Two of four – Grass Autotest

Driving around the M25 heading towards Kent on a Thursday evening is never much fun, but with rain starting to come down it made for a more interesting evening…

The tests at Brands Hatch are short and sharp, but with this being the first event of the year and the rain it was very ‘green’ and very slippery. The upside of this is that the handbrake worked on the MGZR. Due to a 8pm curfew on the venue, we got straight on with doing the tests.


Grip was at an obvious premium, but with some careful use of the throttle and handbrake good progress could be made. The tests were flowing and not too tough as it was the first event of the year. However you could easily be caught out, by a bump in the grass or even a section of long grass which retained the rain water, which then send you off into a big slide – fun but not fast…

Although I tried to keep the car neat and tidy, the changing nature of the grip meant that this wasn’t easy. With the car being double driven, this meant I had no real idea how well others around me were doing. So after packing up the car, I went over to look at the results and was very surprised to find that I had finished 10th overall and 1st in class.


Think I may need to wash the car before the Targa Rally….


One of four

It seems like a good while since I last updated the blog. Since the sprint, the MGZR has been busy with a 20/20 and a Scatter rally. The 20/20 was all ok, until I got very lost on the maps…. The scatter rally was a better outcome with 4th overall, and it was a good shakedown for the new suspension.

Whilst I have been away from the blog, I have stripped a Rover 200 for its Gaz competition suspension. This is now fitted to the MGZR along with some polybushes and new drop links.


Now onto the first of four events in two weeks (a autosolo, autotest, stage rally and targa rally) this was a local autosolo run by Oxford motorclub, at a local old airfield.

The tests run by Oxford MC are nice and flowing and don’t require the use of the handbrake, which is useful since ours is useless. The MGZR is well suited to events like this, although on one of the first tests I did find it is a bit bigger than the Micra and clipped a cone. The first results were ok, but not anything special. However the next set of tests worked better for me, and I got more used to the car. Gradually as the day went on, I got more in tune with the car and was able to really push on.

By the end of the day I was 19th overall, (11th clubman) and 2nd in class, which given the amount of time I gave away on the first set of tests was ok.

Here you can see some on-board of the final test.

The next event, is just a few days away at the first 7Oaks Grass autotest at Brands Hatch. Watch this space for two of four!

Castle Combe Sprint

The event started off with a very long and dull drive along the M4 on a Friday night, not the most fun you can have in a noisy rally car…

However once we got to Castle Combe on the Saturday morning the sun was already shining and the day was shaping up well. Scrutineering and noise all went straight forward. However the absence of my normal timing strut meant I had to resort to my back up ‘composite’ one which I made last year out of cardboard and tank tape…


The work of getting the car prepped ready to be first car on the track meant I missed the chance to walk the course, I would have to rely on my wits and a vague memory of when I was last here in 2001!

The first timed run, was a little scrappy as I found my way round the track. The very open and flowing nature of the track meant it was a good fun run. By the time I got back from checking my first run times, I came back to the car to find others in my class looking over the Micra as they were surprised by my speed. At this point I had a 7 second lead in the class. However I wasn’t fooled by this, sprinters by their nature tend to sand bag in practice, where as rally people tend to drive everywhere flat out…!

The other cars in my class were all Fiesta’s of varying ages from an almost brand new 999cc turbo, to some very modified older ones running sticky List 1B tyres. A real mix of approaches in our class then. We were running List 1A tyres (my usual favourite the Yoko A539), as this was all we had available.

On to the second runs, this was the first timed run which actually count. I wanted to get a good banker time in on this run, to allow a bit of a push on the final timed run. This worked and I found another 3 seconds, however the competition also found time, and got to within 4 seconds.

The second timed run, went very well. I had the confidence in the car, to play with left foot braking though Quarry and Tower bends. This found me yet another 2 seconds. By the end of the day I took the class win by 3 seconds, which over a 3.3 mile course is pleasing to be nearly a second a mile quicker than the rest.

The course was great fun, and proved to be quite a different challenge to stage rallying. The speed element was much higher with quite a bit of use of 5th gear and I was never lower than 3rd gear apart from the start, and on my final run I averaged 72mph. This gives quite a different feel to the car, and makes the challenge all about carrying the speed, but at a much higher starting point i.e. needing real commitment and trust in the car.

Here you can see my final run :-



A tough Snetterton Stages

When you come in from the first stage, and people are telling you there are flames coming from your brakes you get that feeling that it could be a tough and long day…

We knew that with another very strong entry that a repeat of our success at Brands Hatch was unlikely. The stages at Snetterton were longer and faster than at Brands Hatch with a lot of heavy braking from a high speed, making power and braking a premium.

Stages 1 & 2 didn’t seem to flow that well for me, I think it took a bit of time to adapt to high speed circuit rallying. The excitement at the end of stage one was due to a rubber boot getting a bit too hot, luckily no real damage was done though and a quick rebuild of the slider bolts and we were off again.


Stages 3 & 4 were much more like it, we ended up mixing in with more cars, which lead to more overtaking and we got a better feel for the stage layouts and I got a better feeling in the car. At lunch we were 6th in class and 57th overall, it was still all quite tight in the class battle. But the cars with more power were clearly taking the lead. Those Vauxhall 1400 engines can be made to go very well…


Stage 5 added a new dimension to the event, with a new stage layout using some of the in-field roads, and some of these were pure gravel roads. This came as a bit of a surprise on a circuit tarmac stage rally! It did though mean I got to use the handbrake and engage in a bit of drifting 😉

Stage 6 is where it all got interesting, midway through the stage we ended up losing the brakes. The brake pads broke down on the OSF, and this lead to the caliper piston coming out and dumping brake fluid onto the hot disc which created lots of smoke! Luckily we were able to get to the end of the stage dropping about 40-50’s and avoiding anything solid with just the handbrake to slow us down.

