Alfa Romeo Giulietta in Racing
This is a best effort at a list of all the ongoing, finished or upcoming projects where the Alfa Romeo Giulietta (type 940, the current one) is used as a race car.
Why am I doing that? Well, mostly because I drive that car myself (not in racing) and I was curious. But also because I can already see that history won’t be kind to this car, and will probably be cited as one of the low points in this storied italian brand. This has nothing to do with the car itself: It’s fun to drive, practical, has great styling and good marks on stuff like reliability and safety. The problem is that in 2011, the Alfa 159 got cancelled so Fiat could build more of their Panda. This made the Giulietta, a fancy-looking but ultimately harmless VW Golf rival that never sold all that well, the flagship model of one of the greatest brands in automotive history. And that was just sad.
And then Alfa Romeo is one of the great motorsport brands, winning for example the first ever Formula one championship. Alfa Romeo is literally where Enzo Ferrari got his start, and they built legendary race cars ever since. Until about 2004, when the 147 Cup ended, and there has been no works-supported racing by them ever since. Now we get rumors that Alfa might join the DTM (Alfa clearly doesn’t want to), or that Alfa might join the Formula 1 again… by relabelling last year’s Ferrari engines that some smaller teams buy. That sounds reeeeeally exciting. But the thing is: If you want Alfa Romeo racing, you can already get it, and it’s great fun to watch. And they’re racing the Giulietta! In at least seven different projects! Here’s the ones I found:
TCR is a fairly new race car specification designed to be cheap but fun, with cars that look really dramatic but are accessible to a wide variety of teams. These cars are used in a number of different championships, some for one or a few countries and a flagship TCR International series. It is also used for a growing number of endurance race series.
The car specifications are based directly on the SEAT Leon Cup, and the cars are in practice mostly designed by independent tuners with sometimes more and sometimes less support from the manufacturer. Big wings and engines tuned to go up to 350 HP are also part of the concept. Currently eleven manufacturers have cars there, with more on the way. The Giulietta is one of them, with the race version designed by tuner Romeo Ferraris (despite the name no direct relation to either manufacturer). Alfa Romeo’s support seems to have started and ended at them saying „good luck, guys!“, while e.g. Volkswagen designs the complete car and sells it to others. Despite that, it’s proven capable of winning races.
Its first use was in the 2016 TCR International championship, with the Romeo Ferraris team, where it proved underpowered and in need of major work. It skipped a few races, then ended in a new but still not that competitive version. Over the winter, a lot more work happened, and it appeared again in the TCR Middle East, a very small series that was mostly european teams testing their new cars and drivers. Here it proved competitive, getting a number of second places. Now it’s again in the international series, and it managed to win the very first race of the season outright. Since then there have been more victories and podium positions. Performance has not been quite consistent enough to be a serious championship contender, but it’s getting there.
A note on team names: In 2016 it was „Romeo Ferraris“, then in the middle-east series it was „Mulsanne Racing“, and now it’s „GE-Force racing“. As far as I can tell most operation is handled by Romeo Ferraris either way, with key personnel such as Michele Cerruti (driver, team manager and one of the people who developed this car) appearing in all these places. However, Romeo Ferraris will also sell this car and so far managed two sales to other teams.
The first is Hungarian team Unicorse, who got one car, in red. It has participated in the Hungarian round of the international series in 2017 (no interesting placement). There were announcements that it would appear in the ETCC, an earlier touring-car championship that also allows TCR cars, but so far that does not appear to have happened.
Two more Giuliettas are run by V-Action in the TCR Italy championship, starting in the second half of 2017. One of those was also entered for the final round of the TCR Germany 2017 as a guest starter. Keep the TCR Italy in mind, we’ll keep coming back to that.
In short, as of right now, I’d say TCR has the queen of the Giuliettas, and if you’re interested enough to have read through here then you might enjoy following it. You can watch it all for free on Youtube.
Here it starts getting complicated. TCR Italy also allows a second type of car called TCT, which uses the same technical specifications as TCR, but only has a national instead of international type approval. I think this means that these are cheaper. In this context, TCT does not stand for twin clutch transmission, a feature you can get for normal road-going Giuliettas, which makes googling the whole thing a bit annoying.
A team called Etruria has developed a version of the Giulietta for this and raced two of them. The overall technical data seems very similar to what Romeo Ferraris did for TCR (the specification is the same, after all), but the resulting car looks quite different, with different body kit and air inlets. Personally, I don’t like it.
These cars ran in 2016 and some races in 2017 and were never all that competitive with the TCR cars. These cars have not raced at the same events as the TCR Giuliettas of V-Action, so sadly we don’t know which team did a better job. I’m not sure they will either, since at least one of the TCT Giulietta drivers switched to the TCR Giulietta.
Apart from that, TCT also featured the car driven by Gianni Giudici, a guy who will appear a lot on this list. If you look at the picture you’ll see that this car does not look like a TCR or TCT car at all, really. I don’t know what’s up with that, but if I had to guess, I’d say this: Giudici also ran a Giulietta in the VLN before that (we’ll get to that in a bit). What if he simply re-used that car here? Since it was built for a different series, it might not fit into the lower-spec TCS category (see below), so it ends up in TCT by default. The new rear wing is actually required for TCR; I’m not sure if it’s also required for TCT or Giudici simply decided it was a good idea. Either way the car didn’t prove very competitive with the cars of any category, and it hasn’t been seen since.
