Photo: Chris Warburton with a Saker RapX S1 and a Racekits Falcon for company
Team MG Cup Pete Best Insurance at The Birkett 2017 with EBC Brakes
Team MG Cup Pete Best Insurance consisting of Peter Burchill, Howard Hunt, Craig Bayson, Phil Bowden, Jason Simm and guest driver Chris Warburton, competed at The Birkett on 28th October 2017 which took place at Silverstone Race Circuit. Dickon Siddall has given us the race report of the event and lots of great photos (see below).
Peter Burchill and Team MG Cup Pete Best Insurance equips their MG ZS cars with the ‘Masters of stopping power’ – EBC Yellowstuff pads and Bluestuff NDX Race Brake pads.
The morning was crisp and bright. It was 7.00am when the MG Cup Pete Best Insurance team assembled in garage 5A at Silverstone to make ready for qualifying for The Birkett, the annual end of season relay race that runs for six hours on the historic Grand Prix circuit.
The team, pulled together by Peter Burchill, MG Cup/Cockshoot Cup stalwart, was made up of five MG ZS racecars that have been a familiar sight at MGCC race meetings in recent years. Described by one of its members as comprising four aging racers and two whippersnappers, the drivers were the aforementioned Peter Burchill, Howard Hunt, Craig Bayston, Phil Bowden, Jason Simm and guest driver Chris Warburton who would share Howard’s car. As team manager, John Warburton headed the support crew of mechanics Fred and Tony and the multi-tasking Heather who doubled-up as catering manager and timekeeper.
Peter has been a regular at The Birkett for a number of years and has developed a previously successful strategy to enter the team in Class D which caters for Sports Cars and Saloons (on racing tyres) of 2000cc and over and all bike engined cars over 1000cc. Two years ago it worked extremely well as the team finished 1st in class in the Scratch race and 2nd in class on Handicap in heavy rain. However other teams clearly had the same idea this year and at signing on in Race Control we realised that we would be competing against Radicals, Seat Leon Cup Cars, BMW M3s and other more powerful slick shod cars. We knew straight away that it was going to be hard work in Class D this year.
Qualifying commenced at 9.00am. All the drivers were due to complete a 15-minute session to get a feel for the track and conditions, the Grid positions being determined by the organisers, not the lap times achieved during qualifying.
Photo: Chris Warburton’s stint started in bright afternoon sunlight …
Photo: Peter Burchill enjoying a trouble free qualifying session
The first five qualifying sessions went well for us. Then Howard went out on track and came back on the end of a towrope! The clutch had failed which caused some consternation during the final team briefing at 11.00. However, spirits rose again when Peter declared that he had been a good Boy Scout and had a spare clutch and release assembly in his van.
As Jason prepared to go out on track to start the race John, Fred and Chris started work to change Howard’s clutch. With John otherwise engaged, Heather abandoned the catering and readied herself for the timekeeping duties.
As the 11.45 start time approached 70 cars left the assembly area and lined up on the grid. Jason lined up on row 24 in P47. The rolling start behind the safety car gave him time to get some heat in the slicks prior to a good run out of Woodcote being careful not to overtake anyone before the start line. After a few laps Jason had a coming together with another car at Luffield. The impact was hard enough to push him onto the infield but thankfully he was able to continue. When it became clear that the steering and tyres weren’t damaged he was quickly back up to speed and headed off to catch the procession behind the safety car, which had been deployed for another incident. Despite this being his first race in 2017, Jason settled into a good rhythm and got his lap times down to 2m 27s. He took to the grass a couple of times, first to avoid another car that closed the door at Chapel and again when he overcooked it in the Arena complex. Then his pace slowed as his tyres started to go off and he was relieved to see Heather display the ‘IN’ board to bring him into the pits to hand over to Craig. But Jason had one final drama to deal with. As he turned into the left kink between Stowe and Vale halfway round his last lap he completely lost steering and brakes.
He managed to take the entrance to the unused Wing pits and slowed the car down in the pit lane. From there it was a slow crawl back to our pits with a cone he inadvertently collected jammed under his front splitter. Later examination of the car revealed the stub axle had sheered off and the only thing holding the wheel on the car was the brake caliper! Despite this, Jason had a great stint on track and did enough to pull the team 21 places up the rankings to 26th overall.
Craig’s stint was quite uneventful. He concedes that he spent the majority of the race trying to keep out of the way of some much faster machinery but was delighted that he managed to better his previous time around the track in considerably colder conditions and on list tyres rather than the slicks he used at MG Live in June! After his first season racing with the MGCC, Craig felt that The Birkett was the perfect way to finish off the year and his commitment to the team would become apparent later in the afternoon.
