SEASON REVIEW: ALFA ROMEO
Roger Evans (GTV) & Neil Smith (156) in action at Oulton Park. Photo: Katy Read
Women racing drivers often get overlooked in motorsport but the past two years in the BRSCC Alfashop Alfa Romeo Championship have seen them rise to the top with 2011 title winner Emma Karwacki (147), taking over from 2010 champion Mel Healey.
In addition, Sarah Heels finished 3rd overall this year while Mel and Louise West also featured in the top 10. The other repeat performance was that of Class E (Standard Production Alfas up to 2 litres) which again produced the best racing in the Championship with some fierce battles throughout the year and some new winners, including James Thomas who finished a fine first full season as overall championship runner-up, and Dave Messenger. Neil Smith managed a class win in Emma Karwacki's 147 at Snetterton in round two – "just making sure it was all set up properly!".
However, it was Emma herself who was the star driver in Class E. She missed the first two rounds but thereafter took 7 Class wins from 9 starts on the way to the title. Her dominance in the results doesn't mean that she didn't have to fight for her wins, particularly when pushed hard by James Thomas as she was at Cadwell, Pembrey and Oulton, and by Dave Messenger on the Brands Hatch GP circuit where her positioning on the circuit was a model of defensive driving while leading a race!
Although Mel Healey only enjoyed one race win (at Silverstone) she would certainly have stayed in touch with Emma and James in the points table had she not missed the last five meetings in a state of wedded bliss! Over the years, Andy Inman has had much success in the Championship but a poor start to the year meant that although things got better as the season went on, including a fine second place at Oulton, he was left in 4th place in the class. Dave Messenger would also have challenged for a end year class podium had he been able to do more races. 21 drivers competed in Class E during the season and 47 in the championship as a whole.
The Alfa Championship is run in 6 classes and although E is the most competitive, it never produces the outright winner as there are some very quick modified cars and the bigger engined production cars to contend with. Neil Smith's fabulous Class A1 WTCC 156 was again the class of the field, taking six wins, but only at Oulton Park where Roger Evans challenged him with his fiersome 3.2 V6 supercharged GTV did he have to face a real threat. Roger won three other races (Silverstone – twice – and Rockingham) but Neil was a non-starter on those ocasions. The other contender should have been Anthony George's turbo 156 but although he scored two wins (Snetterton and Brands), the opposition was either not there or retired. A welcome new face on the top step at Mallory (2nd also at Silverstone in October) was that of Guy Hale in his 147 GTA, of which we should hear more in 2012.
Steve Dymoke took Class A2 in his 156 in front of Nick Anderson's 33 8v while Louise West (33 16v) was able to keep her points tally ahead of the 75 3 litre of Robin Eyre-Maunsell and John Griffiths 156. Sarah Heels' 147 GTA led Class C although she had to take a back seat to the GTVs of Graham Seager and Ron Davidson at Silverstone and Brands Hatch respectively while Andy Robinson (155) took advantage of a rare spin at Oulton. He also won the class at Mallory, ending second to Sarah on points. 2009 Champion Paul Plant enjoyed another win in Class D in front of Steve Fletcher, both driving 16v 33s.
In any championship there are always close battles during the year that stick in the memory. Among those that stood out in 2011 were undoubtedly, that between Neil Smith and Roger Evans at Oulton, Louise West's chase of Sarah Heels at Pembrey, and the duel between previous champions Clive Hodgkin and Paul Plant on the Brands GP circuit. Closest finish of the year came in the rain on the Brands Indy circuit when Dave Messenger passed James Thomas in the final moments to win Class E by a mere 0.031"
Alfashop remained as our faithful title sponsors in 2011 and we are delighted to report that they will be continuing into a seventh season in 2012. MMC Motorsport Insurance will also be with us again, supporting the Driver of the Day award. Emma Karwacki's winning 147 will be on the BRSCC stand at "Autosport International" next month.
One major change for 2012 is that Michael Lindsay, championship co-ordinator for the past 30 years, will be stepping down. Graham Heels, Alfa Champion in 2003, will be taking over in addition to continuing to run www.alfaracer.com, our very informative website. However, Michael will not be disappearing from the scene and will be carrying out many of the race day roles that he has undertaken in the past as well as staying on the Championship Panel.
Click here for the final top ten in the points and the class podiums.