Twists and turns as MGCC titles are taken at Snetterton
MG Car Club racing categories plus the Morgan Challenge gathered for the club’s 2022 season finale meeting at Snetterton, and they all had championships to resolve. And the day could barely have packed in more drama in deciding those championships, as there were plenty of twists and a few titles were not resolved until the very last. In one case it was decided literally in the run to the finishing line.
To add to the excitement, the early Autumn weather in Norfolk was sometimes treacherous, with the occasional short shower livening the action further and giving drivers plenty to think about.
It was a particularly notable meeting too for MG Metro Cup and Midget & Sprite Challenge, which both had special occasions to mark.
MGCC The Holden MG Trophy
MG Trophy’s championship fight at Snetterton was between Class B pair Joe Dalgarno and Josh Bromley, with Dalgarno arriving in Norfolk with a slender lead.
And the duo in the first Snetterton race took part in a tight four-way place-swapping class battle with Patrick Booth and James Cole also involved, though Cole dropped out at half distance after overrevving his engine. And Bromley pipped Dalgarno to the flag by just 0.157 seconds, getting Driver of the Race with it. This result created a winner-takes-all finale race for the title between the pair in race two.
While at the front Class A’s Jason Burgess and Adam Jackson also had a tight fight, with Burgess jumping poleman Jackson at the start and holding off his foe. Their scrap was resolved when Jackson pitted with a puncture shortly after an off entering the Bentley Straight. He returned freshly booted to take a distant second in class.
In the title-deciding race two, now in more tricky conditions, Dalgarno spun early and lost ground to Bromley. But, having established tyre temperature, Dalgarno closed in on Bromley late on and the title-protagonist pair had a furious last-lap scrap for the crown. Dalgarno got by Bromley at the start of the lap, but Bromley was back ahead at the Esses halfway round. The pair proceeded at close quarters and amazingly had a side-by-side drag race to the line for the championship, which Dalgarno won by just 0.058s. The pair had made contact at Murrays, the final turn, but it was declared a racing incident.
Sam Meagher, who missed race one, ran competitively in the second race to finish fifth in Class B and got Driver of the Race.
While up front Burgess made it a double win by again holding off poleman Jackson after jumping him off the line. At one point the pair were side by side for several corners from the Esses, but Burgess had the inside line for Murrays and kept the lead.
Dalgarno said: “It’s been a tough year, it’s been a great year. I got my first win at the beginning of the season and to finish it with a win as well was really mega, I really enjoyed this year.
“I didn’t really have any grip [in race two] and kept pushing, kept pushing, and I got the tyre temperature up. And as soon as I got temperature I was able to brake that bit later and carry that little bit extra speed through the corners and it just brought me onto the back of him [Bromley].
“I went for the move [at Murrays on the last lap], which I had done the same on the previous lap, and he left me room the previous lap, last lap he didn’t leave me the room. I tried to back out of it to avoid the contact but I just didn’t quite make it in time.
“I turned him around a little bit, so I backed right out, let him get straight again and [it was a] drag race to the line.”
Bromley said: “[At] Murrays as I’ve turned in I’ve had contact on my rear bumper slash rear wheel area. It’s sent me into a slide and cost me the exit of that corner, the run up to the line, and he’s [Dalgarno] drove past me.
“Early on [in race two] it started raining, normally you get a couple of laps where it’s not too bad but it seemed as soon as a little bit of rain came down it was very very lively. But I managed to find some pace in the rain.”
On the year more generally, Bromley added: “It’s been a great season, enjoyed every minute of it, so can’t wait for some more.”
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Richard Buckley returned to the MG Cup grid at Snetterton, after missing the Oulton Park round with work commitments. In Norfolk he was seeking to confirm the championship crown ahead of the challenging Class B runner Ian Boulton.
Buckley in his Rover Tomcat claimed pole, but it rained before race one and he was less happy, particularly with the car’s brakes early in the race and he had a lap-one off at Oggies.
The Class B MG ZR 170s came to the fore instead and among them Jack Chapman – in his newly improved machine – quickly took to the front and streaked clear. He won by 45 seconds and astoundingly it was his first-ever win. Appropriately he got Driver of the Race. Fergus Campbell and then Boulton were next home.
Buckley despite his struggle took class victory just from Dave Nixon, who recovered from a lowly grid slot as his Tomcat was only running on three cylinders.
