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A second year of motorsport success for Morgan and University of Wolverhampton

Yet another thrilling season of Morgan motorsport has come to a close as the 2017 AR Motorsport Morgan Challenge ends with the final round of the year at Snetterton. Each of the Morgan race cars are now back in their respective garages and workshops, ready for winter enhancements, rebuilds and the occasional test.

The 2017 season is the second year of Morgan’s partnership with the University of Wolverhampton that began in 2016, the on-going collaboration has seen the two companies combine resources both on and off the race track. The partnership allows University of Wolverhampton students the opportunity to gain industry experience within the Morgan Motor Company, as well as utilise their knowledge and learning as part of student race team, UWR. The 2017 season has seen a team of 9 students support Morgan race drivers Tony Hirst and Craig Hamilton-Smith, in two Morgan race cars.

We’ve made the most of the end of season lull in activity to sit down with some of the students and drivers involved in Morgan’s partnership with University of Wolverhampton Racing, to get their take on the season.

Craig Hamilton-Smith – Driver

Name: Craig Hamilton-Smith
Car: Plus 4 Babydoll prepared by UWRacing
Class: B
2017 best finish:
2017 overall finish:
Bio: Competing in his second year 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 UWR 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.

2017 was your second full season of Morgan motorsport, how have you found this season now you’ve had a year of familiarising yourself?
I’ve found it immensely exciting and enjoyable. All the people involved with the Challenge are an absolute delight, I have made some great friends and been part of some exciting racing.

What has been the most challenging aspect of the 2017 season for you?
I continue to challenge myself on the track, which is a joy every race meeting. However, I must say the biggest challenge is a light-hearted one, not drinking cider the week before a race!

How does it feel knowing your times are improving and you are not just going as quick as other cars in class, you are now beating them?!
Thrilled, however the faster I get and the more experience I develop, the more I realise I have much more to learn to get exactly to where I want to be on the grid. I’ve made great progress since my first race, which is really promising.

How important is the guidance and support of the UWR team in helping you improve lap times and race results?
I couldn’t do it without them.  Having access to all the data and on board footage from the car immediately after a race is helpful. The ability to analyse where I did well and where I need to improve with Shane is fantastic.  I would be lost without their support, guidance, knowledge, dedication, patience and banter.  Their enthusiasm and dedication is infectious, thank you to each member of the team.

What was the highlight of the 2017 season for you?
Mark Evans’ double, double burgers are an off-track highlight. Flat out around Coram Curve, finding the braking zone and turn point into Murrays, and getting on the power quickly onto Senna straight at the last race on Saturday at Snetterton were highlights for me,  everything seemed to click into place.

What are your racing ambitions for next season?
Keep pushing, keep going faster. Secure a podium finish and get round Snetterton 200 circuit in 1.23 in the Babydoll!

Tony Hirst – Driver

Another season behind the wheel of the ARV6, how have you found racing this year now you have a few more ARV6’s around you?

Great, there’s nowhere to hide now! One of the most exciting things this season was to see so many ARV6’s racing and being really competitive, not just against each other but also with the big Plus 8’s and at times getting stuck into some Class A cars. And of course the championship was won in an ARV6 so hopefully next season there will be even more brave souls joining us!

What has been the most challenging aspect of the 2017 season for you? 

Dealing with an irritating combination of bad luck and unforeseen gremlins that seem to have plagued us all season. We had a wiring issue, brake struggles and broken steering as well as two race ending punctures and being forced to retire after getting collected in a racing incident. When we have had the car set up though it’s been incredible and a winner. Knowing what the ARV6 is capable of has been really frustrating for the whole team. Bring on next year!

Your car is now under the UWR and Morgan livery, and is being looked after by the students, how has that helped your season this year?

The dedication and focus of the students is unbelievable. They’ve been sleeping in the paddock, under the awing in all weathers and are always ready for race day with real professionalism and Morgan spirit. I think their focus and will to win has really pushed me and Craig as drivers. The input of pro driver Shane Kelly and student Jack Barber has been invaluable, their use of on board footage and data analysis on the cars is fantastic, they can show in micro detail exactly what you are doing with the car or unfortunately, exactly what you are not doing with it! I always have an extensive list of racing driver excuses to hand but as soon as we come in the pits, sit in the back of the garage and fire up the laptop, I can’t use any of them! Most importantly race weekends continue to be great fun, the presence in the paddock of the factory under AR Motorsport and the University make a great impression I think. We all work hard, race hard and laugh hard. We’re also constantly refueled by our team caterer Neil Frost’s award winning bacon, so I’d encourage anyone to come along next season, say hello and watch some great racing.

What was the highlight of the 2017 season for you? 

