MG Trophy History

30 years of MG Racing history

Prior to the MG Trophy Championship as we know it today, Rover introduced the Dunlop Rover Turbo Cup in 1994 as a major international race series with their 220 Turbo Coupe. Many international tracks were on the calendar including Spa and Zandvoort. This championship supported the British Grand Prix at Silverstone and was seen by over 100,000 people plus a world wide TV audience of many millions. This championship ran until 1997.

The true forerunner to the Trophy Championship came in 1998 as the MGF Cup Championship. Thirty special full race Cup cars were built in 1997 for this new championship. The announcement, made at the London Motor Show at Earls Court in 1997, was for a one make race series organised by the Rover group and coordinated by the British Racing Drivers Club. It consisted of 12 rounds at high profile circuits throughout the UK, including Silverstone and Brands Hatch. The series attracted £100,000 of prize money and the overall winner also received a brand new MGF (forerunner of the LE 500) at the end of the year.

These cars were nothing like any other MGF’s previously built and all the bodies were seam welded and had no interior apart from a roll cage and drivers seat. A 190bhp dry sump engine was fitted and the cars retained the hydragas suspension system modified to racing spec. The cost for a fully prepared race car was £24,000+vat and most were purchased by MG Rover dealerships. At the first race on the 4th April 1998 at Silverstone, no less than 28 of the 30 cars made the starting grid. Rover continued their sponsorship of the MGF Cup for 3 years ending with the 2000 season. Not many of the original Cup cars remain and only one now still races in the current championship. This car, now upgraded to TF spec is currently owned by Andrew Radford and is probably the most successful Cup car ever. It has a fantastic history which is now fully documented.

The MGF/TF continued racing in this championship and was joined by the ZR in 2002. In 2003 MG Sport and Racing introduced their Arrive and Drive package and initially 10 ZR190 cars were built for this programme. Considerable investment (£100,000) was put into supporting MG’s premier race championship each year and this included full back up at every round with a 40 foot specially equipped spares truck and full hospitality. This continued until the collapse of MG/Rover in 2005.

2005 – 2013

The MG Trophy championship, as it has been known since 2005, has continued and, despite having no title sponsor, has been successful in launching the careers of several drivers who have moved on up to higher profile championships.

The championship saw the race launch of the LE 500 in 2009 with the car prepared by the Dreadnought team and raced by Paul Luti. Much work was done over the winter of 2008/9 to have the car ready for the 2009 season. It had many outright race wins to its credit including both the big Silverstone Live events in 2009 and both Knockhill races in 2010. These races received excellent media coverage in the UK motorsport press with full colour photos.

The original rwd Cup cars and the F/TF 160’s and 190’s and LE 500 were still eligible to run in the championship but 2013 saw only one car compete in just 4 of the 12 rounds. Paul Luti switched back to fwd in 2013 and once again was on the pace, this was surely the writing on the wall for the rwd cars that had been suspected back at the end of the 2012 season. Driver pressure let them stay for the 2013 season but the end was in site with Gary Wetton having the dubious honour of being the last rwd driver to compete in the Trophy championship on the 7th September at Oulton Park in his Dreadnought built LE 500. Gary finished in 6th place the lowest finish for a 190 car that day.

2014 saw the highest number of registrations (38) and the biggest grid average (23.4) ever and this included two ‘away’ races at Knockhill with reduced numbers. This year saw the introduction of the ‘new’ 160 class (D) for basic road going ZR160 cars. The previous 160 class (C) was upgraded with an ECU remap and other changes and rebranded as the 170 class. Both these changes proved to be winners with 4 of the new 160’s and 19 170’s racing. The MG Motor prepared MG3 race car was demonstrated at Silverstone and was driven by current BTCC MG drivers Jason Plato and Sam Tordoff. Four of the rounds were televised and shown on ‘Motors TV’ in prime time slots and five of the seven meetings were sponsored.