At the two hour point Peter was belted up in his car, engine running, just waiting in garage 5A for his turn to go out on track. As Craig passed the garage Peter swept out behind him and headed down the pit lane for his hour of fun on the track. Well that was the plan! He was quickly up to speed and got a feel for the pace of the other cars. The sheer diversity of the other machinery had him checking and double-checking his mirrors, especially on the lookout for Caterhams as they buzzed around like wasps. On his second lap, with brakes and tyres nicely warmed, Peter started concentrating on reeling in the cars in front and gaining some places. He was having great sport exchanging places with one of the Toyota GT86s and his times were coming down. However, as he was following two fast cars that had just overtaken him he took an ‘interesting’ line at Aintree and launched the ZS onto the Wellington Straight with the engine on the rev limit and the Rover torsen differential and tyres working hard! Then BANG….! No, not his 115K engine. That still had oil / water pressure and was running but he had lost drive and coasted to the nearest marshal’s post. The marshals quickly pushed the stricken car off the live track and the race continued without any delay.
Photo: Peter Burchill enjoying a trouble free qualifying session
Photo: Howard Hunt, still with clutch troubles spent most of his time on track in 5th gear
When Heather’s stop-watch showed that Peter was overdue, Phil was hastily waved out onto the circuit far sooner than anticipated which highlighted the importance of always having at least one driver strapped in and ready to go. At this point the mechanical problems had dropped the team to 68th position. There was work to be done!
John, Fred and Chris were still trying to complete repairs on Howard’s car when Peter was towed back to the garages. Immediately Peter and Tony started to investigate and discovered that the middle drive shaft had sheared. Peter had spare left and right shafts in the van – but no middle shaft. As Craig was not due out on track again he generously offered the use of his middle shaft but to no avail. After stripping down Craig’s car they discovered that it’s middle shaft was a different size and wouldn’t fit Peter’s pre-production car. So all the intrepid spannermen could do was put Craig’s car back together again and Peter’s ZS was destined to take no further part in the proceedings.
Phil did around 25 minutes with his lap times consistently falling until he was called in so that Howard, whose car was now raceworthy, could go out for his stint. He did a solid hour until his tank was empty though his time on track was frustrating. Despite all the work on the clutch Howard was still having difficulty changing gear, to the point where he used fifth gear for the majority of each lap. He spent most of the time keeping out of the way of other cars simply because he couldn’t carry speed through the corners as he normally would.
After Howard’s stint, Phil was back out again. In his second session with tyre pressures suitably adjusted he managed to equal his personal best of 2:33. By the time he came back into the pits to hand over to Chris the team had climbed back up to 50th overall.
There was just over an hour of the race left to run when Chris left the pits to start his run to the flag. He completed several laps under the safety car while a spillage around Brooklands and Luffield was cleaned up. When racing resumed dusk was falling and Chris reeled off the final laps to complete the last leg of the race without further incident.
The MG Cup Pete Best Insurance team had endured a frustrating race. Despite the mechanical problems and strength of the competition, they put up a good fight and completed 125 laps – equal to 457.6 racing miles – and were placed 40th overall on handicap. More importantly, the team finished 5th out of 13 runners in Class D, which placed the ZSs ahead of BMWs, Caterhams, Radicals, Sakers and TVRs.
All the drivers thoroughly enjoyed the challenge of the Silverstone GP circuit and team leader, Peter Burchill, vowed to fly the MG flag again in 2018 with the aim of repeating the successes of previous years.
A huge thanks to the 750 Motor Club for organising a superb event, to the marshals and the service crew. Without these unsung heroes we couldn’t go racing.
Words and pictures by Dickon Siddall
Photo: Phil Bowden about to be passed by a Mallock MK30 PR
About The Birkett
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 race remained in his honour.
The race is held on the Silverstone GP Circuit which can accommodate up to 70 teams of between four and six drivers and cars competing in a unique relay race format. Each team has to lap the circuit as many times as it can within the six hours, with only one of the team cars running at any one time. As one car comes into the pit lane and passes the team’s garage, the next can be sent out onto the circuit. The race attracts an eclectic mix of sports and saloon cars and in bygone years the entry list has included famous names such as Steve McQueen (who drove a Mini), Vic Elford (Ford Anglia) and Richard Attwood (Triumph TR3).
Photo: Chris Warburton’s stint finished as dusk descended.