Andrea de Adamich Remembers Autodelta
Text by Roberto Motta
On the exact sixtieth anniversary of the founding of Autodelta, a fantastic party was held at the Alfa Romeo Museum which was attended by some of the protagonists who contributed to creating the legend of a unique racing team. ..attended by over 800 enthusiasts from all over Europe.
On 5 March 2023 for the 60th anniversary of the foundation of Autodelta, the historic Alfa Romeo racing department, the Museo Storico Alfa Romeo, in collaboration with the Alfa Romeo Club Milano, celebrated the men and cars that contributed to the birth of a myth.
After the parade of cars, the guests gathered in the conference room, where waiting for them were two symbols of the Alfa Romeo world, the TZ and the 33TT12 with which the Alfa Romeo won the World Championship for Makes in 1975 but, above all , there were the Autodelta men.
Among the many guests we heard Andrea de Adamich, European Touring Car Champion in 1966 and 1967 with the Giulia GTA, recalling those years as 'unrepeatable moments'.
To the audience of enthusiasts, in religious silence, de Adamich told the Autodelta story:
“Autodelta was a unique racing department. No other racing department can be compared with Autodelta. Over time it has been busy on all fronts, from the track to rallies, from uphill races to powerboat racing. Autodelta was not just a family, it was something more. Thanks to Ing. Carlo Chiti, it was a team that worked professionally, with an understanding and a team concept that no longer exists.
"Among the Italians drivers were was Nanni Galli, Ignazio Giunti and the very fast Teodoro Zeccoli. Zeccoli was the Balocco record holder. I saw the birth of the Balocco circuit but on this circuit, Zeccoli was 'uncatchable', he was so fast that he constantly improved his track record. However, when he drove at other circuits, he wasn't as fast as Nanni Galli or faster than me, in fact, he was a bit slower. So we didn't understand how he could be so fast at Balocco: he was fast enough to give us 2” per lap.
"So we began to think that maybe he didn't complete the entire course of the circuit. At Balocco, just before the end of the long straight, there was the possibility of joining the return section by shortening the length of the track, and therefore gaining those 2 seconds which made him faster than all of us.
"We begin to think that Zeccoli was being 'smart' and, since there were no cameras at the time, he cut off part of the circuit just to be faster. Thus, Galli, Giunti and I secretly went to the beginning of the return straight, where there was a small hut, in which we could hide and, without being seen, control Teo's behavior.
"Teo didn't 'cheat' but he drove at the Balocco by inserting the right gears to get the best time, while we drove like in the race.
"In the return bend we entered in second gear, and we went around the bend in this gear to keep up with the laps, while he entered the bend and, after a short stretch, he engaged third. This allowed him to prevent the wheels from spinning and thus he was faster.
"I raced with all the Autodelta cars, and I experienced the birth of this great racing team.
"I started racing in 1962, and I was Italian F3 champion in 1965, I raced with everything, even in rallies, the most important result in this category was the victory of the Portugal rally in 1964. I conquered the first place overall with a Giulia TI quadrifoglio. I won with a car, prepared for the track, by Conrero.
"After Bandini's death, I also ran with Ferrari, a period in which Giunti was there, and the Ferrari drivers were managed by the Milanese stable 'Scuderia SantAmbroeus' (name that derives from Sant Ambrogio, the Patron Saint of Milan) directed by Eugenio Dragoni. At that time, Ferrari had to include a driver among its drivers Italian thanks to the interest of CSAI and ACI sports. Naturally, I thought I was excluded.
"On 10 October 1967, on the occasion of the Ettore Bettoja Trophy, Chiti sent two Alfa Romeo 33s to Vallelunga, one for Giunti, who was a Roman driver and considered 'the little king of Vallelunga', and one for me, who at that time was the best Autodelta driver in Ing. Chiti's eyes.
"I made the best time in practice and won the race with a 30 second lead. Given this result, I was called by Gozzi on behalf of Enzo Ferrari. I went to the meeting alone, certainly not as a pilot would do today, who would need to be accompanied by a lawyer.
"After the meeting, Ferrari let me test a 312 which, unfortunately, had the cockpit made for Chris Amon, who was half my height. Then I raced in Modena, Monza, Vallelunga and in the first non-world race on the new Spanish track of Jarama. After these tests, Ferrari made me sign a contract which provided for the 8 F1 races and the entire European championship with the F2 Dino.
"Going back to Autodelta, I became very good friends with Carlo Chiti, in the workplace and in the family with his wife Lina and little Arturo, who was 5-6 years old at that time. I remember once in Zeltweg, in 33/3, they put up a small seat next to mine and I took Arturo out on the track. I went slowly, or at least I went slowly for me as I considered it. I must say that Arturo was amused, but Chiti was rather worried.
"I met Chiti when I was racing with the TZ1, and Autodelta was still based in Udine. The parts were done by Alfa Romeo, then the assembly was done by Autodelta. Then for practical reasons, Autodelta moved to Settimo Milanese. The Alfa Romeo racing department was by then old, while Chiti brought the novelty and managerial ability that materialized with the TZ, the TZ2, the Giulia GTA, the GTAm and then with the 33.
