The UK's largest annual motor race will return on 26th October 2024. Offering six hours of unbeatable racing on the Silverstone Grand Prix Circuit in a relay format, the Birkett usually sees a capacity grids of 70 teams and nearly 300 cars and drivers.
The last bastion of British motorsport; and the traditional close to the club racing season, this unique event has a concept and a tradition all of its own. 'The Birkett' is a the iconic end of season fun to many but also a challenge to the competitive instincts of many racing drivers and the strategic wiles of a few team managers.
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 event was subsequently renamed in honour of the Club President. 2023 will represent the 72nd anniversary of the six-hour race event and, just to confuse things, the 73rd Birkett event – the 50th anniversary was celebrated with an extra one–off 12 Hour Birkett race.
The race is held today on the full Silverstone GP circuit and as a result can accommodate up to 70 teams of between three and six drivers and between three and six cars competing in a unique relay race format - as a result trhere are usually around 300 taking part in one race! Each team has to lap the circuit as many times as they can within the six hours, with only one of their team cars running at any one time. As one car comes into the pit lane, the next can be dispatched out onto the circuit.
Entry is restricted to any closed wheel car (exc. historics) - this means an eclectic mix of vehicles can be on track, everything from 1960’s MG Midgets to BMW M3s, Smart cars, TCR cars, Austin A30s, hordes of Caterham derivatives and modern sports racing cars such as Radicals and Spires.
The event is really two events in one. In addition to trying to win outright 'Scratch Victory' by recording the highest number of laps there is also the more hotly contested 'Handicap 'Victory', which in theory could be won by any of the teams.
Each team is credited with a certain number of credit laps, presumed to have been run before the race started. The results are then calculated from the credit laps and the actual laps covered by each team in the six hours to see who has beaten the rest (and the handicapper).
In addition to overall scratch and handicap awards, there are a number of class prize to ensure all teams have a chance of silverware.
Various well known names - from musicians to F1 drivers - have raced in the Birkett both in the early years and the modern era, with some even taking the overall honours. You can find an exhaustive list of the winning teams across the decades on our Birkett Relay Roll Of Honour page, which includes within it names from Graham Hill to Gerry Marshall.
Two teams have taken Birkett victory four times with changing lineups: 'RAFMSA' (Handicap 2007, 2008, 2011 & 2017), 'Hart Attacks' (Scratch 1999, 2001, 2008, Handicap 1996), whilst 'Goldarts' top the table with five wins (Scratch 1998, 2005, 2006, 2007, Handicap 2004). Doug Newman remained omnipresent throughout the changing Goldarts lineups to lift a Birkett trophy the greatest number of times, but those five victories are shared with Alan Eisner, who secured four scratch victories and one handicap spread across two different Chevron teams (Wood Treatment Team Chevron & Apollo Racewear Team) in the early '80s.
A trio of BBC Top Gear presenters comprising Chris Harris, Rory Reid and Matt LeBlanc contested the Birkett Relay in 2017 in a variety of slightly inappropriate race cars. Aired on BBC2, you can watch the show on BBC iPlayer, as well as the side program 'Extra Gear'.
Since 2018 the Birkett has been live-streamed by Alpha Live on Facebook and YouTube - watch back the footage on the 750 Motor Club YouTube channel, and head to 750mc.co.uk/LIVE on 26th October 2024 to watch the Birkett Relay as it happens.