres, in typical cross-ply fashion, exiting the second chicane!
We qualified 5th overall behind the above mentioned cars and first Top Hat car on historic cross-ply tyres, with a sensational 2m 12.851 lap put in by Andrew Banks. The next Top Hat car was a BMW on a 2m 15.669, that’s 2.8 secs per lap slower than the Alfaholics GTA Replica! Our old sparing partner from Castle Combe, ex F1 Team Lotus ace, Jackie Oliver in the Ford Mustang only managed a 2m 16.402, showing how improved the car is with those new full race shocks!
Andrew Banks was to start the race, with the intention to bring him in just after the driver change chaos that usually erupts at around 28 mins into the race, when the pit lane bears more resemblance to the decks of a sinking ship than a circuit pit lane as equipment and people fly in all directions! Due to our advantage over the other Top Hat entrants, we planned to run to a pace trying to keep every lap around 2m 13 – 2m 14s.
Andrew got a flying start and at the end of the first lap, when those on slick tyres were still unsure of their grip, came typically sliding through the last corner welded to the boot lid of the Camaro and a ridiculously fast Escort that had come through from last place on the grid!
Andrew gets a fantastic start pulling away from the Alfas and Jackie Oliver’s Mustang, check out the smoking tyres and black lines left by the white Camaro!
Andrew pulls away from the other Alfas, flying down the back straight!
As the race unfolded, our pace was too great for our Top Hat competitors, having nearly 40 seconds lead over them just 25 minutes into the one hour race! All seemed wrapped up as I donned my helmet and gloves, the adrenaline rushing round my body making my spine tingle, as I realised that I had a job to finish, even though it seemed easy! As I looked down to last corner to watch Andrew come round it for the last time before being shown the ‘IN’ board, the car rolled straight on and pulled over in the escape road. I could not believe my eyes and had to take a second look to make sure it really was car no. 72 as the sickening feeling set in my stomach!
The car and Andrew returned to our pit at the end of the race with a reported loss of drive in 5th coming through the last kink on the circuit and a subsequent nasty noise from the depths below. We packed up and left the circuit wondering what might have been, especially as the Porsche got a stop-go penalty, the Escort did not go the distance and the Lister slowed hugely towards the end of the race. It may well have been second overall, as well as a Top Hat and GTA Challenge win!
Back in the UK, I stripped down the gearbox to find half the teeth on 5th gear on the layshaft had been stripped clean off, whole. Faulty manufacture in the blank or computer modelled cutting of the teeth seem the likely cause, not any of the dog selectors, however, it is one failure too many for the set up so back to a good ol’ Alfa GTA box we go! If our competitors were within a few tenths of our pace then it may have justified further development of the ‘dog’ box but with several seconds of advantage yet again, the extra pace cannot be justified, we need a safe gearbox which the Alfa unit has proved to be in the past!
Max attacks the 4th chicane again, the car and shocks loving the kerbs!
Max passes the original control tower used in the 60s on the approach to the last corner
Andrew attacking the braking zone to pit bend in qualifying, Cologne Capri trying to cling on!
The family team prepare for battle! Photo by Marnix Dierick, Alfaholics customer and fellow racer.
Spa 6 hours 2004 was a huge meeting, with over 600 cars entered to race it seemed an organisational impossibility. Nevertheless we sat on the ferry with a degree of faith in the Belgian authorities; after all they had won back their place on the F1 calendar!
The Top Hat entry list of over 80 cars made for extremely varied reading; it would seem that anything and everything from the 60’s and 70’s was entered, ranging from Chevron B16s, GT40s and Lotus 23Bs through BMW 3.0 CSL ‘Batmobiles’ and 3.0 Capri’s, right through to Morris Minors and a MkVII Jaguar! A total of 84 cars were entered, so lapping back markers and not being held up in the pits was going to be the key to our success.
The Alfaholics set-up in the paddock
The opposition – Nick Whale’s BMW 3.0 CSL Batmobile
Free practice was scheduled for 18:55 on Friday night, with 133 cars due to be on track! The Belgians looked like they were already struggling to keep up with their ambitious timetable and it was 19:20 before the cars were let on to the track. Andrew Banks started the session and came in after 3 laps to hand over to yours truly Max Banks, in order to give me as much track time as possible, never having seen the circuit before. Strapped in and ready to go, it was clear that I had been over optimistic attaching my dark visor, for the sun was disappearing fast over the heavily wooded horizon! Andrew slammed the door shut shouting “it’s very busy out there and there’s lots of oil around”. Nice! Just what you want to hear before you attack Eau Rouge for the first time! Due to the shear number of cars it was just a case of timing the traffic to try and get a clear run through each corner once over the 6 laps, whilst scything past the slower cars, but keeping out the way of the Lola T70s and Chevrons! I put in a 3m09, not bad for a first attempt in the dark, in traffic, but knew the car was capable of a 3m05 in qualifying the following morning.
Saturday morning came and having spoken to several concerned looking competitors, the general consensus was that qualifying was going to be a complete traffic lottery. We decided it would be best to be out at the front, so we got to the collecting area as soon as possible. Although qualifying was only the second schedule of the day, it started 20 minutes late. Already it seemed that the organisation had gone to pot! The green flag dropped and all 84 cars disappeared over the top of Eau Rouge, Andrew leading the way. 3m11secs later Andrew came flying past the pits (not bad from a standing start on cold tyres), clearly driving like a man on a mission. It was several seconds before the pursuing train came past! His first flying lap was a fantastic 3m05.124 and he had clearly dropped the Historic Saloons that had been following him. After that lap traffic started to intervene and it seemed unlikely that anyone would go any faster. Andrew came in to let me have a bash at stringing some laps together before the race, as I had elected to start the race not having had a race at Chimay. I managed a 3m07.9 whilst held up in traffic and felt happy that I had a good lap sorted out in my head.
Max attacks the ‘Bus-Stop’ chicane in qualifying
Andrew exits the ‘Bus-Stop’ on a hot lap in qualifying
Our time in qualifying put us 12th on the grid, and most importantly the quickest 60’s saloon car on cross-ply tyres, 3 seconds a lap quicker than Chris Sanders in his rapid Lotus Cortina.
Saturday evening was spent watching the main event of the weekend, the 6 hour endurance race. Standing on the pit wall, it made fantastic viewing as darkness fell watching the dazzling rally lights charging down the hill towards us and the red tail lights snaking up Eau Rouge and disappearing over the top of Raidillon. We left the circuit as the first round of pit stops and driver changes were being made under arc lights in the endurance pit, returning to the hotel to feast on some delightful Belgian food and get an early nights sleep before the big day.
