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Challenge Series 2018 – Round 5 at Donington Park

The VSCC played host to Round 5 of the 2018 Morgan Three Wheeler Club Challenge Series running under ACU rules. Simon Edwards campaigned his Super Aero in 2 VSCC Races and won awards in each.

History was made when a 5 Speeder won the Challenge Race, admittedly by a mere 4/100ths of a second.

The Words

Twelve three wheelers entered but misfortune hit Tom Cowley during practice and Sue Darbyshire retired at the end of lap 1 after dropping a valve. She was leading the race at the time. Iain Stewart and Phil Bridge, driving Tony Quinn’s Touring Mod. MX2 also failed to finish.

History was made when a 5 Speeder won the Challenge Race, admittedly by a mere 4/100ths of a second. And it did take a 2.1 litre Stage 3 upgrade and disc brakes to beat Chas. Reynolds!

We’ve got quite a few reports from competitors. Click on the logo next to the one you want to read:

Chas. Reynolds – a close second in the Challenge Series race
Iain Stewart – Iain’s first outing in the ex-Martyn Culling Super Aero
Austin Smith – a close third in the Challenge Series race
Jim Edwards – Jim’s first circuit race
The VSCC Standard and Modified Pre-War Sports Car Race. A few words about Simon Edwards’ day from Austin Smith

Chas. Reynolds shares his thoughts on the day

“Arriving on Saturday there was much socialising and relaxation. I really enjoyed Rob Pike’s ukulele playing through into the early hours of Sunday. But before a comment on the race let me say I feel for all those who suffered mechanical problems. I have had a pretty bad time with mechanical breakages recently and I know just how Sue, Tom and others must feel. You just have to believe it will get better.
The race for me justified the build up; we were all I think a bit nervous and a grid in reverse order of practise times didn’t help either. But it worked out OK, I got a good start and chased after Sue who had an even better one. Unfortunately on lap 2 her engine went off song so I inherited the lead. I tried looking back regularly but couldn’t see anyone until lap 7 when Rob suddenly (it appeared to me) arrived. Into lap 8 and he came through. I trailed him down to the hairpin. We were side by side up to Coppice, I had the inside line. We got onto the straight but then he changed up another gear and drew out a car’s length. I closed up on braking, through the chicane and powered on but to no avail, Rob won by a fraction. And only just behind with fastest lap (practise and the race) came Austin.
Guys, it was an honour and privilege to be amongst you when a 5 speeder won it’s first circuit race. I look forward to enjoying many more.”
 
 
Iain Stewart’s first outing in his new Super Aero

The entries for the Morgan Only Race at Donington on 24/06/18 were very low. My 2 Speeder racer was out of action (due to a broken crankcase). So, to make up numbers – I entered a standard 1930 LTOW 2 Speeder which I had recently bought at auction. This Morgan had not been running for more than 10 years, but after some intense re-commissioning it fired up beautifully for the first time 2 days before the race. My practice session was taken very gently as the car had only covered 5 miles distance in the previous 10 years. Although it was the only standard car entered, it showed some promise. Looked like it might have had a bit of fun with Cathy’s F-Type (touring modified) and maybe even annoyed Jim Edwards in the Mark Walker / Super Aero Racer.

The start of the race was decided with the slowest at the front and fastest at the rear. This is great with vehicles having a speed difference of about 10% and it makes for an exciting start. But with the massive variation in performance between Standard, Modified and Racing Morgan’s and a speed difference of around 100%. That start felt a bit scary.
I have racing at Donington for more than 25 years (my fastest lap being 1:34 @ 74.2 mph) and I don’t intimidate easily. However, when those lights went out – that grid suddenly looked very angry. Especially when viewed from the slowest vehicle sitting on the front row – about to be gobbled up. I made a reasonable start, but quickly realised that if I  hit the clutch to change into 2nd. there was a high risk of my car or its wheels getting “rear ended” by the ensuing mass. So, I stayed in first gear until the bulk of the grid had shot past. But that was far too long and I damaged the engine (probably bent valves). So my race was over in less than 10 seconds.

