With its stunning looks and mighty V8 roar, the Morgan Aero 8
has endeared itself to British GT spectators since its debut in
the Cup class in 2003. Team Aero Lewis has been running one of
these beasts since the first round last year, and is now challenging
for honours in 2004.
knows his way around a Morgan, it’s the man who
prepares the car, Rob Wells. He was a Morgan dealer for 31 years
and has been racing them for almost as long.
At the end
of 2003, Rob took the decision to sell his dealership, Libra
concentrate on other projects. The man who bought
the franchise from him, Daniel Ward, was one of Rob’s mechanics
back in the early days. His reason for selling was a simple one – he
prefers getting his hands dirty to pushing paper around an office.
Thus Rob now divides his time between the racing team and producing
his Librands range of specialist Morgan accessories. Hardly a retirement.
racing in the mid-70s when the late Peter Morgan asked him to
run a factory Plus 8 for his grandson Charles
Morgan, the car being known as MMC 11. At the time, Charles was
a news cameraman and would often be away on business (later, this
included spending six months in the hills of Afghanistan with Sandy
Gall as they followed the Mujaheddin in their war with the Soviets).
This meant that Rob could hop into the driver’s seat and
race the car in his absence. Together, the two drivers won the
1978 BRDC Production Sports Car Championship and the 1979 BRSCC
Production Sports Car Championship in MMC 11, against competition
that included Colin Blower. The same car also won the 1982 Willhire
In 1980, with
backing from Victor Gauntlett’s Pace Petroleum,
Rob designed and built a Plus 8 for the STP Modsports Championship,
the MMC 111. This car won the championship at its first attempt.
Rob has concentrated on looking after customer cars, but has
to do plenty of racing too, including winning
the Morgan Racing Championship in 1989 & 1990 and racing in
the inaugural British GT Cup season in 2003. He now races a 1959
Plus 4 in the Morgan Gentlemen Driver’s Championship.
One of Rob
was Keith Ahlers, himself no stranger to hard work.
university in 1976, Keith took a ‘temporary’ job
as a bus conductor as he pondered what to do with his life. Except
that he liked the job and stayed in the industry. Within ten years,
he had made the remarkable progression from bus conductor to managing
director (of a regional subsidiary of National Buses).
This was now
the time of deregulation and Keith, together with his fellow
and 800 employees, made the brave step of
buying the company, which was at the time losing a million pounds
a year. Keith’s personal investment would have meant ruin
had the company failed, but instead the company was turned around
and several acquisitions of other underperforming companies meant
that it flourished - and was floated in 1993 on the London Stock
Exchange. Keith stayed on for a further three years before deciding
that the 90-hour working weeks and 50,000 miles a year on the roads
needed to come to an end. He had made his money the hard way and
now he was going to enjoy it.
Keith’s love affair with Morgan motor cars began as a youngster,
when the Plus Eight was first produced in the ‘60s. At the
time it was the fastest accelerating and the best handling sportscar
produced (better than the E-Type) - with the exception of the DB6,
which cost three times as much. It was to be 20 years before he
could afford one, though.
He now owns
12 Morgans – one example from every generation
of cars – with the oldest being a 1926 three-wheeler and
the newest being the Aero 8 that he races in the British GT Championship.
But Keith is no dilettante. Based in Jersey, he drives to every
race in his red Transit van and is usually to be found under the
car. Racing is his passion and has consumed much of his time since
Having tried one or two track days while still working, Keith
entered the Morgan Challenge in 1997. He would drive to the circuit
in his Plus 8, take the windscreen and spare tyre off, and race.
In that first year he was named Best Newcomer. In 1998, he came
second in the championship and in 1999 he took his first outright
win at Brands Hatch, on the Indy Circuit in the rain.
In 2000 he started racing in the 750MC Roadsports Series, in addition
to the Morgan Challenge, and contested 20 races in all. In 2001
and 2002 he was the Roadsports Champion, and in 2002 also won the
Morgan Challenge. That year he raced 32 times and won 24 races.
In all, he
raced his (Rob Wells-prepared) Plus 8 100 times and won 76 races – an
In 2003, the
British GT Cup class was announced and all the right ingredients
there for Keith to race the new Aero 8 – the
Morgan name on the car and the premier national championship. Keith
put together a package that would see himself and Rob Wells driving.
Morgan provided some support in the form of tyres.
The Morgan instantly proved itself to be immensely popular with
the spectators and the team recorded five podiums during the season
as it made its way to third in class overall.
As the year
progressed, the team knew that there was so much potential in
the car, but
any major development had to wait until the winter
months. So in the time between racing seasons, a great deal of
work was done to the car’s aerodynamics and weight distribution.
A new rollcage, sequential gearbox and roof were fitted and the
rear wing was mounted on the boot lid, rather than the rollcage,
to improve rigidity. In addition, the car was resprayed in a combination
of ‘Harley Davidson Red Pearl’ and ‘Mercedes
At the same time, Rob Wells also took the decision to step down
from his racing duties to concentrate on running the car, and so
the team went looking for a new driver. When word got around, there
was much interest from prospective runners.
Whoever was going to get the drive had to be able to bring a budget,
but more importantly had to be quick and able to work harmoniously
with the small team.
One of those
who approached the team was Aaron Scott, who had driven the Master
Motorsport Ultima in 2003, as well as the Richard Thorne Aero 8
at Spa, taking third place in the process. Aaron had a test for
Team Aero Lewis and made a very good impression, both in times and
attitude. He was quickly signed for the 2004 season.
Aaron has been
around motorsport from a very early age on account of his father
a race official. He attended his first race
at the age of just a few months. He didn’t start racing karts
until the relatively late age of 14, however, and even then he
had to pay for his first kart himself, having saved up money from
paper-rounds etc. for the occasion. He proved himself in karting,
taking several wins and junior titles.
In 1999 he progressed to racing cars and won his first ever race.
He was running in the BRDC Junior Formula Ford Championship that
year and won it at the first attempt.
The following year he moved to the Avon Tyres Formula Ford Championship,
where he finished fourth and then in 2001 raced in the British
F3 Championship Scholarship Class with Rowan Racing. His car had
a Toyota engine, but the budget he had was a fraction of what was
needed to be truly competitive and he made the decision to turn
his career in another direction.
He first raced with a roof over his head in the Elf Clio Renault
UK Cup in 2002 and then made the switch to the Ultima in 2003.
He regards this as the best thing he has ever done, even though
the Ultima had a trying season.
Aaron has fitted in well with Team Aero Lewis and loves the atmosphere.
He has decided that a career in sportscar racing is for him, but
he is not running before he can walk, being content to spend as
long as it takes to learn his craft. Le Mans is on his wish-list
for the future and he will undoubtedly achieve this before too
Keith Ahlers is delighted to have the young-gun in the team as
it gives him the opportunity to raise his own game, while also
strengthening the competitiveness of the team.
Away from racing, Aaron works as a driving instructor at the Thruxton
circuit. The team is already looking like favourites for the Cup
races there in August.
There are two other vitally important members of this small team.
Billy Bellinger is the main mechanic and does most of the work
on the car. Billy runs his own company, JB Sports Engineering,
and specialises in working on Moss gearboxes and axles. He also
restores F1 Coopers when time allows.
is the chief mechanic at Libra Motive. In addition to his Aero
8 duties, Ian
also looks after Keith Ahler’s
Team Aero Lewis is a small team, then, but one that has enlivened
the Cup field and increased its competitiveness all the while.
A win is long overdue.
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