With Saturday afternoon free, it gave us time to walk round the paddock, here is one of the 6 hour Corvettes
David Fitzsimmons’ TZ, beautifully prepared by Steve Hart Racing
I awoke 10 minutes before my alarm, just enough time to do the first lap of the race in my head, covering as many eventualities as I could possibly think of! Arriving at the circuit with the breathtaking view of Eau Rouge in front of me (the TV does not do justice to the gradient!), it became apparent that I hadn’t covered one eventuality in my bed that morning; it was wet! Stories spread through the paddock of the Six Hour race being cut short due to rain near the end and too many cars stuffed in the barriers around the circuit!
As the sun appeared from behind an evil looking cloud and the breeze picked up, there was a glimmer of hope that it might be a dry race after all. Eventually the sun burned through the mist and clouds and the circuit dried up an hour before the race. What a relief! I have to admit that I did not fancy starting my first race at Spa with a final grid of 73 cars, surrounded by some serious machinery in the wet. Trying to squeeze through Eau Rouge as fast as possible would have been a nightmare!
Many of the sports cars that had qualified at the front of the grid did not to race. They had probably used our race entry as extra track time before their own main race. This was something race organiser Julius Thurgood had not considered when he took their entries rather than other Historic Saloons that should have been racing! This promoted us to 9th overall on the grid.
I was lined up immediately behind a V8 Sunbeam Tiger, with a GT 40 and a Dulon in front of that. Next to me was a TVR Griffith, and behind me was Chris Sanders’ Cortina with Simon Garrad’s very light GTA next to him. Yes the start was going to be close! As we funnelled through La Source and down towards the start line, the GT 40 of Leo Voyazides backed our line up to get a run at the start. With two big V8s in front, I was in danger of being left behind when they decided to go, so I backed up a little and buried my right foot early. As I approached the Tiger’s rear bumper at quite a rate of knots I wondered if I had gone too early, but to my great relief and excitement I had timed it perfectly and the Tiger disappeared just as I was within a couple of inches of his bumper. I approached Eau Rouge and it became apparent that the TVR had not made such a good start, allowing me to take an uncompromised line through Eau Rouge and giving me a run on the Tiger up to Les Combes which due to its power, turned into a nice tow. I in turn dropped the TVR, Lotus Cortina and the two Alfas. Following the Tiger turned into a bit of a nightmare as his corner speed and braking were holding me up badly through the turns but the extra power allowed him to disappear down the straights. This let the Sanders’ Cortina catch up and for a lap he was climbing all over my boot lid as we both battled to try to pass the Tiger. I managed to go round the outside of the Tiger through the first part of Pouhon but alas his power allowed him to drive past me on the next straight! This acted as a bit of a wake up call for him and he pulled away allowing me to attack the corners and braking zones to full effect. I was then able to pull away from Sanders. At the end of the third lap with a nice lead of more than 7 seconds over the pursuing saloons all appeared straight forward for us, when out of the blue the safety car board came out, I could not believe my luck; all that hard work had gone to waste! As the laps passed, it dawned on me that if the safety car stayed out much longer, the pit stop window for the driver change would open, forcing me in to make an early stop. As we past the pits once more behind the safety car the clock read 18 minutes; if the safety car stayed out for another lap I would be forced in. We passed the scene of the accident, a badly rolled Mk7 Jaguar at Pouhon, to find the car had been moved and the mess cleared up. Surely the safety car would go in that lap allowing our race to continue, but the lights stayed flashing on the safety car! In the pits I came, followed by the Cortina and Garrad’s GTA, our pit stop was slick, only 17 seconds stationary, but Garrad, who was racing on his own, just managed to beat Andrew out of the pit. Lap after lap passed with Andrew still behind Garrad, but catching, and then out of the blue the chequered flag came out 51 minutes into the race, 3 laps early!!! We were left wondering what might have been with a couple more laps, but it did not matter as Garrad was not in our class, making us winners of the top class of the GTA Challenge! After the race there were stories of an epic battle between Andrew and Simon, side by side all the way round the back of the circuit, lapping cars either side, and some grassy moments! It seemed Andrew just did not get the breaks with the traffic that Simon did, giving him first historic saloon home after a great drive! However, it was our car that posted the fastest Top Hat race lap of 3m06.1.
Victory at last after our most unlucky season racing ever, a small reward for all the time and effort (blood, sweat and tears!) that I have put into preparing the car this season!
Next stop Mallory Park in 3 weeks where we hope to defeat the Mustangs that out us back to 4th place last year!
Top Hat End of Season Finals was set for the ultimate showdown at Mallory Park on 10th of October. All the Big Guns were entered to claim the final race win of the year, the Miles Townsend Memorial Trophy. It would be our first meeting since Castle Combe in April with Leo Voyazides’ infamous Mustang, with whom we battled last year, as well as Graeme Dodd in his recently acquired HRSR 2.0 Alfa Sprint GT that he would share with James, his son. Jackie Oliver had swapped machinery from Mustang to BMW, sharing Richard Shaw’s immaculate blue 2.1 machine. Stormin’ Norman Grimshaw was also entered in his mental Mini which, from record can never be counted out of the fight for overall victory! With 30 cars entered, it was to be another very busy circuit due to its short length of 1.35 miles, with lapping traffic likely to play an important role.
Doubts about the weather were soon dispersed as the clouds cleared just in time for the 25 minute Top Hat qualifying at 9.30 am. Andrew went out first in the Alfaholics GTA Replica, slowly managing to drop the following competitors, but it was immediately clear that we would not enjoy the raw pace advantage we had shown at other circuits in the year! Traffic was causing problems in finding a clear lap but finally Andrew put a string of laps together, moving from low 56 secs, into the mid 55’s As the time passed 15 minutes, I donned my balaclava, helmet and gloves and tuned out from the excitement and into my job in hand! Andrew came past the pits for one last time headlights ablaze (to move traffic out of the way!) and pointed towards the pit. My turn! A brisk driver change and 23 secs later I was pedal to metal down to the first corner, Gerards, a long fast 180 degree right hander with entry speed of near 100 mph! I would only get a handful of laps before the chequered flag and there were several stranded cars littered round the track, making yellow flags a problem. Nevertheless, I felt happy. I had learnt the circuit, having not got to race the previous year; comfortably dropping down through the 56’s as the flag was put out,
At 11 am Andrew and Diana disappeared off to the Control Tower to pick up the time sheets, and reappeared 5 minutes later with big grins. Obviously we had done the job! Yes, we were on pole! Not by much but any advantage is enough for pole, 0.084 to be precise. But we were all surprised by what car would share the front row with the Alfaholics GTA Replica… can you guess? It was Stormin’ Norman in his Mini! Then the gaps opened up with Jackie Oliver 3rd in the BMW, 0.3 secs behind and sharing the second row with Voyazides’ Mustang, 0.7 secs off pole. The Dodds had managed 6th on the grid, 0.97 secs off the pace, but the car looked fast so they were not to be counted out of the fight. It was going to be one hell of a race!
