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MG Rover’s director of product development, Rob Oldaker, announced on April 26, 2001, the creation of a new subsidiary company known as MG Sport & Racing Limited and its associated sub-brand, MG XPower.
Explaining the rationale for these developments, Rob Oldaker said: "We sum up the brand essence of MG in the phrase ‘Outrageous fun for all’. To our way of thinking, outrageous fun is a serious business. So we have set up a serious business to generate that fun.
MG Sport & Racing has been formed to provide a central focus on three closely related functions, which are:
1. The MG Motorsport programmes.
2. The engineering development programmes for our motorsport vehicles and the specialised road-going MG products that will evolve from them.
3. The performance parts and merchandising activities that will amplify and support the new-generation MG sporting image.
We have created a new sub-brand, called ‘MG XPower’ to bind together and symbolise all of MG Sport & Racing’s activities. The letter X stems from historic MG associations, such as the ‘EX’ engineering project numbers and the ‘XP’ engine number prefix. We already use ‘X’ codes for today’s MG prototype model codes, and our new motorsport cars have ‘EX’ code numbers."
In addition to his other responsibilities, Rob Oldaker is managing director of MG Sports & Racing.
MG MOTORSPORT PROGRAMME 2001:
Le Mans 24-hour Race, 2001
The flagship MG racing project is the Le Mans 24-hour sports car race. The car, named MG Lola EX257, was designed and built by Lola Cars International and powered by an MG XPower 2 litre, four-cylinder turbo unit from racing engine specialists Advanced Engine Research (AER).
Two MG Lola EX257 sports cars were entered into the LMP675 class – the lightest qualification group – and driven by six all-British drivers; Mark Blundell, Julian Bailey, Kevin McGarrity (car 33), Anthony Reid, Warren Hughes and Jonny Kane (car 34).
The 4pm start on Saturday opened to a torrential downpour on the farside of the track. Many cars spun and crashed in the opening laps, including MG Lola car 34, which suffered rear wing damage and later a puncture. Mark Blundell posted impressive laps and by the first hour, the MG Lola car 33 was in 7th position while car 34 had slipped back to 37th following the earlier pit stops.
As the race settled into its stride, the rain was still pouring down and the pace of the MG Lola saw it climb to its best race position of 3rd place, within the first two hours.
As the hours clocked up, MG Lola car 33 progressed well, lapping fast in the hands of Kevin McGarrity. Kevin who had previously qualified brilliantly in his first ever drive at Le Mans in the dark, was lapping very quickly in the appalling weather conditions. At that point he was the fastest man on the track.
Into the evening with eight hours and a third of the race gone, the MG Lola was pressing on, despite the persistent lashings of rain, which were causing electrical difficulties. Later an oil leak necessitated repairs by the team. The MG Lola EX257 returned to the track before rising temperatures, just after the 12-hour halfway time point led to its retirement. It was an impressive performance given the limited testing time, the extreme weather conditions and on a car that had never had the opportunity to be endurance tested.
Rob Oldaker, managing director, MG Sport & Racing Limited said: "We are immensely proud to have brought MG back to Le Mans and frankly it has been beyond our expectations to have been running as high as third and to have completed more than half the race time! This has always been our learning year and now we are confident that we will have the right package to make MG even more successful next year."
British Touring Car Championship (BTCC)
Lola and AER are also consultants for the engineering of EX259, the MG ZS racing saloon. Two cars, using a race tuned 2-litre KV6 engine, commenced testing in August and will make their competition debut at the Silverstone International meeting on September 8/9, 2001. The last three BTCC events of the 2001 season will provide a testing and development basis in preparation for the full 2002 season. Anthony Reid and Warren Hughes are the drivers and the team management is co-ordinated by WSR (West Surrey Racing), who previously ran successful BTCC teams for Ford and Honda as well as launching the careers of a dozen F1 stars, including the late Ayrton Senna.
Dick Bennetts, managing director of WSR, said: "The new regulations are an exciting change. There were a lot of critics initially as the cars are not as high tech as their predecessors, but personally I believe that they should be much more cost effective and better at racing – possibly creating an equal playing field by 2002."
MG Rover Group Ltd, International House, Bickenhill Lane, Birmingham, B37 7HQ, England.
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