Alfa Owners Club Spettacolo Concorso: Melbourne 29/30 November 2014…

Posted: December 3, 2014 in News/Events
Tags: , , , , , ,
Wesley

Alfa Club of Victoria Concorso…300 Alfa Romeos’ dropping olio onto the Wesley First XI Turf…

The Alfa Romeo Owners Club of Victorias’ annual Concourse and preceding dinner… has become ‘Bigger Than Ben Hur’ in terms of quality of organisation, cars, location, attendance and guest speakers.

This years concourse was held at Wesley College, St Kilda Road, Melbourne on 30 November, the guest speakers at the nearby Parkview Hotel dinner the evening before were former Australian Racing Champions Kevin Bartlett and Alfredo Costanzo.

The ‘dialogue’ with the drivers was ably conducted by Melbourne longtime Alfista and racer John Emery, it wasn’t ‘hard core’ given the audience, too many road car types present for that sadly!, but the following are a few snippets from their comments or quick chats with each of them separately.

Parkview Hotel St Kilda Road

Crappy iPhone shot of Kevin Bartlett left, and Alf Costanzo, right being ‘interviewed’ by John Emery, Parkview Hotel 29 November

I covered KB’s early history in the Alfa GTA article of last week, see https://primotipo.wordpress.com/wp-admin/post.php?post=1037&action=edit …he spoke fondly of his mentor Alec Mildren and the way Alec extracted the best from him which was around advice and encouragement, not actually how to drive, Mildren himself was the Australian Gold Star winner in 1960.

‘I was really lucky he gave me the chance to test, Glenn Abbey gave me the call, I don’t even remember the circuit but there were three or four other guys who also had similar credentials. But I guess they saw potential and a willingness to work hard and learn’.

Bartlett spoke of the evolution of the Lola F5000 cars from the T240 F2 based, twitchy, torsionally floppy T300 through to the T400 and ultimate variant of the T332, the 332C and what a competitive car it was. Costanzo chipped in about that cars understeer and said he, having also owned a T332, preferred the ‘twitchy and slightly more nervous’ T430, the ex-VDS/Brown car Alfie raced for Alan Hamilton so successfully in 1979/80.

Both noted that Warwick Brown happily went back to a T332 after the 430’s were sold despite his success in that model. (Rothmans Series 1977).

Bartlett related a funny anecdote about building a twin-turbo Jaguar XJS for Australian media magnate, the late Kerry Packer.

Kerry wanted to drive the ‘weapon’ from Sydney to Canberra, KB confessed that the gearbox whilst up for sprint meetings wouldn’t survive that journey…so Packer had his ‘chopper shadow the car on the trip, as you do!

Inevitably the car ‘cacked itself’ near Bowral, the chopper scooping up the legendary KP and delivering him to the capital on time. KB organising for his most wealthy clients car to be returned to Sydney…the silver lining in this relationship the very successful ‘Nine Network’ sponsorship of Bartlett’s Camaro in Touring Car Racing after his second F5000 ‘Big One’ when his Brabham BT43’s rear wheel failed at Sandown in 1979 made continued single seater racing not such a good idea.

Bartlett Sandown 1979 Brabham BT43 Chev

Bartlett in the Sandown pitlane 8 September 1979. Saturday practice, the following day KB had a rear wheel failure cause another big accident going thru ‘The Causeway’ breaking his legs, hospitalising him, destroying the car and ending his cherished single seater career…there were, however, touring cars to conquer. Car now has rear/side, rather than front mounted water rads’, Lola airbox, a variant of the nosecone used on KB’s T400 Lola and later rear wing. Jim Hardman in black anorak listening to KB’s issues and together working out the necessary tweaks! (Mark Bisset)

I asked KB whether Alec considered commercial sponsorship of his team to assist with the budget, as an alternative to ‘Alec Mildren Racing’ withdrawal from the sport but ‘it simply wasn’t his style’ so KB and Max Stewart were ‘on their own’ from 1971 both continuing to be successful but clearly the ‘Mildren Family Team’ was special in every way not least it’s competitiveness and influence on the professional teams which followed its lead.

Bartlett and Alfie are 3 years apart in age, KB born in 1940, Alf 1943. Their careers have ‘reverse parallels’ in some ways, KB a paid professional at 25, and on his own at 30, Alf on his own until 1979, when at 36 he became a paid professional…Unsurprisingly the ‘sweet spots’ in their careers were as paid professionals able to focus on just the driving rather than the more difficult commercial and organisational elements necessary in running your own team.

