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Austin Rover Rally Sprint '83: Maestro 1600 race -Donington Park

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  • Austin Rover Rally Sprint '83: Maestro 1600 race -Donington Park

    I'm researching the following event and if anyone has any more info on the it, I would be massively grateful because I believe that I've got 3 of the 8 cars from the event. We especially need any photos of the cars (either press or from spectators), or any recollections from people as to which driver was in which colour/livery car (they each had a different sponsor, although not every car is a different colour).

    ++++++++++++++Austin Rover Rally Sprint
    The ’83 Rally Sprint’s competitors included Nigel Mansell, Jimmy McRae, Pentti Airikkala, Danny Sullivan, Derek Warwick, Stig Blomqvist, Tony Pond, John Watson

    I believe that it was only the 1983 event that used Maestros and I can only find the following on the '83 event, which occurred on the 5th November:

    BBC Rally Sprint 1983 - Race
    [a thrilling MG Maestro 1600 race at Donington for celeb competition drivers inc. Mansell, Blomqvist, John Watson, Tony Pond, Derek Warwick etc. Part of the “Austin Rover Rally Sprint”])

    This thread gives info on the '84 event (but this used Montegos):

    including Shots from the ’84 event’s program (Montegos not Maestros). However, there is a pic of a roadgoing Maestro 2.0 and also of the ’83 Maestro 1600s racing. Most of the competitor line up is the same as ’83 but some names are different.
    Last edited by John C; 25th October 2011, 20:43.

  • #2
    From watching the Youtube video above very carefully, I have deduced the following; anyone agree/disagree (or spot anything I've missed?)

    Nigel Mansell 1 Sandvik Light Blue
    Danny Sullivan 7? Silver?
    Derek Warwick 5 Daily Express Light Blue
    John Watson 3 British Car Auctions Black

    Stig Blomqvist 6 Midland Industrial Cleaning? M.I.C. Light Green
    Pentti Airikkala ? ? ?
    Jimmy McRae 2? ? ?
    Tony Pond 8 Autoquote White
    Last edited by John C; 23rd October 2011, 09:51.


    • #3
      What a brilliant vid!


      • #4
        Having just re-read all the scanned-in programs in this thread in great detail:

        the penny suddenly dropped that the scanned RACE CARD posted by EVO AL on 26th September 2009, 22:25 must be from the 1983 Rally Sprint (using MG Maestro 1600s for the race) -not the 1984 event as I had previously assumed -a HUGE breakthrough!

        As such, we can fill in some of the gaps -here's a revised version


        Nigel Mansell No. 1, Sponsor: Sandvik, Car Colour: Light Blue (white decals)
        Danny Sullivan 7 Kennings Silver (no door decals)
        Derek Warwick 5 Daily Express Light Blue (white decals)
        John Watson 3 British Car Auctions Black (white decals)


        Stig Blomqvist 6 Midland Industrial Cleaning (M.I.C). Silver (originally thought it was 'light green') (blue decals)
        Pentti Airikkala 4 Scalextric Silver (black/yellow decals)
        Jimmy McRae 2 Birmingham Post & Mail Light Blue (yellow decals)
        Tony Pond 8 AA Autoquote White (white/yellow decals)

        I have 2 white cars but there is only 1 white car in the race. However, Danny Sullivan (according to a magazine report on the race) had problems with his car during the practice and took the spare car out for the race itself. Therefore, I reckon that Sullivan was in the 2nd white car for the practice but this car was then in the pits U/S during the race itself (when Sullivan was in a Silver car).
        Last edited by John C; 18th December 2011, 19:27.


