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MGLive! Countdown: Silverstone 2006

From now until MGLive! on the 4th/5th June, we shall be running features that lead up to the big event. This week is a ten-year flashback to 2006, and a report of that year’s MGLive! which ran in Safety Fast! in August 2006. 

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For the guests from Nanjing MG, the MGCC Silverstone International Weekend on June 23, 24 and 25 must have been something of an eye-opener. With another huge attendance and a programme of activities which encompassed everything from a bustling TradersCity, through anniversary displays and a 17-race programme, there was variety and action whichever way you looked. The support for the MG marque remains incredibly strong and the 56th consecutive Silverstone International Weekend – an unbelievable record – demonstrated this in no uncertain fashion, notably with the huge presence of MGF/TF and the Z-saloons from Longbridge, now well-established members of the MG scene.

For the second consecutive year it was another triumphant Le Mans win that headlined the Pavilion display. Just four days previously, the RML MG Lola EX264 had completed a crushing LM P2 victory at the 24 Hours and here it was, exactly as it had finished in a triumphal 8th overall, begrimed and race-weary. Wellingborough-based RML had made huge efforts to ensure EX264’s attendance and used their presence to publicise the range of RML X-Power performance parts. Team owner and driver Mike Newton was also present and gave generously of his time to talk to visitors – many fresh from Le Mans – and sign autographs. How the RML team have picked up the MG Works mantle so successfully is another page in the marque’s sporting achievements and they remain determined to keep the MG flag flying in the Le Mans Series and defending their LM P2 crown in 2007.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAJames Kong (left) and Charles Wang (right) of Nanjing Automobile Corporation with the Le Mans winning LM P2 RML MG Lola EX264. Photo: Andrew Roberts.

That so much of the MG marque’s success has been rooted in its sporting history was demonstrated in the anniversary celebrations covering both the Montlhéry C-type Midget (75 years) and the Alpine Rally MGAs (50 years). The C-type Midget’s debut at Brooklands in the 1931 Double Twelve and its total annihilation of the opposition with outright victory and the team prize is one of MG’s greatest successes and Silverstone’s fine display and track performance of these giant-killing Midget paid ample tribute. Similarly with the Alpine Rally Works MGAs of 1956, the opportunity to see four of the cars together with Doug Samuel’s recreated BMC Transporter was literally unique. Even more so was the Sunday morning track demonstration – with Nanjing MG guests in the MGA co-drivers’ seats – with the BMC Transporter acting as the mother-ship.  Sadly, last-minute problems prevented the fifth car making the Silverstone gathering, but it should by now have appeared with its companions at the European Event of the Year prior to all five cars competing on the retrospective Rallye International des Alpes.

If 2006 was a year of sporting anniversaries it was also the 70th anniversary of the MG TA Midget, with the T Register fielding a substantial number of this significant model. Much-derided at launch in 1937 with its conventional pushrod engine replacing the ohc power unit and using many components from the Morris parts bin, the TA was nevertheless to achieve sporting success on the Trials scene and launch a series of popular square-rigger Midgets which would continue until 1955.The T Register enclave opposite the main pavilion was particularly well supported with cars being driven to the circuit, despite the youngest being over half-a-century old.

TradersCity might have seemed quieter to some this year but there was the usual huge variety ranging from cars to secondhand parts and much else in between. The twice-winning Monte Carlo classic MGA was offered for sale, as were an M-type Midget and glorious Nightfire Red MG RV8 on the trade stands. Private sales included an 05 plate TF for £9995, a £25,000 VA of 1939 and a brace of J2s contrasting with MGBs. For those restoring later models, British Motor Heritage had complete bodyshells on offer, including a seam-welded Midget with rollbar, a great basis for a competition car. Hutson were offering complete T Type bodies while Sports & Vintage Motors and Barry Walker were both offering hard-to-find parts and reminding us that no project should stall for lack of components.

Photo 7Modern MGs played a big part in this years show with a double figure number of SV’s on show throughout the three days. Photo: Martin Woods.

Overseas visitors again made the long trek, most notably from the USA, Canada, South Africa, Japan, New Zealand and Australia while nearer home there were representatives from right across Europe and Scandinavia. The close proximity of the European Event of the Year at Clermont Ferrand in France meant that a few familiar faces were missing although several groups were heading southwards immediately after Silverstone.

Almost imperceptibly it seems, the MGF and successor TF have, along with the Z saloons, become the predominant vehicles at Silverstone. Despite a strong representation of MGBs, the MGF/TF outnumbered them for the first time, a pointer towards the future, as modern classics become a readily available and convenient alternative. The Register displays were strong, the V8 car park being well filled, a double-figure number of MG SV/SV-R parking with the Z Saloons, the MGA register quietly celebrated the 50th anniversary of the Coupe and the Triple M register giving pride of place to the C-types, in addition to displaying their competition cars in the main race paddock. Again this year, the XPAG Specials marquee provided yet more variety, with Keith Hodder managing to source some further unusual cars, including a long-forgotten Lotus 6 and the superlative Lester MG restoration of Michael Cross.

The TCA Auction added further variety, this year concentrating on literature, memorabilia and collectibles. With over 90% of the lots sold, auctioneer Peter Card was well pleased with the outcome, notably the All about MGs brochure on the MG 18/80 and MG Midget, which sold for a premium inclusive £1380, against a top pre-sale estimate of £400. An undoubted collectors item of tomorrow was surely Gary Smith’s MG K3 bronze in Mille Miglia guise, a working clay of which was on show in the Pavilion, alongside his in-demand Double Twelve Midgets.

Photo 8The BMC Competition Department support vehicle of Douglas Samuel, together with four of the Works MGA’s. Photo: Chris Phillips.

MGCC Competitions Secretary Peter Browning was making his final Silverstone appearance in an official capacity, having made the decision to take a well-earned retirement after 50 years of unbroken work in motorsport. He will always be remembered as the last of the famous triumvirate of BMC Competitions Managers; succeeding Stuart Turner who built on the achievements of Marcus Chambers, but his time with Marlboro in F1 and his General Secretary role at the BRSCC were equally influential.