Owner's Club News
By Enrique Zuniga for Alfa Owner magazine
edits and additional details by Bernard Martin
Here's where you will find a list of the DRIVING events that will be going on at the 2019 Alfa Romeo Owners Club Convention. With a theme entitled "Cortile della Corsa", the "Courtyard of Racing" promises to deliver some unique and memorable driving experiences.
Pittsburgh Parade, Car Show and Tune-Up at Heinz Field
Alfa Romeo is the SPOTLIGHT marque of the Pittsburgh Vintage Grand Prix (PVGP) and Wednesday is the day in which the city of Pittsburgh stops to celebrate this magnificent annual tradition.
The map here depcits the parade route into the city.
Downtown Pittsburgh, only 20 miles from the convention hotel, is the place to be on Wednesday! The day begins with a morning Downtown Parade with Alfa Romeos leading the multi-marque event. No where else in the country has there been an Alfa Romeo parade of cars into a major city with a police escort! This is a very unique opportunity for only 40 Alfa Romeo's! For those entering their Alfa, the cost is only $10 per car.
Downtown Car Show
Celebrations continue with the Downtown Car Show, which will have 40 Alfas on display at Point State Park. Point State Park is where the Headwaters of the Ohio River start with the convergence of the Allegheny River from the north and the Monongahela River from the south: It's the "Three Rivers" for which Pittsburgh is famous!
While there, note that this is a great opportunity for a quick visit to Fort Pitt Museum. Your entry payment for the Downtown Car Show display includes entry into the Fort Pitt Museum.
There are three other mixed marque downtown car shows that the PVGP is holding with celebrations at PPG Plaza, Market Square and US Steel Plaza.
Tune Up at Heinz Field
The day culminates with the evening PVGP Tune-Up Party at Heinz Field. Registration for this event has not yet opened so be sure to the check back on the PVGP Website or updates.
All vehicles that are parking in the Car Showcase must be preregistered and can begin to park at 5:00 pm. Enter from General Robinson Street – there are no other entrances. The bars will not open until 5:30 pm and the food will not be served until 6:15 pm but you are welcome to move in starting at 5:00 pm – please do not show up early, the street will not be closed and we are not permitted to block the street until 5:00 pm.
Thursday, July 18
Track Day Time Trials, Autocross, Karting and Parade Lap
The Pittsburgh International Race Complex is the same track that the Pittsburgh Vintage Grand Prix Historic Races is held the weekend before our convention starts. All of todays afternoon events are going to be held at the track.
Track Day is always a special for all club members and this year it will take place at the Pittsburgh International Race Complex (PittRace), a 20-minute drive from the convention hotel. The track opens at 7 am and closes at 8 pm, but since it is in an urban area where noise restrictions apply, competitive driving hours are from 8:30 am until 5:30 pm. (Please note that convention plans to have all track activities concluded before 5 pm.) Spectators should note that there is a very comfortable second floor air-conditioned VIP room that overlooks the track below.
Time Trials are open to all cars (race cars, street cars, Alfas and other marques). There will be timed practice sessions in the morning, with the final Time Trial laps taking place in the afternoon. This is a fabulous opportunity to place your car on a fun, 13-turn, 1.6-mile road course, with elevation changes. Drivers arrive early in the morning to set-up their cars and attend the mandatory driver’s meeting. Cars and drivers are classified ahead of the event and placed into groups according to horse power as well as driver experience, but these groups may be adjusted after the first practice laps. Driving a car on a track is just great fun. Drivers may share a car
The Autocross is also taking place at the track. It is open to all cars. Taking part in both the TT and the Autocross will not be an issue, even for those sharing a car. This is a traditional autocross, with AROC car classifications. Autocross laps around the cone-marked course take about 60 seconds, mostly in second gear, but are a blast to experience.
For those who have never driven a course or simply wish to learn the basics in a calm, non-intimidating setting we have created a Novice Only Group. Novices’ times will not be announced and will only be recorded if the driver wishes so. Experienced drivers will not be allowed in this group. The Novice Group setting has proven very rewarding for those always wondering about autocross, but unsure about trying it out.
Important: All drivers who sign-up for Time Trials and/or Autocross will be contacted to go over all details regarding AROC car classifications and safety guidelines. Please note that due to the preparation that organizers must complete, drivers must be registered for these events by the first week of June.
