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


Part V:  2002 – 2004
By Mark Palmer

The year began with great expectations for our upcoming Focus Event at the New Hampshire Vintage Festival, set for August.  We had wonderful articles in the newsletter about the history of this circuit, how to drive it quickly & safely, and other attractions to enjoy in the area.  Momentum was building!

We took time out to honor Jerry Storch, a key member of MGVR from the very beginning.  At a casual meeting at Jerry’s house in late 2001, we presented him with an engraved plaque recognizing his achievements in MGVR, and a mounted copy of the poster he created for the Elkhart event – signed by every single one of the participants. 

Early in 2002, the MG community lost three of our friends.  Patrick Hart, a collector and enthusiast from Redmond, Washington, passed away.  A more recent member of our Band of Brothers, Eric Campbell, passed away in Florida early in the year.  And Watts Hill, a Pre-war MG enthusiast and active SVRA member in the 1980’s from Chapel Hill, NC, passed away in early 2002.

Then, just as we were ramping up for our big New Hampshire event, we received the sad news that Jerry Storch had passed away on May 13, 2002.  The following issue of the MGVR newsletter was dedicated to Jerry.  As I am writing this historical article, years later, I still miss his humor and spirit.

On a brighter note, a couple historic MG’s made the trek to Sebring in March for the vintage re-creation preceding the 12-hour race.  Frank Graham led the effort, with the factory Sebring deluxe coupes #42 (1961) and #52 (1962) in attendance.  In the 12-hour race, a modern MG/Lola finished first in class in the LMP 675 category, and 7th overall – an impressive result!

Our New Hampshire Focus Event brought out 35 MG’s, a modest but respectable turn-out.  We were blessed with perfect weather throughout the 3-day event, and lots of track time.  It was wonderful to see some “veteran” MG Vintage Racers who haven’t been active in a while, like Paul Gaynor and Tom Finn – plus several new faces like Jim Warren, Tom Baumgardner, Frank Filangeri and Bill Glanville.  And like every previous Focus Event, there were MG drivers from all over the country.  The big turn-out this year seemed to be the TD’s, with 10 of them in attendance.  Our MG’s were assigned to several different race groups for practice and qualifying, on Friday and Saturday.  On Friday night, the Kieley brothers hosted a terrific lobster bake at a nearby ski slope, which was terrific! 

After plenty of sprint races by group on Saturday, we looked forward to our all-MG race set for Sunday – but first, another party!  Bill & Pat Stevens put together a nice affair at a fine restaurant in Concord for the MG troops.

On Sunday morning, we hastily organized a group photo (thanks again to Walter & Lu Pietrowicz), and then proceeded straight from there to the grid for our all-MG race.  Lacking any sort of grid sheets from qualifying, the marshalls allowed us to grid ourselves, which resulted in some fast cars in the back and slower cars near the front.  Combine that with a very early green flag, and we ended up seven cars wide going into Turn One!  But it made for a great photo opportunity.

Without official results, we think the podium finishers were probably Joe Lightfoot, Stan Edwards, and Henry Moore. But the greatest accomplishment of the weekend was that all 35 MG entrants took the green flag! Who says old British cars are unreliable?

Jim Weissenborn was honored with an award given by the corner workers, and the MGVR Spirit Award went to Bob Grunau, who worked tirelessly on John Schieffelin’s TC to keep it in the running all weekend.  It was a terrific event, and a nice break from the mega-festival events of the previous few years.

In other developments, Henry Moore took over our Regalia efforts from Bob Schoeplein in 2002. Bob had been our first & only Regalia Coordinator, and had certainly done his share!  Another major figure in the MG community passed away later that year, Jerry Goguen.  He was well-known as the owner of the largest MG collection in the world, and the proprietor of Abingdon Spares.

Late in the year, we announced our Focus Event for 2003: the Gold Cup Races at Virginia International Raceway.  The MGVR group had already raced at this facility at a smaller event back in 2000, and we were looking forward to returning for the largest vintage festival at this venue.  Moss Motors signed on as the sponsor, and plans were already taking shape.

But there were more events to be run in 2002, including the Simms Cup at the Mosport Vintage Festival in Canada.  Twenty-seven MG’s showed up, even though Volvo was the main feature marque!  John Targett was the first MG across the line, passing most of the Volvo’s in the process, with Mark Palmer 2nd and Richard Navin 3rd in the MG class.  Mark was humbled to be awarded the Simms Cup for his performance in his MGA 1500.

The Pittsburgh Vintage Grand Prix attracted a nice field of 20 MG’s, and of course it was hot & humid.  Jim Weissenborn narrowly missed getting hit by lightning during a thunderstorm, and then went on to receive the worker’s award for “best drive” after pushing his mechanically-stricken MG over the finish line.  Mark Sherman got assistance from several MGVR members to fix problems on his car, and made the race on Sunday.  At Watkins Glen, 30 MG’s competed for the Collier Cup, with Denver Cornett operating the pace car this year.  Jerry Richards finished first in his thundering MGB GT V-8, with Steve Plater second in an MGC and Mike Kusch first among the MGB’s.  The MGVR “T-cup” went to George Shafer in his rapid TD, and special recognition was given to long-time race Ginny Gibbons for her enthusiasm and spirit over the years.