KB had an opportunity to test F1 for Brabham in 1970, ‘yes we should give him a run’ Ron Tauranac said but the fee was $60000 even then, as KB said, ‘I didn’t have $6k let alone $60k back then’ it’s a shame as the BT33 was a rocket in 1970 and still ok in 1971.

Bartlett Oran Park 1978

Bartlett in the one of a kind Brabham BT43 Chev ahead of Alf and John Walker at Oran Park , Rothmans Series 1978, both in Lola T332’s, Walker in KB’s old car. Warwick Brown won in another T332C, or rather a T333 Single-Seat CanAm car converted to F5000 for our Series before returning to the US whence it was converted back. See this shot of the Brabham in its original form here, mind you the nose had already been changed at this point…with the car in its final form above. (Glenn Moulds)

Two blokes who took to F5000 in Australia, having come out of smaller single-seaters like ‘ducks to water’ were Alf and Bruce Allison, immediately competitive…and both in Lola T332’s, Allison in the car KB sold to buy his T400, ‘HU22’. (KB’s T330 ‘HU22′ rebuilt after its Pukekohe early ’74 shunt around a 332 tub)

Not everybody who drove these animals of cars, mastered them…’it always focussed my mind the day before wherever I raced these cars because they could always bite you’, said KB.

One wag at the Parkview Hotel after listening to Alf speak, very amusing he was too, and who watched many of his early racing efforts said that ‘he bounced that Mono (Elfin Mono) off every fence in Victoria, he didn’t even book overnight accommodation at the country circuits as he never expected to race on Sunday!’

By 1975 he had the car in which to strut his stuff finishing second in the AF2 Championship that year in the Birrana 274 Ford Leo Geoghegan drove to the series win in 1974. Geoff Brabham won the title in a similar 274.

‘At the end of the year I sold the car and bought the ex-Bob Evans 1974 European F5000 Championship winning T332 ‘HU36′ for a lot less than I sold the Birrana! Brian McGuire had a good season in it in the UK in 1975 and was to race it again and then the Brits admitted F1 cars to their series so he bought one of those and sold the Lola cheap, all race prepared and ready to go. I even won a couple of KLM tickets late in the season so got a trip to the UK as well’

In a sad ending for Aussie McGuire, he died in the Williams FW04 he bought instead due to a component failure at Brands in 1977.

‘The T332 was a great car, I did well in it but I preferred the T430 which was a bit more nervous, the turn in was better. The McLaren was better again, no quicker than the Lola in a straight line but it put its power down much better, it was quicker through the corners.’

Costanzo, McLaren M26 Chev Sandown 1981

Costanzo at the old Sandown pit counter 1981. Mclaren M26 Chev, Jim Hardman in the white top. A talented engineer, his self designed and built Hardman JH1 Ford victorious in the 1980 AF2 Championship in Richard Davisons’ hands. Car @ rear is the Bryan Thomson owned Mercedes Fowler/Chev sports sedan then driven by John Bowe.

The McLaren Costanzo spoke of was the M26 F1 car converted to ground effect F5000 specification by Tiga Cars and raced by Alan Hamiltons’ Porsche Cars Australia Team in the dying days of F5000 in Australia.

These are a few vignettes in two phenomenal careers, it was a pleasure to meet them both and watch them work an audience in the same way they used to work the spectators on race day!

Racers both and great blokes to boot…

TZ1 and 6C 1750

All the fun of the fair..big crowds, this is early in the day. Alfa TZ1 Replica beside 6C 1750 Zagato. ‘Lola Limper’ Bartlett checking out the cars in brown shirt and cap.

Lawson and Little Alfa

John Lawsons’ Alfa 6C 2300 Spl left, with the ex-Lex Davison ‘Little Alfa’, shortened 6C1750 ‘Normale’ chassis’ , supercharged. Successful and famous Aussie special raced by Davo from circa 1946 to 1952. car originally Davisons’ fathers road car.

St Kilda Road

Giuliettas’, St Kilda Road buildings at rear

Park scene Wesley

Swag of ‘105’s…a very pleasant Concourse location, Wesley College, Melbourne…

Photo Credits…

oldracephotos.com, Glenn Moulds

Comments
  1. partizia de meneghi says:

    👍

    Sent from my iPad

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