Sport / Competition
That's me, racing an Autodelta Corsa 1600 GTA "works" car (Autodelta S.p.A. photo)
racing a "works" 1600 Autodelta Alfa Romeo GTA "preparato"
in the mid sixties
(by the looks of the numbers and track, this was a FIA Group 2 G.P. event in Europe.
This racer is using C.E. wheels and a Wink mirror because I had a contract with both)
Of all the cars I have competed in, the Alfa 1.6 liter GTAs were the ones I enjoyed racing the most.
Fast and agile, there wasn't any racing scenario the car couldn't handle. Pretty forgiving to a point, the GTA allowed you to "drive" yourself out of really hairy racing situations, which to a driver is what racing is all about.
It's too bad that it was very competitively disadvantaged under the new U2.5L class TransAm racing rules that went into effect in the early 1970's.
While in Europe filming several movies, I was able to compete in both Group 2 (sedan) and Formula 2 (open wheel) cars (under pseudonyms, because of the restrictions set forth in my contract with the production companies I was shooting for) with some degree of success, and even offered a factory sponsored privateer ride in F2 for the following season but turned it down.
I just didn't want to devote 100% of my time and energies to full time F2 racing, which is the degree of commitment it takes to become successful at that level of competition.
returning to the U.S., I had my air-shipped Autodelta GTA/P
Alfa racer tuned for street use and high speed ProAm slaloms, and
eventually gravitated to motocross competitions
on the Husqvarna 250cc Grand Prix MotoX racer.
My involvement with Alfa Romeo was not only competition related, I was also the president (and board member) of both the So Cal (AROSC) and National (AROC) Alfa Romeo Owner's Clubs, helping guide both organizations through some of their most member successful and biggest club activity years.
Sports Car Graphic's legendary Publisher TC Brown used his very popular "INSIGHT" column to write about his guest appearance at an AROSC monthly meeting in the May, 1971 issue of the magazine (while I was AROSC Prez).
He was expecting to be greeted by about two dozen or so hard core Alfisti, but instead was greeted by over 350 very genial AROSC members and guests ("the Golden Horde").
TC gave a very impassioned talk about the evolution of the sports car in the U.S. and how sports car racing was now driving the consumer market ("Win on Sunday, sell on Monday").
He was also very complimentary to me personally, and to the AROSC board and members, saying that in all of his many guest appearances at such gatherings, he had never seen anywhere near the attendance this AROSC meeting had, nor had he ever attended any such event that was as entertaining, interesting, and varied. His love of Alfa's was also very evident.
ARI West's ever so charming P. R. Executive, Luciano Morra (who looked like an Italian movie star, with a voice to match), also said a few kind words to the AROSC members that night, thanking them (and me) for the continuing support of the marque, and what a huge asset the AROSC was to Alfa Romeo.
Luciano added that for the first time since Alfa Romeo's were first imported into the U.S., they were now completely sold out of cars in North America, and already had many advance orders for their next shipment of 1750s.
This truly was the golden age of Alfa Romeo ownership in the U.S.
(Autodelta / U.S. National Alfa Romeo Owners Club photo)
back of the Autodelta factory being fitted to a "works" FIA Gp. 2 GTA racer
In 1968, I tried to talk Chiti into selling me the prototype 2 liter dry sump GTAP/SA2 Autodelta had built (the 1967 GTA/SA's were wet sump 1.6 liter cars, as shown below), because this radical car wasn't a good fit with Alfa's new racing strategy, but he declined, saying only that he would consider it.
Someone at Alfa Italia once commented to me, there's time, there's Italian time, and then there's Chiti time.
I never got that SA2, but I did get to drive it at Autodelta's Balocco track.
Chiti told me the car weighed in at 730 kilos, and the engine output was between 315 and 325CV (depending on the compression ratio) @ 7800 rpm.
This GTAP/SA2 had a modified TZ independent rear suspension setup and the narrow head, mono sleeve dry sump motor. I seem to remember it had the guillotine injection intake, but I'm not sure of that fact.
It certainly was quite a car in both looks and engineering. Great handling, fantastic braking, and very, very quick, with no lag. I pegged it at 270 km/h.
It had the exact same plastica parts my GTAP has (doors, hood, deck, and Plexiglas windows all around), along with a most unique (for then) rear spoiler/deck that unfortunately, was non-operational on the day of my drive.
The plastica rear deck had two hydraulic cylinders attached to a metal frame molded into the deck that was supposed to raise the deck at speed (I have no idea how it was activated or engaged).
So in effect, it was an active aero wing system made to look like the stock GTA rear deck when at rest. Quite exotic and clever for its time.
That SA2 deck may have just been one of Chiti's many "gee whiz" designs that didn't actually work, but sure as hell really impressed everybody.
Carlo Chiti was quite the innovator and a real character as well. Had he let me purchase that car, it would still be around for race car enthusiasts to enjoy and marvel at. Yet another piece of Alfa racing history lost forever.
