The BCV8 Championship was formed back in 1977 within the MG Car Club by Barry Sidery-Smith and Victor Smith, two long standing members of the Club, at a time when T Type and MGA racing was on a high and providing close, entertaining motor sport for competitors and spectator alike. So what was behind the creation of the new championship for MGBs, MGCs and V8s at that time? Simply that the better performance of other makes of more modern sports cars was leaving BCV8 models behind but also the rapid growth of sponsorship was raising car preparation budgets dramatically in most national sports car racing formulae. The MGB enthusiast needed a competition series which provided close racing at a more affordable cost – so the BCV8 Championship was formed by members of the MG Car Club.
The MGB was both an affordable and popular car for motor sport enthusiasts in its early years in the sixties. Its safe and predictable handling had encouraged many enthusiasts to enter club circuit racing events, sprints and hillclimbs. The Abingdon factory provided encouragement both with the Works team cars it prepared and entered in events through its Competitions Department and from the support it provided club enthusiasts through the availability of parts and advice through Special Tuning. At a club level many stalwarts in our Club today were campaigning their MGBs in the early years – people like Anthony Binnington, Warwick Banks, Terry Osbourn and the irrepressible Barry Sidery-Smith. But by the mid-seventies, the MGB and its variants had become less and less competitive in both modified and standard classes as more modern machinery like the better handling rear engined Lotus Europa, the nimble Davrian and the more powerful TVRs began to dominate national sports car events.
The regulations for the BCV8 Championship were drafted in the Old Ship At Mortlake opposite the finishing line of the annual boat race with the help of Vic Ellis, Roy McCarthy and Rob Innes-Ker who were active MGA racers at the time.
We had just two classes – standard and modified. Of course, ‘standard’ was an open debating point from the start but the spirit of the regulations for standard cars was that they should be ‘as they left the factory production line”.
During the first two years it became clear that a third class was needed to cover the increasing quick “standard” cars resulting in the inevitable creep from subtle, and sometimes not so subtle, interpretations of the regulations. So we decided to create a road--going modified class with the only constraint that those cars had to be taxed and insured for the road, on road tyres and most important driven to the circuit.
1980s and 1990s
The Championship was devised to cater for the B, C, and V8 models. Initially, the Championship comprised a combination of races, sprints and a hill climb and was split into three basic classes of standard, road modified and race modified. The latter two categories catered for the existing cars that were racing while the standard class was introduced to allow the ordinary MG Car Club member to start racing without too much of an outlay. This principle remains to this day.
With the evolution of the Championship a fourth class was added in 1981 for the race modified V8, which was separated from the four and six cylinder versions. The class system is structured to provide a ladder for drivers to develop both their cars and skills. It allows a competitor to begin racing with a near-standard MGB, MGC or MGB GT V8 and progressively modify the car as ability and costs permit, while remaining within the one Championship. To reflect the production of the RV8, this model was allowed to compete in 1996.
The BCV8 Championship is one of the premier national one make Championships. The specifications for each of the classes in the 1990s were as follows:
Class A is for standard MGB and MGCs in both roadster and GT guise and running on road tyres. The few modifications permitted are for safety reasons and mainly restricted to suspension and brakes. The majority of BCV8 competitors begin their competition career in this class, as it is one of the cheapest ways to go motor racing. Some competitors drive their MGs to the circuit in true 1960s style. This class is easily identified as they are still fitted with bumpers. Class A is a popular category and, with friendly rivalry frequently provides exciting racing amongst the closely matched road cars.
Class B is for standard GT V8s and RV8s to almost the same specification as Class A and road modified MGBs and MGCs, which are allowed greater freedom of tuning to the engine, gearbox and suspension. All use road tyres, although the road modified cars have lightened body panels and stripped interiors. There are also FIA specification MGBs in this class and these are built to the works specification of the early 1960s, while the other modified MGs are the result of developments in the 1 970s. The RV8 races in far more standard trim in this class, being more than compatible with its smaller-capacity cousin, the V8 GT which are slightly more modified. Again a highly competitive and popular category It is a natural stepping stone from Class A allowing the driver to retain and develop the once standard car.
Class C allows MGBs and MGCs with unlimited modifications to engine, body, brake and suspension components. This class is permitted to use wide slick racing tyres and represents the ultimate development of both the four and six cylinder MG. Here we see, with the MGC in particuIar, the evolution of the pretty Sebring MG that was built and raced by the works. While the MGB is a parallel development drawing from the expertise of the highly popular Modsports racing of the 1960s and 1970s and is a case of what might have been had Abingdon continued to race the MGB after 1968. In response to the increasing expense of racing the highly tuned MGB engines, a soft tune or controlled 3.9 litre V8 engine was introduced in 1993 and these now form the majority of the entry
Finally comes Class D, which caters for the fully modified V8 engine, these cars again run on slick tyres.
