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Angouleme 2017 - Circuit des Remparts - Derek Bell!

Posted on September 22, 2017 at 10:55 AM

As September rolls around we normally turn our attention to the Circuit-des-Remparts in Angouleme and this year was no different. I really enjoy visiting France and this race has a special place in my heart. Hundreds of cars turn out for the rally each year and there's events throughout the weekend including the Concours d'elegance on the Friday night. My wife, Sandie, and I set off a bit early this year. We made our way down from Calais stopping at Bernay and Le Mans (briefly) and I think this is what I'll do in future too. We sometimes take the overnight ferry from Portsmouth to St Malo but I rarely have a good nights sleep!



We arrived in Angouleme on Thursday and the town was already gearing up. Cars were in the pits for the race on Sunday and there was a proper buzz about the place with all sorts of classic and modern sports cars and exotics everywhere you turned. A particular highlight was seeing Derek Bell's Le Mans car being towed behind his W. O. Bentley, not something you see every day! Speaking to his mechanic I learned that he'd used nearly 1 litre of fuel per mile - the most surprising thing perhaps was that I was not at all surprised.



A couple of our friends who live near Carcassonne came up for the weekend and it was fantastic to be able to spend a decent amount of time in their company. We used the Friday and Saturday as a chance to relax (and shop) and make the most of the trip away. Several pastries were tested, beers sampled and wines tended to. My son Luke came down on the Friday with a couple of his friends - who had surely heard they were missing out. This made for a good group of us and added to the experience.



Sunday, and the race, seemed to creep up on us. There was some confusion with the schedule which meant I cancelled my lie in for nothing (not that I'm bitter about it!) and had more than enough time to prepare the car. Thankfully this consisted of little more than pressing the engine start, unlike last year I'd had a proper chance to run her in and all little teething troubles were long since sorted. Practise was preceded by a demonstration run by Mr. Bell in the aforementioned blower Bentley. Quite how he managed to chuck it around those tight hairpins is anyones guess. When we finally made it out I had a good run and enjoyed being back on the track. There was a brief interuption by the Patrouille Acrobatique de France (I hope that's right, the French red arrows if you will) which will rank as one of the strangest "red flags" I've encountered but it only added to the event.




Back in the pit lane I found out that I'd qualified 6th. I was pleased with the result as my car is very much now set up as a "fast road" car rather than an out and out racer. In truth the grid was a bit of a mismatch, with an 11 litre Aero engined Amilcar looking like the obvious favourite despite only having 2 gears (first to 80mph and second to 140, wow), it only added to the charm though. There was also two factory K3s in attendance which was a lovely to see.



The weather let us down through the day on Sunday, with the rain absolutely chucking down at times. This made for very tricky conditions for some of the races in the interim but thankfully I didn't see any major incidents. We were very lucky that it stopped in time for my race and though the track was still damp conditions were good. The race was very enjoyable, despite a near miss with the Bira K3 on the middle hairpin up the hill (I think he had some trouble and had pulled up) and I held position to finish 6th overall. I don't think there's any shame in admitting to being lapped by the Hispano-Suiza powered Amilcar which absolutely flew round the track (no pun intended) to take the victory. Sitting in the cold light of Monday morning and faced with the long drive home there was only one question on my mind: Which car will I take next year?

Circuit des Remparts d'Angouleme 2016

Posted on September 21, 2016 at 4:20 AM

Five weeks ago it was in pieces on the floor, five days ago Steve's MG TB arrived in Angouleme and although it's been a hectic month it was well worth the hassle. We had a fantastic time with great company and, as an added bonus, even managed to finish the race. I hope you'll agree that the car looks absolutely spot on, even when operated under "Steve power" as below: 



Angouleme is quite a baptism of fire for a new car with several tight hairpins up an incredibly steep hill so I'm very glad that no further pushing was required. We knew we had to tread gently with a fresh engine but confidence grew with every lap completed and morning practise seemed to fly by. Both car and driver seemed very much at home on the track:



The race was always going to be a much tougher test and with a very mixed grid consisting of anything from a twin supercharged Riley to 750cc Austin sevens (and the Prince Bira MG K3 for good measure!) we really didn't know what to expect. The car had developed a gearbox problem towards the end of the practise session, keeping her in second gear was proving problematic and we knew that bringing the car home safely really ought to be the priority. **Spoilers** Steve did well, turning 9th in qualifying in to 8th overall (of about 20), here's the footage from his car: (you can skip to 3 minutes 20 to see the start of the race)


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Steve's Race for Angouleme - MG TB K3 Special

Posted on August 11, 2016 at 6:25 AM


Angouleme is 5 weeks away now and my focus is well and truely on having my MG TB special built in time for the race. I've alluded to it before but now I've found the confidence to book the race, ferry and accomodation it seems a lot more real and pressing. A few weeks ago my car was little more than a pile of parts in the corner of the garage:



