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Classic motorsport: the fast and the glorious

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February 20, 2017
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Trish Cecile-Pritchard grew up with cars in her life, but little did she know it would turn into a successful motorsport campaign.

It’s in the blood

“I’ve always loved cars,” admits Trish. “I’ve been surrounded by them since I was young. My dad worked for [engineering company] Coopers Payen and I was taken to motor shows from the age of eight or nine. Everything was in place to set up a love of cars.”

Many bring their love of cars to life with immediate effect – models, Scalextric, car maintenance – but Trish waited. It would be the year 2000 before things started to gather momentum.

“I went to the Goodwood Revival with the family, including my late father-in-law – and he had petrol in his blood too. He was one of the privateers that won the 1954 Lombard RAC Rally in a Jaguar XK120.”

As Trish and her family walked around the Revival, taking in the sights, sounds and smells, she made a decision: she would find a classic car of her own. Classics have charm, soul and character, and Trish wanted to experience that for herself. The only question was, what car would she choose?

The MGA

While Trish was keen to find a car of her own, she wasn’t going to rush. This was to be an adventure and, as such, the car had to be right. After much research she found an MGA – one of the prettiest cars to roll off British production lines.

It came as a shock when, in 2004, her husband bought that very car as a birthday surprise.

“It was a nice, clean UK car,” says Trish in her strong voice. “A 1959 1600 Mk1 in beautiful old English white. It was known as ‘Revs’ thanks to its number plate, which ended in RVS. I adored it, and I drove it for 12 years. I toured Europe in it, went to every event possible. The car was chosen to represent the MGA Register at MG Live in 2009. I had a lot of fun with that car, it was perfect.”

“I went to look at it in the dark and the rain, drove it around Coventry and bought it without hesitation”

Trish was over the moon with her car, but it had opened a can of worms. There’s a big wide world of classic cars and while Trish enjoyed many of them, she had always dreamed of owning an Austin Healey 3000.

“Even though I’d never driven one, I’d always hankered for the Healey 3000 – the two-seater,” she says. “After some to-ing and fro-ing over an already sold car, I managed to buy one. I went to look at it in the dark and the rain, drove it around Coventry, where it was based, and bought it without hesitation.”

Things get a bit racy

The Healey was a brute, but a charming one. Despite having never driven one, there was a bond between Trish and the machine from the first drive – a bond that would give Trish the confidence to push the classic car ownership experience even further.


“After an invite from a friend, I went to Prescott [Speed Hill Climb] in 2009 for the Ladies Day and that was it… this is what I wanted to do. Seeing the cars power up the hill, seeing the faces of people competing, people who were clearly enjoying every second of it, I wanted to be a part of that. I was told to join the club by Allan Cameron of the Bugatti Owners Club, which organises Prescott, and did so without hesitating.”

Trish competed in a few events with the car in stock condition (although she did swap the rubber to Avon ZZs for more grip). It was just Trish and the Healey, but that was soon to change.

“Over that time she turned into a proper race car”

“The car evolved,” explains Trish. “We put a roll cage in for safety. At one event the crank balancer blew on the start line, shooting through the bonnet! It looked like it had been machine-gunned from the inside. Thankfully, MG Motorsport’s Doug Smith repaired it and got it running.”

It was clearly the start of a beautiful relationship as Doug then supported the car for the next five years.

“Over that time she turned into a proper race car,” Trish adds. “We rebuilt the engine, fitted beautiful triple Webers, uprated the gearbox (complete with overdrive) along with a limited slip diff – it was a proper race car!”

And Trish was a proper racing driver…

In it to win it

In 2010, Trish was first in the Prescott Hill Climb, first at Gurston Down and seventh overall in the championship, and she was the winner of the Nancy Mitchell Rose Bowl for best performance by a lady driver.

In 2011, she was second at Loton Park, fourth at Curborough, fourth at Goodwood, fourth at Shelsley Walsh, fifth at Gurston Down, fifth overall in the championship.

In 2012, she was again first at Prescott, second at MIRA, fourth at Gurston Down, fifth at Wiscombe Park, fifth at Curborough and sixth overall in Championship. She won the Nancy Mitchell Rose Bowl for most points scored by a lady driver.

Yeah, you get the idea… Not bad for someone who didn’t buy their first classic until 2004.

2014 brought a truly proud moment for Trish: “I won the Healey Sport Championship, and I was the first woman ever to win it, which was quite an achievement. I couldn’t quite believe it at the time! I’m still incredibly proud of that.”

The secret to a good car

Given all that success, we had to ask what Trish considers to be good advice for anyone wanting to race.

“To build a car, you want power, you need power, but it has to be power you can harness.

“You have to remember that there’s no power steering on a lot of old cars, so it’s hard work.

“Another tip is to make it a light car; that’s why my Healey now has an aluminium cylinder head, for example. Lightness is key for these events. It’s literally an uphill struggle if your car is too heavy.”

“It’s an open world, we just need the women to step forward and get behind the wheel”

Motorsport – a woman’s world

“The encouragement from everyone is brilliant, and that’s from all walks of motorsport, not just hillclimb. There’s a lot of support for women to get out there and have a go. I succeeded thanks to the people I compete with.

“It’s an open world, we just need the women to step forward and get behind the wheel – like my friends did.

“Crucially though, because it’s a club sport, the camaraderie is huge, so even as a new face you never feel alone. That’s a special thing,” says Trish with signature enthusiasm.

The Aston N430

But Trish doesn’t love the classics to the exclusion of everything else. She also has a modern car, too. But what did she go for? A sensible Vauxhall Insignia? Maybe a Volkswagen Passat? Or, how about a super-rare Aston Martin N430 Roadster – one of only five registered in the country?

“I had to sell the MGA to buy it,” says Trish with a hint of sadness, before perking up instantly as she describes the Aston. “My daughter went into the Stratstone Aston dealership; she called me and insisted I come and see the DB11 so I went down with my son.

“We were looking at the DB11 until the young salesman pointed out the N430. I looked at him blankly as I had no idea what it was – I thought it was a V8 Vantage. He explained what it was and I just had to try it out. We dropped the roof and took it out into a miserable afternoon and I fell in love with it.”

Trish loves the Aston, but, fundamentally, it’s an investment given its rarity. For Trish, her heart lies with the older cars, especially the Healey she still races today. “Old cars are a handful, but they’re physical, and mechanical. You feel everything, you’re a part of the machine. New cars are lovely, but too much of them is electronic. They’re just not as fun or as charming as the classics!”

Trish’s tips for classic motorsport

Get involved: “Nobody can make you do it, but once you’re in, you’ll love it.”

Enjoy the ride: “It can be a very competitive sport. Winning is good, but really, people are there to enjoy it.”

Watch your world open up: “Once you start, the opportunities grow, you’ll have so many exciting opportunities.”

Photography: Stuart Lloyd

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