News : MG Motor UK – brand-building set to gain momentum at Brands Hatch

Carole Nash Classic Insurance Specialists

Words: Clive Goldthorp Photographs: Simon Davies/Pegasus Photographics

L to R: Andy Neate, Richard Jackson, Customer Manager - Fuel, Tesco PLC, Peter Cattell, Director - Fuel, Tesco PLC, Jason Plato
L to R: Andy Neate, Richard Jackson, Customer Manager - Fuel, Tesco PLC, Peter Cattell, Director - Fuel, Tesco PLC, Jason Plato

MG Motor UK Limited’s works British Touring Car Championship team, MG KX Momentum Racing, was officially launched at MG Birmingham yesterday. Guy Jones, the company’s Sales and Marketing Director, geniunely believes that he has assembled a ‘Dream Team’ and those present were left in no doubt that the three year BTCC Programme will be a key element in MG Motor UK’s Marketing Strategy throughout that period.

MG KX Momentum Racing’s two New Generation Touring Car (NGTC) – specification MG6 GTs will, as already reported on AROnline, be prepared and run by the most successful team in British Touring Car Championship history, Triple Eight Race Engineering Limited, and driven by two-time BTCC Champion, Jason Plato, and third year BTCC driver, Andy Neate. Tesco PLC has entered into a three year contract as the new team’s commercial partner and will be using the BTCC Programme to promote two of the company’s brands: Momentum  99 petrol and the KX Energy Drink.

Guy Jones, Triple Eight’s Team Principal, Ian Harrison, Tesco PLC’s Director of Fuels, Peter Cattell, Jason Plato and Andy Neate were all clearly excited and motivated by the potential of the MG KX Momentum Racing package but, with the BTCC Media Day set for Silverstone on the 19th March, 2012 and the first BTCC Meeting of the season scheduled for the 31st March to 1st April, 2012, the team faces a race against the clock to complete the design, engineering and build of two race-ready MG6 GTs in time. However, with the first MG6 GT bodyshell due to arrive at Triple Eight’s base in Greatworth, Oxfordshire by this weekend, Ian Harrison was confident that his team would meet that target – indeed, they aim to have  the car out for a Test Session two weeks before the meeting at Brands Hatch.

The priority for the rest of the 2012 season will be to focus on developing a competitive and reliable package which will be capable of challenging for the Championship in 2013 and 2014. Jason Plato and Andy Neate both, nevertheless, reckoned that, given Triple Eight’s track record of seven Drivers’ and Teams’ titles since winning both with Plato back in 2001, podiums and wins could be on the cards this year.

Guy Jones said that MG Motor UK would be using the BTCC Programme to promote the core MG brand and models but indicated that additional new products would follow – the company clearly aims to maximise the commercial benefits to be derived from participation in the British Touring Car Championship. Mr. Jones also confirmed that a full range of MG KX Momentum Racing-branded merchandise will be on sale via the Internet and trackside at Brands Hatch and thereafter but added that both his own and Peter Cattell of Tesco’s primary focus was now on ‘how to make the Marketing Programme work for all three brands’ – both MG Motor UK and Tesco will be working  jointly to engage with as many potential customers as possible. SAIC Motor will also use MG’s BTCC Programme to promote the brand in China and in Europe when MG re-launches there in 2013.

The British Touring Car Championship uses a control fuel but, when asked why Tesco had chosen to use MG Motor UK’s BTCC Programme to promote the Momentum 99 product, Peter Cattell said that linking the brand to a competitive car would dispel the myth that supermarket fuels were primarily about price – he wanted the public to think in terms of quality as well – and also differentiate Tesco petrol from other supermarket brands such as Asda, Morrisons and Sainsbury’s. Tesco PLC has 450 filling stations across the UK and owns 35 per cent of Greenergy International Limited which currently supplies 20-25 per cent of the road fuel market here –  AROnline anticipates that Tesco’s filling stations will play a key role in the Joint Marketing Strategy being developed by MG Motor UK and Tesco… Interestingly, Peter Cattell’s late parents both worked at Longbridge – his father was a Planning Engineer and his mother was in the Wages Department – and so playing a part in the revival of the MG marque and of MG Birmingham clearly works for him on both a personal as well as a commercial level.

