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Posted on May 2, 2014 Comments (0)

Alfas

Alfa: A Glorious Past—An Unpredictable Future

Regular subscribers may have noticed that mention of Alfa Romeo occurs frequently in our weekly screeds. The history of this glorious brand provides excellent fodder for our constant railings against the plastic look-alike offerings of Maserati, Jaguar and Buick.

Alfa Romeo has had two lives; a full rich one in Europe where its successful racing and fine street cars engendered a passion which endures around the world today. And another in America where its European accomplishments were generally unknown but where Alfa race cars soared sporadically in the sixties and seventies. Truth be told, it is best remembered in America for being Dustin Hoffmann’s ride in The Graduate.

Alfa

This week it was announced that Fiat would be removing Alfa from under the Ferrari–Maserati umbrella and making it a stand-alone company. In fact, Ferrari is the premium performance brand, and a struggling Maserati is not a close second. Porsche has that. Glorious as its past unquestionably is, today there is no room for Alfa Romeo in the Fiat garage. This week’s announcement is not accompanied by a hopeful plan or an encouraging narrative. Rather it has fueled speculation that Alfa Romeo is being positioned for sale. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if it found a loving home.

Alfa 3 wheel

Alfa: History Flash

In keeping with the Alfa theme, contributor S. Scott Callan has provided us a reminder of Alfa’s glorious past from his book, Alfa Romeo: View from The Mouth of the Dragon.

Ferrari 250 GTO in Motion

Ferrari 250 GTO 1964

University of Rhode Island Film Professor, one time actor, and MMR subscriber Hal Hamilton forwarded a great video of Derek Hill narrating the history of and driving the Ferrari 250 GTO that his father drove to victory in several major races. This is about as close as many of us will ever get to the view from the passenger seat of this most beautiful of the 36 GTOs ever made.

Senna and RUSH

Motorsports magazines are reminding Ayrton Senna fans that this month marks the 20th anniversary of the death of Ayrton Senna at Imola. Autoweek carried Alain Prost’s fairly brief remembrance of their relationship in the most recent issue. As it happens, I saw RUSH last week and read the Prost piece shortly afterward. It occurred to me that the rivalry between Senna and Prost would have made a far better film.

Images

Our lead image and Alfa images this week are from Michael Keyser’s excellent book Racing Demons – Porsche and the Targa Florio.

And Michael Furman’s image this week is a great shot of the long tail 917 that lives at the Simeone in Philadelphia. Isn’t it stunning?

photo by Michael Furman, Porsche Long Tail 917

If you haven’t visited our Uncommon Classifieds recently, click here. There are a number of rare and interesting cars on offer at this time. Take a moment to dream, it’s good for you.

Have a great weekend and please share this with a friend.

Peter Bourassa


Epic Track Battles

Posted on December 19, 2013 Comments (0)

At the highest levels, the nature of racing doesn’t allow competitors to physically war with each other. Psychologically, of course, it goes on at all times.

The recent film RUSH prompted thought about what attracted the producers to the story. Was the story simply about a man’s willingness to endure any amount of pain to win a race? Was it about two dissimilar but equally talented men, battling to win a race. Or was it about a handsome neurotic man and his clever but unattractive friend battling to win a race in the visually dramatic and brutal world of F1. Having been around at the time, I recall my incredulity at Lauda’s willingness to endure incredible pain to win a car race. I didn’t think it was normal or brave and if I had been a driver on that grid I would have been very upset about driving at high speed around a man in that condition. It seemed more self-indulgent than brave at the time.

Rush

Chris Hemsworth as James Hunt and Daniel Brühl as Niki Lauda in the movie RUSH.

The on-track driving battles and off track contempt between rivals rarely matched the animosity Prost and Senna exhibited towards each other. That was visible and palpable and dramatic. It was a good story. In American racing, A.J. Foyt and Parnelli Jones, both great drivers, appeared to have little time for each other but there were never fisticuffs in the pits.

The one exception was Villeneuve-Pironi. Teammates on the Ferrari Team in 1982, both were quick but Villeneuve was quicker. In equal cars at Imola they battled thru a diminished field to the last lap. Villeneuve believing that team orders were in place and that the leader was not to be passed by his teammate, saw the pit signal and eased off to save fuel. Pironi did not. He passed Villeneuve and stole his second Grand Prix victory. Villeneuve saw this as a betrayal of friendship and honor and swore he would never speak to Pironi again. Ferrari management did nothing. In the final moments of qualifying for the following race, with Pironi on pole, Villeneuve, on used tires, was doing a banzai lap when he came upon the car of Jochen Mass who was on a cool down lap. Mass saw him and moved off the racing line to let him by. But Villeneuve had already made his move to that space and went over Mass’s rear wheel. Villeneuve died. Later that year, at the then recently renamed Circuit Gilles Villeneuve in Montreal, Pironi was on the pole. His car stalled, he raised his arm and was avoided by all behind him but one. Ricardo Paletti hit Pironi’s car and died. Pironi’s legs were badly crushed. Five years later he died in a boat race.

Pironi Enzo Gilles

Didier Pironi, Enzo Ferrari, Gilles Villeneuve

Gilles

A young Gilles Villeneuve

Now that is a story.