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AR Motorsport Morgan Challenge 2016 – Silverstone GP

A 29 car grid headed to Silverstone last Sunday (5/6/16) as part of the MGLive! event run by the MG Car Club. Fog loomed over the circuit for much of the morning, lifting only as the cars took to the track for qualifying at around 11.30. Unlike the VSCC meeting a few weeks previous, the cars were on the Historic GP track, a much longer and more challenging circuit that was set to produce some great racing.

The Race

Normal service was resumed for qualifying as Keith Ahlers put his Plus 8 at the front of the grid, some 6 seconds ahead of next place Class A car Russell Paterson. Elliot Paterson qualified 1st in Class B, just over a second in front of Tony Hirst who was back in the factory ARV6 after missing Donington 2 weeks previously. Jerry Knight and Andrew Thompson completed 3rd place in Classes A and B respectively. Impressive qualifying sessions from Tim Ayres, Henry Williams and Simon Scott saw them sit in 11th, 12th and 13th place, each of them starting 1st in Class C, D and R respectively. Henry Williams suffered an unfortunate engine failure towards the end of qualifying, meaning he would take no more part in the day.

Much to everyone’s delight, the fog had lifted and Silverstone was engulfed in glorious sunshine for the only Morgan Challenge race of the day. An incident free start saw Keith Ahlers disappear into the distance and dominate from start to finish, lapping all but the top 8 of the grid. An impressive display as ever from Keith after what was only a minor blip at Donington. The top 4 finishers in the race reflected that of qualifying, with Russell Paterson finishing just in front of son Elliot to take 2nd place overall. Another fine display of driving from Elliot Patterson saw him take another Class B victory and 3rd overall. 4th place overall and 2nd in Class B was deservedly taken by Tony Hirst in the ARV6. Some very committed driving from Tony to regain positions from Jerry Knight and Andrew Thompson, a daring double overtake on the way into Stowe secured driver of the day and a bottle of champagne for the ecstatic Mr Hirst! Less than a second separated Jerry and Andrew, who took Class A & B 3rds respectively. Tim Parsons set fastest lap on his way to Class R victory, finishing ahead of fellow class competitors Kelvin Laidlaw and Simon Scott. Another Class C victory for Tim Ayres who was closely followed by Philip Tisdall and Steve McDonald to complete the top 3 in Class C. A fine drive from Philip Tisdall to set the fastest Class C lap, unfortunately not quite enough to take the win. Further down the grid and persistence paid off for Craig Hamilton-Smith in the UWRacing Plus4. Craig and Greg Parnell have had some brilliant battles so far this season, with Craig managing to make a move and hold position ahead of Greg towards the end of the race.

Class wins for Paul Bryan and Ian Sumner in classes D and E respectively rounded off the results for another exciting race.

Class Winners

Class A – Keith Ahlers
Class B – Elliot Paterson
Class R – Tim Parsons
Class C – Tim Ayres
Class D – Paul Bryan
Class E – Ian Sumner

Next up is a trip to Anglesey on the 23rd and 24th of July. 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: 8th in class (20th overall)
Race 1 finish: 8th in class (19th 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.

We’re now at the half way point in the 2016 season. How have you found the first half of your debut season and what’s been the biggest challenge?

“The season so far has been brilliant fun, I’ve loved every second of it. From working with the UWRacing students, to getting to grips with the car on each circuit and of course getting to know the various characters associated with the series. I think the biggest challenge has been becoming more confident in my own ability. I have certainly found it challenging to try and convince my body to do something that my brain is automatically telling me is going to be a challenge. However, over the last couple of sessions I’ve found myself pushing the boundaries of my own capabilities a little more. The car is great, but as I start to have more confidence in my own abilities I hope I will continue to improve my race pace.”

The second of two races at Silverstone this year, having now raced both the National and GP circuits recently, which is your favourite and why?

“Without doubt the GP circuit! It’s more interesting, it’s longer and it allows for more overtaking. Silverstone itself is fantastic to be at, the place just exudes drama and theatre, so many iconic moments in British motorsport have happened here, you just can’t help but enjoy it whichever track configuration you’re on.”

You qualified well and had yet another battle with Greg Parnell, talk us through the race from your perspective?

“I was pleased to qualify well, it was my first time on the GP circuit and I manage to secure a good grid position. Unfortunately I was boxed off at the start of the race and lost a few positions into the first couple of corners. I battled hard and managed to regain those positions, passing Greg Parnell and holding position was something I hadn’t managed at Donington so I was pleased to do so here. I was hot on the heels of Steve McDonald and John Millbank and I think a few more laps and I’d have passed them. For me the great news from the day was that my fastest race lap was 4 seconds quicker than my qualifying lap, that puts me on the heels of Stuart Anderson in an ARV6. A few more meetings like that and I hope to be really pushing some more of the Class B cars.”

Tony Hirst

You were absent for the last race at Donington, is that a circuit you usually enjoy?

“I love Donington, there is nothing better than flying flat out through the Craner Curves in a Morgan, the V6 goes like a beast there, hence why it won its class. I was gutted to miss Man Utd in the cup final and also the Donington race. Shane was able to take the car and prove its pace, winning his class, and also provide feedback to the company which is a fantastic result. It’s great to see what the car is capable of and how we can develop it, and others, further. Shane has given myself and Craig some really very good tips and tuition during this season.”

Do you enjoy the Silverstone GP circuit?

“I know quite a few people aren’t massive fans. As a petrol head and a driver, when you get to Silverstone and see “The home of British motorsport”, if you don’t get excited then you might be in the wrong sport. It’s an honour and a privilege to race there, the car goes well on the big GP circuit, so I was excited to get out on track.”

Your expression when you jumped out of the car after the race would suggest you enjoyed it, talk us through it?

“I think for all the great detail and analysis that you get from a professional driving coach, so much of driving at the limit is about feeling and confidence, especially in a Morgan. You have to drive the car with its unique characteristics and know what they are, I’ve been feeling more and more confident in the car this season. To be able to put that into practise and make no mistakes, catching Andrew Thompson and overtaking him, as well as two very fast class A cars was so exciting. I couldn’t quite get hold of Elliot, but for the race I drove I was very pleased. It just epitomises the challenge series that myself, Andrew and Jerry Knight could get such wheel to wheel racing yet still have so much respect, it was hard but fair racing, and yet again proves the essence of the series. We went through Brooklands and Stowe 3 abreast on more than one occasion, nobody was giving an inch but also nobody was taking liberties.

Everyone talks about Nigel Mansell’s move on Pique going down the Hangar straight, I can’t wait to watch the onboard of me taking Jerry and Andrew at Stowe, maybe now they won’t talk about Pique and Mansell, it will be Hirst, Thompson, Knight. Absolutely stellar! The car so far this season has been incredible, thank you to UWRacing and most importantly Ian Weaver, who has done some incredible work to know that Morgan inside out and set it up for eeach race.”

Name: Tony Hirst
Car: ARV6 prepared by AR Motorsport
Class: B
Qualified: 2nd in class (4th overall)
Race 1 finish: 2nd in class (4th overall) 
Bio: 2016 is Tony’s 3rd year in the challenge series and his 2nd in the factory prepared ARV6. First meeting the Morgan marque at the Silverstone Classic Celebrity Race some years ago, Tony has become more involved with the company and the challenge series ever since. When not on the race track, Tony is an accomplished actor both on stage and on screen.

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