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MGCC Midland Centre 53rd Annual Autumn Trial 27 September 2020

The Midland Centre has a long sporting history, it goes back to 1938 when the first car trial was organised in the Church Stretton area; WW2 intervened, trials restarted in 1967. The Autumn Trial enjoys an almost unbroken run since then, except for Foot and Mouth in 2001, so we were keen to keep that record intact. We were encouraged once we heard of the MSUK Back on Track initiative. By July directives were published. That resulted in our sprint at Curborough in August from which we learned how well-behaved competitors are when provided with sound Covid 19 guidelines. A consequence of a paperless event was a lot of email communication with entrants which of necessity replaced the traditional C of C briefing at the start of the trial.  It might be paperless but yards of text still had to be prepared to feed the email hopper, definitely a lot more work this time but hopefully a one off investment, filed for future use. 

By Sunday 27-09-20 at 08:30 East Lodge Farm near Bromsgrove was open for business, by kind permission of Maggie Mason. We bought a package of Covid 19 signs from MSUK. Self-scrutineering worked, so scrutineer David Bowlas and Covid 19 Officer, Centre chairman Roger King, manned the gate to check that everybody entering was the on the list of self-declared with no Covid 19 contacts in the last 14 days. David recorded body temperature with a contactless digital thermometer, just like the NHS. We had a good entry of 28 drivers; the paddock was spaced out for each competitor, looked very tidy, not at all like a trial start.

Clerk of the Course Adrian Tucker-Peake and a gang of helpers had laid out 6 very dry, long and twisty sections, where was the rain when we needed it?  Class 2 was dominated by a variety of Austin 7s keenly competing with Dave Rushton’s 1930 M type. He had a good battle with Robert Renshaw’s A7, they both finished on 21 dropped  so David won the Allen Trophy for the best MG. Quite a car - Martin Price, photographer and past centre chairman, recalls competing against it in the 80’s when Mike, Dave’s father ran it in trials.  Frank Vautier, 1939 TA, said he had never had so many cleans, mud just doesn’t agree with his cross ply tyres. Mary Baxter with Dad Richard was going very well in their Ulster only losing 5 in the morning, then disaster, the clutch pedal fractured. Don Skelton, A7, won the Autumn Cup.    

Class 1 winner was Ian Webb in his VW Lupo on 45 dropped, evidently a more tractable steed than the Smart he used in the Taster trial last year which was a tad skittish on downhill mud. 

The winners of combined classes 5 and 6 were Alan and Jane Bee in their 1275 Midget with 35 dropped; they also got 203 Air Miles for the furthest travelled from Hamsterley, Co Durham!  


Thomas Hunt and Paul Kavanagh were running a very tidy MGBGT on its first event, a shakedown, having been prepared for MCC long distance Trials. 



Class 7 was a clear win for Dave Middleditch in his Dutton Phaeton on 9 dropped. Dave is the architect of the on-line trials admin system purchased by the MCC,” myclubhouse”. He was followed by Richard Houlgate and Jim Wood in a Marlin on 28.

Class 8 was another win for young Joe Leach with Dad Jeremy bouncing, in a Cannon. He dropped 11 and enjoyed a clear run all afternoon, same result as last year when he was also best Novice. Nigel Glover in another Cannon on 22 was second.

Simon Morris, the centre’s chief marshal, recruited a veritable platoon of marshals, many thanks to them, we really needed them. Simon Woodhall was present in his role as MSUK Trials co-ordinator; taking a look at Clubman Motor Sport, a rare sight in the current climate.  The weather was glorious, after lunch C of C Adrian instituted two devious restarts to add some spice, with odd exceptions all the classes felt a bit more sporting pain as failure to make progress increased! Some drivers wished for a bit more power.

Ellie’s chuck-wagon from Bromsgrove Hog Roast was well patronised, the sanitised portaloos were appreciated as well, thanks to Nigel Whiten and his connections.