TCS is yet another specification for race cars found only in Italy. In 2017, the TCS is run as a separate (and mostly Seat-only) series, while in 2016 TCS cars took part in the TCR championship, classified separately. Before that, the story gets even more complicated; at one point, the TCS was actually the only type of car in the Italian Touring Car Championship.
The fundamentals of the car remain fairly similar, though: Relatively little changes; Cars get cars fitted with roll cage, safety equipment and some tuning to engine and suspension, but no massive wings or much bigger wheels or similar. There are further sub-divisions based on displacement, but the starter field tends to be small, so e.g. TCS 1.4 has generally only had one or maybe two entries these season.
This series has featured several Giuliettas. Sadly the sources for this are all in Italian, and they’re full of people announcing things that then never happen, so this part took a bit of digging and I don’t guarantee that my information is correct. That said:
This year there are no Giuliettas that actually ran. Leone Motorsport did announce that they wanted to run a car and got it featured on websites and on the March 2017 issue of an italian motor sports magazine, but the results show that it never actually took part in any TCS race.
The team (or its driver anyway) did run before that, though, in the 2016 series, where it managed a „not classified“ in the first free practice of the first race. Later they got two „not classified“ in actual races, with different drivers as well, and rather low placements in qualifying.
Distinct from that (I think), in 2015, Gianni Giudici also raced a Giulietta in the TCS series, in Monza. I don’t know whether it has anything to do with either his TCT or VLN efforts, and he didn’t do particularly well (9th place out of ten finishers after not classifying in the first race).
For fun: In 2016, the series also had some Alfa Romeo Mitos, a car that actually deserves all the dismissal as „not a true Alfa Romeo“. I’m exaggerating a bit, but a high seat position and steering with almost no feedback make for a boring drive and it’s amazing how little interior space it has compared to how large it is on the outside. Anyway, the race version, built by Tecnodom, comes in orange. Very orange. They often won the TCS 1.4 category even when they weren’t the only ones in it (meaning they placed in front of the one Fiat 500), and were at times even competitive with some TCS 1.8 racers. They did not run in the same race as any of the Giuliettas, though.
I’ve mentioned Gianni Giudici a few times before, but this seems to be his main effort regarding Giuliettas. The VLN is an endurance racing series, meaning races that take at least six hours, organised by the group of organisers that host the 24 hours race at the Nürburgring (in german: Veranstaltergemeinschaft Langstrecke Nürburgring; this catchy title produces the abbreviation VLN).
Annoyingly, this series does actually speak my language (i.e. german), but it doesn’t provide any useful way to find historic information about placements. From what I could gather from their news and fan sites, they ran at least one race where they managed a third place in their category - out of four. In presumably a different race, the car had quite a crash. It’s still notable because one of their drivers is none other than Nicola Larini, a legend among Alfa Romeo race car drivers from the good old DTM days.
It’s also important to note that many people, including Giudici, announce a lot of stuff that never ends up happening, and I tried my best to exclude that. If you look up Giudici you will find a lot of that. Among other things, apparently he wanted to build his own TCR Giulietta at some point, and besides Larini, he also wanted to hire Nannini for the VLN series. Also, he has some good graphic designers working for him, so there are a lot of pictures of Giudici Giuliettas that never actually existed in real life.
Meanwhile, this isn’t the only place Larini has turned up. The TCR series features a balance of performance system, where all cars get evaluated and then get ballast weight added or removed to bring them all to the same level. Larini is one of the two evaluation race drivers for this purpose, and used to be the only one last year.
This is only an announcement at this point and thus something I’m a bit wary of, but I figured I should add it for completeness anyway. The British Touring Car Championship is a series that uses its own regulations, which are somewhere between TCR and the Silhouette racers of the current boring Alfa-less DTM. The shell of the car is fundamentally from the production vehicle, but anything underneath gets ripped out and replaced by standardised sub-frames holding standardised suspension equipment, and there is even a standard motor teams can (but don’t have to) use.
In 2018, team Handy Motorsport (who are currently running some Toyota) plans to run a newly built Giulietta in this series. The high standardisation should make this relatively straight-forward, and they have announced that they will use the standard engine instead of trying to tune the one in the production Giulietta. They already have a demo car, but that is just a standard production Giulietta with stickers.
British Giulietta fans may also want to look to the upcoming TCR UK, a TCR series in the UK that positions itself as an entry-level series below the BTCC. There has been no announcement yet (not that announcements mean anything), but at least some british drivers have test-driven TCR Giuliettas already.
So here’s a weird thing that came up on Google: Apparently a Giulietta was used on an Australian rally, and did pretty well in the „show room“ class. This answers the age-old question of „Are there Alfa Romeos in Australia?“. The one and only source I could find was the racer bragging on an internet forum, so I’m reluctant to call this the most important thing ever, but it definitely counts for this list.
Written on October 22nd, 2017 at 12:41 am