Two back to back Class wins at Donnington was brilliant. After the set backs mentioned earlier, the students, under the guidance of factory engineer and Morgan mechanical marvel Ian Weaver, had the car back to winning form and absolutely on the button, the performance is stellar. The ARV6 is a real thrill to drive, it’s power and torque is blistering, the handling and brakes mighty, but you have to treat it with respect and yet drive it with total commitment. It’s a fine line, with peril or poor times either side, but that’s where the fun lies. I’ve always said the slogan on the ARV6 dash board “Driven with Heart…” should in fact read “Driven with Heart…in Mouth!”

What are your racing ambitions for next year? 

Win!

Name: Tony Hirst
Car: ARV6 prepared by AR Motorsport
Class: B
2017 best finish:
2017 overall finish:
Bio: 2017 is Tony’s 4th year in the challenge series and his 3rd 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.

Kate & Helena – Students

Name: Kate Leverton
Team Role: Babydoll Mechanic
Course: Motorsport Engineering
Year: 2nd year

Name: Helena Volkman Noguero
Team Role: Mechanic
Course: BEng Civil Engineering
Year: Sandwich Year

How have you found the overall experience being involved with the Morgan and UWR team in the 2017 AR Motorsport Morgan Challenge season?

Kate: I have really enjoyed being part of the team and working with the Morgans. Its great to be involved in the Morgan Challenge community and be working in a racing environment.

Helena: I have found it a unique experience. I am very thankful to the Morgan Company and the University of Wolverhampton for letting me be part of this team, I joined the team just knowing that Morgan cars are made of wood and after this year working on them I feel confident to say I know how to run them, re-chassis them and change an engine among another things. Also the tour around the factory showed me how they are built, so I am leaving this team with a complete knowledge about the cars and the company itself. I do not think many other people can say that.

What have you learnt the most during the season?

Kate: I have learnt the real meaning of team work and what it takes to pull together and reach a goal. I have learnt a lot about how road cars work and the adaptations and considerations that are in place to transform a road car into a race car. I have learnt how to check the vehicle for any problems between rounds and how to fix any issues we have come across.

Helena: I have learnt about the cars themselves, how they get built and the Morgan company as a whole. I have also learnt how to work in a team and with other teams, how to face difficulties, and that hard work pays off.

Which aspect of the season did you find most challenging?

Kate: I found working quickly during the relay race very challenging but the team worked hard and we managed our goal in the end. I have found it challenging facing the elements in some of our races as weather isn’t always on our side, but the bad weather only makes for more exciting racing.

Helena: Even though we have worked very hard to get the cars ready to go on track which has not been easy sometimes, I found the Morgan Challenge more relaxing than the F3 Cup. If I have to choose one race, for me the 4-hour relay was the most challenging, I was expecting to stand at the pit wall for four hours, but we had a lot going on, cars coming in when they were not meant to, problems on the cars that could not be fixed at the circuit, a lot of runs up and down the paddock. It was fun and I would love to do it again.

Finally, what was your main highlight from the season?

Kate: I enjoyed the relay race the most and the active part I got to play. The rest of the Babydoll team and I completed two fast turn arounds preparing the car for its next stint. We completed these turn arounds in around 20 minutes which we are very proud of.

Helena: I think my main highlight happened at Donington Park when Tony won 2 out of 2 races. It was a great feeling. It has also been very nice to see Craig’s progress. And because I have to mention them… two highlights that have been with us throughout the whole season are Craigs’ wife’s brownies and Neil’s amazing team barbecues, I am going to miss them!

Dub Worley – Student

Name: Dub Worley
Team role:
ARV6 Mechanic
Course:
Automotive Engineering
Year:
2nd year

How have you found the overall experience being involved with the Morgan and UWR team in the 2017 AR Motorsport Morgan Challenge season? 
The first year on the race team was an exciting one, having to re-chassis the ARV6 before the race season gave a full and in-depth insight to the underpinnings of the car, and Morgan cars themselves. The season had its ups and downs, however with the help of the UWR staff (Shane and Matt) and the Morgan staff (Mark and Ian) working together, all aspects of the racing where covered.

What have you learnt the most during the season?
I learnt that working as a team is key to a successful race. Although I’m a fully qualified mechanic, I’m no stranger to working on cars and often with a quick turnaround. Working as part of the race team in the pits has given a new meaning of working quickly. To have a car in, wheels off, and the car spanner checked and ready to race, can only be done quickly as part of a team.

Which aspect of the season did you find most challenging?
Sad to say but the most challenging part of the season for me was the weekends away from my family. There were also some races where we had smaller team numbers, however due to having a professional approach, those were still managed with ease and success.

Finally, what was your main highlight from the season?
Although working with three cars and four drivers on the four-hour relay and finishing with the fastest lap and second place was a day I’ll never forget, the main highlight for me was seeing the ARV6 driver Tony Hirst take first in class for the two races at Donington towards the end of the season. Being part of that team since day one, we have slowly climbed to that first and it was well deserved.

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