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AR Motorsport Morgan Challenge 2016 – Donington Park

37 Morgans headed to Donington Park last weekend (22/05/16) for the Peter Morgan Memorial Race. Held as part of the Morgan Sports Car Club race meeting, this was the fourth round of the 2016 Challenge Series. A highlight of the Morgan Challenge calendar, and always a well attended meeting, last Sunday was no exception. Talk of yet another rainy race was not welcome, but it was roof down weather for the drive in and fortunately the sun stayed out for the duration.

Race 1

The large entry list meant that the races were split into two, with Class A & B cars separated from their C, D, E and R competitors. For qualifying, all cars would be on track at the same time, meaning a fair bit of traffic and a challenge to put in clean laps. Phil Goddard took overall pole position from Keith Ahlers, who admitted himself that he was not feeling quite 100%. A notable first outing for the University of Wolverhampton’s Shane Kelly, who was driving the factory ARV6 in place of an absent Tony Hirst. Shane, a professional racer, was not competing for championship points but managed to put the V6 on Class B pole, 3rd overall. Further down the pack just over 1 second separated 7 competitors, with Tim Ayres and Tim Parsons looking to be quickest heading into the C, D, E & R race.

Race 1 C, D, E  & R

Tim Ayres took overall victory and winner of Class C in the first race, thanking his New Elms team for such stellar preparation of his car. Class D victory went to Henry Williams who finished 2nd overall with yet another impressive drive. Driver of the race, however, went to a well-deserved Steve McDonald. Finishing 3rd overall, Steve set the fastest lap of the race, and was the only driver to break into 1:23 seconds. An impressive race saw Alex Laidlaw finishing 6th overall and winner of Class R.

Race 1 A & B

Keith Ahlers must have felt a little out of place not starting from pole position for once, but normal service was resumed as he took the lead back from Phil Goddard on the first lap. A typically composed display from Ahlers who held on to first place to take the overall victory. The overall top 3 replicated the Class A top 3, with Goddard and Paterson senior finishing 2nd and 3rd respectively. Absolutely thrilling wheel to wheel racing between Shane Kelly and Elliot Paterson from start to finish saw Kelly taking his first Morgan Challenge win with a Class B victory and 4th overall. Paterson, finishing 5th overall and 2nd in Class B, was highly commended with driver of the race after setting the fastest Class B lap.  Finishing 3rd in Class B was Andy Green in his Plus 8.

Class Winners

Class A: Keith Ahlers
Class B: Shane Kelly
Class C: Tim Ayres
Class D: Henry Williams
Class R: Alex Laidlaw

Race 2

Race 2 C, D, E & R

With the 2nd race being one of the final races of the day, competitors were surprised to line up for assembly on a dry track.

Tim Ayres, Henry Williams and Tim Parsons completed the top 3 overall in the end, after Steve McDonald was given a 10 second penalty for a false start. Ayres, Williams and Parsons each claimed Class C, D & R victories respectively. A terrific drive from Tim Parsons, who swapped places with Henry Williams on more than one occasion, saw him claim fastest overall lap of the race and driver of the day for race 2. Fantastic driving up and down the grid made for a very entertaining race and set the scene for the Class A & B cars that immediately followed them.

Race 2 A & B

Phil Goddard claimed victory in the final race of the day, beating Keith Ahlers who looked to have an intermittent issue with his car. Ahlers commented after that it was the first issue for 6 years that he’d suffered in the Plus 8, and commended Billy at JB Motorsport Engineering for his handy work. Keith’s issue took nothing away from Phil Goddard, who still had a fast paced Russell Paterson to fend off, Paterson finishing 2nd in Class A and overall. An eagerly anticipated battle between Shane Kelly and Elliot Paterson was sadly not to be, as Kelly had an unfortunate off on the 2nd lap and brought the car in to avoid further damage. Paterson went on to win Class B, despite being closely followed by a very quick Andy Green, who proudly claimed fastest Class B lap of the race and 2nd in Class B overall. There was some more good racing between Dominic House, James Carter, Greg Parnell and Craig Hamilton-Smith once again. Hamilton-Smith showing good pace in qualifying, but in the end was unable to steer his Plus 4 Babydoll around the big V8 Aero of Parnell. Driver of the race went to Stuart Anderson, who, after an unfortunate off in the new “Bumble Racing” ARV6 at Combe two weeks previous, got right back in the mix with a great drive, well done Stuart!

