Festival Italia, Brands Hatch, August 15th 2021.

The history of Brands hatch has already been covered in one of our other articles at Historic Masters Brands Hatch 30th May 2021. – Alfa Romeo Owners’ Club Kent and East Sussex Section (arockes.org.uk) but there is always lots more to discover at this race circuit especially when you get to wander round the paddock and pits at the start of the day – and it is always worth a wander! This Festival Italia I managed to get to speak to two of the drivers Andy Fulcher from the Hitek Alfa Romeo Championship as well as Geoff Gordon from the HRDC Alfa Challenge … a bit of a privilege and thanks to them to take a short time to chat with me. One – whilst just finishing a race complete with recent race damage and the other Geoff Gordon – whilst on tender hooks waiting to be called to the grid … but more of that later.

At Festival Italia it is the usual custom for the section (or Chapter if you are reading this in the U.S.A) to meet up and drive in as a section so that you can all be parked up together on the display stand within the race circuit. So very early in the morning with the sun in our eyes all met up at The Moat Public House in Wrotham in Kent. Last minute spare tickets were allocated even to one member who arrived on the off chance there would be a spare place and ticket made available to him. Spare passenger tickets were filled with people that would not usually ride “shotgun” with people they did not know to experience the amazing event that is Festival Italia.  From there it is but a short convoy run up the hill to the race circuit where all manner of at least a thousand of the finest Italian cars gather to enter the Festival line abreast.

Arrivals at Festival Italia in the early morning sunshine.

Dave Norman, our Chairman had earlier sneaked into the circuit to assist AROC manager Nick Wright  set up the focal point gazebo for the club gathering in preparation for our arrival and despite his best efforts failed to remain anonymous behind one of the tent poles.

The Club gazebo all set up in readiness for our arrival and Dave Norman’s 916 Spider.
… And then we arrived and destroyed the peace.

Alfas duly lined up and there is always many of note and interest. Many would think that all 916 Spiders are the same… but we are dealing with the quirks of Alfa Romeo production and an almost identical Zoe yellow Spider exhibited by Dave Hart was in fact produced at an entirely different factory. One would be forgiven for thinking that both Dave Norman’s and Dave Hart’s Zoe yellow Spiders were the same – identical – and off the same production line and it is not till you speak to someone more knowledgeable that you realise that one was made in the Milan factory and the other was from the production line at the Pininfarina plant. The difference – and the only clue – is the side badges on each vehicle. The following pictures of the differences are taken from a recent article at Festival Italia 16th Aug 2020. – Alfa Romeo Owners’ Club Kent and East Sussex Section (arockes.org.uk) If you can tell which was made where then that would classify you as a complete expert… or nerd? That said I’m sure both owners would know exactly!

Dave Hart’s 916 Spider – can you work out if its a Pininfarina or a Turin version?

Of particular interest was Bernard Leon-Lambert’s Giulietta Spider (the colour of which is constantly under debate) and it really did look quite special and parked next to Willie Clapperton’s Giulia. Then we had a really nice looking 4C and these always look imposing. The individuality of the MiTo is always well represented by the personality of the owner. Rest assured they were as varied as they were plentiful. That said one that really stood out and the design of the front end really must have been a challenge for the owner – but it looked fantastic! Phil Davis an event veteran of the section pleased everybody with his really striking bright yellow 4C and it is always a bit of a crowd pleaser when Phil exhibits it. There were oh so many different and prized different Alfas on display that there is hardly space to list them all here but there certainly was a lot! To me a first place virtual rosette goes to the MiTo – although you all may think otherwise?  If you want to view all the Alfas displayed you can do so here at 2021 Festival Italia, Brands Hatch | Alfa Romeo Owners Club (aroc-uk.com)

Bernard Leon-Lambert’s Giulietta Spider.
The 4C with, “No Name.”
The individuality of the MiTo.
Phil Davis’ “Big Yellow!” 4C.

Before racing started it was an ideal opportunity to present our Jeff Kaby Cup. This is awarded to the member who has gone above and beyond to promote and benefit the section more than any other in the previous year. It cannot be awarded to the same member more than once in three years.  It went quite deservedly to one of our stalwarts John Dray who is an absolute encyclopaedia when it comes to Alfa Romeo and a very generous individual when it comes to helping others and myself included – congratulations John Dray!

We also recently held an auction of models, for section funds, that were bequeathed to the section by the sadly departed Keith Barker and one of the most fiercely fought over items was a 1,000 limited edition model of the 33 Stradale. Congratulations to Vincent Crisci who really pushed the boat out on this really rare piece of history! 

John Dray being presented with the Jeff Kaby Cup by “Jeff Kaby” our section Secretary.
Vince Crisci – Proudly displaying his limited edition 33 Sradale model.
Very rare 33 Stradale limited edition model of only 1,000 made.

Then we had the racing and there were lots of it, I don’t know enough about each individual classic Alfa to give you a resume but just to see the pictures of them racing is inspiring. Anyway hope you enjoy the pictures?

Sadly there was the odd contact and rebuilds will be long and costly but it is all shouldered by the risk that all the drivers took and hopefully we will see them all rebuilt for the next race.