Go-karts may be rented in 10-minute sessions to drive the track’s 0.82-mile circuit. There is a
As is our tradition, the track will open around noon for all to drive a few laps around the course, but this year we are offering an “Enhanced Experience”.
All drivers and assengers will gather to hear an explanation about the track and how racers typically drive on it. Attendees will understand what the red and white markings around the curves are for, what is an apex, what is the line, and what is meant when someone says, “you must slow down to go faster”.
Cars will drive the track in pre-arranged groups according to vehicle powerplant and driver experience. Cars will take their laps following in single file behind a pace car driven by an experienced driver, familiar with the concepts presented.
Friday, July 19
Gimmick Rally and Welcome Dinner Reception
The traditional Gimmick Rally will leave from the convention hotel. There will be a mandatory driver’s meeting in the morning and cars will leave at 60 second intervals starting at 10 am. (There is a limit of 90 cars.) The actual driving time is between 90 and 120 minutes, depending on how the driver and navigator handle the questions.
A Picnic Lunch at Moraine State Park, with a Jeep display is included with the Rally. (Butler County is the birthplace of the Jeep!) Please note that those not partaking in the Rally may register and drive directly to the state park for the Picnic Lunch and Jeep display.
Welcome Reception & Strolling Dinner
Those displaying a car during the Car Show weekend will to drive to the Pittsburgh Golf Club on Friday evening, and have the car pre-staged. The car show will be held on the Golf Course grounds. Organizers will show you exactly where your car will be displayed and deliver all the items you need for the Car Show weekend, including dash cards, lanyards badges and Cortile Car Show goody bags.
Remember that you dash card and badges are VERY IMPORTANT! You will need them to gain admission to events all weekend so don't lose them
At the same time, not just AROC members displaying a car but all AROC members are encouraged to attend the AROC Welcome Reception and Strolling Dinner (6 to 9 pm), which will take place at the Pittsburgh Golf Club. Prizes for those who took part in the Track Day competitions will be announced and presented at the Welcome Reception and Strolling Dinner.
By Enrique Zuniga
Even as a convention advisor it is not often that one has an opportunity to visit the venues of an upcoming convention, so when I received an invite to attend an evening convention planning meeting late last fall, I did not hesitate… and the visit quickly became an overnight stay at the convention hotel with a preview of what was in the works for our annual AROC gathering.
I fired up the Spider engine at 5am on the day of the meeting, setting off for the six-hour drive from northern NJ to Pittsburgh via the route with the most curves – the one that cuts through the mountains, of course… It’s always a joy to hear the engine purr turn into a roar as the nimble bella macchina cuts through the curves and cold morning air as the sun keeps rising.
Despite the forecasted possible rain that materialized into a full snow for forty-five minutes, I made it on time to the first venue: DoubleTree by Hilton Pittsburgh Cranberry hotel.
Upon exiting the Spider I met my host: convention organizer and Pittsburgh chapter secretary, and 2019 Convention Chairman, Bernie Martin. I had spoken with Bernie many times over the phone and via video conference, but this was the first time we got to shake hands. As we stepped into the hotel lobby, I was taken in by the spacious feel and natural bright light afforded by the modern, totally open, layout.
The lobby, lounge, dining room and bar are completely unobstructed from any view point and the elevator’s glass wall allows for panoramic observation while riding up five stories. As we toured the hotel’s meeting rooms and business facilities, I took note of the gym, as well as an indoor pool and another pool outdoors. My room was impeccable, and my overnight stay would turn out to be most pleasant.
When we exited the hotel, Bernie pointed out that we were only 20 minutes from the second venue on our list: Pittsburgh International Race Complex. This re-modeled site offers perhaps the most comfortable setting we’ve ever had for our traditional Track Day.
In addition to the expected driver and meeting room facilities we will have access to the air-conditioned VIP area which is often used to host large dinners and gatherings. I can see many of us enjoying a drink in total comfort while watching the competition taking place on the track below.
We will be running on a 1.6 mile course with 13 turns and exiting changes in elevation. As the track manager drove us around the course a few times, with the fun meter revving high, we commented on the opportunity for every AROC convention attendee to drive this course through what I am calling an Enhanced Parade Laps Experience.
