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

 

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

 

Brooklands, the birthplace of British motor racing, is home to a fascinating museum and the very impressive Mercedes-Benz World. Every October the Museum with Autoitalia Magazine organise a motorsport day at the Museum and on the test track at Mercedes-Benz World. All sorts of competition cars are invited to the event and this year I took along my MG SV.

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Queuing up for some hot laps on the MBW test track. The broken concrete circuit is part of the original Campbell road circuit. Note the variety of other competition cars. Not sure the standard F Type and Testerosa count!

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In the paddock the variety continues. Note the top fuel dragster. When the engine is running the pit crew need to wear gas masks.

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This fearsome Fiat 500 Abarth looks like it is on steroids. It has a 1.8L 220 bhp engine!

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A very smart MG M Type Midget Le Mans. A similar car won the 500 Mile Race at Brooklands driven by Lord March’s grandfather, Freddy.

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Alfa Romeos 8C and 4C

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TT Legend Joey Dunlop’s Ford Transit complete with smart looking BSA

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Two more Fiat 500 Abarths, one luke warm and the other hot!

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MG SV in front of the iconic Brooklands Club House

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JPS Team Lotus transporter. The stock car isn’t quite a Lotus 72.

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A team Lotus JPS Motorhome, former home to Mario Andretti and Ronnie Peterson.

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A miraculous survivor of a time when Fiats rusted to oblivion in 5 years! This 128 is immaculate. My Grandad had a green one which I remember with fondness. In production from 1969 to 1985 it was European Car of the Year in 1970 and its front engine front wheel drive design became the standard for most other manufacturers.

The concours of elegance which have been held for the last three years at various royal palaces have emerged as the premier concourse d’elegance in the UK. The first event at Windsor Castle in 2012 was a great success. Last year’s event at St James’s Palace was also good though a rather less grand affair. This year’s event at Hampton Court Palace was the best yet. Held in the grounds of Henry VIII’s palace on the banks of the River Thames, this year’s event was blessed with good weather and a fantastic turnout of world-class cars. Indeed many of the cars in the concourse had been shipped across the Atlantic direct from Pebble Beach. As in previous years, the premier motoring clubs in the UK were invited to enter 50 cars each for a supporting show. I entered my MG SV with the Royal Automobile Club.  Having become an established feature of the London motoring scene next year’s event will be held at Holyrood House in Edinburgh, the Queens official home in Scotland. Whilst this will undoubtedly provide grand surroundings and whilst Edinburgh is a fine city, I wonder whether there will be a sufficiently large market to support an event of this nature. We will find out next year.

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1933 MG K3 under close examination.

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Lord Bamford’s gorgeous 1933 razor edge Rolls Royce Phantom II Continental. The one off coupe coachwork was carried out by Freestone & Webb. Lord Bamford showed the same car at Salon Prive and the Goodwood Revival the following weekend. Well you would, wouldn’t you?

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Epitome of 50’s sports cars, 1957 Ferrari 250 TDF GT Scaglietti Corsa Berlinetta.

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Old and new. 1896 Lutzmann Victoria and 2014 Ferrari LaFerrari.

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The Aston Martin Owners Club brought a fine selection of DB4’s and 5’s.

 

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Jaguar XK120 Jabbeke Coupe. This modified XK120 was built to claim back the Land Speed Record, which it did at Jabbeke in Belguim in 1953 at a speed of 172 mph in the hands of legendary Jaguar test driver Norman Dewis.

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This immaculate Ferrari 275 deservedly won best in show from amongst the club entered cars.

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This one off Zagato Jaguar XK140 was built after its Italian owner (and friend of the Zagato family) bent the original body in a crash. Zagato hoped that Jaguar might order further cars but they did not. It is much better looking than an XK 140!

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A car that attracted lots of attention was this barn find 1934 Frazer Nash. It belonged to an RAF officer and remained in his ownership until the current owner purchased it recently following the first owner’s death. Shabby but with oodles of patina, the current owner was asking for views on whether to restore it or not. I think its best to get the mechanicals sorted but leave the body as is. Its only original once!

