Posted on 26 March 2012
In 1950 Alfa Romeo sent two 'Freccia d'Oro' cars direct from the factory to contest the inaugural 'La Carrera Panamericana Mexico'. Two top drivers, Piero Taruffi and Felice Bonetto, together with mechanics/co drivers were chosen as factory drivers. (Bonetto was, sadly, to die piloting a Lancia on the 1953 race). The initial series of races spanned five years, and although not particularly high profile in Europe, became known as the most difficult and dangerous road races in the world, and were responsible for making the names of Porsche and Ferrari known in the USA.
The 1950 race was planned as a one-off celebration of the completion of the Mexican section of the Pan American Highway, was backed by the Mexican government, and was held to coincide with the big national holiday of Cinco de Mayo. Despite various problems (often rumour-fuelled) the race had 126 starters, of which only 57 finished the 9-leg, 6 day course, including both Alfas.
Alfa Romeo took the rules of the preliminary race too literally. Amongst other things, these stated that cars had to be largely stock - particularly engines. So they supplied both cars with standard, single carb 6c-2500 'Sport' engines, with a power output of no more than 95hp. They quickly discovered that they were up against American cars with significantly more cubic inches. As a result both cars struggled in the early stages which consisted of fast, sweeping open roads. Once on the twistier sections their performance improved massively, and Bonetto, in the car below, won the 7th and toughest stage, and the Alfas finished 1-2 on the final stage. Overall Taruffi was 4th and Bonetto 8th.
After the race both cars were sold on and stayed in Mexico in private ownership. Car 103 is now in the UK, with a UK owner, and will be restored back to its factory fresh condition and livery as it was on 5th May 1950, at Thornley Kelham, sitting alongside the ex-Bracco Lancia Aurelia (which ended its competition career after the 1952 race), and in the hope that it will appear on the European event circuit in the future.
Photo copyright Ashley Border 2012