New Kid on the Grid

By Leanne Fahy

The MG Car Club is well known for its prestige and long-standing members. Throughout its 87-year history, the Club has amassed an impressive collection of dedicated members, but there is an ongoing search to reach new recruits.

The motor racing side of the Club is a good way to reach out to the younger generation, as seen with the line-up of drivers we currently have. With that in mind, say hello to Tylor Ballard. At just 17 years old, Tylor became one of the youngest people in the Club's history to start an MG Trophy Championship race in 2017. Armed with a freshly printed road driving licence, which he acquired shortly before the Brands Hatch race meeting (on April 29-30), Tylor lined up for his first car race.

Albeit a daunting experience, Tylor's first race meeting was thoroughly enjoyable. The tell-tale beam on his face as he spoke to the commentator post-race said a lot more than young Tylor realised.

The MG Trophy Championship was the championship of choice for Tylor, and the reasons behind it were pretty self-explanatory. Following on from a career in karting, cut short due to budget constraints, Tylor made the switch to cars as soon as he was 17. Motorsport has always been an integral part of the Ballard family. With his father running a garage specialising in MG Rover, making the switch to MGs when the time came to race cars was a given. “We decided a long time ago I would race in the MG Trophy Championship. My dad decided when I was 17 I would be in a ZR, racing in this championship. With dad running the garage, it means parts and shells are easily accessible,” said Tylor, who agreed it was certainly the obvious choice.

The Ballard name has been synonymous with the MG Trophy Championship for other reasons as well, with College Motors, the family's MG Rover specialist company, sponsoring the championship for a number of rounds.

Tylor's first race meeting was undoubtedly eventful. A dash to get the car finished the week prior to the event gave him a flavour of the motor racing life, and after some late nights in the workshop, teamed with copious amounts of coffee, he arrived at Brands Hatch with a complete MG ZR 160 race car.

An engine issue after testing on Friday signalled the weekend would be far from plain sailing. A quick phone call to Ballard headquarters from Brands Hatch meant a new engine arrived from Oxford in record time, and by 9.00pm Friday evening the team were hard at work once again. Following a few hours of hard work, and a lot more coffee, his MG ZR was finally started at midnight, ready for his first race the following day.

With just a few laps under his belt before his engine woes, Tylor headed into qualifying on Saturday, unsure of what to expect. After setting a respectable lap time, which saw him sneak under the one minute mark, another issue appeared. As part of the engine wiring loom rubbed against the catalytic converter, the car would cut out after 15 minutes, making him apprehensive about the 20-minute race in front of him.

With just enough time to rectify the issue, Tylor took to his grid slot, and lined up for his very first car race. A good start saw him negotiate Paddock Hill Bend perfectly. As others fell by the wayside, he managed to glue himself to the tarmac, avoiding any incidents

Despite a brief “what have I done” moment as nerves got the better of him, Tylor steered his way through the race, until the same issue from qualifying ended his race after 15 minutes. “It was a bit gutting, but we had to get it sorted out for race two,” said Tylor.

An incident at the start of race two saw a number of cars become entangled with one another, but Tylor made his way through the melee to come out the other side and race his way to his first car race result, claiming seventh in class. As nerve-wracking and chaotic as it was, Tylor thoroughly enjoyed his first race meeting, describing it as “fantastic, brilliant and fast”.

Tylor is swiftly becoming a great ambassador for the championship, and the MG Car Club. More and more new recruits are signing up to our various championships, with drivers of all ages filling the grids. The MG Trophy Championship has been an instrumental part in a number of drivers' careers. British Touring Car Championship (BTCC) star, Jack Goff, was a frontrunner in his MG ZR back in 2009. Additionally, fellow BTCC ace, Tom Ingram, dipped his toes in the MG Trophy pool at the infamous MGLive! event in 2013, winning both races outright, as part of the Invitation Class.

As a championship, it is an affordable way into motorsport, making it that bit more attractive to younger recruits. Looking back over the build process of his MG ZR 160, Tylor said: “By the time our car was finished it probably owed us nearer £4,000” which is towards the lower end of the spectrum when compared to some junior series.

The different classes within the MG Trophy Championship ensure there is a fair level of competition throughout the field. Tylor has settled well in Class C, a class designed for the MG ZR 160 race-prepared road cars. “It's a good way for young drivers to get the experience they require, learn oversteer and understeer and what the car is trying to do.

“You're racing at prominent circuits around the UK as well, such as Brands Hatch and Silverstone,” said Tylor. Add to that Oulton Park, Donington Park, Cadwell Park, Snetterton, Mallory Park and Knockhill and you have an eclectic mix of some of the UK's best circuits.
More and more young people are seeking the MG Car Club motorsport realm as a way to get behind the wheel. With a whole host of competitive championships from the MG Trophy Championship to the MG Metro Cup, the MG Midget and Sprite Challenge and beyond, there really is something for everyone, regardless of age. And as Tylor mentioned: “It's a good way for young drivers to learn.”

When it comes to affordable, competitive motor racing, look no further than the MG Car Club. You won't be disappointed. When it comes to affordable, competitive motor racing, look no further than the MG Car Club. You won't be disappointed.

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