Autodelta, the internal racing department of Alfa Romeo S.p.A. and directed by engineer Carlo Chiti, was gradually dismantled, with a political and party logic.
To comprehend what has just been said, just remember that Alfa Romeo, until 1986, was a company wholely-owned by the Italian state and was headed by IRI, the Institute for Industrial Reconstruction.
In November 1986, the head of the IRI, Romano Prodi, sold Alfa Romeo S.p.A. to FIAT S.p.A. of Torino.
“Death by a Thousand Cuts”
It was a period of 'cuts' with the Italian government intended to slowly recover financial capital it had invested in the company since the nationalization of Alfa Romeo in 1933 by initiating a series of privatizations and then selling everything that was palatable off to new companies.
Alfa Romeo was a formulation of great individual companies that each had an important economic importance in which both the Ford Motor Company and FIAT were interested.
So the top management of IRI decided to put Alfa Romeo S.p.A. up for auction.
It was obvious that the sale an industrial entity… so great a size would take time and… to make the factory acquisition more attractive, the company had to be lightened of the running costs of the racing department.
These plans provided for Alfa Romeo to maintain an outwardly strong and solid image in order to be attractive, therefore, the top management of IRI decided to deprive the factory of the racing department, ie 'Autodelta'.
All this, however, had to happen slowly without arousing suspicion and had to happen with a long and slow agony.
Autodelta had become the Alfa Romeo racing department in 1963, when the Casa del 'Biscione' was captained by Giuseppe Luragi.
In the 14 years of his presidency, Luraghi transformed Alfa Romeo into an industrial giant and made a great comeback in the world of motor racing thanks to the acquisition of Autodelta.
During this period, Alfa Romeo expanded in Italy and abroad, producing high-performance cars and opened the new large and productive plant in Pomigliano d’Arco (Naples) which to this very day produces modern day Alfa automobiles.
In 1973, the Casa del Portello was experiencing yet another period of economic crisis, and Luraghi's plan for a better economic condition was rejected. The Luraghi management was brutally questioned in a political war of words by IRI president Giuseppe Petrilli, an exponent of the Christian Democracy party, who wanted to build a third Alfa Romeo plant in Irpinia, the electoral territory of the then Minister of Industry Ciriaco De Mita.
The war between Petrilli and Luraghi led to Mr. Luraghi’s resignation from the company.
During the Luraghi presidency, Autodelta had amply demonstrated its technical-sporting skills up to the victory of the World Sports Prototypes in 1975 and 1977 with the fabulous 33TT12.
And then, with the agreement to supply flat twelve cylinder engines to Brabham and to produce an all Italian F1 car, so much so that the newspapers in the sector were hoping for the return of a challenge between Alfa Romeo and Ferrari. A challenge that had already taken place in the Marche World Cup.
On May 30, 1978, together with Corrado Innocenti (Managing Director), Ettore Massacesi became the President of Alfa Romeo and announced that he would bring Alfa Romeo to a balanced budget in four years.
It did not turn out like that.
The Massacesi-Innocenti management team must be remembered as a management made with the continuous presentation of financial-economic plans that were never maintained.
A cumbersome management apparatus and choices made using some of those ‘thousand cuts’ that led to an increasingly uncertain future and increasingly large losses.
And that brought to the difficult labor union situation in the Northern plants where the surplus of 3,500 employees was highlighted.
From 1982 to 1989, IRI president was Romano Prodi, who was the architect of a series of schizophrenic privatizations, which never led to the estimated economic gains promised and often resulted in damage to the Italian State.
With Prodi's arrival at IRI, and Massacesi's fear of being eliminated, it led to the end of Autodelta and, shortly afterward, the sale of Alfa Romeo to Fiat.
“But what happened inside Autodelta?”
As mentioned, Massacesi management plan gave way to a series of indiscriminate cuts, which also spilled over into the competitive market activity.
One of the events that influenced the competitiveness of Alfa Romeo in F1 was the war between FISA and FOCA, which all the British teams adhered to. FISA called for the abolition of the 'side skirts' for safety reasons, and FOCA wanted a ban on the turbocharged engine, which was considered too expensive.
The abolition of the 'side skirts' was also one of the reasons for the Typo 179's loss of competitiveness, which was engineered into the withdrawal of the Goodyear Tire and Rubber Company from F1 racing at the end of 1980.
The following year it was a real bad season for Alfa Romeo and, on the starting grid, Bruno Giacomelli and Mario Andretti could hardly make it past the middle of the grid.
