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Fangio’s Alfa finally on track for Phillip Island

Submitted by on March 15, 2010

The world’s most admired Alfa Romeo – the spectacular Alfetta Tipo 159 that took the great Juan Manuel Fangio to the first of his five World Championships in 1951 – will fire up just in time for next weekend’s Phillip Island Classic Festival of Motor Sport (March 20-21) after a last-minute lifeline from the company’s museum in Italy.

Hopes of seeing and hearing the 450HP supercharged straight-eight cylinder Alfa in action at the ‘Island were fading after the car’s regular museum driver, Chief Mechanic Maurizio Monti, had to cancel his scheduled trip to Australia at short notice for personal reasons.

So highly does Alfa’s Automobiliso Storico museum in Arese regard the Tipo 159 that the crew of 20 transport specialists were not allowed to load the $20 million dollar Grand Prix car onto the aircraft to Australia until Snr Monti arrived to supervise.

However the car’s Melbourne custodian, Melbourne Alfa Romeo enthusiast Damian Cessario has just been advised that a replacement Museum test driver and a mechanic will make a last minute air dash to Australia in time to fire up and demonstrate the Alfetta at Phillip Island.

The pair will arrive only on Friday morning and will work around the clock to prepare the Alfetta for its first scheduled 10-minute track demonstration at 1.15pm on Saturday. All being well, the Alfetta will be seen in action for a further 15 minutes from 12.30pm on Sunday.

Running on a highly caustic ‘witches brew’ of fuel that allows the car’s 1.5 litre engine to spin to a mind-blowing 9,500rpm, the Alfetta was originally designed in the late 1930s to go toe-to-toe with the new W165 Mercedes-Benz 1.5 litre Silver Arrow.

However more than a decade later after the War, the 425HP Tipo 158 was still sufficiently advanced to dominate the opening season of the Formula 1 World Championship in 1950, winning every one of the 11 races that year in the hands of Giuseppe Farina and Fangio, with Farina crowned F1’s first world champion in the sport’s modern era.

Fangio responded by winning the 1951 title in the revised Alfetta 159 fitted with a more powerful 450HP supercharged engine, which combined with a racing weight of around 710kg, gave the Alfetta a top speed of over 190 miles per hour (306km/h).

The Fangio 159 will be one of more than 60 Alfa Romeos that expected to take to the circuit for the Victorian Historic Racing Register’s 21st Anniversary Phillip Island Classic, which is again being supported by Shannons, Penrite Lubricants and CoolDrive.

The oldest of them  – and in fact the oldest known running Alfa Romeo in the world – will be the Concours-winning 1921 Alfa Romeo G1 owned by Australian Alfa importer Neville Crichton and driven in Regularity events at Phillip Island by Sydney journalist David Berthon.

The Phillip Island Classic Festival of Motor Sport will see more than 540 cars of all makes and models spanning seven decades take part in 48 events over the weekend, with practice and qualifying all day Friday and racing from 9am–4.45pm Saturday and Sunday.

Admission costs $20 Friday, $25 Saturday and $35 Sunday, with a 2-day pass $50 and a three-day pass $60.

For further information visit www.vhrr.com or call (03) 9877 2317

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