2015 was another record year with 42 registered drivers which gave us a grid average of 27.7, a big increase on 2014. Grids of 32 for the season opener at Brands Hatch and 31 at the big MG Live event at Silverstone again broke records. Four rounds were televised again and shown on ‘Motors TV’ and 6 of our 7 meetings were sponsored. We continued our relationship with MacMillan as our chosen charity and a cheque for £700 was presented to them at the club headquarters. The championship went down to the wire at the final round at Snetterton for the 9th year in succession with the title going to John Gil in his ZR 160, one of our ‘new’ class of cars first introduced in 2014.

2016 An excellent season saw 43 drivers racing with some serious competition in all classes. The ‘budget’ 160 class had 10 entries and has now come of age with more expected in 2017. Some of the drivers wil be moving up to the 170 class so that means there are tried and tested cars available for newcomers, why not come and  join us in 2017.

2017 Another great season (my last as co-ordinator) saw ‘best ever’ grids at all the circuits thanks to the special effort of the drivers who wanted to make my last season one to remember. There were 42 registered drivers, 12 of whom were new to the championship with 1 returnee. Of significance were the 13 drivers who were 25 and under in age which shows that the our championship was doing the right things to attract new young drivers. We had 8 guests during the season and 5 different winners in classes A & B. All this added up to another ‘best ever’ grid average of 30.5, 35 if you don’t count the ‘away’ race at Knockhill. The 12 rounds produced some excellent racing and saw class C driver Matt Turnbull come out as Trophy champion. Our year ended on a high with the MG Trophy being awarded the Downforce Saloon Car Series of the year at the prestigious Autosport International show, who was in second place? Oh yes it was the BTCC!

2018 This was my first year purely as the Trophy chairman having handed the co-ordinator’s reins to Bruce Woods. It was another good year with the championship going ‘down to the wire’ yet again. The revised format saw Graham Ross take the Enhanced Power title from Jason Burgess and John Booth winning the Standard Power (class C) title from Tylor Ballard. Ryan Firth took the class B honours ahead of outgoing champion Matt Turnbull. We had 43 registered drivers, one more than last year, showing the popularity of our championship was as high as ever. Six ‘new’ drivers joined and there were 5 returnees, 16 of our drivers were aged under 26, the highest number in any of the MGCC’s race championships. Our grid average was 28 a number many other championships would die for!

2019 This was a disappointing year with the number of drivers registered dipping to 29, our lowest for some time. Graham Ross triumphed as overall champion taking the title and the Enhanced Power crown for the second year running, Paul Luti was runner up and class B champ. Newcomer Josh Bacon won the Standard Power title from Martin Webber. We took the decision not to race at the season opener on the Silverstone National circuit but two of our drivers entered as guests in the MG Cup races. Fred Burgess, in his first ever competitive race, took the class fastest lap in the second race, impressive! Ex triple champ Chris Bray enjoyed a rare outing at Brands Hatch where he came home 2nd & 3rd. A good grid of 23 followed at Donington but the big MG Live event at Silverstone was cancelled due to track resurfacing for the British Grand Prix. A healthy 16 cars made the long trip to Knockhill where we saw the first appearance in the Trophy of an MG3 piloted by Colin Robertson. Local man Graham Ross took both wins but the MG3 was a creditable 3rd in the second race. The last two events at Oulton Park & Snetterton were both sponsored by MG dealers making 3 of our 5 meetings wearing MG dealer race titles which was very good news.

2020 A bad year for the Trophy and the world in general! The effect of the dreaded coronavirus forced us to make a difficult decision. In not wanting to make any driver feeling forced to compete we decided to make the decision that we would not run as a championship for the first time since our inception. The MGCC worked very hard complying with all the restrictions imposed and managed, after a lot of dedication, to put on 3 race events at Donington, Snetterton and Oulton Park. The MG Trophy ran as a series at all three which meant entries were low as many drivers decided to ‘stay away’. However this didn’t put off newcomers joining the ranks and four new drivers competed in this very difficult year. Wins were recorded for Sam Kirkpatrick (2), Sam also competed in the Cockshoot Cup and bagged a win in both their races giving him 4 wins at one event, amazing! Other Trophy wins went to Fred Burgess (2), Adam Jackson (1) and Ross Makar, his first win for several years.

