Donington Race 1 report by Mike Williams

Race Report by Mike Williams – After the Silverstone issues, I had used up all my spare R65 gearbox parts (Metro Gearbox). I decided to go the R65 route for this season as the sheer amount of spares I had made more economical sense back in March when I started to build the car for the MG Cup.

Four months later, it was time to try the PG1 gearbox. For the sake of my wallet, not to mention my sanity.

An evening’s testing at Donington a few weeks ago showed that after 2 hours of track time, the gearbox was still working fine. That was actually more track time than I had managed in all the races and qualifying so far this season with three R65 gearboxes! Bring on the race!

During the testing, I noticed the brakes had started to fade and upon checking them at home, I noticed I had taken the pads almost down to the metal and there was a small leak on the rear cylinder. I replaced all that I needed to and whilst I was at it, I decided to do the “almost bi-monthly” rear wheel bearing change that the poor Metro requires. “Best safe than sorry” I thought!


Qualifying: A new gearbox in the car so what could possibly go wrong? I got out near the front of the near 40 car line up so some clear track time was almost guaranteed. The first lap was about warming up the tyres as per normal and this went as planned as well as getting a few cars that were in front, behind me for a clearer track. The second lap was about putting my foot down and starting the timed laps. Through Redgate, still in 4th I was motoring towards Craner curves. Craner is flat out in 5th in the Metro, a little lift to negate any power on understeer but the car is on the limit of grip at what I can only guess is 105 to 110mph? Unfortunately on this occasion, I had approached a slower car still warming up so rather than be an idiot and squeeze past them, I lifted and cruised down craners and most likely did 30mph slower.

Taking the apex on the left of the curves, I heard the most horrific squeal from the car. Whilst trying to approach the old hairpin and the back end of the car wanting to overtake me on the right, all sorts of “what the hell” thoughts were going through my mind. I couldn’t brake for the old hairpin as the rear was still fighting me but I needed to take the corner regardless. So, the only thoughts were to turn in and see what happens.

As expected, the rear of the car was now trying to overtake me on the left hand side, only this time, it was winning. So, full opposite lock to and full right foot ensued. Somehow, I managed to keep the car pointing in the right direction as well as keeping 2 of the wheels on the circuit.

Had this been lap 3 or later, I’d have squeezed past the car still warming up, and I’d have been travelling 30mph or so faster when all this happened. Lucky boy! And thanks, whoever you were, warming your tyres.

The live facebook live video captured the whole episode and one comment made by a viewer captured my feelings of what happened perfectly. It said, “You’re gonna need a shovel after that!”. I couldn’t explain it better myself!

You can find the live facebook feed on the MG Cup Forum. The incident happens around 6m 50s.

This is the rear tyre after the incident:

mike williams tyre

The shovel was a good idea!!! I’d gone through all the tread, through the canvas, through the next layer of rubber and also through the metal plys. Not sure how much there was left to go through!!!

Race 1:

Starting at the back is always fun, but how much progress can you make when you are 33rd on the grid at a Circuit like Donington? My thoughts of making a half decent finish were to push the car 110%. Sod tyre management, sod caution, go flat out from the start with the only reservation being not to hurt anyone else!

The detail is a blur to be honest, but I have the TSL live timing in my car so I used this as a gauge of how hard I needed to keep pushing.

I had a great start as seeing the lights from the back is almost impossible but I could see them through someone elses screen when most likely most others around me could not. I had managed to pass 7 or 8 cars before taking two wheels only the grass on the right, avoiding a collision of course! J

Redgate was jammed so it was a case of running in line with everyone else but I had managed to pass 12 cars by this point. I kept my patience as we came out of Redgate and buried the right foot lifting only once to avoid a car before the old hairpin. I had managed to pass another 5 or so cars before braking for the old hairpin but I had to brake late to make the move which resulted in the rear trying to overtake me.

By the end of lap 1 I had managed to pass another 3 cars and the TSL screen showed me I was up to 12th position and only 6.5 seconds behind the leader.

Second time around Redgate, I had to take to the outside line as a Metro had spun in front sending cars scattering in all directions but I kept it on the black stuff, I kept it buried until the old hairpin again.

By the end of lap 2, I was up to 6th position, but I was now over 7 seconds behind the leader. I needed to push harder.

I was up 4th as we ended lap 3 and the gap to the front had come down to 6.5 seconds again so I kept pushing 110% hoping I could catch the leaders. I was spurred on somewhat now as I could clearly see them in front of me on the straights.

It took another 2 laps to get to 3rd as the cars I was chasing were being piloted very well. By the end of lap 5 I was less than 4 seconds off the leader (Richard) and Peter was practically right in front of me now.

Lap 6 was now about getting past Peter but where I had been lapping in the 1m 24s previously, my lap times were now in the 1m 26s and I could feel the front tyres were noticeably poor on grip. I was taking corners in 3rd where I had previously done so in 4th so I decided to let the tyres cool for a few laps and then make my attack.

As much as I waited and took a little bit of time with the tyres, they did not seem to be coming back to life and the laps were now passing without making any progress on the front two. By the end of lap 8, I was back down to just 4 seconds off the lead with Peter right in front of me again. The tyres had not come back to life, but it was now or never with only 5 or so laps remaining. If I could make a second a lap like earlier, then I would have a whole lap to fight for the lead? Or so I thought….


As I approached Goddards at 120mph, I braked as I had previously only to find the front tyres locking. I nursed the speed down but it was still far too fast to negotiate the car between the sausage kerbs of Goddards and emerge with the wheels pointing in the same directions as they had been pointing prior to entering the corner. I opted to miss the corner and take 2 wheels onto the tarmac and 2 wheels onto the gravel just behind the corner but crossing the line confirmed what I already knew. I was now 9 seconds behind the leader and the only thing my 100% effort would now yield was the possibility of losing 3rd place, possibly worse if I had hit the kerbs at Goddards.

It was just a case of getting the car back in the position I was in, and enjoying what I remembered of the 20 minute blur that had just occurred.


Having looked at my front tyres after the race, the Goddards incident was most likely a blessing in disguise. The tyres had delaminated and I had lost possibly 25% of the tyres surface area. No amount of nursing these tyres was going to bring them back but had I pushed further, I could have possibly lost them altogether.

A big thanks to everyone who raced and made that one of the most fun races I’d had for some time.

mgcup race 1 donington 15 july

mgcup race 1 donington 15 july 02

Pitures by Flying Tigers Photography (thanks Peter)  link to photos  –   please ask photographers permission before using.