At Silverstone on the occasion of the British Grand Prix, Ing. Gerarde Ducarouge was fired from Ligier and, certain of his technical qualities, Ing. Chiti convinced the Alfa top management to immediately hire him.
The 'Duca' joined Autodelta as a consultant starting from the Austrian Grand Prix in mid-August and… with his help.. the Typo 179 became more competitive until it took 3rd place, with Giacomelli, at the Las Vegas Grand Prix.
Ducarouge cunningly thought of ways to replace Ing. Chiti and obtain the operational control over all of the Autodelta activities.
For Alfa Romeo top management it was a golden opportunity to downsize Ing. Chiti and Autodelta in view of the sale of the factory.
In the early days of 1982, Chiti was nomined the Autodelta's President, Mario Felice General Manager, who was entrusted with the economic management, and Ducarouge assumed the role of Technical Director and was entrusted with operational management.
Ing. Carlo Chiti was thus cornered and could not interfere with Ducarouge's choices.
With the Typo 182, Autodelta had an interesting season, but the climate at Autodelta began to degenerate rapidly and Massacesi looked to F1 with increasing apprehension.
The top management of IRI pressed for results and, in the meantime, did not intend to make any further economic contribution available. All this while Alfa Romeo was also facing another negative economic period.
Massacesi decided to return to the marketing ploy of suppling engines only, a choice that would have been less traumatic than a withdrawal from competitions starting in 1983.
Massacesi’s mandate was about to end and… after Prodi was appointed to the top of IRI, Massacesi aimed for the top of Finmeccanica, an Italian multi-national specializing in aerospace, defense and security and did not intend to bear the expenses of Autodelta until 1982 alone, he had spent 15 billion Lire, 10% of Alfa Romeo's total losses.
So Massacesi was ready to take the advice of anyone who could put an end to his troubles.
Punctually, the genius of the moment showed up: Nicolò di San Germano, a young and 'brilliant' manager in search of glory from the Philips Morris company, destined by the Lausanne headquarters to follow the sponsorship of Alfa Romeo.
San Germano proposed to the management of the Milanese manufacturer to hand over the Formula 1 team and to entrust the management to the Euroracing team, Gianpaolo Pavanello's stable that has distinguished itself in Formula 3 by winning Italian and European championships.
According to this obtuse Marlboro man, such a choice would have guaranteed the reduction of management costs and the increase in the revenue from sponsorships since the sporting activity of the House would no longer be managed by a 'state company', but by a agile private organization.
That said, Massacesi decided to entrust Euroracing with the management of the Formula 1 team starting from the 1983 season.
All Autodelta physical assets and materials were given on loan, i.e. free of charge to Euroracing and the new team could have counted on the supply of 8-cylinder turbo engines and on Autodelta's technical assistance.
In the same period, Massacesi decided to transfer engine construction to Alfa Romeo, eliminating Autodelta and getting rid of Ing. Chiti entirely.
In this regard, the old guard engineers Surace and Russo were alerted.
It was the end.
The history of Alfa Romeo F1 and Autodelta ended here and, as a famous Italian song says, 'Everything else is boring'.
A substitute for what Alfa Romeo F1 had intended to be, the Euro racing Marlboro F1 cars continued to compete until the end of 1985, when the Portello cars failed to score even a single point.
Meanwhile, in November 1984, Ing. Chiti met Prodi, President of IRI 'and resigned and, with Paolo Mancini, a Florentine entrepreneur, founded Motori Moderni intended to design and build turbo engine for Minardi.
Thus, Autodelta was closed in 1986 and replaced later by the new Alfa Corse.
In November 1986, Alfa Romeo was bought by Fiat for 1,700 billion lire, although it is said that the government actually collected only 1,000 billion, shortly after Fiat also bought the Lancia brand ... but that's another story.
-- Roberto Motta--
Copyright: Robert Little
September 12, 2022
"The Death of Autodelta"
by Vladimir Pajevic
Autodelta Golden Years Senior Historian
The inglorious end of Autodelta was the chronicle of an announced death.
After a series of seasons with no tangible results, it was evident that the team has embarked on a descent with no possibility of ascent.
The slow agony had begun with the change of top decision-makers of Alfa Romeo… when Giuseppe Luraghi, the architect and skilled strategist of the rebirth of the Biscione house, defeated by the pettiness of a short-sighted politics, slammed the door angrily, leaving forever beloved factory to which he has dedicated the best years of his professional life.
In those years the scenario of the Italian economy had by this point in time completely changed. The oil crisis of the 1970’s imposed a logic in the industrial world that could be defined in no uncertain terms as minimalist… where large and medium-sized state-owned enterprises were oriented towards the pursuit of savings, cuts, and privatizations ...
