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Competing in the legendary MM is the dream of many classic motorsport fans, but getting an entry is very difficult indeed. To enter you need a car of a type that actually ran in the MM in period – preferably a car that actually competed in the race. As the idea of speeding through some of the most beautiful places in Italy in the footsteps of the likes of Moss and Fangio is so appealing, cars that might get you an entry attract a premium. So, for example, a works MGA with MM provenance will set you back over half a million pounds, five times its value without the MM provenance. And don’t think you will get an entry with a non works MGA – you won’t, the event is just too oversubscribed and preference is given to cars that actually took part in the race in period or which have an interesting history. Moving up market and buying a Jaguar XK120,  Aston DB or even Mercedes SL Gullwing won’t help you much either for the same reasons. In fact, as the MM is sponsored by Mercedes and (UK purveyor of Jag XK’s with provenance) JD Classics, trying to get an entry in a Merc or Jag is even harder as most available slots for those marques are taken by the sponsors.

The upshot is that the modern MM, a very competitive regularity rally rather than a race, has increasingly become the preserve of very rich individuals from all round the world who are able to buy genuine MM cars with the crucial provenance to guarantee a MM entry. Many of those cars, the Ferraris and Maseratis et al, are worth well in excess of £5m.  But they do make the old works MGAs seem like remarkably good value!

I had never thought that I would be able to take part in the MM as I did not think I could afford it. Yes the entry fee (7000 euros) is steep but that does cover some excellent organisation, good hotels, a variety of receptions and – crucially – a rather nice limited edition Chopard watch. Indeed the watch alone is worth nearly as much as the entry fee. So you could say that the entry fee for the MM is actually pretty reasonable. The real problem is the cost of buying a car that could guarantee an entry.

I knew my ex Gregor Grant Autosport Magazine MG YB saloon (UMG 662) had led an eventful life between 1952 and 1954. As well as being the office hack it was rallied on the Monte (see other posts) in 1954 and the Scottish Rally in 1953 and it was raced at Silverstone in 1953. I knew it had also been a press car on the Monte in 1953 and at Le Mans, Goodwood and elsewhere. I knew it had not competed in the MM but some diligent research pointed to it having been a press car on the MM in 1953 when Autosport journalist Anthony Hume covered that year’s race from Brescia and Rome.  I checked the regulations and found to my surprise that the organisers had a “special list” for interesting cars of a type that could have raced in the MM in period but did not. I thought it was worth applying for a place in that category and stuck a speculative entry in.  I was under no illusions that getting a place on the list would be tough as it was restricted to only 27 cars (out of a total of over 450) and I did not think my little old saloon would be interesting enough to the organisers. As such I was very surprised when in March I was told that my car had secured a place.

As UMG 662 had just successfully completed the Monte Carlo Classique Rally without problems I did not need to do much to the car to get it ready. Given that summer in Italy promised to be a lot warmer than the Alps in January, I fitted a Kenlowe fan to help with cooling. The regulations also specified an accurate trip meter so a retro Brantz was fitted. Then all I needed was a co driver! Luckily Brian Mackrill, an old friend and fellow MG enthusiast from Australia, was keen to join me.

The car was shipped to Brescia on a transport with a number of other British competitors and we flew out in early May to meet the car.

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All shiny at scrutineering in Brescia, Healey Drone on left.

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This Works MGA competed in the original Mille Miglia in 1957. Now in Fitzwilliam Team colours it is a regular participant on the retrospective MM.

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The day before the start all participants parade through Brescia to the Plazza della Vittoria for the sealing ceremony. A lead seal is attached to the steering column of each car to show it has been scrutineered and is ready to go.

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On the start ramp in Brescia. After the glorious sun of the previous few days the heavens opened and it rained for the first two days of the rally – sometimes very heavily.

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The route of the MM this year took competitors from Brescia to Rimini on the Adriatic coast for the first afternoon and evening of the rally. This is Sirmione in the torrential rain.

