With the MGB Register interest in the London to Sydney Marathon MGB, we thought as it is the 50th anniversary of this 1968 event we would have this as the subject for our 2018 Lecture.
Radley College’s excellent theatre facilities welcomed nearly 200 Motorsport enthusiasts on a very wet Saturday. On arrival, they were greeted with a display of three Marathon and World Cup cars including the MGCC-owned MGB of Jean Denton/Tom Boyce. On entry, a warming tea or coffee was offered by the ladies from the MGB Register and the chance to buy a raffle ticket to win one of two books written by Robert Connor on the London to Sydney. These are available from www.mgb-register.org
John Watson, our MGB Register Chairman, welcomed everyone and explained why we had chosen this subject. We then watched a film showing the Start at Crystal Palace through to Bombay. At this point the motoring journalist Graham Robson was introduced. He then welcomed Rosemary Smith, who had flown over especially from Dublin. Rosemary drove a Lotus Cortina on the event. Then Paddy Hopkirk and Alec Poole were introduced; they should have won the event but stopped to help a driver who was hit by a non-competing car, driven by a police officer. They were driving a BMC-entered 1800 Landcrab, finishing second.
We enjoyed a good 40 minutes of Irish banter between them all, with Rosemary telling us how she drove over the Khyber Pass in reverse as she only had two working cylinders, and Paddy commenting that all the girls talked to Alec and not to him.
After a short coffee break we watched the cars travel from Perth to Sydney, then our second group of guests were BMC manager, Bill Price, David Harrison who competed in a Lotus Cortina entered by the British Army Motor Association, and Hugh Chambers whose father, Marcus Chambers, was the Comps manager with Rootes Group with the winning Hillman Hunter.
David told us how he towed Rosemary’s car across India to Bombay. Bill was very vocal on the BMC1800 and the hydrolastic suspension system, telling us about the pump fitted in the back seat so it could be used while moving. To this, Paddy shouted out: “I always wondered what that was for.”
Hugh, who was eight years old at the time of the event, explained how shocked his father was when the Hunter won the event. He then told us of his career in Motorsport. His position from November 1 will be the new CEO of the MSA, so we will have a MGB racer at the helm of UK motorsport which will be good for the MGCC.
Following the talks, there was an autograph session and those who had purchased a limited edition poster of the Marathon MGB got them signed by all present.