ALFA ROMEO RACE
VSCC Silverstone 27th June, 1987
Entered for the Alfa race at Silverstone were eleven Monzas, five Tipo B Monoposti (P3 to the English), three 2300s of various chassis lengths, five 1750s and the Multi Union (a Special made from a P3 in the '30s). Rumour of the factory P2 and 159 was sadly just that, and Michel Poborovsky (Mike Sparken) could not be persuaded to bring his recently acquired 158.
The pre-practice paddock scene indicated a certain lack of reverence towards one's fellow man:
The team manager of Autodelta Team Oldham (David Black), whilst forsaking his doughnut wheels (in agreement with the other competitors), was arranging for delay blocking tactics to be used if necessary by one of his team. Whilst pretending to sort out his magneto, he was in earnest discussion with a Cosworth engineer about the exciting discovery that the flange mountings on a modern turbo-charger were an exact fit to his P3, thus making this an original Alfa modification. However, this having been overheard, urgent discussion was taking place in the Monza manufacturer's camp (Rodney Felton and Paul Grist) and all original parts should shortly be available.
With David Black's P3 currently giving an extra 52 h.p. at the wheels from the use of methanol and the big blower an extra 10 p.s.i. and the fat tyres (when used) an extra 2 seconds per lap - the future looks interesting. Pundits were laying bets as to why Felton was allowing Anthony Mayman to drive his very fast P3 - was it because Jenks was seen writing "This is an authentic signature" in his new book, or were there other possibilities? The Felton works team comprised three entries and tactics were mainly discussed by gesticulation, but his was the only team to be using ancestral power in the form of Sir John (Venables-Llewelyn). Two of his drivers had not driven an Alfa Romeo before, which left the other competitors with plenty of room to give inaccurate advice.
Further down the field the rivalry continued. Inspired by his recent Monaco acquisition of a picture of part of Nuvolari's P3, Peter Hannan managed to arrange a sex change and drove the Pattinson 2300 as Victoria Watson. Hannan and Griswold were heard discussing the fact that they would not be lapped twice under any circumstances and smoke bombs or Porterhouse Blues protectives were the likely answer.
Despite the joking rivalry, practice and racing was a serious affair. Except for the 1750s, many of which were being raced by first time Alfa drivers, most of the cars surprisingly put up a faster practice time than in the race. Peter Agg was Bugattiing in France and so son Charlie drove. His racing experience had been with the M8F McLaren and he likened his Monza, with its amply padded drawing room seats, to a lorry for its road-holding, but he showed that he was very consistent with only .2 sec between his practice and race time. His car had some excellent wing mirrors fitted on the windscreen pillar mounts - a practice some people would do well to emulate. Not to be outdone, young Benjy Black drove with great verve lapping consistently in 1.21.3 in both practice and race, in his beautiful 8c Spyder.
Judy Hogg drove the ex-Arthur Finch 1750 with titanium rods, giving 120 hp on the test bed. She found the car heavy to steer compared with her normal Aston Martin. John Guyatt came over from Ireland with the fabric bodied Berryfield car, with a later front axle, looking very smart with its fabric body and red framed mirrors. It was good to see Klaus Werner over from Germany in the ex-Geoghegan 2300 and Les Paul was bravely racing for the first time but with his rev limit at 3500 (said the tell-tale) not managing to stay near the more experienced driver, Robin Toone.
Sadly Trisha Pilkington had to withdraw her very fast 1750 racer as a valve insert dropped out during practice and disappeared. Ironic after 20 years of racing various Alfas that she should miss the very first Alfa race and very disappointing, particularly for her. She was therefore coerced into reporting the race.