The traditional Lime Rock Labor Day event had changed for 2002, now managed by Steve Earle of Monterey Historics fame.  There was much trepidation about the change, but participants still enjoyed the event and about 13 MG’s showed up, mostly T-series.

Throughout the year, the newsletter featured great tech articles, edited by Stan Edwards, with valuable information on car set-up, transponders, brakes, and the like.  “Driver tech” was also gaining more attention, with articles on human heat-related disorders.  We had a nice report from England on the MG Car Club Silverstone races, a huge event there.

As we entered 2003, a huge list of MG Vintage Racers were planning to enter our Focus Event at VIR!  When the weekend arrived, we were thrilled to set a new record for the largest number of MG’s at any North American race event in history: 74 cars!  With the optional school in Thursday, many turned it into a four-day weekend.  For some reason, we suffered more mechanical attrition during the weekend, with many cars dropping out during the practice sessions on Friday.  The MG Feature Race was set for Saturday, and it began to pour mid-morning!  After much discussion, it was decided to hold the race as scheduled, and about 58 MG’s answered the call at 1:00.  Like last year, there was a snafu with the qualifying sheets, so we lined up based on the “honor system”.  In spite of the downpour, Jerry Richards still was able to use the horsepower of his big V-8 to come out on top, with Les Gonda and Don Munoz close behind.  Jack Cassingham was the top Midget, Bill Bartlett the top MGA, and Manley Ford the top finishing T-series.  The MGVR Spirit Award went to George Chilberg, trailering his L-type special all the way from California.  There were lots of race awards, provided by VIR management, and lots of “door prizes” provided by Moss Motors.  After the big MG race on Saturday, everyone relazed a bit on Sunday and enjoyed their regular group races.  MGA’s finished 1-2-3 in their group race on Sunday, quite a feat!

At the Mosport festival in June, John Coryea was awarded the Simms Trophy for his MGA coupe. 

Meanwhile, the newsletter sputtered a bit, with only one issue in 2003.  The Editor was getting burned out.  But there were fine articles covering tech topics, history, and medical aspects of racing.  We had wonderful letters from David Ash, and John Mutchner who “retired” from racing this year.

For 2004, the Editor got the newsletter back on track with three issues.  Lots of new members were joining MGVR as our reputation spread, fueled partly by our successful Focus Events, and great media coverage from Greg Prehodka’s press releases. Big plans were underway for Watkins Glen, our Focus Event for 2004, the 50th anniversary of the first Collier Brothers Memorial Race.  This was clearly going to be huge, but we had no idea just how huge it was to become!  We announced early on that there would be separate MG races for T-types & Prewar, and for MGA/MGB/Midgets – courtesy of the organizers, SVRA.  Coupled with the historic track and beautiful area, this seemed to be the ticket to attracting the largest field ever!  NAMGAR pitched in by creating a new award, the Bucher/Decker Trophy, for the top-finishing MGA in the Collier Cup race.  Special guests Bill Pollack, Ed Hugus, and Kent Prather were planning to be there. 

It all added up to the largest turn-out ever – a new record, just one year after our last record-setting event!  Officially, 143 MG’s entered, split into two groups of about 70 cars each.  In Collier Cup Race #1, Steve Konsin crossed the line first in his Lester Special, followed closely by Bill Hollingsworth and Henry Moore. In Race #2, Les Gonda to the checkered in his new B/GT V-8, followed by Keith Burnett, guest-driving Jerry Richards’ car, and Dave Headley in his MGB.  It was decided to award the Collier Cup to two people this year, in recognition of the huge field and two separate races. Dick Powers and Bill Hollingsworth were selected by their peers to receive the award. Other major awards were the NEMGTR Trophy, to Martin Walford; the T-cup, to Steve Konsin; the Bucher/Decker Trophy, to Henry Moore, and the Cornett Trophy to Les Gonda.

Another new award this weekend was donated by Parish/Heacock Insurance, in honor of Bill Parish who had passed away in 1998.  Based on the criteria “who is having the most fun”, the recipient this year was Carl George of Tennessee.  And the MGVR Spirit Award went to Walter & Lu Pietrowicz, for their ongoing contributions of fine photography to the MGVR newsletter.

By comparison, the rest of 2004 seems like a blur … Watkins Glen was so overwhelming.  But there were other races!  There was the usual good turn-out of MG’s for the Pittsburgh race. Twenty-eight MG’s returned to the Gold Cup races at VIR.  There were nice fields of MG’s at Mosport and Lime Rock.  Overall, it was a fine year!

More changes were happening in the vintage racing world.  SVRA dropped their traditional Summit Point race, the Blue-Gray, to the disappointment of many.  A new vintage race club was announced in the Northeast, called Vintage Racer Group.  But the biggest news of all was to come in the early months of 2005.  Mark Palmer had committed to a five-year term as Editor when he took over from Greg – in 1996!  It had now been nearly 10 years.  It was time for a change, an infusion of new energy and new leadership for MGVR.  A new chapter was about to be written …

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MGVR Editor: Chris Meyers
Online Editor: Christopher Kintner
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