The prestigious American event reserved for vintage cars has started. Starring the BT45 - a Formula 1 car, more commonly known as the “Brabham-Alfa”. The model belongs to the Alfa Romeo Historical Museum in Arese “La Macchina del Tempo”, and it resembles the one driven in 1977 by the German racing driver Stuck.
The Amelia Island Concours d'Elegance (Florida, USA) is set to take place from 11th to 13th March. Owing to the vintage cars on show and the flock of visitors, this event is confirmed as being the second biggest event in the industry in the United States, immediately after the number one event in Pebble Beach. Now in its 21st edition, the event is set to be hosted at the prestigious local Golf Club and will be welcoming over 30,000 visitors from across the globe.
For the second time running, the Alfa Romeo brand will be attending the Amelia Island Concours d'Elegance with vintage cars and models currently in production, to symbolise that unbreakable bond between past and present which distinguishes its legendary history spanning more than one hundred years.
The star of the American event is set to be the Formula 1 BT45, which belongs to the renovated Alfa Romeo Museum in Arese, along with some of the latest models, including the multi award-winning Alfa Romeo 4C (Coupé and Spider versions) and the Giulia Quadrifoglio. Among other things, visitors will get the chance to enjoy a thrilling driving experience behind the wheel of the 4C Spider, and also to purchase Alfa Romeo memorabilia.
The Brabham BT45, equipped with an Alfa Romeo engine, will be the main piece of the “Hans Stuck cars” category with which the US event pays homage to the German driver in this particular edition of the event. Indeed, it is on a Brabham-Alfa Romeo that Hans-Joachim raced in the 1977 United States Grand Prix before more than 100,000 spectators: held at the Watkins Glen Grand Prix Race Course, Stuck started the race at the front of the grid, and was overtaken only by the reigning champion, James Hunt. After 14 laps, the BT45 retired due to a technical problem, without tarnishing the German driver's impeccable racing up to that point, who proved himself to be a genuine master at driving in the rain.
The enchanting story of this race car began in 1976, after the World Sportscar Championship won by the “33 TT 12” in 1975, when Autodelta – Alfa Romeo's racing department – decided to join Formula One by supplying the Brabham team with the 500 HP 12-cylinder boxer on the “33” itself. In actual fact, Alfa Romeo had already fitted an engine on a single seater March in 1971, but the experience had immediately been stopped. The year 1976 thus became a "good" year: the car referred to as the “Brabham-Alfa” was presented, retaining the "Martini Racing” livery, but the basic colour, by virtue of the Italian maker's engines, switched from white to red.
The entire operation was orchestrated by the engineer Carlo Chiti, founder of Autodelta, and by Bernie Ecclestone, who owned the Brabham team at the time. The talented Gordon Murray designed the car, built around the overall dimensions of Alfa Romeo's “flat” engine and distinguished by two side periscopes to feed the twelve cylinders. In 1976, the official drivers of the Brabham “BT45” were Carlos Reutemann (ARG) and rising star Carlos Pace (BRA), while Larry Perkins (AUS) and Rolf Stommelen (GER) only competed in some races. This initial season should be considered as "preparatory": the three fourth places achieved, two of which by Pace and one by Reutemann, are the most significant results.
The Brabham-Alfa “BT45-B”, the evolution of the previous version for the 1977 season, started off in the best possible way: in the début Grand Prix, in Argentina, Carlos Pace came second, while his team-mate John Watson (GBR) held pole position for around ten laps. Pace demonstrated excellent performance in the Brazilian Grand Prix as well, on home turf, although he was forced to retire.
In March, the Brabham team was devastated by the loss of Carlos Pace in a plane crash. The team decided to recruit German driver Hans-Joachim Stuck, who during the season won two third places in Hockenheim (GER) and Zeltweg (AUSTRIA). In an interview, Stuck said he was excited about racing in a car fitted with an Alfa Romeo engine: these are the exact same cars against which his father had raced with Auto Union in the 1930s. In Monza, during the qualifying rounds of the Italian Grand Prix, the passenger compartment of the English single seater was occupied by Giorgio Francia, test pilot for the Milanese Car Maker. John Watson ended the season with second place at the French Grand Prix (Dijon) as best result.
The engine was fitted on English cars up until 1979 (with other architectures), with varying degrees of luck (2 Grand Prix won in ’78) and with the experimentation of innovative technical solutions (such as the BT46 “fan-car” at the 1978 Swedish Grand Prix). At the end of the Seventies, the partnership between the Italian brand and the English carmaker came to an end: Alfa Romeo decided to produce its very own Formula One single seater, known as the “Alfa-Alfa”.