2011 Birkett

Last weekend saw us competing alongside our fellow Locosters in this amazing race on Silverstone’s Historic GP Circuit.  Our Team Manager, Brian Robbins, picks up the tale…….

Thursday evening.

A quick visit to Steves to scan and email the last of the paperwork to 750MC and sort the tickets out etc.

Friday morning.

Finalising the driver orders and start times etc I get a phone call. “Hi it’s Steve. I’ve got some terrible news” Chris Sellars one of our team members had phoned him and had explained that his wife Wendys mother and aunty had been involved in an accident the night before and had both tragically lost their lives. Another person in the car was also seriously ill in hospital. I sat back for five minutes in disbelief. Poor poor people.

Understandably Chris and his son Stuart had no choice but to pull out of the race. What should we do? Steve said Chris wanted us to carry on if we could so plan b would now have to be implemented. Trouble is we didn’t have one.

A phone call to Chris Norman at 750MC quickly followed to explain the situation.             The rules state you must have a minimum of four cars and four drivers. We now had three cars and four drivers. Under the circumstances Chris said he would allow us to run as that which was doable but not ideal.

In the meantime Steve was phoning round other drivers we have got to know very well to try and find a replacement. Young Max Lees came up trumps and was keen to come in as the fourth car. Trouble is his car was in bits as he had started stripping it for it’s off season refresh! Several hours work later and it was back together in a usable state. Max was also down to work Saturday so he had to blag that off too.

Several more calls and a couple of emails later and we were officially up to four cars and five drivers. I finally finished sorting it at about ten past two. We were booked on the half three boat. A quick drive to Steves ensued and my son James and I picked the van and trailer up and shot through to East Cowes where we met Dan, Kozy and Thomas Cowley. We pulled into the terminal at around ten past three to be told we were too late and wouldn’t get on the booked ferry! Next thing we see is the 3.30pm leaving without us. Balls!

Finally get to Southampton and off the boat at about 5.50pm. Scrutineering closed at 8pm so we were now on a mission. Steve was already at the track having driven up earlier to sign on and confirm our revised team order with race control. A blast through returning half term holiday traffic got us to the track at ten to eight. We were the last car of the day to be scrutineered but were ready for the morning. We met up with the rest of the gang and installed ourselves in garage 4B then headed off to a Harvester for some well deserved grub and a beer.

Saturday morning.

7am at the track and Max arrives, signs on and scrutineers with time for a quick briefing before qualifying starts at 8.30. Max was first up and each driver had a twenty minute session. None of them had driven the GP circuit before. Steve was fourth up and was out whilst Andy and I were attending the managers briefing. A missed call from Russ revealed he had broken down on circuit with a misfire, coolant loss and loads of steam! He got recovered back to the pits and when Andy and I got back from the meeting Dan and Garry, the cars previous owner were stripping the inlet manifold as it was suspected the gasket had blown spraying coolant over the distributor and leads. The misfire was still evident once started and warmed up and white smoke and steam were evident from the exhaust. An hour later Steve was driving around the infield roads running the car up to temp having had the head gasket etc replaced and was back in the game in his original slot.

In the meantime Max had lined up on the grid to take the start of the race at 11.15am. A stalled Radical on the grid of 63 cars from a standing start resulted in a massive crash and a red flag. One minor injury and several bent cars meant the race was stopped for about half an hour.

Once restarted we worked our way through the driver sessions with relative ease encountering no real problems. The only real issue we could’ve had was the change over between Richard and Sam (who were car sharing) as there was only one car between them in the order. We had the next car in the running stood by with the driver strapped in and helmeted in case the previous car had problems. It was quite possible he could’ve had a problem on his out lap.

We had decided to run three sessions for each driver as we were a bit concerned about fuel use as none of the cars had done the circuit before and a large percentage is flat out in a Locost.

Our nearest rivals were the team in the same garage as us, another Locost team called Four Corners. They unfortunately ended up with two broken cars from the four they were using. James McAllister with a blown bottom end and Paul Bryant with a broken gear selector. We started to creep ahead of them in the standings. Vicky Pickles and Steve Kimber in the remaining two cars had to do the last four and a half hours between them! They gradually clawed back the lead as they had fewer driver changes. Note to self for next year. Fit larger fuel tanks and do longer sessions.

