Mike Bell has been racing his Gilbern 1800 GT since 2007. In a previous life, it was a concours-spec road car – until it was hit by an errant Land Rover during an MoT test. It then changed hands and was already being prepared for competition spec when Mike bought it.
Of all the Gilbern models, the 1800 GT is the only model eligible for FIA historic papers, and this is the first example to gain them. ‘It took months,’ says Mike. ‘They kept asking all sorts of questions.’ Still, it will now be easier for the next one.
It’s very first outing was a GRRC sprint here at the circuit. The car has been used in a lot of different club racing championships since, but Mike also likes to take on what he calls ‘big adventures.’ In 2010, he and a friend did the Tour Britannia event and came out first overall in the index of performance handicap. ‘After that, I gave the car a rest for a few years and raced another of my cars,’ says Mike.
But at the beginning of this year, he felt the need for another big adventure and set about preparing the Gilbern for the Spa six-hour race. Over the summer, two engines and gearboxes (all MGB components) have been prepared, so that the best of each could be fitted for Spa. It was amid those preparations that he received an invitation to race in the Fordwater Trophy – it was an opportunity he couldn’t turn down, even though the event fell just a week before the Spa sojourn. ‘Suddenly I had two big adventures planned!’
Given that the car is due to be loaded into the truck tonight to depart for Spa tomorrow, the approach to the Fordwater Trophy was always going to be cautious. When the symptoms of fuel starvation presented themselves, Mike decided to retire. ‘I stuttered coming out of the chicane, and I thought I could easily be hit by another car. There was also the risk of damaging the engine.’
He’s pragmatic about the result. ‘It’s been a great experience. I always come to the Revival as a spectator, and to have the chance to race here and go to the ball has been fantastic. I’ll always have those memories.’ He now has a couple of days in Belgium to diagnose and fix the fuel starvation in time for next weekend’s adventure.