birkett six hour relay race

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Birkett Six Hour Relay Race

THE 1984 750 MC Six Hour Relay Race finished up a five how event. Having started promptly at noon, the event was well into its stride, with Ray Bellm’s Chevron B19 leading handsomely on scratch, when Barry Smith spun and stalled his Turner at Becketts. Paul Edwards close behind in his Porsche RSR 3.0 could not avoid a collision, the Porsche limping back to the pits in a sorry state, but the Turner was in even worse condition and had dumped fuel and oil all over the track. The organisers stopped the race and re-started just over half an hour later at one o’clock.

The Six Hour Relay is a really splendid affair with 27 teams and 157 drivers taking part this year. It is the very essence of club racing and recently both Donington and Oulton Park hosted four hour relay races. Teams may now compete for points in this mini-series, the victory winning the Sir Williams Lyons Inter-Club Relay Challenge Trophy.

Most of the teams come from one marque clubs but the Ginettas had “guest” cars, all of which retired, leaving just three G4s. The Merry Fiddlers, racing Spridgets, all meet for their regular natters in a pub of that name. The two Morgan teams named themselves in honour of the make’s 75th anniversary. One of the London CC teams was raising sponsorship for a new rescue unit — the team manager Geoff Divey wishing to return a favour having been cut from his car at Snetterton earlier this year. The Porsche Club of Great Britain fielded two strong teams, the club is becoming very active in competition having this year launched its successful Porsche Challenge. Formula Three driver, Ian Flux, was racing with the 750MC Racing and Technical Group — he’d given them a talk earlier in the year and the drive was their way of repayment.

At the re-start, Bellm once more shot into the lead but after half an hour his engine threw a rod. The Chevron team were never headed on scratch like last year, but had its fair share of dramas. The point of the Relay Race however, is that recognised winners are those who win on handicap. At the end of the first hour, the Merry Fiddlers (using only two of their team of cars) led the handicap from the Brx: (Mk vt Specials), the Alvis Owners Club who elected to race only its 4.3-litre-engined cars, four out of the seven in the team), the AC Aces (including one Alfa Romeo-powered car and Team Turner. There was little drama in the first part of the race. Dick Smith Frazer Nash Super Sports) had a fuel pump go as did Richard Dodkins’ Chevron B8,, while Ian Flux elderly Coombs 4C broke its engine mounts and the gear linkage fell apart, and despite both being repaired, the problems recurred

later.

At half distance, the Chevrons were way ahead on scratch, but Don Cressy’s B8 had lost all its gears due to a broken adaptor plate. Then, on scratch, came Porsche “B”, Clubmans 1600, Porsche “A”, 750 MC R&T and the Alfa Romeo Owners Club. On handicap, though, the BDC led from the Alvis OC, Porsche “A”, Team Turner, the Frazer Nashes and the Hobbits Wine Bar team (various Jaguar saloons and two ETypes) which was looking good for the Sir William Lyons Trophy, its nearest rivals, the TR Register and the Austin Healey Club not yet worrying them.

John Watson had lost the nose cone of his Clubmans Mallock — it was wedged firmly on the exhaust pipes of Peter Deans’ Morgan +8. John Moore’s fast Turner had expired, and John Liddle retired his Alfa Romeo with fumes in the cockpit, while the Imp engine in Lee Noble’s Davrian had exploded. The catalogue of woe was building up. Unluckiest driver though, had tube jack Bellinger who had twice replaced engines in his Morgan 4/4 in the previous fortnight, only to have a battery lead come off after three laps. Broken con-rods and fuel and water pumps were the main causes for retirement, the demise of David Scheldt’s Stratos in a cloud of steam being a body-blow to Team Lancia. With an hour toga, the scratch positions were Chevron, Porsche “A”, Clubmans, Porsche “B”, 750 R&T and Alfa Romeo. On handicap, BDC led Alvis, Porsche “A”, Turner, Merry Fiddler and Hobbits. The Alvis ream’s position was highly creditable seeing that both Peter Woodley (Sports 4.3) and Brian Chant (Sports 4.3) had had to cope with punctures and the similar car of David Roscoe had a failed back axle. The Frazer Nash team, which had generally been in the top six on handicap, had slipped to seventh (Bill Fitzpatrick drove his TT Replica for three laps with no rear wheel bearings). The Austin Sevens were down to three cars all suffering from “worn bores

and loose blocks”.

A fine battle between the Morgan +8 team, Post War AMOC, Ginetta and the TR Register continued in the latter stages. The Chevrons suffered more dramas, Don Prater’s B8 experiencing overheating problems (traced to a loose radiator cap), while Peter Grant’s B16 stopped at Becketts with only eight minutes to go. Still they handsomely won the scratch event from Porsche “B”, Clubmans, Porsche “A” and the Alfa Romeo OC’s team which put in a fine late run to pip the 750 R&T team for fifth.

The Bentley Drivers Club team of Trentham, Grenville-Mashers, Bradley and Brewer won the main section, the handicap, by four laps from Porsche “A”, Alvis (on the some lap), Merry Fiddlers, Team Turner and Frazer Nash.

The Hobbits had the misfortune to lose Ian Watson’s E-Type two laps into his final stint but they achieved their aim of beating the TR Register (Reg Woodcock’s TR5 running out of fuel with two laps toga) and the Austin Healey team. They therefore won the Sir William Lyons Inter-Club Relay challenge and the trophy was presented to them by the new chairman of Jaguar, Hamish Orr-Ewing, who had been a member of the BDC team in 1951 which was the last occasion on which the Bentley team had won the race. The Triumphs and the Healeys came second and third in the Challenge while fourth were the ladies’ team of Vista Ad-Lib which, at Silverstone, finished ninth on handicap.

Everybody should experience these relay races, they are more than simply races, they are a cekbranon of the great tradition of British club racing. No matter how cynical one becomes when experiencing the antics prevalent in “higher” forms of racing, a few hours spent at these events restores your faith in the idea that motor racing can still be a sport — seriously fought competition leavened with humour, courtesy, camaraderie and fair play. — M.L.

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