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  Alfa Romeo Tipo A Monoposto

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Country of origin:Italy
Produced in:1931
Numbers built:4
Predecessor:Alfa Romeo P2
Successor:Alfa Romeo Tipo B P3 Monoposto
Author:Wouter Melissen
Last updated:April 09, 2007
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Click here to download printer friendly versionAlfa Romeo had a first go at Grand Prix racing in 1923 with the P1, but it was such a failure that Nicola Romeo had it scrapped. He did not give up and with the help of Enzo Ferrari, he hired talented engineer Vittorio Jano. The former Fiat employee quickly turned out the straight eight engined P2, which proved a lot more competitive, scoring multiple Grand Prix wins. Sadly it was rendered obsolete for many of the major races due to rule changes at the end of the 1926 season. The cars were not fully retired and won the Targa Florio as late as 1930. Jano diverted his attention to the new 6C 1500 road car and after three seasons Alfa Romeo withdrew from Grand Prix racing again.

While the 6C was intended as a road car, more sportier, racing versions were quickly created. The six cylinder engine's size soon grew from 1.5 to 1.75 litre to create the 6C 1750. The most potent version was the Gran Sport, sporting a supercharged engine. After the 1930 season, the six cylinder racing cars and the P2 were showing their age and Jano set about developing a completely new car. As its name suggests this 8C 2300 sported a supercharged eight cylinder engine with a displacement of 2.3 litres. It was available with two wheelbases, making it eligible for both Grand Prix and sports car races. The long wheelbase 'Le Mans' model took four consecutive victories in the legendary 24 Hour races and the shorter Monza took its share of wins as well.

In the previous years the sport's governing body had struggled to get the entrants to agree on Grand Prix formula and they failed again in 1931; the races were again held under 'formula libre' regulations. This meant that the nimble Alfas would have to go head to head with the mammoth Mercedes ssKs. Jano was not convinced that the 8C 2300 would be powerful enough to take on the much larger engined competition on the high speed tracks and came up with the rather unusual twin-engined Tipo A. Together with the 8C 2300, it was ready in time for the season opener at Monza.

By far the most unusual feature of the Tipo A was the drive-train, consisting of two supercharged 6C 1750 engines installed side by side in an 8C chassis. Each engine was mated to a separate three-speed gearbox, which transferred the power to the rear wheels through one differential each. The driver sat on top of the two propeller shafts right in the middle of the car. With the aluminium tightly wrapped around the cockpit, the Tipo A was Alfa Romeo's very first single seater, or Monoposto. Combined the twelve cylinders produced a hefty 230 bhp, sufficient to propel the 930 kg racer to a top speed of 240 km/h.

Not surprisingly the complex machine proved very fragile at its Monza debut and retired from third position after only two hours of the ten hour race. Fortunately the two short-wheelbase 8C 2300s entered scored a debut one-two win, earning it the Monza nickname. Three more cars were constructed, but the twin-engined cars failed to impress throughout the season. Giuseppe Campari did drive a Tipo A to a win in the Coppa Acerbo at Pescara. It was replaced in 1932 by the now legendary Tipo B or P3, powered a single, 8C 2300 derived engine. Using the lessons used with the twin differential layout of the Tipo A, Jano used a 'bifurcated drive' with split propellor shafts for the Tipo B to allow the driver sit lower in the chassis.

Sadly none of the examples produced have survived. Especially for the Museo Storico, marque expert Luigi Fusi was commissioned to reconstruct a replica. His work can been seen above on display in the museum.

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