Zolder May 2006: Dutch Alfa Challenge

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