AROnline had the chance to conduct several Q&A sessions with some of the key players in MG KX Momentum Racing:

Guy Jones, Sales and Marketing Director, MG Motor UK Limited

You told AROnline back in May, 2010 that MG Motor UK was evaluating a number of proposals involving the BTCC – can you give our readers an insight into the amount of effort and time which you and your colleagues have spent in making MG KX Momentum Racing a reality?

We have been working on a BTCC Programme for two years but the package which we have just announced has really come together in the last few months. Our key objective is to be competitive. Triple Eight has a rock-solid reputation for developing Touring Cars and, with an exciting driver line-up, we should certainly be competitive from the outset. The relationship with our commercial partners, Tesco’s Momentum 99 and KX Energy Drink brands, will be a dynamic and mutually beneficial one – in fact, once everyone involved realised how much potential the BTCC Programme could deliver for them, the relevant deals all came together pretty quickly.

MG KX Momentum Racing  has committed to a three-year programme in the BTCC. Jason Plato and Andy Neate have both said that they aim to be challenging for podiums from the outset – what objectives has MG Motor UK set for the team in 2012, 2013 and 2014?

Well, first and foremost, we want to sell cars. The BTCC Programme will be a central element in MG Motor UK’s Marketing Strategy and enable us to raise awareness within our target demographic – we want to put the MG6 on everybody’s shopping list. We are aiming to be competive with the other new NGTC-specification cars in the BTCC this year and to be Championship contenders in 2013 and 2014.

Bob Tasca Snr., of Tasca Ford, Providence, Rhode  Island reputedly coined the adage ‘win on Sunday, sell on Monday’ back in the 1960s – can you give some hints as to how you intend to incorporate the BTCC Programme into MG Motor UK’s Marketing Strategy and expand the brand’s customer base beyond the existing MGCC and MGOC communities?

ITV4’s extensive coverage of the British Touring Car Championship – 28 hours of action are screened live – means that MG Motor UK has access to a high-profile advertising channel while The Sun newspaper’s involvement in the BTCC should bring MG to the attention of 3m readers. The latest attendance figures for the BTCC show that the number of people attending the Race Meetings totalled 366,000 – that’s an average of 36,000 per event. An extensive range of MG KX Momentum Racing-branded merchandise will be on sale via the dedicated Motorsport section of MG Motor UK’s website and at all the BTCC Meetings. We are currently finalising the details of the other trackside activities which we have planned with our commercial partners.

A final point in clarification: the information about the NGTC MG6 GT’s engine in the Motorsport section of MG Motor UK’s website states that the car will use a 2.0-litre fly-by-wire, turbocharged engine derived from a production unit supplied by MG and producing 300bhp or more. Are those engines MG Motor UK-leased/owned, TOCA-branded units as developed by Swindon Racing Engines Limited or racing derivatives of SAIC Motor/MG’s forthcoming new 2.0-litre Turbo NLE engine?

MG KX Momentum Racing’s MG6 GTs will be using the TOCA engine – that’s the only way we could get to two cars on the grid in 2012 – and, at this stage, there are no plans to change that decision. However, the opportunity to use a racing version of MG’s own, SMTC UK-developed production engine does exist and needs to be evaluated.

Ian Harrison, Team Principal, MG KX Momentum Racing

Triple Eight has got seven weeks from today until the BTCC Media Day at Silverstone on the 19th March, 2012 and just under nine weeks to the first BTCC Meeting of the season at Brands Hatch on the 31st March to 1st April, 2012 – what, apart from the obvious time factor, do you see as the biggest challenge to be met in getting two fully race-prepared MG6 GTs on the grid at Brands Hatch?

The amount of design, engineering and manufacturing work involved – we’ve got three months to do what we would normally spend six months doing. Swindon Racing Engines’ lead time for a TOCA engine is, for example, normally twelve weeks. I could do without the Media Day but we are obliged to have a car at Silverstone on the day and so we will be there. We might have to tell you all not to lean on the car too hard, though!

What, if any, design, engineering and other technical assistance are the guys at SMTC UK able to give Triple Eight Race Engineering?

SMTC UK  has already been massively helpful by providing CAD support with regards to the design of the bodyshell. Actually, MG’s Global Design Centre also offered us styling support but, unfortunately, we are already out of time for that this season – aesthetics are not a priority in 2012…

What are the key design and/or engineering features of the production MG6 GT which make you believe that the NGTC version has the potential to be developed into a race and, hopefully, Championship-winning package?

