California here we come!


The Ulster Centre is well and truly building towards its 50th Anniversary next year and we thought it was time to venture across the sheugh to get a bit of a run up to our big celebrations. 

And so a team was born to challenge once again for the California Cup, the annual autotest competition between all Centres within the  MG Car Club. And a pretty diverse team it was, with Bryan Mutch in a K Series Midget, Gordon Buckley in a BMC engined Midget and Stephen Dawson in his pretty standard MGB Roadster that he drove all the way down to Silverstone and back, accompanied by his son Roger. As our reserve driver, we were glad to have Mike Armstrong in the wings in his MGF. 


The stretch of water between the place in which we live and the mainland is very expensive to cross. So the logistics of getting to the south of England and back without breaking the bank were put over to Bryan. An autotesting friend (whose name I intentionally withhold to avoid his being besieged with requests) had very generously lent us a double-decker trailer that would carry 2 small cars and that was a terrific start. However, what would be substantial enough to tow it? The logistics department came up with using his own motorhome and obviously we could live in it throughout the weekend. And so it came to pass. Bryan was able to consolidate 4 deals with Stena to get all this over at minimal cost with Stena Plus luxury thrown in. 

The enormous road train set off looking like Fawcett’s circus was leaving town. We had everything except the giraffe’s head poking through the roof! And so we lived and dined in relative luxury throughout the weekend. 

Saturday, competition day, soon arrived. It was an early start so there was no time to look around the autojumble or the many other attractions at the show. This year the layout of MG Live has been completely revamped and the autotest and AutoSolo venues had been moved to pride of place in the main show area. This was a major step forward by the organisers as, for a number of years, it had been relegated to a car park near to the entrance to Silverstone where no-one seemed to be aware of it. 

The tests were relatively simple and although they were mostly forwards only, they were still challenging. The three tests were laid out identically but with subtle changes that played havoc with my ageing psyche. In fact, at one point, I was seen to be heading off in the wrong direction and had to correct myself, all of which wasted some valuable time. With that and a line fault by sliding over a finish, this was not going to be my finest hour. 

However, I was very fortunate to have great team members in Bryan and Stephen  and they kept it together, coming 1st and 2nd fastest overall in the competition. Bryan was driving in fine style in the K Series Midget, harnessing all of its power and producing glorious drifts around the 360 pylons and carousels, giving the spectators full value for their money. Stephen found his way round the tests with confidence and good tempo, keeping tight to the pylons in a way that belied the fact that this was a pretty standard B with an open differential. A most impressive performance indeed by Stephen. 

Clearly our competition on the day was the Lincolnshire Centre with three very quick cars in their main team and they gave us a good run for our money. It was nice to see Will Corry’s former blue K Series Midget (now owned by Jordon Fox) in action again and being driven hard.

However, after a fairly nervous wait, the news came through that the Cali Cup had returned to the Ulster Centre where, of course, it belongs. 

Bryan was deservedly fastest overall and, as said, Stephen was an amazing 2nd fastest overall and, of course, fastest MGB. 

The next day brought the AutoSolo and that is another story for another day.

It was great to finally be able to see what MG Live had to offer. For me this means the endless lines of all models of immaculate MGs, the terrific close-fought racing on the Grand Prix circuit, the autojumble and the excellent stage entertainment which this year featured a brilliant tribute group recreating the Andrews Sisters. Great stuff! It really is a magnificent show for MG minded people. 

We were sad to have to turn round and point the Road Train north towards Stranraer and back home. This was indeed a very enjoyable visit to Silverstone with a satisfying outcome to boot. Alcoholic drink  most definitely passed our lips. 

So, bearing in mind that 2018 is our Jubilee Year, we have three hundred and sixty something days to plan a proper assault on Silverstone with several teams and to repeat 2010 by taking home all the honours that are on offer. The selection process starts now…

Finally, a word of thanks to Noel Lindford of Tyne Tees Centre and his teams for all their hard work in producing a first class autotest competition. We’ll be back!