Report by Mark Nicholson Photos by Robert . A team publicising the Welsh Championship contested the 69th running of the Birkett 6 Hours Relay Race at Silverstone on Saturday 26th October.
69th Birkett Relay – a tale of endurance!
October 26th saw the 69th running of the Birkett Relay Race on the Grand Prix Circuit at Silverstone Birkett track map. For those unfamiliar with the Birkett Relay, it is a unique 6 hour Endurance Race for 70 teams of 3 to 6 cars and drivers and is two races in one – a “scratch race” for outright victory and perhaps more importantly, a “handicap race”. The handicap, gives teams a number of credit laps, which are added to the actual laps completed to determine the winners and it therefore allows teams with lower performance cars an equal opportunity for victory. The Birkett has a history of poor weather and this year was certainly no exception with the Safety car being on track for 150 minutes over the 6 hours! (Ironically it was dry & sunny on Sunday!)
Team 19 – The Drivers plus the support Crew! L to r Dave Krayem, Chris Everill, Colin Dunn and Damain Longotano. Back Row Team Manager Mark Nicholson, Ken James, and Mike Moss
As a late entry, the WRDA was given the number 19, and entered an eclectic Team of 3 cars and 4 drivers, consisting of Chris Everill and David Krayem in Chris’s Ginetta G55, Damian Longatano in his Westfield and Colin Dunn in his Renault Clio. All the cars went through Scrutineering without difficulty and all Drivers were signed on and ready to go when Qualifying started at 9 am, with Colin being first out in what can only be described as appalling conditions of driving rain and strong winds. By 11am, all 3 cars and 4 drivers had completed qualifying and thanks to Chris’s efforts, we were well placed in P10 on the outside of Row 5 and with the front 4 rows made up of Radicals, Sports Racing cars and BMW M3s all running with none or low Credit Laps, we had a great opportunity for a good result as the Handicappers had allowed us 18 Credit laps.
At 11.45, the race started in torrential rain behind the Safety Car, with Chris taking the start and a strategy to run him for 40 minutes before bringing him in and sending Colin out, followed by Dave and then Damian. After 10 minutes, Chris had got up to 7th and after 25 minutes was up to 5th about one second away from 4th. After 37 minutes, our fortunes changed, with Chris being taken out by a backmarker and sent across the grass and deep into the gravel. It was clear that the recovery wouldn’t be immediate, so Colin was sent out to carry on. From the images being live streamed by Alpha Live, the car looked in reasonable shape although there was clearly some damage at the front, however when the car was brought back to the paddock, it became apparent that the damage was much worse than it at first looked and we had to take the unfortunate decision to retire the car. So now we were a 2 car and 2 driver team!
Colin ran his 30 minute stint without any major dramas, keeping us in contention for a decent result and with 70 minutes run, he came in as planned and Damian went out into the fray. Damian was time constrained by the size of his fuel tank, but we hoped that he could run for about 25 minutes, so Colin’s car was checked over and refuelled and Colin was also checked over and also refuelled ready for his next stint. It was already looking like a big ask for the Team with only 2 cars and drivers and over 4 hours to go, but the mountain became much higher when after 3 laps, Damian came in with gearbox problems, so Colin was quickly strapped in and sent back out.
Unfortunately Damian’s gearbox issues proved to be terminal, so from what had looked an hour earlier as a really promising position, we now only had one car running and over four and a half hours remaining! Colin kept up a good pace until a slight mistake took him off into the gravel, from which he was able to escape, but it had caused a serious vibration, so somewhat unexpectedly, he arrived back in the garage and it looked like potentially it was game over! The team set to and got the car up on jacks and all the wheels off and cleared out the gravel which had got everywhere, before checking the car over and finding no obvious problems, it was reassembled and Colin was strapped in and sent back out to see if the problem had gone, which it obviously had because he stayed out and got stuck in and started posting some very respectable times.
All the time, the weather was getting worse and with a combination of the cold, the rain and the wind, it was pretty miserable in the garage and the Pit Wall and there was plenty of discussion about calling it a day and going home, but the Clio wasn’t complaining and neither was Colin, who kept going to the point where it looked like we would actually finish.
