Monza racetrack, on the 16-17th of July, was the venue for a very special weekend, as ASA (Attività Sportive Automobilistiche, which may roughly be translated as automotive sports activities) held a meeting to celebrate the rally and tourism racing cars of Fiat, Lancia and Alfa Romeo. The weekend was not only about the cars, but also about the men (and women) behind them, from team directors to engineers and, of course, drivers. The program of the ASA Meeting was simple but packed: many seminars, on different topics, and laps of the track by some of the most successful and historically important racing cars of the past.
The slogan of the event
“Excellent people and extraordinary cars” was the slogan of the event, and the meeting indeed saw the participation of 100 very important guest speakers and 120 cars, about 80% of which were ex works cars. The models represented included the Lancia Flaminia Coupé, Fiat 125 Special, Autobianchi A112 Abarth, Lancia Stratos, Abarth SE 030, Fiat 131 Abarth, Lancia Fulvia HF, Lancia 037, Lancia Delta S4, and every evolution of the four doors Delta. In the Alfa Romeo “corner”, there were couple of racing 33s, a 155 GTA and 147 GTA, and several ex works GTV rally cars, including Sandro Munari’s GTV 6 2.5 — the same one used in the unsuccessful Safari Rally adventure.
Fiat 131 Abarth
The ASA Meeting provided an opportunity to admire many 131 Abarths, ranging from the Diesel Supermirafiori of the Aseptogyl London to Sydney team to the Alitalia and Olio Fiat livery of the Rally World Championship. While watching them I realized that, amazingly — and this is probably a first —, every single 131 Abarth exhibited at the event had been a winner of at least one World, European or Italian Championship rally.
Markku Alen, the mythical Finnish rally driver of the 1970s and 1980s was there too, and very happy to explain how to drive a 131 fast on gravel or snow. Alen is famous for his unique way of speaking Italian — let’s say he has a very “special” accent and his mispronunciation of some words has resulted in some legendary remarks! One of the most famous of these, which he once uttered just before the final stage of a rally, was reproduced on what was perhaps the most fantastic t-shirt seen at the event: “Se gommo tiene, io vince gara. Se gommo no tiene, io come bomba dentro montagna” (which goes something like, “If tyre hold I win race. If tyre not hold, I go like a bomb in a mountain).
Sandro Munari was nicknamed “The Dragon” because his fierce ability at the wheel. He remains the best handler and interpreter of the Stratos — the hugely powerful car with a very short wheel base in which he taught the world the art of counter steering. At the Monza weekend he once again came face to face with the Alitalia liveried “Stratos 1” in which, together with co-driver Maiga, he won the 1977 Monte Carlo Rally. It is fantastic to see how Munari, to this day, remains attached to this particular car, the most important of a long career during which he notched up hundreds of victories. Whenever Munari was not taking part in some talk show, we knew exactly where he could be found: spending time with “his” car, deep in conversation with anyone who stopped for a chat.
The most prominent of the “modern” racers attending the ASA Meeting was Massimo “Miki” Biasion, who boasts a remarkable list of achievements: 78 World Championship rallies raced, 17 victories, 40 podium positions, and victories in 373 stages, making him a twice World Championship winner, in 1988 and 1989. He has been the master of the Delta from the first 4WD to the very latest Integrale Evoluzione. Nobody has done better than him with this latter model, and he has indeed won on snow, tarmac, gravel and the dirt of the Safari (becoming the very first Italian to win in Africa). His recollection of his adventures during Safari test drives was one of the highlights of the Monza event.
The Alfa Romeo
To compare the rally racing success of Alfa with that of Lancia or Fiat cars would be unfair, just as it would to compare the performance of Lancia or Fiat with the magnificent Alfa Romeo brand on the racetrack. The Alfa “team” was represented in Monza by the legendary GTAs and the 33, and also by legendary test driver and racer Carlo Facetti, the driver Gianni Giudici, and the famous engineer Gianni Tonti. The cars they brought along were the 155 and 156 of the DTM, WTCC and ETCC championships, and they spent a long time debating how the GTV might have performed in rallies.
Some of the others
The guest list was so long that it is quite impossible to name everyone individually. In the two days of the event, we had the opportunity to listen to, and talk with, Daniele Audetto, Ilkka Kivimaki, Christian Geistdorfer, Piero Sodano and Cesare Fiorio, among others. It is difficult to imagine anything more engrossing than listening to their memories, and this meeting was certainly a great opportunity to hear some of the less “official” stories from the rally and tourism racing world of the 1960s through to the 1990s.
Header visual courtesy of ASA. All other pics without further specification courtesy of the author.