Two years after becoming its owner, Geoff Gordon has sampled his unusual Group 2 racer from behind the wheel. Next stop, the Donington Historic Festival
When first I reported on my project to return a ’Sud Sprint to the racetrack (Motor Sport, October 2017), it was little more than a bare shell. And I have to say that the guys at Raceworks Motorsport have done a magnificent job building it up into what it is today – ditto Dave Ashford and his team at Brunswick Racing and all the others who have contributed along the way. I know I’m biased, as a committed Alfa enthusiast, but it looks and sounds absolutely fantastic… and its performance and handling are a perfect complement.
After adverse weather had thwarted our initial plans to test, I was finally able to give the car a run at Blyton in early April. It was another miserable day across most of the UK, but we seemed to be in something of a microclimate and were able to do some sensible dry running both before and after lunch. It was very much a shakedown, so out for a couple of laps, in for checks, another two laps, then back in again. We did build up to doing some longer runs in the afternoon and it ran without missing a beat. True, we weren’t pushing it to the absolute limit – but it was still an encouraging start.
It felt absolutely lovely, too. I was pleasantly surprised by its tractability. The engine is fully on song from 5000rpm, but also has usable torque lower in the range and was more user-friendly than I’d anticipated. It’s much more powerful than the unit in my Giulietta, but felt quite similar in character. Pete Johnson from Raceworks had a go, too, and emerged with a big smile on his face. He has a lot of rally experience, mostly with Peugeot 205s, and seems to think we’re going to have lots of fun with the Alfa.
We discovered a couple of small things that need altering – mirror position, aligning the throttle and brake more closely, the kind of details that a day like this was supposed to highlight – and my recent one-to-one coaching session with John Norrington definitely paid dividends. I still haven’t quite fine-tuned the technique of provoking a little oversteer to get the car turned in more efficiently, but I’m getting there. I also booked a second session with John, again at Snetterton in his Alfa 145, and once the fog cleared I was able to build upon what he had already taught me. I know the ’Sud is much more of a thoroughbred racer, but the basic technique translates from one car to the other and John is a brilliant, patient tutor.
Dickie Meaden and I are testing the car at Donington Park before racing it there in the Historic Festival and we now need to focus on the usual details – fuel consumption, tyre degradation over a race stint and so on. I was slightly lost for words after driving the Alfa for the first time, because I couldn’t believe how good it felt, and I simply can’t wait to get back behind the wheel.