Fabrizio Giovanardi was crowned as the FIA European Touring Car Champion during the penultimate round of the season at Donington Park, after leading throughout. The Italian driver, who will shortly celebrate his 36th birthday, claimed his 6th successive touring car title, all of which have been won with Alfa Romeo.
However, shortly after the end of the 2002 season, Giovanardi left the Italian manufacturer, and will drive for BMW next season, at the wheel of a 320i, run by Ravaglia Motorsport and backed by BMW Italy.
"I don't have any regrets at leaving," Giovanardi said, "It's always difficult to leave a winning team, but I'm taking a lot of good memories with me. I gave a lot to Alfa Romeo, but they gave me a lot in return. If we managed to win for six years, it was thanks to the job we did together. Merit should be equally split -- without Alfa Romeo, I would not be the man I am today."
He is looking forward to the new challenge, which will start in January, when he will test the car at Vallelunga. "I am dying to get back behind the wheel, and to leave behind everything that has been written about this change. I know that I shocked a number of fans, but this sort of thing happens in professional sports. I am a professional driver, and I took this decision because I thought it was the best decision for my career. BMW did not steal me from Alfa Romeo -- a reciprocal agreement made us join up. I race because it is my job, but also because I love it. Competition is my motivation, and I am never content with success. This will be a new challenge for me, a new one, but no different from those I have faced before."
How does he see the 2003 season, compared to what happened in 2002 ? "In my personal opinion, BMW underrated the FIA ETCC commitment at the start of the season, which gave Alfa Romeo an opportunity to build up a solid margin in the first half of the Championship, while the BMW drivers were struggling to stay on the pace. But then they managed to overturn the situation. This was not only because of the regulations changes after Anderstorp; they really improved the car and made our life very hard in the final races. Now, the FIA ETCC programme is very highly rated, and the BMW Motorsport technicians are working hard on the new car. I believe that BMW has a greater margin of improvement compared to the Alfa. And this makes me very positive. I have no concerns about moving over to a rear-wheel drive car. I raced rear-wheel cars from karting, through Formula 3 to Formula 3000. And I am a very quick learner !"
Alfa Romeo won the Manufacturer's Championship in the 2002 FIA European Touring Car Championship in convincing style, with 13 wins during the season, 9 for Giovanardi and 4 for Larini. Roberto Colciago and Gabriele Tarquini also contributed towards the Italian manufacturer's total points score of 217. This is Alfa Romeo's 11th Manufacturer's win in the FIA European Touring Car Championship.
"We have reached our target which was to win both the drivers and the manufacturers titles in the FIA European Touring Car Championship," said Mauro Sipsz, manager of N.Technology Alfa Romeo. "The team, the drivers and my wife Monica did a great job. I am very happy for Alfa Romeo. It has been a difficult season and I think we could have won the titles before Donington. We have now won the FIA ETCC teams/manufacturers and drivers championships for two consecutive years and next year, we will try to do it again!"
Three works Alfa Romeo 156 Gta will be entered in the 2003 Championship by Gta Racing Team Nordauto. Appointed drivers are Nicola Larini, Gabriele Tarquini and Roberto Colciago. Larini, on his sixth season with the team, was classified third in 2002 FIA ETCC. Tarquini and Colciago will make their comeback for a full FIA ETCC season after taking part in only a few rounds last year. Additionally, three or four others Alfa Romeo 156 Gta cars are expected to be run by independent teams.