Class Winners

Class A: Phil Goddard
Class B: Elliot Paterson
Class C: Tim Ayres
Class D: Henry Williams
Class R: Tim Parsons

The next race is at Silverstone on the GP circuit on 5th of June. Photography by James Gilbert. For high resolution copies of any images on this page, please email [email protected]

Craig Hamilton-Smith

Name: Craig Hamilton-Smith
Car: Plus 4 Babydoll prepared by UWRacing
Class: B
Qualified: 10th in class (15th overall)
Race 1 finish: 11th in class (16th overall)
Race 2 finish: 10th in class (15th overall)
Bio: Competing this year in his first season of motorsport, Craig is fourth generation of the Morgan family and a shareholder of the company. Racing in the University of Wolverhampton prepared Plus 4 Babydoll, he is being taught by expert racing driver Shane Kelly and takes guidance and support from the UWRacing student team who look after the car between races and prepare it on race days. Craig drives a 3.0 litre V6 Roadster Morgan as his daily driver and has been in and around Morgans since he can remember.

You’re racing as part of the Peter Morgan memorial race, one of the biggest Morgan grids of the year, a highlight of the calendar for anyone. What does it mean to you being fourth generation of the Morgan family to be part of this?

I have been looking forward to it very much, last year’s PM memorial race was at a very wet Brands and was my first race – I was bitten by the racing bug.  A large starting grid is very exciting, and a treat to see and hear all the Morgans, of course it’s even more exciting to be part of it. I like to think I’m helping carry on the tradition of Morgan family members racing our cars.

You qualified well and swapped positions with a number of competitors in both races, despite setting quicker times than them, what did you find most challenging about holding a position once you’d taken it?

Knowing where everyone is around you and defending the line if necessary whilst thinking of the next reference point and the oncoming corner. It’s a lot to take on at once and the more races I compete in the more comfortable I’ll feel with my surroundings and managing each of these throughout the race.

Another promising race meeting, how did you feel it went overall?

It was the best race for me – so far.  I am getting to grips with the car and becoming more confident in what I and the car can do together. I’m certainly very excited for Silverstone in two weeks.

Shane Kelly

Your first season supporting and now racing in the Morgan Challenge Series, how does the series differ to others you’ve previously been involved with?

The first big difference for me is that it’s not a single-seater, there’s different geometry – a car’s a car but closed wheel racing is completely different to me so it was a privilege to be allowed the challenge. Everyone in the Morgan Challenge is so friendly, there are so many different abilities within the championship which makes it really exciting.

It’s been brilliant working alongside Craig, Tony and the factory and to be able to actually race the ARV6 is a great opportunity for myself to learn more about the car’s setup.

What are your first impressions of the ARV6?

My first impression was that it’s a lot softer than an F3 car – It’s a more advanced racing Morgan with a few newer features and a lot more power! It’s great fun which makes it exciting to drive and an exciting car to set up.

A great battle with Elliot Paterson to take the win in the first race, you looked to be leaving him towards the end, was that you becoming more comfortable with the car?

Qualifying was the first time i’d ever turned the wheel of the ARV6 in anger! Had a great battle with Eliott which was a lot of fun, luckily I managed to string a few good laps together and used lap traffic to my advantage.

How do you think your time in the ARV6 will help you when mentoring Tony Hirst?

Massively – I can now understand where Tony is coming from with his setup and handling. Tony was on the end of the phone for most of the day checking on how we were all getting on, so we’ve already started to discuss changes that could be made to improve his performance – going forward it’s really important to have that knowledge.

Looking forward to another race in the Morgan Challenge Series?

Yes definitely, a different challenge to the F3; It’s a much more forgiving car than we’re used to! For a Professional Driver it’s always good to experience a new car. Any improvements we can make for Tony and Craig will be invaluable.

Name: Shane Kelly
Car: ARV6 prepared by AR Motorsport
Class: B
Qualified: 1st in class (4th overall)
Race 1 finish: 1st in class (4th overall)
Race 2 finish:  DNF
Bio: Eastleigh based and Winchester born professional racing driver Shane Kelly (36) is the 2006 former Club F3 Champion. Kelly now has a large portfolio both as a racing and professional driver. He continues to pursue his career in the motor sport industry and is currently racing for the University of Wolverhampton in their F3 race programme. Shane stands in for an absent Tony Hirst and drives the ARV6 at Donington in his first Morgan Challenge race.

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