        • #5
          I tracked down Ian Elliott with some help from TEZZA SG1 of this forum, and he was a mine of invaluable information. Here's his unique and fascinating insight into the AR Rally Sprint, captured for posterity:

          My involvement with the 1983 RallySprint was an extremely fraught one – I had to take over the admin of the Austin Rover input precisely one week before the event, when a colleague left the company very suddenly! So I had none of the ‘build-up’ background, just a very hairy week trying to tie up the loose ends, a rather ‘heart-in-mouth’ day during the event itself, then many weeks of writing retrospective purchase orders as I cleared up the Augean Stables after my departed colleague – he had committed some 300K on various Motorsport activities, including RallySprint, without any order cover! So forgive me if I can’t remember things like the colours of the Maestros and their detailed spec. As I understand it, they were given the absolute minimum of preparation beyond the obvious roll cage, competition brake pads etc. I don’t think they were even fully run in! (When we did the 1984 RallySprint using MG Montegos, there was a similar situation – along with various volunteers, I ended up driving Montegos round and round Donington the day before the event to at least get a few miles on them before the race!)
          Roger Dowson may well have done the basic fixing-up of the 1600 Maestros – the invoicing for the preparation came from ARG Motorsport at Cowley, though, so how much they did themselves, I don’t know. John Davenport did say that he had spare mechanics because the 6R4 programme wasn’t in full spate at that time. Roger Dowson certainly did the ‘standard kits’ for the 2.0 EFi Maestros that took part in the Maestro Challenge – roll cage, Rigard competition seats trimmed in correct MG fabrics, full harness belts, uprated suspension and brakes, but absolutely NO engine modification.

          Certainly, the first owner of the RallySprint Maestros after we had finished with them (including extensive repairs, especially to Tony Pond’s car!) was the Silverstone Track School. We replaced them a while later with a set of MG Montegos from the 1984 event. Incidentally, I disposed of several ‘ordinary’ Austin Maestros from the launch photography fleet to Bill Gwynne’s Rally School at Brackley, near Silverstone, so quite a lot of folk learned their competition driving skills in Maestros at that time. It was handy to dispose of such cars to users who wouldn’t be putting them on the road, because early production cars tend to have a lot of non-standard components, and they invariably get abused in various ways – advertising agencies are just as heartless as racing drivers – so aren’t really suitable for selling to regular punters.

          Whether anyone at Silverstone would know where the cars went after they’d finished with them I rather doubt – there have been several changes of management since the 1980s.

          The Rallysprint cars were as-standard inside, except where the full roll cage was attached, and they went to Silverstone without any further work other than external body repairs. The whole point was that they were suitable for track use (and not for road use, with open exhausts) as they stood.

          I can’t comment on colours, the only reference is the RallySprint video, which isn’t too sharp.

          Last edited by John C; 20th December 2011, 22:22.


          • #6
            Your more than welcome


            • #7
              Nice to see this Topic on the forum, hope the various contributors can keep it well maintained.

              Where does Evan McKenzie fit into all this - wasn't he something to do with the marketing of the Maestro, certainly had a big hand in Mini and Metro, inventing various special-editions of the Mini such as The Sprite. Was he any relation to the McKenzie who voiced the soon-dropped classy voice that spoke to you the moment you opened the door of your MG Maestro? He is now living in France, and competed until recently in Historic Rally Car Register events.

              I suppose Keith Adams will know the answer, being the font of much knowledge at


              • #8
                Are you compiling a book / website with all this info John?

                Its good that someone's looking into this while its still relatively clear in peoples minds...!

                CURRENT FLEET:
                1986 (C) Montego 1.6 HL Estate - Owned since Feb 2011
                1990 (H) Maestro 1.3 LX -Owned since December 2001
                1978 (T) Chrysler Avenger 1.6GL - Owned since April 2011
                2006 (06) Ford Focus Titanium 1.8 TDCi - Owned since Feb 2007
                1972 (L) - Hillman Avenger 1500 Super - Owned Since July 2012


                • #9
                  Might make more of a website than a book, particularly if enlarged to cover other years and other Leyland models - the Rallysprint events as a series. Also cheaper to put together, and, we wont be waiting years to see the final result!


                  • #10
                    It may be worth contacting forum member Martyz, who campaigned in all of the Maestro challenges. He may know quite a lot about the Rally Sprints too.


                    • #11
                      My efforts to track down John Davenport (former boss of Austin Rover Motorsport) finally paid off when a couple of lucky contacts came up to my Maestro display stand at Race Retro 2012 and put me in touch with him; the biggest name yet in my research!

