2016 SEASON REVIEW – BRSCC ALFA ROMEO CHAMPIONSHIP
The impressive young Tom Hill (left) certainly made waves and has the potential to be a premier tin-top frontrunner – Photo: ARCA
The arrival of a new season’s calendar is always eagerly anticipated and 2016 was no exception for the BRSCC Alfa Romeo Championship as a non UK meeting had been widely canvassed. This was finally confirmed as Zolder in June, the first time we had been abroad since visiting Croix-en-Ternois over ten years ago. Another highlight was to be a return to Castle Combe in July and Motor Sport Vision’s “Festival Italia” in the middle of August. A major change for 2016 was a switch to Yokohama tyres, supplied by “Black’n’Rounds” at Silverstone.
However, the season would open with a double header meeting on the Snetterton 300 circuit in April. Two excellent battles for the overall race lead between Chris Oxborough (75 3 litre) and Roger McMahon (147 GTA Cup) brought them a win apiece with Ray Foley (147 GTA) joining them on the podium after race 1. In the Twin Spark Cup. Tom Hill (156) showed his championship intentions in the Twin Spark Cup class by coming away from the weekend with a 100% points score after two pole position, two wins and two fastest laps. Andy Hancock and Steve Potts completed the Twin Spark podium in both races.
We were pleased to welcome Paul Hollywod from the BBC’s “Bake Off” as a guest driver in one of Bianco Auto Developments’ 156s. The busy one day double header at Silverstone, a month later, was not so easy for Tom as Andy Hancock took pole. In race 1 he faced a very strong challenge from James Browning (147), Andy’s clutch having failed on the way to the grid. James would be only 0.3” away from his first race win at the flag. In race 2, though, it was Andy who drove a fine race from the back of the grid to chase Tom hard over the final laps after passing James whose engine was losing power. In the modified class we saw Barry McMahon on pole for race 1 with his very smart 156 Turbo, alongside the similar but differently engine car of Vincent Dubois. Sadly Vincent became another victim of the startline jinx and pulled onto the grass with a broken driveshaft, leaving Andy Robinson to fight for the wins in both races and managing to come out on top while Barry suffererd two retirements. This left Ron Davidson, returning this season to a 164 3 litre to take a couple of second places.
Early June saw competitors make their way to Zolder to join several other BRSCC Championships at the Belgian ex Formula 1 track near Hasselt. This was to bring other drivers to the fore as old friend Herbert Bergmayr came from Munich with his 75 3 litre to take race 1 ahead of Ray Foley only to run out of fuel (!) in race 2. Ray should have won but a misunderstanding with a Twin Spark Cup 156 left him in the gravel and it was a surprised Simon Cresswell (156) to stand on the top step to take a Twin Spark Cup car’s first ever overall win. Another name to taste victory was Jon Billingsley who took the Twin Spark prize in race 1. By contrast, championship leader Tom Hill had a disastrous weekend with a retirement in race 1 and a 6th place points gathering finish in race 2.
After the Belgian trip it was back to the tour of UK circuits as the Championship made its way to Oulton Park. 2015 Champion Graham Seager returned to take a win in race 1 from Andy Robinson (156) and Andy Page, another welcome returnee in his long serving Giulietta Turbo. However, a suspension failure on Graham’s supercharged GTV left Andy Robinson to take his third win of the year from Andy. Ron Davidson took the Power Trophy while the Twin Spark Cup was fiercely contested by Tom Hill and James Ford who took a win each with Dave Messenger taking two welcome third places. At this stage, the Championship was still being led by Tom Hill with Simon Cresswell now in second place ahead of Andy Hancock and Andy Robinson. The return to Castle Combe did not attract the number of entries we had hoped for but did allow Tom Hill to consolidate his lead in the points table but his biggest challenger on this occasion was Dave Messenger who ended the weekend with two satisfying 2nd places. Overall the race wins were shared by Andy Robinson and Bryan Shrubb (33) with Keith Waite (75 3 litre) taking the Power Trophy on this occasion.
We had been looking forward to “Festival Italia” at Brands Hatch and the result was one of our best grids of the year including past champion Chris Snowdon and George Osborne in their 75s. Together with Andy Robinson and Vincent Dubois, they gave us some excellent entertainment to the many Italian car enthusiasts present in both races with wins going to Andy and Chris, although at one point it looked as though the relatively inexperienced George Osborne would take race 2. It was Dave Messenger’s day in the Twin Spark, defeating Tom Hill in both races with Andy Hancock and Simon Cresswell sharing the third places. An unwanted highlight in qualifying had been a monster accident to Andrew Bourke in his GTV at Paddock, photographs appearing prominently in the national press. Happily he emerged unscathed.
Two weeks later we were at Donington where the unwritten rota of modified car appearances took hold with none of the cars that had raced at Brands Hatch entering and being replaced by four others. This time, it was a double benefit for Graham Seager with Bryan Shrubb in second place on both occasions with Andy Page third in race 1 and Ray Foley in race 2, Ray taking the Power Trophy each time. In the Twin Spark Cup both races were extremely hard fought at the front as witnessed by some of year’s best in-car video footage. Tom Hill just edged out Paul Plant in race 1 but Tom reversed the positions in race 2 with Dave Messenger and James Ford sharing the Twin Spark podiums. The result of all this was that Tom Hill was confirmed as our youngest ever Champion at just 20. The runner-up spot was still in doubt, though, and would be settled until the final rounds at Rockingham in mid September.
Barry McMahon made a return at Rockingham and showed that his 156 Turbo was now probably the quickest car in the Championship, taking a convincing win in race 1, although a throttle problem brought his retirement in race 2, leaving the win to Graham Seager. Tom Hill took another Twin Spark win in race 1 but a retirement in race 2 left victory to Dave Messenger ahead of Tom Herbert and Simon Cresswell but this was not enough for Dave to wrest the Championship runner-up spot from Simon. Other than to Tom, Championship class wins went to Andy Robinson (Modified) Ron Davidson (Power Trophy).The popular Grove & Dean Insurance Driver of the Weekend awards have also been a measure of success for a number of drivers – James Browning (Snetterton), Andy Hancock (Silverstone), Simon Cresswell (Zolder), Andy Page (Oulton), Andrew Bourke (Castle Combe), George Osborne (Brands), Stacey Dennis (Donington) and Andy Inman (Rockingham). Winner of the the “Black’n’Rounds” Newcomer Trophy was Mike Tydeman while a special award went to Jeremy Chilton for finishing all 14 races he started.