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Following a late night arrival in Rimini there was an early start the following day. The first main check point was in the centre of the Republic of San Marino. The weather was little better on the second day of the rally.

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By the time the cars made it to Civitanova Marche in the late afternoon of the second day the weather had started to clear. Note battle scar on nearside front – reversed into by a vintage ambulance!

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At the end of the second day on the ramp in Rome. A police escort took us round the sights of the Eternal City late at night at high speed with blue lights flashing!

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Early morning check point in Ronciglione

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The MM route took us through the centre (often pedestrianised) of many ancient towns and villages. This is Viterbo late in the morning on the third day of the rally.

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August British company! The D Type Jaguar is the real deal. Nice Aston Martin DB2/4 behind. This is the lunch stop near Buonconvento on the third day.

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Priceless 1939 BMW 328 Mille Miglia. This car won the race in 1940 (whilst much of the rest of Europe was in flames..). In 2016 it was factory supported and was crewed by the boss of BMW UK – nice perk of the job!

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1957 Porsche 550 Spyder. Usually resident in the Porsche Museum in Stuttgart it was crewed this year by legendary Belgian racer Jacky Ickx. Every morning he would pass us with his entourage of Cayenne support vehicles at about 11. We would pass him pulled over at some nice cafe for lunch at 1230 and he would re pass us at 3pm (we sadly had no time to stop). He was usually through with dinner and in bed long before we made it to the final check point each day. But not on the last day.. The Porsche broke down an hour outside Brescia and I can now say I have beaten a multiple Le Mans winner in a motoring event!

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Motoring through beautiful Tuscany

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Old loyalties don’t fade – San Quirico D’Orcia

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Check point in the historic centre of Sienna

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The biggest challenge on the third day was climbing both the Futa and (1000m) Raticosa Passes – at the hottest time of day and in the Summer. Despite the heat (over 30 degrees centigrade) we got to the top with no difficulty but we were grateful for the new Kenlowe fan!

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The only problem we encountered was a recurring blown fuse that knocked out the temperature gauge (!) and, more seriously, the brake lights. Here Brian utilises our last fuse.

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An evening check point at the great Ferrari family works in Modena. A shame we had no time to look around the superb new museum.

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A priceless trio! Early morning on the last day, just before the start in Parma. The short nose D Type Jaguar again, a Ferrari 250 MM Berlinetta and a pretty little OSCA MT4 roadster

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No embarrassment to be passed by such a beauty – 1954 Maserati A6 GTS/53 Fantuzzi

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In the tyre tracks of the greats – on the old banking at Monza for one of the tests.

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Trying harder on the road course at Monza, on the rumble strip. Don’t like my line!

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At the finish in sunny Brescia. Special list cars have no handicap and as such we had no chance of winning. As it was we came a creditable 271st out of 456 cars, 12th of the 27 cars in the Special List and 5th out of the 10 MGs!

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The last time I competed at the Brighton Speed Trials was in 2012 when the event was marred by the tragic death of motorcycle sidecar passenger Charlotte Tagg. The Green local authority siezed on that as an excuse to try and ban the Speed Trials from being held in the future (see previous posts). However they had not reckoned on the passionate support the event has and a campaign organised by the Brighton and Hove Motor Club led to the Speed Trials returning in 2014. Unfortunately I was unable to attend that year but was pleased to be able to get an entry for this year.

It was good to bring the Beast back to Madeira Drive. As miraculously always seems to be the case the sun shone and several thousand spectators turned up to watch what is one of the oldest motorsport events in the world.

Nadine Geary’s immensely powerful Brock Daytona Cobra Coupe. Nadine is a former owner of the Beast – which she always made go rather faster than me!