Thankfully, the body work was sorted last year - it's been hanging up in the shed waiting for the rest of the car to catch up. I've been to-ing and fro-ing on which colour to go for, it had to be a classic colour and when I saw a picture of a K3 in blue (I think it was one of the Mille Miglia cars) I knew what I had to do. Here's the tub below, freshly back from the painters:



I've spent the last few weeks frantically wiring, made quite difficult by my reluctance to remove the scuttle and disturb the paintwork (oops, probably should've thought of that before I rushed to the painter's). I've found a set of Andre Hartford Telecontrol shock absorbers for the car, they're responsible for the two great adjusters on the left hand site. Otherwise it's similar to one of my Q-Type TA builds, black on white gauges - big boost gauge and soon, a 6" rev counter to go in the hole. 


As you can see, I've still got some way to go but it is starting to take shape. I have a set of Blockley tyres and 18" wheels which I think will sit very nicely, although I may be getting ahead of myself - I'll need to put the brake drums on first. I'm quietly confident it'll be ready in time, although the fact that my engine is still in pieces is a source of some consternation. Wish me luck!


Where are they now? & Steve's race for Angouleme

Posted on May 25, 2016 at 5:40 AM

With the rush of summer and the small matter of Steve's car still being in pieces with only a few months to Angouleme (more on that later) I'm afraid we've been neglecting the blog a bit of late. I thought, perhaps, whilst we're locked away in the garage without much to show you that it might be interesting to write an article about a few of the cars we've sold over the last couple of years. We've met some lovely people through our little MG business and enjoy hearing about their progress - I hope you'll find it interesting too.   


A few years ago we offered this green MG TC restoration project for sale on behalf of a friend of ours. Sadly Mike had realised that he was no longer able to drive the car and had stressed to us the importance of finding it a good home. It could so easily have become the subject of a TV show being made at the time.. as we had the representatives round to view the car. After much consideration and wanting a clear conscience we really didn't think it would be right to let them undertake an 8 week wonderbuild on such an original car. We needed someone who was going to do a proper job. 



It was no sooner than had we decided that they couldn't have it, that Steven arrived looking for a project. It was at difficult time for him as he had been suffering with his health. He wanted a distraction from it all, something to motivate him to push on with his treatments. I must admit we had our concerns that he was taking on a bit much but my God were we proven wrong!


He quickly set about restoring the car, regularly updating us with a number of photographs of his progress and making us smile with lines like "Novice reporting in!". Now that "Nancy" is back on the road she certainly doesn't look like she's been restored by a Novice - the result of months of love car and attention to detail:






Here's another car we sold a couple of years ago:



When Paul bought this TC off us, it had been restored mechanically with the previous owner even fitting a new set of Alfin drums to the car but was starting to look a little bit tired. Paul of course did would any sensible man would do when presented with a car in need of cosmetic restoration.. he fitted a blower! Then he set about making her tip-top once more. 


We had originally been told he would paint it green but I think, like Clarkson with his Ferraris, there was only one real option. I'm so glad he opted to go with the red too as I think it looks absolutely brilliant. A truely sorted jem which will give years of pleasure. I just hope he and his lovely wife Heather continue to invite me round to see them enjoying it. 





So there you are, two lucky TCs which found loving homes both looking resplendant in red. Now I'm finally starting to think of my own car I will be updating the blog a lot more regularly over the next few months. I've entered Angouleme but at the moment, my rather ambitious K3 Mille Miglia bodied MG TB project is a long way from track ready. September is starting to seem awfully soon - let's see how I get on!



Angouleme 2012 - Big Day for Big Red

Posted on September 21, 2012 at 5:20 AM

We've just returned from another manic weekend at the circuit-des-Remparts in Angouleme and I must say I enjoyed every minute of it. The weather was glorious and there were two really strong grids of interesting pre-war cars. It was a real struggle for me to be ready in time but "Big Red" as she's become known was worth the wait and looked every bit the part in the pitlane:



As it transpired it was a weekend of highs and lows for several people with only 4 of the circa 20 pre-war cars making it all the way to the end and sadly my car wasn't amongst them - she decided to split an oil pipe in the first session. Luckily no damage was done and she'll be stronger for it, her new owner is looking forward to using her for hill climbs and sprints and I'm sure he won't be disappointed - she goes very well indeed.



