Kent Prather has been racing the same 1962 MGA for nearly 30 years. Together they’ve made history: Prather has taken the car to the SCCA national championships every year since 1984 and has won an unprecedented six G Production championships. His track record earned him the SCCA President’s Cup in 2005, the highest award in SCCA racing.
How does he continue to produce results with this epic car? Certainly luck, a well-prepared car and driver ability, admits Prather. But his edge is the experience gained by driving the same car through the years and improving the car incrementally. “If you combine all the development efforts, gaining perhaps a second per season, over time you have a competitive car,” he figures.
Prather has had a long love affair with British cars. He bought his first MGA while in high school in 1966, and was one of the first members of the North American MGA Registry. After college he worked for a car dealership for a year, then started a repair shop, K&K Import Service in Virginia. He first got into racing by repairing a client’s Formula Vee, and bought his familiar white MGA to race in 1979 after attending some SCCA events with customers.
As he started earning acclaim for his SCCA racing, he attracted racing customers looking for engine development work. He sold the repair shop in 1990 and moved to Wakarusa, Kansas, to set up Prather Racing Inc. Once there, he could focus solely on race car preparation.
“Racing is my hobby, working on cars is my job,” he says. He builds engines for customers as well as prepares and services client cars for SCCA and vintage racing. He has been a Moss Motors supplier since 1975 and uses the car as a promotional tool.
Make It Faster
Ever since Prather purchased his MGA race car in 1979, it’s been a story of constant development. The car was already set up for racing when Prather bought it, and as the rules changed through the years, so did the car.
He first modified the cylinder head and experimented with pistons and other parts. Then he was permitted to install four-wheel disc brakes, take advantage of more advanced suspension setups, and install a dogleg transmission that allows for quicker, clutchless shifts. Add in a shape that is low and aerodynamic, and you have the ingredients needed to give a car the edge on track.
“It’s a lot of little things that make the car competitive,” says Prather. “To win, you must finish and be up in the front of the pack, and that requires good power and handling.”
Thankfully Prather hasn’t spent much time doing accident repairs. He’s had only one serious crash, and it happened at Watkins Glen back in 1985. He bounced back nicely, however, and won his first national championship the following year. The incident also gave him an opportunity to rebuild the car to a higher standard than before.
For the 2008 season, Prather has had to deal with a changing scene. His traditional G Production class is no longer invited to the year-ending Runoffs, so he’s moved to the faster F Production class. The car is now lighter and sports larger carburetors and valves, but he’ll have to face newer machinery.
“I’ve been an underdog before,” he says. “The car has a good power-to-weight ratio on paper, but that has nothing to do with the actual amount of work done to the car.” Prather admits that many in the sport will be watching to see what he can do in this faster class.
“I still like the old British car,” Prather says. His car is the only MGA to ever win a national SCCA championship, and it’s the last one still running in SCCA competition; the rest have gone to vintage racing.
“I like to show up the new cars,” he says, adding that the MGA attracts a lot of crowd attention at events. “It has nice fender flares and big slicks; it’s an eye-catcher.”
He also has no problem investing 50 hours of time to get the car ready for two hours of racing. “It’s the thrill of going into a corner fast, slamming the brakes, downshifting and accelerating through the corner in a drift,” he explains.
“The car must handle the transition without scrubbing speed. I have 160 horsepower on a 1950-pound car, so I don’t have the raw power to pull the car out of the corner. I rely on momentum and smoothness to maintain speed. It’s all about finesse in this car.”
And he’s not the only family member obsessed with speed. Prather’s son, Jesse, now works in the business and is the reigning F Prepared national champion, with two consecutive titles to his credit.
This year’s championships could be quite interesting.
More Than Just Racing
In addition to SCCA racing, Kent Prather runs an MGB in vintage racing and belongs to the Topeka British Car Club. He enjoys long road trips to British car events with his friends while trading driving duties with his wife. He has a number of cars to choose from, but typically he takes his wife’s MGA or his highly modified Triumph Stag.
Prather owns five MGAs, including a 1962 that he bought while in college and has now owned for 50 years. He drove it hard for 10 years, then took it apart for restoration. But just before final assembly, he bought the MGA race car, leaving this project still in pieces 30 years later. “It’s really a shame; the body and frame are beautiful,” he admits.
He also has a right-hand-drive MGA that was previously raced but sat in a barn for 25 years. He has plans to restore that one for vintage racing. His fleet also includes a 1962 MGB sporting serial number 523 that awaits a restoration.
Racing British cars is an excellent family affair, says Prather. “We took our kids to the track, and our friends came along as crew,” he says. The sport has provided him with good times and memories over the years, and it’s a source of pride that his son continues his racing legacy.