Joel Roy Highley in his MG ZR 160 won Class A clearly from the returning Marcus Short whose gamble on wet tyres did not pay off.
Race two was in large part a repeat as Chapman again scampered clear in first place to win crushingly, this time by half a minute. His performance was rewarded with Driver of the Day.
Buckley again had a tough time, and again ran off the track early on. He recovered though to second in class and this was sufficient for him to seal the title.
Campbell again was overall runner-up while Daniel Boman was third home and clear Class C winner, as well as Driver of the Race, while Short won in Class A. Boulton had been second home overall on the road but got a 10s penalty for causing a collision.
“I tried my hardest not to do it today really didn’t I?,” Buckley laughed. “I locked up in the first race, the first lap, locked up on the first lap of the second race, made myself hard work. But I managed to bring it back, so happy with that.
“I put some different brake pads on and they’re very snatchy, too hard, very snatchy when they’re cold. They’re fine when they get hot. Especially the first lap there’s not enough heat in them, as soon as you touch the brakes it just snatches them.
“Two finishes, that’s all I was interested in today. I wasn’t particularly bothered about wins, just two finishes and the championship.”
Double winner Chapman meanwhile said: “It’s been a really good day, had a lot of ups and not many downs, because I seemed to keep the car on the pace, the car was set up well for every condition that the track threw at me.
“Before coming to this weekend I overhauled it [the car] with British Legends, and just everything seemed to be good. Throughout the whole of the season I was having an issue with it but I didn’t realise I had the issue. It had a dodgy earth on the ECU and when I sorted that the car seemed to be on fire ever since.
“End of last year I’ve shown a lot of pace and potential and that I could possibly fight for the championship. But this year it all went out the window, but out of nowhere I’ve found the pace in the car again and I’m back where I should be.”
MGCC Lackford Engineering MG Midget & Sprite Challenge with MGAs & BCV8s
Midget & Sprite Challenge had a special contest at Snetterton as in its first race Class A runners competed for the Ted Reeve Memorial Trophy, remembering the man who competed in Midgets for 48 years, and whose last race with the club was at Snetterton in 2017.
In that first race, poleman Richard Bridge retired almost immediately with what he suspected was a water pump failure. And in the damp conditions the returning newly crowned Cockshoot Cup champion David Morrison had his wet-tyre gamble on his Midget pay off handsomely. From fourth on the grid he had a 6.7-second lead at the end of lap one, and before long he was half a minute clear. He cruised to victory.
James Hughes in his Austin Healey Frogeye Sprite was next home and a clear Class E winner. Pippa Cow had a haphazard time in the conditions – she estimated she went off four times – but her second place in Class E was enough for her to retain her championship crown.
Barney Collinson pipped fellow Midget runner Hugh Simpson in the Class D contest, and Collinson got Driver of the Day, though Simpson was later disqualified for a technical infringement.
The Midgets and Spites shared the track with MGAs and BCV8s and Jonnie Wheeler, taking over his son James’s MGB GT V8, was first BCV8 runner home despite an early spin. He won out in a close fight with fellow MGB GT V8 racer Oliver Wardle.
A slick surface for race two gave the runners a similar tyre conundrum and this time Morrison’s selection of wets didn’t pay off, as he fell to fifth on a surface too dry for them. By contrast another returnee Martin Morris found that his choice of slicks this time paid off. He had run on slicks in race one and slithered down the order, but in race two he took to the front at half distance and won.
It was a poignant day for Morris as he was racing Reeve’s old car, having taken over it at the 11th hour from multiple-champion Paul Sibley who couldn’t take part due to work.
Morris finished 9.1s clear of Wheeler – and Wheeler got the BCV8/MGA Driver of the Race across the two races – with Cow next home and the Class E winner. Simpson won Class D race and got Driver of the Race.
Morrison said: “Just took a gamble on the tyres with the wets [in race one] and it paid off. Went and had a look at the track instead of looking on the telemetry and it worked. So we were quids in. Half the track was so bad, which I don’t think anyone expected.
“And I tried the same tyres in the second one, because it was spitting a bit, but it [the rain] didn’t come. So that’s why I was a bit slow. It shredded [the tyres].”
Morris said: “It started raining at the beginning of the second race, but I thought I’m going out on slicks and that’s the end of it, and it was the right call.
“I lent the car from Paul Sibley, and [in race one] I didn’t want to put his wet tyres on when it was partially wet, partially dry, so I just thought out of respect go with the slicks and just deal with it.
