Alfredo Costanzo

Alfredo Costanzo

3/1/1943


One of the best Autralian drivers in F5000, won the Australian Drivers Championship 4 times. Raced at Bathurst 4 times with a best finish of fourth in 1979.

Born in Calabria, Italy, Costanzo was Australia's top drivers in the late 70s and early 80s, winning races in Formula 5000 as well as Formula Atlantiis/Pacific. He has lived most of his life in Melbourne.

Costanzo started racing in 1967 in the Australian 1.5 Litre Championship with a Maranello Motors sponsored Elfin Mono Mk2B Ford. He carried on racing the Elfin Mono Mk2B Ford in 1968 before competing the Tasman series for a couple of rounds in 1970 with a 1.6-litre Cosworth FVA powered McLaren M4A. At Warwick Farm in February he retired after hitting a fence but a better result followed later in the month finishing 5th at Sandown Park.

It was 1975 before he returned to racing in the Australian Formula 2 Championship with a Birrana 274 Ford as well as the Van Heusen Calder F2 Series which he won.

In 1976 he started racing in Formula 5000 with a Lola T332 bought in partnership with his brother in law and team mechanic, Marino Ciuffetelli and together they raced in the Rothmans International Series (2nd) and Australian Drivers' Championship (4th) in 1976 and 1977. With sponsorship from Stock 84 Brandy and Auto Sprint Motors.

In March 1979 Costanzo went to race for Australian Porsche importer Alan Hamilton in a Lola T430 as part of the Porsche Racing team. It was the first round of the 1979 Australian Drivers' Championship (a non-championship F1 race) held at Wanneroo Raceway (now called the Barbagallo Raceway) (the only time the race was held there) when apparently Alfredo turned up in street clothes and without changing other than to take off his shoes, put on his helmet and was, within a few laps, almost two seconds quicker than anyone had ever gone around the circuit before. Sadly his race was short lived. Having led away from pole he collided with Larry Perkins' factory Elfin MR8 at the first corner as Perkins made an ambitious lunge down the inside. However he had a number of good results and finished 3rd in the Championship. He also made his first appearance at Bathurst driving with Allan Grice in the Holden Torana A9X they finished fourtha nd also finishing second in the Hardie-Ferodo 1000 also with Allan Grice.

In 1980 he took the first of his 4 consecutive Championships. That year he drove the old Lola T430 Chevrolet before switching to a McLaren M26 Chevrolet for his second title in 1981. His next two titles (82 and 83) were at the wheel of a Tiga FA81 powered by a 4 cyl Ford BDA.

1984 was his last year in contemporary single seaters finishing a respectable 2nd behind longtime rival John Bowe in his similarly powered Ralt RT4/85with the old Tiga FA81 Ford. However Alan Hamilton pulled out of open wheel racing following Costanzo's 4th place at the 1984 Australian Grand Prix (behind Roberto Moreno, Keke Rosberg and Andrea de Cesaris) leaving Costanzo without a drive and into semi-retirement. He drove at Bathurst again partnered with Colin Bond in an Alfa GTV6 but failed to finish.

In December that year Costanzo accepted an offer from Australian Sports Car Champion Bap Romano to co-drive the Romano WE84 Cosworth in the Sandown 1000 a round of the 1984 World Endurance Championship, the first FIA World Championship event held in Australia. Despite never having driven the car previously he qualified the 3.9L V8 powered Romano in 13th and first in class, almost two seconds faster than car owner Romano and only 0.4 seconds slower than the Group C2 pole winning time. After brake and gearbox troubles in the race they finished 100 laps behind the winning Porsche 956, not enough laps to be classified as a finisher.

Prior to the race both Wayne Eckersley and team manager Bruce Ayers tried to persuade Romano to drive with either the 1984 Australian Drivers' Champion John Bowe or 1983 Sports Car champion Peter Hopwood. Costanzo's reputation for being a trifle hard on machinery being formost in their minds. Unfortunatly their fears were realized as he broke no less than 4 gearboxes, 2 in practice and 2 in the race itself. Racing legend Frank Gardner who was acting as the JPS Team BMW manager told Romano after the race that while standing at the entry to Sandown's new infield section, he noted that Costanzo was changing from 5th straight to 2nd. This was causing the rear tyres to lock up and the Cosworth engine to over rev and resulting in stripping 2nd gear twice! He added that it was an endurance race and that Alfie had 'butchered' the car by not respecting the equipment.

Despite winning numerous races and championships, Costanzo never achieved his goal of winning the Australian Grand Prix. He competed in 11 Australian Grand Prix between 1969 and 1984, with a best finish of 4th in 1980 and 1984. He also led the 1983 race and had built up a small lead over eventual winner Roberto Moreno, before the diff in his Tiga FA81 failed on lap 25. 

He was brought into the Volvo Dealer Team by John Bowe in 1986 to drive a Volvo 240T in the Castrol 500 at Sandown and the James Hardie 1000 at Bathurst but failed to finish both events. Again in 1988 Bowe got him into the Dick Johnson Racing Team for Sandown and Bathurst to drive a Ford Sierra RS500 with John Smith. They finished 6th at Sandown but at the Tooheys Bathurst 1000 he didn't get to drive. Dick Johnson's car had retied on lap 22 and Bowe's car on lap 28 leaving the Smith/Costanzo car the only team car still running. As Smith had driven the first stint it was 'Alfie' who became the designated spectator as he was replaced by both Johnson and Bowe leaving him to watch the car finish second from the pit wall.

1989 was his final Bathurst 1000 when he was the lead driver in a VL Holden Commodore finishing 14th.

The late 1990s saw a brief comeback as the lead driver for Marino Ciuffetelli's factory supported Maserati team of production specification Maserati Ghiblis in the Australian GT Production Car Championship. The comeback proved to be short-lived however as the cars were uncompetitive against the Porsche, Ferrari and Mazda teams. Costanzo finished 10th in the championship in 1997, and 8th in 1998.

He has also made a couple of appearances in historic racing and demonstrations in recent years.

historicracing.com

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