Having noticed a groaning noise from the steering rack that had become progressively more noticable, I partook of some investigative activity.
My first observation was that there was 2mm of end play in the LH inner track rod joint.
I was somewhat nonplussed when, on removal of the LH rack gaiter, a cupful of rusty water spilled out and I was presented with the sorry sight of rusted inner balljoint. (Of course not unusual, see here - http://www.alfaowner.com/Forum/alfa-...full-lock.html
Now then, the car passed its MOT in October 2011 at 20716 miles. Presumably there was no play in the joint at that time - unless, as is more likely, the MOT inspector missed it!
If there was no play at 20716 miles then less than 3000 miles later there is 2mm of play.
The RH balljoint is OK with only slight signs of rusting.
I don't understand how the water got into the rack - all clips were tight.
In January I drove (rather too quickly) through some deep flood water so maybe the water has got in from the top somehow!
I've cleaned up the rust and have greased the rack profusely. I've ordered a pair of Track Rods from Shop4Parts (£52) and will report back on the hopefully silent steering