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AR Motorsport Morgan Challenge 2016 – Silverstone

The second round of the 2016 AR Motorsport Morgan Challenge saw a 35 card grid at Silverstone as part of the VSCC Spring Start meeting on Saturday (23/4/16). With competitors and cars just about dried out from Snetterton two weeks previously, talk of snow and rain for the weekend was not welcomed. Fortunately the weather behaved and bright sunshine occasionally appeared through clouds, nicely warming up a typically windy Silverstone for the 20 minute standing start race.

The Race

Keith Ahlers qualified on pole position in his first Morgan Challenge meeting of 2016 with a 01:03:360 lap, 2 seconds ahead of fellow Class A Plus 8 racers Phil Goddard and Roger Whiteside. Winner of the first two races, Elliot Paterson, qualified in 4th position to complete the front two rows of the grid.

The Morgan Challenge race was the penultimate race of the meeting, with the track slippery in a few places, the scene was set for an interesting race. An action packed first lap saw the front two break free whilst John Emberson and Dominic House were unfortunate to spin out, they were not to be the only casualties in the race but both regained positions and drove well to the finish. Keith Ahlers dominated from pole to claim a comfortable overall win, his first of many for the season no doubt. Phil Goddard finished in 2nd place with Elliot Paterson in 3rd to claim a hard fought Class B victory. Class B was hotly contested, with Elliot, Tony Lees and Tony Hirst all dicing for the lead over the first few laps. An unfortunate spin for Tony Hirst in the ARV6 caused him to lose a few positions and he pushed hard to retake 3rd from Simon Baines who was running well.

Driver of the day was awarded to Tony Lees, who drove a strong race with some exciting wheel to wheel racing alongside Elliot Paterson and Tony Hirst, finishing hot on the heels of Class B winner Elliot.

Next up is a double header at Castle Combe on Monday 2nd May, with a televised race as part of the Motors TV event. If Snetterton and Silverstone are anything to go by, Castle Combe should provide yet more great racing for 2016.

Class Winners

Class A: Keith Ahlers
Class B: Elliot Paterson
Class C: Tim Ayres
Class D: Henry Williams
Class E: Chris Bailey
Class R: Kelvin Laidlaw

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: 31st
Race finish: 14th in class (27th 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 hear you’ve spent some time on a simulator at Wolverhampton University before this race, could you tell us a bit more about that?

It’s incredibly realistic and absolutely brilliant. You get totally absorbed by it, as if you are on the track. You’ve got a wrap around screen and very precise and accurate movements. You can practice a particular corner over and over again to try and get your eye in, I was on the simulator for 3 hours, which equates to around 1 or more days track time if you were to do proper testing sessions.

Do you think the simulator helped set you up for your first time on track at Silverstone?

It felt much more familiar, I got to be fairly brave on the simulator, but that does translate back onto the track. I know exactly where I am and how much faster I could take corners. Brake points and turn in points are so realistic, I was feeling much quicker in the car. I managed to beat my predicted times and improve from qualifying to the race and I think the simulator helped a lot with that.

How did you feel the race went?

It was good, I really enjoyed it, really really enjoyed in fact. In the race, I had other people right behind me and overtook several cars, nearly catching up with a few more, another lap and I would have got some more overtakes. It was great to chase other people and also be chased, I’m feeling much more confident in myself and the car, this felt much more like a race than previously where I was on my own a little.

You look to be gelling well with the UWRacing students, how are you finding working with them?

They’re fantastic, I couldn’t fault them. They’re brilliant and they give me a lot of confidence and support. It’s great to see them involved with the whole team and speaking with other drivers and teams.

The VSCC events are always well attended with lots of exciting racing, how did it feel to be involved?

Thrilling, I just wish my grandfather could see it all, we used to watch cars wheel to wheel racing at Silverstone. I was watching some of the original 3 Wheelers, one driven by Sue Derbyshire, thinking he would love to have seen this. The smell of Castrol oil really brings back childhood memories at racetracks with my Mother going to watch Grandpa, overall a thrilling vintage meeting to be involved with!

Tony Hirst

You’ve raced at Silverstone a few times now, is it a circuit you enjoy?

I love it! It’s where I first raced a Morgan so I feel like it’s a spiritual home for me. Not just because it’s the home of British Motor Racing, but my baptism into the Morgan family was here 4 years ago. I always seem to go well on this circuit, it’s where I won my first race so I always look forwad to coming back.

You looked to be going well, do you feel much quicker in the car this year?

The car has always been quick, it’s a competitive machine. It’s all about confidence, not necessarily confidence in my own ability but confidence in the car, the way it feels and the way it moves, and most importantly where its limits are. We had a few issues of understeering that we managed to dial out, Ian made some good tweaks after qualifying. The car has genuine pace, even against the Class As, I managed to get second fastest lap of the race.

Some great wheel to wheel racing with Elliott and Tony Lees, you must take confidence from that for the rest of the season?

Elliott has real speed, he’s quick and he’s light, Tony is a seasoned pro and a very hard racer so I’m pleased on a personal level to be up there with them. What was great was how the racing was so hard between us, but so fair, and that says a lot for the series. The racing genuinely was wheel to wheel and we switched positions multiple times, that was exciting to be involved in. I’m feeling confident heading to Castle Combe so we’ll see.

Sum up the meeting and what makes a VSCC event in particular so special?

There’s a real sense of history at VSCC meetings, some of the cars are unbelievable. I drove out for scrutineering and let a Lotus out of the paddock in front of me, on the side of it were the names of Jim Clarke and Innes Ireland, it doesn’t get much cooler than that. These were the guys on my bedroom wall as a boy, so it’s great that their cars are still racing and what a meeting to be involved with. The smell in the paddock is distinctively vintage cars, as well as the amount of oil on the track that one or two of us, myself included, span on, but that’s all part of it. The character, the charisma of the drivers and their cars, as well as the cake and catering make the VSCC a great series to be involved with.

Name: Tony Hirst
Car: ARV6 prepared by AR Motorsport
Class: B
Qualified: 6th overall
Race finish: 3rd in class (5th 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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