If you can get into The Pits and The Paddock which has been restricted for a few years – it is always worth a bit of a wander. The teams are always ever so friendly and informative and always pleased to involve visitors and ignorant people such as myself. My first visit was to a previous contact and mentor in the shape of Andy Fulcher from Fulcher Racing. You may remember and recognise him from the sponsors “Fillipo Berio – Extra virgin Olive Oil.” I have liaised with Andy Fulcher on a number of articles and he is a testament to the keenness to involve the public in motorsport. Forgive the sponsorship photo but the gift of some olive oil certainly made my Pizza and potato wedges as well as my salad bring back ever more distant memories of holidays in Italy from long ago to an ever more pleasant memory. I actually caught Andy Fulcher at the end of a particularly hard round. Yet he was still more than pleased to involve questions and my photos. I think a lot of racing teams could learn a lot from people like this and I wish Fulcher racing all the very best for the future.

Andy Fulcher with the 147 – needing a new wing, door and wrap from previous round contacts.

Anyone that made the journey to Southern Alfa day in 2021 would have seen the Giulietta Ti 59 in the central display area and it is owned and raced by Geoff Gordon. Now there is a bit of common ground with this Alfa as it the same as the Giulietta Ti that was rallied by the late and great, although sadly departed – Jon Dooley. The interesting connection is that Geoff Gordon has actually driven John Dooley’s Ti. One of the most closely guarded secrets is who actually owned Jon Dooley’s Giulietta Ti? I got one step closer to finding out that this is a certain American investor whose identity has yet to be ascertained and who I would love to have a chat with to get the low down of all the antics and shenanigans that went with those wild times. This is a complicated story and the last I heard was that John Dooley’s Ti was up for sale for £26,000 quite a while ago in our very own Alfa Driver magazine’s classifieds. I’m sure this will be a whole separate story in the future but you can see John Dooley’s Giulietta Ti in one of our articles at… Quex Park report – 10th June 2018 – Alfa Romeo Owners’ Club Kent and East Sussex Section (arockes.org.uk)

Anyway and back to the present, I managed to grab Geoff Gordon only just prior to being called to the grid and he is a testament to how these teams like to involve the public by taking the time to talk to us and for which I, personally, was very grateful. Interestingly (at least it is to me) are the names on the side of Geoff’s Ti that tell a quite interesting story from the past and well worth investigating and talking about …

Geoff’s Ti was rebuilt between 2012 – 2013 by Race Works Motors from two separate donor Giulietta’s and they can be found here at Historic Motorsport Management & Classic Race Preparation – Raceworks Motorsport

Geoff Gordon and his Giulietta Ti 59 .. just prior being called to the grid.
Famous names on the nearside of the Giulietta Ti.

Emanuele Pirro, I know, was five times winner of Le Mans 24 hours  (2000, 2001, 2002, 2006, 2007) two times ALMS Champion (2001, 2005), two times winner of the 12 Hours of Sebring (2000, 2007), three times winner of Petit Le Mans (2001, 2005, 2008), winner of the 24 Hours Nürburgring (1989), two times winner of the Macau Guia Race (1991, 1992) and two times winner of the Goodwood RAC Historic TT. He has taken part in over 500 official national and international races. Why this hero and all the others are on the side of this classic Giulietta Ti will be a whole new set of conversations and investigation.

Just as a hint … Stefano Soperio is Steve Soper and research reveals that he is a racing driver from Surrey, England, born in 1951. He raced in major sports car and touring car categories in the 1980s and 1990s. He won the 24 Hours Nürburgring in 1987, the 24 Hours of Spa in 1995.

Why these names are on the side of this classic car are certainly worthy of conversation and interest and I would really want to learn more … and are another mystery from the intrigue and intertwined world of historic Alfa motor racing. When you visit the pits on your next outing – why not ask Geoff Gordon himself? He would love to tell you more!

Whilst on the subject of the intrigue of Jon Dooley his championship winning Alfasud (now owned and raced by Chris Whelan) was also taking part.

Chris Whelan’s Alfasud still detailed as Jon Dooley left it.
… and the cockpit in its original form with a few extra electrics.

A visit to the pits revealed the damage to one of the cars caused by an encounter with the gravel trap and tyre wall. It’s bad luck so I won’t reveal the details but the gravel just gets into every conceivable space under the car and picking it out is a real chore to the mechanics. There is also the wear and tear on the equipment and tyres which I would imagine are not cheap to replace.

Picking out the gravel from the chassis.
Wear and tear.
What the drivers were racing for.

I am really pleased to say that people attending this event have increased tenfold after the releasing of COVID restrictions. That said a lot of people still carry masks and hand sanitiser and very sensible that is too as we are likely to be dealing with COVID for many years to come. Comparing previous year’s photos you can certainly tell the increase in numbers.

Increased numbers this year.
Mark Rayss (and all round Alfa S4 expert) enjoying some rare 2021 sunshine.

Then finally at the end of the day there was the exhibitor’s parade laps and I managed to capture some of our members exiting the circuit. Some of the smiles on their faces were as wide as an Alfa grille – a thoroughly good day was had by everybody. So until next year I will leave you with some smiles!

Phil Coussey’s MiTo.
Dave Hart’s 916 Spider.
Jeff Kaby’s 159 TBI.
Pierre Coussey’s 916.
John Hufton’s Giulia Veloce.

So until the next event, stay safe …