Covid 19 definitely made a difference particularly when one was speaking to a masked old acquaintance and then realising after a minute that it was somebody else!  Everybody complied; masked-up and socially distanced. The universally rewarding feedback; as the awards were presented by Roger King, was that everybody found it so refreshing to get outside on a Covid secure site for a brilliant day’s sport with responsible company. 

Tony Lake - Trials Secretary MGCC Midland Centre




Charnwood Caper 19 May 2019

Having been first run in 2004, the North Leicester MG Club’s Charnwood Caper is now in its 16th year.  Back in those early days, though, the number of cars involved was less than half of the ninety-odd classics that the run has consistently attracted since 2016. 

This year’s outing, on May 19th, saw eighty-eight cars pre-booked to take part.  Of these, seventy-six bore the Octagon, ranging from a 1938 Tickford VA, through a couple of T-Series cars, several MGAs, Midgets and MGCs, a solitary RV8 and a dozen Fs and TFs.  The other ten marques in attendance (including Morgan, Morris, Porsche, Triumph and TVR) were represented for the most part by single examples.  MGBs, again, were in abundance, with over forty taking part, well over half of which were roadsters.  The average age of all cars involved was just over 40 years, with the younger element (mainly Fs and TFs) being balanced out by the twenty-eight older classics which had been on the road for more than half a century.    

The run itself began at the Quorn & Woodhouse station, which is one of four on the Leicestershire section of the Great Central Heritage Railway.  This has become the regular starting venue for the “Caper”, thanks to the size and accessibility of the station car park and the fantastic co-operation received from the management of the railway.  The staff of the station’s Butler-Henderson Tearooms, who turn out bright and early each year to provide the morning refreshments, also make a great contribution to the overall atmosphere of the day.

After leaving the station, the cavalcade of classics travelled through a couple of Charnwood Forest villages, taking them around to the west and north of Loughborough.  Crossing into Nottinghamshire near to Sutton Bonnington, the 79-mile route took in a further twenty villages as it followed mainly country lanes to the final destination of Thoresby Park, near Ollerton.  Here the crews were able to enjoy the park’s extensive acreage, and the shops and café in the Victorian Courtyard. 

Once again, the entrants who had travelled furthest to take part were rewarded with a prize, and this year the recipients were Andrew and Alison Biggs, who came from Hertfordshire in their Midget to do the run.  A raffle yielded a host of winners, with the two “star prizes” going to Jim Andrews (car battery voucher) and Sylvia Buckingham (hamper).  Both are Leicestershire residents.

Raffle earnings and surplus income from the run will be donated to this year’s nominated charity, the Loughborough-based Rainbows Hospice for children and young people.  For information about the work of the hospice, visit www.rainbows.co.uk.

Midland Centre Summer Day Out at Shelsley Walsh 16 June 2019

As Midland Centre members will know, for the past few years the Centre has teamed up with the Midland Automobile Club, owners of the world-famous Shelsley Walsh hill climb track, to hold our annual Summer Day Out, and 2019 was no different. As before, we chose the weekend of the MAC’s Classic Nostalgia event, sometimes described as a ‘mini Goodwood Revival’ in view of the period clothing worn by many spectators and the ages of some of the vehicles competing on the hill. Due to the unfortunate cancellation of the MGCC’s ‘MG Live’ weekend at Silverstone, the MGB Register had also chosen to invite their members to Shelsley Walsh, albeit on the Saturday, whereas we chose our usual Sunday. Once again, we arranged to offer our members discounts on the normal ticket prices, together with parking areas reserved for MG cars. In the end, we had a rather better parking location than expected.

