Following on from yesterday’s news that Alfa Romeo is to display the RL Super Sport “Targa Florio” at this years Zoute Grand Prix, it seemed to make sense in this weeks Throwback Thursday piece to revisit the FCA Heritage archives and find out a bit more about this legendary Alfa Romeo.
The legend of the “quadrifoglio verde” is born
On 13 October 1921 in Milan, Alfa Romeo presented the new RL to the public. The car was launched on the market the following year in two versions: the Normale and the Sport.
The Alfa Romeo RL family debuted in 1921 and consistently managed to combine brilliant driving performance with a competitive spirit. The three-litre, inline-sixengine in this model was intended to comply with a motor racing regulation that was later abrogated. Introduced in 1922, the RL Sport was produced alongside the RL Normale.
The six-cylinder 2916 cm3 engine in the Normale delivered 56 hp, while the Sport, with its distinctive dihedral-shaped radiator, had a slightly larger displacement of 2994 cm3 due to the slightly larger bore (increased from 75 mm to 76 mm, with the stroke unchanged at 110 mm) and compression ratio (5.5:1 instead of 5.2:1), boosting power output to 71 hp. Thanks to its shortened wheelbase and low weight, the Sport reached a top speed of 130 km/h, compared with 110 km/h for the Normale.
When the 6th and 7th series were introduced in 1925, the Sport was replaced by the Super Sport, with an engine that delivered 83 hp. The three-litre inline-six power unit consisted of a cast iron monobloc and cylinder head, gear-driven side camshaft, two valves per cylinder, two carburettors and an ignition incorporating a high-voltage magnet. The Super Sport also featured brakes with larger drums (420 mm in diameter), a four-speed gearbox plus reverse gear with central lever control and, just like its predecessor, achieved a top speed of 130 km/h.
A total of 2631 Alfa Romeo RLs were produced between 1922 and 1927, including 392 Super Sports, 304 6th series units in 1925 and 88 7th series models between 1926 and 1927.
The stage on which the Alfa Romeo RL achieved its greatest triumphs was the Targa Florio, where it secured a one-two finish in 1923 (in the two-seater spider configuration). Ugo Sivocci piloted the winning car and a third RL finished in fourth place. Sivocci’s car was the first painted with a green cloverleaf on a white background, which would later become the hallmark of Alfa Romeo competition cars and sportier production models. Numerous racing drivers enjoyed success after choosing the RL, from Giulio Masetti and Antonio Ascari to Giuseppe Campari and a young Enzo Ferrari.
The 1923 edition of the Targa Florio served up a barnstorming finale. Alfa Romeo entered five RL models driven by: Antonio Ascari (the father of future Formula 1 World Champion Alberto), Giuseppe Campari, Giulio Masetti, Enzo Ferrari and Ugo Sivocci. On the fourth and final lap of the Madonie circuit, Ascari emerged first from the hills, but around two hundred metres from the finish line his car broke down and stopped on the Cerda station bend. With the help of mechanics, who climbed into the car with naive enthusiasm, Ascari managed to cross the finish line first, but the race commissioners ordered him to retrace his steps and finish the race without the extra passengers. In the meantime Sivocci, who had been in second place until that point, took over the lead and clinched the firstof Alfa Romeo’sten victories in the Targa Florio, as well as the first international triumph for the Milanese car maker.
In the inaugural edition of the Mille Miglia in 1927, Alfa Romeo fielded five RL Super Sports, including two in the official team, driven by Brilli Peri-Pesenti and Marinoni-Ramponi, and three with private crews. All of the RL SS cars performed very well and Gastone Brilli Peri reached Rome in the lead but was forced to retire in Spoleto. As a result, the best finish achieved by the new Alfa Romeo RL Super Sport was seventh place overall for Arturo Mercanti (competing under the pseudonym of “Frate Ignoto” or Unknown Monk) partnered by Carlo Sozzi, who also came third in their class. The other private pairing of Gutermann-Munaron finished ninth out of the 77 crews who started the race in Brescia.