A Story Of Amateur Alfa Romeo Racing Four Decades In The Making
Photography by Alvaro Pinzón
In 1974, Mauricio was a younger man than he is now. More accurately, he was just a kid in the mid-‘70s, and his primary mode of transportation involved a simple bicycle and the streets in the immediate vicinity of his home. Out on his bike one day, Mauricio spotted a then-modern Alfa Romeo crossing the street a few blocks away. The car was a GT 1300 Junior, and Mauricio was in awe. He followed it home that day, discovering to his happy surprise that the car belonged to a man that lived close enough to be considered a neighbor. That Alfa cemented in Mauricio a passion for the brand, and for sports cars in general, that would stay with him ever since. If the fact that such a car lived so close by was a surprise, he would be in for a much bigger one involving the very same car 40 years later.
I had a brief chat with Mauricio to hear the story in his own words. He now campaigns the Alfa in vintage racing series like the San Diego, and enjoys the part of the season held at the Autodromo de Tocancipa especially so. After watching his participation in the series and on this track in particular this year, I was finally able to catch up to him and talk about how it all came to be.
Alvaro Pinzón: Tell me, Mauricio, how did you get the opportunity to own the exact car that had caught your attention four decades earlier? I know it lived nearby, but a gap of forty years is enough time to lose track of something.
Mauricio: Well it was a bit unexpected really. It wasn’t as if I was looking to buy that particular car since the very first time I saw it, but about six years ago I was indeed searching for a GT Junior. After all, it was one of my favorites as a kid, and I also have a good friend who is adept at restoring them, so it felt like the right car to buy. Anyway, at some point during this hunt for the right one I came across a GTJ more or less abandoned in a barn. When I went to see the car in person, you can imagine my shock upon discovering that this was the car my neighbor had owned so many years ago. He lived just a few blocks from my childhood home in Bogotá, but that was decades ago. Seeing it again brought those memories back though, and I bought the car almost immediately.
AP: Reunited again, this time with a new name on the title. It seems like you were destined to own this car, but what happened after you found it again?
M: As the car was a bit abandoned, and in a condition to match, I decided to resto-mod it for racing and rallying purposes; I wanted to run it in the San Diego racing series in particular. It is quite an old series, dating back to I believe the 1950s, when racing really began in Colombia. Today it is not the same as it was in the heyday, but it celebrates vintage racing and it generates a solid field of cars that is typically made up of things like BMW 2002s and E21 3-Series, Nissan 240Zs, early 911s, and so on.
So with the plan being to enter this car in the San Diego series, we set off on modifying it. Early in the brainstorming process we (my friend mentioned earlier) elected to swap out the stock 1300cc engine for a more powerful mill, and then tune the new motor for the elevation levels of the savanna of Tocancipa, where the 2,400-meter rise above the sea level means a lot less oxygen. So with this plan, my friend sourced a 2000 twin-cam motor, and with his help and a few experts from the United States weighing in, we did a complete rebuild of it which resulted in forged pistons and a ridiculous compression ratio of 15:1 with race fuel. We also added some bits and pieces like a more aggressive camshaft profile, twin Weber 45 carbs, a wider exhaust manifold, and electronic ignition. The end result is a really light car that makes more than 200 horsepower.
AP: That’s a significant number for such a small car, I can tell there’s been a lot more done to it than the powertrain modifications though—what else did you do to get it ready for racing?
M: I kept the original five-speed gearbox, but I installed a new shifter mechanism better suited to racing conditions. We also did a fair amount of work to the chassis and suspension setup too. Before we began bolting on the new pieces though we stripped the shell and began the process of finding and eliminated all the rust that the car had accumulated over time. We reinforced the chassis in key places, added a roll cage, set the whole thing down to the ground with some new adjustable coil-over suspension and gave the exterior a fresh coat of paint. Now I simply enjoy driving and racing it, but there are always little tweaks to be made!
With a very limited number of Alfas running in the San Diego series, it’s been great fun to watch Mauricio and his blue GTJ competing on such a consistent basis for the past three years. With forty years of separation now ended, the future looks long and promising.