“But being in Ted Reeve’s old car, the first time I sat in it was this morning, so the first time I drove it was down to the assembly area to go out and qualify. I wish I could have done it [won] in the first race.
“I’ll be back out full season, I broke my gearbox at Brands Hatch and then we had a bent axle, so by the time I got it all sorted it was Thursday last week, and it was too late. And then Paul rang me and said ‘can you take my car because I can’t go?’ So I felt very proud to drive Ted’s old car in his memorial race.”
Cow said of her championship: “We’ve become quite accustomed to #1 on the car, we had it on this year and it means an awful lot, and then to have it again is even more special. The car has had a few issues this year, I’ve had three DNFs which is unusual.
“It’s all the people [that keep me coming back], we’re a really close-knit community team, apart from when we’re on the track when we all want to overtake each other.”
Hickford Construction Ltd MGCC MG Metro Cup
MG Metro Cup marked its 30th anniversary at Snetterton with a special lunchtime parade of cars alongside a number of other ways to mark the occasion. Not least of these was that it had a bumper 22-car grid, including some noteworthy additions. And it was via this bumper entry that the Metros’ year-long championship fight would be decided.
Reigning champion Mark Eales entered the meeting with a points lead over Mike Williams, but Eales’ round started in a tricky fashion. First he damaged a wheel in qualifying and started race one only fifth. Then, even more sensationally, having finished fourth in race one – and second of the points scorers – he was disqualified as his Metro was underweight. And to compound matters he would now start race two at the back. It all appeared to swing the title towards Williams.
Williams had won the opening race, on the final lap passing the dominant returning twice champion Jack Ashton, who had slowed late on as he had a gentlemen’s agreement not to take the chequered flag first as an invitational non-points-scoring entry. Williams and Ashton finished just ahead of another prominent returnee invitational entry Dan Balster, and Balster got Driver of the Race.
However in the second and final race the title took another twist as Williams retired from the lead in a cloud of smoke. Gearbox oil was leaking onto his exhaust, and while Williams could have continued he chose to pull off as he was concerned the dropped oil would be a danger to others.
That left Eales needing to gain places to retain his crown, and he climbed to third of the point-scorers, which by common calculations would be enough for him to get the title after all. He got Driver of the Race for his race-two effort as well.
Balster was first to the flag after Ashton again tailed off late on. Balster was just half a second ahead of the popular winner among the point scorers Richard Garrard.
Eales said: “There was a slight mistake. I weighed the car before qualifying, weighed it again after race one and it was underweight. I don’t know how, when I had more fuel in the car and everything.
“And then with Mike not finishing [race two] I just had to drive the wheels off the car and try and get up as far as I can and hopefully [I’ve] just done enough to secure the championship.
“I must have been fifth or sixth at the time [Williams had his problem] and I see some smoke and I thought it’s coming from Mike’s car, and I see him pull over. I was already going literally as fast as I could and I just tried pushing that little bit more. I had a couple of moments just trying and trying.”
Williams said: “Ups and downs, it’s all part of racing. [Eales’] disqualification kind of put a right dampener on for us; I didn’t want to win it [the Championship] like that at all. We were both quite upset about it.
“With the second race with the gearbox oil going onto the exhaust, I could have carried on but I felt what if someone else went off on my gearbox oil, and damaged their car or God forbid worse, then what kind of championship would that be for me to take? Looking at the first race and what happened to Mark it’s the right thing [outcome].”
The guesting Morgan Challenge also had a championship to resolve in its two Snetterton races.
Poleman Ian Sumner won the opener, despite a poor start and being unhappy with his gearbox. He dropped to fourth at the off but quickly recovered to second then ate up the gap to leader and title contender Andrew Thompson. Sumner then passed Thompson at one third’s distance and pulled clear to win with Thompson runner up.
However Thompson’s title shot was then thrown into doubt as early in the second race oil was leaking onto his rear brakes. Faced with the safety concern plus knowing the car shedding its oil was unlikely to make the end, he retired. And his title rival, Class 4 competitor Stephen Lockett, won in class and took fastest lap therein, which pending calculations could be enough for him to pip Thompson to the crown.
Sumner took his second race win of the day, despite electing to start from the pits this time as he was unsure of the car’s ability to pull away from the startline with its gearbox gremlins. He climbed to the lead by half distance.