Image thanks to Chris Carter
MG Racing Australia will join the HSRCA at the HSRCA Sydney Classic over the 8th & 9th of June, and the series is bringing a monumental field out to play. Let’s get to know a few of the drivers and their cars.
After claiming third in the MG Racing Australia championship in 2015, Philip Chester went on to win three titles in a row and is the reigning series champion. He’s currently leading the series and will compete at the Sydney Classic in an MG B GT V8.
The car, built in Sydney by Peter Bennett in the late ‘90s, has two MG Racing titles of its own to its name. It will enjoy somewhat of a homecoming at the event with both Peter and long-time driver Glen Taylor joining us to see it in action. As the V8 in its name may imply, it has a 5.6-litre Rover V8 under the hood which puts power through a six speed sequential box. Composite aerodynamic components give the car distinctive good looks, and more importantly make sure it’s well and truly anchored to the track.
The MG B GT V8 raced in Production Sports for fifteen years with Glen Taylor at the wheel, eventually moving to Phil’s custodianship in 2015. Phil handed it to current Carrera Cup driver Dale Wood at Winton in 2016, where it set a lap record, before winning both the 2017 and 2018 titles in the car.
Trevor Dunford, Rodney Gibb, Gary Baxter and Adrian Akhurst are all making the journey from South Australia to compete at Sydney Motorsport Park. Adrian Akhurst has a long history of MG competition, driving everything from MG Bs to MG Rovers. In 2017 and 2018 he competed in a Lola T332 Formula 5000, taking the car all the way to America to compete.
At the Sydney Classic, he will drive the last works MG race car built under MG Rover ownership – an MG ZT. The car was 95% complete when the factory team shelved it, and it never turned a wheel in anger until it moved into Adrian’s hands. When Adrian took custodianship of it, he completed the car and put it on track to live the life that was originally intended for it.
It was designed to run in Belgium and Germany as an endurance race car, so, uniquely, it’s left-hand drive. It’s powered by a 32-valve 5-litre Ford V8 and features a big fuel tank, extensive cage, sequential gearbox and other trick bits thanks to its endurance racing origins.
Gary Baxter won the 1995 and ’96 Australian Commodore Cup and drove to third in the 2005 and ’05 V8 Ute Championships. He’s another driver with Formula 5000 experience, recently competing in a Lola T140.
He’ll bring a British Touring Car Championship MG ZS out to play at Sydney Motorsport Park over the Queen’s Birthday long weekend. Built by West Surrey Racing and owned by Dick Bennetts, the car competed in the BTCC from 2003 to 2005 and was driven by Vauxhall and MG driver Fiona Leggate in its final year. It finished in 7th in the 2005 BTCC Independents’ Championship.
Adrian Akhurst brought the car to Australia and has campaigned it sparingly since. It presents as it did in the 2005 BTCC Championship, with a two-litre Judd MG engine under the hood.
Andrew Howell is another driver with a long history in motorsport, picking up his love of the sport from his father Neville. He’s the current Roy Roy Hillclimb record holder, having set the record seven times from 2004 to 2009 in a Gould GR55B.
In 2010 he changed to circuit racing, going runner up in the 2013 MG Racing title and winning it in 2014 in his MG ZR Judd. The car, which he’ll be bringing to the Sydney Classic, was built in 2004 as a works race car by MG Sport & Racing to compete in endurance racing in the United Kingdom.
It was built with a Judd-developed naturally aspirated MG motor – the same engine used by MG in the British Touring Car Championship from 2003 to 2006. It was driven by 2004 BTCC Masters Champion Anthony Reid as well as Fiona Leggate.
The car arrived in Australia in 2010 and Andrew has campaigned it ever since. Running as it did in 2005, it sends around 280bhp to its front wheels via a Holinger sequential box, is kept in check by AP Racing brakes and wears its period MG Xpower livery.
Third generation Howell racer Rhys is Andrew’s son, and a tidy steerer in his own right. In 2009 he was a CAMS Driver Development Program driver in Formula Ford. He went on to become the Victorian under two-litre production car champion in 2010. In 2018 he competed in the Bathurst 12 Hour with Daytona Sportscars in a Daytona Coupe and drove a Lamborghini Gallardo GT3 in the Victorian Sportscar Championship.
Rhys will be driving an MG SV-R. The MG SV was a supercar built by MG from 2003 to 2005 that featured either a 4.6 or 5-litre Ford V8. The SV-R was fitted with a 32-valve 5.0-litre Ford V8 and could push 175 miles an hour.
Rhys’ SV-R was built by MG for a customer to compete in GT racing in 2005, and is the only factory MG SV race car built. The Howell family brought it to Australia in 2012 to join their MG collection and, after a brief hiatus, it returned to the track in March of 2019.
It’s currently fitted with a 32-valve 5.0 V8, Holinger six-speed sequential gearbox and wears its FIA GT3 livery from Spain, 2005.
Other competitors joining us to drive in MG Racing Australia include Sydney local Bob Rowntree. An MG specialist, he has been competing with MG Racing for 30 years in various MGs. Vincenzo Gucciardo is in just his fifth season of racing, having started in an MG TF cup car and progressed to an MG V8. This is his first full season in the car, and he’s currently sitting third in the championship.
Michael Herlihy is a past MGCC Victoria president, the 2000 series champion and will be on board a car that he’s campaigned steadily since the ‘90s. His son Sean will also join us at Sydney Motorsport Park, and the two are enjoying their first season racing together.
James Dodd is another thirty-year veteran of the series. The MG ZR he’ll drive over the weekend is just his second MG across this entire career, having started with an MG B. David Vernall is another former MGCC Victoria president, MG Racing Australia captain and a competitor for over 30 years. Similar to Jim Dodd, his MG ZR is just his second MG after getting his start in an MG B. Similarly, David Mottram, our third past MGCC Victoria president has been an active competitor for 35 years in MG Racing.
Last, but certainly not least, Paul Vernall is the current MG Racing Australia Captain and campaigns a unique turbocharged MG ZR, the only forced induction vehicle in the field.
We are thrilled to see such incredible support from the MG Racing Australia series, and can’t wait to see them hit the track over the 8th & 9th of June at the HSRCA Sydney Classic. Join us at Sydney Motorsport Park, enjoy the action on the track and make sure to explore the pits and paddock to meet the drivers and get up close and personal to the cars.
Huge thanks to Paul Vernall for his support in putting this story together.