Two reports on a great weekend!
Italian Horsepower at the Old Thompson Corral
It was a delightful day for Alfa Romeo ownership when Alfa Club members gathered on June 23rd at the Thompson Motorsports facility in rural Connecticut. I had actually arrived on Thursday for the first day of racing, cheering on veteran English Formula Ford driver Richard Morris as he took up racing again after a three-year hiatus and a costly engine overhaul. By Saturday, the facility was much fuller, a full range of Alfas were on the track, and our garage space was close to a red GTV and a white Milano, both of which saw track time. When I returned Saturday, the place was in full swing, with a few more racing Alfas circulated the track and a lot of passenger-class Alfas and Alfisti, most of them moving to the lovely grassed area off the service road between the track's two paddock areas along the main straight.
As most who read the emails regarding the corral, it moved this year from the main stone parking area adjacent to the oval across the bridge and to the more comfortable grass area. This was due in part, I understand, to the irresistible pressure of Tom Letourneau, who was an ebullient presence as always, driving his Team Thompson one-lung golf cart with precision and purpose. I noticed that he put his remarkable, Corvette-powered Jaguar Van den Plas sedan out on display and sale, and it looked terrific, as ever.
I love most all vintage racing, and the Alfas had a number of opportunities to shine over the weekend. Thompson's new (with the reopening of the road course section of the track a few years ago) sweeping series of turns and short chutes that begin at the end of the main straight and snaked onto the left under the bridge onto the banked oval section provided a good point of view, but there are so many other places to catch the action. I'll always love the sound of an Alfa four cylinder, but the wail of the GTV6 and Milano Verde race cars ruled my ears that day as they entered the last short chute leading to the left under the bridge. The tallish Milano wobbled about on the changing camber onto the oval like a DTM Touring Car champion, while the GTV6 had an eerily tenacious grip that kept the car beautifully planted, haring around the circuit effortlessly.
When one considers the relative rarity of an Alfa Romeo on the road, it makes sense to make the most of an opportunity to see and be seen in an ubiquitous Spider, a relatively rare GTV6, Sprint Speciale, 4C, Giulia and Giulia Quadrifoglio, a Milano, a Giulietta, Berlina, or any number of other models that either raced at or rallied to Thompson Motorsports Park that morning under cloudy skies. While they were all there in force, an ongoing cold must have addled my mind, because I didn't bring my '86 Spider Graduate out of a weirdly deep-seated worry about how heavy the rain might fall.
Now, it doesn't really matter that there was NO significant rain from 8:45 am right up to 5pm when I left. What mattered was my lack of commitment to showing up in an Alfa Romeo on a day when no really heavy rain was forecast. Around Noon, when we were about to go out on the track for parade laps, I had to ask for a ride, which was granted, and I rode in a lovely 1989 Spider Quadrifoglio driven by the inestimable Kent Worthington. His car must be worth at least a few hundred dollars more than my lowly Graduate, and he didn't have any trouble deciding to bring it. And then there were the really valuable cars, whose owners didn't have a problem bringing them either.
Thompson officials were generous with their parade laps, and the Camaro pace car set of at a good clip after checking to see that the entire troupe of cars was visible along the straight. We were in the midfield, and Kent drove with flair and skill, followed by a yellow 4C lulled into somnolence by our relatively modest performance potential. We followed Tom Larsen's Sprint Speciale. No parade this, fast enough to feel the car's grip on corners, but not fast enough to raise the red mist. Kent hadn't been sure he would take the parade laps following an incident that morning where he stopped briefly on his short trip, re-entered the car and experienced an oh-no moment of the brake pedal flopping to the floor. But it only happened once, and was fine thereafter: possibly some air in the lines? But just in case, Kent left most of the braking to the engine, executing many well-organized downshifts and keeping the revs up. That only added to the fun.
Five full laps later, we exited our cars and proceeded to a lovely cookout picnic that tasted wonderful. Many, many thanks to Jim and Patti DeWaele for putting on the terrific spread for us! I started to talk to a few Alfisti about my poor decision to leave the Spider home that morning. Kent had a good response: Does it really matter if any of our Alfas are exposed to rain for a day? What harm can it really do? Even if were to rain at the relatively small number of events one attends in the space of a year, it still wouldn't have an obvious impact on the cars over the many years we own them. And it is a lot more fun than leaving them behind.
Then and there, I resolved to treat my car as it was designed to be treated, as a wonderful piece of driving involvement whose running is not mutually exclusive to the existence of rain. After all, If Tom, the owner of a very worthy Sprint Speciale, can turn the key in less-than-perfect weather, why should I hesitate to do likewise in my own fractionally worthy machine?
Thanks to all the organizers, and to Thompson for making us feel welcome yet again. Kudos to the staff at the office near the main entrance who continue to make a terrific, friendly impression.
Don't Be Afraid to Drive These Cars!
Although the forecast was gloomy for the 5th annual Vintage Motorsports Festival, the umbrellas stayed tucked away in our trunks! We did feel the occasional raindrop toward the end of the day but, all in all, a great time was had by all!
One of the great features of this particular event each year is the growing number of Alfas competing in the various classes. Members Peter Lombardo, Mike Donnelly, Roger Cassin, and Paul Glynn all showed well as usual! Thompson Speedway boasts some of the best viewing locations of any track in the US. There are great vantage points all around the track, with complimentary cart service provided by the track. Members Gene Durso, Dan Donovan, and Tom Letourneau are all part of the "12th Turn Volunteers" team.
Several AONE members showed up without their Alfas due to leaving for places far and wide after the races. To our members, I say: Don't be afraid to drive these cars! Gene, Dan, Phil Duffy, and I have put many miles on our Alfas attending conventions in Maryland, Toronto, and Montreal as well as the Alfa 100th at Watkins Glen. Lauren and I put 2,200 miles on the GTV last summer going to the Montreal convention and then continuing our tour through Eastern Canada. So what if the Montreal highway projects beat up the exhaust! By the way, two great shops lent a hand with that repair along the way. Great people north of the border!
By the way, a certain Connecticut Triumph club had a corral planned but cancelled when they saw the forecast. Don't be afraid to drive these cars!
Continuing with their wonderful tradition of feeding the masses, Patti and Jim DeWaele (that's my little brother!), treated us all to sausage and pepper sandwiches as well as hot dogs and various treats. Lauren's secret recipe pasta salad disappeared in record time!
It's great to see the new Alfas contributing to our member roster! Welcome, George Capalbo (4C Spider) and Max Schuler (new Giulia)! And it's also great to see some younger folks joining the Alfista: Van and Kealani (1973 Spider) — welcome!
Lastly, a great big thanks to all the folks at Thompson Speedway for their wonderful hospitality and 5-6 pace laps around that awesome track! Special thanks to Thompson's Scott Mayo, who was responsible for changing our corral's location to the infield and orchestrating the smooth flow and number of parade laps.
I have said it before: If you like action, check out the Budweiser Modifieds as well as the numerous other events at the track. It's a great way to spend a summer evening — great track food and Bogey's Ice Cream to top it all off!
"I thoroughly enjoyed myself this weekend at Thompson ... smile is still frozen!"
"I have to say, the Thompson event was perhaps even more fun than the F1 race in Montreal!"
Plan to join in on all the fun and festivity next year! —Ed.]
Gene Durso - 2016 Alfa 4C Spider
(Click on the thumbnails below for a larger view, and then