Play it Again Maestro ...

During the 1970s and 80s, one-make racing series were a popular component of motor manufacturer's marketing strategy, used to promote chosen models. Among these were Ford Escort Mexico, Renault 5, Honda CRX, Ford Fiesta, VW Polo and even Porsche 924 and BWW M1 supercar championships that became popular among competitors and spectators alike, but perhaps one of the most innovative and unique was Austin Rover's MG Maestro Challenge. Run in tandem with their successful MG Metro racing series, both championships were genially facilitated by former international co-driver Rick Smith's Xenogamy company in Surrey .

Introduced for 1986, the Mobil 1 supported MG Maestro Challenge was ingeniously conceived to discover the most versatile driver over a calendar of races, rallies, hill climbs, sprints and an Autotest, between March and October. Run under a robust set of strictly enforced regulations controlling modifications to the cars, the series flourished, with a strong esprit de corps between competitors, many of whom were successful in any one of the motor sports disciplines.

When the series was first announced, many seasoned clubmen doubted the competition potential of the outwardly respectable 8,698 MG Maestro. But doubts were soon dispelled when the car was fitted with Austin Rover's Group N competition handling and safety kit, which transformed the rather softly sprung showroom two-litre EFi saloon into a well-balanced and quick car. Engine power peaked at 130 bhp, taking the Maestro 0-60 in 85 seconds - a second quicker than the VW Golf - with a top speed of 115 mph, all reliably delivered by a five-door five-seat Hot Hatch.

Many Challenge Maestros' also served privateer owners as road cars and found on the school and supermarket run during the week! Several cars were sponsored by garages in ARG's UK dealer network and the manufacturer actively encouraged this involvement by investing in a great deal of media promotion and even lavish hospitality at some high profile rounds of the championship.

To enhance the series profile even more, Austin Rover fielded two celebrity cars, prepared by Roger Dowson Engineering at Silverstone, who'd been responsible for the MG Maestro's competition development. Well-known drivers, journalists or personalities were invited to drive the Celebrity cars at the various events, which provided a benchmark for the amateur regulars. This distinguished professional alumnus included, Damon Hill, Gary Brabham, Tony Pond, Jeff Allam, Malcolm Wilson and Barrie 'Whizzo' Williams. In fact, the 1987 champion was Unipart F3 and Broadspeed Touring Car star Tony Dron, also an accomplished writer. Dron did a full season in a car entered by the MG Owners Club and co-driven on rallies by its secretary, Mike Beales, including 1987/88 RAC rallies.

For five seasons 1986 - 90, the Mobil 1 MG Maestro Challenge successfully carved a niche for itself in British motorsport, developing a close-knit community of drivers and teams who competed against each other on a variety of events throughout a busy season and all accomplished in a great spirit of camaraderie. Former Austin Rover apprentice and author Pablo Raybold thoroughly enjoyed his time in the Challenge and needed little persuasion to compile a comprehensive biography covering five seasons of the Challenge, including every event, driver and car.

In addition to the imminent launch of the much-awaited book, this year marks 30-years since the last event of the MG Maestro Challenge and during that 30-year vacuum, many of the competitors, organisers and team members would have lost contact with each other and sadly, we've lost a few over the years but Pablo has recognized an opportunity to assemble together as many former competitors as possible to celebrate a truly remarkable and iconic series that allowed clubmen to compete in an affordable, multidiscipline calendar of events, some at international status.

The MG Maestro Challenge grand reunion dinner will take place on Saturday 24th October at the Honiley Court Hotel Nr. Kenilworth, Warwickshire CV8 1NP. The evening will comprise of a three-course dinner, live music entertainment and a motorsport speaker. Help us celebrate a unique motorsport championship!

For more information on Maestro Challenge biography or reunion dinner please contact Pablo Raybold: - Tel: 07768 377706 email: pabloraybould@blueyonder.co.uk

25th March, 2020