A split start could have been good. Allowing the slow group to depart 5 seconds ahead of the faster ones. But hey – in hindsight it was all great fun and I remember thinking (for the first time) how glad I was that there were only 12 entries.

Phil & Lesley Reaney did a sterling job (as always). Credit also to the track marshals who suffered all day in the blistering temperature in their thick fireproof overalls.

Lots of spectators and marshals approaching me afterwards and commented on what a fabulous race – with an amazingly close finish.

 
Austin Smith in his 5 Speeder
 
One for the MTWC Record Books!!
 
On another glorious weekend of sunshine and sweltering heat, just 7 days after Curborough Sprint, there were 12 entries for Round 5 of the MTWC Challenge, which was also the first circuit race of the 2018 season.
 
A number of regular competitors from earlier rounds were joined by Hugo and Mike Pickup in their 2 Speed 8/80 and there was a welcome appearance by Sue Darbyshire (passengered by Nancy Thomas)  in her Super Aero racer.  Tony Quinn had also very kindly loaned Phil Bridge/Becky Washington his Morgan Supersports for the race and was in attendance with Lily to cheer them on.
 
The usual race weekend festivities got off to a bit of a delayed start on the Saturday evening as no one was allowed entry to the paddock till after 7pm due a Ferrari Club meeting that somewhat overstaying its welcome.  Once through the gates everyone quickly set up camp and lined up all the Morgans in an impressive row.  Some of us even found time for a 2 mile walk around the circuit before celebrating Becky Washingtons birthday!  This weekend’s musical entertainment was very kindly provided by Rob Pike and his Ukulele, not forgetting Petra and her jingle stick.  Chas Reynolds also provided expert percussion accompaniment on a bright red wheelie bin!!
 
Sunday dawned bright and early for most when they were either woken by crows running amok on the motorhome roof or the 6.10am Ryanair flight to Alicante zooming just a few hundred feet over our heads!
 
After signing on and making a few last minute adjustments, or in the case of Iain Stewart, lock wiring everything to anything on his recently acquired 1930 LTOW 2 Speeder Super Aero, it was time to assemble for our timed practice session.  Everyone tried to stay cool in their leathers as we waited to get on the track.  However, Jim Edwards put passenger Mark Whittaker to work push starting his Super Aero and got in 6 practice laps.  He was very pleased.
 
Hugo and Mike Pickup failed to complete any practice laps due to problems with their car and would start the race at the back of the Grid.  Others suffering with engine maladies were Tom Cowley in the MX2 racer and Sue Darbyshire, who only completed 3 laps before pulling off with an overheating problem.
 
 
Austin Smith/Julia Perry pipped Chas Reynolds/Steve Ash to record fastest practice time, putting a 5 Speeder on Pole for the very first time.  Austin’s joy at this success was short lived as the organisers decided that a reverse grid would make for a more interesting race.
 
The Morgans would be Race 3 after lunch and everyone spent much of their time either fettling and refuelling their Morgans or trying to escape a swarm of Grape Flies
 
When the Morgans were called to assemble for their race a very quick photo shoot was completed with a line up of crews stood by their race machines, in what was now sweltering heat
 
After a Sighting Lap all 12 Morgans line up on the Grid.  The lights turn Red and then a few seconds later they go off and Danny Hodgson gets a flyer from the line.  Sue Darbyshire benefits from being near the front of the grid and leads Chas Reynolds and Rob Pike through Redgate before charging down Hollywood towards the Craner Curves.  Danny and Bronte in the F2 racer are fourth with Phil Bridge impressively guiding the Quinns’ Supersports into fifth.  Austin Smith was up to sixth, but already someway behind the leaders.
 
Unfortunately Tom Cowley/Maggie Bridge retired their 2 Speeder on the first lap, along with Iain Stewart and Graca
 
The leading pack of three dropped to two at the end of the second lap when Sue Darbyshire’s engine stuttered again and she retired to the pits.  The problem turned out to be a failed valve, with thankfully no other damage evident.
 