And that is exactly what happened. After yet another prolonged Safety Car period because a Mini was parked on top of a Caterham, the race was Red Flagged with 20 minutes to go, which avoided any time issues for us and Colin took the flag and for me, created a reputation for the WRDA that we are not quitters, even in the face of such adversity. If you ask me privately, I’ll tell you about Colin’s time in the car and although he had never been round the GP Circuit before the event, he certainly knows his way round now and has absolutely earned the title of Endurance Racer.
Popular opinion (when we had all warmed up and dried off) is that we must do the event next year as we now know what to expect and will be much better organised with more cars and drivers, but in the meantime and for the record, in no particular order thanks need to go to the following people, without whose support none of this would have been possible:
WRDA, for their contribution to the race entry costs.
Chris Everill and Neil and Alf, for bringing the Ginetta and Dave Krayem along and putting the team 10th on the grid and then running in 5th before the incident which took the car out of the running.
Damian Longotano and Vince, who despite a week or more of preparation, repairing a cracked axle, installing a new gearbox and a 500 mile round trip deserved much more than a handful of laps in the race.
Colin Dunn and Eric and family and Mike – what can I say? Hundreds of miles up and down the country to get the car to Silverstone certainly paid dividends, with the Clio being the only car available with nearly 5 hours of the race still to run!! The running time for the car represents the lion’s share of a seasons racing, so a superb effort and some very impressive lap times in the appalling conditions. Mike Moss, for spending hours on the Pit Wall in shocking conditions and then demonstrating his culinary skills by keeping everyone fed and watered.
Robert Allender and Ken James for being there to support us.
Everyone else who I’ve missed above, because without you all, this couldn’t have happened.
Despite the welcome contribution from the WRDA, the Drivers have all dug deep into their own pockets to run their cars and pay the entry costs (£1,650.00) to do this event and will need to dig even deeper to get the cars repaired and ready for next season, so if you are going to the Awards Dinner, buy these guys a drink, because they represented the Club brilliantly under the very difficult circumstances and deserve it! Report by Mark – a very proud Team Manager.
Preveiw -The Welsh Championship team consisting of Colin Dunn, Damian Longotano, plus Chris Everill and Dave Krayem, with Mark Nicholson as the team manager, each team member drives a stint and then pits to allow the next team car to carry the’baton’ until the 6 hours are up!
The event is really two events in one. In addition to trying to win outright ‘Scratch Victory’ by recording the highest number of laps there is also the more hotly contested ‘Handicap ‘Victory’, which in theory could be won by any of the teams.
Each team is credited with a certain number of credit laps, presumed to have been run before the race started. The results are then calculated from the credit laps and the actual laps covered by each team in the six hours to see who has beaten the rest (and the handicapper).
In addition to overall scratch and handicap awards, there are a number of class prize to ensure all teams have a chance of silverware.
Dating back to 1951, the race was the brainchild of one of the 750 Motor Club’s founder members – Holland ‘Holly’ Birkett. Following his death the event was subsequently renamed in honour of him.
Mike Moss Class BS Caterham has won The 2019 Colin Gundersen Trophy for the Class Fastest Race Lap at Pembrey after a dramatic shoot out at the final rounds between Mike & Keith Butcher. In Race 1 Keith had a problem and missed his Class fastest lap but while Mike set his Class fastest lap he did not finish the race, but that was enough to give him the win!
After the first 10 rounds Colin Dunn led from Mike Moss with Damian Longotano 3rd, but with Joker cards and Dropped scores to come in to play, it’s too close to call. (report by Robert- Thanks to Nick Forbes for his photos)
In 2018 Pembrey caught the full force of storm Callum, which hit all day Saturday and it turned the circuit entrance into a considerable lake, with a large lake in the paddock! However this year we were brushed by the tail-end of Lorenzo , over Saturday night, and although there was a large puddle at the circuit entrance and some puddles in the paddock, it was much less than last year.
