At a press conference held to preview the new MG motorsport products at the NEC earlier today, MG Rover’s director of product development, Rob Oldaker, announced the creation of a new subsidiary company known as MG Sport & Racing Limited, and its associated sub-brand, MG X Power.

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 clear 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 which will amplify and support the new-generation MG sporting image.

We have created a new sub-brand, called ‘MG X Power’ 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.

MG X Power will become well known worldwide as it is seen emblazoned on the flanks of our competition cars, on team clothing and on merchandise."

In addition to his other responsibilities, Rob Oldaker is managing director of MG Sports & Racing.

MG Motorsport Programme 2001
Further details of the MG race and rally programmes for 2001 were also revealed at this conference.

The flagship MG racing project is the Le Mans 24 hour sports car race. The car, with the name MG Lola EX257, has been designed and built by Lola Cars International, with input from MG Rover design director Peter Stevens. It will be powered by an MG X Power 2 litre, four-cylinder turbo unit from racing engine specialists Advanced Engine Research (AER).

Two EX257s have been entered into the LMP675 class (Le Mans Prototype with a minimum weight of 675kg), which Lola won in the 2000 event, also with an engine prepared by AER.

Development of the EX257s has been taking place through April, ready for the pre-testing sessions at Le Mans on 6 May. Chamberlain Motorsport is responsible for the MG Lola team management at Le Mans, and there is a strong line-up of British drivers - Mark Blundell, Julian Bailey, Anthony Reid, Warren Hughes, Kevin McGarrity and

Jonny Kane.

Frank Dernie, Chief Engineer, Lola Cars International, said "This is the most exciting project that Lola has done since I’ve been there. While the Champ Cars are great fun and very competitive this is something completely new because I don’t think anyone has ever done a 675 car at this level".

Doug Bebb, Project Manager, Chamberlain Motorsport, commented "This is the first 675kg category car that has been specially designed to meet the new regulations of Le Mans. It is a purpose built car with a brand new engine and a brand new way of manufacturing certain parts – everything is state-of-the-art. Meeting the weight limit has been a key challenge".

Lola and AER are also consultants for the engineering of EX259, the MG ZS racing saloon being prepared for the TOCA Tour series. Two cars, using a race tuned 2 litre KV6 engine, will start track testing in July, and will make their competition debut at the Silverstone International meeting on September 8/9. The last three BTCC events of the 2001 season will provide ‘shakedown’ testing in preparation for the full 2002 season. Anthony Reid and Warren Hughes are the drivers, and the team management is by West Surrey Racing (WSR), 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, stated "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 give much more cost effective and better racing – possibly an equal playing field by 2002".

The cars are more sophisticated than super production, plus they look and sound good on the track".

"The MG ZS has great potential. It has double wishbone front suspension and should produce good horsepower from its V6 engine. The initial feeling towards the aerodynamics is positive which is just as well as we are not allowed much in the way of development anymore – it looks to be a very efficient car in road trim. MG has a lot of buzz around it being a totally new project. We are very much looking forward to being linked in with MG and Lola".

For MG’s return to rallying, there is the MG ZR EX258 project in the new Formula 3 Super 1600 category. Rally experts GSE Motorsport are responsible for the vehicle development and management with the car to be driven by Gwyndaf Evans (1996 British Rally Champion). AER will again prepare the 1.6 litre K Series engine. Testing begins in June, with the first outing being scheduled for the Cardiff-based Rally GB on November 22-26.

Steve Bond, Team Manager, GSE Motorsport, said "The MG ZR is a very well balanced car and provides an excellent platform from which to build. The regulations for the Super 1600cc category are very clearly defined by the FIA, making it possibly the most rigid category that there is at present. That means that the leeway in terms of car design is limited, making it a fairly level playing field that we are entering. Having said that with Baz Cannon designing the car and AER directing the engine modifications we have the ingredients with which to mount a serious attack.

The initial challenge was to establish the prototype specification but now that this is complete, the emphasis will change and focus upon a comprehensive test programme. We do not want to be developing the car as we go along – when we go into competition, the car will be fully prepared".

Summing up the MG X Power motorsport programme for 2001, Rob Oldaker said :
"Everyone involved has a very high level of motivation and determination. We have some formidable combinations of machinery and people, and we are very hungry for success."

Issued by MG Rover Group Communications