Update: I've since learned that this special "works project car" was chassis number 613997, and was a special one-off build by Alfa Romeo for Autodelta after the normal GTA production run was completed. It was built for FIA Gp 5.
The car was dismantled in 1969 and rebuilt as a NA 1.6L GTA/P. It was then used for the FIA Plastica parts Homologation as a "1970 Giulia GTA".
Supposedly, this car caught on fire at Autodelta in 1971. There is no further history attached to that chassis number from that point on that I know of.
Waiting in the Riverside Raceway garage paddock area for our respective races my GTA/P (left), next to Oscar DuFau's highly modified and very, very quick steel bodied GTV (no, we didn't race in the same class). (c. 1969)
Because of its very low sprung weight, Autodelta adjusted the car's body trim for my weight (notice the body sits higher on the left side without a driver).
Adding only my 160 lbs., the car sits dead level. I have a lot of admiration for Chiti's attention to these little performance and handling details on this car.
The original factory rear Quadrifoglio triangle decal started to flake off after a few years, so I replaced it with the more durable GTAJ type Quadrifoglio one.
Raceway, CA. ProAm high speed slalom race
(Lee Midgley and I sharing my 1600 Autodelta Alfa Romeo GTAP)
Late sixties, early 70's This car placed way 1st in class and less than a minute off TTOD! Considering the cars competing, that was extraordinary.
Lee Midgley and I shared my GTAP for this race.
I was able to pull around 8000+ rpm in 5th gear on the slightly shortened back Riverside straight, but Lee wouldn't say what the car had pulled for him.
Lee had the winning class time that day, almost half a minute faster than my best effort (I was 2nd fastest in class). I guess that answered my question.
For this event, this GTA/P (interior gutted to one seat, Plexi windshield and rear light window, aluminum tank) was 1364 lbs wet (Chandler RPV scale) and 160+ HP. We were running ultra short gears, a tall first gear, and 5:38 rear.
I'm not exactly sure who's who in what photos here. My best guess is based on helmet style. Lee's stunning young girlfriend took the photos, but no notes. Was her name Laura?
Riverside Raceway, driving through the double set of S curves coming off the very fast back straight going 60 to 70 MPH. I'm pretty sure this is Lee driving.
Whatever suspension magic Autodelta did for their own factory campaigned late build Alfa Romeo GTA race cars, is most evident in the above photo.
Riverside Raceway, high speed slalom race in the factory GTA/P
(pedal to the metal in the trap straight smoke coming off both
rear wheels and the front end lifting under the hard acceleration)
Lee Midgley, after I introduced him at Alfa Expo West (1971)
I Googled Lee to see if I could find a photo with him and his girlfriend so I could get her name, but couldn't even find any photos of Lee (I found lots of photos of his GTA though).
Lee was exactly what he looked like, a really nice guy, and people should at least be able to put a face (not just a car) to the name.
While I was AROSC President, the club went from about 40 sporadic members to well over 300 very active members, so having some extra funds, the AROSC officially sponsored Lee Midgley's #93 1600 GTA racer at both the 1970 Riverside and Laguna Seca TransAm's. He won the Laguna Seca U2L TransAm.
Lee, his girlfriend, and Lee's two sons, were pretty much living out of Lee's old Dodge van on race days, so the AROSC paid their expenses to the Seca (meals, motel, gas for the Dodge, etc.), and the entry fees for both events.
Lee had crashed his GTA in Saturday's Laguna Seca practice, and spent that entire night putting it back together and un-tweaking the frame (big tree, little van, strong chain), so they forgot to put any AROSC stickers on his GTA.
After his win, Oscar DuFau and I put AROSC decals on Lee's GTA, too late for the very first track photos, but in time for the other photo op's. Lee's two sons were busy sticking sponsor logos on Lee's car based on the highest spiff.
Lee was an AROSC member, as were most of the local Alfa race car drivers at the time. Even Ing. Carlo Chiti of Autodelta was an honorary AROSC member.
Santini, the Autodelta engineer/mechanic that oversaw my GTAP
I shot these transparencies at Santa Barbara, CA (Goleta Airport) in 1969.
L to R: Scooter Patrick (leaning over), Otto Zipper, (Ing.) Santini - with the Alfa Romeo Autodelta Tipo 33/1 driven by Scooter for the factory supported Otto Zipper Alfa Romeo Racing Team.
Santini was the Autodelta ARI West liaison, and tweaked all of the Zipper Racing Team cars including the Tipo 33/1 and the GTA Jr driven by Jeff Kline.
He also set up most of the factory involved racing cars competing in the Western states - including the GTA's, GTA Jr's, GTAm's, the T-33, and others.
The Alfa Romeo Tipo 33/1 being loaded into the Otto Zipper Alfa Racing Team transporter after it suffered an unknown mechanical problem during the qualifying heats on Saturday. It never made the race on Sunday.
And the reverse shot. L to R: Joy Zipper, her husband Otto, Santini (hidden by the window frame), and (arm in frame), me. I am leaning into the T33/1 to take this photo. Nikon F2, Nikkor 13mm f.5.6 wide angle linear lens.
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