Austin Smith began a charge to catch the front runners having passed Phil Bridge and Danny Hodgson on Lap 2.
 
Phil Bridge retired on lap 5, but everyone else battled on as the field spread.  Cathy Quinn was pushing as hard as she could in her F2, but was lapped twice by the leaders on the very fast Donington circuit.
 
Chas Reynolds was controlling the race from the front, but Rob Pike was never far behind, while Austin Smith was closing in by a second or more a lap.
 
As Chas and Rob raced down the start/finish straight at the end of lap 7 they lapped Tony Pearson/Alistair Rew in the Silver Super Sports.  Rob made the most of the situation to push himself ahead of Chas into Redgate.  Austin Smith, who had set fastest lap, closed right in on the leaders and hoped that a tussle for the lead might just let him slip through and steal the glory on this, the final lap.
 
Chas used much race craft to try and wrestle back the lead from Rob, but the power of the 128cu inch S&S provided enough speed to stay in front….just….as only eight tenths of a second separated first from third at the end of an epic charge to the finish line, much to the enjoyment of the race commentators and spectators alike!
 
After the wind down lap, not one, but two 5 Speeders, along with Chas, are ushered to the podium for the awards presentation and get a taste of the glory for the very first time in a circuit race…and Yes, it was very much enjoyed by Rob/Petra and Austin/Julia.  Chas/Steve were very happy also!
 
After setting new and impressive 5 Speeder records at Loton Park and Curborough already this season, and now winning and filling two of the podium places in the first circuit race of the MTWC Challenge 2018, is this the beginning of a new era in the MTWC Challenge?
 
 
Jim Edwards’ First Circuit Race
 
Donington Park was set to be my first circuit race. I had attempted one last year at Mallory but the Family’s cone clutch decided to drop its balls (out of the thrust race) on the first practice lap. This year I had arrived with my new loan car, the ex- Martin Soames Super Aero. Generally it has been running well apart from occasional plug fouling. The rest of the car seems happy, which must mean I screwed it together acceptably during its winter rebuild! 
 
Now with a few hill climbs and sprints under my belt, I know the capabilities of the car and driver and was rather excited about taking it on a circuit. Prep in the week included more ignition & mixture changes along with a taller ratio on second. My passenger was sorted out the night before. Sidecar man Mark Whittaker was happy to jump in along side me. This would be his first time in a Morgan! 
 
Practice went well. The nerves soon settled as I got into the groove. Top gear was ample all the way round. Mark was mesmerised by the JTOR up front as even in standard form the engine pulled effortlessly on the undulating circuit. 
 
We had qualified 3rd last which put us on the second row of the grid. The start was certainly a big surprise as I’d forgotten how loud all these bellowing engines can be. Changing up into second was pure guess work as max revs could not be heard! 
The pack were soon ahead of myself, Cathy Quinn in her F type and Iain Stewart in his new 2 speeder (who seemed to disappear). I got past Cathy and was eventually out there on my own except for the occasional passing of a quicker Morgan.
 
We finished the race which I am very pleased about. One lap behind the rest but hey-ho, what fun! On reflection I remembered how lucky we are to race these historic cars. It’s certainly a unique feeling to blat round somewhere in a nearly 90 year old machine. This is not something I want to give up anytime soon!!
 
 
The VSCC Standard and Modified Pre-War Sports Car Races.
 
Simon Edwards entered 2 races in the Formula Vintage Series. He had a good day.
 
Simon finished sixth of 30 starters in Race 1, gaining fastest lap in his class at over 70 mph. Race 7, a handicap race, saw Simon come a close second.
 
 
The Circuit

The Photos

Great photos from Dennis Rushton.

The Results

Results from HS Sports

Results of the Morgan Three Wheeler Race are shown below.

For results of all races including Simon Edwards races 1 & 7, click here.