The 3.9-litre Rover based engines, that can be bored out to 4.1 litres, produce well in excess of 300 brake horsepower giving the cars terrific acceleration and top speed, Malcolm Beer was ‘clocked’ at 184 mph at Spa in 1994. It should be noted that the front runners have about half the power of an average F1 car but remember the MGB design is over thirty years old. The regulations ailow the V8 engine to be installed in either the roadster or GT body shell. These cars are closely based on an MG that raced in international Group Six GT events in the mid 1970s, and which is still racing today in BCV8.
2000 to 2018
The new millennium started as the old one went out with a well-supported BCV8 Championship. Class A had some new drivers, quite a few the Sons of the regular drivers. Russell and Spencer McCarthy, Sons of Roy had started racing in Class A in 1996 and 1997, Spencer in his second year in BCV8 winning the Overall Title in 1998 the 21st Year of the Championship. Andy Cakebread, Son of Brian following on in 2001 also taking the overall Title, Adrian Beer, Son of Malcolm in his second year out in a newly formed AB class for FIA cars taking the title in 2002 and James Wheeler, Son of Jon taking the Overall Title in 2003 and 2004 in Class A. A welcome addition to the Championship, young drivers taught the secrets of racing by their fathers, ensuring its future.
The Championship has had many years of fantastic racing. Class B always a popular class in the early part of the 2000’s had the addition of a future World Touring Car driver Rob Huff. By now both Russell and Spencer McCarthy were in Class B and were joined by Rob Huff with one or the other taking the class for eight years and the racing between these drivers was outstanding. The FIA AB class has had the benefit of starting off young drivers like Tom Smith, Son of Doug, Ollie Bryant, James and Jeremy Cottenham all out now doing well in other marques and Championships and all still winning races.
There were some fantastic grids and the A and B classes were capable of having their own race grid. Class B was mostly dominated by the name McCarthy both pulling away by 2007 to race with Ginetta G20’s. Ian Prior, Peter Samuels, Jonnie W heeler and Tom Jones were other constant class competitors. The C Class had good grids with names like Geoff Pyke, Piers Townsend, Joe Parrington and Phil Walker regularly competing and Class D had a smaller grid with regulars of Steve Williams, Roy McCarthy, John Wilson, Peter Collis and Adrian Beer frequently leading the field. By the mid to late decade the cost of running the big cars put the class sizes down a little. In 1998 Roy McCarthy had purchased Richard Horn’s big V8 after it crashed at Cadwell and after a few years of running it with the 11” slicks but keeping the fully modified engine, put it back onto narrow wings and 6” road rubber so he could compete in other types of races as the Big Fully Modified V8’s had limited track time and were now considered to be Modsports by many.
However, by 2008 recessions again came into play and the cost of motor racing for the club racer made an impact on the grid entries and although we had enthusiastic drivers the numbers had declined. 2009 and 2010 saw smaller grids in all classes. Various suggestions were made during 2011 and a hard core of regular BCV8 drivers decided that the spectacular but falling grids of Class C and D cars with their wide bodies and slick tyres were holding back the Championship and decided to reduce the wings and bonnet to standard or just stretched and convert back to 7” Road Tyres.
After thirty five years of racing the Championship had evolved with a new breed of cars making their debut in the top class, same full race engines but now looking more like a Standard V8. New drivers appeared, Rob Spencer, Simon Cripps, Neil Fowler to add to the class which now also contained Ian Prior, Joe Parrington, Ollie Neaves, James Wheeler and Russell and Spencer McCarthy. Class A however seemed to have been lost, not many standard cars around to race, after all the MGB was 50 years old in 2012 so introduced into the mix was a ‘nearly standard’ class which allowed a few more modifications to make racing more interesting. This was included into the FIA Class AB and the mix was very compatible, so much so that for the 2012 Season Mike Harris in an FIA car took the Overall title and in 2013 the ‘Nearly Standard’ car of Simon Tinkler took the Overall title. In 2014 the Controlled 3.9 V8 Class C was reintroduced but also on narrow wings and 6” Road Rubber and Ken Deamer took the 2014 Title. Class B had picked up again and last race of the season saw a grid of 29 BCV8 racers back out on track finishing its 38th continuous season of BCV8 Racing. 2015, to 2018 saw great racing with the dominance of the top classes on track. However, BCV8 is anybody's championship and although Class D was always in front the competition was so fierce that it was anybody's race, with James Wheeler, Ian Prior, Neil Fowler, Ollie Neaves, Rob Spencer, Simon Cripps and Russell McCarthy dominating the podium alternatively. 2017 saw Russell McCarthy finally taking his Championship win after 20 years of racing with the BCV8 Championship in its 41st season.
The Late Pam McCarthy
Ex BCV8 Coordinator