Ex Mario Andretti 1981 Alfa Romeo 179C
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- Ex-Works Alfa Romeo entry raced by the 1978 Formula 1 World Champion Mario Andretti
- Podium finish at the 1981 United States Grand Prix in the hands of Bruno Giacomelli
- Raced in nine rounds of the 1981 Formula 1 World Championship, including the Monaco Grand Prix
- Fresh from a comprehensive and photo-documented engine rebuild and inspection
- Eligible for a host of high-profile historic series including Masters Historic Formula 1
“And do you hear the crowd roar?!” bellowed Murray Walker on the penultimate lap of the 1981 United States Grand Prix West, held on the streets of Long Beach.
The reason for the eruption of applause was simple. “That’s because their hero Mario Andretti is now ahead of Didier Pironi into fourth place and looking like staying there,” Walker continued.
The Italian-born American legend Mario Andretti – who remains the only driver in motorsport history to have won the Formula 1 World Championship, the Indianapolis 500 and the Daytona 500 – had pulled a terrific move around the outside of Pironi’s Ferrari after a faultless race during which his Marlboro-sponsored Alfa Romeo hadn’t missed a beat.
There was a lot of excitement and romance around Andretti’s move from Lotus, where he’d won the championship just three years prior, to the comparatively unproven Alfa Romeo outfit. The 41-year-old Italian-born hero ending his career at an Italian team. It couldn’t have made for better press.
‘Our’ Alfa Romeo 179C is the very car the 1978 Formula 1 World Champion drove to fourth place that day in Long Beach, California. Chassis 02 was entered by the Works Marlboro Team Alfa Romeo in nine rounds of the 1981 season – five in the hands of Andretti and four in the hands of Bruno Giacomelli. Imola, Zolder, Monte-Carlo, Jarama – this car raced at them all!
After his fourth-place finish in Long Beach, Andretti’s best result driving the 179C chassis 02 came at the third round in Argentina, when he crossed the line in eighth position after a storming drive from 17th on the grid.
Giacomelli, on the other hand, found his groove with the Tipo 179C at the end of the year, as he’d done the previous year with the ‘skirted’ 179 (Giacomelli’s aforementioned pole position at Watkins Glen in 1980 was what prompted Andretti to choose Alfa Romeo from the number of seats he had open to him for 1981 season).
At the penultimate round at Montreal, Giacomelli drove chassis 02 from 15th on the grid to fourth, one place ahead of the newly crowned World Champion Nelson Piquet. Three weeks later, at the inaugural Caesars Palace Grand Prix in Las Vegas, the Italian went one better, perfectly judging his tyre choice and driving impeccably to a deserved podium finish.
As was standard practice for an Italian man in the 1970s, Giacomelli boasted a thick head of long black hair. Reportedly, just before the Canadian Grand Prix, Alfa’s designer Gérard Ducarouge vowed to chop Giacomelli’s locks off if he didn’t score a point in the final two races. The threat clearly paid off, which does make us wonder where Giacomelli’s true priorities were lying.
Following the 1981 Formula 1 season, this Alfa Romeo 179C was converted by Autodelta to the enhanced 1982 specification, with an improved front wing arrangement, a longer and more stable wheelbase, and the snorkel ‘ears’ feeding more air to the engine. On 7 July 1983 Chassis 02 was sold to Giovanni Litrico of Turin, who kept the car for 19 years.
Hubertus Bahlsen from Zurich was chassis 02’s next custodian. He had FIA Historic Technical Papers issued for the car in 2003 and once again in 2007. The current owner acquired this Alfa Romeo 179C in October of 2015 from Bahlsen’s mechanic Üli Kohler.
In the summer of 2020, the current owner commissioned a complete engine rebuild, and thorough inspection of the chassis, suspension, gearbox, differential and brakes by Steinke Sportwagenservice Racing Division in Germany. Since its rebuild, the Alfa’s V12 has had just one hour of running.
From the charismatic drivers and, let’s face it, the questionable fashion trends to the innovatively designed and tremendously quick cars, the early 1980s was one of Formula 1’s more exciting eras. We had a blast reading old issues of Grand Prix International, Autosport, and Autocourse while researching this special Alfa Romeo single-seater.
Here is a podium-finishing Formula 1 car dressed in one of the sport’s most iconic liveries, built by one of motorsport’s greatest marques, and driven by the great Mario Andretti at the very end of his glittering career. Today, this V12-powered Alfa is waiting to drown out the sound and steal the thunder of the predominantly DFV-powered competition in the Masters Historic Formula 1 series.
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