Michael Johnson was also a non-starter having holed a piston shortly after arriving - unluckily for his son Andy, who was due for his debut. Several cars were not ready in time - interesting that these were all cars which had mechanics - as opposed to owner-mechanics! Practice was damp but most people had a lot of fun, several people spinning and others scaring themselves. The saddest person was Henry Wessels, over from the USA for this race, who broke the axle of his P3 and subsequently borrowed Chris Mann's spare Monza which he found easier to drive, only to throw a rod. Harper, who seemed to be a Mayman works driver, drove Mayman's ex-Grist stable Monza for the first time and turned his headlamps sideways for better stream-lining. This was also done by Venables-LL in Felton's ex-Grist car (the sign of the Monza stable?). He found it very twitchy and heavy with a lot of over-steering compared with his Bugatti.
Chris Mann said the Multi Union was quite terrifying but managed to control his fear admirably but would dearly love LSD (no! - a limited slip diff). Keith Duly said his car was going well but the driver was suffering beverage fatigue.
Alfa Romeo having failed to sponsor this grand event, Anthony Mayman promptly offered sponsorship from his insulation company F.G.F. (Aston), and arranged a superb buffet for Alfa entrants. As this took place before racing commenced, there were large quantities of variously coloured mineral water available.
……. The bets continued ….. what exactly was the animated discussion between Black and Venables-LL really about? Why was a demon Maserati driver present? Why were some anorak badges covered by masking tape (as done by F1 drivers when in another sponsors' camp)?
And so the long awaited race dawned - come to think of it - that was the writer's brief - cover the race, not the cars or the people, but ……… anyway here comes the race report.
The drivers and cars listed in both the entry list and results sheets were not the same as those seen on the grid so here they are:
The front of the grid was much as expected with Black on pole followed by Mayman (Felton's P3), de Cadenet, Felton (Monza), Mann (Multi Union), Venables-LL (Felton's Monza), Agg, Harper (Mayman's Monza), Grist, Benjy Black, Duly (Schonwald's P3), Griswold, Hannan (Pattinson's 2300 for Victoria Watson), Wessels (Mann's Monza), Werner, Judy Hogg (borrowed car), Toone, Guyatt and Les Paul.
Your reporter failed to see the Start having decided to watch the cars into Woodcote but understands that everyone managed to get their cars into gear in time for the magicians 'now you see it, now you don't' starting flag. (There were many complaints about the Starter!)
Predictably, P3s were in front from the start with Mayman leading Black, both of them pulling away from the Multi Union. Interest really centered around the race between the Monzas - Felton was fastest but dropped out when the line to the oil pressure gauge split putting oil in the cockpit and him out of the race. This left de Cadenet leading a closely matched Harper and Grist with Venables-LL dropping back. Grist was passing Harper into Woodcote on every lap, only to be re-taken at Becketts. Finally Harper got the best of this duel and set off to chase de Cadenet, finishing the race only .1 sec behind him. Benjy Black and Charlie Agg were having a great tussle with the cars continually changing position. There was quite a big speed difference with the leaders lapping the back-markers on lap 3. On the final lap Grist's oil breather on the cam cover came off depositing oil everywhere. Luckily this valuable part was caught by the "original" undertrays. Another non-finisher was Guyatt who ran out of petrol. De Cadenet was driving enthusiastically but had a locking rear brake which lent to the acoustics and spectator value on his incredibly filthy car. On lap 8 the lead changed with Black passing Mayman at Becketts to hold the lead until the end, with his best lap a full second faster than anyone else. Mann was a distant 3rd in the Multi Union, followed by the Monza group.
Black, Felton and Mann were then in the next race with their Alfas. Hot and tired - both cars and drivers - were being re-fuelled at full speed, wheels changed and vital checks and levels adjusted, a lot of people working flat out (even Neil Corner was checking some wheel nuts) when they were told that the paddock gate was being closed and they would be too late to race. Someone kindly lent your reporter some ear plugs. There might well have been a 'fire-ey' situation but luckily the gate was prevented from closing for the critical 2 minutes and the cars reached the grid. Have we become bureaucratic?
Trisha in various Alfa Romeo - Monza, 1750 Competizione, Zagato, 1929 Irish GP winner