Oulton excitement as MGCC racing returns

The MG Car Club racers got quickly down to business after their summer break in a crammed day of action around Oulton Park’s picturesque sweeps. Five of the club’s categories were present that all got two races each in Cheshire, and they were joined by the guesting Morgan Challenge that also got a double header.

The day also included a presentation to Chief Marshal, Paul Stilling (pictured above together with Oulton Park Marshals and MG Car Club Officials). After many years of service to the Club’s racing, Paul has decided that the time has come to take things a little more easily and Oulton Park was his last event in the role. He will still be seen out on the bank with his fellow marshals, predominantly at Donington Park. We wish him the very best for his future.

On the track, there was plenty of drama packed into the day, and it always paid to watch races to the end as no fewer than three of them had the lead change hands on the last lap, and in another the victory destination switched just before the final lap began. And these were far from the only sources of excitement.

Hickford Construction Ltd MGCC MG Metro Cup

Chief MG Metro Cup championship protagonists newly married Mike Williams and reigning champion Mark Eales (both pictured above, cars 28 and 1) led the opening race from the off. But Eales soon took command when poleman Williams’ car mysteriously stuttered then cut out completely. Williams went to park up only to then find the car fired up successfully.

By that time he was well off the back of the pack but he tore back into the action and finished 12th, setting fastest lap too after his problem.

Eales therefore looked set for the win, but at the chequered flag he had a 10-second penalty applied for a false start. This dropped him to third and Dan Willars (also pictured above, car 58) got the win by less than a second from Richard Garrard, and the latter got Driver of the Race.

Eales and Williams took up battle again in the second race, with Williams chasing Eales closely for much of the way. Eales, helped by better straightline speed, stayed ahead and also got Driver of the Race.

Eales said: “Definitely a mixed day. Race one: good start, it must have been touch and go on the jump start because I thought I had it spot on.

“Mike had to pull off and come back on and it gave me a bit of a gap, and then I just drove my own race. I was pushing because I saw the 10s penalty, but I had a couple of little moments towards the end and eased off a little bit which gave Dan [a chance to close].

“Race two, great fun. Absolutely rubbish start this time, ended up basically at the back. Then just fought our way back and managed to get past Mike and then Simmo [Matthew Simpson]. And then I had Mike hassling me the whole time, he’s so fast around the corners but his car’s a little bit down on power at the moment.

“So I made myself as wide as possible, if anything I was taking the corner a little bit slower and blocking the corner because I knew I had the pace to pull away out the corner each time. Very hard work but good fun.”

Williams said of his day: “It’s been a mixed bag to say the least. First race I started on pole and was a forgone conclusion in many respects, I got a 2s lead, I thought I’ll manage the pace, and Mark got a 10s penalty so it’s done and dusted, or so you’d think.

“Then the car started spluttering, he got past, and then it cut out completely. So I pulled over to the side of the circuit, I was literally going to get out the car, flicked around with a few switches, hit the button and it started up. I already was 30s behind what was last place. It was just a case of try and have a bit of fun, which I did.

“Race two, it was a full-on race, but the car just doesn’t have the power in a straight line. I was pushing Mark every corner, I’m alongside him in certain parts. Mark’s got about 7bhp more than me, which in a car with 120bhp is quite a lot. I couldn’t find the opportunity to get past and stay past.”

MGCC The Leacy Classic MG Trophy

Jason Burgess (pictured above, car 16) returned to winning ways in Oulton Park’s opening MG Trophy race, though he didn’t have it all his own way. First he had to rise from a second-row start, but he soon passed poleman Adam Jackson (also pictured above) to lead, and Jackson not long after dropped down to 13th place after a big slide induced by a damper failure.

However it still wasn’t a cruise for Burgess as the returning Ross Makar, having his first race after sitting out for much of this year with a shattered collarbone, was chasing him in second after a poor start from the front row. Makar indeed got into Burgess’s tail when the leader slowed for an oil slick, but Burgess was able to remain ahead to win

Twice champion Graham Ross was another returnee, in his case for the first time since Brands Hatch’s season opener, and he ran competitively until retiring with a clutch problem. Jackson recovered to sixth and got Driver of the Race.

Colin Robertson in his MG3 was third home, ahead of the Class B battle that was won by Joseph Dalgarno by 10 seconds from title rival Josh Bromley. Also in the title fight, Matthew Harvey comfortably won in Class C.

