My first race car was a 10 year old MGA 1500. This I managed to acquire after I had done a series of buy and sell deals of old bangers. At the sports car yard, I had a choice of two. A tatty green Triumph TR2 or a black MGA 1500 with drum brakes and a slipping clutch. When the owner of the car yard said he would give me a new clutch in the deal, which I would have to put in however, I was hooked. That morning I drove out with my black MGA registration number NMF 107 (amazing how much trivia one can store in one’s brain), with a clutch plate in a box on the passenger’s seat.
By early that afternoon I had learned how to take the engine out and by the late afternoon I had learned that if you don’t centralize the clutch plate, the engine will never mate up to the gearbox! By late evening I had mastered the mating art and by 1 a.m. the MGA was fired up and the new clutch proved its worth in several trips around the block to assure me I had put everything back correctly. Epithets from the neighbors called the road testing to a premature halt. Some of the people in my street were not enthusiasts, it seemed.
My first race.
The following Sunday was a race meeting at the Lowood circuit, organized by the MG Car Club. On the Saturday I learned how to remove the windscreen from my MGA and the front and rear bumper bars. By lunch I had fitted a small aero screen and painted the brake drums silver, and could not resist the opportunity for a quick fang around the block in its new ‘racing’ guise. If I had restricted this ‘race testing’ to one lap it would have been better, but I got carried away with the excitement of it all. On the second circuit I noticed a policeman on a motorcycle doing a U-Turn and obviously after me. I raced for the safety of my home, only two corners away.
As I handbrake turned into my driveway, the police motorcyclist drew up across the gateway to make sure I didn’t get away. “Is this vehicle registered?” he said, taking off the shades and his motorcycle gloves. “Yes,” said I, trying to look surprised at seeing a policemen blocking my driveway. “So where are the number plates for this car?” was his next question. “Er, on the bumper bars,” said I. “And where are the bumper bars?” “Er, over there in the corner!”
He strolled over and then noticed the windscreen as well, with the all important registration and insurance stickers. “Are you racing this car, or something?” I admitted that the next day was to be my first day on the track, and I was trying to make it look as good as a 10 year old car could be.
Honesty certainly was the best policy (in this case at least), for it turned out that the motorcycle policeman was a motor racing enthusiast and I was let off with a warning and a cup of coffee!
My debut as a race driver was March 1965, but it was not the debut of Iain Corness as a race driver. For my first two years, I had to race under an assumed name. Since the car was under a finance contract, it was against the contract conditions to race it, so that was why the records will show that an “Ian Gordon” was entered in the Sportscar scratch race in a black MGA!
The TBX Mk1 Escort.
So how did “Ian Gordon” do in his first race? With all true modesty, I have to report that he drove brilliantly and came third in class and won $5. The MGA’s brakes were on fire at the end, as the applied silver paint burst into flames with the heat from the brake drums, and had to be extinguished in the pits. It was a great start to a career in Australia, that only finished in 1997 when I came to Thailand to live.
And these days with the TBX Mk1 Escort in the garage, that racing career is still going!