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By contrast, here is a similar restored Frazer Nash. It looks brand new.

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Another view of the beautiful Zagato Jaguar XK140 Coupe.

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Patina..

 

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The Beast looking good – compare the lines with the Ferrari 550 Maranello behind.

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Old Beauty

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MG SV on show

The last two events in my racing season have proven rather soggy affairs. The Abingdon Car-nival is a great event raising money for local and military charities. Uniquely, over the course of one day, competitors get to drive two different sprint courses on the perimeter track of the old Abingdon Air Force Base. Unfortunately it rained very heavily for most of the day. This reduced both track times and enjoyment.

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Ready for the off at Abingdon in the driving rain behind a very loud Mustang

Shelsley Walsh in Worcestershire is the oldest motorsport venue in the world. Cars have been racing up the hill since 1905. This heritage and the beautiful country surroundings make it one of my favourite events. Sadly it rained heavily again all day. Unlike with many sprint courses there is very little run off at Shelsley and therefore it pays to be cautious when it is wet. It was my first time taking the Beast up the hill so I was extra careful. She’s a big car for a narrow twisty Hill! Whilst my time was okay it was still nowhere near as fast as times that I have managed previously in my little MGF.

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A very wet paddock at Shelsley. I was the only car out of 150 to not get a pit shelter. Then again I needed it less than the vintage MGs seen behind.

My racing season kicked off with a great meeting at Rockingham Motor Speedway in Northamptonshire. Rockingham is the UK’s only banked speedway and was constructed in the nineties with public funds on the site of a closed down steel works. The intention was to bring Indycar and NASCAR racing to the UK. In the end the circuit only hosted a couple of races before it was realised that the economics of promoting those series in the UK did not work. However a sports car circuit was constructed in the middle of the track and Rockingham now hosts a variety of different series including the BTCC.

The sports car circuit is fantastic – very long with a wide variety of technically challenging corners. It also uses two sides of the oval plus Turn 2, one of the long banked corners. As you zoom along the straight towards the banking at Turn 2 you pass the huge grandstands that dominate the north side of the track and with a bit of imagination you can get some idea of what it must be like to head towards Turn 1 at Indianapolis or Daytona! You are supposed to take the corner flat out – I’m afraid to say I didn’t have the guts for that and lifted every time. I was still touching 110mph down the straight after the Turn – as fast as I go along the Lavant Straight at Goodwood.

We were very lucky with the weather for such an early fixture with a dry track and plenty of sun. The BARC organised the event, the first ever sprint at Rockingham. Because of that there was a fantastic turnout of officials and marshals who ensured the whole event ran like clockwork. We had two practice and three timed runs and I improved my times each run. My final time was respectable but I lost time on Turn 2 and the final corner that I took much too slowly. So room for improvement next year!

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The Beast under proper Indycar race position tower.

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Towering grandstands , fast straight and pits. Daytona? No, Rockingham..

 

Today I should have been taking part in the last event of my season, a sprint at Castle Coombe Race Circuit. Unfortunately I left my application too late and did not get an entry for what is always an oversubscribed event.  Its a real shame as the SV is perfectly suited to fast circuits like Coombe and I am sure I would have done quite well.

Looking back over the season I can see some improvement in my driving as I slowly got use to the car. Sprints and hill climbs are not like circuit racing – you get far less track time and as such it takes longer to learn the peculiarities of car.  Whilst I had two coaching sessions at Bruntingthorpe proving ground I suspect I should have done some track days – there is no substitute for track time. Still, any improvement is good and if I can get a couple of track days in before next season begins I should do a lot better in the championship that I race in, the MG Car Club Luffield Speed Championship.  Below are some photos from the season.

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On the start line at the Farnborough and District Motor Club’s Rushmoor Sprint, Aldershot, April.

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At the splendid Sevenoaks and District Motor Club Crystal Palace Sprint, London’s only competitive motor sport event.

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At the Brighton and Hove Motor Club’s Goodwood Sprint, August. The mocked up Earl’s Court building was being prepared for the Goodwood Revival Meeting in September.

