Grown-up fun in an Alfa GTA

Andrew Frankel on U2TC

I was lucky enough to do three races at Brands but the one that stands out was the U2TC 50-minute event, the penultimate race on the card. The acronym stands for Under 2-litre Touring Cars, which meant a grid full of Lotus Cortinas, Minis, Alfas and little BMWs.

For spectators and drivers alike, the appeal was clear: close racing among similar cars. Earlier in the day I’d taken part in the Top Hat Masters Saloon car race in the same Alfa Romeo GTA and there was no doubt that, for all the fun there was to be had, not to mention the rare privilege of racing on the Grand Prix circuit, you did need to be constantly on the look-out for flying Falcons and Mustangs which, with something like three times the power but clearly inferior brakes and grip, would come flying past on the straights, dive in front of you, slam on the brakes long before you’d planned and then hold you up through the next corner before disappearing off into the distance.

U2TC was devised by Carol Spagg so that people with interesting European touring cars would have somewhere to race without being blown off the track by a tidal wave of American horsepower. And, despite the awful weather, it worked wonderfully well.

On paper the weather clearly favoured the ultra-lightweight Mini contingent with their front-wheel drive configuration, but in qualifying they were kept from the front row by the TiSA BMW of Jackie Oliver and the pole-sitting Alfa Romeo GTA of Dieter-Karl Anton. 

If anything conditions were even worse before the start, bad enough for at least one team to think better of it and not even line up on the grid. 

But once things were underway it turned into a hugely enjoyable occasion. Although the rain was bad, the track was actually in quite good condition, better by far than in qualifying thanks to having been washed clean by two days of near-enough torrential downpours. Better was the standard of driving which was close enough to rate as seriously grown-up entertainment, without ever degenerating into rash stupidity. You have to put a lot of trust in those around you when the weather is that bad, and no one I came across put a foot wrong.

And I also had the honour of being lapped by Oliver. I should have been ashamed that the combination of me and the 1600 GTA could not keep an entire lap of the Brands GP circuit between us and his 1800 BMW in a 25-minute stint, but such was the pleasure in watching it come past, balanced in a perfect, slightly tail-out drift all the way through Hawthorns, it became one of few times I found myself glad to be lapped.

The U2TC series is now heading for Dijon, Spa, Zandvoort and Paul Ricard for the rest of the season, and I wish it all the very best in all its endeavours. The cars may not be powerful, but they are beautiful, fast and fun to watch and drive.