In this light, Alfa Romeo,S.p.A. a company of the Italian state belonging to its financial department IRI, was in the crosshairs of the critics of waste and it was better if it was lightened by the exorbitant costs of the racing world.
Ettore Massacesi, who (after a brief parenthesis of the management of Gaetano Cortesi, who was inclined to preserve reduced sporting activity), as a proven technocrat without historical vision of the image of the factory in competitive activity, began the progressive dismantling of the sports sector located at the epicenter of Autodelta in Settimo Milanese .
The small factory that produced the racing cars, created, and directed by engineer Chiti, was destined to disappear, also by virtue of the lack of human sympathy between the two main protagonists, Chiti and Massacesi.
However, the specific weight of the Alfa brand in the world of racing was such that euthanasia had to be almost imperceptible.
And in fact, everything happened mimicking apparent normality, generational change and a shift of interest to other competitive sectors. The key figure was however Ing. Carlo Chiti, a Tuscan aeronautical engineer born in 1924… a multifaceted man and in many ways brilliant.
With a vast, eloquent, polemical erudition, sometimes even gruff yet cordial, centralizing, incurable dog lover, "Chitone" (so called due to his imposing size) was the father master of Autodelta, a personal fiefdom, where he exercised almost absolute power, respected by collaborators, and adored by his technicians and workers.
Relationship of mutual esteem and sympathy between Luraghi who wanted Chiti at all costs to lead the racing department, and the Pistoian volcanic Chiti, inventor of miracles, was drastically changed into an open antipathy that Tuscan could not disguise towards new CEO, Massacesi, so much so that he left the relationship between the two at an almost non-existent level.
Chiti, like Luraghi, had a relationship with Alfa Romeo which with alternating sequences lasted his entire life.
He was hired in the early 1950’s and immediately assigned to Alfa Corse. Then, in 1957 he moved to Ferrari, where he remained until 1961, creating the winning cars of the F1 championships for Ferrari, and was also remembered as the designer who convinced Enzo Ferrari to adopt the rear position of the engine on racing cars.
The return to Alfa took place in 1966 after a traumatic divorce with Ferrari and the passage to the ATS company, which he founded with Giotto Bizzarrini, the other Tuscan, fellow engineer, and like him, the one who moved away from Ferrari.
Autodelta was born as an external structure but had successfully replaced the department previously known as Alfa Corse. In the years to come, the rise of Autodelta was constant and the small factory incorporated as the sports wing of the brand.
Within a decade Autodelta would become the winning symbol in every field of motor sport, until the landing in Formula 1, a dream that Chiti stubbornly pursued with the intention of winning the championship of the highest formula.
In that sector, in addition to a valid project and constancy, the determining factor that decided success was a powerful flow of money, which allowed continuous research and very expensive experimentation.
Luraghi, in love with motor sport and sensitive to the image that Alfa Romeo had conquered in decades of triumphs on tracks all over the world, remained in open controversy with the then Minister of State Holdings Gullotti, who did not share Luraghi's vision of the place of Alfa Romeo in the future.
Despite the now visible clash, Luraghi continued to provide the necessary funds for the development of the racing car program, which was born under the leadership of Chiti at Settimo Milanese. When in January 1974 Luraghi torpedoed by the top management of IRI, was not reconfirmed as president of Alfa Romeo, his ouster marked the defeat, without appeal, of the strategy that aimed to give Alfa Romeo a prominent role in Italian automobile industry scene.
Orphaned of its deus ex machina, which wisely guessed where and how much to invest to keep the flag of the Milanese brand high, Alfa Romeo had become fertile ground used by politicians to get the votes, and Autodelta an almost adrift stable… deprived of assets and financial support essential to maintain the level of efficiency necessary to run.
The crisis that began in 1974 and later punctuated by the inefficient attempts to recover and rescue the brand would have dragged on, for another decade without a solution, to the unfavorable sale of the company to FIAT.
The decline of Autodelta followed the fate of the mother company, but it was concluded in the shorter period.
Chronologically summarized, it was marked by the stages of a sudden abandonment of the circuits and a disengagement of the support activity previously offered by the brand to the associated teams at the level of engine supply and assistance in racing.
A dirty and never-declared war that ended Alfa Romeo and even before that, of Autodelta, began with the departure of Luraghi, replaced for a brief management of the company by Gaetano Cortesi, a technocrat who, however, had a moderate interest in the work of Chiti and Autodelta in the sports field.