There are three factors: the overall dimensions of the bodyshell, the construction of the bodyshell lends itself to being adapted as a BTCC car and the standard road car’s aerodynamic qualities.

Jason Plato, two-time British Touring Car Champion and Driver for MG KX Momentum Racing

You and Andy Neate have both said that you are aiming to challenge for podiums with the MG6 GT this season – what are the other key elements in the MG KX Momentum Racing package which give you the grounds for that level of confidence?

I have worked with Ian Harrison and Triple Eight Race Engineering before – they are the most successful team in the British Touring Car Championship. We are behind schedule but, if any team can pull everything together, then Triple Eight can. I am good at developing cars and have an inner confidence that MG KX Momentum Racing will succeed – for me, the timeframe is the only unknown.

You have already shown that you are keen to engage with the MG community by joining the MG Car Club, MG-Rover.org Forums and the new MG KX Momentum Racing BTCC Fan Page on Facebook – how important to you is playing what will be a high-profile role in the revival of such a famous British brand as MG?

I work hard at engaging with my fanbase and have the biggest following of any of the current BTCC drivers. MG’s history gives the marque a headstart against the other manufacturers in the BTCC and, because of that, MG KX Momentum Racing needs to be the best team both off and on the track –  that’s absolutely key to programmes such as this one. I am really going to enjoy being a brand ambassador for MG. These are really exciting times…

World Touring Car Championship driver, Rob Huff, still races his 1973 MGB Roadster occasionally – have you ever raced an MG before? If not, given that 2012 marks the 50th Anniversary of the MGB, would you be up for racing one as part of the MGB50 Celebrations? Unfortunately, the MGLive! Meeting at Silverstone on the 23rd to 24th June, 2012 clashes with the BTCC Meeting at Croft…

No, I haven’t raced an MG before. I’d definitely love the opportunity to race a Classic MG – subject to being able to find a slot in my schedule!

Andy Neate, Driver, MG KX Momentum Racing

You and Jason Plato have both said that you are aiming to challenge for podiums with the MG6 GT this season – what are the other key elements in the MG KX Momentum Racing package which give you the grounds for that level of confidence?

That’s primarily down to the fact that Triple Eight Race Engineering are on board – they are the most successful team in the British Touring Car Championship and their engineering expertise is second to none. The NGTC Technical Regulations are aimed at bringing the cars closer together and, given that more level playing field, the MG6 GT’s platform seems to be a very good starting point.

You started racing in Formula First back in 1997 but have been in tin-tops since 2000 and have spent the last two years in the BTCC with a West Surrey Racing-run BMW 320si and then Team AON’s Ford Focus – what have you learned during the last two seasons in the BTCC and what facets of your driving do you most need to improve in order to step up to the podium on a regular basis?

I need to work most on my consistency. My grounding was in One-Make Championships and to win those you have to be consistent. However, you cannot just translate consistency at that level into the BTCC – I originally underestimated the need to change my driving style but am now up to speed in a Touring Car and have also learned to manage each race more closely. The BTCC’s current race format means that a Top Ten performance in Qualifying is essential – anywhere below that and you are handicapped as the races can end up as something of a lottery. I’m therefore aiming to become a regular Top Ten qualifer.

World Touring Car Championship driver, Rob Huff, still races his 1973 MGB Roadster occasionally – have you ever raced an MG before? If not, given that 2012 marks the 50th Anniversary of the MGB, would you be up for racing one as part of the MGB50 Celebrations? Unfortunately, the MGLive! Meeting at Silverstone on the 23rd to 24th June, 2012 clashes with the BTCC Meeting at Croft…

No, but I have owned an MGB GT and my wife had an MGF. I would love to race a Classic MGB should the opportunity arise. Jason and I both use helicopters for getting around the country – I wonder whether MGLive! might be doable… Seriously, though, if any date clashes can be avoided, then racing an older MG would be great.

