Ever since the first piece of motorsport regulations was written, engineers have been looking for ways to extract the maximum performance advantage while staying within the letter of the law.
This is the story of the 155 Silverstone and how Alfa Romeo conquered the British Touring Car Championship by outsmarting its competition.
Touring car racing was a crucial element in the sales strategy for the Alfa 155 and the brand as a whole, following the age-old industry mantra of "win on Sunday sell on Monday."
Alfa Romeo's surprise victory in the '93 DTM season had a direct positive effect on 155 and 164 sales in Germany. Still, it mattered little outside of the country, and dealers lobbied for additional involvement in other national championships: among those, the prestigious and hotly contested BTCC.
its only purpose was to be sold in the 2500 copies required to homologate for racing its special aerodynamic package
Fiat Auto left nothing to chance in its assault to the 1994 British championship, with a budget of 14 Billion and a new weapon of choice: the 155 Silverstone.
Known also as "Formula" on some markets, the 155 1.8 TS Silverstone is perhaps one of the least exciting "homologation specials" ever, at least in standard form.
It was no faster than the regular 155, and its only purpose was to be sold in the 2500 copies required to homologate for racing its special aerodynamic package.
This consisted of a front air dam that was to be riveted to the original bumper by the dealers and had two positions: one flush with the standard item and one at the limit of the car's perimeter to achieve maximum downforce.
To balance out the front spoiler's effects, the 155 Silverstone's tail was fitted with the rear wing from the 33 Imola, which could be either fitted directly on the boot lid with two rubber adapters or with additional spacers that raised its profile about 15 cm.
The Naples plant of Pomigliano D'Arco, where the 155 was made, had churned out the required 2500 cars by the end of March 1994, thus making Alfa's aero package perfectly legal for the FIA.
the 155 Silverstone was to be a one-hit-wonder, as the FIA banned the optional kits from 1995
Needless to say, when Gabriele Tarquini dominated the BTCC's first round, Alfa's competitors wasted no time in complaining about the aerodynamics of the Italian cars, particularly the adjustments of the wings, which can be extended in the race while in the dealerships they are in the "basic" version.
However, the 2500 wing adjustment kits were regularly supplied by Alfa Romeo to customers, so the "Silverstone" was legal, much to Ford and Vauxhall's displeasure.
However, the 155 Silverstone was to be a one-hit-wonder, as the FIA banned the optional kits from 1995, while simultaneously raising the number of cars required for homologation tenfold to 25,000.
Tarquini went on winning the '94 BTCC title for himself and Alfa Romeo, and deservedly so, in their first attempt, gaining many fans along the way due to his spectacular driving style.