It was the arrival, favored by the politics, of Ettore Massacesi, the new the CEO chosen by IRI… a man from who with cars and especially sports motoring had no points in common with Autodelta.
The clear indication of the path undertaken by Massacesi was the abandonment of any activity that was not essential for the finances of the factory in difficulty. But as the near future foresaw the factory's commitment as a manufacturer of F1 cars, and despite all the human sympathies of Carlo Chiti being on Luraghi's side, Chiti’s commitment to engine design for F1, his passion for racing and a life invested in Autodelta, suggested continuing in the command post of the Settimo Milanese factory.
Between Massacesi and his faithful squire Corrado Innocenti who had been made CEO, and Ing.Carlo Chiti…the break was immediate and incurable, and was in response from the command rooms in Arese, the intrigues and conspiracies of the palace departed with the sole purpose of facilitating Carlo Chiti's exit from the scene…also getting rid of Autodelta and the exorbitant expense that competition entailed.
The entry of the talented French technician Gerard Ducarouge to Autodelta was the reason for the volcanic Chiti to enter into frequent clashes with the French engineer who was whispered in his ear that his presence in Autodelta could reach high levels.
Chiti, however, in addition to his lack of sympathy, felt respect for the good French technician. But the real evil spirit in the sad fable of decline was Giampaolo Pavanello, owner of Euroracing, a powerful team that dominated the championship of minor formulas.
Pavanello, a skilled organizer, had achieved significant results in F3 where he made many future champion drivers race and where he enhanced the Alfa Romeo engines. He was favored as a candidate for the leadership of the sports sector of the brand, but above all in the eyes of Massacesi he was seen as a limiter of Chiti's power and influence in the field of racing.
With the same intentions, in Alfa Corse also Marmirolli, Tolentino and eventually Tonti taken from Lancia, who despite their proven skill, had not managed to pull the Alfa sports sector out of the quagmire, was to be a aggregated brake to Chiti.
Minardi, another aspiring partner and successful sports manager, was judged too close to FIAT, and at the time was left out, despite his excellent personal relationship with Chiti, who preferred him to Pavanello.
Alfa Romeo in 1982 formalized its retirement from F1, remaining the sole supplier of engines for the teams that were willing to use the magnificent engines made by Chiti. The contract with Brabham was now long gone and the negotiations with Williams, Ligier, McLaren and a few other companies that in the end punctually renounced defeat by the cumbersome Italian state bureaucracy were also wrecked.
Pavanello, on the other hand, proposed himself as a man of miracles capable of securing money and important sponsors, and he had developed a relationship of trust with Massacesi. Chiti cared little, he just sought the tranquility and the means to finish his projects already at an advanced stage.
With his incredible patience hard to accept by his explosive character, he was confronted by the top management of the factory where Massacesi had already recruited even the "greats" of the past such as Surace and Russo, and even someone from Chiti's team like Ing. Giovanni Marelli for example.
Meanwhile, Autodelta was emptied and transferred from Settimo Milanese up north to Senago, leaving the entire archive unattended at the mercy of the wind and rain in the warehouses now without doors and windows.
All the motoring treasure had gone to Pavanello, despite the high-sounding cash offers from Giancarlo Minardi and Bernie Ecclestone who was ready to shell out billions to have engines and technological secrets created by Chiti.
The agony of Autodelta ended with premature death.
Chiti, now ousted, slammed the door of Alfa Romeo forever, already dreaming of new projects and looking for new roads to continue his future projects.
He created Motori Moderni and continued to design extraordinary engines until a hot day in July of 1994, when… betrayed by his big heart, he left for the celestial paddocks.
What was Autodelta, one of the best stables in the history of motor sport, left to the vultures and under the dull and incapable direction, changing name and workers, disappeared a little before its mother company Alfa Romeo, another part of the great childhood dream.
Alfa Romeo has proudly carried its name for 76 years, winning everything that could be won in the sports car championships under the sun.
Today there is only the glorious name as a trademark embedded in the Stellantis constellation… but that's another story.
-- Vladimir Pajevic--
Copyright: Robert Little
September 12, 2022
Discussion and Commentary:
Readers are invited to contribute information that they know or have "insiders" information that they believe can contribute to new facts to these two articles by our experts Mr. Roberto Motta and Mr. Vladimir Pajevic.
Perhaps you once worked for Alfa Romeo, S.p.A., Autodelta or were 'inside' the Italian political arena?
If you wish to contribute, please email: Bob.Little.firstname.lastname@example.org and we will add your remarks in the space below. Thank you.
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