ALFA TITLE RACE HOTS UP
Brands Hatch winner Adie Hawkins is congratulated by WTCC star Tom Chilton. Photo: www.alfacer.com
Sunday, August 5th saw Round 9 of the BRSCC Alfashop Alfa Romeo Championship on the Brands Hatch Indy circuit. One of the main attractions was the first clash for some three years between two of the championship's stars, Adie Hawkins and Neil Smith.
Since they last met, Adie has supercharged his very rapid black and yellow 33 16v while Neil was a regular winner in 2010 and 2011 in his factory liveried ex WTCC 156. However, apart from a couple of spectacular outings at the Silverstone Classic, Neil has not raced it in the championship this year, preferring to concentrate on Emma Karwacki's 147 in Class E. Adie, meanwhile, had shown his hand with two wins at Snetterton over the weekend of July 21/22.
The outcome of the Brands race was always going to be intriguing but the result was pole position for Adie followed by a narrow win. Traffic on the short circuit always meant that the gap to Neil ebbed and flowed as they came up to lap slower cars but also offered opportunities for a car like the more nimble 156. Although beaten in the end by just 2.03", Neil did have the consolation of a new Alfa lap record. He also kept his championship hopes intact, attracted by the symmetry of adding a win in 2012 to his previous titles in 2004 and 2008.
However, Neil does not lead the points table at the moment as Roger Evans has re-taken the position that he enjoyed at the start of the year when racing his fearsome modified supercharged GTV. The continual desire to make the GTV go even quicker – with consequent drain on time and resources – had led Roger to switch to the ex Sarah Heels 147 GTA in Class C (Production up to 3200cc). He has been unbeaten with his car since he made his first appearance with it at Rockingham in June and now leads Neil Smith by a scant 3 points.
Neil had enjoyed an unbeaten record in Class E – six wins from six starts – although the odd fastest lap point had gone elsewhere. His return to the modified ranks has opened up the chances for several really quick competitors to taste victory in E. At Snetterton it was shared between the 156s of the returning Matt Daly and James Ford, while at Brands Hatch Chris Finch (156) enjoyed his best day's racing for some time, taking the win ahead of Paul Plant (147) and Tom Herbert in his newly built 156. Behind the first two, the Brands race was a fairly frantic affair, witnessed by some excellent in-car footage from Tom Eastwood (145) and Dave Messenger (156) who were well in the mix as were James Thomas early on and Chris Healey in a 146 and 156 respectively, showing how well matched all the different models are.
We now move to Oulton Park on September 1, and as yet, we don't know how the various strategies will play out. Ray Foley and Graham Seager will both return to Class C to keep Roger Evans on his metal (and make up the important minimum number of starters for full points). Neil Smith might revert to the 147 but if Adie Hawkins enters his 33, we could see another battle for the overall win with the possible added spice of Anthony George's 156 turbo.
Another factor that mustn’t be forgotten is the dropped scores rule – the three worst results being deducted from the final total. Having missed two rounds each, Roger and Neil have only one more result to lose, so that doesn't change too much at the moment. Behind them, the fight is intense between previous double champion Anthony George, Ray Foley, James Ford and Graham Seager.
The season concludes after Oulton with double headers at Castle Combe (October 7) and Donington (October 20/21).
Top six in the points table are:
1. Roger Evans 150
2. Neil Smith 147
3. Anthony George 129
4. Ray Foley 125
5. James Ford 123
6. Graham Seager 118
For further information look at the championship website: www.alfaracer.com
Michael S. Lindsay