History of the
"MG Vintage Racers' Newsletter"
-The First 20 Years-


Part IV: 1999 – 2001
By Mark Palmer

      As 1999 arrived, it was difficult to envision a follow-up to 1998. Nothing would compare to the event at the Glen, so we felt we should try for something a little different. Our friends at SVRA suggested an MG-Triumph Challenge, at Mid-Ohio, and we jumped at it! This would be a little more “racer-oriented”, with fewer historical features to the weekend. Joe Alexander, the head of “Friends of Triumph” worked hand-in-hand with Mark Palmer to produce over 70 cars for the challenge race.

      Once again we had excellent weather with no rain all weekend. The race groups were very large – this turned out to be the biggest SVRA event in history, with something like 450 total entries! The TR’s just barely nudged us out for the challenge, using a formula based on participation plus performance. Well, at least we finished second!

      The top MG driver was Don Munoz, who had home-track advantage (he used to hold the SCCA E/P lap record here). He won Class B. Gary Harrison won Class A and was the top MGA, and Bill Hollingsworth was the fastest T-series and Class C winner.

      One of the highlights of the event was the creation of a wonderful panoramic photograph, by our friend Doug Chadwick, using his circa-1930 mechanical camera. It is a treasured item for many of us! We also had a nice MG-Triumph poster, created by Walter Pietrowicz, with Henry Moore’s MGA as the subject model.

      In other events, the Collier Cup attracted 23 MG’s and one very special guest, Warwick Banks, a former factory driver over from England. He easily won the Collier Cup race with the MGB GT V-8 that he had recently sold to Jerry Richards. Warwick also entertained us Friday night at a very elegant dinner in town. Gary Harrison was once again the top placed MGA, and Bob Grunau the fastest T-series. Mark Palmer was presented with the Collier Cup.

      Across the pond, Dean Butler’s MG K3 won the Coy’s Silverstone Pre-war race outright, a terrific accomplishment – co-driven by Martin Wolford and Charles Jones. Half a world away, an MGA with a supercharged Chevy V-6 set a new World Land Speed Record in class C/BMS at 243 MPH on the Bonneville Salt Flats, with Mark Barnhart crewing. Quite a year for MG success!

      We introduced a new T-shirt design, nice caps, and a new decal in our regalia program – with Bob Schoeplein continuing his fine efforts here.

      After two straight years of “mega-events” for our Focus Event, we decided to select a smaller, low-key race for 2000. The VSCCA was holding their first event at the new Virginia International Raceway, and we were invited to participate. This event would be open to non-VSCCA cars, so we could include the MGB’s, Midgets, and other later models.

      The total entry (all cars) for the weekend was around 90 cars, so this was miniscule compared to our previous two Focus Events – and a refreshing change. We brought about 26 MG’s, with several drivers who had not been able to attend any of our previous events. This was our first event “down south”. Our dinner banquet attracted 70 people, at a nice local inn. Moss Motors provided some attractive door prizes for us. Back at the track, we decided to try something completely different for race format: since we already knew who had the fastest cars, why not try a handicap race? But the unique angle was to combine a handicap start with a match race, by starting TWO cars at each interval. This inspired lunacy actually worked out, and was great entertainment for the drivers and spectators alike! In the end, the fastest car still won – Tim Handy in his MGB – and we awarded the MGVR Trophy to George Pardee, richly deserved!

      In other events, SVRA staged a “TriMog-BMC Challenge” at Mid-Ohio, which brought out about 10 MG’s. Don Munoz was the overall winner. At the Glen, we introduced another new award: the “T-cup”, for the highest-finishing T-series in the Collier Cup race. The inaugural winner of that award was Manley Ford, in his TF. Don Munoz once again won the Cornett Trophy for first overall, and Frank Mount was happily awarded the Collier Cup. Earlier in the year at Mosport, Andy Schmidt was given the Simms Trophy and also happened to be the winner of the all-MG race there.

      Our 2001 Focus Event was one that had been on our minds, in the background, for quite some time. Working closely with Marv Primack ad Tom Moore, we had been conspiring to identify an event in the mid-west that would suit our members well. After much discussion we settled on the VSCDA Elkhart Lake Fall Festival, and it certainly proved to be the right choice!

      We had the usual build-up to the event through the newsletter – some nice articles on the history of the place, several “hot laps”, etc. The late Jerry Storch created a wonderful poster for us – not feeling well enough to draw, but wanting to do it somehow, he created a computer image that captured the event perfectly!

      As the time approached, everything seemed to be in place … Dean Butler was bringing four cars over from England, Al Moss was coming to be our guest speaker, etc. And then September 11th happened. It certainly put our silly little “Focus Event” in perspective. But, as with many activities, the attitude was “the show MUST go on” and “we will NOT let them defeat us”. I think nearly every entrant made it to Elkhart, just two weeks after the disaster. Except, unfortunately, Dean Butler – who could not get out of England (even though his cars did!). And Al Moss, who had the misfortune of breaking his leg while he was loading the TC on the trailer for the trip!

      Art Evans gracefully stepped in as our speaker, and did a terrific job narrating Al Moss’s old films (even though Art had never seen them before!). The MG dinner was a great success, with a very special cake celebrating our 20th Anniversary! Happy Birthday to us!

      Once again, we had a panoramic photo (I now have three in my collection) and once again, Moss Motors kindly provided terrific door prizes. And, as at Watkins, we were able to offer a special deal on historical books – and some neat regalia. Another highlight of the weekend was the old course tour, ending in downtown Elkhart.

      At the track, we had two days of magnificent weather, like every previous Focus Event … and then Sunday it all went downhill. By the time of our Feature Race, the rain was pounding! But of the 61 MG’s entered for the weekend, 27 took the green flag and splashed around for 8 or 10 laps. In the end, Steve Plater proved his mastery of the course with a first overall.

      The MG Vintage Racers Trophy was awarded to John Kieley, who had rebuilt his ailing transmission at the track on Saturday (the second time a busted tranny entered into the MGVR Trophy decision!).

      This event was probably the best turn-out of T-series and Pre-war MG’s that we’ve ever experienced – 28 T-series (including 14 TC’s) and nine Pre-war MG’s. Truly remarkable!

      Other high points to the year were Mosport (Henry Moore won the all-MG race, and Ed Cronin was awarded the Simms Trophy) and Buttonwillow, with 12 MG’s including three Pre-war cars. While not exactly vintage, we were proud to see the MG name at LeMans once again – even if it was basically a Lola prototype. It ran well for a while.

      Back home, Stan Edwards came on board as Technical Editor, and Ed Cronin volunteered to be Secretary/Treasurer of MGVR. A huge help to the struggling Editor!

      As we move into 2002, we are wrapping up our celebration of the first 20 years. Looking forward to more Focus Events (this year:New Hampshire) and to many more issues of the newsletter. The organization is becoming, well, exactly that: an organization! Not overly burdened with bureaucracy, but simply more people chipping in to help. Our membership has expanded to well over 200, with MG racers from Florida to New Hampshire, California to New Jersey, Canada to Texas.

      As this is written, some of the events of 2002 have already unfolded … some pleasant, and some sad. But these events will be recounted when someone writes the next history of MGVR, on our 30th or 40th anniversary. And we have complete confidence that the MG Vintage Racers organization will still be going strong ten or twenty years hence!

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MGVR Editor: Chris Meyers
Online Editor: Christopher Kintner
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