Andrew pushes on through Devil’s Elbow in qualifying
A quick check of the car was completed over lunch, whilst chatting to several Alfaholics customers who had come to watch, thrilled to see us right at the sharp end! It was particulary nice to meet Philip Simmie and his wife from Toowoomba, Queensland, Australia. Philip races and rallies a Sprint GT back home.
Andrew was to start the race and it was quickly established that Jackie Oliver and Norman Grimshaw were also starting. However, Graeme Dodd was doing the second leg, as was Andy Bacon the quicker driver in the Voyazides Mustang. My leg of the race was set to be as tough as the first, with some seriously experienced racers saving themselves till the end!
Andrew made his usual dream start leaving the Mini for dead as he headed towards Gerards. Another fantastic start was made by James Dodd from the third row, and it was the two Alfas that led into the first corner followed by Grimshaw, Oliver and Voyazides. A minute later Andrew came sliding through Devil’s Elbow with Dodd securely fastened to his bootlid; likewise the Mini was bonded to James’ boot and the trio looked like they meant serious business, hungry for their first outright Top Hat win of the season! Lap after lap passed with Andrew drifting on three wheels though the last corner, the following pair as close as ever with Jackie Oliver slowly reeling them all in! As they disappeared out of sight round Gerards every lap, all the leading pit crews and 2nd drivers would charge to the other end of the pit to catch a glimpse of the progress their car had made, but it was Andrew who looked unshakeable, leading lap after lap.
Graeme Dodd was looking more and more nervous each lap and kept on putting on his poker face and grinning at me as the cars passed. If only he knew how I was feeling as my insides were turning themselves inside out!!! Graeme Dodd has got to be one of the last people you want just behind you in seemingly evenly matched cars! Then two laps in succession the Mini and the BMW dropped out. It was down to a two horse race.
Then there were two!
Voyazides pitted right at the start of the 15 minute driver change window to hand over to Bacon. Maybe he could apply some pressure, American muscle style, to the Alfas who were running way with the show. Bacon exited the pits right behind the Alfas, one lap down, so we would soon see if he could keep with them, but within a few laps, he dropped back, so it became apparent that it was to be a Latin victory!
Then 20 minutes into the race Andrew came past the pits, but without Dodd. We all craned our necks up the pit straight to see when he would come past. Had he made a mistake and dropped back? He was soon confirmed as a retirement, and the once close 4 car race for the lead had been quickly whittled down to one! All my butterflies disappeared as I realized the pressure was off me as far as Graeme Dodd was concerned, but it actually came as a bit of an anti-climax as I was really pumped up for the battle! Andrew came in to swap over and our pit stop was slick, 17 secs stationary, our best all year!
Max and Richard get ready for the pit stop
As I left the pit and turned in to Gerards I could instantly tell Andrew had been trying really hard to fend off Dodd in that epic battle. The tyres were worse than I have ever experienced, having the consistency of poorly set jelly! As the laps ticked by I was shown a board of 40 secs, surely that couldn’t be my lead? As I pushed on the next lap, my board read 41 secs. Ok that was my lead then, no need to keep pushing the car as hard as those jelly tyres would allow, time to conserve the car and drive train a little. To finish first, first you have to finish! As the timer rolled on towards 40 minutes I wondered if I would have preferred a bit of a fight to the line, my heart saying yes, my head strongly disagreeing. Bugger the fight! I was going to win the race, my first ever outright win, I have plenty of years of racing battles in me! The rest of the race passed uneventfully as I slowed down considerably on the last two laps, then the chequered flag; what a feeling! All the hard work had finally been paid back ten fold. As I completed my victory lap the crowds were on their feet applauding, of course I soaked it up, but knew the majority was for Andrews’ efforts early on! I gave them something back with some big power slides, laying thick black lines in my wake: I was one happy bunny!
Max finishes the job off for the Alfaholics Team!
Returning to the pits, it had not really sunk in: something that would only really happen at the end of the day when Andrew and I went up to receive the fantastic trophy and garland!
Andrew on left, Max on right – Cheesy grins all round!
So to conclude the season, lots of ups and downs for the Alfaholics team! The highlights being pole at each race entered with the Alfaholics GTA leading every race from the start with 1 class win and 1 outright win from 4 Top Hat endurance races entered. However, we will not rest on our late season laurels. The car must be stripped back down to a shell and weight lost where we can, most notably from the front suspension. This will also give me an opportunity to CAD draw the watts link set up and 2 1/4″ front spring kit, which in the rush at the beginning of the season when fabricating was never done. This will allow us to offer all our race winning mods to our customers! Watch out for these parts on the ‘Racing Parts’ section.
Photos by Ian Wilson of AutoGraph & Steve Kingett
Our annual, not to be missed, trip to the fabulous Chimay road circuit on the Belgian/French border, south of Charleroi, had previously been undertaken as part of Top Hat’s Pre ’66 Touring Car Race, combined with GTA Challenge.
However, this year we thought it would be more fun to run our car on serious slicks, instead of period Dunlop Crossplies, and enter the Belgian Bravo race run by Fillip Malieu.
Our friend Marnix Dierick, who shares a Giulia Ti and Triumph TR4 with brother Michael in this series, kindly organised an entry for us.
Max would qualify the car and do the first 30 minute race on the Saturday and Andrew then start in Max’s finishing position for the second half-hour race on Sunday!
Practice went really well with Max qualifying a fantastic 5th in the 49 car field, behind two very quick French Ford Escorts on 10 inch slicks, Peter Govaerts’ rapid Lotus Elan and a Porsche RSR.
Max on the limit in Qualifying
Max’s fantastic qualifying effort
The 2 French Escorts looked fast, even when standing still!
Having been out dragged off the rolling start by another Ford Escort, he ran a very strong sixth until just over a lap from home, when the front suspension we are developing decided it had had enough of the curbs in the four chicanes that are such a feature of Chimay. However, it does make it the ideal proving ground!
Pictures from Max’s race
The rain that was forecast for Sunday afternoon duly arrived on time an hour before Andrew’s race! Pre-race warm up confirmed the track was a skating rink, thanks to oil all round the circuit, which immediately transferred itself to the windscreen.
