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AR Motorsport Morgan Challenge 2016 – Snetterton 300

A full grid of 33 cars headed to Snetterton for the season opener of the 2016 AR Motorsport Morgan Challenge Series on Saturday (09/04/2016). Two races were on the cards to kick the season off and they did not disappoint. Testing on the Friday provided the perfect opportunity for some of the competitors to make the last few changes to their cars. However, as the sunny Friday afternoon turned to evening, the heavens opened and the rain stayed until late on the Saturday, providing challenging conditions for all concerned, or exciting depending on your viewpoint.

Race 1

The rain did not dampen spirits as the first qualifying session of the 2016 season got underway. Elliot Paterson, seemingly not phased by the conditions, put his Class B V6 Roadster on pole. His closest competitor, Dad Russell Paterson in his Class A Plus 8, qualifying 2 seconds behind to complete the front row of the grid.

No hold up in weather for the race, surface water continued to spread around the track. Elliot Paterson mastered the conditions and lead from the start to claim a convincing victory, some 26 seconds ahead of second place Russell Paterson, the first win of the season and the first of many to come for Elliot this season no doubt. Battles up and down the grid produced exciting racing, with less than a second separating 5th place Henry Williams and 6th place Tim Parsons. Tony Hirst, Simon Baines and Phill Thomas switched places multiple times with less than a second between the three of them at the finish. A battle of V8s between Steven McDonald and Phil Goddard produced yet another sub second difference, both of them winning their respective classes to finish 12th and 13th overall.

Driver of the day for race 1 was awarded to Tim Parsons who drove a great race in his Plus 4 SuperSport, not letting Henry Williams out of sight, to claim Class R victory and 6th overall.

Class Winners
Class A: Russell Paterson
Class B: Elliot Paterson
Class C: Tim Ayres
Class D: Andrew Bentley
Class E: Michele Bailey
Class R: Tim Parsons

Race 2

Conditions had improved by the final race of the day. The rain had stopped and the track was beginning to dry out, although it still managed to catch a few unsuspecting drivers out. Russell Paterson took the lead into the first corner over son Elliot, although that was to be short lived as Elliot re-took the lead on the next lap and held it until the end. Russell very clearly stating after the race that the initial joy of being beaten by his son had worn off, and he’d be having firm words with him on their 7 hour drive back to Perth. Great racing throughout the field provided much entertainment. Tony Lees and Andrew Bentley getting very close on more than one occasion, as well as Phil Goddard and Henry Williams, each of them claiming 3rd, 4th, 5th and 6th overall respectively, with Andrew Bentley taking Class D victory. Yet again Tony Hirst, Simon Baines and Phill Thomas battled it out, with an even more eventful repeat of the first race. Lower down the pack Kathy Sherry and Sharlie Goddard in their Class C Plus 8s provided even more entertainment, Kathy pipping it with just half a second between them across the line.

Choosing a driver of the day for race 2 was a more difficult task than picking the winner of the grand national, with so many great drives in a brilliant final race. However, Phill Thomas deservedly took home the champagne for a display of driving that involved more than one brave manoeuvre.

Class Winners
Class A: Russell Paterson
Class B: Elliot Paterson
Class C: Tim Ayres
Class D: Andrew Bentley
Class E: Michele Bailey
Class R: Simon Scott

Next up, Silverstone! Be sure to follow Morgan on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram for all the latest from the AR Motorsport Morgan Challenge Series 2016.

For high resolution copies of any images please email [email protected]

Craig Hamilton-Smith

Name: Craig Hamilton-Smith
Car: Plus 4 Babydoll prepared by UWRacing
Class: B
Qualified: 11th in class (28th overall)
Race 1 finish: 9th in class (24th overall)
Race 2 finish: 11th in class (26th 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.

Your first season in motorsport, what testing and preparation have you done?
We’ve tested at Bruntingthorpe with the University, there we practiced braking and getting used to the car in general. We also had two test sessions yesterday with Shane in the car as well. Both of these testing sessions have been about getting me acquainted with the car. I drive a Morgan every day and have lots of experience driving different models, now it’s about transferring that from the road to the race track.

How have you found working with the UWRacing team building up to the season?
Brilliant. They are energetic and enthusiastic young people. Their pre-race chat and professionalism has helped to ease the nerves heading into this weekend and into both of the races. Being taught and being able to learn from Shane Kelly has been invaluable, he has put in place the building blocks and we’re starting right from the basics and building up, his experience and knowledge of motorsport is vast.

Qualifying today, your first time on your own in the car on track, what was the aim?
The conditions for qualifying were not ideal, the rain did not help but our main aim for the session was to get round and qualify, ensuring the car returned to the pits in one condition and I was able to learn the track even more. The first few meetings of this season are all about getting me comfortable in the car and continuing to improve.

How did you feel the races went?
Conditions were definitely worse in the first race than in qualifying, despite that I was pleased to gain some positions and continually improve lap times as the race went on. It had stopped raining but was still damp for the second race, conditions were more favourable and I was pleased to consistently improve my lap times yet again. More importantly, the team were pleased with how the races went and we were able to see clear improvements throughout the weekend. We’re hoping to get a few more test sessions in throughout the season and I’m now very much looking forward to the next race at Silverstone.

Tony Hirst

What are your thoughts going into the 2016 season?
I’m looking forward to it, I’m looking forward to having the Wolverhampton University team with us because of their expertise in terms of setting cars up and allowing me to learn about the car. Their driver tuition from Shane so far has been brilliant and myself and Craig have learnt a lot. Obviously, we’ve got new sponsors on board which is important and we are very grateful, I really like the fact that the Morgan Motor Company have got behind racing this season with the partnership and a view to developing the cars more and more both on the track and on the road.

Have you had much chance to test the vehicle before going into the season?
Unfortunately no, on the grounds that I’ve had to work. Today in the rain it would have been immaterial, I’ve never known Snetterton to be this wet, visibility was practically nil, and it was just really slippy. The ARV6 has so much power and it’s hard to control that, having said that it’s got so much torque and the engine is unbelievable so I was able to go round in mainly 3rd and 4th, it’s just about managing your lines, managing your brakes and getting the car turned in, using brute force to propel you forwards, even in the wet it’s like a missile.

Today’s results, happy?
3rd in class in both races, I was very very pleased with that. I beat the other two ARV6s which is the bench mark, mightily pleased. I was controlled and careful which is not like me at all, so I call that progress. Particularly the first race in the lashing rain was a real challenge, I haven’t seen it this wet before at Snet. The second race provided some brilliant battles with Phill Thomas and Simon Baines. So yes, I’m very happy.

Third in class in both races today and some good wheel to wheel racing, fancy your chances for some more results this year?
I think we can certainly beat the V8s in this class, and I’ve been able to beat the other ARV6s today, the only thing that beats the car is the driver so that’s what this season is about for me. If I’m strong enough and continue to improve then I think we can get more results. The setup and information that we’ll be getting from the university will hopefully enable us to improve the car as well.

What do you think about UWRacing’s involvement for 2016?
They’re so well organised, approachable and enthusiastic yet professional in their setup it’s brilliant. I think it’s a great opportunity for them as they’re getting so much learning out of their involvement and of course the Morgan Motor Company are getting so much out of it as well for development in their vehicles. I also found out that my Grandad taught mechanical engineering at Wolverhampton, so yes I like the fact that they’re on the car. I think it’s great all round.

Name: Tony Hirst
Car: ARV6 prepared by AR Motorsport
Class: B
Qualified: 6th in class (10th overall)
Race 1 finish: 3rd in class (8th overall)
Race 2 finish: 3rd in class (7th 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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