In the second race Burgess again from a second-row start quickly got on to early leader Jackson’s tail, and he passed for the lead on the third lap in a frenzied battle wherein the pair were side-by-side for much of the tour.

Burgess edged clear and looked all set for a second Cheshire victory of the day, but he stopped near the end of the final lap with a vibration, caused it transpired by wheel studs shearing. Jackson inherited the win.

Makar and Ross completed the podium, while Bromley got revenge on Dalgarno by pipping him for Class B honours by just 0.2s, after the pair were tied together for the race’s duration. Class C winner James Blake beat Harvey by 16s and got Driver of the Race.

Burgess said: “Fabulous, really good racing with Adam Jackson in both races, and with Ross Makar. He [Makar] caught me up [in race one] because there was oil on the circuit, so I had a big lead and I probably backed off too much. And then ended up having a good race with Ross at the end, but I’d got plenty in reserve.

“Second race was similar, it was probably a closer race actually than the first one. Adam was definitely out the blocks well and at one stage I thought I’m probably not going be able to catch him. So I literally did throw it into a couple of corners, threw it into the chicane and I got him going up the hill out of the chicane into Lodge and I got side-by-side with him coming on the start-finish straight and that lasted all the way down to Shell [Oils hairpin], it was fantastic.

“Then I managed to get my head down and he couldn’t catch me, and I had a mechanical breakdown on the last half of the last lap. That was disappointing but I had a lot of fun and some good racing, and that’s what you come for.”

Jackson added: “It’s not been easy today. I thought I’ll just go hell for leather straight off the bat [in race two], which I did, but then Jason was just reeling me in and reeling me in. We had a good little battle and when we came up on a backmarker he ended up in a bit of a gap. I [then] was trying to concentrate on doing clean laps but I was pushing more and ended up getting a bit more raggedy. Unfortunately for Jason he gifted it to me, it was a good race, I kept him honest anyway.”

MGCC MG Cup powered by Cherished Vehicle Insurance

With MG Cup championship leader Richard Buckley absent with his Ferrari work commitments, Class B cars stepped to the fore at Oulton Park. Fergus Campbell in his brightly painted MG ZR 170 (pictured above) won the opening race after leading all the way from pole. He formed a close frontrunning trio throughout with title protagonists and fellow ZR 170 runners Ian Boulton and Iain Dowler, and they completed the podium with Boulton ahead. Campbell got Driver of the Day too.

Dave Nixon in his Rover 220 Tomcat Turbo was next home and first of the Class C runners, beating Daniel Boman in his MG ZS 180.

Campbell then made it a double win in race two, and this time he was more dominant as he beat Boulton by 13.5 seconds. Boman was third home and therefore won the Class C contest, and he got Driver of the Race. Neither Dowler nor Nixon made the finish due to technical problems, Dowler having throttle woe and Nixon suffering overheating.

And Campbell’s day was even more impressive as he also raced his ZR 170 in both of Oulton’s MG Trophy races, and the final two races he competed in were back to back. In the first Trophy race Campbell even rose from the back to run second in class before getting a black-and-orange flag for flailing rear bodywork after contact. Appropriately Campbell got the meeting’s Driver of the Day award.

Campbell said: “It was a very unusual day. I’d entered the MG Cup races which was always my plan, but up to this meeting I’ve had engine problems all year and I missed Donington. And we sort of felt and hoped that we’d got it sorted and I looked at my qualifying time in the Cup on the same tyres as Joe Dalgarno in the Trophy and there was only a couple of tenths in it, so I thought while I’m here I may as well do the Trophy.

“As soon as that [MG Cup race two] finished, back here, quick refuelling and back into the collecting area for the Trophy. I’m pretty tired having done four races in one day but it’s nice to be back with a reliably running car.

“[In] the first [MG Cup] race I had my work cut out because the tyres didn’t switch on, and in the second Cup race I used the different tyre, the Yokohama tyre which the MG Trophy are using next year. But I had to do two races back-to-back on the same set of tyres, we didn’t have time to change tyres.”

MGCC Lackford Engineering MG Midget & Sprite Challenge

Richard Bridge (pictured above) was in dominant form in the MG Midget & Sprite Challenge in his Austin Healey Sprite, and from pole won the opening race by more than 20 seconds.

Returning frontrunner Stephen Collier likely would have offered Bridge a closer challenge, but he had recover from starting at the back after not being able to set a qualifying time due to a rotor arm failing. Collier rose to second place by the race’s third lap but by then Bridge was more than 10s up the road. They finished in the same positions, in Collier’s case despite his brakes failing at mid distance and him developing exhaust problems. The woes kept Collier out of race two.