Andrew lined up in 23rd place on the 12th row of the grid and with no chance of overtaking entered the first corner still in 23rd place! However, at the end of the first lap he was 12th, which a sensible drive on far from ideal tyres netted 8th overall and 3rd in class. Another excellent result from a superb weekend of outstanding Belgian food and hospitality.
Marnix provided excellent hospitality for thirsty workers!
Photos provided by Pierre Randaxhe
The Classic Six Hours of Spa Francorchamps race meeting, held this year over 4 days from September 22nd has exploded in popularity in recent years. We had participated in the one hour Top Hat Race for the past 3 years, but due to a shortened race in 2004 and with much of it under the Safety Car, we decided only to return to the meeting if we were competing in the 6 Hours itself.
This year’s meeting was the biggest so far, with over 700 cars entered in a phenomenal 20 race programme. In fact, it is now the biggest historic race meeting in the European calendar, whose atmosphere is uniquely electric.
Alfaholics was lucky enough to receive an entry in the feature race which takes place from 6pm ‘til midnight on the Saturday. But we were only informed a mere 4 weeks prior to the event! Much preparation would be necessary, with many angles needing covering. Spot lights for the night driving, bigger fuel tank, endurance brake pads, taller gearing for the superfast Spa Francorchamps circuit for 6 hours, whilst identification lighting on the car would be essential to help the pit crew pick out the car at night, as with over 90 cars entered, the circuit was going to be extremely busy! Not least Andrew and I, as drivers, would need pit board identification and a lighting gantry for pit stop driver changes. We also decided to fit a bigger battery and alternator.
A phone call to PIAA enlightened me of the various options of lighting available. Gas discharge main lighting was the obvious choice due to its relative low current draw of 35W each and unrivalled power. Spa features several long corners including the super fast, unforgiving double apex left hander ‘Pouhon’ – lateral vision with good penetration would also be crucial. Small yet powerful spherical halogen units were also fitted for this. PIAA’s latest technology H4 bulbs were fitted in the main lights which draw a mere 55W, but project a beam equivalent to a 130W bulb.
I designed the layout for a 100 litre fuel cell to replace our 1hr aluminium tank, following a similar configuration of central location rising up between the shock absorber mounts and backing onto the boot floor. This ensured that the corner weight distribution would be least affected as the fuel load dropped, whilst keeping the extra weight as far forward and low as possible. This was made into a 3D CAD model to fit the boot floor perfectly and made by a leading FIA fuel safety cell manufacturer exclusively for Alfaholics. It features a submersible fuel pump with a proper fuel gauge within the driver’s range of vision.
A short test session at Castle Combe the week before enabled DS3000 Enduro brake pads to be bedded in, tyres to be scrubbed and check that the fuel system worked satisfactorily, whilst a visit to a deserted country road confirmed that our lighting set up was indeed awesome!
All lighting and bracketry are available through Alfaholics
After a 500 mile drive, we arrived at the circuit late on the Wednesday afternoon, complete with enough spares to cover almost any eventuality! We set up our pit garage, which we were sharing with last year’s race winner John Shipman and Mark Hales with their ultra rapid Crosslé. They too were contesting the Eau Rouge Trophy which, baring any problems, they were bound to win. We would be happy just to finish and hopefully win our class into the bargain!
Alfaholics 2.0 Sprint GT Racer lies in waiting for the weekends events!
Two particularly busy qualifying sessions prevented Andrew or I from putting together an ideal lap. This meant we failed to reach our target of qualifying within the top 20 and resulted in 26th place and lining up for the rolling start alongside the lovely GTAm of Martina Bossart . Meanwhile, as we expected, the Shipman/Hales Crosslé secured pole by a healthy margin. Nevertheless, 6 hours is a long time for places to shake out and it was obviously very important to keep out of the usual troubles of the first few laps of a race. However, maybe with such a long race, people would not be pulling silly manoeuvres at the start! Or would they?
Andrew on the limit in qualifying
We arrived at the circuit mid-morning and spent the day checking right through the car, as well as calibrating the fuel tank. Spot lights were fitted onto the car as we did not want to damage them in any practice dramas. Race pads and tyres were fitted and the pit equipment made ready.
Max and Andrew prepare for battle!
As 6 o’clock approached, the 91 cars left their pit garages and out onto the circuit at Eau Rouge. Andrew was to start the race, thereby enjoying the only daylight session. We would race 1½ hour stints with 3 refuelling and driver changes, whilst the majority of teams had 3 drivers so would split the race in 3, with 2 driver changes. We would need a good race pace to account for that extra stop.
Huge number of cars lining up to get out on circuit – it was going to be a busy race!
Andrew: “The first few laps were frantic and extremely close-fought as everyone jostled for position, defying any thoughts that people would be pacing themselves over the forthcoming 6 hours. Instantly we began making up places, until our progress was halted by a Porsche 911 which, while no match for the agile Alfa in the corners, proved just too quick down the straights to make a pass stick. The race began to settle down and the car was running as sweetly as ever as we piled on lap after lap. As dusk fell, the one and a half hour mark approached and it was time for the first of our scheduled pit-stops. A slick refuelling stop carried out in the F1 pits and driver-change in the old pits and Max was out on track for his first session at the wheel”. The bulletin issued by the organisers showed us to be in 20th place at the end of the first hour.
Max: “As I drove down the pit-lane I fired up the HID spotlights, instantly night turned to day and I flew up the Eau Rouge pit exit onto the long straight to Les Combes. The track was still in good shape and the Alfaholics GTA Replica had huge grip, awesome to drive. The HIDs gave the most piercing beam, enabling you to see right to the other end of the straights and pick out braking points just as well in the dark as in the day time. A brief safety car period allowed me to try turning the mini halogen corner lights off; it was amazing how affective these little units were for illuminating turn in, apex and exit lines. Without them we would not have been able to lap anywhere near as fast in the dark. My first 1.5hr stint neatly coincided with a safety car period so there was no hesitation to come in, another slick change, stationary for a mere 25 seconds and Andrew was back out on track.”
Richard: “Good pit signalling was crucial to us all. The Astralap on the pitwall counted laps and gave lap times to Diana and me and to Andrew and Max inside the car. The only problem was the in-car display not being back lit. However, it was readable from the general trackside lighting on the way down to Eau Rouge! However, the most important message was when to expect the car so, at a squeak over 3 minutes, I held out the board with 2 orange lights as identity for the drivers. It was not too difficult then to pick out our car, firstly from the position of the lights and secondly from their extreme brightness, which was as good as any and better than 95%.”
