Italian car-maker could return to Aussie touring car racing, says local brand boss
Alfa Romeo will enter the nation’s premier motorsport category, the Virgin Australia Supercars Championship (VASC), if it can justify the investment.
That’s the official word from Fiat Chrysler Automobiles Australia (FCAA) boss, Steve Zanlunghi, who told motoring.com.au that Aussie touring car racing could be a good way to promote Alfa’s blistering new 375kW Giulia QV sports sedan.
However, he cautioned that the business case for a V8SC program, which could cost up to $10 million, would have to be approved and funded by FCA HQ in Turin, and it’s unlikely that Alfa would enter the VASC within two years.
“We will do what it takes. If there’s a good return on investment we will do it, if it helps the brand and is brand-specific,” said Zanlunghi.
Alfa is one of two brands currently considering a Supercars assault, with Kia a potential starter as early as 2018 with its all-new rear-drive twin-turbo V6-powered Stinger sports sedan, which will be launched as a direct rival to the Holden Commodore by October this year.
FCAA had early discussions with VASC organisers, who presented their case for this year’s new Gen2 rules (that allow body styles other than sedans and engines other than V8s) to a number of brands as part of a ‘road show’ last year, about the potential for a Giulia safety car, but that role has now been filled by Porsche’s Cayenne.
Zanlunghi said discussions are no longer active and a business case to take the Giulia racing Down Under is not being actively pursued as FCAA instead focuses on launching the Giulia QV and mainstream members of the mid-size sedan family, which he says is squarely “aimed at the BMW 3 Series space”.
But he also points to the illustrious motorsport history of the 106-year-old Italian brand, its current ties with Formula 1 and the Giulia QV’s suitability to Supercar racing, which Alfa could also choose to enter with its upcoming Giulia Sprint coupe as soon as 2019.
“It depends if it fits the Alfa Romeo space,” he said. “If you look at the Alfa brand, it’s one that is very rich in racing heritage. And if you look at some of our global sponsorships we do sponsor the Ferrari team – we have a logo on their F1 car.
“We want to get the car into market first before we think about ancillary spaces that we could play in to build on the brand. The key is getting the car to market and letting people know it’s about there before we go into specific niche places.”
These comments follow similar statements made by Zanlunghi last year: “We are looking at all the available opportunities for Alfa Romeo that would fit the brand DNA, so obviously it is a racing brand and it’s a got a racing heritage.
“No news to report but we are looking at a lot of different things.”
Alfa Romeo’s current global motorsport activities are not big, but there are rumours it will contest TCR series in Europe and possibly Le Mans in the US.
As evidenced by these computer renderings by RC Workchop and LP Design, there has also been ongoing speculation that Alfa could enter Europe’s dying WTCC or Germany’s closed-shop DTM touring car categories, but both of these scenarios seem unlikely.
Nevertheless, motoring.com.au was told by a senior Supercars team engineer that the Giulia’s aerodynamic shape would be well suited to the category, and we presume the coupe version will be even more so.
Mercedes-Benz and Volvo contested the VASC until last year, but the only brands confirmed for the 2017 season, which kicks off this weekend, are Holden, Ford and Nissan.
Zanlunghi didn’t rule out a Giulia coupe tilt at Australia’s burgeoning GT4 racing scene, which this year sees BMW (M4) join Porsche (Cayman), Aston Martin (Vantage) and KTM (X-Bow), but he indicated his preference for Supercars.
“If you’re asking me if I’m looking at proposals the answer is no, I’m not,” he said.
“But at the same time we’re looking to see what space Alfa Romeo could fit in and play in.
“Would an Italian race car work in V8 Supercars? We will look at anything that will help advance the brand and has a good return on investment.
“We would have to put a business case together because it would have to provide a return on the investment. If it brings sales, we’ll do it.”