So much hope, so much expectation, so much promise… but motor racing has a habit of being cruel to its aficionados
This was supposed to be a glorious send-off. Note use of the word ‘supposed’. Over the past few months I’ve related the tale of how my Group 2 ’Sud Sprint Veloce was located in Portugal and then brought to the UK to be restored at Raceworks Motorsport.
Following a successful shakedown at Blyton, reported last month, the story was due to end with reflections on the car’s first race – something to which I’d been looking forward immensely.
At the time of writing, I still am.
I was due to contest the Historic Touring Car Challenge event at the Donington Historic Festival – and things looked promising during the pre-event test, initially at least. With so many cars present, we were restricted to four half-hour sessions during the day – and the car ran well in the first two, Dickie Meaden and I sharing driving duties and Dickie working his way down to a 1min 20.1sec. The car felt good and we thought that was a reasonable start, little imagining that the time would have been good enough for eighth on the grid had it been set during qualifying – not bad as the almost 40-strong field was packed with many more powerful cars, including BMW M3s and 635s, Ford Sierra Cosworths, Rover SD1s, Capris etc.
Would he have been able to go quicker still during qualifying at Donington on Friday? Might track conditions have improved? We didn’t get chance to find out.
Dickie thought he’d felt the engine miss a couple of times in our second test session and mentioned as much. I then started the third half-hour and the engine definitely tightened during my out lap, so I turned off and coasted in. We thought it best that we stop immediately so that Brunswick Racing boss Dave Ashford could check the engine. He took it apart and discovered an oil-feed anomaly, so made a few modifications and put everything back together ready for Donington. The car was fired up in the workshop and sounded good, so we headed north in a positive frame of mind.
The qualifying plan was for Dickie to complete a handful of laps and post a time, while I would do the bulk of the session as I had greater need of seat time. Under load on the out lap, though, he wasn’t happy with the engine note and, not wanting to inflict any damage, brought the car back in. As nothing obvious was amiss, we took the decision to withdraw so that the problem could be investigated more thoroughly – and the engine has gone back to Brunswick, where I know they’ll get to the heart of the problem.
With Spa coming up quite soon after Donington, there wasn’t time to put the car back together and complete adequate rolling road and circuit testing, so we’ve also scratched from that race and refocused our targets on Dijon, in mid-June, by which time we should also have a spare engine. When running well, the car produces astonishing power for an eight-valve boxer and I feel very optimistic about how it will eventually perform.
I have very much enjoyed relating the story of the car’s rebuild and hope it will in time feature again in Motor Sport. In the meantime, I would like to thank the many readers who sought us out for a chat at Donington – including a chap from New Zealand, although he happened to be on a European tour and hadn’t flown over specifically to see the Alfa!
I’m sorry they didn’t have the opportunity to see the car running in anger, but that’s motor racing.
We will be back…
Thanks to: Raceworks Motorsport; Brunswick Racing; Motor Sport’s readers