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Exiting the chicane at Goodwood.Image

Fast grey British engineering genius, and the Harrier isn’t too bad either. Bruntingthorpre Proving Ground, September.

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At speed at Prescott Hillclimb

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In the paddock at Prescott Hillclimb, October. The Beast is parked next to a new works MG3.

Beast’s claim to fame is being the oldest surviving production MG SV. She was a works car and was used for promotion work when the car was launched in 2003. That year she was prepared for the Goodwood Festival of Speed and spent the weekend in the supercar paddock and being driven up the hill by luminaries such as Australian multiple F1 champion Sir Jack Brabham and the designer of the car (and the McLaren F1) Peter Stevens. So when earlier this year the Goodwood Road Racing Club announced that there was to be a new area of reserved parking at the Festival of Speed for visiting supercars I was determined that the Beast should have the chance to mix it with the Ferraris, Lambos and other exotica. The organisers were supportive and allocated me a ticket when they found out the Beast would be revisiting the Festival nearly 10 years to the day since she was last there. Getting a ticket was not as easy as it sounds as the organisers had a list of what they thought of as supercars and MGs were not on it! Only two door Ferraris were allowed, and amongst the volume brands only Jag XJ220’s (no other Jags) only Lotus Esprits and Evora S, 911’s but for this year only, and only SLS Mercs (no AMGs). So pretty exclusive company!

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The Beast attracted lots of attention, indeed more than the McLaren MP4 12 c and Ferrari V12 parked next to it. In fact there were 23 McLarens present so they were considerably more common than the MG! Surprisingly there was only two Ferrari 458’s when I had been led to believe that they were, when compared to the McLaren, the better car. Clearly the Festival crowd are a patriotic bunch.

McLarens – any colour as long as its orange..

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As it was the 50th anniversary of the 911 there were plenty of Stuttgart’s finest. Next year its said they won’t be allowed amongst the supercars but this year the super car car park would have looked a bit empty without them so it would not surprise me if they get a reprieve.

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I suspect the attention focused on the Beast was the result of her striking looks and the fact she is such a rare car. One of her admirers turned out to be someone who had worked for the Isle of Wight company who had made the carbon fibre blanks used to construct the bodywork of the car. The Beast was the first complete SV he had seen.

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I took the Beast to Silverstone in June for the MGCC main international event. I was competing in the sprint on the Stowe Circuit and had high hopes of improving my performance after my appalling time at Crystal Palace. The Stowe Circuit has some good straights and I thought that would help me to at least better the times I had set there a few years previously in my little MGF. The result was massively disappointing. Although there were some good straights the Circuit also has a lot of slowish corners that I struggled to get right. My best time was some 4 seconds slower than my time in the MGF. It should have been 3 or 4 seconds faster especially as this time round there was one less chicane!

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The following weekend I was racing at the Gurston Down Hillclimb near Salisbury. Gurston is a fantastic hill and one of my favourite events of the year. It’s quite fast with a challenging series of corners in the middle and some steep gradients. The paddock is in a farm yard and the whole event is run with fantastic precision. You can even get a great breakfast at the startline cafe which has a great view of the hill. My expectations were very low but much to my surprise I did relatively well. Whilst still a couple of seconds behind the times I had set in my MGF the gap was not so large and I managed to at least be quicker than the other MGFs and TFs. I was still a couple of seconds slower than a time set by previous owner Nadine but I know how quick she is so I was not too disappointed! Next event should be a return to Goodwood in August where I should hopefully improve on the times I set at Easter.

