Alfa Romeo is set to make a return to the British Touring Car Championship series in 2018 with a Giulietta hatchback that will be run by Handy Motorsport with the support of the company's UK dealers.

The Italian manufacturer ran a works team in the BTCC in 1994 and 1995, with Italian Gabriele Tarquini claiming the drivers’ title in the firm’s maiden season. It also took the title in 1983 with Andy Rouse, who drove an Alfetta GTV6. An Alfa last appeared on the BTCC grid in 2007.

Alfa Romeo to return to British touring car racing

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'It's been a long project to bring an Alfa Romeo back to the BTCC, with many people working on this exciting development for some time – it’s incredible to have brought everything to fruition and an honour to be running the Alfa Romeo marque,' said Handy Motorsport team principal Simon Belcher, whose squad currently runs a Toyota Avensis in the championship.

Belcher said the plan to bring Alfa Romeo back to the BTCC grid had been two years in the making.

'Alfa Romeo has been very positive about seeing one of its products back on the grid in the UK’s biggest and best motor racing series since we started talking,' he added. 'While Alfa couldn’t support the project financially, it was time to think of how we could make it work. It was obvious that there was a passion from the dealer network to make this happen.'

Although the programme will not be a fully-fledged manufacturer entry, Alfa's 62-strong dealer network in the UK will be encouraged to get behind the project with support.

Alfa Romeo to return to British touring car racing
Alfa Romeo to return to British touring car racing

Racing driver Rob Austin, who was instrumental in putting the deal alongside Belcher, said: 'Driving an Alfa Romeo in the British Touring Car Championship next season? It doesn’t get much more exciting than that does it?

“I've put a lot of effort into this personally and it means a great deal to me that we've managed to bring all the elements together. To be part of this project is extremely exciting for me and everyone at Handy Motorsport intends to make Alfa Romeo a major player in the BTCC again.'

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Gallery: Alfa Romeo to return to BTCC