Andrew: “As I rejoined the circuit to start the 3rd stint, I flicked on the HID spotlights and it was almost like driving in daylight! Even in the pitch black around the back of the circuit, it was possible to attack the braking areas and place the car with complete precision. Then, nearly 4 hours into the race, a big accident involving a Ford Mustang and a TVR on the straight approaching Les Combes brought out the red flag. After the debris was cleared the race re-started and we were once again battling hard with the Mustangs and 911s. By this stage of the race, the circuit was getting really slippery, only to be made worse when the leading Porsche 904 blew up leaving a long trail of oil from the Fagnes chicane through Stavelot. It was in these conditions that the beautifully balanced and consistent handling of the Alfa really excelled. The confidence to push it to the limit and beyond was undoubtedly a key factor in being able to make up places in difficult conditions”.
Fantastic night shots of the Alfaholics GTA Replica in action during the race!
Max: “Due to the red flag and long Safety Car, our last 2 stints were shortened to 40 minutes each. It was clear that we were leading the Eau Rouge Trophy by a long way before I started my session, thus, all I had to do was keep it tidy and on the track for a win! Out the back of the circuit it was becoming treacherous in the last session, becoming more and more littered with crashed and retired cars and oil, lap after lap. Another safety car period before the end, left me with ½ a lap of green flag racing before the chequered flag and our victory in the Eau Rouge Trophy was confirmed by Richard as I crossed the line!”
Alfaholics win the Eau Rouge Trophy!
It was not until I had returned to the pit and our celebrations had well and truly begun that we were informed of the even more incredible news, that we had finished 8th overall! From 91 starters this was an amazing result, far more than we could have hoped to achieve in our first long endurance night race!
The car had performed faultlessly. It consumed neither oil nor water and we chose not even to clean the windscreen between stints. At the 5 hour mark, we had even been up to 6th overall, but by easing up when we knew the Eau Rouge Trophy was in the bag, ended up 8th. We would have been delighted just to finish, preferably inside the top 20, which was our original goal.
The party on Saturday night, as you can imagine, went on till very late, with much bière and frites consumed by all the Alfaholics team and friends!
We returned on Sunday morning to clear up to the pit garage and load up for the long flog home. On the way back, we stopped off at Waterloo(!) to see our friend William Mairesse, son of the legendary sixties Ferrari works driver, Willy Mairesse.
Photos of other cars in action during the weekend
Max with William Mairesse, son of legendary Ferrari works driver Willy Mairesse
I have taken an interest in the Dutch Alfa Challenge for a number of years now and was finally able to join in the fun at their excellent race programme of 2x 30 minute races at Zolder recently. This gave me the opportunity I had been looking for to race against the fastest Alfas, both modern and 105 series, in Europe.
The regulations are very liberal. Effectively anything goes and all cars run on slick tyres. This meant modification to our car would be required! I strapped a set of slicks on to the Alfaholics 2.0 Sprint GT and went testing at Castle Combe accompanied by a box full of different springs and ended a wet/dry/damp/dry day with the setup feeling good.
I arrived at Zolder on Thursday and set up camp with the other Alfas in the paddock. It was immediately evidient that the Alfa Challenge is taken very seriously, with virtually all cars being run from articulated lorry transporters with a team of mechanics to look after them! The series itself had an impressive hospitality tent with food, coffee, wine and beer available all weekend, the food cooked by Michelin quality chefs! The series is home to several IMSA 75 1.8 Turbos, which I found out later all push out over 450bhp! Many beautifully prepared ex 147 Cup cars, which although styled like a 147 GTAs were in fact Twinsparks, but extremely light with mainly carbon-fibre bodywork. Many modified 75s were entered along with a handful of heavily modified 105s featuring some impressive looking rollcages! The two most eye catching cars were Michael Smits’ 156 Super Touring Car featuring amongst other things huge 8-pot brakes and around 300bhp and a ‘stealth fighter black’ space-frame, carbon bodied 75 driven by Bob van der Sluis! Crikey!
Michael Smits’ flying 156 STC followed by Arthur Tjon’s 147 GTA Cup
Bob van der Sluis’ Stealth 75!
There was a huge threat of rain forecast for the weekend and all fingers and toes were kept crossed at bed time on Thursday! Friday started off dry but with some seriously black clouds looming. 20 minutes before free practice the heavens opened! Off came the slicks, on went the wets! Needless to say free practice, which was for all saloons, (varying from NSU TTs right through to Porsche GT3s and DTM type Opels and Megane Super Trophy silouettes) saw yellow flags at every corner with cars off the circuit everywhere. It transpired that Zolder’s drainage left much to be desired and racing cars going very quickly and seas of deep standing water wasn’t a good combination! My first sights of Zolder though a misty screen following huge rooster tails of water were interesting and left me still a little unsure of the circuit layout! P.s. If any of you struggle with misting screens – The anti-mist liquid we had applied didn’t work well in practice, after a few conversations it transpired that the best thing to use was a thin film of washing up liquid – this worked a treat in qualifying!
Official qualifying was scheduled for 2:50pm Friday, 2 hours before the rain stopped, but still heavy cloud cover remained so wets would definitely be required. Three laps into qualifying and just as I was getting into the groove on a drying track, the heavens opened again. Bugger no chance for a really fast lap. I ended up14th out of the 27 cars and was second 105, 2 places behind the Squadra Bianca Giulia of Koen van de Velde. Not as fast as the car could have gone, but something to build on in the first race on Saturday.
Saturday was fortunately dry, so time to try Zolder on slicks! The race ran according to plan and after fending off a challenge from a 2.0 wide-body step-front on impressively large slicks for the first few laps, he ended up falling back and I worked my way up the field, ending up 9th overall and first of the 105 Series cars.
Photos from first race
Sunday was a much hotter day, so a chance to work a good temperature into the slicks for the first time. I started from my 9th finishing position from the first race and ended up having a 20minute battle with the flying Squadra Bianca Giulia (very well driven and with a seriously powerful engine) of Koen van de Velde. The best place to get by was definitely going to be the braking zone into the first corner but alas, 3 laps from the end, a 147 Cup car dumped its sump of oil in the chicane that led onto the main straight. The pass was never on and I finished on Koen’s bootlid after 30mins of racing. The results sheet confirmed a gap of just 0.28secs, and 8th overall but I did manage fastest lap for the 105’s by 0.6 secs. Aggregating the 2 races I had achieved 5th overall, an excellent result given the high standard of competition.
Photos from Race 2
Some weeks ago we were invited to race our 2.0 Sprint GT in the French Championship for Modified 60’s & 70’s Saloon Cars at Dijon. The great news was that the race formed part of the famous Grand Prix de L’Age D’Or meeting. The biggest in the historic racing calendar for the French, it is the equivalent of the Spa 6 Hour meeting that we regularly race at in Belgium. An exciting prospect indeed!
This Championship allows cars to be modified to virtually any degree, with regard to suspension linkages, brakes and drive train. The engine rule was tailor made for our new full race Twin Spark engine now developing over 220BHP. As long as the engine used is from the same manufacturer as original, has the same number of cylinders and valves, one of any age may be fitted whilst going over capacity is also allowed. Superb news for us, but also a little daunting when I found out that the fastest Sixties car was a Ford Falcon sporting a modern Nascar Ford V8 motor with over 600BHP! Eek!
Dijon is a very fast circuit and any racer who has been there says how awesome the circuit is. With its sequences of long fast 4th gear switch back corners and a reputedly hairy 5th gear last corner leading on to a long straight, it had all the makings for a power circuit where the big American and German cars were going to be hard to beat!
We arrived in the paddock on Thursday morning for the free practice sessions, having spent Wednesday driving through England and France to reach Dijon which is located just south of the Champagne region of France. As we arrived the rain started to fall! The weather forecasts predicting distinctly average weather looked to be correct, despite our confidence that we were travelling far enough south to avoid the ‘British weather’! A quick decision was made that, given the length of the meeting (4 days) we had better see if we could get a pit garage. A few minutes later and with some decidedly dodgy school boy French, we were the proud owners of the last double pit garage for the princely sum of 150 Euros! By the time we had unloaded the rig into the garage, the skies were blue once again and with the circuit just needing time to dry, it looked like being one of those weekends of completely variable conditions.
The Alfaholics & Scuderia del Biscione shared Pit Garage
The Bavarian opposition looked fast standing still!
Thursday was spent in the mixed category free practices bedding brake pads, scrubbing new slicks freshly fitted to our pre-production 7×15” GTA wheels, as well as allowing Andrew and I time to learn the circuit. With up to 70 cars on track in some of these sessions, there was rarely a free lap, so circuit learning had to be broken down into corner sequences. By the time we left the circuit, the next weather front of thick black clouds was rapidly descending, and within minutes everything was awash with water!
The following day was qualifying. I awoke to the sound of rain pattering on the window – nice! Those virtual banzai laps I had perfected in bed the previous night: each braking point, turn in speed and apex, were threatened with becoming obsolete and being replaced by a wet session. On arriving at the circuit, the rain had reduced to a light drizzle and a better looking weather front was on the way, phew! Qualifying was not until 2:30 and by 1pm the circuit was looking in fabulous condition. I made sure that I reached the collecting area early, in order to ensure I would be at the front of the pack for qualifying and thus maximise my chance of an early clear lap. As we all waited for the light to go green it was time to zone in on the job in hand, although the 25minute races were long enough for it all to shake out, a banzai lap in qualifying where you are able to focus quicker than everyone else always helps. Laps 2, 3 and 4 were fast, times down in the mid 1m37’s as the tyres got up to full temperature. Alas on lap 5 the red flag came out. Frustration filled the cockpit! Instantly I wondered where I would line up in the queue in the pits to go back out again. If I was near the back, for sure the traffic would be too bad for a good lap, but fortunately I was near the front so all was still on for that hot lap! We were only held for a couple of minutes, so the residual temperature and pressures in the tyres were still good when we headed back out again. With a few slower cars picked off on the opening lap, the circuit was soon traffic free with only a BMW 3.0 CSL Batmobile in front. Surely I wouldn’t be able to catch him! Lap 7 nailed the time, the car was stunning, so balanced and predictable that I was able to push like a veteran of Dijon. Over the line 1m 37.0 – a cracker! When the timing sheets came through we had achieved an unbelievable 6th overall, first in the Sixties class by 2.3 seconds and only 2.2 behind the pole position 3.0 CSL. Fantastic! The arrival of the grid sheets generated great interest in our car, fellow competitors and many Alfisti wanting to crawl round the car to see what we were using to make the car so fast!
Qualifying photos: 1. Awaiting the restart of the session in the pit lane after the red flag. 2. Passing Alfaholics customer Francis Hermand on the pit straight
It was nice to be able to put so many faces to names that I had either spoken to on the phone or had e-mail dialogue with! It turned out that the Eric Martin who had qualified his 3.0 Porsche 911 3rd on the grid was the same long time Alfaholics customer who owns a beautifully original 1600 GTA and 101 Giulietta Spider! Phillippe Drouilleau who had qualified his 1750 GTV mid field was keen to see the 3-D mapped ignition system we use on our twin spark engines and it turned out that the lovely 2.0 Sprint GT in the next door pit garage was another long term customer, Francis Hermand who qualified an excellent 5th in the 60’s class!
Alexis Walter of Scuderia Del Biscione fame who had qualified his 3.0 GTV6 nineth Overall on the grid and had kindly helped us organise our trip to Dijon, invited us to dinner at his home that evening, conveniently just the other side of Dijon, lucky man! With Francis Hermand also invited, it was an excellent opportunity for Andrew and I to brush up on our rusty French as well as see Alexis’ superb Mk2 1750 GTV project car! After many hours of Alfa chat and more than a few glasses of local French wine, it was time to head back to the hotel in preparation for the next day’s race. Alexis, the local weather expert warned of wet weather in the morning clearing “in the middle of the day”. With our race at 1:30pm that put a real question mark over tyre choice and suspension settings.
The circuit was wet and the drizzle was constant on the Saturday morning. It didn’t look great, but that was OK as a wet weather race is a lot of fun and can be very advantageous for a light well balanced car up against the big beasts! An hour before the race the drizzle stopped and the circuit started drying, but not quickly. At the start of the lunch break it looked 100% like slicks, then it drizzled for 10 minutes again. Oh dear, decisions, decisions! Alexis was adamant about slicks, for in the distance, on the horizon, a brighter weather front was coming, but how quickly?! For sure if it didn’t rain again you would be lost on wets – they would melt within a few laps, so we went for it on slicks. As a security measure, I backed off our adjustable blade rear antiroll bar to half soft, just in case. This is were this lovely design feature really comes into its own. In the collecting area there was a complete mixed bag, half the grid on wets and half on slicks. Interesting! Of the 60’s cars, the Camaro was on intermediates and the Falcon was on wets; it really was set to be a win or lose situation for all of us!
Whilst in the collecting area it looked a bit dodgy for slicks, once on the grid the drying line was all too clear to see!
The officials granted us 2 warm up laps due to the conditions; for sure we had made the right decision. We would just about hang with the guys on wets for the first few laps, then the already apparent slight dry line would develop and see us disappear! In the way only a movie script could set a story, it rained on the last corner of the second warm up lap. I had a chuckle to myself in my helmet, what misfortune! Still there was a chance to get right amongst it in the first corner and how long would the rain last anyway?