In the six hours I think we had three or four safety car sessions. All of them being whilst Max and Sam were on track. Light rain dampened the track whilst Richard was out, lasted for all of Steves second stint and part of Sams. Lap times increased by up to 30 secs but the cars all remained on the black stuff which was a relief.

Dave began to get the hang of the track and started to push on a bit but ended up running wide on the exit of Copse and put four wheels over the white line on three laps. Needless to say I was called up to race control to see the Clerk of the Course for a talking to. Dave was duly reprimanded by myself as one more infringement for him would’ve been a black flag and a possible endorsement on his race licence.

Andy Pointer stayed on the pit wall all day timing the laps with James on the pit board. Excellent job by both of them. Couldn’t have done it without them.

The catering team of Elaine and Lucy, Andys wife and daughter and Hayley did a brilliant job keeping us all supplied with bacon rolls, tea, coffee and cakes etc.

Russ was sent up to the assembly area during qualifying to make sure none of the cars had a problem and befriended a female marshal by helping her with a gate or so he says!

Dan kept control of the garage making sure the cars were all ok and in the right order and sending them when they were due to go out.

Thomas wandered around the track documenting the event with pictures and video. A montage will be produced in due course.

Kozy did an excellent job of eating cakes, drinking tea and wandering about. Seriously though it was good to have him there supporting us.

As the race was delayed at the start we thought it may have to be cut short and finish at the original time of 17.15. A trip to race control confirmed that it would actually run the full six hours from the second start therefore finishing at 17.42, but light and weather depending.

We were now into the drivers last sessions so had to make the call of how long to put them out for. If it was called early Sam who was up last would only get a short session or none at all.  I made the call to cut all the stints back by about three minutes and brim Sams tank in case it went the full distance. He could then run to the flag. We called Richard in at about 16.45 and put Steve out fuelled for about half an hour. A quick check with race control confirmed it was definitely going full distance. Couldn’t have worked better really. Both Steve and Sam had full sessions. I also had another trip to see the stewards. Max upon entering the pit lane on his final stint must’ve completely forgotten where the speed limit line was and come in a bit too hot. He completely locked up and left a nice set of elevens across the line in the pit entrance, right in front of the Clerk of the Course! Another black mark.

It was the last time Steve would ever drive his car as Bill the new owner was collecting it from the track, I think he wanted to make the last stint count. He was putting in consistent 2.41’s and was having great battles with similar cars until it all nearly went wrong spinning on his in lap and nearly being collected by an RGB car! Sam did the same by spinning on the out lap of his last session.

It was still very close between us and Four Corners with them being about one lap ahead. Sam was on a mission taking two seconds a lap out of them but we could see unless they had problems we wouldn’t be able to overhaul their lead. But then the yellows were out and the safety car was deployed! This could stir things up. It would just depend on where the safety car came out. Unfortunately it came out just ahead of Sam so he was stuck behind it. If it had come out behind him he could’ve gone round the circuit and caught up the end of the train and been on the same lap as our rivals. He took the chequered flag with our team on 120 laps and Four Corners on 121. Not bad I’d say for six hours racing!

On scratch positions we ended up 55th out of 63 and our rivals 53rd. The handicap calculations put us 21st overall and fifth in class on 163 laps with Four Corners finishing 12th and 4th in class on 165 laps. The winner overall on handicap completed 166 laps so to be only 3 laps down in our first ever Birkett is quite an achievement I’d say.

One thing we did beat them on was lap times. Our best was Sam with a 2:40.56 and Vicky on 2:43.55. Three seconds quicker which was pleasing.

So all in all a totally awesome event and a great experience. Everybody did their bit and it was a great team effort. Thanks to all involved and already looking forward to next years race.

It was a real shame Chris and Stuart couldn’t be with us as I know they would have loved it so I will dedicate the race to Team Sellars. They were sadly missed.



Thomas Cowley spent the weekend with us, capturing the spirit of the event.  He did a sterling job, flitting about the garage, pit lane and pretty much the entire circuit to document the event.  He has produced an outstanding video of the event:

A report from the winning team, RAF Team Flywheel: http://www.bfbs.com/news/uk/raf-victory-silverstone-52979.html

And, some in car footage from yours truly, last session racing against a Caterham 7 Classic:


One Response to 2011 Birkett

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