After a brief summer break and a trip to Angelsey for the Morgan Challenge, it was back to Silverstone for the third time in the 2016 season. This visit would see the 35 car grid compete on the National Circuit as part of the Bentley Drivers Meeting. A highlight of the calendar, the Bentley Drivers Club meet is always well attended from both the Bentley and Morgan communities, and demonstrates some of the most prestigious Bentleys throughout the history of their company. For many years the Morgan Challenge has featured as part of the BDC meeting, and for 2016 the weather had been ordered, with beautiful sunshine engulfing the home of British motorsport.
As the cars assembled for qualifying it was a welcomed return to the challenge series for accomplished drivers Olly Bryant and Will Plant in their Plus 8s. Both of the young drivers do not frequent the Morgan Challenge grid all too often, and are off competing in their respective championships throughout most of the season. There was also a new name for the grid in Richard Fohl, who was competing for the first time in his Class B Roadster Lightweight.
The track conditions were perfect for qualifying, with GT Driver Olly Bryant putting his Plus 8 on pole position, over a second in front of Keith Ahlers. William Plant and Russell Paterson completed the second row of the grid. A flying lap from Tony Hirst saw him qualify first in Class B setting a new lap record for the class, just behind him in Class B was overall championship leader Elliot Paterson who left himself with a bit of work to do in the race. A marked improvement from Craig Hamilton-Smith saw him qualify 5th in Class, significantly higher up the grid than his last outing. Familiar 1st place qualifiers in Classes R, C and D were Tim parsons, Steve McDonald and Henry Williams. It was just Chris Bailey and Ian Sumner in Class E, with Bailey qualifying ahead of Sumner by just over a second.
After a few flying laps of the track from the Bentley GT3 car, it was over to the Morgan Challenge race, and what another fantastic race it was. Finding himself in the unusual position of second place on the grid, Keith Ahlers immediately took the lead from Olly Bryant as they diced with each other during the first lap. Regaining the lead, some great racing from Bryant saw him edge out in front and stretch his legs to a significant win overall and fastest lap of the race. Second place was left to Keith and the young Will Plant to battle out, some close racing throughout the session saw them exchange positions on multiple occasions, with Ahlers eventually finishing under 1 second in front of Plant. Wheel to wheel racing between the both saw Ahlers take driver of the day, with many spectators commenting how it was nice to see a little competition at the top of the grid for a change. The battle for Class B was very hotly contested; Tony Hirst gave up the lead to John Emberson early on. An unfortunate issue for John Emberson saw him retire as Elliot Paterson stormed through to take maximum points and overall Class B winner to stay top of the championship. Having qualified strongly Tony Hirst was disappointed to finish 3rd place in Class B behind Andrew Thompson. Both Hirst and Thompson have had their ARV6s side by side on more than one occasion this season, a rivalry that seems to repeat itself time and time again.
An unfortunate spin for Craig Hamilton-Smith saw him finish 6th position in Class B behind Stuart Anderson and Dominic House, despite the spin his overall finish is a vast improvement on previous races. Tim Parsons, Steve McDonald and Henry Williams managed to retain their qualifying positions to each win their respective classes. Brett Syndercome, Simon Scott and Tim Ayres each managing to retain their second place positions in respective classes. The Techniques Trophy race for 4 cylinder Morgans followed the challenge race, congratulations to Henry Williams for an overall win in that.
Next up, Oulton Park on the 3rd of September.
Class A – Olly Bryant
Class B – Elliot Paterson
Class R – Tim Parsons
Class C – Steve McDonald
Class D – Henry Williams
Class E – Chris Bailey