Classic Attire optional

Although most previous Summer Days Out were graced with decent weather, sometimes good enough to permit a fly-past by a WW2 Spitfire fighter aircraft, sadly the 2018 event was plagued with cloud and dampness. The memory of that may have affected tickets sale and competitor entries (not forgetting that it was also Father’s Day), because a few days before the weekend we received a call from Gary Hall, Shelsley’s General Manager, offering MGCC members attending on the Sunday the opportunity to park in the main paddock area, using ‘garages’ normally occupied by competitors. Naturally we gratefully accepted. And so it was that Sunday, June 16, dawned cloudy but reasonably dry, and some 19 of our members turned up bright and early to claim their garages, bringing with them an interesting variety of cars – MGAs, MGBs, Midgets, a TF1500 fitted with an MGA twin-cam engine, and a brace of Magnettes, together with a handful of modern TFs.

The event theme this year centered on classic rally cars, and the paddock area was full with various classic Subarus from the McRae era, Mitsubishi Evos, Escorts, a Metro 6R4, and even a Rover SD1, to name but a few. These were all in addition to the regular competitors in everything ranging from a strange contraption fitted with Kart wheels to some beautiful classic Lotus and Brabham single-seaters. Prize for the noisiest car of the weekend went to a Vauxhall Firenza fitted with a Chevrolet V8 engine and seemingly no silencing. When it went up the hill you could have heard it in the next county! Mind you, the same could be said of the various turbo rally cars as their waste-gates popped and banged like an artillery barrage, echoing around the hillsides.

Rally Car Line-up

We were also treated to a display of three proper Minis converted to the style as seen in the film ‘The Italian Job’ (the Michael Cain version, of course) together with the Harrington coach which ended the film suspended precariously over a cliff edge.

Generally the weather played ball, and despite a couple of heavy showers sufficient to bring proceedings to a temporary halt, the afternoon turned bright, sunny and quite warm. Unfortunately, the weather wasn’t the only culprit in holding things up, responsibility being shared with a rally Escort which, first, managed to leave a trail of oil for virtually the entire length of the hill, necessitating a major clean-up by the marshals, and then later in the afternoon the same car was rolled by its driver, requiring a lengthy delay to get it back on its wheels and down to the paddock. We wonder if that competitor will be invited back!

 But, all in all, we believe that everyone enjoyed the day, borne out by the various ‘Thank You’ emails we have received since then. Some have suggested that, after some five years of attending this event, it may be time to consider a different venue for our Summer Day Out in 2020. Trouble is, on a nice day, Shelsley Walsh is a lovely place to be, in the heart of rolling Worcestershire countryside, and there are many varied cars on show, as well as some well-known personalities from the world of motoring. Would another location hold the same appeal? Answers on a post card to ....

A few more photos are available to view on the Midland Centre Facebook page.

Midland Centre Summer Sprint 2 August 2020
Your Centre plucked up courage and went ahead with our traditional August Sprint at Curborough. But given the uncertainties surrounding any event during the current Covid pandemic we elected to join with owners of the Curborough circuit, the Shenstone and District Car Club, in co-promoting a Practice Sprint. That means under the MSUK Permit granted to the Midlands Centre we could stage the meeting but devoid of any awards, FTDs, and club championship rounds. We could still use timing equipment even if printed results on paper had to be replaced with a digital app retrieved via smartphone. With us so far?

With entrants self-scrutineering their cars and everyone complying with Covid-19/MSUK strict requirements, overseen (or was it ‘policed’?) by Centre chair Roger King acting as official Covid-19 Officer, the 55 entrants, including 26 MGs (thank you fans), seem to have thoroughly enjoyed themselves. (Or so they kept saying).

Blessed with great weather, and with five runs on offer, the sprint represented a 2020 first time run for most. The ever-present Covid-19 Officer meant no huddles of humanity, strict queuing for the loo and on site café, and a lot of distance shouting, and no spectators. But all agreed it was worth it.

Compliments to S&DC for all the work they put in to make it happen together with the marshals and the relatively busy recovery guys.

The Centre is particularly proud that committee member Simon Morris was Clerk of the Course and a great job he did.

