Magnificent Gala weekend at Silverstone – MGLive! 2011
By Philip Shoulder
Returning to Silverstone for a 61st successive year, the MG Car Club’s showpiece event occupied the world famous Northamptonshire venue from Friday 24 to Sunday 26 June. MGLive! 2011 also had a truly international flavour, with members from the recently formed MG Car Club of China also making the trip to Silverstone to take in the experience.
All throughout the weekend a magnificent mix of loyal MG enthusiasts, people looking for a family day out and just the plain curious, poured into Silverstone to soak up the sights and sounds on display and revel in the marvellous display of MGs spanning the ages. There was a great turn-out from all the registers, despite the weather, which did loom heavy on the Friday and early part of Saturday, but thankfully blossomed into a beautiful warm sunny Sunday.
After an amazing action-packed three days, this bumper packed festival has definitely been an event to remember and was full of exciting events and activities for all the family. Speaking from a personal perspective – this was the first MGLive! I have attended and I have to say I was bowled over by the scale, variety and sheer commitment of everyone involved. As life back at Kimber house returns to normal, here we take stock of a truly splendid world-class event.
For 100 participants The Tour De Silverstone road run was the ideal way to kick off their MGLive! in style on the Friday. Once again, many European visitors completed the tour and we’re delighted to have been involved.
MGLive! had the honour of showcasing the MG6 Magnette to the public for the very first time before the official launch in July. With its own Register parking area located near the MG Motor stand it was fantastic seeming the customers GT cars amongst the new Magnettes. I think its fair to say that this was the first time an MG6 has taken to the track in anger when Andy Kitson blasted around the Stowe circuit in a Sprint prepared MG6.
Overall the feedback received on both the GT and Magnette has been overwhelmingly positive. Another first for this year’s MGLive! was the inclusive of on-track test drives. On Saturday, members of the public were able to take the new MG6 out onto the Silverstone Stowe Circuit for a test drive to remember. People were able to turn up, fill out a form and be out on the track later that day.
Keith Harris, MG Motor UK Customer Relations Manager spoke of the success of this approach: “Although a significant number of slots had been pre-booked in advance – the sheer size of the venue and the fact that we had Stowe Circuit all to ourselves for the entire Saturday – enabled us to get a large number of people behind the wheel. I think everyone appreciated the benefits of this spontaneity and our dealers will have the opportunity to follow up with all of those people who drove the car.”
Legendary stunt driver Russ Swift wowed the crowds all weekend from the live arena. His spectacular display of motor madness included driving on two wheels, handbrake stunts and parallel parking, reverse spins…not to forget his famous dance routine that well and truly smoked the life out of his blue and white Mini Cooper’s tyres. Just as well then that his show came with the health warning of ‘Don’t try this at home!’
The crowd thrilling continued with action from the X-Treme Motorcycle Stunt Trials Display Team. Hearts momentarily stopped as the daredevils jumped 15ft vertical walls and performed a wide variety of freestyle tricks. As well as the high octane performances over the weekend the arena also played host to those cars and registers celebrating their anniversaries as the TAs, Midgets, Triple M Cars and Zed cars all paraded through in front of the gathered crowds.
Located in the throng of all the action were two big marquees. The first housed the Registers as well as being a showcase for a selection of cars with real trialing and rallying pedigree from the well used 1930s Cream Cracker through the stunning 1950s Mille Miglia MGAs and awesome 80’s 6R4 right up to the Pirelli sponsored ZR all set amongst a backdrop of trees, gravel and other rallying paraphernalia. The other marquee housed the Lifestyle stands, with everything from Jams, cakes cards and embroidery goods being sold the marquee was kept busy with inquisitive buyers during the whole event.
Throughout the weekend Trade City was open for business – with a great mix of products on offer for visitors to buy and enthralling live demonstrations. The Auto Jumble also presented a fantastic opportunity for MG owners to track down that elusive classic car part at bargain prices. John Redshaw got just what he wanted: “I’d gone armed with a shopping list of things I wanted for my MGC and after looking around and comparing prices I ended up with oil filters, Tonneau fixings and a C Register windscreen sticker”. John was also one of many visitors who took advantage of the free classic bus service, which operated throughout the weekend, transporting visitors around all parts of the MGLive! event.
One of the locations on the bus route was car park 49 located by the main Silverstone entrance. This was to play host to the prestigious California Cup Autotests. With an entry of 40 plus action was guaranteed from the outset, and with the well organised Ulster Centre contingent in attendance it certainly created a fantastic atmosphere as they scooped first, second and third place overall to win the California Cup, they didn’t have it all their own way though as the Lincolnshire Centre fought hard to win the converted BMC Trophy. Will Corry, overall winner gave a display of great precision driving during the prize giving in the arena as he used Club Chairman John Day as a post, spinning his Midget round and round him inches away.
Another key event on Saturday was Roy Locock’s presentation about his awe-inspiring round the world adventure in his little green 1500cc MG Midget, nicknamed Bridget. Roy had the audience listening with intrigue as his he told the tale of his truly epic road-trip in one of the most unlikely cars imaginable.
Roy’s likeable demeanour and witty humour and anecdotes entertained the audience as he recounted his experiences with a journey that took him and Bridget through 27 countries, 1230 gallons of petrol, 6 tyres and one engine rebuild.
