The 2019 instalment of Castle Combe Circuit’s acclaimed Autumn Classic historic race meeting (set to be held on Saturday, 5 October) will play host to three exciting new races courtesy of the Historic Racing Drivers’ Club [HRDC].
Amongst these debutant championships, the exotic Alfa Romeo-focused Classic Alfa Challenge is set to be of particular interest to those who like their classic vehicles of an Italian origin. Many of the cars here will be from the 1960s, including GTAs and Giulias, though this post-historic class also allows cars from up to the 1980s to join the grid.
We caught up with HRDC’s Founder and Race Director, Julius Thurgood, to shed some light on just what we can expect…
Castle Combe [CC]: When was the Classic Alfa Challenge conceived?
Julius Thurgood [JT]: This series was announced in October 2018, when we ran a pilot race at Donington Park. The take-up was so encouraging that I committed to a three-race series for 2019, with Autumn Classic as the third and final event on the calendar.
CC: Why Alfa Romeos?
JT: I have always been associated with Alfa Romeos, especially the 105 Series cars. I built a replica GTAm car that won the AROC Classic Series back in the early ‘90s.
CC: Alfa Romeo has a particularly rich history in motorsport, do you think this series reflects something of a resurgence?
JT: Without doubt. The Alfa Romeo marque is synonymous with motorsport – having been involved (and winning races) since 1911. Lately, the marque has not been properly catered for in the classic and historic race arenas. Thankfully, this Classic Alfa Challenge series is going a long way to putting this right as the take-up has proven.
CC: What can we expect from the race?
JT: Variety, without a doubt! Here, you will see a great range of Alfa Romeo models, from early 101 Giuliettas, through to 105-Series GTs, GTAs and Berlinas, as well as 116-Series Alfetta GTVs and Giuliettas, plus some now rarely seen Alfasuds.
CC: Considering this is the first race for the series at Castle Combe, what have you been advising your competitors?
JT: This is the first time for the HRDC Classic Alfa Challenge, but I did bring the ‘GTA Challenge’ here in 2004 under, then, my Top Hat Racing banner. A lot of the drivers who supported this earlier race will be racing again in the Classic Alfa Challenge. For those drivers who haven’t been to Castle Combe before, I immediately tell them of this circuit’s great motorsport heritage. That is usually enough to inspire them to race here!
CC: What got you into classic racing?
JT: I started racing in 1979 and entered a venerable 1967 MGB against serious modern machinery in the first Willhire 24-Hour race. We finished and came third in class. I thought that if an old car can do that well in a contemporary race, I ought to take a close look at historic racing. I never looked back!
CC: Do you have a favourite Alfa Romeo?
JT: Having owned several ex-works GTAs and GTAm cars, I am very drawn to these but my favourite is the TZ1.
CC: What makes this race series stand out and why should people come and spectate?
JT: I think that the spectacle of watching these lovely cars racing in force, resplendent in their period race liveries is a sight that will quicken the hearts of any motorsport enthusiast.
CC: Any memorable moments?
JT: Our last race at Thruxton was a spectacular event, driven in much-changing weather. The race conditions went from slippery to monsoon, and yet we witnessed truly memorable battles throughout the field.
CC: What are the drivers and cars to look out for?
JT: Chris Snowden is the man to beat; driving the ex-Peter Hilliard Group 2 BTCC Alfetta GTV (a car that I do regret selling!) but there are a number of drivers who are well in with a look at a good result, especially design engineer Richard Merrell in his rapid 105-Series Bertone GT. Further down the field but showing consistently good form is Alex Jupe in his self-prepared Alfetta GTV. But watch out, we are due to get at least a couple of original 1600 GTA cars. These fabulous period racers just have to be seen…
- Castle Combe Circuit’s Autumn Classic historic race meeting descends on the Wiltshire venue on Saturday, 5 October.
- Advanced tickets are available now from £15 at www.autumnclassic.co.uk.