Whilst not one for the purists I rather liked Richard McCann’s Jaguar XKE / E Type series 2 with its series 1 headlights and flared wheel arches

For years John Scanlon has enetered the Speed Trials in a variety of seemingly inappropriate Bentley saloons. This year he entered his Bentley Arnage Black Label. These are fantastic cars – the last of the real Bentleys (before they became Volkswagons). Crewe built they look stunning and have the final iteration of the venerable 6.75 litre Rolls Royce V8 – this time built by Cosworth and fitted with twin turbochargers. They are rare and ludicrously cheap and if I had a barn I would fill it with good examples.

Tesla brought along a P85 which performed well but perhaps not as quickly as they thought it would.

This year Stuart Gilbert beat me to the fastest MG crown (though sadly the Benn Trophy that used to be awarded for fastest MG has been discontinued) in his ferociously quick 5.3L V8 MGB GT

Fastest Time of the Day went to crowd favourite Jim Tiller in his heavily modified 7.3L Allard J2. Jim has been modifying and competing in his Allard at the Speed Trials for nearly 50 years. This was only his second victory – the first coming in 2004.

Mexican company Vuhl entered one of their new cars for what was the first competitive outing for the brand. I suspect the car is better suited to events with corners than drag strips!

Its hard to imagine that Jim Tiller’s Allard once looked like this J2X. The smart Cooper Jaguar T33 next to it went on to win the first race at the Goodwood Revival the following weekend.

Robert Oram has been competing in his E Type at the Speed trials for many years. This year he also entered and drove the Ferrari F40 behind. A nice way to spend a day!

An unusual entry was Alan Collett’s rare ISO Rivolta GT. Like an Italian Gordon Keeble or Bristol it combines European running gear with a big US V8.

Third fastest car on the day was John Church’s standard looking Audi 80 Quattro. It was anything but being blisteringly fast. Note the portable engine cooling fan – no point wasting power and increasing weight with permanent mechanical or electric fans!

The General Lim rat rod Plymouth

Carole Torkington prepares the SBD OMS CF08 for its final run. She came within fractions of a second of beating Jim Tiller’s Allard and becoming only the second woman (after Patsy Burt in 1968) to win the event.

As per usual the event attracted an eclectic mix of vehicles.  And whilst I improved my time on previous years, running with list 1A road tyres made a class victory all but impossible.  I was, however, gratified to beat a Ferrari F40 in two of the three timed runs.

The video below shows Pierre Lequeux in his Austin Healey Sprite starting his timed run. The car has been wonderfully restored and competed at Brighton in the 60s.

 

Unusually sunny weather for April made MG Era a very pleasant day

  

Beautiful MG WA. Only 369 of this large and luxorious 2.5 L 6 cylinder car were made in 1938 and 1939 before the war stopped production

  

This MGA 1500 is in the racing colours of the Fitzwilliam team

  

This MG R Type racer is a recently completed replica. The owner built it from scratch over nine years and the attention to detail is incredible.

  

MG SV-R keeping The Beast company

  

MGA Twin Cams celebrating the 60th anniversay of commencement of production of the MGA

 

The MG Tigress, or to give it its full name, the Mark III 18/100, was MG’s first production race car. Based on the road going MG 18\80 it, like the tiny MG M type midget, was build to compete in the 1930 Brooklands Double 12 Race.  The car had many advanced features including a six cylinder, 2.5 L overhead camshaft engine, dry sump lubrication, twin spark heads and improved suspension.  However they proved unreliable during the race with all cars retiring due to engine failure. In contrast the Midgets beat much more powerful machinery to win the team prize.  Due to their comparative lack of success and high price, only five Tigress’ were built. Two survive including one that visited MG Era at Brooklands in April. 

Originally owned by Lord Victor the Rothschild, GH3501 is in beautiful condition

  

The Tigress mascot on the car is said to have inspired Jaguar’s famous leaper

  

Beautiful fishtail exhaust and enhanced shock absorbers show that this car is no ordinary 18 / 80

  

…As do the fine set of Jaeger instruments

 

Last week I attended the launch of Stirling Moss’s new book, “My Racing Life”.  There have, of course, been many biographies and indeed autobiographies of “Mr Motor Racing” and I was somewhat sceptical that there was anything new to say about his career which effectively ended in 1962.    

