Sunday, 31 October 2021

Silverstone Birkett 6hr Relay

This year I've done something different and entered a team based endurance race.  

The history of the Holley Birkett relay dating back 70 years at Silverstone is as impressive as the event itself. On a par of when we supported the Formula Ford Festival in 2018.  But this time we were taking part directly. 

The Calm All Porsche series entered an impressive 6 teams into the 70 team field for the event. Each team with a minimum of 3 cars and between 3 to 6 drivers with sharing. 

Partnered with AMS Porsche and the Archer family (Angus, Stephen and Felix) we had 4 drivers sharing 3 Boxster's with the aim to complete as many lap as possible in the 6hrs with any one car in your team on track at any time.  

We had an army of pit crew to help us through the day. Car refuelling and servicing has to be turned around double quick and Karl (team manager), Rick (pit wall timing) and Linda (pit lane) made sure we had a car always running, one ready and never had two on track (very bad) or got any penalties throughout the race. 

We arrived the evening before and queued for scrutineering which was the first to be done in person for over a year.  It was rightly a very thorough check, we passed fine but our other two cars needed a replacement fire extinguisher fitting (low pressure) and seat base changing (runners loose) the next morning in order to get into the race. 

Qualifying was pretty tricky as the track was cold and I was learning the joins between the national and international tracks.  Despite having clear track I wasn't particularly fast and had a massive sideways oversteer moment downshifting to 3rd through copse corner reacting to straighten the car and keep it out of the inside wall. Since we dropped the aero package we've been losing rear grip on high speed corner entry - and Silverstone has lots of fast corners!

Our Blue Archer car had a spin in the final qualifying session, coming back to the garage from a trip though the gravel traps. Rick and Karl hastily redrew the driver /car stints to allow time for the car to be cleaned up, promoting me to 2nd stint. 

With the Angus piloting his white Porsche Club GB spec Boxster from the grid, my job was to be in the car ready for the next hour in case an emergency change-over was needed.  Progress was tracked every lap by the pit wall crew until it was time to show the 38 pit board signalling him in.  

As he came past our pit I was cleared to exit the garage and onto track for my hour stint.   The first few laps were slow as the tyres were cold but after this I steadily improved running 2m37 laps +/- a second depending on traffic I was either catching or being overtaken by.  

After 55 mins I had a run of slow laps due to traffic and my tyres were really struggling so the pit wall called me in, releasing Felix out for the third hour.  We headed straight to he fuel station to re-fill with ~45 litres of fuel and then grabbed a quick burger for lunch whilst the car cooled down.  With just an hour before I had to be in the 'ready position' we needed Leigh and Georgia (a local Engineering student) helping hands to clean our wheels and brakes before I was back in the car again.  

My second stint was marginally faster but the car handling was really tricky.  Despite cleaning all the tyre pickup off the insides of the wheels it felt like all four were way out of balance. I had serious vibration at top speed (130mph) and under braking.  The suspension tweek after qualifying hadn't fix our rear grip so I had to still be measured throigh the Becketts / Magotts complex. 

Angus's slick tyres got us up to 15th overall and fastest of the Porsche teams but the Boxster aero boys team with wings and splitters were a good 5s a lap quicker than Felix, Stephen and myself and clawed us back, despite having to make several short change overs to manage reliability of their cars. 

The race ended just as dusk was falling at 5:45pm with us 19th overall and just pipped to 3rd Porsche team with only seconds separating us at the end.    An amazing team effort all round and a great experience.