The winter months seem like a distant memory as I sat in a sun soaked media room at Donington Park, enjoying the opening race meeting of the season. The consensus was that everyone was pleased to back, as ever, and with new drivers and new cars, it was a fantastic start to the 2017 MG Car Club season.
The College Motors MG Trophy
With a 33-car grid, including 10 newcomers, the MG Trophy was set to provide another entertaining performance, and we certainly weren’t disappointed.
Doug Cole scored a winning start to his 2017 MG Trophy campaign, after a thrilling season opener. Despite losing out on his front row start, Cole managed to claim top spot, as he and Graham Ross began their final lap.
Familiar MG Trophy face, Ross Makar, led the way, however it wasn’t long before chief challenger Graham Ross surpassed him for control.
Before long, Cole was hot on the heels of Makar, before demoting him to third place. With Ross in his sights, Cole mounted a challenge, which saw him make it a two way battle for honours. As the pair began their final lap, Ross missed a gear as they lapped a backmarker, allowing Cole to pass for the lead.
Despite landing just inches behind him, Ross was unable to disrupt the result, to claim second place. Makar held on for a third place finish.
Jack Roberts and Paul Luti continued their close qualifying performance, to finish first and second in Class B, whilst Matthew Turnbull dominated Class C. Doug Cole was awarded Driver of the Race.
Ross left race two victorious, after denying Cole and Makar the spoils. The better start fell to Makar as the race began, who led the way for a number of laps.
With top spot in their sights, the lead trio swiftly left the rest of the field behind. Makar’s lead suddenly came under threat, when Cole and Ross made a bid for glory. As Ross leapt ahead, Cole and Makar endured a slight coming together before racing towards Redgate, side by side.
After a few laps, the top three separated, for a relatively calm end to the race. Paul Luti claimed Class B honours, after a frantic outing, to finish some way ahead of Andrew Rogerson and Jack Roberts.
Matthew Turnbull doubled his success, with a Class C victory in race two, ahead of Andy Spencer and MG Trophy debutant John Booth.
Our commentary team rewarded Graham Ross with the Driver of the Race award for the second outing.
The WES MGCC BCV8 Championship with MGCC Thoroughbred Sports Cars
Neil Fowler triumphed in the opening combined BCV8 Championship with Thoroughbred Sports Car race. In what became a race of retirements, Fowler was one of the few who managed to survive the 20 minute duration.
A slow getaway for pole sitter Russell McCarthy allowed James Wheeler to take control. A strong opening lap soon left McCarthy in a position to claim the lead, as Tom Smith and Neil Fowler made it a four-way battle.
McCarthy’s advantage was short-lived, however, when smoke made an appearance from the rear of his MGB GT, as he rounded Redgate. Unable to maintain the pace of the lead trio, he suddenly dropped to fourth place.
Bad luck soon found its way to Wheeler as well, as Smith and Fowler began a two-car battle for the lead. With Smith looking good to repeat his familiar front-running performance, he suddenly pitted into retirement.
This kick-started a chain of retirements, as a number of drivers fell by the wayside lap after lap. With a lack of competition, Fowler steered his way to victory, some 47 seconds ahead of McCarthy. Despite a steady end to his race, McCarthy held on for second place, ahead of Ollie Neaves, Jonnie Wheeler and Jim Bryan. Paul Rayment claimed Driver of the Race for his sterling efforts.
Russell McCarthy and James Wheeler provided a thrilling finale to the BCV8 and Thoroughbred Sports Car outing.
Wheeler again had the edge early on, but McCarthy immediately fought back. As the pair lapped, McCarthy continuously attempted to pass at Redgate, however as Wheeler covered the inside line his efforts were denied. Their side by side stint down the Craner Curves saw the order organised as the pair reached the Old Hairpin, with Wheeler narrowly able to stay ahead.
Persistence paid off, when McCarthy made his trademark move stick, as he glided around the outside into Redgate.
Wheeler fought back a number of times, however as the chequered flag eventually settled the dispute, it was McCarthy ahead by less than half a second.
Ollie Neaves claimed himself a third place finish, ahead of Jonnie Wheeler and Jim Bryan, once again. McCarthy’s triumphant performance saw him awarded Driver of the Race.
MGCC Peter Best Insurance MG Cup
Alan Brooke’s unmatched performance saw him ease to victory in the opening MG Cup outing. In what looked like an easy race, he stormed from a front row start to victory, unchallenged throughout.