The launch was held at the RAC Club,  the tables adorned with two of the club’s most precious trophies, the gold British Grand Prix Trophy and the exquisite Tourist Trophy – both of which Sir Stirling won on multiple occasions.  After dinner there was a question and answer session with Sir  Stirling chaired by well known journalist Simon Taylor.  This provided an opportunity for Sir Stirling to entertain us with stories and anecdotes, many of which we had not heard before.   

All those attending the launch were provided with a limited edition numbered copy of the book signed by both Sir Stirling and Simon Taylor.  Having now had a chance to look at the book in detail I am pleased to say that it would make a great addition to any motoracing enthusiasts library.  It contains over 300 photos, many taken from Sir Stirling’s own personal scrapbooks, with each photo chosen and explained in his own words by Sir Stirling himself.  The vast majority of the photos were completely new to me and have not, as far as I’m aware, appeared in any other book.   

To celebrate the launch of the book the Club arranged for the ex Rob Walker Ferrari 250 SWB that Sir Stirling raced to his final TT victory to be displayed in the rotunda.  Sir Stirling raced for Rob Walker’s privateer team during the last two years of his career. It was in a Rob Walker Lotus that he had his terrible career ending accident at Goodwood. During the evening Sir Stirling revealed that if it hadn’t been for his accident he would have competed in Formula One that season in a factory supplied Ferrari painted in Rob Walker’s colours. 

Apart from the odd auto solo, the Goodwood Road Racing Club’s Easter Monday Sprint is the only opportunity for most non professional GRRC members to compete against each other.  Even so, this year a fair number of professional drivers were invited to compete including ex Works MG BTCC and Le Mans driver Anthony Reid.

When MG were developing the MG SV Anthony Reid actually tested my car. A photo of him reunited with The Beast was too good an opportunity to miss.

 

This year Anthony was in my class driving a Works Noble M600.

The fabulous looking M600 has carbon fibre bodywork and eschews high tech for simple power, lightness and rear wheel drive.

 

This is the works M600 in which Anthony Reid came close to setting FTD at the Festival of Speed in 2014. On that day and at the Easter Monday sprint, traction proved to be a problem. Getting all that power down cleanly with no traction control was tricky and cost the team vital time.

An eclectic mix of cars took part in the sprint. This Piper Le Mans racer attracted lost of attention. Behind, can be seen “Old Nail” the Vauxhall Droop Snoot Firenza of the late Gerry Marshall.

Its rare to see an X150 Jaguar XKR racing. This neat example entertained the crowd with a howling supercharger

Anthony faced stiff competition for the day’s record time from two Nissan GTR’s, which were also in my class.  The rest of the cars in the class were similarly modern and all were much more powerful than my MG.  The only car with which I could hope to compete was a early Porsche 911 S (997).  Eventually I came out on top in that particular duel but all attention was on the battle for overall (not just the class) fastest time of the day between Anthony’s Noble and the Nissans.  In the end one of the Nissans pipped Anthony to the award.  The fact an amateur driver in a £60,000 car was able to beat a professional racing driver in a £235,000 car was telling.

Another popular entrant was this immaculate BMW CSL racer

 

I encountered a rare car at a service station on the M6 toll road yesterday evening. The owner of this gorgeous Porsche 918 Spyder hybrid supercar very wisely chose to park well away from everyone else and possible door opening dings!



887 hp and a 210mph top speed. Stunning looks and 4 wheel drive. A better car in all ways than the P1 and La Ferrari



Yes that really is gold leaf on top of the 4.6L V8



Two black beauties! Parking the Jag next to the Porsche shows the Porsches compact dimensions



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