THE MG CAR CLUB JOHANNESBURG CENTRE YOUTH PROJECT
The proposal put forward by the then Chairman of the Johannesburg Centre, Clive Winterstein, for what has transpired to be the extremely successful MG Youth Project was first announced to members of the Johannesburg Centre in the December 2008 Edition of “Thumbs Up”. The objective of the proposal was to create enthusiasm for classic cars generally and MGs in particular, in a younger generation.
The proposal was for youngsters aged between 14 and 25 of both genders and any ethnic group to build and race two MGs and hinged around the generosity and commitment of a number of members, most notably:
|Roger Pearce - who offered the use of his “Flag Car”, the almost iconic MGB GT in which Roger drove in his solo trip through Africa to Silverstone and had used in several competitive extreme endurance events to many parts of the globe.|
|Nick Parrott and Bo Geirsing who between them donated most of the parts required to build an MGA race car.|
Nick and Roger are both well-known racers of MGs and both had offered the use of their facilities for the building and preparation of the two cars, they also offered to act as team leaders and mentors.
Two teams were selected; one to rebuild the Flag Car under Roger’s guidance and the other to assemble an MGA from scratch, this under Nick’s watchful eye.
The Flag Car team kicked off on 18 April 2009 with a meeting at Roger Pearce’s Emgee Workshop, attended by 14 youngsters. The other team of 9 youngsters met for the first time on 16 May at Nick’s house.
Funding-wise, the Johannesburg Centre initially donated R 60,000 as “seed” money for the project. A further R 16,000 was raised at an auction conducted by Clive at Nick’s house of MG parts and other car bits and pieces donated by members. The biggest collection of parts was donated by Jem Moggeridge. Several other members have also donated to the project over the years, most notably Glen Parker and Clive Winterstein. Other funds were raised from the auction at showday 2010 of an “untidy” MGB GT bought by the club for the purpose and from the sale at Piston Ring Swap Meets of items donated by members.
Others whose inputs have been very important to the success of the Youth Project are William Kelly, the current Chairman of the Johannesburg Centre, and Scott Rainier, who has, in more recent times, overseen the workdays at Emgee Workshop and who has given his time and his considerable racing experience to train the more recent batch of drivers.
The members of the Youth Project gave a very enthusiastic and successful presentation at the monthly “noggin” in April 2013. The presentation included a slide show dealing with the history of the project and the benefits that the participants have enjoyed. They thanked the members of the Johannesburg Centre for their support of the project and gave special thanks to those named earlier, in particular Nick, Roger and Scott. Thanks are also due to Motorsport SA for the concessions granted on Racing Licenses and to the organisers of the events at both Zwartkops and Kyalami for the concessions given on entry fees.
The rebuild of the Flag Car was always going to be completed before the MGA could be built and was ready for its first Youth Project appearance at Kyalami on 8 December 2009. Colleen Cross successfully completed both heats of the sprint event and Andrew Thompson, Carl van As and Rahoon piloted the Flag Car to 17th on Index of Performance out of 40 finishers in the endurance event.
As the MGA was being built from scratch (the body was cut and welded together from parts originating from about 9 different donor cars), it was always going to take quite some time before it would be ready for the track. It was being assembled at Nick Parrott’s house and he very generously loaned his white MGB Roadster to the project for the youngsters to race while the MGA was being completed. Its first Youth Project outing was at Midvaal on 13 March 2010 when Ryan Ludick drove it to 5th overall in the Marque Cars event.
The MGA made its debut appearance at Zwartkops on 10 September 2011 with Cameron McLeod at the wheel in the Marque Cars handicap event and with Ryan Ludick driving it in the Pre 66 Sports and GT sprint event.
Unfortunately, history doesn’t record the names of all those who have participated in the Youth Project but it seems that about 30 youngsters have participated in the project in the 5 plus years of its existence to date, June 2013.
Whilst some of them made only limited appearances, many have benefitted from the project. Over the years, the youngsters have had to earn the right to drive the cars on the track by participating in the builds / rebuilds of the cars and the subsequent servicing / repair and preparation of the cars. They have been exposed to car restoration from bare chassis, the insides of engines and gearboxes and have had learned a bit about the set up of suspension and steering for racing, tuning for performance and the repair of body panels.