As the lights went green, the rain fell!
One of the Porsches in front of me and the pole sitting BMW were obviously spooked by the change of conditions. This allowed me to slip round the outside of the first bend into 3rd, but a big slide into the second corner affirmed how treacherous it was becoming. Time for a steady head, no need the throw it all away on the first lap! The guys on wets were starting to make headway from behind; it was only a matter of time before they descended on me!
The rain got heavy on lap 4, wipers going furiously to keep vision! It was now even a battle to keep the car on the straight and narrow down the straight, pulling 7,300rpm in 5th past the pits with the rear wheels spinning up and actively making steering inputs to keep the car straight was an interesting exercise, not for the feint hearted! Half way through the race the white Falcon of Gerard Camel who had been 5.5 secs slower in qualifying, blasted past down the pit straight on his wet tyres and I waved good bye to a class win. As the race developed, the circuit started to dry slightly and a couple of people on wets were picked off before the chequered flag but the circuit never had a chance to dry out; phew… got her home! As I got out of the car, I was ushered to the podium, second in the 60’s category, a fantastic result considering the conditions!
The weather on Sunday was excellent, it had not even rained overnight, so Andrew’s Sunday morning race was set to be dry! With the car fuelled we headed to the collecting area for the inhumanly early 8am start! Andrew was also lucky to benefit from my efforts in qualifying and started 6th overall.
Discussing first corner tactics in the collecting area!
Warm up lap for Race 2
The lead BMW got the drop off the start and only the first 6 cars were on the button with him as they all dragged up to the first corner, I saw Andrew dive to the outside just as I had in the first race as they disappeared from view. The commentators ramblings in French were hard to hear, but “troisieme Banks” was enough to know the good work he had done!
As I had in the previous race, Andrew dives into 3rd Overall through the first complex!
At then end of the first lap Andrew came through in 4th, desperately trying to cling on to the Porsches. Their power though, was all too clear to see! When the exit kerb of the last corner is 6,500 rpm in 5th before the main straight it was going to be difficult for him to keep with the big 70’s cars throughout the entire race! As the race developed the most exciting battle in the field was that between Andrew and a 2.5 litre Porsche engined Beetle. Andrew would exit the last corner a good few lengths in front, but then the Beetle would reel him in down the straight, leaving Andrew defending ferociously into the first corner.
Andrew battles the rapid Beetle/Porsche!
After several laps the Beetle improved his slipstreaming technique and got past early enough on the straight for Andrew not to be able to out brake him any more into turn 1. Another car we had been out muscled by down the straight was the Chevrolet Camaro running in the 60’s category, so as the race ended we were once again 2nd in the 60’s class and Andrew got his turn on the podium and more silverware!
To top the weekend off, as we were about to load up and go home, a French TV crew from Direct 8 TV, were so impressed with the efforts of the little Alfa in the 2 races, that they shot some extensive footage for their TV coverage and interviewed us about the spec we were running on the car!
As we started our 10 hour drive home we reflected on a thoroughly enjoyable and successful weekend. First of all the circuit. Wow, what a place! Any of you who haven’t raced there and get the opportunity to do so, grab it; its one hell of a circuit! Second the French Championship we raced in is a really great series! It allows people to express their engineering flair to the max. making these wonderfully beautiful historic cars into seriously rapid machinery. It’s tailor made for our car and hopefully we will return later in the year to sample it again. At a tighter circuit, less dictated by raw CCs the Alfa would be a much better bet to run right at the front! With the European race scene being swamped with ‘FIA’ based championships; it was a breath of fresh air to race in this open minded championship. Long live the Hot-Rods!
Alfaholics’ customer 1600 GTAs racing in U2TC at Dijon; race winner Dieter Anton (top), Gelscoe Motorsport (Middle), Garage Ivo Salvadori (bottom)
Beautiful 8C Monzas
This year has seen a reshuffle in the organisation of the Dutch Alfa Challenge that we raced in at Zolder in May 2006. This year, it has strengthened its ranks by teaming up with the German Kumho Alfa Series. Not only has this added more cars to the grid, some very impressive, such as a fully modified Montreal, but it has also added some excellent circuits to the calendar.
German Montreal of Thomas Hafner!
The October Nurburgring F1 meeting was the season’s finals for many high profile series, including EuroBoss F1 and Caterham EuroCup. It promised excellent racing as people diced for final championship positions in these superb series!
We booked to stay at our usual favourite hostelry, the Hotel am Tiergarten that we use for our Nordschleife trackday adventures, a convenient 2 minute drive from the F1 paddock entrance and home to the Pistenklause restaurant.
Friday gave us an opportunity to learn the circuit, for neither Andrew nor I had ever driven the F1 circuit before, despite many trips to the Nordschleife. Two 25 minute free practice sessions gave us about 10 minutes track time each per session, which equated to only 11 laps each in total! Before we knew it both sessions had flashed past in a blur and the next task was qualifying on Saturday morning. With a full grid of 44 cars, virtually all (except our friend Alexis with the Scuderia del Biscione GTV6) regulars at the Nurburgring F1 circuit, it was not going to be easy to get the car up at the sharp end of the grid. Each day we had been at the circuit it had been very misty and foggy first thing in the morning until around 10am. Our qualifying session was the first of the day at 8am! When we arrived at the paddock, the car was soaking wet and the visibility very poor, perhaps too poor even to run the session. Nevertheless, I was keen to get to the collecting area early to ensure good track position for the session. In the collecting area we were informed that qualifying would start behind the Safety Car, giving us an opportunity to work some temperature into the tyres and allowing the officials to be happy that it was safe to run the session! Off we went out on track, adrenaline pumping, with visibility truly terrible! 2 cars in front was all I could see, the Safety Car being completely hidden! Initial temperature worked into the tyres we came through the last bend and it was all go. At racing speeds the visibility in the last sector of the lap was terrible. I hooked onto the back of Tom Kuiper’s rapid Sprint GTV and we cleared our way through the traffic. Several laps later I was able slip past Tom and bang in a succession of fast laps, my knowledge of the circuit improving lap by lap. After that I started lapping slower cars so the best laps had definitely been and gone. The results sheets came though. Wow, 4th overall, behind the 400+bhp 75 IMSA Turbo, the 400bhp Montreal and one of the 147 GTA Cup cars. What a result! My main competitor in a 105 coupe, Tom Kuiper was 9th so we were pretty safe on the second row for Race One!
