Alfa Corse, the slick, Milan-based racing division of Alfa Romeo, has chosen to contest the BTCC to do rather more than simply raise brand awareness in the UK.
Last year, success in the DTM was reflected by increased sales in Germany. The feeling at Alfa HQ is that the profile of the British two-litre series, in which at least 10 major manufacturers will be involved this year, is such that success will give pan-European sales a boost.
It won’t do the marque’s image much harm, either.
Alfa has been swift to exploit the generously small (2,500) build requirements for Class Two saloons, and has produced the BTCC’s first homologation special. Take one humble 1.8-litre 155 Twin Spark, add circuit-friendly wings fore and aft and call it the Alfa Romeo 155 Silverstone, available from your local Alfa dealer this spring.
As from 1995, manufacturers hoping to pull a similar stunt will need to build at least 25,000 examples of a particular model for it to be race eligible.
The wings, says Gabriele Tarquini, have yielded an improvement of around half a second per lap in early tests. Although the racing 155s (the second of which will be driven by a young Italian whose identity has yet to be made public) will be run by the factory, they will be based from time to time at Prodrive, in Banbury, when the logistics of the BTCC calendar don’t allow them to be returned to Milan in-between events. It is possible, sponsorship permitting, that a third 155 will eventually be entrusted to Prodrive. Alfa’s sporting director Giorgio Pianta is insistent, however, that all racing 155s in the UK will sport factory racing liveries.
While the road-going Twin Spark Silverstone has a modest 129 bhp/ 6,000 rpm and 122 lb ft/5,000 rpm, the racing 155s will generate 280/8,400 and 188/6,000 respectively. Running of the team will be entrusted to Nini Russo.
If Alfa seems well prepared for its BTCC integration, the effort still appears almost modest alongside its continued bid to trample Mercedes-Benz in the DTM.
This year, there will be no fewer than 11 Class One 155s in action . . Pianta denies that a bigger, broader programme (in addition to the DTM and BTCC offensives, Alfa will support a quartet of ‘private’ teams in the Italian touring car series, to be driven by the likes of Antonio Tamburini and Stefano Modena) will hamper the marque’s chances of success. “We. haven’t rested on our laurels. We have strengthened and improved our engines for the DTM, and we are introducing other sophisticated technology, such as full active suspension. We still want to win.
“For the BTCC, we have a separate, dedicated team working on the programme. Overall, we have.the resources to cope.”
Not to mention ‘a total operational budget of 55 billion lire, or around 20 million pounds. . .