Alfa Romeo made its return to SA circuit racing on Saturday after an absence of 18 years when Martin Steyn drove his 156 GTA to fourth place in the Production Car race at Kyalami.

Alfa Romeo made its return to SA circuit racing on Saturday after an absence of 18 years when Martin Steyn drove his 156 GTA to fourth place in the Production Car race at Kyalami.

However, Steyn, who finished behind the BMW 330is driven by Ettiene van der Linde and Richard Sorensen, was penalised 30 seconds for an alleged jumped start and relegated to fourth.

With production car racing having been dominated by BMW for the past three seasons, Alfa is working overtime to get its race car competitive. The 3,2-litre V6-powered Alfa 156 GTA will go on sale to the public in mid-May and the decision to race the still-to-be-launched car was taken late last year.

Run by the newly formed LG Flatron Plasma-Alfissimo Racing Team, the car was driven in four test outings before making its track appearance. This was in contrast to the three season's development for BMW and the year-long race programme by the Mercedes-Benz team.

"It was a long, hard race," said Steyn after the 12-lapper in which he had fought some thrilling wheel-to-wheel duels with eventual second-place finisher Richard Sorenson and Leeroy Poulter (Mercedes-Benz C320) in the opening stages of the race.

"The tyres only lasted for the first six laps and after that it was a matter of hanging on. I really enjoyed it, and the engine was awesome, but as we had virtually no testing time, we can still make lots of improvement to the race set-up," said Steyn.

"We will be working not only to find the extra pace that the leaders currently have, but to find a set-up for our front-wheel drive car that will see the tyres last for the full race distance. I expect us to be a lot closer in Cape Town, even better at the next round in Port Elizabeth, and by the following race, which is back at Kyalami, expect us to be challenging for a race win," the team’s chief technician, Dawie de Villiers, said.

RESULTS - 2003 SA Production Car Championship - Round One

1. E van der Linde (BMW 330i)

2. R Sorensen (BMW 330i)

3. S. Morris (BMW 330i)

4. M. Steyn (Alfa Romeo GTA)*

5. M. Allison (BMW 330i)

6. D. Brough (Honda)

*Martin Steyn in the Alfa 156 GTA was penalised 30 seconds for an alleged jumped start, which dropped him from third to fourth overall.

Original article from Car