The Awesome Alfa 75 Turbo IMSA
If there's one Alfa 75 to rule them all, it's the Turbo Evoluzione IMSA race car, and here's its story is deeply intertwined with the race it had been specifically designed to win: the Giro Automobilistico d'Italia.
Launched in 1985 in coincidence with the Marque's 75th anniversary, the Alfa 75's combination of sporting look, lusty engines, and handling prowess made it a commercial success in Italy, where its status as arguably the last "classic" Alfa Romeo has ensured the preservation of many examples to this day.
But if there's one Alfa 75 to rule them all, it's the Turbo Evoluzione IMSA race car, and here's its story.
The story of this badass Alfa 75 is deeply intertwined with the race it had been specifically designed to win: the Giro Automobilistico d'Italia.
Organized by the Turinese section of the Italian Automobile Club, it was inspired by the success of the Tour De France Automobile, and it followed a similar formula that included tarmac rally stages as well as circuit races.
Such diversity made the Giro d'Italia, first held in 1973, arguably one of the most complete four-wheeled competitions around, attracting top-class cars and drivers every year until 1980.
Following a several years hiatus, the event was organized again in 1988, and the Fiat Group, then going through a very successful phase from both a commercial and economic standpoint, was going to leave no stones unturned to ensure a victory.
The challenge was taken up by Alfa Romeo's racing arm Alfa Corse which, following Fiat's takeover of the Milanese Marque, had been placed under the direction of the great Giorgio Pianta, who'd won the 1975 edition of the Giro d'Italia driving the Abarth 031 prototype.
With just over two months available to prepare, the engineers had no other choice but to start from what was already available: the Alfa 75 Turbo Evoluzione "Group A" touring car racer.
To broaden the entry pool, the event's organizers opened the door to American IMSA Endurance cars on top of the "regular" FIA Group N and Group A racing cars, which allowed Alfa Corse to unlock quite a lot of extra performance from the 75.
The Alfa 75 Turbo Evoluzione IMSA could therefore not only be made lighter, tipping the scales at just 960 Kg, but also much more powerful: the 1.8 liters twin-cam engine produced around 335 HP for '88 and 400 for '89, thanks to a very generously sized turbocharger.
According to Alfa's development driver Giorgio Francia, that was an increase of 50 to 60 HP on top of the 75 "Group A" that were racing in the Italian Touring car championship.
But, as Pirelli's famous advert said, power is nothing without control, with the less restrictive American regulations coming in handy once again: tires and tracks were enlarged, with massive box fenders to cover it all up.
The De-Dion rear suspension was also redesigned to allow for camber adjustment, something not usually possible with this suspension layout.
If the Alfa 75 Evoluzione already wasn't a paragon of subtlety, the IMSA definitely turned the aggressiveness up to eleven: it looks bitchin', and watching it thunder down a rally stage must have been a sight to behold.
Alfa Corse's effort paid off handsomely, with the 75 Turbos demonstrating a crushing superiority in 1988 and 1989. In the first year, the winners were Riccardo Patrese with Miki Biasion and his navigator Tiziano Siviero, while in '89 the honors went to the team composed by Giorgio Francia, Dario Cerrato and Giuseppe Cerri.
Unfortunately, the 1989 edition of the Giro Automobilistico d'Italia would be the last, much to the disappointment of enthusiasts and drivers alike. Although 2011 saw a new edition of the classic race, it largely failed to reignite the old enthusiasm, and at the time of writing, there are no plans to revive the event anytime soon.