A very special race car will come up for sale at Pebble Beach Auction this August: the 1974 Alfa Romeo Tipo 33 TT 12. What makes this car so special?
Following the end of the 1974 season, many of the top manufacturers withdrew from the world of motorsport, citing both the downturn in world economics, and the fact that the new season offered little in the way of attractive racing. The FIA dropped the Le Mans 24 Hour race from the World Championship when the ACO decided to enforce an economy regulation on all competitors for 1975.
Alfa Romeo was not the big-name player in the FIA World Championship of Makes in the 1970s that Porsche, Ferrari or Matra were. Of course, Alfa’s motorsport heritage is unquestioned, but as with so many manufacturers, they would appear and fade from the scene quite regularly as finances and suitable models became available and unavailable.
However, top German driver turned team owner, Willi Kauhsen, approached Alfa and offered to run a team of 33s in 1975. Alfa Romeo motorsport manager, Carlo Chiti, jumped at the opportunity as it meant that he and his Autodelta crew would have the opportunity to show the potential that he knew the Alfas had. The team was formed as W.K.R.T. (Willibert Kauhsen Racing Team). A formidable squad of drivers was drafted in which included Henri Pescarolo, Derek Bell and Arturo Merzario, but in truth a long list of other top drivers would also take a turn behind the wheel of the Alfas during the season. This list of drivers read like a who-is-who of motor racing, and included: Jacques Laffite, Jacky Ickx, Vittorio Brambilla, Jody Scheckter, Jochen Mass and Mario Andretti.
The 2-litre V8 Alfa Romeo T33 introduced in 1967 was the model on which this superb family of race cars was based. Over the next few years the T33 evolved through several iterations until the 33 TT 12 broke cover in late 1974, ready for the ’75 season. The spaceframe construction, fabricated from aluminium tubing, was by this time a totally different design from the earlier model.
The body was fibreglass, and had been smoothed over by 1974, and featured a prominent air scoop over the engine. In fact, the lines of the Alfa were not dissimilar to those of the all-conquering Porsche 917/30 just a few years earlier, with substantial rear wing supports that started just behind the cockpit. These extended rearward to form sturdy vertical uprights, supporting a full-width, adjustable rear wing. A periscope-like exterior rear view mirror rose up on a tall stalk from just ahead of, and to the left, of the driver as this was a right-hand-drive car.
The engine was a flat 12-cylinder 2993cc unit, which it was thought, borrowed quite heavily from Ferrari’s flat 12, and developed 500bhp at 11,000rpm. It featured dry sump lubrication, and had 5-speed gearbox. Suspension consisted of a front and rear independent set up with coil springs and Koni dampers, and it had disc brakes all round.
The first round of the 1975 season in Europe saw the Alfas doing battle at Mugello in Italy. The Merzario/Ickx pairing took off into the distance but were shadowed by the Alpine, whereas the second Alfa was off the pace with poor handling. Merzario and Ickx had to eventually settle for second place due to brake trouble. At the second race, the Dijon 800 km event, Merzario and Laffite were rewarded with a win, while the Pescarolo/Bell car finished in fourth. The same winning pair brought home the win at the next race, the Monza 1000 km, no doubt much to the jubilation of the crowd.
At the Spa 1000 km race in May, it was the turn of Pescarolo/Bell to take the chequered flag in chassis AR115-12-010 (the car featured in this article). Bell put the car on pole and Ickx claimed the fastest race lap in the sister car. At the Enna 1000 km, it was Merzario and Mass who won the day while it was that man again, Merzario, this time with Laffite, who took top honours. The Alfas did not run at Le Mans as it was not on the Championship calendar that year, but at the Nürburgring 1000 km at the end of June, Pescarolo and Bell (in chassis 010) won with the sister car of Merzario/Brambilla in second place. Over in America at the Watkins Glen 6 Hour, Pescarolo and Bell (in chassis 010) were once again successful, and they were once again followed home by Merzario and Andretti (this time).
Alfa Romeo could not have wished for a better season in which they took all the credit and publicity, while Kauhsen ran the operation and provided the sponsorship. The Alfas had won seven of the eight rounds, and in the only round they didn’t win, they finished second. In addition, in several of those seven wins, they also took second spot, so they were convincing winners of the World Manufacturers Championship and the Drivers’ crown.
This 1974 Alfa Romeo Tipo 33 TT 12, an Autodelta factory team car, is a significant competition car with international racing history, long-term ownership and impeccable provenance. Driven by Derek Bell and Henri Pescarolo to overall wins in 1975 at Spa, Zeltweg, Pergusa and Watkins Glen, as well as earning points with 2nd and 4th place finishes at Mugello and Dijon respectively, this race car contributed to Alfa Romeo capturing the FIA World Championship of Makes in 1975. This Tipo 33 TT 12, chassis AR115-12-010, has been with the same owner since 1980 when he purchased it directly from Autodelta.
There can be few prototypes on the market today that come with such a pedigree, and with the growing number of Historic races for which this car is eligible, it would make a significant addition to any important collection. The car is to be auctioned at the Gooding & Company Pebble Beach sale on 18/19 August 2017. The car is expected to fetch in excess of $2-million.
For further details contact: David Brynan, T: +1 310 899 5173
Written by: Glen Smale
Images by: Gooding & Company/Mike Maez