Entry and Qualifying
. There was a pleasing 17 cars on the grid,
although despite some mighty efforts, but Gareth Haycock (and us), we couldn’t
make it to the magic 20! Thanks to Gareth for his efforts! The
track was damp and greasy as the cars went out to practice, and Keith Butcher
had one of the those ‘déjà vu’ moments as his Audi understeered on the exit to Debeni and headed for the
grass! Fortunately he managed to stop just in time, with only his front wheels
on the grass, and he was able to reverse out, and go to the pits for a quick
check and then to head out to get some times in! Meanwhile the bellowing Ginetta G50 of Chris
Everill was setting the pace and he took pole with a time of 1.07.532! Damian
Longotano was 2nd fastest with 1.10.513. On row 2 Keith Butcher was
3rd on 1.12.116 an indication that something wasn’t right with the
R8. Mike Moss was 4th fastest and on the Class BS pole! On the 3rd row was Glynne Jones
and his BMW and Mark Williams and his Class BS VW Golf. On row 4 was Gareth
John with is Ginetta G40 looking good in its new livery. (a warp) Next to him
and making it an all Class BS row was Daryl Radford and his Honda Civic R. On
row 5 Colin Dunn (Clio) and Andrew Williams (Fiesta) made it an all class BT
On row 6 was Gareth Haycock who was giving his nice sounding 3.2 V6 Golf its Pembrey debut, with Mark Nicholson having his Pembrey Debut in his Clio. Mark, who is a mate of Mike Moss, is usually found at Castle Combe although he did come with us to Silverstone! Mike was bedding in some new brakes, but got the shepherds crook (aka the Black Flag) for going too slow! In the end he was the last driver to get under 1.20.0 so he wasn’t actually too slow! On row 7 was Roger Dowden (WRDA Chairman) and his usual yellow Davrian, and Alan Smith who is getting his Ka down to some tidy times. On row 8 was Ben Cutler and his Mini, (only .5 of a second behind Alan) Verity Banks was alongside. On row 9 Ellis Wiggins was last! He only did a few laps as his tyres were lacking grip! He confirmed that setting them to the right pressure would have helped!
Race 1 – Round 11 15 mins + 1 lap – Rolling Start. Damian Longotano, Mike Moss and Chris Everill
played their Jokers cards for this race.
Blake Edwards was driving the pace car, but as he pulled off, and the lights flashed out to start the race, Damian and Chris headed the pack into Hatchets. Chris headed the pack on the first lap, Damian settled into 2nd place and the lead of Class CS! Keith Butcher settled into 3rd place, with his car somewhat lacking in pace. That’s the way the places stayed to the end, as Damian had other fish to fry, and was not really risking anything, whilst Keith was lacking for pace. Actually as the winner of 6 races already this year, Keith was assured of the ’Blake Edwards Trophy’ but he also did have a shout for the ‘Colin Gundersen Trophy’ based on the fastest laps at Pembrey. However Chris Everill powered to the fastest lap point in Class D with a time of 1.06.489, whereas Keiths best time was 1.10.172 which shows how much his car was suffering, and this dented his Gundersen Trophy’ hopes. Behind the first 3 there was much action. Mark Williams settled into 4th place and had Mike Moss on his tail. Mike & Mark passed & repassed each other, but more on that later on. Behind then Glynne Jones settled into 5th place, and as the flame-spitting Ginetta of Chris Everill went on its merry way, Glynnes’ BMW thought it would do some flame-spitting of its own! The problem was that whilst Chris’ flames were coming from his exhaust, Glynne was coming from underneath his car! Eventually after a lap or 2 Glynne became aware of the flames and as it was in the area near the cars fuel tank, he decided it was time for action, and instead of turning left onto the new section he headed direct to the marshals post near the rally-cross track! ‘I decided I needed to be out of there!’ His door was open before the car stopped rolling, and as he jumped out, the marshals swung into action and put the fire out with a dry powder extinguisher! Although the car disappeared in a cloud of powder, Glynne and the car were safe! Yes that’s what the marshals train for, but it is what you pay your entry fee for, to make sure the infra structure is there if it is ever needed, and the marshals can use whatever they need to keep us safe! At the time of writing Glynne hasn’t found the cause of the fire but the scrutineers thought it might have been an oil leak.
