Season Opener for MG Car Club and Equipe Classic Racing

 The Brands Hatch Indy circuit was the venue for the first races of 2023 for the MG Car Club and Equipe Classic Racing. As always when these two organisations share the same billing the paddock was filled with huge variety of cars ranging from the pre-war Triple-Ms to mighty Cobras and Mustangs and modern racers in MG Trophy and MG Cup.

The driver profiles also make interesting reading, they come from all walks of life with the age range covering more than four decades 

As anticipated the drivers and cars lived up to expectations with entertaining, quality competition during the two day meeting within the intense Indy circuit bowl.

MGCC – F G Barnes MG Trophy Championship

Two-time MG Trophy champion Graham Ross, who had experienced a difficult 2022, took pole and emerged overall and Class A winner of both races in his left-hand-drive ZR 190.

After dropping to third on the opening lap of Race 1 Ross fought back and by lap four had claimed the lead which he held until the flag. Sadly his main Class A opposition evaporated when Doug Cole’s ZR 190 non-started with electrical problems. However, an intense battle between the ZR 170s propelled Fergus Campbell to the 2nd step of the podium, only 1.8 seconds adrift with Tylor Ballard 3rd overall and newcomer, Jack Woodcock, an impressive P4.

Jack Chapman, who rose from the back to P5 overall, was awarded Millers Oils Driver of the Race.

With his car now in good health, Doug Cole took the third slot on the grid for the second Trophy race. Ahead of him were Ross (2nd) and Lee Sullivan’s ZR 170 on pole. Sullivan led at the end of lap 1 but Ross demoted him to P2 on lap 2 and by lap 4 Cole had demoted him to P3. Cole got alongside Ross several times at Paddock and Druids, though Ross was the stronger at Graham Hill Bend and managed to resist Cole to take his second win of the weekend.

Behind them the Class B battle raged once more. Sullivan was leading Class B when he retired with a repeat of the technical woes which had also sidelined him in Race1. Ballard got into the Class B lead with a magnificent pass on Campbell, hanging on around the outside of Druids then getting the inside line for Graham Hill Bend. He went on to take the class win and the Millers Oils Driver of the Race award with Campbell P2 and James Cole P3.

MGCC – Cherished Vehicle Insurance MG Cup

The MG Cup races at Brands Hatch were graced with a celebrity on the grid. Race 1 pole was taken by none other than Lance Ellington, the Strictly Come Dancing singer who raced a Tomcat 220 Turbo in the 1990s’ Dunlop Rover Turbo Cup. This Brands event – back in a Tomcat – marked his return to competition after a quarter century away.

Ellington led race one early on, but it was another newcomer, Steve McDermid in his brand-new ZR 190, who took the lead on lap 5 where he remained until the flag. Ellington was second home on the road but got a 10-second penalty for starting just ahead of his grid slot. This let Ashley Woodward, whom Ellington pipped to the line, claim second place after all in his ZS 180. Woodward also got Driver of the Race.

Race two looked very similar to race one as McDermid again moved up quickly into the lead from fourth place. However this time Woodward, who’d led the first four laps, remained close to him. Then the race got turned on its head when the lead pair made contact at Druids, putting McDermid out.

Woodward continued in first but was hobbled by his resultant suspension damage and Ellington eventually passed Woodward’s understeering car to win and receive the  Driver of the Race award.

MGCC – Lackford Engineering Midget & Sprite Challenge

Stephen Watkins made a welcome return to the Midget & Sprite Challenge in his MG Midget, and won both Brands Hatch races from pole, and, for the first of them, he received the Steve Everitt Trophy, an award Watkins was delighted to receive as he had raced with Everitt in years gone by.

Neither of Watkin’s wins were straightforward. In the first race he had to resist Richard Bridge (Class E Austin Healey Sebring Sprite) who harried him throughout. Watkins though got a reprieve when the race ended four minuted early with a red flag caused by Hugh Simpson’s MG Midget stuck in the Paddock gravel. 

Reigning champion Pippa Cow started both races from the back of the grid after spinning out of a wet and tricky qualifying but in both races she climbed quickly through the field to get with the lead group. In Race 1 she was third home, and second in Class E.

Bridge was unable to take part in Race 2 due to mechanical problems and Watkins was leading when the red flag flew again as a couple of cars pulled off and plenty of oil spilled on track.

