The VRROOOM Report – Sept 2010

Racing with the MG’s – What fun!

Usually when there is a race meeting locally at Mallala, I am restricted to the Sports Car category if I was interested in entering. This would mean that I was in the same category as the big V8’s like Lyn Punshon’s Cobra, the late and older model Porsche’s, turbo this and that etc. So my little GT6 feels somewhat intimidated.  It was good news then when I heard that a round of the Victorian State Series for MG’s was to come to Mallala over the weekend of 21st and 22nd August for a two day race meeting.

You see nowadays, the MG fraternity have opened up their racing to include “Invited British Marques” that fit with the period and style of their racing. So Triumph, Austin Healey, Jaguar, Lotus etc can all get a race amongst friends and where we feel a sense of belonging.  Tom Hutchinson has been joining the MG’s when he competes in Victoria in their State Series for sports cars for the past year or so. Tom’s TR8 is clearly one of the quickest sports cars around, but he does get some strong competition from time to time against a couple of very fast Victorian V8 MG’s. I have also noticed a couple of other Victorian based Triumph race cars have been entered in the MG category from time to time, so felt it was an opportune time for me to give the GT6 a run and see how it shapes up against the MG competition.

What a pity Trevor Lindsay wasn’t here to join in the fun. And fun we had! Once the local MG racers had combined with the Victorian’s who had travelled across for this event, plus Tom and myself in our Triumphs, and a local Lotus Elise, we had a field of cars totalling around 30. I also joined Tom Hutchinson and Ian Wilson (TVR Tuscan) in the Sports Car category just for the hell of it, even though I knew I would be rear of field.

We were very fortunate with the weather – the days leading up to the race weekend were cold and wet, but Saturday turned out cool but fine and Sunday just beautiful with the sun shining down on Mallala and no wind, no flies and no rain. The Interstate competitors were very impressed. We had qualifying first thing Saturday morning, and things were going well for me until I forgot about cold tyres and cold track and went in too deep under brakes at the entry to the esses and after locking the front left wheel and much tyre smoke, ended up with the front wheels just inside the sand trap. This brought me much embarrassment as the session had to be halted whilst the recovery vehicle was activated to extract my GT6 from the beach. Notwithstanding this hiccough, I was pleased to have achieved P3 on the grid for the first race in MG’s & Invited British, behind Tom Hutchinson in pole and Rob Whitwell’s MGB GTV8 in P2.

As a competitor, the start of any race is exciting. I knew the importance of a good start, but just couldn’t get the GT6 off the line smoothly – lots of wheel spin and not much movement. Subsequently, I got swamped by several cars from behind and found myself in about 7th or 8th by the first corner. Bugger! I rounded up most of those that had passed me within a lap or two and had improved to 4th position with just a white MG midget in the distance. So I set off after him hoping to round him up by the end of the 5 lap race. This proved to be a forlorn hope, as I did it again – went in too deep under brakes into the esses and found the flat spot caused by the earlier mistake in qualifying, and spun  the car. Then the starter wouldn’t engage until the whole field had passed. More embarrassment! Arrggghhh! So I ended up last.

This meant that I was rear of field for Race 2 in the afternoon. I took Tom Hutchinson’s advice and exchanged my front tyres with the rears, hopefully to avoid that flat spot causing further pain. This proved to be good advice as the GT6 felt much better and I regained some confidence under brakes. I must say though that my starts for the whole weekend were poor.  Nevertheless, Race 2 gave me 6 laps to try to improve from my disaster in Race 1. And improve I did. What a hoot! Over 6 laps, I was able to progress from 27th on the grid to finish 10th – this was the most fun I have had on the track for some time – it is always feels much better when you are the one doing the overtaking, rather than being overtaken yourself.

Race 3 on Sunday morning therefore meant that I started from P10 with the potential to progress further up the ranks if I kept my cool. I got a poor start again, but started working through the cars in front until I was in 5th position and chasing down a quick MG ZR but to no avail, as I ran out of laps to rein him in. I was able to dispose of this ZR within the first lap of Race 4 however, and then had 9 more laps to see if I could catch the white MG Midget. But no, this didn’t prove possible as we were doing almost identical times. So 4th place wasn’t so bad and I went home very happy with my experience racing with the MG’s.

Tom Hutchinson remained at the front of the field all weekend, taking a couple of wins and two seconds, but letting the fastest MG win a couple as well. Tom says he doesn’t want to win all their races (which he probably could do!) as the MG boys might not invite him anymore.

The Sports Car races were another story altogether. Ian Wilson had entered his relatively new TVR Tuscan, painted up in Ian’s trademark tinter yellow, but with big black headlight covers that make it look just like a big wasp. And sting it does! This is a very impressive race car that Ian drives very well – on a set of old tyres that Ian wasn’t overly happy with, he scored a couple of second places in the Saturday races behind Keith Wong’s turbo GT3 Porsche racer, but kept Keith behind him on Sunday to score two very impressive wins and a best lap time of 1:11.44 – I can’t wait to see this thing perform when Ian gets it fully sorted!

Tom’s experience in the Sports Car category saw his TR8 place consistently 5th amongst quality opposition, but competing on a set of old tyres, Tom was happy with his results. My thanks to Tom for sharing garage space at Mallala – the GT6 didn’t look totally out of place alongside Tom’s TR8 although my spare wheels and tyres did look a little “toy-ish” against the huge things that Tom runs on his TR8.

My only downside is that I came home with a gearbox that once again will need to be repaired, given the drive train vibration that developed over the weekend, and the synchro’s on 2nd and 3rd gear seemingly not wanting to do their job. Still, it was a wonderful weekend and I came home Sunday evening with a big smile across my face.

It was good to see a few supporters from TSOA out and about at Mallala, including Rod Carey, Richard Sutherland, Arrand Ellery, Tony Case, Dave Wilson amongst others. Also Ian’s partner Jahmeil and 13 month old daughter Iyla came up on the Sunday for a look see. I am not embarrassed to say that Iyla seemed to rate the orange GT6 as her favourite, and looked so cute when she adopted her driving position.

Now, to pull everything apart and get to that gearbox . . . . .  Roger Lange

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