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MG gains a sporting edge

Powerhouse: The MG Lola EX257 will spearhead the British car-maker's Le Mans assault.

MG Rover aims to lift its profile with a three-pronged motorsport campaign

MG logo7 May 2001

MG Rover has announced the creation of its own in-house motorsport arm - equivalent to BMW's M division and Mercedes-Benz's AMG - known as MG X Power. The new division has been formed to focus on the marque's motorsport program and develop specialised road-going cars with a distinctly sporting edge.

The letter X stems from historic MG associations, such as the "EX" engineering project numbers and the "XP" engine number prefix.

MG aims to build the X Power brand's image by emblazoning it on the flanks of its competition cars, team clothing and on merchandise.

The British car-maker is planning a Le Mans assault, as well as forays in rallying and the British Touring Car Championship, but MG Rover Australia director of operations John Skinner says there are no plans to get involved in motorsport locally.

The flagship MG racing project is the Le Mans 24-hour sports car race.

Known as the MG Lola EX257, the car has been designed and built by Lola Cars International, with input from MG Rover design director Peter Stevens.

It will be powered by an MG X Power 2.0-litre, four-cylinder turbo unit from racing engine specialists Advanced Engine Research (AER).

Two EX257s have been entered into the LMP675 class (Le Mans Prototype with a minimum weight of 675kg), which Lola won last year, with an engine prepared by AER.

Lola and AER are also consultants for the engineering of EX259, the MG ZS racing sedan being prepared for the British Touring Car Championship.

Two cars, using a race-tuned 2.0-litre KV6 engine, will start track testing in July before making their competition debut at the Silverstone International meeting on September 9.

The last three BTCC events of the 2001 season will provide "shakedown" testing opportunities in preparation for the full 2002 season.

MG's return to rallying will be spearheaded by the MG ZR EX258 project in the new Formula 3 Super 1600 category.

Rally expert GSE Motorsport is responsible for the vehicle development and management, with the car to be driven by Gwyndaf Evans (1996 British rally champion).

AER will again prepare the 1.6-litre K Series engine.

Testing begins in June, with the first outing being scheduled for the Cardiff-based Rally GB from November 22-26.

FLYING START FOR 75 MG Rover Australia director of operations John Skinner says he is "extremely happy" with public response to the Rover 75, which went on sale two months ago.

The 75 notched up 123 sales in March, outselling some of its principal rivals in the process.

"We've even had letters from owners praising the car - which has been in contrast to some unfortunate articles written about the 75," Mr Skinner said.

MG Rover Australia's lineup currently comprises only the 75 sedan and MGF, but Mr Skinner says other model variants are in the pipeline.

The first model addition will be the 75 Tourer (wagon), due here around August or September.

"We're looking at mirroring the sedan's specifications, but we're talking about relatively small volumes," Mr Skinner said.

Pricing is yet to be finalised, but Mr Skinner suggested the wagon would cost about $3000 over the equivalent sedan.

Early next year, the marque's lineup is likely to be supplemented by the 75-based MG ZT, which gains a tweaked engine, beefed-up suspension and cosmetic upgrades.

"We're pretty confident the ZT (based on Rover 75) will be introduced here early next year - but we still need to work on pricing.

"We're still reviewing the ZR (based on Rover 25 hatchback) and ZS (based on slightly larger 45). There are a number of issues, including ADRs, to be considered."

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