                      So, here's a public thank you to JD for very kindly providing the following invaluable information which has moved things forward another great leap:

                      Austin Rover Motorsport prepared the MG Maestros that were raced during the Donington Rallysprint in 1983. The preparation was pretty minimal comprising fitting a proprietary roll-cage, seats, seat belts, fire extinguisher as well as a side-exhaust system. We also removed part of the air box system because the four-choke Weber system was always in trouble with fuel vaporisation thanks to heat transference. In fact, that whole induction system was a piece of foul and hurried engineering to try and get the production car to perform to the parameters set by senior management.

                      When the cars were tested at the circuit on the Thursday, a number of the cars had terminal engine failures caused by oil surge due to the higher grip levels from the Michelin race tyres that were being used. There were no baffles in the standard sumps. This did cause a bit of a drama as the only engines that were available were from the production line at Cowley. I can remember that we had to negotiate with the production manager to secure replacement engines for the Rallysprint cars. He was very worked up and the man I sent down to get them thought that he was going to have a heart attack since he was so angry that “his” production schedule had just gone out the door.

                      We also had to bring up a number of TWR mechanics to assist the Motorsport team with the engine changes and final preparation. And this also involved the mechanics driving around Donington circuit running the engines in on Friday afternoon and then setting the rev limiters (installed at the eleventh hour to try and save the engines) and tyre selection on Saturday morning.

                      After the Rallysprint, there was a quite a bit of body damage and this was repaired before the Maestros were passed on to Silverstone as part of the ARG contract with them. What happened to them then, I don't know. Presumably someone did something to the sumps to stop the engines going bang - or perhaps they just put them on tyres with less grip.

                      They were just standard machines and were not the subject of a bare bodyshell upward build as would have been the case had they been intended for competition. It is something of a miracle - unless someone re-shelled them along the way - that any of them are still going today.
                      Last edited by John C; 3rd April 2012, 10:46.


                      • #12
                        that's really interesting stuff.
                        It's good to hear these stories re-told by the people who were directly involved.
                        John Orrell

                        MG Maestro Turbos 396 and 502
                        MG ZT190+ (53 plate)


                        • #13
                          'Presumably someone did something to the sumps to stop the engines going bang - or perhaps they just put them on tyres with less grip'

                          Pirelli P3's were always used as I recall, and no long sweeping corners on the Silverstone Club Circuit unlike some at Donington.

                          The cars hardly ever had Technical issues. Just one as I was aware of. I managed to somehow blow a head gasket on a Maestro during an SRS race meeting in March 1986, the car was overheating from lap 3 (of 8) with the whole electronic dash display flashing at me for the rest of the race but it still went well enough to win an epic 4 car scrap. I turned the engine off straight after crossing the line and coasted down to Copse where the SRS mechanics collected it and drove it back to the pits. I told SRS Manager Gerry Corbett that it started overheating on the last lap..... Well, no data logging from ECU's back in those days :P
                          Last edited by steve sde; 13th May 2012, 10:20.


                          • #14
                            'I have 2 white cars but there is only 1 white car in the race'.

                            It's light beige John, Tony Pond's car..... There were 2 beige cars used at SRS (see the pics on the SRS thread from the race in late Nov 84) and one black one (the Watson car), the rest were metallic green or metallic blue. Great to see them in the '83 RallySprint on youtube, before they went to SRS where they were treated far better.. The only body damage any of them ever incurred there was when SRS Assistant Manager Derek Smith was buggering about in one and accidently spun it into the Club Corner gravel trap on the GP Circuit and it dug in and tipped over on it's side.....


                            • #15
                              From Ken Clarke:
                              I was there. I was working at TWR running Steve Soper's Hepolite Rover. I had transported the SD1s to a Rallysprint in the south of France the week prior to Donington then took the cars straight to Donington.

                              On the Thursday prior to the event TWR was asked to send up some mechanics to Donington because in testing all the engines on the Maestros had all broken their cam chains. 3 of us went up to Donington & changed the engines. On the Friday & Saturday morning I was asked to run the cars in around the circuit. I spent all day Friday running in the Engines & Saturday morning scrubbing tyres before the race. And I got paid for it!!!!