MGLive! Silverstone Race Report

MGLive! played host to a varied and entertaining weekend of racing on the Historic Grand Prix layout at a sunny Silverstone on June 2-3.

One of the highlights of this MG Car Club flagship event Saturday’s celebration of the 20th anniversary of the inauguration of the MGF Cup and Abingdon Trophy, with MGF owner and racer David Coulthard gathering F and TFs to mark the occasion. Unfortunately the numbers on the grid didn’t quite live up to those anticipated, but those that did take part enjoyed the opportunity to experience the iconic track.

Unfortunately pole position qualifier for the Church Square Autos MGCC MGF/TF Anniversary Challenge Philip Standish – in his TF LE500 – was not among them, pulling into the pit lane at the end of the green flag lap with a fuel leak. That left Jonathan Harker to take up the mantle of front-runner in his similar car, and he held a comfortable – if not substantial – lead throughout. It wasn’t all plain sailing though, as he had to cope with a steamed-up cabin for the last three laps.

Cockshoot Cup regular Brian Butler was a fine second in his F VVC, just 1.4 seconds behind Harker, a result that earned him the Driver of the Race award as well as the Abingdon Trophy class. Adam Key took a solid third position in his F VVC, some way clear of the battling Cup cars of Coulthard and F1000 regular Andrew Wheals. Ray Collier had one of the more entertaining drives, in commentator Paul Goodman’s F VVC, spinning at Luffield on the first lap but fighting back to be the final car inside the top six.

Rob Spencer’s stranglehold on outright victories in the TN Racing BCV8 Championship was broken in the first of two races. Russell McCarthy was the man to do so, but in spite of being on pole he suffered a very bad start. Neil Fowler led initially but Spencer dived down the inside of him at Brooklands on the third lap to take over. McCarthy moved ahead of him there a lap later, then took the lead from Spencer on lap six. Spencer and Fowler were then involved in an incident that sent Fowler spinning on the Wellington Straight on lap seven – with Spencer having a big rotation on oil at Abbey on the final lap that almost brought Fowler back into contention for second place. Andrew Young came out of a close fight with Ollie Neaves to win Class C, and with it the Driver of the Race award, while Simons Cripps and Tinkler enjoyed more comfortable class successes.

Equipped with a fresh set of tyres, Spencer was back in winning form in the weekend’s second race, capitalising on another poor start for McCarthy to lead from the off. McCarthy smoked past Fowler on the third lap to claim second position, but a lap later retired with a holed oil cooler. Having retired from Saturday’s race, Jonnie Wheeler completed the Class D podium.

In the Class C fight, Young lost ground on the third lap leaving Neaves well out in front. Young capitalised on the restart after the caution period to reclaim fifth place overall from Class B winner Cripps, while Tinkler again won Class AB, this time earning Driver of the Race.

Ray Collier enjoyed success in the first Cockshoot Cup encounter, which ran concurrently with the BCV8s. His ZR190 finished eight seonds clear of the ZS180 of Simon Lowery, who was awarded Driver of the Race. Mike Peters topped Class B, while Brian Butler, ahead of his class win in the special MGF race, scooped the Class F honours. In the early stages there had been a good battle for third overall between the Midget of Mike Peters and the ZS180 of Ashley Woodward, but that dissipated when Woodward’s car hit trouble.

The second race was interrupted by the safety car after Butler, who had hitherto had an excellent weekend, collided heavily with the wall on the International Pit Straight. That was to the advantage of Collier, who was able to cool his overheating car during the two laps it was out. “The safety car won it for me, I couldn’t have done another lap,” he said. “The K series, head gaskets and Silverstone don’t go well together.” Lowery had to settle for second after briefly leading, with the fast-starting Keith Egar Midget in third position. Mark Bellamy and Driver of the Race Ian Wright, who returned home overnight to change the engine after blowing it in qualifying, picked up the class winner awards.

In the Millers Oils MG Trophy the stage was set for Paul Luti to extend his advantage in the Enhanced Power points standings in the absence of Jason Burgess, but it wasn’t to be. Paul was plagued by brake problems on Saturday, with Graham Ross pouncing to grab the lead in the championship with a lights-to-flag victory in race one.

Andy Spencer took second place, a long way clear of what developed into a three-car battle for the last podium place. Having made his switch to the ZR190 class permanent, Will Payne “didn’t give it enough revs” at the start and dropped right back, but grabbed third place from Doug Cole at Copse on the final lap, in spite of an issue with his exhaust.

In the ZR170 class, Ryan Firth was chuffed with his victory and the Driver of the Race award as he emerged on top of what was often a five car battle for the lead. Sam Kirkpatrick had put his freshly built car on pole, and brought the car home second in class, just ahead of Adam Jackson. Luti suffered “colossal brake failure” on two occasions in the race, both at Village hairpin. On the first occasion Matt Turnbull was delayed in avoiding the accident, while on the second occasion Luti retired from the race. Turnbull came back to fourth, ahead of Patrick Booth.

Tylor Ballard bounced back from his roll at Brands Hatch by taking the 160 Class victory in a new car that had been built up in the four weekends since the last race, taking the lead from John Booth on lap three and staying ahead thereafter.

Ross completed his brace of wins in the second race, but again Spencer gave him a very hard time on his way to second place. Cole completed the podium – just – but survived a “massive moment” at Maggotts before fending off Payne.

