MR2 championship - Race Reports & TV Coverage


Birkett 6 Hour Relay Race - October 27th 2012
Silverstone Grand Prix Circuit

Silverstone hosted the annual 750MC season-closing ‘Holly’ Birkett Six Hour Relay race last Saturday on its Historic GP circuit configuration. Four teams of Toyota MR2s took up the challenge of trying to beat the handicappers in this historic and unique event.

Essentially two races in one, the Birkett runs a conventional scratch event whereby the team who complete the most number of laps in the six hours wins plus a convoluted handicap system involving credit laps given to slower teams compared to that which the handicappers think will be the fastest squad. Usually a team of Radical or Caterham sportscars, they can be expected to be at the front but the handicap gives teams such as the MR2s a chance to win the race within a race.

For this year’s 62nd running of the event, MR2 Championship boss Patrick Mortell entered two teams. Rogue’s Troopers comprised himself in an MR2-powered Rocket sportscar, Super GT regular Rob Horsfield in his powerful MR2 Turbo, former championship racer Alex Lennon in Mortell’s turbocharged MR2 Mk2 Super GT car, and driver instructor and journeyman racer Malcolm Edeson in a Mk2 MR2 championship car. Lennon performed superbly in the flame-spitting turbo car after a year out of racing due to university studies, really getting to grips with the 300-plus horsepower. A solid start saw him hand over to Horsfield in a high position. Rob completed his first stint with no dramas and cycled to Mortell’s Rocket. Patrick had a great drive in the tubular space-framed car until he detected a problem. After handing over to Edeson, the team found it was just a split CV boot, which was changed.

All four cars came out again for stints throughout the six hours with Horsfield being out on track when a hailstorm coated the surface near the end of the race. Undeterred, he carried on and the team were on for an overall top 20 finish until sadly Lennon spun his car into the gravel just five minutes from the end. Still, 25th overall was a good result – seventh in class B, especially out of 67 teams, and 35th on handicap showed how tricky it was to beat the system!

The Halo 4 was Mortell’s other team, four Mk3 Roadsters made up of championship regulars Stuart and Mick Nicholls, this year’s class C champion Jim Davies, and former championship racer Jonathan Grimes in his familiar silver Microsoft liveried car. A relatively uneventful – in a good way – run throughout the six hours saw the quartet finish down in 44th overall but 11th on handicap, 5th in class B. Davies had a drama during his first stint with a similar CV boot failure to that of Mortell’s Rocket, plus an ‘exciting’ trip across the grass at Becketts on his first lap out after the hailstorm. The Nicholls duo kept it clean and tidy during their runs and Grimes was enthusing about his return to track after a year or so away.
 
Championship regular and Donington Park polesitter Matt Wallis headed up HotBadger Motorsport, a team of Mk2 MR2s featuring himself, his brother Simon Wallis, Timothy Heron and George Hougham, this weekend taking the wheel of his daughter Amy Atkinson’s car. Another drama-free race for them saw them quietly work the handicap system, notwithstanding a big 360 degree spin for Heron exiting Club whilst avoiding a slower car, to finish 49th overall – their aim in the last hour was to break into the top 50 which left for a nail-biting finish as the team watched Matt close in on the SR & GT Grunties team at the race’s conclusion – and a superb 10th on handicap, 4th in class B and one place ahead of The Halo 4’s Roadster squad.

The final team of MR2s was the brilliantly named Dawn GP, run commandingly by Dawn Bryant for her husband and former championship racer David Bryant, Towcester’s Rob Barnett, Force India employee and quick but perennially unlucky Luke Austin, championship contender Matt Palmer, and Steve Lumley.

Out of the cockpit all season, Lumley was quickly back in the groove and posted good solid times for the team. Palmer was pleased to get another race in at the end of the season after his championship challenge went up in smoke at Mallory Park’s final round with a blown engine.

Barnett took the start and handed over to Lumley who cycled through to Austin and Palmer with Bryant tackling the greasy post-hailstorm condition at the end of the race. A clean and consistent race paid a fine reward as the team came home 36th overall on scratch, the highest placed non-turbo MR2 team and a brilliant seventh overall on handicap, third in class B.

The teams and drivers headed home after another great season of 750MC MR2 competition to fettle and prepare their cars for the 2013 season. Many of the cars will be out again next year with newcomers expected in the Mk3 class too. It should be another great season of racing for Toyota’s classic mid-engined sportscar.


Report and photographs by Gary Walton.






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