Thankfully the service time was longer after stage 6 to allow for stage change arounds. This gave us time to get the offending item off the car, after a lot of work by many people in the service area, we were able to re-build the caliper and get back out on the stages. Many many thanks to all that helped out.

The last two stages were completed at a slightly slower pace to allow the new pads to bed in and as we had nothing to chase results wise. Luckily for us the time lost on stage 6 didn’t alter where we finished in class, though it did loose us a few positions overall. In the end we finished 5th in class and 51st overall.

Here is the on-board from SS5



MGJ Brands Hatch Winter Stages

Well after many years of trying, we have finally won our class on a stage rally in the Micra. The 1400cc class is always well populated and often has many high powered machines, so getting a chance at the top spot is often slim. However Brands Hatch stages this year proved to give us that chance…


The day started off very cold (-5’c), but the little Micra started on the button early on Saturday morning. The first stage went smoothly enough, although parts of the rally school were a complete ice rink!

The second stage though proved to throw up some drama with an errant SOS board being left out on a competing car, we had no choice but to stop at the next marshal point and report the issue. This caused some ‘slight’ increase in tensions in the car, but in the end we were awarded a notional time by the organisers, which allowed us to maintain our position. The following stage also saw us having to return to the organisers for a time allowance, due to a blocked stage which had affected about eight cars.

During all the above fun and games, the top contenders in our class were having their own issues. This left us at lunchtime with a healthy class lead. Our nearest rivals where the Newtons in their very powerful, and super light weight Nova. They were on a mission to make up for their lost time after a ‘moment’ eariler in the day.

By the end of stage 6, it was clear we had a real battle on our hands. We had about a 1m 30sec lead over the Newtons, but they were making up just under 30 seconds on us a stage. So the maths would mean that by the end of stage 8 it would all be VERY tight.

This meant it was game on! The last three stages, were a real battle, no quarter was given by either crew, and on the final stage we set a stage time quicker than many much ‘faster’ cars like C2R2 Max’s, Evo’s etc… all in our little road rally spec Micra. In the end we took the class win by 6 seconds. The Micra does now sport some tyre rubbing ‘battle wounds’ but we both really enjoyed being pushed to the maximum limit to find out what we really could do in the car.


A foggy night out

A last minute entry into Oxford MC’s 12 Car last night (16th Dec) saw us out in the MGZR for a thrash around the lanes of Brackley.

Suze agreed to nav for me, I had prepped the MGZR ready for the event with a newly acquired front strut brace and some additional internal LED lighting to  help with the plotting earlier in the week.

At the start as the drivers briefing was going on it became clear that the fog had descended heavily and the thrash would be more of a challenge….

Chris the event CoC had found some excellent roads for us to use including a great fun white. However we were all against a much bigger challenge, seeing where to go! At times visibility was down to less than 10ft, which made making back time so much more challenging.

The event for us worked out well, Suze did a top job on the maps, working out timings and all the other work that nav’s have to do, as well as keeping me on the right road.Even on a night like this I still had the easier job!

During much of the night we seemed to be running on our own, which makes it hard to judge how you are doing against the others. However by the end of a tough 60 miles, we returned back to the start/finish venue to swap tales of struggling to see where we were going, how we coped with the navigation, plus all the usual rally talk.

Then came to the results, and we found we had won the event by 25mins from the next crew. This came as a real shock, as our prep work was rushing to WHSmiths to buy a map, highlighting grid no’s in the pub over dinner and off we went.

The MGZR proved its worth once again, being great fun to drive and the only obvious issue being a OSR puncture which very luckily didn’t strike till we got home – or that lead could have been a lot smaller…

This being my last event of year, is a great way of signing of my motorsport year, which has been very successful.

Three outright wins in differing clubmans events is very satisfying, as well as securing the AEMC/ASEMC 1400 Stage Rally Championship. Hopefully all these various events, will mean I can secure the Chelmsford MC clubmans championship which has been a real tough battle this year.


Here you can see the MGZR in action on a previous event.

Bombing along

Last weekend I set off to MOD Debden for the WAC/WSMC Bomb-along Targa rally. For this I used the MGZR 160 VVC.

Leaving home in the small wee hours, it was very cold and icy in places. I picked up my newbe nav Haydn Marks and we headed round the M25 & M11 to Debden. As a venue Debeden is very varied and has a real mix of good and bad tarmac, old concrete, gravel and mossy mud. All in all a good mix for a good days sport.

Arriving at Debden we adjusted the handbrake, so that it was  working just about. Sadly rear discs are ideal for high speed work, but it means the handbrake is at best ‘not great’. However it was better than before after using the special adjustment technique from Jamie Turner of the Rover Centre. The only other job was to fit the Umbongo tyres.                       The MGZR we got was a good deal, as it included a number of useable tyres to scrub out on days like this. For this event we had four of Umbongo’s finest tyres on the car and I think four different makes. But they were black, round and held air (just) so ideal for scrubbing out, if not ideal for grip….

The first set of tests, was a learning experience a) for Haydn in what was his first ever Targa rally and b) for me re-learning the venue. The tests were mostly quite tight, and slippy in places, but there were a few places where you could use the engine’s grunt.

The rest of the runs on the day were all quite uneventful, with no real drama’s mechanical or driving wise. The venue did dry out a bit (though it didn’t warm up at all..) which did assist with the grip levels.

By the end of the day we finished 14th overall and 9th in class, which given the crews we were out against, and the fact that some of these crews spent more on tyres than the complete value of the car we were using was a success.