Back in the race, initially behind Glynne was a fast starting
Gareth Haycock, Colin Dunn, Daryl Radford, Andrew Williams, Mark Nicholson,
and Gareth John. As the race wore on Mark
Nicholson and Gareth John began to rise
up as Gareth Haycock began to fade. Late on Gareth John overtook Mark Nicolson
to finish 5th with Mark 6th! Daryl Radford (7th)
and Colin Dunn (8th) had
another close end to the race with only 0.45
splitting them at the flag. Gareth John (9th) split Colin from
Andrew Williams (10th)while Elis Wiggins rose up from last qualifier
to finish 11th and Roger Dowden was 12th. We lost Verity
Banks early on when her gear-linkage fell apart, but last but no means least were
Alan Smith and Ben Cutler who had the hammer & tongs battle for most of the race with Ben & Alan swapping
and re-swapping places! In the end Alan was 13th but only 0.294
ahead of Ben who was 14th, and was awarded the ‘Driver of the Day’
for his efforts in only his first race on the Club Circuit! As a tribute to the
amount of pressure Ben put Alan under,
he (Alan) had to set a new Class AT lap record to beat Ben! However as the race
wound down, there was still drama as the close dice of Mike Moss and Mark
Williams, go a little too close and lap 13 was unlucky for Mike as he lost his
left front mudguard, but more importantly the brackets were bent onto his tyre!
Fearing the worst, but not realising a slow lap could have seen him take the
finish, Mike pulled off at the paddock turn! However this meant that Gareth John
took the Class BS Season in his debut season, but it all was not lost as Mike
had already set the fastest lap, which put him narrowly in front of Keith
Butcher in the Colin Gunderson trophy standings! So Chris Everill won the race,
with Damian Longotano 2nd but the Class CS winner and with double
points due to his Joker. Keith Butcher was
Race 1 – round 11- in progress
In the Blake Edwards Trophy Keith Butcher is the clear leader, but in the Colin Gundersen Fastest lap trophy, only 0.25 separates Keith Butcher from Mike Moss!
The race – 15 minutes + 1 lap – Rolling Start. Blake took the grid around to start the final race in the 2019 Welsh Championship and Chris Everill took the lead, but this time Keith had the R8 flying and he stalked Chris and pounced and took the lead on lap 4, setting the fastest lap of the race in the process leaving the Class D & Championship lap record at 1.05.414 seconds! However 2 laps later it was all over for Keith, as he trailed into the pits with a damaged rim and a puncture! Chris was left to run out the rest of the race on his own, Damian ran in 2nd place and the Class CS lead, but was some distance behind Chris, as he had his eyes on the title! In 3rd place, some distance behind, was 2018 Champion Mike Moss, after passing a fast starting Gareth John and Daryl Radford, he then stalked Mark Williams, before closing and passing Mark in the closing laps, and drawing away to finish 3rd with Mark W 4th and the last car on 15 laps. Crucially Mike set the Class Fastest lap, and he was one of several drivers to leapfrog Keith B in the Colin Gundersen Trophy points standings! Behind them Daryl Radford and Gareth John were having a real dice, but Gareth eventually got by and pulled a small gap, and his efforts were noticed by the Marshals who nominated him for the ‘Driver of the Race’ award. Mark Nicholson recovered from a first lap spin before pulling through to finish 7th. Behind him Gareth Haycock and his V6 VW Golf and Colin Dunn (Clio) were in a close dice! Having got by Gareth on lap 8 as Gareth began to have brake problems, Colin claimed 8th and the Class BT win and fastest lap. Gareth was 9th with Ellis Wiggins closing on him, after passing Andy and his Fiesta, but Gareth had 3 seconds in hand over Ellis who finished in 10th in his white Nova! (Ellis has plans over the close season to make the Nova a different colour!) Andy W fell back to finish 11th, having got a good start initially. Ben Cutler also had a fast start and was 12th ahead of Alan Smith, Roger Dowden , Verity Banks and Mark Nicholson. Mark N recovered from his spin and moved up to finish 7th. Roger too moved on to finish 12th but it was battle joined again for Ben Cutler and Alan Smith who swapped places several times! Alan was battling hard and threw everything into it on the last lap, and set a new Class AT lap record, to break the record he had set in race 1! At the flag Ben took 13th place by 0.268 secs from the battling Alan Smith who was 14th. Verity Banks was 15th having battled on with gearbox and engine problems to record a finish. Tony B has a good few months to get the Focus refreshed and ready for the 2020 season, the WSSCC 30th Anniversary!