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  Alfa Romeo 33/TT/3
 

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Country of origin:Italy
Produced from:1971 - 1972
Numbers built:12
Predecessor:Alfa Romeo T33/3 Spider
Successor:Alfa Romeo 33/TT/12
Author:Wouter Melissen
Last updated:October 01, 2012
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Click here to download printer friendly versionCarlo Chiti, head of Alfa Romeo's competition department Autodelta, was very much a pragmatist, who certainly was not married to his own designs. Instead he looked closely at the machines fielded by rivals Porsche and Ferrari to make improvements to Alfa Romeo's Tipo 33. This prompted him to start virtually from scratch in 1971 for what was already the fifth evolution of the Italian manufacturer's sports racer in as many years. In preparation for the following year, the first of these new 33/TT/3s was tentatively used from halfway through the 1971 season.

The TT in the type name was short for 'Telaio Tubolare' or tubular chassis and referred to the car's all-new steel spaceframe chassis. This replaced the sheet-aluminium monocoque of the previous evolution of 33 but which bore no resemblance to the tubular frame used in the original 33. Inspired by the very nimble Porsche 908/3, Chiti decided to concentrate all the weight between the front and rear axles and effectively moved the wheels to the four corners of the car. Vital for this configuration was the new five-speed gearbox, which was mounted between the engine and the differential.

What Chiti liked about Ferrari's 312PB was its flat 12 engine, which made for a very low centre of gravity. So a similar engine was mooted for the new car but it did not appear until late in 1972. Instead the 33/TT/3 was powered by an updated version of the existing three-litre V8. By virtue of redesigned heads, the high-revving four-cam engine produced a claimed 440 bhp at 9,800 rpm. This was up from 400 bhp in 1970 and 430 bhp in 1971, and a match of for the figure produced by Ferrari's twelve cylinder engine.

Compared to the earlier 33/3, the new 33/TT/3 featured a slightly shorter wheelbase but was also a bit heavier due to new safety fuel-tanks. Perhaps to confuse casual observers, the new car was fitted with a virtually identical body to that of the existing 33/3s. For a variety of reasons, the prototype spaceframe Alfa Romeo was not raced in 1971 but it made various appearances during practice sessions throughout the year. This car was then set aside and brand new 33/TT/3s were constructed for the 1972 season.

Extensive rule changes over the winter had shaken up the sports car field with the big Ferrari 512s and Porsche 917s now banned, putting the spotlight instead on the three-litre prototypes like the new 33/TT/3. Porsche left the World Championship to focus on Can-Am, allowing Alfa Romeo to sign the likes of Vic Elford and Helmut Marko. The competition that remained came from Ferrari, who could now focus their entire effort on the 312 PB. There was one other notable rival; Matra, who only competed in the 24 Hours of Le Mans.

Despite the lengthy preparation, Alfa Romeos new 33/TT/3 struggled in the opening races of the season both with reliability issues and the outright pace of the Ferraris. Gradually the V8-engined machine did get on song, scoring several podium finishes but a victory proved beyond its reach. Instead Ferraris won every every race except for the 24 Hours of Le Mans where in the absence of the Ferrari works team, local favourites Matra grabbed the win. Alfa Romeo ended the year second in the standings, well behind Ferrari.

Undeterred by the disappointing results, Chiti worked on and before the end of the 1972 season, the highly anticipated flat 12 engine finally made its debut in testing. It would, nevertheless, take until the start of the 1974 World Championship before the 33/TT/12, as the twelve cylinder engined Tipo 33 was known, scored its first victory. From 1973, some of the ex-works 33/TT/3s were campaigned by privateer teams but they also struggled to keep up with the mighty Ferrari and Matra teams in the major events.

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  Article Image gallery (50) Chassis (2) Specifications