Historic racer: MGB Roadster
A messy debut at Silverstone, and a chance to live out a dream at Snetterton. Or is that nightmare, Nick Trott?
So how did we fare on our race debut at a Classic and Sports Car Club meeting at Silverstone? Well, it was fun, but not without frustration. Oh, you want to hear more? Okay, in race one Ed made contact with another car (the first time in more than 16 years of racing) and I was way off the pace. We finished 17th overall having overestimated the amount of fuel we needed for the 45-minute event – we were carrying 15 litres at the end…
The hour-long race two revealed signs of improvement, in that we didn’t crash or overfuel the car. However, 20 years of driving and road-testing modern machinery has left me woefully underprepared for a car with no brakes, no grip and no horsepower (at least that’s my excuse, and I’m sticking to it). We finished 15th.
The next race was a round of the Equipe GTS series, but Ed had to pull out at the last minute. Nevertheless, he generously offered me the car and I immediately thought ‘Now’s my chance to live that life!’ Which life? The life I love reading about. That of a ’60s F3 driver – heroes travelling all over Europe, towing their race car, sleeping in vans, spannering the car themselves, pocketing prize money and moving on to the next race meeting. The freedom. The open road. The girls…
“It truly was a band of brothers,” said features editor Simon Arron when I mentioned it to him. “Imagine it; you’re racing at Monza, crash, so you visit the Brambilla brothers to get your car welded up before the next race. Then back on the road to Karlskoga or wherever.”
The location for my solo race? Montjuïc? Spa? Karlskoga? No, I would be heading east to… Snetterton. Not a glamorous location – but hey, I had a van (an absurdly posh borrowed Mercedes Marco Polo), a trailer (an even posher Moetefindt) and like my heroes I would be self-sufficient for the weekend. In all areas that is except for spannering. And the prize money. And the Brambilla brothers. And the girls….
So, late one Thursday night I packed the van, loaded the car and fell asleep. The alarm sounded at 4.30am and I headed off carrying a giddying sense of excitement. I was under no illusion that I was experiencing maybe one per cent of that life I love reading about, but to me that sliver felt as effervescent as any point in my life.
I was greeted at the circuit with knowing smiles from John Pearson and Rob Cull – Equipe GTS organisers. They knew exactly how I was feeling – nothing new to these experienced racers, but they appreciated that it was very real to me. They then introduced me to Roy Gillingham of chequeredflagclassics.co.uk, who would look after BRX 855B for the day. OK, so I was straying from my idealistic ‘nomadic racer’ fantasies, but this can be a dangerous game and I was no longer prepared to take the risk on spannering and driving – driving solo would be a big enough challenge in this, only my 11th race in 15 years.
Testing went well, although if you’re a regular reader you’ll have noticed the word ‘but’ crop up quite a lot. And on that cliffhanger...