Our traditional Autocross will also take place at the track premises. With the largest
paved area for an autocross that I have ever seen at a convention, this is a course
designer’s dream. Seasoned competitors and their cars will have ample staging room.
Furthermore, we will have a low-key staging area for a Novice Only group. As a full
motor sports facility, this complex also has a Go-Kart course. Karting has become very
popular because it is a blast and the course will be open during our Track Day.
The third venue stop was Jergel’s Rhythm Grille. From the onset, an evening at Jergel’s has been an enthusiastic component of the vision for this convention. Upon reading the website description however, “Jergel's Rhythm Grille" offers a unique live music experience in the Pittsburgh area with a 600-person capacity, full restaurant menu, cigar bar and patio!”.
My vision was that of crowded bar, with loud music that made it impossible to communicate without screaming and appealing only to a very young age group.
Well, I could not have been more wrong. First, the setting is impressive and enormous. The pictures on the web do not do it justice. In the main floor, off to the side, there is a very cool looking and inviting oval bar with comfortable seating for at least 100 people. Yes, I counted!
The well-thought out bar area is not just generously spacious all around, but it does not collide in the least with the stage and main viewing area in front of the stage. In addition to the first floor, there is the even better second floor, which is the one negotiated for our convention. It is accessible via stairs or elevator, as the Jergel’s manager giving us the walk through pointed out.
Our convention will have full and exclusive access to the second floor, which has capacity for 250 people. The second floor has a square opening that overlooks the first floor, including the stage. The opening is built with a ledge for drinks and food and furnished with 60 plus chairs, each of which provide a front row seat to the stage below.
This floor also has an inviting bar, off to the side, with comfortable seating for 45 people. Furthermore, almost an entire wall of the second floor is lined with large booths and there are plenty of tables arranged throughout. I can honestly say that my vision of a crowded room was replaced with the reality of an easy-to-walk-around-and-mingle adult setting. Two-hundred and fifty of us will fit nicely and none of us will have to fight for a chair.
At this point it was clear that Jergel’s has a great setting, good food, drinks and reasonable prices, but I still had to ask about having to scream over music in order to communicate?
As it turns out, Bernie was already several steps ahead of me. The evening reserved for the convention features the music of accomplished musicians "Three Car Garage" who have already been selected and confirmed specifically by our chapter hosts. We will be on the second floor enjoying a lovely evening, and others not associated to our convention may also enjoy our evening, but from the first floor only.
Last, the main parking lot in front of the entrance has been reserved for Alfa Romeo cars only.
The last venue we visited was the Pittsburgh Golf Club, founded in 1896. The convention will hold a Friday dinner at the Club as well as Car Show and Concours weekend. As expected, the grounds are beautiful, the place is immaculate, and classy with a sophisticated vintage feel. Our Alfas will feel very much at home in such elegant premises.
After a very full day, Bernie and I returned to the convention hotel for a full planning meeting. I got to meet some great AROC members. The majority were from the Pittsburgh chapter, of course, but there were other volunteers from neighboring chapters as well. A lot was discussed, but it is very important to note that while our convention is taking place, the city of Pittsburgh will be hosting the Pittsburgh Vintage Grand Prix, a major charity event which includes two weekends of historic races.
Our host AROC chapter, Three Rivers Alfisti, has been proudly participating heavily in the PVGP event for many years. While our convention is a distinct event, with activities open to AROC members only, the Car Show and Concours weekend will take place within the PVGP setting, which also includes spectating the historic races that take place on that weekend.
Furthermore, Alfa Romeo has been named as one of two featured marques of this year’s PVGP, and therefore AROC convention attendees may register for overlapping activities. All PVGP historic Alfa Romeo racers, AROC members or not, will be staying at the convention hotel.
The following morning, I got into the Spider for the drive back to northern NJ. This time however, hoping to avoid another unpredicted snow storm, I opted for the reliable, albeit boring, interstate highways. The interstates have these wonderful easy-to-read and up-to-the-minute informative electronic boards. As I drove these kept displaying a warning for “POSSIBLE EXTREME WHITE-OUT CONDITIONS”… Thankfully those conditions never materialized, and I was able to think about my Pittsburgh visit and enjoy the notion that we are going to have a great convention!
Here you will find the details about upcoming and past events as well as member profiles.