 

 It was also nice to see one of our Q-Type kits on the track in the form of Josh Longbottom's blue MG TA / Q-Type car. Josh did well in his first outing in a pre-war car (talk about in at the deep end!) and looked good value for 3rd until a fueling issue halted his race (although it was also the car's first use in anger). One thing I quickly learned was that racing can be as frustrating as it can be good but the highs justify the lows! I'm sure he'll be a force in years to come one both he and the car have had time to settle in to the idea. Here they are pictured with my son Luke before leaving the pits. 




With "Big Red" completed I will be turning my focus back to car sales in the coming months and am looking forward to another busy year. I hope to be taking my own TB to Angouleme 2013, now there's just the small issue of putting it back together..


Angouleme, Circuit des Remparts 2011

Posted on September 30, 2011 at 5:30 AM

Angouleme. It's always a hectic trip, pleasure you inflict upon yourself I suppose, and this year was no different. 


As I previously mentioned, I took Freddie Yhap's old MG TA down for the race this year. It had been standing some time and so it was necessary to replace the old copper head gasket and install a new set of brake shoes (safety fast and all that). I do wonder, though, whether the typically ridiculous amounts of oil leaking from the differential might have somewhat hampered the brakes' effectiveness (how's that for a racing driver excuse). Whilst I'm on the topic of excuses, I will also say that my tyres left a little to be desired and must have been approaching their late teens (I'll forget to mention that they did, in their defence, begin life as 15" Dunlop race rubbers which are in no way in keeping). 


I opted to take the citroen, whilst my son Luke went with Peter Greenaway in the van taking mine and Peter's cars. I did have to wonder whether leaving my car relatively unattended with Peter (who is always a favourite for the podium) was a wise move but it seemed to arrive in one piece and as far as I could tell the rotor arm and half shafts remained in place (see; car pranks 101) and my charriot was running well.




It was a weekend of mixed weather and qualifying saw a heavy bout of showers to compound the cruelty of it taking place at 8.30am on the Sunday morning. This left my aged tyres utterly out at sea (you have no idea how literally) and despite the car feeling like it had plenty of grunt I struggled to translate this to a result and would line up on the grid in sixth place.




Thankfully things improved through the day and by the time of the race the clouds had subsided and it was time for those Dunlops to shine. Rather than do my best Murray Walker impression, I will let the video below speak for itself. 



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Although I'll understand if you have better ways to spend half an hour.. I finished third despite a couple of minor blips, one being a disagreement with a barrier another a racing incident (sure that's how Lewis Hamilton would see it) with my old MG TB (of all the cars). I had a great time despite the prolonged periods behind the safety car, in truth I'm sure I wasn't the only one grateful for the enforced mechanical sympathy and relative relaxation as there were a few smoking brakes, exhausts, even drivers after the race.




My congratulations of course go to Charles Reynolds in his Morgan super sport and Stuart Dean in the well known Dick Jacobs MG YB special who both pipped me to the post finishing first and second respectively. If the organisers will have me back I'm sure I'll be there again, to have another go and am already looking forward to Angouleme 2012. 

Beaulieu and Angouleme already!

Posted on September 1, 2011 at 9:05 AM

It's been an extremely hectic couple of months here and I can scarcely believe that it is already time to be thinking about the Bealieu autojumble and Angouleme's circuit-des-Remparts race. I will have a stand at Beaulieu with one of my Q-Type bodies, some superchargers & seats for sale so please feel free to come over, have a nose and say hello. It would be nice to know who I'm writing to. A happy customer sent me this photograph of a body tub loosely fitted, I'm very happy with the way they're evolving and I'm always looking for feedback and ideas. 




In car sales news. The black MG TC, blue MG TA/Q and burgundy TA/Q have all found loving homes and I am sure they will continue to bring joy to their respective owners for many years to come. The only new arrival of note has been sold before hitting the page! I bought this MG TA for sentimental reasons as it was owned by a good friend of mine, the late Freddie Yhap, it's impressive history and fierce 1500c+ engine have already persuaded another friend of mine to buy the car and I'm very happy I'll be able to keep tabs on her!


 

Angouleme, Circuit des Remparts 2010

Posted on October 6, 2010 at 5:23 AM

I'm sure you'll have seen that I've uploaded several photographs from my weekend at Angouleme. What a weekend it was. My car ran very well, managing a fifth place finish in what was a very competitive grid and without major incident. That said Dougal from Longstone tyres did give a practical demonstration of his stopping power, during first lap, by parking infront of me on the second to last corner!