Owning a set of wheels took on a whole new dimension at MGLive! this year with the newly introduced Rockerbox racing competition. A total of twenty cars ran in elimination heats, including the MG Car Clubs MG Benji Rockerbox, as racers young and old battled it out for supremacy in elimination heats until a winner was revealed.
James Eastwood, owner of cars 3 and 11 came third and said: “It’s a great fun event for children to get involved in, as they get to put the whole car together and then race it and do the catching and the releasing. It has certainly kept my kids entertained all day.”
Asked what the success was to Rockerbox racing, he said: “I think the skill is making a car that when it does touch the sides, manages to re-angle itself reasonably efficiently without scrubbing all its energy off. Maybe we’ll do a little bit of engineering each year to improve it and hopefully be in with a chance of winning next year.”
The weekend also served as an opportunity for MG owners to find out how to customise and improve their MGs with companies like The MGF Centre and Hoyle engineering displaying their wares.
Hoyle’s independent rear suspension (IRS) offers a huge improvement in road handling on MG cars as it gets rid of the old fashioned beam axel and leaf spring set up. This brings it up to a modern day standard and dramatically improves the feel and handling of any MG in which it is fitted.
The MGF Centre were kept busy with a steady flow of visitors wanting to take advantage of their accessory fitting service, with lots of chrome and stainless parts appearing on Fs and TF over the weekend.
For both current and prospective MG owners, Clayton Classics was a must see. The Coventry based company specializes in automotive air conditioning installations, car sales and restorations and offers a wide range of stock heating and air conditioning products, from individual replacement components to complete air conditioning kits.
According to Clayton’s Dean Allsop there was much positive interest at MGLive! But it’s not just heating and air-conditioning that the company now specialises in. “Two years ago we decided to look into restorations, rebuilds and car sales and that’s the stage we’re currently at”, says Dean.
Running in tandem with the weekend’s events was the racing. Over 600 competitors battled it out on the prestigious full F1 Silverstone circuit – home to the British F1 championship race just two weeks later.
The atmosphere trackside was electric and with no shortage of competitive spirit. In keeping with MG tradition however, it was good natured with even disappointed racers sparing the time to pose for a picture and a chat.
Bob Luff had a tale to tell about his Standard Class MGB. “My day’s racing was going very well until a hose split and the engine started losing coolant. The temperature gauge went off the end of the scale. I wanted to keep going at first, but when I realised that my engine might seize up I knew that I had to retire.” Thankfully Bob got his trusty MGB patched up and was able to enjoy further racing later that afternoon.
Other racers such as David Williams also had their share of technical glitches. “I had a bit of an oil-pressure problem with my ZR160 yesterday and a timing issue, which now both seemed to have been resolved.” Yet despite that David spoke of why he loves racing MGs.“I’ve always wanted to take part in racing and the MG Trophy is the closest thing to Touring Cars that I’m ever going to get. The main thing is to get a good qualifying position and then not crash”, he joked.
On track, a full MGCC racing programme was accompanied on Sunday by the popular “Sprint” event on the Stowe circuit. For further information on all the MG motorsport action, please refer to Martin Prices’ race and sprint report on pages 27 and 52 of Safety Fast!
Thanks to the circuit track tours, it wasn’t just the racers that were able to strut their stuff out on the Silverstone circuit, with 80 MG owners getting the chance to experience driving two laps following the club’s safety car on one of the country’s most famous racing tracks.
After all the excitement of the day’s events on and off track Silverstone greeted 200 cyclists who were invited to take to the Historic GP circuit on their pushbikes to help celebrate the start of National Motorsport week, which happened to coincide with MGLive!. For the campers and night owls who wanted to make an evening of it, there was a Saturday Night MG party with a live band and disco. Alongside this was also a formal three-course sit down dinner with guest speaker, Stuart Turner who was competition Manager at BMC in the successful days of the Minis and Healey 3000.
On Sunday, British National Aerobatic Champion Pilot Gerald Cooper who is currently ranked 7th in the world, delighted the crowds with his flamboyant and highly accurate flying style. He performed truly breathtaking stunts in his Avions Murdy Cap 232 aircraft that had everyone except the racing drivers looking skyward.
Gerald wasn’t the only person in the air however, with regular helicopter rides giving visitors the chance to get an elevated view of Silverstone and surrounding areas. For others the big wheel at the fun fair gave a birdseye view of the colourful sea of cars that had formed in the register parking area.
There was a terrific turn-out for Sunday’s Concours and Pride of Ownership, with a fantastic array of stunning cars spanning all eras entered, ensuring crowds had plenty of gleaming beautiful sites to enjoy. Overall winner of the concours was Vicki Edges immaculate early Iris Blue MGB with her husband, Geoffs MGA Coupe runner up.
All in all MGLive! 2011 was a wonderful weekend that raised a lot of money for the chosen charity Help for Heroes. The event can put its success down to being able to offer something for all the family to enjoy, not only the die-hard petrol heads among us.
As always it was down to the hard work and dedication of so many people that allow it to continue – and for that a special thanks goes out to all those involved.
MGLive! continues to be popular not only with people from this country, but worldwide, with MG fans from across the globe making the effort to be part of it, proving that dedication and love of the MG marque is as strong as ever.