"Chiti brought to Alfa Romeo a technological engineering capability that, at that time, the brand no longer had. And, at the same time, the test drivers had an ability to tune the car that was no longer suitable for modern cars. In that period, racing first with the TZ1 and then with the TZ2, I experienced the birth of Autodelta. And yet guys, if you see the photos of what Autodelta was like at the time, it will seem impossible to you that Alfa Romeo managed to beat the Porsche and, me, the 917 of Siffert and Rodriguez twice. Autodelta was an environment particular, and still today I sometimes meet with the mechanics of that time who, unfortunately with the passage of time, are less and less.
"From a human point of view Carlo Chiti was a formidable character, he was a technical equivalent of a Forghieri, but with a humanity that the engineer Forgheri certainly did not have. Forghieri was linked purely to the technical and engineering world, while Chiti... in addition to this same technological background was someone you went to lunch with and with whom you could talk about anything. He read a lot and was informed about everything that was happening in the world. He was very fond of animals and in particular of dogs.
"With the T33 we had the great victories with the 33/3, at the 1000 km of Brands Hatch with three 5-litre Porsche 917s, which dominated all the races. But that day with the wet and winding track, he was unable to exploit all the horses delivered by the engine. Then at the 6 hours of Watkins Glen, where I was paired with Ronnie Peterson, we dominated thanks again to the wet track. After all, you could beat the 917s at the Targa Florio, but certainly not on a traditional track.
"In 1970, Alfa Romeo returned to F1 with the supply of engines. I was living in England at the time and had become friends with Bruce McLaren. One day Bruce told me that he was going to get out of the Cosworth world. Cosworth, which at the time supplied V8 engines to almost all the F1 teams, had established a monopoly, and dictated laws and costs.
"I suggested to Bruce that he consider an association with Alfa Romeo. We organized a meeting at Autodelta where Bruce and one of his engineers spoke with Chiti and reached an agreement for the use of the Autodelta-Alfa Romeo V8. Unfortunately it didn't turn out to be a competitive engine: it was an engine suitable for endurance races, while the Cosworth was specific for Grand Prix, much faster in acceleration and much more powerful.
"During a subsequent meeting, where Bruce also saw the chassis of the 33, he perhaps awkwardly told Chiti that... given the fact McLaren was also involved in the design and entry into Can Am racing, he could help in the development of the 33 since McLaren had technical knowledge that Bruce had not seen in the construction of the chassis of the 33.
"This made Chiti very nervous...who took the statement as a criticism, and so the following year he no longer supplied engines to McLaren and made an agreement with the March.
"Unfortunately, apart from the good will, the March had no money for serious development, and all the funds received by Alfa Romeo were used to support the March itself. It was a disaster, after the first tests, which I did with Ronnie Peterson at Kyalami, March got ready to reuse the Cosworth engine.
"My racing career was interrupted in 1974 after I was involved in a very bad accident caused by Jody Schecter at Silverstone during the 1973 British Grand Prix. In the accident, involving 15 cars, I broke badly both of my legs. Rescuers took about an hour to extract me from the wreckage of the car. After 4 months in a wheelchair and a long period of physiotherapy, in 1974 I won the Italian Absolute Speed Championship ahead of Arturo Merzario.
"In 1974, Marlboro offered me a brand project dedicated to clothing and I decided to leave the racing world to accept the Marlboro offer and I began my adventure in journalism, and then with the founding of a safe driving school. I never put the suit back on but I have always remained connected to the racing world. I therefore experienced, as an outsider, the second period of Autodelta's commitment with the return of Alfa Romeo to F1. At that time, Alfa Romeo was a company managed by IRI. Which did not provide the necessary economic contribution to the team. Chiti and his men were fantastic at doing what they were able to do with the means available.
"Today the world has changed and that period, and those firms, are situations that can never be repeated again.
"More generally, the period in which I raced for Autodelta was a period in which the various drivers were also public figures, drivers and men who no longer exist.
"At that time, if you met riders like Stewart, Prost, Shumacher, Brambilla, Giunti, Galli, or even myself, you recognized them right away. Now, speaking of the fastest in F1, if you meet them on the street you don't even know who they are. The drivers are mostly unknown to the most parts of the public. They no longer have that image and charisma that distinguished the drivers of my time, and in particular those of Autodelta.
"In my day, melee was done by riders who respected each other in competition and in life, something that no longer exists for me today. You see people like Verstappen or others entering the corner hoping that the other will get scared and let them pass.
"We risked our lives every time and tried not to add risks to the ones we already took.
"Today they risk, they know that they will have no consequences".
Then he ends his story:
“I have the best memories of that time and almost all the clothing and helmets I used in the race. For example, the jacket I'm wearing today is still dirty with the dust and oil from the 33 I ran with.
"Unfortunately, I no longer have the legal GTA from those years, license plate UD 518119, I remember the plate very well, because it has a particular story: it was used for an armed robbery in a tobacconist's shop in Milan, and then abandoned.
"I remember I was in the Carabinieri offices to report the theft, and the service radios were broadcasting: We are looking for a red Alfa Romeo with license plate UD 518119. One thing that has stuck in my mind".
60 years of Autodelta: the memories of Andrea de Adamich
Andrea de Adamich and Jean-Philippe Imparato talk about the 60 years of Autodelta Alfa Romeo