Waiting for a new
Alfa which sounds
like an Alfa.
Join Date: Jun 2003
156GTA shines at Bathurst
From the Australian Alfa Romeo site:
The Alfa Romeo 156 GTA entered by privateer team GTA Motorsport enjoyed an almost fairytale debut at Mount Panorama in the 2003 Bathurst 24-Hour.
"The 156 GTA delivered a mechanically faultless performance, only cut short by an unfortunate crash after 19 hours" said team owner and driver, Andrew Leithhead. At the time the 156 GTA was placed 18th outright in a field of 45 cars and while 2nd at the time was making good ground towards winning the Production Car class.
Planning for this year's event began early in 2003, and the metallic grey 156 GTA was purchased from Ateco Automotive in late May. Leithhead's objective, with race engineer Nigel Bolling, was always to compete in the Production Car class at the 2003 Bathurst 24-Hour, and the 156 GTA was selected as a production car that could be expected to be reliable as well as fast and flexible. Modifications are very limited, largely restricted to the necessary safety equipment, brake-pad material and minor changes to suspension settings. The class rules require a "control" road-legal tyre be used, of equivalent size to the manufacturer's standard equipment, and a transmission oil cooler was also permitted for the 24-Hour race.
The actual race week at Mt Panorama was almost uneventful. Even torrential rain during one qualifying session and twice during the race was unable to fluster the team, or question the car's reliability and sure-footedness. The race plan was to adopt a slightly conservative strategy by not seeking to race the car too aggressively in the early stages and then increase the pace later in the twice 'round-the-clock event. Pit stops were scheduled every 90 minutes to re-fuel the car, with a driver change at every second pit-stop. Brake-pads were expected to be replaced once during the race, and tyres would be changed as required to suit the conditions.
The rolling start at 2:00pm on Saturday was tense for everyone, but it did not take long to settle into a rhythm. The team anxiously wondered whether all the planning and preparation would pay off, or if a completely un-anticipated problem or component failure would end the race early. As it happened, there was no cause for concern, and the Alfa Romeo 156 GTA performed without missing a beat for any reason. While other competitors had to dramatically change their plans due to mechanical failure, heavy rain or lack of car-speed, the GTA Motorsport team simply executed the plan. Scheduled pit-stops came and went without problem, drivers swapped as expected and the brake-pad change was completed at about 3.30am on Sunday, well beyond the half-way mark of the race. The car's fastest race-lap (2min 48.2610secs) was set early on Sunday morning with Peter Doulman at the wheel. The early conservatism had paid off, and the pace could now be lifted. All of the drivers had completed one three-hour session, while Andrew Leithhead had completed his second session during the small hours of Sunday morning and Doulman was coming to the end of his driving duty. With only six hours to go the car was not only on schedule and climbing the leader board, but sounding even stronger as the event wore on.
Unfortunately motorsport is unpredictable and perhaps a little unjust. At about 09.30 on Sunday, just after another re-fuelling stop, the car crashed on the way up the Mountain. Fortunately no-one was hurt, but the car was too badly damaged to repair in the short time remaining in the race.
The Alfa Romeo 156 GTA had performed remarkably, especially as it is as close to "showroom stock" as could be raced safely. Some interesting facts:
The car completed 353 laps of the testing Mount Panorama circuit, covering 2,188kms - more than twice the distance of the annual V8 Supercar race held at Bathurst!
During that time the 156 GTA required only fuel and a change of brake-pads; perhaps the "weakest link" was the human component, as drivers were changed 6 times in the same period.
The Alfa Romeo did not consume a drop of engine or transmission oil, and that extra transmission cooler seemed unnecessary, as gearbox temperature barely moved for the entire race.
Tyre wear was remarkably low and even though 3 sets of new tyres were fitted during the race, all of those tyres will be used again at future race meetings, and all have sufficient tread depth remaining to still be road legal.
The fastest lap was set at an average speed of almost 133km/h, and maximum speed at the end of Conrod Straight was approaching 240km/h.
At the time of the crash the Alfa Romeo 156 GTA was placed 18th outright, having started 42nd, and was running 2nd in the Production class.