 


PDriverMarqueYearLapsTime
1142LAFFONT Jean MarcBUGATTI19261415:40:633
268ILIFFE RichardRILEY19341416:01:407
374MASON John PaulALVIS 1416:35:686
462BEERENS FrangioMG19361416:37:149
561BAKER StevenMG19381315:55:766
676VAN EGMOND AbLAGONDA19351316:11:438
771LEES TonyVAUXHALL19131316:13:978
865EGRON PascalAMILCAR19271316:22:900
963CLEAR AllenRILEY19301316:25:609
1075READER DavidHEALEY19501316:44:832
1166GREL-RIBERY PascalMG19351216:35:778
1248ELLIOT PYLE RobertLEA FRANCIS19261116:04:578
1348CAWLEY DougalFRAZER NASH192111:24:298


Interestingly there were two historic races this year, which meant that my friends', Mick Heywood and Peter Greenaway, MGs featured separately. This gave me a rare opportunity to watch MGs on the track at Angouleme, including Jean-Lucs TA / Q type. It was an interesting grid and very entertaining to watch the three wheeled Morgan's battling at the front. Unfortunately Pete lost his supercharger belt towards the end of the race and dropped off the pace, he did however record his second finish and is already talking of next year. The results were as follows:

 

PDriverMarqueYearLapsPace
157REYNOLDS ChasMORGAN193313 
246DARBYSHIRE SueMORGAN1929135.864
342CAROLINE GaryMORGAN19281314.628
447EDLER MarkAUSTIN19301339.287
553GREENAWAY PeterMG19471344.562
654DANIELS DavidRILEY1933131:04.567
756COURTEIX BrunoBUGATTI1927121 Tour
841GRIAND GerardRILEY1935121 Tour
949HEYWOOD MichaelMG1937121 Tour
1043CHEVALIER AlainAUSTIN1936112 Tours
1155BLAKENEY-EDWARDSFRAZER NASH193585 Tours
1259BEURQ Jean LucMG194758 Tours
1345COXON TimMORGAN192719 Tours
1444CLEWS PeterMORGAN1935112 Tours 



I've now  added footage of the race to the Videos section above including a video taken from my car. I must apologise that it's off centre, I was offered the camera moments before going on track and without any proper fixing brackets gaffa tape had to suffice. I hope you enjoying watching the videos and seeing the photographs, I have the originals so if your car features then please get in touch. Here's a short clip to get you going. 


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Angouleme 2002 (?) - MG TB

Posted on March 29, 2010 at 8:10 AM

Here's another shot of my old race TB, I felt it should go on as I actually won this race! It's from Angouleme, 2002 I believe. Rest assured that I am no Michael Schumacher, but I'd been thrown in with the Bugattis (proof if proof was needed that you don't need to spend a fortune to have a good time). That said my win didn't go down too well and I still haven't received the prize, maybe it's in the post..


Angouleme 2009: What a weekend!

Posted on September 23, 2009 at 6:51 PM

What a weekend it's been. I set off last Thursday with my son Luke, friend Martin and MG folk Andy King & Peter Greenaway to Angouleme. The race there has become extremely popular and is always well attended by the locals - well worth the extra push to be ready in time and my thanks go to Martin for his help. The car was near-finished and I'd had her set up for reliability with 85 hp at the wheels. The photo below shows us all but ready and raring to go.



We travelled from Portsmouth to St Malo and then a leisurely drive down to arrive mid-afternoon on Friday. This gave us plenty of time to take in the sights and enjoy the local cuisine. Having been before we knew just where to stay and were lucky to have plenty of space to store the cars. The town itself is picturesque and the cars only serve to add to it all.  



The atmosphere in and around the pits wasn't damaged by the rain, although the qualifying times definately suffered for it. This was also the first time I'd pushed the car, which had only 300 miles on the clock before going on the trailer! Enough excuses, I ended up a respectable 10th (of 16) but with a poor time of 1 minute 18 seconds. Pete managed the quickest of the group, 1 minute 12.5 seconds, though this was poor compared to his 1 minute 5 the previous year it still put him third on the grid. Here we are rolling out of the pits:


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The rain continued through the weekend and a mere two hours before the race it looked likely to be called off, though thankfully the Gods smiled on us and we were granted a reprieve. As we lined up on the grid the track had recovered nicely and Pete's chances of finally finishing at Angouleme were looking up! You can see some highlights of the race below (there's also a film on the Videos section).


1. You can see me below having just snuck past Barry Foster's C-type, I'm sure it was luck!


 

2. Pete below with Bjarne Berner driving Paddy Wilmer's old car, dubbed "the Blue Nail". It's funny these two cars should meet again - they used to see a lot of each other when Paul Smeeth had Pete's car! Pete was doing Smeeth proud, still driving like a lunatic despite a damaged clutch & clinging on to third place - which he claimed just a few laps later.

 



3. Andy below in his special K, a 170 hp breakfast cereal running on pure methanol (you can imagine how worried he was when it looked to be a cold day!) He can be seen closing in on our good friend Mick in the car Andy built for him.  



I hope this gives you a taste of the fun we had, you can also find more photos via the link above and a nice race video below:


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