The ZR170 division again provided the highlight of the race, with Firth taking another far from straightforward victory. “I never thought I would be able to do the double at MG Live!” he said after fending off non-points scoring South African guest Danie van Niekerk by less than half a second. Firth had taken the lead by half-way around the first lap but lost it to Kirkpatrick on the third lap before the rookie’s car promptly expired. Patrick Booth went with Firth and van Niekerk (who won Driver of the Race), with Luti limiting the damage from the weekend by grabbing onto their coat-tails by the end, up from 18th overall to eighth. With John Booth retiring on the first lap with a misfire on his ZR160, Ballard had to sing to himself to keep him entertained on his way to class honours once more.

Steve Collier won the Lackford Engineering Midget/Sprite Challenge race comfortably in his Midget to consolidate his overall championship lead. Collier beat a close battle for second headed by Dave Weston from Richard Wildman, also in class A Midgets, by just under seven seconds. Also racing was Dave Weston’s 18-year-old son Edward, who finished 11th on his debut.

Paul Campfield’s Austin Healey Frogeye Sprite beat Pippa Cow’s Midget to the class E win by eight tenths of a second, the pair finishing sixth and seventh overall after a race-long scrap. Campfield therefore stretches his class E championship lead, but Cow had the consolation of the Driver of the Race prize. Solus competitors Ian Staines and Andrew Wolf took their respective class prizes, while in Class D Mark Witherspoon (Austin Healey Sprite MkI) was the winner, beating Ed Easton by just under 10 seconds.

Returning champion Alan Brooke took both Peter Best Insurance Services MG Cup wins in his Rover Metro. In the first race he was locked in a battle for the lead with fellow Metro driver and Brands Hatch double winner Mike Williams, which was settled when Williams pulled off just after half distance as oil was leaking onto his wheels. In spite of getting his gearbox changed in the short gap between races, Williams did not take part in the second encounter. Championship leader heading into this round, Matt Simpson, also had to retire at half distance of race one when a head gasket failed on his Rover Tomcat. This also kept him out of the second race.

Driver of the Race Ian Boulton took second place in his ZR170 ahead of Peter Burchill’s ZS180 in both races and therefore was double class B winner, with his nearest class rival Nick Arden some way adrift in his similar car. Darren Harris’s ZR160 scooped class A honours in the first race in seventh overall, missing out on a top six spot by just three-quarters of a second, while in race two Dan Ludlow’s ZR160 topped the class, also winning the Driver of the Race prize for fourth overall.

Ray Ferguson’s ZR was the only invitation finisher in both rounds after Anniversary Challenge winner Jonathan Harker pulled into the pits after two laps of the first race with brake problems, a recurrence of issues he had with his MG TF LE500 at Brands Hatch.

The MGCC Iconic 50s race was the only one during the course of the weekend to be red-flagged, with Stuart Dean crashing the MG Dick Jacobs Special into a gate in the pit wall at the start of the second lap while taking action to avoid a slowing car ahead of him. There was just time for a 15-minute restart, which boiled down to a two-way fight for honours. Canadian Stuart Dickinson’s MGA Twin Cam rarely had much breathing space ahead of the Turner MkII of Steve Watton, and on the final lap he spun at the Arena complex, allowing Watton through to take victory. Mark Ellis took a class-winning third in his MGA Twin Cam having overcome an “intense couple of laps” with Neil Cawthorn’s Roadster version. Robert Innes-Ker gained Driver of the Race for his climb to fifth position.

The first Equipe Pre-’63 race was blitzed by Jack Rawles in the family Austin Healey 3000, beating Martin Brewer by more than 13 seconds. John Pearson ran second in his Austin Healey 3000 but allowed Brewer to extend his lead with two offs at Aintree, while Bob Binfield’s E Type completed the podium.

The plan had been that Jack Rawles would hand the 3000 over to his father Bill for Sunday’s contest, but Jack took up the pole position for race two and duly pulled out a clear lead. Brewer was second throughout on this occasion, with Pearson again showing strongly in the early stages before eventually fading back to ninth. The battle of the race was for what became third position, with Binfield getting the better of Paul Kennelly in an all E-Type scrap. In the concurrent Equipe MGB races, David Keers-Trafford did the double.

Two TVR Grantura MkIIIs battled it out with Tom Smith’s MGB Roadster in the first of the Equipe GTS contest. It might have been three, but the pole-winning Rod Begbie almost immediately dropped out of contention, leaving Wilf Penrose and Mark Ashworth to slug it out with Smith, who had been out earlier in an MGA Coupe in the Pre-’63 race. Smith tried to use backmarkers on the final lap to pass Ashworth but to no avail, while the slightly smoky Penrose car held on to win.

Even in spite of a small fire under the bonnet of Ashworth’s car in the pit lane after race one, the same three protagonists were at it again in the second race, with Ashworth, then Penrose, then Smith taking their turns up front. The MGB driver held the initiative going into the closing stages, but having been defeated by Smith at his home circuit, Oulton Park, three weeks earlier, Ashworth was intent on turning the tables and did so on the very last lap. Stephen Winter (Porsche 911), Paul Kennelly (Austin Healey 100/M) and Robin Ellis (Lotus Elite) made for a varied set of class winners.

Words by Ian Sowman, with additional reporting by Graham Keilloh