Pole sitter David Mellor tired his utmost to dismantle Brooke’s advantage, however settled for second place in the wake of the 5 second gap.
As Brooke lapped, his sideways manoeuvres certainly provided entertainment for the crowds, as he lapped on full power for the duration.
Third place was awarded to Ed Davies, ahead of Richard Buckley and Peter Burchill. Dan Jones completed the top six. Our commentary team deemed Dan Jones worthy of the Driver of the Race spoils.
It was very much a repeat performance at the front in race two, as Brooke once again stormed to a dominant victory.
Mellor once again claimed a strong second place, ahead of Davies. Fourth place was awarded to Buckley this time around, narrowly ahead of James Darby in fifth place. Iain Dowler was awarded the Driver of the Race.
MGCC Cockshoot Cup
Ashley Woodward narrowly claimed victory in the sole MGCC Cockshoot Cup appearance. After long-time leader Howard Hunt suddenly pulled off track, the door was open for Woodward to claim a victorious start to the season.
Hunt secured the best start to lead the way around Redgate, however a furious opening lap saw pole sitter Ray Collier storm into the lead as the field weaved through the Craner Curves.
Despite leading for much of out outing, Collier was rapidly forced off the circuit, when his MGZR 190 began to smoke profusely from the back.
In Collier’s absence, Hunt reclaimed top spot, chased furiously by Phil Standish. As Standish piled on the pressure, his MF TF LE500 was seemingly tired, as he pulled onto the grass along the pit straight. Hunt was the next man to suffer issues, when his MG ZS limped to one side, allowing Woodward and Philip Bowden to storm passed.
As Woodward claimed victory, second placed Bowden stole the show, to narrowly miss out on victory on his racing debut. Peter Bramble completed the top three, as well as being rewarded with Driver of the Race.
MGCC Drayton Manor Park MG Metro Cup
Jack Ashton brushed off his rivals and a safety car to steer to a virtually unchallenged MG Metro Cup victory. His triumph also deemed him worthy of not only Driver of the Race, but also our coveted Driver of the Day award.
From pole position, his view of Redgate was untarnished, as he led the way around the opening tour. Despite a challenge from team-mate Lee Connell, Ashton managed to fend him off. As the field raced lap after lap, the safety car was suddenly called for when Kyla Birdseye landed against the barrier as she weaved through the final chicane.
Out of the car and seemingly unhurt, her stricken MG Metro was pulled to safety, allowing the race to restart. Despite the field nibbling at his heels, Ashton held his ground, to pull an eventual 6.825 second gap.
Unable to disrupt his team-mate’s rhythm, Connell claimed second place, ahead of Mike Williams and Andrew Ashton.
Simon Cripps used the aptly timed safety car period to his advantage, for a victorious result, ahead of Brian Arculus and Robin Ellis.
Tom Smith and Mark Ashworth shared control early on, before a well timed safety car period matched the opening of the pit window. As Smith’s MGB Roadster expired, oil was left on circuit at the Craner Curves, calling for the release of the safety car.
As the safety car was released, a number of cars opted to make their mandatory pit stop, making for a busy pit lane.
As drivers rejoined, the order was slightly jumbled, as everyone fed themselves in behind the safety car. After a lengthy period at simmering pace, the oil was dressed and the race resumed.
Once ahead, Cripps managed to fend off Arculus, by just 1.179 seconds. Ellis held on for third place, ahead of Andrew Bentley, David Beresford and Ivan Hayward.
MGCC Lackford Engineering MG Midget & Sprite Challenge
Stephen Collier demonstrated a dominant performance, to claim an MG Midget and Sprite Challenge victory by just over eight seconds.
Second place was a hive of activity, as Richard Wildman and Edward Reeve battled profusely. Reeve had held the position for much of the race, however he was eventually unable to hold off his fellow MG Midget driver.
Peter Kennerley unnerved fourth placed man Richard Bridge, to claim the position by just 0.033 seconds. A last minute dash saw Bridge attempt to reclaim the position as the chequered flag came into sight, however Kennerley narrowly had the edge. Paul Campfield raced his way to a strong sixth place finish. Driver of the Race was awarded to Stephen Collier.
A fantastic day swiftly came to an end, in the light of the Spring sunshine. With healthy grids, excellent racing and lots of smiling faces, it’s safe to say the season opener was a great success. We’re looking forward to Brands Hatch, in just a few weeks time. See you there.