Silverstone National Race Report
For the first time in four years the MG Car Club opened its season on the Silverstone National Circuit, with an entry of 85 cars across three grids for the first Equipe GTS races of 2018 among the highlights on a day that, contrary to the weather forecast in the build-up, stayed dry.
First of the Equipe ranks to take to the track was the new-for-2018 Pre-’63 category, with all bar two of the 26 qualifiers making it onto a grid that was numerically dominated by Big Healeys. Qualifying had suggested, though, that it was the Aston Martin Project 214 copy of Martin Brewer and the Andrew family Elva Courier that would beat all of them, and so it proved. Brewer came back to win even after an excursion mid-race at Becketts, in avoidance of the spinning Elva – an incident that briefly handed the lead to the Mike Thorne/Sarah Bennett-Baggs Healey 3000. But as he pit-stops shook out, that car dropped to fifth, and third of the Healeys, behind those of Jack and Bill Rawles and John Pearson.
The more established Pre-’66 series enjoyed more than 60 entrants, and thus was split into two groups, the slightly slower group up first. The race boiled down to a thrilling conclusion, the spectacle slightly aided when David Keers-Trafford dived into the pit lane in his MG B Roadster late on, having misinterpreted a driving standards warning flag. That left Rob Cobden’s Elva Courier and Babak Farsian’s B Roadster to contest the lead in the closing stages and they crossed the line alongside. The timing screens initially recorded a dead heat, but were then updated to give Farsian the verdict by 0.012s – or just over a foot! David Russell-Wilks (B Roadster) completed the podium, while Paul and Jonathan Mortimer (Healey 100) added a class win to the one they recorded in the Pre-‘63s.
The final 35-minute pit-stop race, for the Pre-’66 Group A contenders, again bubbled up to an exciting climax. Tom Andrew (Elva Courier) had just taken the lead from Mark Ashworth’s TVR Grantura MkIII at Luffield on the penultimate lap when there was contact approaching Woodcote. That incident brought Chris Ryan’s Triumph TR4 and Tom Smith’s B Roadster into play as well – with the lapped Paul Andrew Elva also in the mix – but it was the battle-scarred TVR that clung on to take the win, with the leading quartet covered by barely a second. All of the podium finishers – Ashworth, Tom Andrew, and Ryan – won their classes, as did Paul Kennelly (Jaguar E-Type) and John Pearson (Lotus Elite).
The opening rounds of the College Motors MG Trophy Championship were not without drama. The safety car was scrambled in race one after a second-lap incident at Copse that ruled out Rob Perkins and debutant Sam Kirkpatrick, who had graduated from the Junior Saloon Car Championship.
The call for the safety car to return to the pit lane was a late one, which caught Doug Cole – who had made up three places at Becketts to take the lead on the opening lap – napping. In the confusion, Jason Burgess took the lead just before the timing line, although given the circumstances he was not penalised. He went on to take outright victory with Graham Ross, who dived up the inside of Cole at Brooklands on lap 11, taking second.
Reigning champion Matthew Turnbull proved that his ZR160 success was no fluke by qualifying on ZR170 pole on his maiden outing in the division, but it was last year’s runner-up that aced the start and left Turnbull playing catch-up. Their battle for the class win was interrupted on the final lap by the ZR190 of Andy Spencer unlapping himself after a first lap trip to the Becketts gravel.
Among the ZR160s, Tylor Ballard (son of the race sponsor) took his first class victory, emerging on top of a fine tussle with John Booth by less than half a second.
Burgess completed a double later in the day, this time leading from lights-to-flag – just! Cole had been running second when a spin on the exit of Luffield dropped down the order, and he had fought back to fourth position before he was forced to retire. Ross, meanwhile, played a waiting game before launching an attack on the leader at Brooklands on the final tour. There was door-to-door contact that caused Ross to spin and Burgess to take to the grass, but they maintained their original positions, with the rorty-sounding car of Andy Spencer third.