And at the restart Cow got the lead from Watkins on the outside of Druids first time through but two laps later, at the same turn, Watkins retook P1 and stayed there until the flag. Cow came home in P2 and took the Class E win from James Hughes. Stanton again beat Simpson in Class D, and was awarded the Midget & Sprite Challenge’s Driver of the Meeting.

MGCC Baynton Jones Historic Motorsport Triple-M Racing Challenge

The Triple-M Racing Challenge had a significant double winner as Charles Jones, the head of series sponsor Baynton Jones Historic Motorsport, returned to race his MG L Magna for the first time in four years. He won both races from pole.

Jones was largely unchallenged in Race 1 after Andrew Long retired with supercharger problems and won by 12 seconds from the Class B winner, Mike Davies-Colley in his MG PA Special.

Tim Sharp in his MG PB was 4th overall and Class A winner just ahead of Steven McEvoy in his MG Magna F1 who won Class D. McEvoy was also awarded Driver of the Race.

Long had a disappointing day as he retired again with fuel pump failure on lap 1 leaving Jones to win Race 2 by 36s. Mark Dolton, in his MG PB, gpassed Davies-Colley at mid distance to finish P2 overall, win Class B and take the Driver of the Race award.

MGCC BCV8 Championship

The day started badly for Neil Fowler who missed qualifying as his fire extinguisher was set-off accidentally and he couldn’t fit a replacement before the session started.

Reigning champion James Wheeler took pole driving his dad’s Class C MG B but lost the lead to Ian Prior on lap 1. He was back in the lead a lap later but Fowler was on a charge from the back of the grid and by half distance had passed Wheeler for the lead.

Fowler won, despite a five-second penalty added for passing a car before the line at an early safety car restart, with Prior in P2 and Wheeler P3 and Class C winner. Russell McCarthy won Class B and Jordan Spencer Class AB.

In a repeat of Race 1 Fowler won Race 2 from the back of the grid with Prior in P2. Wheeler finished P3 and Class C winner with Guy Samuels taking Class B and Spencer victorious in Class AB again.

Equipe GTS

Tom Smith won Equipe GTS Race 1 in his MG B Roadster. After an early red flag he took the lead which he held to the flag. Smith was was gifted some breathing space as Oliver Pratt in his Morgan Plus 4 had a poor start from pole and dropped to mid-pack before recovering to finish in P2, the deficit just 2.5.

Pratt got the better of Smith in the also-restarted Race 2. He got the lead from Smith at the restart and Smith was unable to mount a meaningful challenge as he had made changes to his MG B between races. He admitted later that they may have been counterproductive.

Equipe 70s

In Equipe’s new 1970s series Andrew Wenman’s Morgan claimed pole and initially led Race 1, but at two-thirds’ distance he spun at Surtees and lost the lead to Stephen Winter’s Porsche 911. Wenman fought back and trimmed the deficit before he lost more time with a mistake at the exit of Graham Hill Bend.

Wenman prevailed in Race 2 taking the lead at the start and stretching his advantage over Winter to 14.2 seconds at the end.

Rob Cull debuted his pristine Ford Capri but sadly retired two laps from the end of Race 1 and was unable to appear for Race 2.

Equipe Pre 63 / 50s

Damp conditions during qualifying hampered Nigel Winchester in his beautifully prepared Shelby and he started the opening Equipe Pre 63 / 50s race from 11th. But in the dry Race 1 he charged through the field to P2 on the first lap. At one-third’s distance he passed Joe Willmott’s Healey 3000 for a lead he didn’t lose.

In Race 2 Winchester started from pole and led all the way. But this time he was hounded by a pack of chasing cars and had to resist an attacking Nick Finburgh (Lola) who ran in P2 for the latter part of the race. Winchester’s superior straight-line speed kept him ahead, but a five-second track-limit penalty meant that Finburgh took home the laurels.

Equipe Libre

Chris Beighton’s Sunbeam Tiger, which will race at Le Mans Classic this summer, led all of the opening Equipe Libre race from pole to win by 5.6 seconds from Rick Willmott’s AC Cobra.

Beighton looked on course to repeat the win in Race 2 but dropped to P4 after a spin at Clearways. He recovered to P2 but retired soon afterwards when the Sunbeam started to smoke handing the win to the Lotus Elan of Gerard Buggy.

The next meeting got the MG Car Club championships will be on 13th May at Oulton Park whilst Equipe Classic Racing will be on track again the same weekend on the Brands Hatch GP circuit.