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Alfa Romeo (Formula One)

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During its history, Alfa Romeo has competed successfully in many different categories of motorsport, including Formula One, sportscar racing, touring car racing and rallies. They have competed both as a constructor and an engine supplier, via works entries (usually under the name Alfa Corse) and private entries.

Pre-War

Grand Prix racing

In 1923 Vittorio Jano was lured to Alfa from Fiat, designing the motors that gave Alfa racing success into the late 1930s. (When Alfa began to lose in the late 1930s Jano was promptly sacked.)

In 1925 Alfa Romeo won the first World Grand Prix Championship. Over 4 rounds the Alfa Romeo P2 won the European Grand Prix at Spa and the Italian Grand Prix at Monza, and hence incorporated the laurel wreath in their logo.

Alfa Romeo P3 1932-1935

For 1932 Jano produced the sensational P3 which won its first race driven by Tazio Nuvolari at the Italian Grand Prix, 5 more Grands Prix that year were shared by Nuvolari and Rudolf Caracciola. Alfa Corse closed for 1933 and locked the cars in the factory, but they eventually transferred them to Enzo Ferrari's now privatised 'factory' team Scuderia Ferrari. P3s then won six of the final 11 events of the season including the final 2 major Grands Prix in Italy and Spain.

In 1934 Louis Chiron won the French Grand Prix in the P3 whilst the German Silver Arrows dominated the other 4 championship events. However the P3s won 18 of the 35 Grands Prix held throughout Europe. 1935 was even tougher, the P3 was simply outclassed by the remorseless Silver Arrows, but Tazio Nuvolari gave the P3 one of the most legendary victories of all time by winning the German Grand Prix at the Nürburgring. The P3 managed 16 victories in 1935.

1938 Alfa Romeo 8C 2900 Mille Miglia from the Ralph Lauren collection
Brian Redman driving Alfa Romeo Tipo 33 TT 12 at the Nürburgring in 1974
1978 Brabham BT46B-Alfa Romeo won Alfa's first Grand Prix since the 1950s
Benetton sponsored F1 Alfa Romeo in 1985

Sportscar racing

In the 1930s Tazio Nuvolari won the Mille Miglia in a 6C 1750, crossing the finishing line after having incredibly overtaken Achille Varzi without lights (at nighttime). Targa Florio was won six times in row in 1930s. Mille Miglia was won in every year between 1928 and 1938 except year 1931.

The 8C 2300 won the Le Mans 24 Hours from 1931 to 1934, with Alfa Romeo withdrawing from racing in 1933 when the Italian government took over, and the racing of Alfas was then taken up by Scuderia Ferrari as Alfa's outsourced team. (Enzo Ferrari drove for Alfa before he went on to manage the team, and after that went on to manufacture his own cars.) In 1935 Alfa Romeo won the German Grand Prix with Nuvolari. In 1938 Biondetti won the Mille Miglia in an 8C 2900B Corto Spyder, thereafter referred to as the "Mille Miglia" model.

Formula One

In 1950 Nino Farina won the Formula One World Championship in a 158 with compressor, in 1951 Juan Manuel Fangio won while driving an Alfetta 159 (an evolution of the 158 with a two-stages compressor). The Alfetta's engines were extremely powerful for their capacity: In 1951 the 159 engine was producing around 420 bhp but this was at the price of a fuel consumption of 125 to 175 litres per 100 km. In 1952, facing increased competition from their former employee, Ferrari, Alfa Romeo, a state-owned company, decided to withdraw after a refusal of the Italian government to fund the expensive design of a new car. Surprisingly, Alfa Romeo involvement in racing was made with a very thin budget, using mostly pre-war technology and material during the two seasons. For instance the team won two championships using only nine pre-war built engine blocks.

Alfa-Romeo briefly returned to Formula One for the 1970 and 1971 seasons with a V8 engine based on their sportscar unit. In 1970 the unit was mainly entrusted to Andrea de Adamich, a long time Alfa driver, in a third works McLaren. The combination often failed to qualify and was uncompetitive when it did run in the races. In 1971 a similar arrangement saw de Adamich run most of the second half of the season in a works March car, with a similar lack of success.

For 1976 Bernie Ecclestone did a deal for the Brabham Formula One team to use Alfa-Romeo engines based on their new flat-12 sports car unit, designed by Carlo Chiti. The engines were free and produced a claimed 510 bhp against the 465 bhp of the ubiquitous Cosworth DFV. However, packaging the engines was difficult - they had to be removed in order to change the spark plugs - and the high fuel consumption engine required very large fuel tanks. Murray's increasingly adventurous designs, like the BT46 which won two races in 1978, were partly a response to the challenge of producing a suitably light and aerodynamic chassis around the bulky unit. When aerodynamic ground effect became important in 1978, it was clear that the low, wide engines would interfere with the large venturi tunnels under the car which were needed to create the ground effect. At Murray's instigation Alfa produced a narrower V12 design in only three months for the 1979 season, but it continued to be unreliable and fuel inefficient.

During the 1979 Formula One season, and after some persuasion by Chiti, Alfa Romeo gave Autodelta permission to start developing a Formula One car on their behalf. The partnership with Brabham finished before the end of the season. This second Alfa works Formula One project was never truly successful during its existence from the middle of 1979 until the end of 1985.

Alfa also supplied engines to the tiny and unsuccessful Italian Osella team from 1983 to 1988. Normally-aspirated (1983) and turbo (1984-1987) engines were used. In the beginning, Alfa also offered some technical input to the small Turin team; The 1984 Osella (the model FA 1/F) was based on the 1983 works Alfa Romeo 183T, which had been loaned to the team for "design assistance" purposes. All the following Osella models up to the FA 1/I in 1988 had their origins in the initial Alfa design.

By 1988, the last turbo season, Alfa was fed up with the negative publicity generated by Enzo Osella's cars, so the Milan-based manufacturer prohibited the further use of its name in connection with the engine. The 1988 engines were simply dubbed "Osella V8". At the end of that season, the relationship finished, ending Alfa Romeo's involvement in Formula One.

Indycars

In late 80s and early 90s Alfa supplied engines to PPG IndyCar World Series eg. Scuderia March, V8 turbo 720 hp.

Sportscars

In the 1960's Italian company Autodelta, ran Alfa Romeo's sportscar programme, directed by Ex-Ferrari engineer, Carlo Chiti. Competing with the Alfa Romeo TZ, the team began to collect class wins, but faced strong competition from the Porsche 904 and realised they would need a new design if they were to achieve outright victories. Carlo Chiti and the Audodelta team, designed a new 90 degree V8 engine for their Alfa Romeo Tipo 33 sportscar and ultimately a flat-12 engine for the Alfa Romeo 33 TT 12. These cars were raced in the World Sportscar Championship from 1967 to 1977, with the 3-litre TT 12, winning titles in 1975 and 1977.

Touring cars

Alfa Romeo won many touring car series during the 1960s and 70s. The Alfa Romeo GTA won European Touring Car Championship in 1966, 1967 and 1968 and the later GTAm won titles in 1970 and 1971. The Alfetta GTV6 won four European Championship titles between 1982-1985. In 1993, the DTM series was won by Nicola Larini with Alfa Romeo 155. The successor to the 155, the 156 has won the European Touring Car Championship, four times in row from 2000 to 2003.


References

  • Great Marques Alfa Romeo, David Owen, Octopus Books, ISBN 0-7064-22198