In a nail-biting finish to one of the closest fought seasons ever, Alfa Romeo has snatched victory from BMW in the 2003 European Touring Car Championship, with Alfa's Gabriele Tarquini taking victory in the drivers' championship by one point in the final round of the season at Italy's historic Monza racetrack on Sunday (19 October 2003).
Although Gabriele Tarquini and his BMW rival Jörg Müller entered the final two races on the same points, Alfa was clearly the underdog, with Jörg Müller on pole position. But by the end of the day, after some of the most exciting racing of the season, the Italians emerged as ‘top dogs’, giving Alfa Romeo its seventh ETCC championship title on the trot, bringing its total ETCC title account to 12 championship wins.
In front of a 30,000 crowd, Alfa Romeo reversed its poor qualifying performance, despite a massive first lap smash that took out eight cars, and Alfa's Roberto Colciago was first to cross the line. He was later excluded for having punted Dirk Müller off the track, but Alfa didn't lose the win, with James Thompson inheriting the chequered flag, from Andy Priaulx and Tom Coronel, first of the independents. Tarquini obtained a precious fourth place, while Jörg Müller lost an almost sure third position with only one lap to go, due to a puncture.
These results gave Tarquini a provisional 101-point lead, ahead of Priaulx with 97 and Jörg Müller third on 96.
The second race featured a tense and close fight between Jörg Müller, Coronel and Tarquini, who finished in that order after no less than four lead changes.
"This is the seventh consecutive title in Touring Cars for us. I am not just very pleased for the drivers, but also for my people in the factory, because they worked hard through the night after our poor qualifying, and this victory is as important for them as it is for the drivers," said Mauro Sipsz, Alfa Romeo Nord Technology Chairman at the end of the race.Published 22 October 2003