A unique event to round up a unique year! The Shannons Festival of Motorsport was put together by the MGCC Victoria and Motorsport Australia and a fantastic event it was. For MG Racing it was an event we really looked forward to and a 28 car field entered for the weekend.
Headlining the field was Phil Chester, Vince Gucciardo and Ben Muller in their V8 MG’s while we saw Jason Holmes enter his MG ZR 190 that he campaigned a few years ago before he changed to his turbo MG ZR, while James Robertson returned in his MG Midget Special which has been on the market for sale recently. Peter Owen who has been involved in Historic Touring Cars more recently entered his Group T MG B while Matthew Baragwanath entered in in Louise Simmonds newly acquired MG ZR 190 as well. Andrew Watson returned in his MG ZR having had a break and Henk Zwartaveen suffered engine issues and swapped to Phil Chester’s MG F for the weekend.
The committee elected to not make this a point scoring event, and also elected for no trophies to make it a fun weekend of motorsport.
A 17 car field took to Friday practice, one of the biggest grids for a practice day we have seen in recent years. The big banger cars lead the way, Phil Chester in his MG B GT V8 set a 1:18.6 during the multiple practice sessions while Vince Gucciardo set a 1:19.2 in his MG C GT and Ben Muller’s B GT V8 set a 1:23.7 to pip Keith Ondarchie with a 1:24.5 and Michael Roddy set a 1:27.3 to round out the top 5. Chris Gidney set a 1:29.8 to lead the modern field while Gary Bulmer was the quickest four cylinder MG B with a 1:32.3 just ahead of Peter Owen, Darren Souter and Sean Herlihy.
Qualifying came Saturday and 27 cars took to the circuit, Michael Roddy was a casualty with engine issues and electing to head home to try and rectify the issue.
An exciting session where Chester and Gucciardo traded blows and sector splits where Chester set a 1:19.5 ahead of Gucciardo’s 1:20.4, the sessions was red flagged which halted progress for those looking for a late charge. Keith Ondarchie moved his Triumph into P3 with a 1:24.5 ahead of Muller on a 1:25.0 while Homes set a 1:28.6 to just beat Gidney in the ZR’s with a 1:28.7 for the latter. Ed Ferguson in his TR7 V8 headed Michael Wood in his GT V8, Tony Vollebregt’s ZR and Jim Robertson’s Midget for the top 10 positions. Ian Cowie in his TR8 headed Bulmer (MGB), Alana Ondarchie (Stag), Owen, Herlihy, Astbury (TF LE500), St John-Cox (TR7 V8), Baragwanath, Greg White (MGB) and Alister Ondarchie (TR7) rounded out the top 20.
Race 1 – 10 Laps
The opening race of the weekend saw Phil Chester get a brilliant start to head the field into turn 1 from Gucciardo, Muller, K.Ondarchie, Holmes and Gidney in the ZR’s. The field having a steady start while St John-Cox made progress forward up to 14th after two laps while Jim Robertson moved up to 6th by getting by Chris Gidney. The field settled a bit however St John Cox moved forward further into 12th and Robertson got by Holmes for 5th on lap 4. David Mottram begun moving forward and went by Alister Ondarchie to move into 17th right behind Herlihy and Astbury as Robertson made a mistake and dropped down to 11th giving up the hard work he did early on. St John Cox took full benefit and moved into 12th and set his sights on Peter Owen and Gary Bulmer to get himself into the top 10. As the race headed into the closing stages Gidney slowed and would DNF which moved Wood up to 6th as Bulmer and St John Cox would battle the remainder of the race out for 8th and 9th place. Up front Chester set a 1:16.8 on his way to a 12 second win from Gucciardo as Muller, Ondarchie and Holmes rounded out the top 5. Wood came home 6th ahead of Tony Vollebregt, St John-Cox was the big moved up to 8th ahead of Bulmer and Owen rounded out the top 10. Bruce Astbury did his best lap yet in his LE 500 and finished 12th while Mottram made up 10 places to finish in 14th ahead of Herlihy who limped home. Zwartaveen made progress in the MGF to come home 20th ahead of Souter, Dodd and Jane Vollebregt.
