Racer rebuild: Alfasud Sprint Veloce

Alfa racer Geoff Gordon’s new project is now but a few decals away from completion, though testing will have to wait…

It’s hard to describe the feeling when a ‘new’ racing car fires up for the first time – I know it’s a 1979 model, but it feels new to me. In this instance it was definitely an early Christmas present. After its engine had been fitted and checked over briefly at Raceworks Motorsport, builder Dave Ashford took the Alfasud Sprint Veloce to Brunswick Racing’s own premises near Ely for a much more exhaustive series of checks.

I was there on the first day it ran properly – and it sounded absolutely fantastic, as any racing Alfa should. The tests seemed to go well and I could tell from Dave’s reaction that he was very pleased.

We were all confident that he’d do a good job, given his track record with Alfas, but this was the first time he’d dry-sumped an engine of this kind. I guess there was a slight note of trepidation, but that was soon allayed. The four-pot delivers good, usable power between 5000 and 8200rpm, which is fairly typical of Dave. He also prepared my Giulietta’s engine and that has similar flexibility – which is always quite useful for the likes of me.

As a non-professional I suspect I’m not alone in occasionally finding myself in the wrong gear, but the Giulietta allows you to pull through such problems and it looks as though the ’Sud is set to do the same.

It ran faultlessly on the dyno for a couple of days, after which Dave hung onto the car for a short while to make a few tweaks to the dry sump and ensure that its ground clearance would be OK.

The ’Sud then went back to Raceworks and now has a full set of windows fitted – they’re all acrylic except for the front screen, which has been especially made with a heating element to avoid misting. With each passing day it started to look ever more like a complete racing car and eventually all that remained was to apply the graphics to put the finishing touches to its red-and-white racing livery.

At that point we should have been able to start looking around for available test days, but then DC Electronics, which built the wiring loom, invited me to display the car on its stand at the London Classic Car Show, which runs at ExCeL in Docklands in mid-February.

That didn’t necessarily prevent us from going testing, but to do so would potentially have caused a lot more work. If it had been raining we’d inevitably have faced a major clean-up job – and there was also the risk of gravel chips or other damage, so we felt discretion was the better part of valour and decided to push back the test programme. For the guys that have put everything together, it’s nice that a wider audience will have the opportunity to appreciate their handiwork after so much patient endeavour.

Once the car is back from the show, we will look to start testing as soon as possible – which probably translates as the final week of February. We will almost certainly shake the car down at Donington Park and do most of our pre-season running there, but I should add that another key component also needs testing – me!

I have been keeping up a bit of fitness regime ahead of the new season and, as I’m unfamiliar with racing front-wheel-drive cars, I’m booking myself in for some one-to-one tuition with John Norrington, who has a vast amount of experience in a wide variety of cars and with drivers from right across the spectrum.

In all likelihood we’ll be taking an Alfa Romeo 145 to a trackday at Snetterton and fitting it with an extra seat, so he can give me some direct coaching inside the car. The whole thing will be a completely new challenge for me and I’m really looking forward to it.

My first scheduled race is the opening round of Peter Auto’s Heritage Touring Cup in the Espiritu de Montjuïc event at Barcelona on April 8-9, hopefully with Dickie Meaden co-driving, then we move on to Spa, Dijon-Prenois and Paul Ricard before the series concludes at Imola towards the end of October. As I have mentioned previously, we also intend to take in any non-clashing UK meetings that include a suitable category for the car – and hopefully that will include the Silverstone Classic. I’m optimistic that we’ll have done a reasonable amount of testing before the season gets into its stride.

Next month: first shots of the finished Alfasud
Thanks to: Raceworks Motorsport; Brunswick Motorsport