The ZR170 scrap was intense, with a number of position changes in the battle between Luti, Turnbull and Adam Jackson. On lap 11 Turnbull dived ahead at Brooklands to take the class lead only to lose it to the experienced Luti at Woodcote before turning his attentions to defence from Jackson in the final few laps.
Ballard suffered problems from the off and eventually retired his ZR160, leaving 4G Racing team-mates Booth and John Gil to dispute divisional honours, the former coming out on top.
Reigning Metro champion Mike Williams made an impressive debut in the Peter Best Insurance MG Cup, but his results matched neither his pace nor his entertainment value. Having replaced the 1400cc engine of his Rover Metro GTi with an 1800cc version, but not yet having upgraded the exhaust or the final drive ratio, he found that he wasn’t quite a match for the Rover Tomcats in a straight line, although he more than made up for that in the corners. He and Richard Buckley’s 220 Turbo traded the lead for the first ten laps or so before both retired – Buckley with a drive flange failure, and Williams with a fuel leak that left the tank dry. Matthew Simpson’s Tomcat therefore took the win from invitation entry Stuart Tranter and the ZS180 of Peter Burchill, with returning 2011 champion Dan Ludlow among the retirements.
Williams and Buckley were both back at the end of the day for race two, with the Metro leading in the early stages before he started to struggle with his gearbox and dropped away, eventually to sixth. Buckley eased to a comfortable win from Simpson and Tranter, while Ian Boulton’s ZR170 overcome Burchill to take fourth and a second class win of the day.
The best season-opening field for the TN Racing BCV8 Championship for many years was without champion Russell McCarthy after qualifying dramas. Pole-sitter Neil Fowler made a slow start allowing Rob Spencer into the lead that accumulated over the first five laps of the race. Fowler then started to erode it, the two cars running nose-to-tail for the final few laps, but Fowler’s last lap attempt on the lead at Copse was stymied. Ian Prior was a distant third, while the smoking car of James Wheeler eventually expired.
A huge spin at Becketts for Andrew Young handed Ollie Neaves the initiative in Class C, while behind the fleet of GTs clear Class B winner Simon Cripps was the first Roadster home. James Walpole overcame Babak Farsian to take Class A victory.
Ray Collier overcame a first lap rotation at Becketts to win the opening Cockshoot Cup race of the year. He was back in the lead by the end of the second lap, the ZR190 overtaking Philip Standish’s TF LE500 at Luffield to seal the place. Peter Bramble’s B was a race-long threat to Standish’s second position, with Ashley Woodward also in contention with his ZS180 until his retirement with a blown engine. Michael Ashcroft climbed to fourth in his ZR190, briefly interrupting the class B victory skirmish between Mike Peters and Ian Whitt. Returning champion Brian Butler opened his account with a Class F triumph.
David Morrison’s Midget won the Lackford Engineering Midget/Sprite Challenge by more than one minute in the end. Having taken second place at Woodcote on lap three Stephen Pegram (Midget) was second until lap 16 when Richard Bridge’s MkII Sprite, which had failed to get away at the start, swept past. Both suffered late problems and limped home in sixth and fifth, however, promoting the Class E Frogeye scrap between Paul Campfield and Tom Walker to one for second place overall.
The Ashton brothers led away at the start of the Drayton Manor Park MG Metro Cup opener, Jack heading Andrew. Andrew briefly escaped from the battle behind him, which had Dick Trevett and Dan Balster involved, among others, but he was drawn back in and lost second place to Balster at Copse on lap 13. Trevett finished fourth, the leading quartet having shaken off Shamak Glodek and Mark Eales, who continued their own battle for fifth.
There is less than three weeks until the MG Car Club are next in action, on the Indy circuit at Brands Hatch on April 28/29.
Words by Ian Sowman
Photos by Dickon Siddall – www.dsdigital.co.uk