Now a cautionary note: One of the Midget drivers had a bad fuel leak which was traced to decomposing fuel lines, so if your car has been laid up for some while check the fuel lines. The possible ravages of E fuel might have affected their integrity. 

Next up our Autumn Trial on the 27 September at Bromsgrove. Again under strict Covid rules; we remain determined to keep motor sport going in these trying times. Watch our web site for details.

Roger King
Midland Centre Chairman

Midland Centre Welsh Rallye
17th - 19th May 2019

Now in its 24th year, the MG Car Club Midland Centre’s Welsh (Touring) Rallye continues to be popular and takes the participants to some hidden gems of Wales that folk might not normally venture to.

The MG Welsh (Touring) Rallye was started in May 1997 by then Centre Chairman - Rick Howson - as a non-competitive variant of the proper rallies that the Centre used to run many moons ago in the 50/60’s. Hence the Rallye spelling to differentiate it as non-competitive, and then the addition of ‘Touring’, to indicate that it was held under an MSA Touring Assembly Certificate of Exemption.

Its main aim was to give drivers who like to use their Classic Cars a decent run on roads that would not usually be visited on one’s own and be of a length to be interesting and challenging rather than just a tootle round the block.

The first 18 years were one nighters, meaning that the Saturday mid-May start was from somewhere in the West Midlands area and headed West to finish at various hotels in Wales large enough to accommodate a group of some 50+ cars. That is, apart from two Centre anniversary years in 2003 & 2013.

Distances of the runs varied from 160 in ’97 to 180 in the early years, with some a bit less  as many folk had some mileage just to get to the start, or some stayed nearby, thus making it a two nighter for them. Some of the suggested route’s mileage was to head West from the Start to the borders and into wild Welshland.

 In 2015, after the success of the Anniversary Peake Rallye which was a 2 nighter based on Buxton, it was decided to try a 2 nighter Welsh Rallye, initially on an alternate year basis. However this has very proved very popular and has continued thus to date with the main run still on the Saturday .  As nearly all folk were already on site, mileages varied, but aimed at 150-160, with four parts or stages of around 40 miles each and three Controls or refreshment stops.

This year's Rallye was held over the weekend of May 17-19, and based at The Hand hotel in the heart of Llangollen. Weather was mixed, cloudy and a bit chilly at times, but mainly dry, so most folks with convertibles managed to keep their tops down for much of the day. The main event, the run, on Saturday took us out to the north Wales coast to Rhos-on-Sea where we stopped for morning coffee at the local golf club, and then on to Llandudno and a drive around the Great Orme, which was where many of these photos were taken. After driving into Conwy, we took a route down the Sichnant Pass and on to the popular tourist village of Beddgelert where we stopped at the Royal Goat hotel for a buffet lunch. Once refreshed, it was back on the road for a drive to the next stopping point, the Loch Cafe on the shores of Bala lake for a quick cup of afternoon tea. Finally, the drive back to Llangollen took cars around the back of the town before arriving back in the hotel car park, having covered approx. 160 miles.

Once everyone was suitably refreshed and rested after a long day's drive, dinner was served in the hotel restaurant. Although there wasn't a specific fancy dress theme this year, guests were encouraged to wear "something outrageous" in the way of ear ornaments or neckties. After the meal, we were entertained by a live band in the hotel bar, or for those preferring a quieter environment, some decamped to the empty second dining room.

This year's Sunday excursion was a canal boat ride across Thomas Telford's famous Pontcysyllte aqueduct. We did manage to fill one boat for the 2-hour trip, returning to the hotel by coach. Part way along the canal we came upon a BBC film crew and what appeared to be Welsh rugby player Gareth Edwards and wife, so naturally we all waved in the hope of seeing our faces on TV at some future point, providing the programme isn't on S4C! Those preferring not to take the boat ride occupied themselves with the local steam railway or walks around the town. Back at the hotel, we sat down for a Sunday carvery lunch, after which prizes were awarded for best male & female fancy dress, won by Terry Heighway and Anita Dorney respectively, the two best cars on the event, an MGB owned by Roger Bolton and an MGTF owned by Roger King, chosen by last year's winner John Burton, together with awards for Natter of the Year (the Stone group near Stoke-on-Trent) and non-financial contributions to the Midland Centre by a Non-Committee member (Geoff St. John Mitchell) and a Committee Member (Tony Lake). Then it was time to bid our fond farewells and head for home. A few guests elected to stay a further night and drive home on Monday.

