A life promoting and enhancing the historical, cultural, and sports heritage of Alfa Romeo.
“There is an understanding and a joint effort to create a reference point for admirers and enthusiasts of historical motor sports, for the safeguard of the country’s motor sports cultural heritage.” This has been the most commonly repeated phrase during the meeting with Angelo Sticchi Damiani, Automobile Club of Italy and of ACI Storico, for the drafting of the agreement between the two associations. The agreement represents the most recent achievement by the Riar. Let’s begin from here, tell us the story.
“The Automobile Club of Italy was practically born alongside the automobile. It was founded in 1905 and represents the history of motor sports in Italy, the original ones, the ones of the early days. The ones of Alfa Romeo’s beginnings and its countless successes in racing thanks to a small group of exceptional drivers such as Campari, Nuvolari, Varzi, Fangio, whom contributed to making this brand legendary.”.
The Riar began in 1962, in Rome. It was founded by famous people driven exclusively by simple and healthy passion, far from any “commercialism” that today weighs a little too heavily on the entire industry. And Alfa Romeo, that followed genuine and enthusiastic goals, fundamental to best promote its brand everywhere, offered its support, first in Portello and then Arese also to help lead its journey.
Lately, the ACI President Sticchi Damiani, thanks to his passion for culture, has created the Club ACI Storico (historical) and has expanded its content, professionalism and competence by promoting an agreement with the Riar, a historical and prestigious association that in 1968 was even among the founding members of the ASI, whose image today is a bit blurred. This was a further commitment of the Riar to be closer to the institutions, and to work with them in order to offer properly targeted and always better services to its members.
The promotion and enhancement of the historical, cultural and sports heritage of Alfa Romeo has been its mission, and in a certain sense, even its obsession. Is this perception correct?
“Alfa Romeo captured my heart since I was a child, when I discovered in the countryside where my grandparents lived in Sicily, an old Alfa Romeo car abandoned in a stable and hidden there to keep it safe from the retreating German soldiers at the end of WWII. It was behind a feeder, without tires, covered by wood and hay, transformed into a nice chicken coop, but it had that fascinating logo on the radiator that captured my imagination and heart!
Over time I met many incredible people, of great charm and culture, that bound me even more to the world of historical cars and to the Alfa Romeo brand in particular. Baron Giorgio Franchetti who taught me how to understand and love even Futurism and its representatives; Count Lurani in Milan, with his many tales and anecdotes; the great Gigi Bonfanti and Maurizio Tabucchi, true Alfa Romeo experts; the many drivers, the many Alfa Romeo men, the various Chairmen… and passion became an obsession!”.
Who are the stars of the Riar?
“Our members, of course, it could be no one else but them. It is their enthusiasm that spurs us to do better to keep this beautiful and healthy passion alive. And each one of them has his story to tell, his way of experiencing it and his way of being, and they all share the same passion and strong friendship. Excellent feelings to be shared in these rather trying times. The members have always been my pride during my long-time involvement with the Riar.”.
In the many years you have spent as a managing member of the Riar you have met all sorts of characters. Your commemoration of Maurizio Tabucchi, journalist, historian and Chairman of Quadrifoglio, was very touching. You wrote: “Writing about Maurizio Tabucchi for me means remembering almost 50 years of my life, the years of smiles, the years of shared passion, of friendship. The friendship that makes one forget about the many difficulties of daily life and carries you, like a dream, along unusual and unknown roads driving old cars that in the past only made people laugh and look at you as if you were silly”. It sounds like the description of passion…
“I mentioned Bonfanti and Tabucchi when answering your previous question. They have been my friends in life, best friends with whom I shared not only my passion but also my pain, and I had quite a bit of it to share! They brought to the Riar skills and a high level of professionalism, always for free with great commitment and reliability to the point that now they are recognised in every corner of the world, fundamental and precious teachings that today distinguish our Technical Committee and our independence. These people are no longer on this Earth, taken by the great commitment and passion that marked their life. If only they had taken care of themselves a little more…
At Riar, also thanks to them, there were no commercial exploitation and speculation. On the contrary, we still are the mine, rich with resources, on which many try to put their hands on. All of us, differently from other associations, work for free and often with more commitment than when working professionally, at least it was like this for me even if when I worked I was always well compensated!”
1925. Alfa – Anonima Lombarda Fabbrica Automobili – a young Milanese carmaker born from the bankrupt French Darracq, was gaining greater and greater recognition thanks to extraordinary victories in the world of racing, I read in one of your articles. How did things evolve, from the heroic days of the Alfa Romeo that had won in Sicily at the Targa Florio the year prior and the first World Car Racing Championship, to the Alfa Romeo of today?
“This is a big question, and to answer we would need… 100 years! I talked about this fascinating story in the various books I wrote these past years.
Alfa Romeo, even if born from a failure, was born well. Its founders were people with a vision. Great technicians, under a symbol that was noble and glorious and that would become famous also on other battle fields: the racetracks. Henry Ford waved his hat every time the Alfa Romeo would pass-by, celebrities and important figures fought each other for them, and Enzo Ferrari, who, at the dawn of his careers, was hired by Alfa Romeo as a clerk, stated that Alfa Romeo mechanics were the absolute best! A company that always faced challenges of all sorts since its inception: economic, political, social, military, and yet that was always able to rise above them all and, indeed, survive and thrive, often times through incredible financial acrobatics and sheer willpower. It has been two years since its ancient symbol reappeared on the major racetracks of the world, even on Ferrari cars in Formula 1. Nothing new, essentially, a return to the past, but while thinking about the future.”
Let’s talk about cars. The Riar under your leadership handled everything, from the P2 to Alfasud. Please explain the strategy.
“At the beginning we were just four friends at a bar. And what we did was mostly meet up with our old cars and just drive around, a little bit everywhere. We just had to call up each other by phone, and we were ready to go. Then our group expanded and the interest in vintage cars grew, a special world where Alfa Romeo and Bugatti were the top of the line. Many people don’t know this, but Riar, with the traditional and practical support of Alfa Romeo, invented the first historical Mille Miglia race in 1968 and then the re-enactment of the Milano – San Remo race in 1969 and again the historical Targa Florio in 1973 … In other words, we had everything in place to rekindle enthusiasm and great passion! And our members were growing, new cars would be registered in the historical sector, among which the Alfasud model. I had light grey one, with a Roma P2 licence plate….. as you can see, I answered you question about P2 and Alfasud. It was an everyday car, modest and beautiful, and it never had any issue even when tampered with by Angelini who prepared it. I sold it because I was ashamed (everyone would tease me about it, not just my family but also Alfa Romeo and even the then Chairman of IRI, Professor Prodi, who was the owner of Alfa – Finmeccanica), and now I regret that decision so much! Even Maurizio Tabucchi told me that I would have regretted it. He was right. Now we have created a club within the club: “Instant Classic Alfa Romeo Register” where we wish to group together all the most recent Alfa Romeo cars, including the ones still being manufactured. That old logo on the hood make them different from other similar cars, whether Asian or otherwise. In fact, it holds so much history it makes them precious. While you drive them, you must know that you are driving history.
Regarding strategies, at the Riar we never had many – perhaps it was a mistake – but we were always driven exclusively by passion and so we always thought only about the interests of our members and to guarantee them the services and benefits to further fuel their passion and enthusiasm. The Riar promoted the famous article 60, which recognises by law the brand Registries and gives it authority in the certifications and tax credits for those who are eligible for them. Not to mention the many liaisons established with the Ministries in charge of defining the new Roadway Code to offer support, and so on and so forth.