2011 Birkett Six Hour Handicap Relay

CIOTEK Team Member Ken Davies enters the 2011 ‘Holly’ Birkett Six Hour Handicap Relay at Silverstone.

We’d hastily prepared a 1979 2 litre Porsche 924 for the HSCC 70’s Sports car series and entered the 750 Motor Club’s popular Birkett 6 hour team relay as part of a six-car team with the unlikely sobriquet of Ecurie Porumphorganda (EP) in order to test the car, so here I was in the assembly area on Silverstone’s Wellington Straight waiting for the first practice session to start.

There was however one nagging doubt in my mind. Was a 6-hour race with 61 teams, 300 drivers in a selection of the quickest club racing cars the most appropriate place to be in an untried race car?

In the event, my practice session went better than I’d expected and I settled into a good rhythm as soon as I’d learned which way the corners went, one eye constantly on my mirrors to keep out of the way of the swarms of indecently quick Caterhams & Radicals, all moving faster than a journalist at a free buffet. The good news was that the 924 showed no evil handling vices, with all temperatures normal and the 2 litre Audi 100/VW LT 35 engine running smoothly.

Just one glitch spoilt a relatively stress free 30 minutes. After only two laps my exhaust fractured just under my feet, where two manifold pipes run into one. I soldiered-on and completed the session to get as much practice as possible on Silverstone’s magnificent 3.64 mile historic grand prix circuit.

Once back at the team’s pit, I crawled underneath to survey the damage and cannibalised two lager cans to roll flat and curve around the damaged area of the exhaust, fixed at each end with jubilee clips. That would have to do until I could remove the system and do a permanent repair.

The 61st Birkett started promptly at 11:15, only to be red-flagged immediately for a start-line incident which eliminated 8 cars but fortunately not Matt Hammond, EP’s star driver in his 2 litre Focus! The restart was 27 minutes later, this time without incident, the 6-hour’s clock now running to 17:42 and dusk.

As well as a team driver I was also team manager so I spent most of my time on the pit wall timing and hanging out the pit-board. Generally, EP’s team of 6 ran reliably, with just one stop-go penalty for a yellow flag infringement interrupting the flow and a visit to the gravel – by the same car, forcing me to scramble another car onto the circuit out of my planned sequence.

Key to winning the Birkett is a favourable number of credit laps from the handicapper, who bases his calculations on the declared lap times of the individual team members. EP had secured 40 credit laps which seemed 4 or 5 too few and this proved accurate as one by one the 6 hours ticked by with EP steadily heading south in the result sheets, 15th at the end of 90 minutes, eventually finishing 55th on 118 scratch laps, 158 on corrected handicap.

I had successfully fitted in a 40 minute stint at two thirds distance, my hastily repaired exhaust still very noisy, reducing the power and giving me tinnitus but, all in all a satisfactory first event and I eventually left a cold and dark Silverstone with a long list of improvements for the car before the HSCC season opener in April 2012.

Ken Davies