Guy Jones and his colleagues at MG Motor UK certainly appear to have ticked most of the right boxes when creating MG KX Momentum Racing – no one associated with the team underestimates the challenges ahead and all are clearly excited and motivated by the potential for success. Hopefully, as Guy Jones himself hinted, the current three year BTCC Programme will be a successful precursor to a deeper and longer-term commitment to the BTCC Package…

Gallery

 

Keith Adams

Keith Adams

Editor and creator AROnline at AROnline
Created www.austin-rover.co.uk in 2001 and built it up to become the world's foremost reference source for all things BMC, Leyland and Rover Group, before renaming it AROnline in 2007.

Is the Editor of the Parkers website and price guide, formerly editor of Classic Car Weekly, and launch editor/creator of Modern Classics magazine. Has contributed to various motoring titles including Octane, Practical Classics, Evo, Honest John, CAR magazine, Autocar, Pistonheads, Diesel Car, Practical Performance Car, Performance French Car, Car Mechanics, Jaguar World Monthly, MG Enthusiast, Modern MINI, Practical Classics, Fifth Gear Website, Radio 4, and the the Motoring Independent...

Likes 'conditionally challenged' motors and taking them on unfeasible adventures all across Europe.
Keith Adams

19 Comments

  1. It’s great to see a new entrant in the BTCC. With a Chinese manufacturer now in the competition, it’s got to create more worldwide interest in the event. How ironic it is that the nearest we have to a British manufacturer to go up against them will probably be the boys from Honda at Swindon with the Civic.

    Who else is in it now? BMW, with the Austrian MINI and Ford with the truly multinational Fiesta. Who else will be there?

  2. so it’s all gaining drive but that timeframe looks way too tight.. the guys at triple 8 are gonna have to pull out a bit of overtime to get it all up and running. It’ll be difficult but certainly not impossible..

    It’s an interesting thought that with this Chinese-British combination in the BTCC, it’ll could certainly raise the international profile of the sport. Even if 10% of the population has a TV, imagine the many millions of viewers it could attract.

  3. AROnline readers can now read a more comprehensive interview with MG KX Momentum Racing’s Team Principal, Ian Harrison, on the BTCC’s own website. You can access the article, headlined Harrison: pressure on Triple Eight, via that link.

  4. Great news, now MG involvement with BTCC, hope to get some worldwide viewers interest, nice to see Jason Plato getting involved too. Regards Mark

  5. I wonder if the cardboard cut out was actually made in the uk, or simply imported from China with the final cutting out done in the UK? 😉

  6. hi keith,

    i understand, the guys from topgear are lost the way completely… specially clarkson… aarghh

    better watch fith gear, nicer & more normal people to watch and listen too…

  7. I wonder if it’s set to replace the Cee’d in their ooh-so-predictable “Star in a Reasonably Priced Car” feature…

  8. oh well, get ready to hear the right royal ripping of ‘chinese takeaway, shit car of no merit’ comments… He is gonna absolutely hate it, spout out some inaccurate and misinformed comments… Then send James May out to drive it. Predictable. Not. Would like to see how well it does on the test track though.

  9. Mind you, all publicity is good publicity.

    People on this site have said (at some length) that the only reason that SAIC are failing to sell this car is that no one has heard of it. This will be the most widespread publicity that the car has ever had. Even if they pan it, this should be good news for the importers in Longbridge.

  10. “I wonder if the cardboard cut out was actually made in the uk, or simply imported from China with the final cutting out done in the UK?”

    I think we actually did the colouring in with a box of Crayolas LOL

  11. Dont know if its all this about the BTTC, the finance deal or the 54321 offer, but according to SMMT, 107 Mg’s were registered in January 2012. Thats 100 more than in November 2011 and given that the 100 to Avis were included in the December registrations, perhaps the brand building has already started..

  12. Should be interesting to see TG’s review of the MG6 tonight – I’ve owned one since September (having traded up another Brit marque – my Freelander 2) – yes the quality of the interior trim is not up to Land Rover, Jag, Alfa, BMW, Merc standards but the exterior design of my Magnette holds up well in side profile to the German competitors. What I love about the car though is that it is unique – everyone asks me about it and the truth is that it drives great. I switched from diesel to petrol because of a) performance and b) cost. The handling and push is tremendous – shame about the 120 mph limiter though. Bottom line is you get a shedload of kit for very little £££s and you keep a few hundred guys in a job at MG (B’ham) – I am really excited about the BTCC launch and look forward to seeing how the team progress.

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