Alfa Romeo is weighing up competing in the World Endurance Championship (WEC), which would see the marque return to top-level sports car racing for the first time since 1977.
If the switch from Formula One to the WEC comes off, it would also see an Alfa competing at the prestigious 24 Hours of Le Mans, ending an absence of 52 years at the fabled French circuit.
The potential motor sport move could come about because Alfa’s six-year title sponsorship deal with the Sauber F1 team has ended.
Sauber itself is gearing up to become the official Audi F1 works team by 2026, and will use Ferrari engines through to 2025 in preparation for the German manufacturer’s arrival in F1 the following year.
Haas talks lead to nothing
Speaking to Motorsport.com, Alfa’s CEO Jean-Philippe Imparato said that negotiations to take over as Haas’s title sponsor in F1 had been held, but did not progress much beyond an initial sounding-out stage.
He added: “We weren’t interested in aiming to do a copy/ paste operation in the style of the one done with Sauber.
“It would have led us to become one of those who puts stickers on bodywork. It would no longer have been new, and we wouldn’t have been part of a story.”
That, in turn, led the Alfa chief to look at other forms of motor sport, as the company has a long and storied history competing in some of the most famous races in the world, dating right back to its inception in 1910.
Other codes were considered besides the WEC, but Imparato explained: “We started looking at something else, quickly reaching a conclusion.
“Alfa Romeo has nothing to do with the world of rallying, the Stellantis group already has two brands [DS and Maserati] involved in Formula E, and so the focus has shifted to the WEC, a world in which Alfa Romeo has lived in the past wonderful experiences.”
Potential tie-up with Peugeot
At this stage, Imparato was keen to impress that nothing has been confirmed at all, as it will require a full cost-benefit analysis before Alfa can commit to the 2025 WEC, at the earliest.
Wary of getting burnt by spiralling expenditure and citing the “uncontrolled cost escalation” in LMP1 in 2015 for such caution, Imparato hinted one obvious way of getting Alfa back into the WEC would be to buddy-up with fellow Stellantis outfit Peugeot — where he served as CEO from 2017 to 2021.
The French firm has campaigned the 9X8 in the Hypercar class with reasonable success since it made its competitive debut midway through the 2022 WEC season at Monza.
Imparato said of the potential Alfa tie-up with his former company: “Obviously, it’s one of the scenarios we evaluated.
“There are already houses within the Stellantis group whose sports programmes are in close contact, for example DS and Maserati in Formula E.
“When we return to the track, we will do so with the support of Stellantis’ motor sport projects and as Peugeot is already present in WEC, obviously co-operation is more than possible.”
Enviable F1 and sports car history
If Alfa does return to the WEC, it will see the company back at Le Mans — one of a number of events on the WEC calendar — for the first time since 1972, when a Tipo 33 TT3 competed at La Sarthe under the auspices of Alfa’s contemporary motor sport arm, Autodelta.
Although it was never seen at Le Mans again after that, Autodelta continued to operate works Alfas in the World Sportscar Championship (WSC) up until 1977, where it won the Group 6 two-seater category with an utterly dominant performance — its 33SC12s won all eight of the races that season on the way to the title.
Since then, Alfa has mainly focused its competition motor sport on F1, having returned to the category as a constructor for a second stint from 1979 to 1985, albeit one which wasn’t marked with a huge amount of success. It then started working with Sauber in 2018.
Its history in earlier F1 campaigns is enviable, though, as it won the inaugural Automobile World Championship in 1925 — a precursor of F1, with grands prix held at various global venues — while its cars won the first two seasons of F1 “proper”, in 1950 and 1951.
Giuseppe Farina, driving the Alfa 158 — one of the most successful competition cars of all time, with a win ratio of 47 races from 54 grands prix entered — won the 1950 drivers’ championship, pipping his team-mate Juan Manuel Fangio to the crown.
But the legendary Argentine got his revenge the next year, winning the first of his five world drivers’ titles in 1951, in the Alfa 159.
Eyeing up a fifth Le Mans win
In other forms of motor sport, Alfa Romeo has also won the Mille Miglia 11 times and the Targa Florio on 10 separate occasions, two famous Italian endurance races.
Yet it is its possible return to Le Mans which raises the most intrigue. If the Italian firm makes the grid in 2025, it will mark a 53-year gap since the TT3 competed back in 1972.
However, Alfa’s true glory years at the French endurance classic were between 1931 and 1934, when the Italian company triumphed outright four times in a row with variations on the gorgeous 8C 2300.
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