A friend suggested entering the Mt Tarrengower Historic Hillclimb, Australia’s longest-running vintage and classic hillclimb, and John was hooked. He has so far been the class winner at the Eddington Sprints, the Bendigo Saleyards Dash and the 2011 Winton Sprint Series, and is currently running 3rd in the 2012 Winton series. The next Winton round is on 8 September with the final race on 1 December.
“I compete in Class A for road-registered cars under two litres,” explains John. “The series is worked out on points. It depends on the number of laps completed and your place in the race on the day.
“I’ve got a bit of a racing history. I started racing go-karts in the early 1990s. I’m known in CFA as a bit of a driver and this gives me the chance to flick the switch off from work and exercise that driving ability. I just have to make sure I’m not rostered on when the racing is on.
“I have a shed at home and do everything on the car myself apart from the internal engine modifications.”
For the technically-minded, the car is an MG Midget Mark 3. (John is forced to clarify with this non-car-enthusiast writer that he doesn’t mean Mach 3. Please note that the Midget does NOT travel three times faster than the speed of sound. Perhaps John needs to think about upgrading…)
In fact the top speed of the car is around 100 miles per hour. It’s fitted with a 1298cc high performance engine with a Webber 45DCOE along with enhanced ignition, fuel, exhaust and cooling systems. It runs a four-speed straight cut close ratio gearbox driving an improved A series differential. It is also fitted with fully adjustable suspension and runs Dunlop semi slick race tyres mounted on Motolita alloy wheels.
Safety equipment includes a race seat, five-point race harness and a custom built roll cage.
While James Bond has never driven an MG Midget, Sean Connery came closest in Dr No in the Sunbeam Alpine. John says that the MG Midget had a drive-on role in That 70s Show which doesn’t, unfortunately, give it the street credibility that comes from an association with 007.
John is a member of a number of car clubs including the Echuca Historic Car Club and the Benalla Auto Sports Club. It’s a matter of pleasure but membership is also vital to qualify for a Confederation of Australian Motor Sport (CAMS) license.
On a more leisurely note, John and Kim do manage to get out for those Sunday drives.
“We put on the road tyres and get out around Echuca,” he says. “If it’s a bit wet we’ll take out the 1962 Vauxhall. They’re both English cars and anyone who knows about cars knows that English cars traditionally leak oil.”
Straight after the September Winton meet the couple will be heading a bit further afield, driving their son’s HSV Club Sport across the Nullarbor to his new home in Perth.
“It’ll be like driving a V8 lounge chair to Perth,” says John.
Thanks to the Nor' Wester for the story lead.