Reigning champion Pippa Cow in race one was third home in her Sprite and beat James Hughes’ Sprite to Class E victory. Connor Kay in his Midget was the Class D victor.

Bridge looked all set to repeat his dominant win in race two as he built a large lead from pole, but he sensationally retired on the final lap with a broken halfshaft. Cow therefore inherited the win, finishing 5s ahead of Hughes. Kay finished third overall and got another Class D win.

Hugh Simpson in his Midget meanwhile charged from the back to finish fifth, and third in Class D, and this got him Driver of the Race.

Bridge said: “It was nice to win the first race, and it was a shame that Steve Collier had to start from the back because I was really looking forward to racing him. And then the car was just superb and the track was in good condition for the second race and just a bit of a shame not to finish because of the halfshaft breaking. I broke the lap record though so I can’t be too unhappy.

“[I was] racing the clock really, and the track was very oily this morning [in race one] so I really pushed on once I realised the track was in good condition [in race two]. I broke the lap record a couple of times, let everything cool down, went for it again and broke the car. One of those things, get it fixed for Snetterton.

“The balance is great, and the engine – although it’s my old engine and it’s slightly down on power – it’s very very strong, so it’s a very nice car to drive at the moment.”

MGCC Cockshoot Cup

The opening Cockshoot Cup race became a two-lap sprint for honours after a lengthy safety car period when John Spencer’s MG ZR 170 got stranded broadside at Deer Leep after an incident with William Fraser’s MG F.

There was still time for action though. Keith Egar’s freshly tyred Midget (pictured above) starting fifth had leapt to the front with a fine launch. He lost the lead to poleman Paul Wignall’s MG ZS 180 just before the safety car was deployed, but after green lap racing resumed Egar starting the final lap swept past Wignall across the start-finish line to lead. Wignall then immediately crashed out exiting the next turn at Old Hall, leaving Egar free to win.

Championship leader David Morrison was second home and took another Class B victory while Chris Greenbank was a comfortable Class F winner in his MG F. Rhys Higginbotham in his Class A MG ZR 160 finished in an impressive fifth place overall and was awarded Driver of the Race.

Egar followed up his victory with another in race two, getting another rocket start and this time leading every lap and keeping the chasing Karl Green’s MG ZS 180 at arm’s length. Green had dropped out of contention in the first race as he had to pit early to get loose wheelnuts tightened, and then any comeback thoughts were thwarted by being caught behind the safety car and unable to join the back of the pack.

David Coulthard in his MG F in race two took his second third-place finish of the day, and got Driver of the Race with it. Morrison – despite a misfire – Greenbank and Higginbotham were again comfortable class winners.

Egar, Morrison, Greenbank and Higginbotham also were awarded Vicky Peters Trophies for the best aggregate performances across the two races.

Egar said: “It’s been a great day. Qualification was a little bit complicated with the safety car, I was on the third row of the grid.

“The second race I was in the lead from start to finish really, so it was more straightforward [than race one]. But the car just really suits this circuit, and the fact that I bought some new tyres massively helps. I was running old tyres from last year and you don’t realise race after race they get harder and harder. I stopped being so tight and actually spent some money.

“And it was nice to see one of the Cockshoot Cup champions from last year; Brian Butler was here today. He’s not been well but to see him was another motivation, I know what a dedicated racer he is.

“Starts are my strength: the car’s light and fairly powerful. The car was initially built as a sprint and hillclimb car so you need to get off the line quick and that’s what I spent 10 years doing in sprinting and hillclimb.”

Morgan Challenge

Championship leader Andrew Thompson (pictured above) in his ARV6 took a dominant win in the opening Morgan Challenge race, with a victory margin of over half a minute. His task was made easier by that polesitter Tom Andrew in his Plus 6 first had a poor start and then, having recovered to second, pulled out as his car was lapsing onto its automatic gearshift setting, which created various problems such as going slower and cooking the brakes.

Title contender Brett Syndercombe meanwhile retired from race one, and missed race two, after bending his steering arm trying to pass Tony Hirst.

Thompson though had to give best in race two as Roger Whiteside in his Plus 8 – who had been stuck in traffic for much of race one on his way to second place – shadowed leader Thompson then passed him for first at mid distance and pulled clear. Whiteside’s advantage was such that he still won by five seconds even after a 10s penalty was applied for a false start.