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Getting to know the foibles of a new car is never the easiest thing to do in racing. It’s made all the harder in sprinting and hill climbing as the amount of track time you have is very limited. To try and give myself a head start this season I took the Beast, my MG SV, to Bruntingthorpe airfield in Leicestershire for a day’s tuition with experienced driving coach Mark Hales. He spent a most enjoyable day trying to give me a feel for driving the car at speed and around corners. Despite Mark’s excellent tuition I did not come away feeling confident when faced with the prospect of the Goodwood Road Racing Club’s Easter Monday Sprit the following weekend. As it was the car performed well with lots of grip and good brakes. It seemed suited to a fast circuit like Goodwood even if I was not! I had great trouble getting the car away from the line. I just sat there spinning the wheels for what seemed like ages. Starting in second gear was too slow but the car has such mighty torque it even managed to spin the wheels changing up to third. The end result was a disappointing time and final place. In fact I was significantly slower around the track than I have been in the past in my much less powerful MGF. Still, the car attracted a lot of interest and I was interviewed by One Forty One, the Goodwood Club website and TV channel. The interview can be found on You Tube here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7nUdMmF7dvw

In the pits at Goodwood

In the pits at Goodwood

Following the disappointment of Goodwood, my next outing was at the Farnborough and District Motor Club Dimanche Sprint at Rushmoor Arena near Farnborough. Its a relatively tight course but one I know well. Things, however, started badly. The wet weather made the track treacherous and at the first corner, a slow 90 degree right, I span thankfully without hitting anything. My embarrassment was relatively short lived as both the following cars did the same! As the day wore on and the track dried out my times got quicker and in the end I improved from last in class to a respectable 4th with only Porsches and Caterhams ahead of me. part of my improvement was down to finally getting the hang of getting away from the line without spinning the tyres. The knack is to merely drive off like you are slowly leaving some traffic lights and then to pile on the power once a fair bit of momentum has been obtained.

A bleak Aldershot morning

A bleak Aldershot morning

Buoyed up by my performance at Rushmoor I was looking forward to the Crystal Palace Sprint on the May Bank Holiday weekend. This is one of my favourite events and I have driven at every one since motor racing returned to the Palace in 2009. It’s a fantastic event – the only motor racing event in London. It’s little know that the the first ever motor race in the UK took place at Crystal Palace in 1899. Racing continued in various forms both before and after the Great War. In 1936 a new purpose built circuit was inaugurated but it was only used for three years before the Second World War brought all Motorsport in the UK to an end. After the War racing returned in 1953 on a new longer and faster circuit. Whilst never the host to an F1 race, F2 races attracted all the stars of the day from Jochen Rindt to James Hunt and Niki Lauda. In its later years the circuit also hosted fast and close saloon car races and attracted up to 60,000 spectators. As cars got faster the track became more dangerous. There was virtually no run off and average lap speeds by the early seventies were over 100mph. Racing came to an end in 1972 and the course reverted to park land. The Sevenoaks and District Motor Club staged a couple of sprints on part of the old circuit in the late nineties but the local council refused to allow these to continue after the millennium. The resurrection of motor racing at the Palace in 2009 was agin organised by the Sevenoaks Club and h proved a massive success. Held over two days it has for four years now been blessed with great weather and big crowds of over 5000. The sprint attracts over one hundred entrants on each day and as well the racing there are car displays, trade stands, kids activities and catering – all in a pleasant park setting.

Motorsport at the Palace

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At Crystal Palace I found myself in a large class of 20 cars of various types ranging from Subaru Imprezzas to a Suzuki Cappuccino. And I did terribly. The course was very tight and ran partly on the old pre War circuit and then up to the frighteningly narrow North Tower bend. This has negative camber and is surrounded by banks and trees. When it was part of the original race circuit it was 25 foot wide, now it’s less than half that. Grip was not a problem, gearing was. It was too fast to go round in first but changing into second lost too much time. I just could not get it right and finished a humiliating 18th in class beaten even by the diminutive Suzuki! In fact I ended up 30% slower than the winning four wheel drive Subaru. A real shame as it’s a great event and I wanted to do better.

The Beast with victorious Subaru Imprezza.

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There were some interesting cars at the Palace. The Chaparral sports racer below, for example, look at the pipes on that!

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Pre War cars were out in force including this very smart Amilcar and this Riley exiting the first corner.

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Beautiful Fiat Balilla with iconic Crystal Palace transmitter.

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Over forty years apart, Jacky Ickx in the winners Crayford Cortina convertible 1967 and the car, back at the Palace this year.

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