NATIONWIDE NEWS Classic news and views from all around New Zealand 30th Annual MG Classic: still a benchmark event
Manfeild Park Circuit, November 13–15, 2015
Thirty annual national MG Classic race meetings is an amazing achievement by the Wellington branch of the MG Car Club of New Zealand, particularly when the organization and financial effort has rested with around half a dozen people and some of those have had over 20 years’ involvement.
This year’s event, for the first time, saw documentation and practice take place on the Friday, allowing two days of racing on Saturday and Sunday — with 50 races for 320 entrants spread across three Classics groups, Historic racers, the new Historic Touring Cars, the wild and popular Central Muscle Cars, Pre ’65s, the Castrol and other BMW saloons, Formula 5000s (F5000), NZ Sports Cars and an Allcomers saloon class.
As usual, the Classics fields were strongly supported, with MGFS starting to appear as another low-cost competition car, and capable of some very reasonable lap times. It was also good to see a few more ’50s cars, such as Greg Haines’ MGTD and Brian Ax and his immaculate MGTF 1500, complete with Brian’s billowing white silk scarf. A blocked muffler on the TF saw regulars like Neil Moore in the Jowett Jupiter, David Neale in the MG Magnette and Trevor Dixon’s Humber 80 draw away in the Saturday races.
Alan Blundell’s Jaguar SS100 1936 works replica ran away with the Sybil Lupp Memorial Trophy Race, with Neeanna Ratahi second in her late-model Mini Cooper, ahead of a bevy of MGS.
The Alfa Romeo Montreal of Phil Hehir never ceases to amaze — one of the world’s rarest sports cars doing what it was built to do — while Don Mclean was still in the Datsun 260Z he raced in the inaugural event 30 years ago. Natalie Campbell in the 3.0-litre Capri and Glenn Watson in the Alfetta GTV had a sterling battle in one race, with the Alfetta just coming home first, but the Capri achieved a well-earned second.
The new Historic Touring Cars class was a great sight, with a couple of Group A Sierra Cosworths, BMW M3s, and XJ-S Jaguars, with Angus Fogg trying his hand in one of these. Although it’s not necessarily an entry-level class, anyone interested in classic racing could do worse than to join this group.
The Central Muscle Cars again brought the crowd alight, and the handicap races, in particular, were especially exciting as the cars bunched up on the last laps. John Elliott unfortunately came unstuck on the sweeper on the final lap of one race, after overcooking it when doing very well in his Torana GT-R XU-1 against cars with twice his power.
The Historic classes also had a good turnout, with around 10 Formula Juniors among a 27-strong field, including the usual Formula Fords, Ken Williams’ trusty BBM Mercedes, and a range of sports-racing cars. Peter Avery in the 1965 Formula 2 Brabham BT16 was quickest in all races and tucked away three firsts.
On display in the pit area was the newly restored Normac Special Mk3, the type of older Grand Prix car that it is hoped we will see in future Historic fields.
Spectators may have been disappointed at the relatively small number of F5000s — no doubt the recent effort of getting to Leguna Seca and back took its toll here. Ken Smith, in the Lola T332, showed that he is still the master, and he dominated proceedings, despite being pushed by Sefton Gibb’s similar car, while no one could fail to be impressed by Tony Roberts’ immaculately prepared Mclaren M10A.
A NZ Sports Cars group contained an eclectic range of vehicles, including Warwick Mortimer’s 1972 Mclaren M8 competing against the more modern Junos, Radicals, and Reynards. Andrew Robertson’s replica Mclaren M1B also did well, although David Glasson’s Juno had the best of most races.
Finally, Sunday also featured a display by the Ferrari Owners’ Club, which provided the cars for the popular Lunchtime Charity Rides, and there seemed to be a large number of rather oldlooking ‘kids’ lining up for a ride.
The countdown is now on as Historic Muscle Cars (HMC) and Historic Saloon Cars (HSC) focus on the upcoming NZ Festival of Motor Racing, in January.
HMC and HSC will combine for this event to make one exciting grid of V8 muscle cars and nimble small-capacity cars, replicating the epic David-versusGoliath battles that took place in New Zealand during the late ’60s through to the early ’70s.
Included in the line-up are some very historic cars with race histories dating back to the glory days, such as John Dennehy in the ex–halliday brothers Escort BDG, Rayden Smith in the ex–jim Richards Willment Escort twin-cam, and Nigel Macdonald in the ex–red Dawson Shelby Mustang.
For many, that era was one of the most exciting and most dramatic in New Zealand saloon-car racing history, with a huge variety of cars contesting multiple classes. HMC and HSC celebrates this era, albeit without the cut-and-thrust displayed in those prominent times.
On show will be a great variety of cars of all shapes and sizes, including Mustangs, Camaros, a couple of Ford Peranas, Falcons, Keith Sinclair’s mighty big block Hemi Cuda, Toranas, Capris, Escorts, Alfas, Datsuns, BMWS, Geoff Spark’s Triumph Dolomite, John Ure’s Jaguar XJ12, and Bob Hyslop’s Mazda RX-2, which he has owned since the 1970s, among others. It promises to be a great show, with epic battles right the way through the field, the cars slipping and sliding, locking brakes, and providing the entertainment these vehicles all displayed in period.
In addition, HMC is working to have a few living legends on hand during both weeks to sign free posters and/or race-fans’ own automobilia as part of the celebration of our racing heritage and the heroes who shaped it.