Race Report – MG Trophy Season Opener – Donington 2024

A New Era for the MG Trophy Championship

2024 sees the beginning of a new era for the MG Trophy.

The MG Car Club’s decision to cease organising race meetings meant that the Trophy, along with the Midget & Sprites Challenge, the MG Cup, and BCV8s needed to find new homes. The Trophy has been welcomed into the Classic Sports Car Club and will share the track with the Berkshire Jag Components Jaguar Challenge this year.

The weekend of 23/24 March saw the start of the season with the competitors facing a mixture of weather conditions. Saturday served up rain, hale and biting winds but Sunday produced more spring-like conditions and the sun finally made a welcome appearance.

Heavy rain added an unexpected dimension to qualifying.

The MG Trophy Qualifying.

The MG Trophy took to the track for qualifying on Saturday morning but the weather played a significant role in deciding the starting grid. The track was dry when the session started so the Class A ZR 190s understandably ventured out on slicks which require careful warming whilst the Class B ZR 170s on their treaded tyres can get up to speed straight away. All the Class B cars put in their quick times on either lap 1 or 2 while the Class A cars were still warming their tyres. A heavy downpour followed by a slowly drying track prevented any significant improvement in lap times so, unusually, Class B cars filled the first two rows of the Trophy grid with Tylor Ballard on pole. The fastest of the three ZR 190s was Sam Meagher in 5th with Adam Jackson in 6th. Graham Ross found himself down on the 5th row of the grid and commented: “It was absolutely chucking it down and I was out there on slicks. I knew it was a complete and utter waste of time but it was good fun.”

Tylor Ballard took pole for both races.

MG Trophy Race 1 – 20 minutes

On a dry track MG Trophy cars lined up behind the Jaguars for the rolling start. The pole sitter slowed his pace prior to Goddards to ensure that the ZRs would start separately, a reasonable distance behind the Jags.

At the end of lap 1 it was the Dayglow orange ZR 170 of Fergus Campbell in the lead. Adam Jackson made up four places and was in hot pursuit in P2 and Graham Ross had a good lap and was up to P5. Tylor Ballard and Sam Meagher both fell back from their starting positions to P6 and P7 respectively. By the end of lap 2 Jackson had taken over as the leading Trophy car with Ross P2. Campbell still had the Class B lead ahead of Steve McDermid and Ballard.

The leading Class B cars headed by Fergus Campbell

As the race progressed the different characteristics of the MGs and Jaguars were clear for all to see. The Jags, big and heavy, had the power down the straights but the nimble MGs had the advantage through the twisty bits and quickly closed the gap to the Jaguar pack.

The Trophy cars quickly caught the Jags.

Jackson continued to lead the MGs’ charge until lap 6 when Ross got the better of him and took the lead. Two laps later the leading trio were nose to tail going into Redgate where Jackson had a very sideways moment that allowed Sam Meagher through into P2. Sadly, mechanical gremlins would afflict Jackson’s machine which would sideline him for the remainder of the weekend. Robin Walker (Class B) joined Jackson in retirement about the same time, again due to a mechanical issue.

An impressive ‘save’ for Adam Jackson on lap 8.

The two remaining Class A cars continued to scythe their way through the Jaguars and when the chequered flag flew after 15 laps they had passed all but four of them.

Class B became an intense four-way battle between Campbell, McDermid, Ballard and James Cole. The class lead changed hands several times during the closing laps with Ballard looking to be the likely victor until an unfortunate incident at Redgate forced his retirement and allowed McDermid through to take the win with Cole P2 and Campbell P3.

The incident that ended Tylor Ballard’s hopes of Class B victory

So impressed were the commentators by Graham Ross’s winning drive that they nominated him ‘Millers Oils Driver of the Race’.

Graham Ross, Millers Oils Driver of the Race, race 1

MG Trophy Race 2 – 20 minutes

With Adam Jackson and Robin Walker unable to take part in Sunday’s race, Tylor Ballard led the remaining MG ZRs round the 1.98 mile rolling start lap. By the time the cars appeared at Coppice on lap 1 Sam Meagher was in the lead and Graham Ross had gained six places to hold P2. The Class B cars of Tylor Ballard and Fergus Campbell were right behind the leading duo and all 9 cars were covered by just 4 seconds at the end of the lap.

Sam Meagher had the lead at Coppice on lap 1 of race 2

Ross took over the lead on lap 2 and thereafter the two ZR 190s ran through the Jaguars in formation. At the end of the penultimate lap they were in P3 and P4 overall and Ross looked set to take his second win of the weekend. But it was not to be, those mechanical gremlins had other ideas and Ross slowed with a steering issue which allowed Meagher through to take the Trophy win. Ross coaxed his car over the line in P2.

The Jaguar XJ6 4200 of Simon Lewis was no match for the MG ZRs

Meanwhile, as we have become accustomed to see in the highly competitive Class B, there was battle royal between the leading contenders. Ballard held the class lead throughout the race with Campbell being his closest challenger during the first four laps. However, James Cole’s run of good form continued from the latter part of 2023 and he became Ballard’s closest challenger on lap 5. They maintained that order running in close formation for the remainder of the race but both explored the extremities of the track in their bid to pass one of the Jaguars. Unfortunately, that led to Ballard being hit with a 5 second penalty for exceeding track limits which dropped him to P2 in the final results and compounded his race 1 disappointment.

Matthew Harvey had a consistent weekend taking P4 in class in both races

McDermid, who took 3rd in class after finding his way past Campbell in the closing stages of the race, received the ‘Millers Oils Driver of the Race’ award.

Steve McDermid Millers Oils Driver of the Race, race 2

Championship standing can be found here

The MG Trophy will be in action again at Oulton Park on 27th April

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *