It’ll be Handy for Rob: Alfa Romeo Returns to the BTCC

It’s a kick right in the nostalgia feels. Alfa Romeo will return to the British Touring Car Championship with Handy Motorsport for 2018. The tidy Guiletta, which will be fitted with a TOCA engine in its first year with room to bring in its own engine for 2019,  will be driven by Rob Austin and mark a return after over a decade’s absence for the Italian Manufacturer.

The tidy Guiletta, which will be fitted with a TOCA engine in its first year with room to bring in its own engine for 2019, will be driven by Rob Austin and mark a return after over a decade’s absence for the Italian Manufacturer.

The Alfa Romeo has won the title twice in the BTCC. At the hands of Andy Rouse in 1983 and later in 1994 with Gabriele Tarquini. Handy Motorsport team principal Simon Belcher is clearly happy to have the deal finalised.

“It has been a long project to bring Alfa Romeo back to the BTCC, with many people working on this exciting development for some time – it’s incredible to have brought everything to fruition and an honour to be running the Alfa Romeo marque.

Alfa Romeo is a passionate brand, steeped in heritage, and we have already started building our first bodyshell. Not only is this huge for Handy Motorsport, and fantastic for Alfa to have the latest Giulietta represented on the BTCC grid, it’s also massive for the BTCC as a whole.”

– Simon Belcher

Whilst it won’t be an official Manufacturer entry, the UK Alfa Romeo dealerships dotted around the UK have pledged their support to the project, that has been in the making for a few years. The Handy Motorsport Guiletta will content the championship proper, and the independents trophy.

Alfa Romeo Model BTCC Timeline

GTV-6 – Andy Rouse wins the 1983 British Saloon Car Championship after Steve Soper and Pete Lovet, who were above Rouse in the standings, are disqualified from the Championship due to a technical infringement regarding their Rover Vitnesse, handing Rouse and his Alfa the title 6 months after the season had concluded.

155TS – The Italian Marquee enters the BTCC in 1994 as a fully fledged works team, equipped with Tarquini and Simoni, the team would topple BMW’s title defence, even Joachim Winkelhock unable to match the 155TS with Tarquini at the wheel. The Italian driver came flying out of the blocks, winning the opening five races and consistently finishing in the top two during the season. Alain Menu in the Laguna and Paul Radisich in the Mondeo were the only other drivers to exceed 200 points, but couldn’t quite match the consistency of Tarquini.

The car would compete once again in 1995, but without an aerodynamic advantage that was enjoyed the previous year, and Tarquini only making cameos, the competition caught up and John Cleland eventually won the title in his Vauxhall Cavelier. Alfa Romeo were winless and didn’t even score a podium, the manufacturer withdrew from the sport.

156 – The most regular Alfa Romeo model to feature in the BTCC, it featured in 1998, and then between the years 2000-2004 and then once again between 2006-2007. It didn’t win in the hands of various independent entries but was a regular in the BTCC.

147 – A nippy hatchback that did pretty well in the 2001 season, picking up a handful of top six finishes and even a 3rd place finish at Oulton Park courtesy of Tim Harvey, who seemed more than happy to remind everyone. This was the last time an Alfa Romeo was on the podium in the BTCC.

The real question heading towards this new dawn for Alfa Romeo in the BTCC has to be, can Rob Austin transform into Roberto Austini and emulate Gabriele Tarquini?