THE STORY OF BLUEBELL
Saturday 1st June & Sunday 2nd June
A 1959 Morris Minor 1000 that has been racing since the 1970s, has won two British Championships, and has brought BTCC champions into Historic racing will debut at JIMF this year.
Brothers Andy and Mark Cross first stumbled across ‘Bluebell’ in an east London lock-up garage. She had already morphed from a harmless old shopping car to a Classic Saloon race car, but had no luck on the track. Despite having been campaigned by many members of the Classic Touring Car Racing Club, she didn’t have a single win to her name; in fact she had barely finished half the races. This didn’t matter to the two brothers, who had grown up with Morris Minors. They bought Bluebell, worked on her reliability and appearance, and Andy went on to win two Classic Touring Car Championships, first in 1991 and then again in 1993.
“She’s not very highly modified, to be honest – we’ve only really tweaked the engine, and even that’s only a little one-litre,” said Andy, who will be sharing Bluebell with Mark at the Jersey Motoring Festival. “So on a tight, twisty hill climb, there’s a bit more of a challenge, but on a race track, you just build up the speed and never slow down for anything – maybe that’s our secret!”
Eventually Bluebell was invited to Goodwood, where she attracted the attention of journalists and drivers alike. “We’re happy to lend it to anyone really!” said Andy. “Mark is a TV producer and works with a lot of BTCC drivers. We wanted to get them involved, so over the years, we’ve had quite a few of them giving it a go. And everyone seems to have loved driving it – even though she’s not the fastest, she’s just great fun to drive.” Touring car ace and commentator Paul O’Neill shared her with Mark at Thruxton in 2011, and liked it enough to do it again at Brands Hatch. And BTCC champion Andrew Jordan, whose father Mike had competed in his own Morris Minor against Bluebell in the Classic Touring Car races of the 1970s, made his Goodwood debut in the car in 2012, sharing with Andy. “The most fun I’ve ever had at a race weekend. Loved it!” according to Jordan, who went on to start his own Historic Race team.
Bluebell has become a bit of a regular at Goodwood, competing again last year at the Revival, but each year now the brothers are looking for a new challenge. “Recently we have taken to the relaxed atmosphere at hill climbs, and have picked a few of the classic and historic events, like Shelsley Walsh and, for the last few years, Chateau Impney.” “To be honest, we always feel just privileged to be there, because you’ve got so many magnificent cars, works of art, that are breathtaking to look at really old, really beautiful things. And then there’s us! To be there with them, well, we never thought that would have happened. She’s not very suited to hills either, with very little ultimate power, but if it’s a good hill, with a few twists, we’ll always push her as hard as we can and put on a show..
On the circuits Mark and Andy generally compete together in two-driver events run by the Historic Racing Drivers Club (HRDC), but whatever the event, a bit of brotherly rivalry usually comes to the fore.“I always aim to beat Mark’s time, wherever we compete, and he feels the same! We do have a good rivalry going – I once beat him by a 100th of a second at Brands Hatch, so we do have a go at each other. Over the thirty years we have raced her the lap times have got just a tiny bit quicker, but I can’t do much to Bluebell to make her faster now though, she just our family Morris Minor after all!
Some of Bluebell’s races can be watched on You-Tube. Search for Bluebell Morris Minor.