Our weekly Throwback Thursday feature through the FCA Heritage archives takes us back to not that long ago, when Britpop ruled the airwaves, Friends hit the small screen and Alfa Romeo introduced the 156, a car I had in the Selespeed model (and miss very much!)
The 156 was engineered to deliver all the trademark Alfa Romeo driving satisfaction. The Superturismo renewed Alfa Romeo’s racing tradition.
Alfa Romeo had been part of the Fiat galaxy for a decade when the 156 was introduced at the 1997 Frankfurt Motor Show. Its goal was to make the fans of the brand dream again. The engineers set out to achieve the best handling in the category, starting from the suspension. The 156 had front-wheel drive, like the other Fiat Group cars, but with a more sophisticated trim.
It was kitted out with a racing car quadrilateral suspension layout on the front and the evolution of the Lancia Delta Integrale’s McPherson on the rear. The car was well suited for track racing and that was how the Group N versions modified from standard production for private drivers and the official 156 2.0 T.S. Superturismo came to be.
In compliance with the regulations of the day, the exterior appearance of the car was kept unchanged, while the two-litre Twin Spark engine was positioned in a lower position shifted back towards the cockpit to the benefit of weight distribution. The dry-sump engine was almost fully redesigned and delivered 310 hp of peak power. It had a six-speed sequential dog ring gearbox and self-locking differential.
Results were not long in coming and the Alfa Romeo 156 Superturismo dominated the championship in Italy and Europe winning both the Drivers’ and Marques’ titles.
The car was driven by Nicola Larini and Fabrizio Giovanardi in the 1998 Italian Superturismo Championship under the banner of the Nordauto Engineering team set up in the 1990s to outsource the racing activities of the Fiat Group.
Giovanardi won the 1998 Drivers’ title, while Larini’s third place contributed to Alfa Romeo conquering the Marques’ Championship. Giovanardi repeated his exploit the following year. Larini ranked fourth and Alfa Romeo won the Italian Marques’ Championship once again.
On continental level, Giovanardi also triumphed in the European Super Touring Cup in 1998. The Super Touring class was revamped in 2000 within the European Touring Car Championship (ETCC) and Giovanardi led once again. The car evolved into the 156 GTA Super 2000 that would dominate the European racing scene with Giovanardi and Tarquini until 2003.