Race 2 – 10 Laps
As Sunday dawned a number of casualties were noted, Michael Roddy in the Jaguar was now a withdrawal, Herlihy and Rose were out with engine dramas in their MG B’s. Jason Holmes had packed up and Alister Ondarchie suffered mechanical issues as well in his TR7. As the field were set to leave the pre grid Ben Muller suffered an electrical gremlin and was unable to take the start.
Chester again got a great start leading into turn 1 while Gucciardo, Ondarchie from Wood and Robertson early on. St John Cox was now into 6th from a fast starting Peter Owen, Tony Vollebregt, Gary Bulmer and Alana Ondarchie early on.
Ed Ferguson had his head down and moved by Mottram and Alana Ondarchie in his TR7 V8 and was now in 10th place and was chasing down Tony Vollebregt and Bulmer while Ian Cowie in his TR8 was pushing to make progress and was pressing forward and up to 12th place. Chris Gidney who started rear of field was up to 13th place while the battle pack of the race was Watson, Dodd, Jane Vollebregt and Souter all fighting for 19th place showing just about anywhere in the field is a good place to be!
As the race progressed the field settled, Chester was down to a 1:16.5 and pressing on out front as Gidney came into the pit lane with issues again as Ferguson’s hard charge came to a halt after moving into 6th overall briefly. Bruce Astbury was now into personal best zone’s, some 3 seconds quicker than he has been in the car and now into 11th place overall as Watson was being hustled with Zwartaveen getting by, a lap later Souter also finding his way past and Jane Vollebregt the following lap! As the race came to a close the field settled, Greg White moved closer to Mottram but was unable to mount a serious challenge late in the race.
Race 3 – 8 Laps
The tough weekend continued with Gidney and Watson now withdrawn in their ZR’s as had Ed Ferguson. Muller had got his car fixed for the final race and would start rear of grid.
The field took off and Chester again lead the field, Ian Cowie had a stunning start and was into 3rd ahead of Robertson, K.Ondarchie and St John Cox while Alana Ondarchie was up to 7th, the biggest lower was Michael Wood down to 8th as Ben Muller moved up 11 spots on the opening lap.
K.Ondarchie was on a mission to recover his lost spots and moved back into 3rd on lap 2 into the first corner while Jim Robertson had to find an alternative option without the horsepower. Muller was up to 6th place now as Alana Ondarchie dropped back to 9th, Tony Vollebregt was recovering from a tough start and up to 11th place. Chester set a 1:16.8 as he was on a mission once again, Muller moved up to 4th now as Tony Vollebregt got by Matt Baragwanath in the battle of the ZR’s. Zwartaveen pulled into pit lane in what would be the only retirement as lap traffic would begin to challenge the leaders. Chester got baulked which let Gucciardo catch up, and as the field would find their way around on lap 7 Gucciardo got a run onto the front straight and the pair side by side into turn 1 where Gucciardo took the lead. Muller and K.Onarchie battled for 3rd and both moving to personal best laps which was a great result for the pair to push each other as Tony Vollebregt was still on the move and by Alana Ondarchie and now into 9th place. Gucciardo and Chester played the safe game late in the race and the pair would cross the line just .3 of a second separating them while Muller would finish in 3rd just 3 seconds ahead of K.Ondarchie.
Ian Cowie and Jim Robertson would be tied together all race, Cowie posting a personal best result in 5th while Robertson in 6th, St John Cox would finish 7th while Mike Wood rounded out a strong weekend in 8th place in the GT V8. Tony Vollebregt and Alana Ondarchie rounded out the top 10 with strong weekends. Owen, Baragwanath, Bulmer, Astbury, Mottram, White, Souter, Jane Vollebregt and Dodd rounded out the field in a fantastic weekend of racing.
Our 2021 season is just around the corner, with a February kick off back at Sandown. But before then there are plenty of new faces, new cars, and lots of news to come!