Prior to the MG Trophy Championship as we know it today, Rover introduced the Dunlop Rover Turbo Cup in 1994 as a major international race series with their 220 Turbo Coupe. Many international tracks were on the calendar including Spa and Zandvoort. This championship supported the British Grand Prix at Silverstone and was seen by over 100,000 people plus a world wide TV audience of many millions. This championship ran until 1997.
The true forerunner to the Trophy Championship came in 1998 as the MGF Cup Championship. Thirty special full race Cup cars were built in 1997 for this new championship. The announcement, made at the London Motor Show at Earls Court in 1997, was for a one make race series organised by the Rover group and coordinated by the British Racing Drivers Club. It consisted of 12 rounds at high profile circuits throughout the UK, including Silverstone and Brands Hatch. The series attracted £100,000 of prize money and the overall winner also received a brand new MGF (forerunner of the LE 500) at the end of the year.
These cars were nothing like any other MGF’s previously built and all the bodies were seam welded and had no interior apart from a roll cage and drivers seat. A 190bhp dry sump engine was fitted and the cars retained the hydragas suspension system modified to racing spec. The cost for a fully prepared race car was £24,000+vat and most were purchased by MG Rover dealerships. At the first race on the 4th April 1998 at Silverstone, no less than 28 of the 30 cars made the starting grid. Rover continued their sponsorship of the MGF Cup for 3 years ending with the 2000 season. Not many of the original Cup cars remain and only one now still races in the current championship. This car, now upgraded to TF spec is currently owned by Andrew Radford and is probably the most successful Cup car ever. It has a fantastic history which is now fully documented.
The MGF/TF continued racing in this championship and was joined by the ZR in 2002. In 2003 MG Sport and Racing introduced their Arrive and Drive package and initially 10 ZR190 cars were built for this programme. Considerable investment (£100,000) was put into supporting MG’s premier race championship each year and this included full back up at every round with a 40 foot specially equipped spares truck and full hospitality. This continued until the collapse of MG/Rover in 2005.
2005 – 2013
The MG Trophy championship, as it has been known since 2005, has continued and, despite having no title sponsor, has been successful in launching the careers of several drivers who have moved on up to higher profile championships.
The championship saw the race launch of the LE 500 in 2009 with the car prepared by the Dreadnought team and raced by Paul Luti. Much work was done over the winter of 2008/9 to have the car ready for the 2009 season. It had many outright race wins to its credit including both the big Silverstone Live events in 2009 and both Knockhill races in 2010. These races received excellent media coverage in the UK motorsport press with full colour photos.
The original rwd Cup cars and the F/TF 160’s and 190’s and LE 500 were still eligible to run in the championship but 2013 saw only one car compete in just 4 of the 12 rounds. Paul Luti switched back to fwd in 2013 and once again was on the pace, this was surely the writing on the wall for the rwd cars that had been suspected back at the end of the 2012 season. Driver pressure let them stay for the 2013 season but the end was in site with Gary Wetton having the dubious honour of being the last rwd driver to compete in the Trophy championship on the 7th September at Oulton Park in his Dreadnought built LE 500. Gary finished in 6th place the lowest finish for a 190 car that day.
2014 saw the highest number of registrations (38) and the biggest grid average (23.4) ever and this included two ‘away’ races at Knockhill with reduced numbers. This year saw the introduction of the ‘new’ 160 class (D) for basic road going ZR160 cars. The previous 160 class (C) was upgraded with an ECU remap and other changes and rebranded as the 170 class. Both these changes proved to be winners with 4 of the new 160’s and 19 170’s racing. The MG Motor prepared MG3 race car was demonstrated at Silverstone and was driven by current BTCC MG drivers Jason Plato and Sam Tordoff. Four of the rounds were televised and shown on ‘Motors TV’ in prime time slots and five of the seven meetings were sponsored.
2015 was another record year with 42 registered drivers which gave us a grid average of 27.7, a big increase on 2014. Grids of 32 for the season opener at Brands Hatch and 31 at the big MG Live event at Silverstone again broke records. Four rounds were televised again and shown on ‘Motors TV’ and 6 of our 7 meetings were sponsored. We continued our relationship with MacMillan as our chosen charity and a cheque for £700 was presented to them at the club headquarters. The championship went down to the wire at the final round at Snetterton for the 9th year in succession with the title going to John Gil in his ZR 160, one of our ‘new’ class of cars first introduced in 2014.
2016 An excellent season saw 43 drivers racing with some serious competition in all classes. The ‘budget’ 160 class has 10 entries and has now come of age with more expected in 2017. Some of the drivers wil be moving up to the 170 class so that means there are tried and tested cars available for newcomers, why not come and join us in 2017.
With no sign of a suitable ZR replacement car from MG the hope of attracting factory support looks unlikely despite years of trying to encourage them to come up with an MG3 club level race car, disappointing to say the least. The ZR in it’s 3 different states of tune still attracts novices and experienced racers, it’s proved to be a good introduction to tin top racing with drivers going on to the Clio Cup and the BTCC so we will continue with more of the same for the time being.