So that ends another successful Rallye weekend, and preparations begin for the 2020 events. What will that hold in store, we wonder?Thanks to the organising sub-committee - Brian Osborn, Paul Hollingworth and Roger King - and our photographer, Simon Morris. There are many more photos on our Facebook page. Try using the link below, or search for 'Midland Centre' in your Facebook page.

https://www.facebook.com/MG-Car-Club-Midland-Centre-18635360863/

Midland Centre Autumn Trial & Taster Trial 13 October 2019

Well Sunday was all the weather forecasters said it would be and then some, not a day for low scores. It is reported that Adrian Tucker-Peake, C of C, and George Houghton had sunburn setting up on Saturday, but made the right call in spite of the dire warnings about low pressure (thought it strange that the BBC weather forecasts were talking about tyre pressures, what do they know?). 

We all looked like drowned rats until about 10:30 when the rain stopped, by then the BTRDA gang were off and judging by some of the engine noise were drying out the hills on their own, I guess that’s what they do when the sun don’t shine.

Our fears about mud and the hills were ill founded, everybody got out of their predicaments somehow or other. Good job too because our friendly tractor driver with about twenty to choose from was on holiday in Wales. The T type MGs had a torrid time, what with cross-ply tyres and low ground clearance it was very difficult, but great to see them and an Austin 7 saloon campaigning amongst the moderns.

The Autumn Trial was a clear win for Steve Courts in his Imp, we’ve lost count of the number of times he’s walked off with the Autumn Cup, but richly deserved. Colin Reid in a Golf finished second and won class 1 equally convincingly. Richard Tompkins/Ed Nikel were third in another Imp.

Jimmy Milligan/Graham Moore were best MG in a ZR winning the Allen Trophy. Five of the entry in the Autumn Trial were driving MGs, that’s what we like to see. Jan Richings with Kevin Sharp in a Saxo was Best Novice in only her second trial this year, she finished 5th overall, a polished performance.

The Taster Trial was a clear win for Stephen and Pam Yates in a Reliant Tempest, a rare car that was driven very well in the conditions. Steve Patten with Nigel Whiten in the Fiesta passenger seat was the most improved driver on the day. Good to see the Wills family out in force; father Mike and son Matt in the AT and Mike with 14 year old Andy in the TT, quite a challenge in the one Mazda.

Ian Webb drove a Smart, on the basis that it had very good traction in snow. He was pleased with the grip on an even slope but found that the short wheel base got a bit confused on downhill adverse camber, in fact quite challenging.

Where would we be without our marshals? A total of sixteen turned out when I’m sure they doubted their sanity early on Sunday morning, heartfelt thanks to them. How do solar powered stop watches work in the rain?  The Autotest times got slower as the day progressed, I put it down to the mud, I think I’m right!

A big thank you to Adrian who plotted a course to suit the weather and called up a lot of marshals ably managed by Graham Austin. David Bowlas, scrutineer, had the thankless task of peering under bonnets and axles whilst most of us were sheltering under umbrellas, much appreciated. Thanks also to Tim Beard of the BTRDA for providing waterproof score cards for drivers and marshals.

On behalf of the MGCC Midlands Centre it only remains for me to thank you, the competitors, for keeping the faith. See you all next year and if you’re a practicing rain dancer, stop it.   

A full set of results can be found by clicking the link here -

2019 Autumn Trial Results

Photos of the event can be found on our Facebook page.

Regards,
Tony Lake.

 

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