2021 was another difficult year with the dreaded coronavirus still with us. Despite this the MGCC planned a season of six meetings with races at Silverstone (Nat), Brands Hatch, Oulton Park, Silverstone (GP), Donington and Snetterton (300). Unfortunately, the season opener at Silverstone had to be cancelled so we started our 2021 racing at Brands Hatch in April. This was to be the year Sam Kirkpatrick conquered (nearly) all with wins at all but one round that he raced in. With an unassailable lead after Donington Sam decided not to race in the Trophy at Snetterton but enjoyed two wins in his MGB in the Equipe GTS race instead! These results gave Sam 5th place in the Autosport top National Drivers of the year, a very well-deserved accolade. Other race wins went to Doug Cole (1) and Fred Burgess (2). Fred had been runner up to Sam in 6 of the races and kept him honest all season long. Trophy grids averaged 20.0 which was somewhat disappointing but considering the ongoing pandemic still a total many other championships would like to have.

2022 was again a difficult year as the country emerged from the worldwide pandemic and business confidence slowly returned. The late cancellation of the Autosport show in January meant that we lost our prime recruitment venue for the second year running and this resulted in lower than normal registrations. Finances were also still tight which didn’t help matters. Despite these factors we were encouraged to see two new drivers join up and most of the 2021 drivers return. The MG Car Cub had once again planned six meetings at the top circuits but this year Cadwell Park was back on the agenda after a 9 year absence. 2021 champ Sam Kirkpatrick started the season well with both wins at the Brands Hatch opener, unfortunately for us he then decided to concentrate on classic racing in an MGB and withdrew. The ever popular class B tended to dominate with season long close racing culminating with a down to the wire (yet again) shoot out at Snetterton between Josh Bromley and class B winner and 2022 champion Joseph Dalgarno. Their season long duel earned them the top award in the Autosport “Top Club Racing Rivalries 2022” category. In addition to Sam’s Brands results outright and class A wins also went to Jason Burgess (7) Doug Cole (2) and Adam Jackson (1). The class B wins went to Josh Bromley (5), Joe Dalgarno (4) with James Dennison, Tylor Ballard and James Cole taking one each. Class c was dominated by Matt Harvey with 8 wins and Chaz Ryles and James Blake with one each. Despite an average grid of just over 15 the racing was, as always, really close and competitive.

2023 was yet another difficult year starting with the surprise announcement in January from our co-ordinator that he was quitting with no prior notice. This left me to pick up that role as well as continue with my chairman’s duties. I’d like to believe that the 2022 slow decline in registered drivers which gave us a grid average of 15.1 was abated and a gradual increase took place during the 2023 season culminating in a grid average of 15.7. Despite the low grid numbers, we had some really good races which the motorsport press picked up on. Often the races resulted in two tight class groups separated by a small-time margin. A season long haul of points saw 23-year-old Tylor Ballard finally taking the top spot and the class B win in his seventh season of racing. Close on his heels was 2018 & 2019 champion Graham Ross who took the class A crown. It was encouraging to see several returnees back racing as well as some new faces.

The late decision by the MG Car Club to cease hosting race meetings after 70+ years came as a great shock but not a total surprise. The plans that the club had for the remaining MG race championships to continue racing weren’t right for us, so rather than taking the easy option I had to find a new ‘home’ for our championship at a time when we weren’t at our most attractive number wise, not easy! After much thought and research an introduction to the Classic Sports Car Club was made by one of our drivers which resulted in a visit to CSCC’s HQ in Corsham. A successful meeting followed and arrangements were made to enable us to join forces with them for our 2024 season.

More problems then faced us as I experienced difficulties with the transfer of the race permit from the MGCC to CSCC. Our treasurer Dickon, also had to work very hard to establish an agreeable solution to enable us to withdraw the money in our MGCC account so we could start our new season in the black. All in all, a difficult year BUT we look forward to a new beginning and some good racing in 2024.    

Pete Macwaters

January 2024.