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McLaren F2 back on track

Ex-Courage M4A took first single-seater win for renowned manufacturer

In his day job Mike Flewitt is chief executive of McLaren’s road car business, but in his spare time he drives the company’s very first single-seater racing car.

Flewitt, who has competed in a Lotus Elan and Elite in recent seasons, has added a single-seater to his racing plans after falling in love with the ex-Piers Courage McLaren M4A Formula 2
car from 1967 – which was on display at last month’s Motor Sport Hall of Fame awards. “There were two M4As originally built by McLaren for F2 in 1967: one for Bruce McLaren and one for Piers,” said Flewitt. “They had Cosworth FVA engines for the first year of the new F2 rules.” Prior to the M4’s launch, McLaren had only produced sports-racing and Can-Am cars.

Flewitt’s car is M4A chassis 2, one of the two original works cars. Around a dozen customer cars were built as M4Bs by the Trojan company in Surrey.

“Piers and Bruce both drove this car in 1967 and Piers then took it to the Tasman Series and it won its first race late in the season at Longford in the pouring rain. That was the first race win for a McLaren single-seater,” said Flewitt. “This car has a nice history with a consistent lineage. Piers crashed it a couple of times, once famously at Brands Hatch in 1967 when he managed to go off right under a Courage beer sign.”

Prior to Flewitt’s ownership, the McLaren last raced in 2010 with former owner David Coplowe. “I bought it last year and over the winter Mike O’Brien and the team at Speedsport prepared it,” said Flewitt. “I’m doing three races this year and Michael O’Brien is doing three [first time out, the latter scored two wins at Cadwell Park]. We wanted it to be right and have gone through the car, getting a fresh engine and rebuilding the gearbox. I’ve also returned it to the original McLaren red, from before they went to orange in 1968.”

Mull Rally cancelled

Insurance issues have forced the cancellation of one of Britain’s longest-established closed-road events, the Mull Rally.

The special stage rally on the Scottish island pioneered the use of closed public roads for competition by achieving a specific Act of Parliament in 1990. Since then, it has put £1 million into the local economy in mid-October every year, but the 2017 event will not take place.

MSA chief executive Rob Jones explained the situation: “The Mull Rally runs under a private Act of Parliament. It has emerged that the private closed-road legislation raises very significant insurance challenges for Mull this year, which was first thought to render the Mull Rally uninsurable.

“The MSA has been endeavouring to find a solution with its brokers. While the brokers have offered a potential solution for 2017, this is unfortunately totally impractical as each and every claim under the policy would be subject to a very significant excess payable by the organisers, and it’s one they cannot afford.”

Everyone involved in the rally is hopeful that the recent Act of Parliament permitting motor sport on closed public roads across the UK will open the way for the 2018 Mull Rally to go ahead. 

However, that is unlikely to move forwards until the conclusion of the fatal accident inquiry regarding deaths on rallies in Scotland in 2013 and 2014. If the Scottish Government then quickly adopts the new legislation passed in Westminster, the Mull Rally could return in its closed-road format in 2018.

Organisers from the Isle of Man, which hosts several closed road rallies each year, confirmed that September’s Rally Isle of Man would go ahead as planned. “With the Isle of Man being a self-governing island we are not affected by the current situation,” said John Gill, chairman of the organising committee. 

Famed Healey races again

The Austin Healey 3000 registered ‘SMO 746’, one of the most famous racing Healeys of the 1960s, has finally returned to competition this season after an absence of 45 years.

The ex-works rally car was raced extensively in period by John Gott MBE, the chief constable of Northamptonshire. In 1972 he suffered a fatal heart attack while racing the Healey at Lydden Hill and the car went into a private collection. It was bought at auction 18 months ago by Healey racer Martyn Corfield and has been prepared for competition by Jeremy Welch’s team.

“It’s taken us a year to get it right,” said Healey expert Welch. “It’s been restored to early 1960s trim after Gott developed it for Modsports use later in the decade.”

“It had been sitting in Arthur Carter’s collection for 40 years,” said Corfield. “It was all in Modsports state when we bought it. The car had spent more time as a race car than a rally car so we’ve put it back to a pre ’65 state for racing.”

“It has the original doors, shroud and bonnet and new wings,” added Welch. “The Modsports wings were fibreglass so it wasn’t a matter of modifying them, we had to replace them. We took the suspension back to period and refitted wire wheels and suitable hubs. We did our usual complete overhaul of the suspension and safety components. It didn’t have a roll cage in it because that wasn’t necessary at the time, so we’ve had to fit one.”

Corfield added: “I’ve always had a passion for Healeys. I’d tried to buy this car a few years earlier from the owner, so when it came up in the auction I was ready to do something. 

“It was built as a rally car but spent so many years as a race car that I think it needs to be raced. You can tell the authenticity of the chassis because there was some damage from when Pat Moss was rallying it. But there was next to nothing in terms of accident damage from Gott’s last race at Lydden. Most of it was to the fibreglass.”

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