I elected to race first on Saturday and Andrew to race on Sunday. Rolling starts are the order in the Dutch Alfa Challenge and, as we rounded the final bend to start the first race, I expected the guys on the front row to belt away down the straight, but they stacked everyone really close at approximately 30mph virtually until the line! Suddenly they dropped the hammer and we were off down the long straight to the first sharp right hand bend. Pole was on the left, giving the Monty and me a clear run to the inside of the first sharp right hand bend, but it was pole that had the true clean side of the track. Fortunately the Caterhams has run on the right side of the pit straight all weekend in incredibly close slipstreaming battles so there was a good chance our side would be in good condition. Sure enough I kept up well with the Monty as traction was good off the line. The 75 IMSA pulled a bit of a lead due to its huge mid range turbo punch and the 147 on my right was dropped pretty easily. Behind, Tom Kuiper had made a superb start and was cutting past people on the run down to the first bend. 75 IMSA, cautious under braking, allowed the Monty and I to dive up the inside and we were off ahead of the rest of the pack! What a feeling, leading the IMSA through the first sequence of bends, the Monty was fast and I could nearly hang on but ultimately his power was just too great!
Soon it was evident that the IMSA had heat in his tyres and he caught me in a flash and swooshed past sounding more like a jet than a car! Then the fastest 147 of Joost Muijen caught me and got into my slipstream down the straight, so back to 4th but still looking great. Tom Kuiper was behind by 2 car lengths, but not catching. However, the next 147 was clearly all over the back of Tom and in a big hurry to get past.
By lap 4 he was past Tom and making progress on me, particularly due to incredible corner entry speeds the ultra stiff modern touring car chassis can generate. Down each straight we were nose to tail, but he simply didn’t have the power to get past. Into corners I got deep into my braking zones, so no route past there either. Ultimately he needed to hang back and get a run on me coming out of a corner to have any chance to pass. Bang! Exiting a long left hand corner I’m suddenly speared from behind completely off track, I manage to recover behind him, and most importantly in front of Tom Kuiper; though somethings not right. Minutes later my race over and the end of our weekend. Nightmare! A weekend that promised so much ended with no net result, but isn’t that racing, and often the way the cookie crumbles! Still we proved we were the fastest 105 coupe in surely the fastest Alfa Championship in Europe. Impressive for our first proper season with a slick tyre setup; for sure we will be back next year to finish the job…..
For our first race of the year, we took our 2.0 Sprint GT racer to Snetterton in order to compete in the Masters “Touring 70s” series. This series runs as a 45 minute race with a single pit stop for a driver change and has been set up to give the homologation specials of the 70’s a home to race in Europe. Grids comprise genuine ex-works BMW 3.0 CSL Batmobiles & Ford Cologne Capris, along with a mix of BDA & BDG engined widebody Escorts, and even the awesome ex-TWR Jaguar XJ12 Coupe which ran with a mighty V12 engine; all running full slick tyres!
We were invited to race our car in their Series 4 days before the race, when the series organiser came to see us to buy a host of racing parts for his 1300 GTA wide body race car project, which he is building to run in the Series. He saw our car sat in the workshop and asked if we wanted to race at the weekend! Having just come back from a successful run at our trackday, we gladly accepted the invitation, even if we only had 2 year old slicks on the car!
We qualified a very respectable 8th on the grid amongst a gaggle of widebody BDA Escorts, only 5 seconds off the pole setting time of Dan Cox in Vince Woodman’s genuine 3.5 Cologne Capri. Andrew started the race and proceeded to hunt down the Escorts in front, hounding them into the braking zones. By the time he pitted at 22 minutes to hand over to me he had done all the hard work and consolidated 5th place, leaving me with the very simple job of completing the last 15 laps to win our class and finish 5th overall. We also managed to improve on our fastest lap time and posted the 5th fastest lap of the race posting the same times as the BDA widebody Escorts!
A great first outing for our trusty old racer in an excellent new series which races at some superb circuits including Spa and Portimao later in the year! What was very clear was that in order to beat the Escorts we need to add much more grip to the car, our 8” slicks being dwarfed by the 10.7” slicks the Escorts were all using! Perhaps our new 8×15” GTAm wheels will help reduce the tyre deficit…!
This car is 3 times event winner for best show car. ( last two sumer of 2005.) 8 years servicing and mot’s, All leather bound books / Red silk cover / Leather look spare wheel bag / 30 min,SZ Video / Tools in wallets etc. Approx 9,341 miles in last 8 years ( 35,000 Km now ) Approved alarm / Nice private plate and approved insurance for £21,000. Car located in UK.
Bought new from DC Cook Doncaster (£28,118!) and first registered in May 1998. There was a second owner for less than a year (just not the right car for him ) and I bought it in September 2002 with 27,000 miles on the clock. It has been my weekend car since then and now has a mere 38,500 miles showing.
A local Garage in Lichfield has maintained it and although nothing special has needed doing I\’ve always spent what was required in the usual way. I\’m now semi retired and no longer need a second car hence the sale. The condition is very good for its age.
“I’ve sold the car – many thanks, I really think being on your website gave credibility” Steve Cazeley
This 156 GTA is a very late Alfa Red 2005/54 Saloon that has had one private enthusiast owner and has done only 21,000 miles from new. The wheels are the optional factory spoked style and the interior is the Monte Carlo (all black) leather.
53780 miles, full Alfa service history, 12 mths MOT, 6 mths tax, I had the important cambelt changed at 39k .
This car I have owned for three years now and purchased it with 38,000 miles. I am the second owner and the car is absolutely stunning in dark blue, with its full tan leather trim and tan carpets, also in excellent cond. CD player, Remote c/locking alarm, A/con, ABS, Power hood (in blue). This car really does drive as good as it looks, I absolutely love it, but very sad to sell !!
Alfa Red 2004/54 model with just 20,000 miles from new and a high specification of 17″ spoked alloy wheels, xenon headlights, electric glass sunroof and heated seats. The interior is the Imola black and tan leather.
Brilliant Blue, Black leather. Climate controlled air conditioning & Cruise control. Big brakes, Bose hifi . Winter Pack. 25,000 miles. FARSH.
Vela blue metallic with optional tan Momo leather interior, climate control air conditioning, full service history and recent full cambelt service. Fitted with 3.0 Aero Kit rear wing and 16″ Teardrop wheels.
The car comes with over £1000 of Alfaholics full stainless steel sports exhaust that constitues a power increase of 10 bhp. The car has just had a full service 500 miles ago when it was fitted with new Koni Sport shocks, new wishbones and roll bar drop links at the front, new rear discs and pads. It benefits from 3.0 V6 lower rear arms and Ferodo DS2500 front brake pads. This is an extremely well sorted 2.0 GTV that has been my own much loved private car for over 18 months, I’m regretfully selling due to the recent purchase of a 3.0 GTV.