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Alfa Corse/Autodelta History

Trying to untangle ALFA Corse history? Not easy. Scuderia Ferrari,  ALFA Corse and Autodelta have been the racing arms of ALFA Romeo, along with unnamed factory departments.

Chronology:

  • 1929 - ALFA sets up Scuderia Ferrari as an unofficial racing arm as Enzo Ferrari retires as a driver. Cars developed under Ferrari include the Monza 2.6, Bimotore (two 2.9 liter engines) and the 158 with the active participation of Colombo, who was on loan from the factory.

  • 1938 - ALFA brings racing back under factory control with ALFA Corse, headed by none other than Enzo Ferrari. Ferrari leaves one year later with an agreement not to market a car under his own name for 5 years (hence, the 815).

  • 1961 - ALFA sets up Autodelta with Ludovico Chizzola and Carlo Chiti (then ex Ferrari and ATS) to build the TZ. Cars developed by Chiti at Autodelta include the TZ, TZ2, GTA and variants and some work (under Satta) on the Type 33s.

  • 1964 - Autodelta moves to Settimo Milanese to be closer to ALFA. Shortly thereafter, ALFA convinces Chiti and Chizzola to sell the operation to them.  Chizzola returned to his home in Udine and Chiti continued to run Autodelta. (Same deal as with Ferrari: use  em, then buy  em out if they do good)

  • 1985 - Autodelta is renamed ALFA  Corse.

  • 1988? - Alfa Corse establishes an office near Indianapolis to develop an Indy engine and survey the racing scene. Nothing (officially) comes of this.

Big auto companies have always relished the "win on Sunday, sell on Monday"  rewards of racing. But by it's nature, racing is the anathema of big company workings. Successful racing organizations don't operate will with decisions by committee. (AMEN!)

And it's not just the quick reactions and decisions needed to run a racing operation, it's the fact that successful racing organizations revolve around a dominant personality; an Enzo Ferrari, (Neubauer, Bugatti, Bentley,) Ferry Porsche, Rob Walker, Carroll Shelby, Carlo Chiti, Roger Penske, Jack Roush, Ron Dennis  or Frank Williams, with a vision of what it takes to win, often the engineering talent to know what it takes to win, and the ability to motivate builders, crew and drivers to superhuman effort needed to win.

The factories supply resources, more often than not it's basically money they supply, but it may also include the hardware upon which the racecars are built. The factory gets the public credit for the win and sells more cars. That's just what happened over history with ALFA Romeo. The factory has raced from almost the beginning, winning its first "World Championship" in 1925 with Jano's P2. (Winning its first: Fiat was the champion in 1923-24, which is where Jano came from)

While in a period of great racing success, one of the most successful drivers (he was also a wealthy Alfa dealer), a young Enzo Ferrari, retired to form Scuderia Ferrari, a well financed privately funded corporation for sales, service and racing of automobiles. (Because of hard financial times and government pressure, ALFA used Scuderia Ferrari as it's unofficial racing department. ( In 1931, Alfa was absorbed by IRI, and the prospect of a government-funded racing organization was not an especially good PR step) turning over to it all the factory cars, including  the 2.3 and 2.6 Monzas and the incredible P3s.

Over the next 9 years, Scuderia Ferrari raced the cars, developed and maintained them, even fabricating new designs, with well-known success. Ferrari s claims to authorship of a design are sometimes overblown, but his organization is clearly responsible for much development work on the cars. Understand that Colombo was sent to help, along with a couple of other factory engineers as well.)

When ALFA wanted to return the racing organization to the factory in 1938, (a year later) Enzo Ferrari returned to Modena. (Why did Alfa return the activities in-house? In part, because it became politically palatable, I think. Mussolini was a great admirer of Alfas. Further, Jano s luck had run out against the Germans and there was a high level of frustration at Alfa over not being able to beat them. In part, Ferrari s leaving was a fallout of the German domination). After the war, he began manufacturing machine tools and eventually cars, and , oh well, you know the rest.

After the war, ALFA was not healthy financially, but it was able to resurrect the Tipo 158 Alfetta and win the first Grand Prix championship after the war in 1950 and again in 1951). At the end of 51 it announced that it was turning its attention to sports car racing and the development of cars such as the 6C3000 CM Disco. There had been a couple of prototype sport racers built before (C50 and C52), as well as some truly odd grand prix designs (161). Alfa decided to get out of GP racing while it was still dominant: Ferrari was catching up fast, and was the  52 champion.

But financial realities of starting up the new, lower cost Giulietta line led to a retreat from factory racing, leaving most of the racing from the mid 50's up to the customers. (Actually, the Marshall plan put Alfa back on its feet in 1950 and the 1900 was a runaway best seller, so you can t make Alfa too poor during this era.) The emergence of the Giulietta, especially with the lightweight models produced by Zagato and the expertise of  tuners like Virgilio Conrero allowed ALFA to continue to bask in the glory of racing victories while rebuilding itself financially.

By 1961, ALFA was ready to return to factory racing but again preferred to have the work done by outside contractors. It turned to a small company in Udine called Delta Auto, run by two racing enthusiasts and technical geniuses, Ludovico Chizzola, who had started the organization with Carlo Chiti,  ex-Ferrari and ATS. Chizzola and Chiti had as their first task to build the 100 ALFA TZs needed for homologation.

Autodelta, as it was renamed, was highly successful with the TZ and grew to support the racing activities. In 1964, ALFA required their transfer to Milano to be nearer the factory, in a facility in Settimo Milanese. Shortly thereafter, ALFA convinced the partners to sell, but Chizzola preferred to return to his home in Udine, leaving Chiti to run Autodelta.

For the next 20 years, Chiti ran Autodelta. His projects included the GTA series, the Tipo 33 series which replaced the TZ(2) in 1967 and the reentry of ALFA into Formula One, first as a engine supplier and then as a full entrant. (The Type 33 was a Satta design)

In 1985, Autodelta was officially renamed ALFA Corse, but remained in its same location. With the acquisition of ALFA by FIAT, there was some rationalization for the racing activities. Ferrari continued in F1 and some sportscar racing. Lancia was the rally team. ALFA continues to support sedan racing like the German touring car championship with its ultra high  tech silhouette formula as well as the more stock British touring car championship. ALFA also supports  several  other racing series, including T-Spark F3 engines and several Italian formula classes using near stock ALFA engines.

One fact that lacks a clear cut reason was the opening of a US operation in the late 1980s and an attempt to enter Indycar racing. Perhaps it was at the urging or Chrysler, their US marketing partner for a while, who could have emphasized the importance of  Indy to the American racing scene. While the effort went on for three years with first rate teams and chassis, the effort was abandoned with little success (similar to the results of Porsche and Honda, it seems!)

     - Pat Braden



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