Author Topic: Historic Group S - Why Group S? - An Article by Rick Marks, Group S Assoc  (Read 2871 times)

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Scott Farquharson

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Why Group S?

By Rick Marks

● Is it the prize money?

● Is it the notoriety?

● Is it the low cost of motor sport?

● Is it the investment value of the cars?

● Is it the camaraderie and long standing friendships gained?

● Is it the close and exciting racing?

OK, if you got two out of six we’re on the right track!

Why Group S for me personally then? Group S has been a very big part of my life over the past 20 years and I thought now was an appropriate time to share this experience with you in this inaugural GSRA Newsletter.

My historic racing career (indeed my entire motor racing career) started in 1984 at the tender age of 32 when I acquired the 1964 Sunbeam Tiger Le Mans. I joined HSRCA and did my CAMS observed practice in the Tiger at Amaroo Park. Close friend, Geoff Morse, had been racing his (current) Sunbeam Alpine in Group La for about a year and while my Tiger was a Group M car, its characteristics were far more suited to Group Lb and consequently over the next couple of years I was an invited participant in many combined La/Lb events. I really enjoyed this group and I guess that started me on the Group S journey.

In 1988, Geoff Morse built my red Alpine and its first event in Group La was at the Bi-Centennial Meeting at Oran Park in October that year. I ran the Tiger as well at that event in the Group M events. I actually did quite well in the Alpine over the next few years with some fantastic racing with the likes of Morse, Young, Gunnell, Everett, Gleen, Davies, Rose, Hemming, Hardy, Thallon, Dowsett etc. Those were the days – Amaroo at 64.62!!

I competed at the inaugural Eastern Creek meeting in 1991 in the Tiger Le Mans and that was the last time I ran it. Sadly, it was sold to the UK in 1992 to a far wealthier enthusiast than me who has since run it several times at Goodwood Revival, Le Mans Classic and many European historic events. Oh well………

About that time, Group La was changed to Group Sa and Group Sb came into being. I had owned a Tiger roadster for nearly 20 years (have now had it for 33 years!) and decided it should be my new Group Sb car. It was one of the first Group Sb cars logged but after doing the suspension, brakes and fitting a rollbar, I chickened out and put it back to road/classic rally use. It still has the Sb log book though.

I strayed a bit further in 1992 when I acquired my 1963 Nota Sportsman. Clubmans are great fun to drive but do take some practice. This is a Group M car and I was up against some pretty tough opposition such as Lotus 23’s, Elfin Mallala’s, Elva BMW, Lotus 7 and so on. We had a Clubman competition and I didn’t do too badly over the next three seasons. The Nota was sold to Geoff Lowe in late 1994 but re-acquired six years later in 2000 after years of pestering. It’s now for sale again – any interested parties? 

A very short spell in the Lolita Mk 2 (Group O), then the ex Young (now Rose) MGA and then back to old faithful red Alpine in Group Sa. I never really re-kindled the old flame with the Alpine so it was shelved for a few years and then sold to the Littlemore family. (I hear it may soon return to Group Sa in the hands of Michael Rose).

In 1998, and with a bigger line of credit (but don’t tell the wife), I acquired the ex Tom Sulman/Fred Vogel Lotus Eleven Le Mans and ran this in Group Lb for a couple of seasons including a memorable AGP Historic support event at Albert Park. I had done the similar event at Adelaide in 1986 in the Tiger Le Mans and both were great experiences. These Lotus Elevens are jewels and having sold the red Eleven (and my E Type) I was subsequently able to acquire the ex Team Lotus “works” Eleven from Paul Samuels. This car was the only Lotus to finish at Le Mans in 1958 and spent most of its life in South Africa before migrating to Oz in the mid 80’s. I have run this car at Eastern Creek and Oran Park as well as Speed on Tweed last year.

Back to the late 90’s and after a year of doing Regularity in the Shelby GT 350 and the Bizzarrini GT America, I decided to head back to Group Sb in a different Sunbeam Tiger. This was the white LHD car built by Peter Thomson and completed in 2001. Fair to say, we had our share of problems with this car. Power was great, brakes excellent, handling suspect, overheating chronic and fuel starvation worse. The latter led to a blow up at Wakefield after posting a 1.13.2 in practice. I even bought the ex Young MGB GT (now owned by Peter Whitten) as a spare while the engine was being rebuilt and not wanting to miss an event – now is that dedication to Group S or plain stupidity? 

The Tiger was kind of like taking two steps forward and three back – I am sure most of you have experienced this love/hate relationship with race cars at some point. A lot of the problem was due to that necessary evil called employment - I lacked practice time in the car to diagnose the issues for sorting so the process of improvement was slow. As you know, I firstly lent it then sold it to Brad Morse at the end of season 2004 (after acquiring the ex Ross Jackson green Sb Tiger from Victoria). Brad’s ability in the car is far better than mine and despite some initial teething problems, the sorting has gone well and when back on track for season 2006 after the current engine rebuild watch out!

Wanting to have an Aussie Special for the 2001 events, I acquired the 1957 Mercury V8 100 Special. An Lb racing car, this was a real experience. Had some great dices with Greg Neal in the Plymouth and many others. After four or so events running both the Mercury and the Tiger, I decided one V8 sports racing car was enough and sold the Mercury to John Rowe in WA.

I have run the green Tiger in both Regularity and Group Sb over the past couple of years. It is a fantastic car but a tad quick for Regularity and a tad slow to be at the pointy end of Sb/Sc without more development. It is a terrific road car and I look forward to competing in some future Classic Rallies in it – time and money permitting.

I brought out the Nota last year for the inaugural MG Racing Festival of Sports Cars at Wakefield and while I was as slow as a wet week in it due to my lack of match practice, it is always entertaining to drive on its CR 65 Dunlops and looks fantastic whether going or standing still! 

This brings me to the latest foray into Group S. The good old line of credit allowed me to acquire the ex Mike Kent Group Sa Elva Courier late last year and two weeks after delivery and with my only practice driving it up the street and onto the trailer I managed to win both Sa/Na scratch races at the November Wakefield Park meeting in varying conditions. Without blowing my own trumpet, I thought that was a mighty fine effort but more likely attributable to the painstaking restoration, sorting and preparation work of Mike Kent than my driving abilities. The Elva is a fantastic car to drive, it stops and handles well and its MGA mechanicals are er, adequate in its surroundings. I do hope this will be a long standing love affair – so far, so good but Phillip Island and season 2006 will tell!

Well, that’s about it – kind of back to the future. I began my historic racing 20 years ago with Group S (well La/Lb) and after many interesting and varied rides over that period here I am well and truly back in Group S. I can’t think of a better category to be involved with. No prize money, no notoriety, it costs plenty and you don’t get your money back!! But you do get great cars, great racing and most importantly great people.       

Why Group S? Why not?

Rick Marks

Scott Farquharson
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