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New Zealand Classic Car - - Feature Car - Ugo Sivocci — pi­o­neer rac­ing driver

he story of Alfa Romeo’s fa­mous quadri­foglio verde (four-leaf clover) sym­bol dates back to the early days of mo­tor­ing and mo­tor rac­ing — and a small Ital­ian car maker, Costruzioni Mec­ca­niche Nazion­ali (CMN). At the same time, 1919, Enzo Fer­rari was strug­gling to find work, and ap­par­ently only a few steps away from com­mit­ting sui­cide. Luck­ily for Fer­rari — and for au­to­mo­tive his­tory — the tide turned for him when he for­tu­itously met up with Ugo Sivocci, an auto me­chanic and pi­o­neer rac­ing driver then work­ing for CMN. When an open­ing at CMN be­came avail­able, Sivocci made sure his new friend got the job — and, as a re­sult, Fer­rari found him­self em­ployed as a race driver. In that same year, Fer­rari com­peted on the Targa Flo­rio in a CMN car.

Fer­rari found a new po­si­tion at Alfa Romeo in 1920 and, re­turn­ing the favour, he rec­om­mended Sivocci to his new em­ployer. To­gether with Guiseppe Cam­pari and Al­berto As­cari, both men be­came part of Alfa Romeo’s in­au­gu­ral works rac­ing team.

Al­though noted as be­ing a quick driver, Sivocci al­ways seemed to suf­fer from bad luck, and vic­tory usu­ally proved elu­sive. Keen to change that, for the 1923 Targa Flo­rio Sivocci painted a four-leaf clover on the nose of his Alfa Romeo RL, hop­ing that the lucky sham­rock would im­prove his odds of win­ning the race. It fea­tured within a white di­a­mond — its four points rep­re­sent­ing the four Alfa Romeo works driv­ers — and many be­lieve that Sivocci ‘bor­rowed’ the green clover­leaf sym­bol from that used by the World War I vin­tage 10th Caproni Bomber Squadron. In­deed, to this day, the quadri­foglio verde is still a part of the Ital­ian Air Force’s coat of arms.

Back to 1923 and the dusty moun­tain roads of Si­cily, where Sivocci’s de­ci­sion to em­bla­zon his car with the clover­leaf paid off — the pre­vi­ously un­lucky driver scor­ing a fa­mous vic­tory, the first for Alfa Romeo at this fa­mous road race.

Sadly, Sivocci was un­able to fur­ther cap­i­tal­ize on this suc­cess, and died while test­ing Alfa’s new P1 race car at Monza that same year. Iron­i­cally, he hadn’t got around to paint­ing his lucky fourleaf clover onto his Alfa Romeo P1 — it was this in­ci­dent that put into place Alfa Romeo’s sub­se­quent su­per­sti­tious re­liance on the four-leaf clover. As an aside, Sivocci usu­ally raced with the num­ber 17 on his cars, and this num­ber was per­ma­nently re­tired for all Ital­ian rac­ing cars fol­low­ing his death.

From that point on, Alfa Romeo adopted the quadri­foglio verde for its rac­ing cars — al­though the

sym­bol now ap­peared within a tri­an­gle, the fourth point of the orig­i­nal di­a­mond be­ing re­moved to sym­bol­ize Sivocci’s demise. In that form, the fa­mous logo con­tin­ues to pro­vide a link to Alfa Romeo’s glo­ri­ous past, and is still used on the more sport­ing ver­sions of the Ital­ian au­tomaker’s cars.

Alfa’s Sprint

Orig­i­nally launched in Septem­ber 1976, the Sprint adopted the front-wheel run­ning gear of the Alfasud with a stylish, fast­back sa­loon body de­signed by Gior­getto Gi­u­giaro. Like the Alfasud, the new Sprint was built at Alfa Romeo’s Pomigliano d’arco fac­tory in south­ern Italy.

Ini­tially, the Sprint was pow­ered by a fresh, 1286cc ver­sion of the Alfasud’s 1186cc four-cylin­der boxer en­gine. It proved pop­u­lar for its sparkling per­for­mance, good econ­omy and ex­cel­lent han­dling. Alfa went to town on the Sprint in 1978 and came up with a se­ries of up­dates — im­prov­ing the car’s over­all look and also bring­ing in more power via new 1.3 and 1.5-litre en­gines — the older 1286cc mo­tor now be­com­ing an ex­clu­sive fit­ment for the stan­dard Alfasud sa­loon. With the top 1490cc en­gine boast­ing 63kw, bet­ter per­for­mance gave the Sprint even more sport­ing ap­peal.

On the car’s ex­te­rior, Alfa fol­lowed what was be­com­ing a late ’ 70s fash­ion by re­plac­ing chrome

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