Several competent racing drivers have come through the ranks and a couple of them have already been recognised as having above average potential. Quite a number are now employed in the motor industry, two of whom are working with racing teams.
Going forward, the Youth Project has now also been offered a “driving share” in another MGA in return for the group assembling the owner’s car that was stripped for rebuild. This is a very generous offer, as the Youth Project will incur no costs of the rebuild, the only input will be the youngster’s time. After completion, the youngsters will be allowed to drive the car in one event at each race meeting for which it is entered with the owner driving in other events. It is possible that a Youth Project member will be invited to “share” the car with the owner if it is entered for the longer endurance events. There are other projects under consideration.
There is a core group of 9 youngsters at present and it is likely that another 3 or 4 will join following a recruitment drive. Some questions raised by potential recruits and their parents are answered below.
Hopefully other Marque Car Clubs will follow the MGCC initiative so that eventually there will be enough clubs running similar projects to justify an inter-club challenge series. The first step in this direction has been that certain members of the Alfa Romeo club who are active in racing are involving two youngsters (hopefully more by now) in the assembly for racing of an Alfa Sud which was donated to them by MGCC’s Nick Parrott on condition that it was used to start a Youth Project.
Q. Does one have to be a member of the MG Car Club to participate?
A. Yes, definitely but this won’t cost you much, there is a R 200 entrance fee and a nominal annual subscription – presently R 25 per annum. You (and your parent, if you are under 18) will need to sign an indemnity, as do all members of the MG Car Club.
Q. What qualifications do I need, do I need a driver’s license?
A. A driver’s license is not required. The only requirements to join the Youth Project are that you be between the ages of 14 and 25 and are willing to get stuck in and be involved with the other youngsters.
Q. What other costs will I face?
A. As and when you qualify (see later) to go on the track, you will need to get a racing license from Motorsport S A (“MSA”). At present, these are issued on a concession basis to members of the Youth Project and you will need to take out the MSA medical /life insurance. This will cost about R 650 per annum.
Q. Will I need any special equipment?
A. Once you have qualified to race (see later) you will need to have the correct safety clothing. This includes a helmet, a racing overall and gloves. You may also want to invest in racing boots and a neck brace but these aren’t compulsory. The cost of such equipment varies and you can contact a supplier such as 1st Race, based at Zwartkops Raceway, to get an idea of current prices.
Q. What do I have to do to qualify to race?
A. You will need to earn the right to drive by participating in workdays which are days when the cars are maintained and prepared for racing. You will be expected to assist in the pits on race days whether or not you are actually racing that day. Workdays are normally on Saturdays and take place at either Emgee Workshop in Randburg or at Nick Parrott’s house in North Riding - near the Dome. You will also have to attend training sessions (see below) until you are considered “ready to race”. It is also desirable that you attend the MG Car Club monthly meetings (known as “noggins”) which are held on the first Thursday evening of each month.
Q. I have never raced before, how will I learn to do so?
A. With the safety of both the driver and the cars in mind, Youth Project members who have proved their willingness to work will be trained by an experienced race driver approved by the MG Car Club as being competent to instruct. Training takes place on the track in one of the race cars. You will need to wear long trousers and a long-sleeved shirt for this and you will need a helmet. Training sessions (which will normally be on a Sunday) will give you the opportunity to decide whether you really want to race before having to purchase expensive safety clothing. As they require one of the few approved instructors to be available and involve a fair amount of cost (petrol, track fees for the car and wear and tear on tyres and the cars generally) training sessions normally take place only when there is more than one person to be trained and are subject to the availability of an instructor. The Youth Project covers most of the cost but you will pay the driver’s fee charged by the track – usually R 60 to R 100.
Q. When will I be able to race?
A. Motor racing can be dangerous. Your safety and that of other competitors on the track is of the utmost importance. You will not race until you are considered to have sufficient skill to be competing on the track. The instructor will also ask the Track appointed Clerk of the Course on duty during a training session for his opinion when your skill level is assessed. Actual drives are allocated on a rotational basis with consideration given to the level of involvement in the project, attendance at workdays etc. The level of experience of the drivers is taken into account when drives are allocated.