EVENT:// 360mrc 2011 - endurance race as it should be

This spring the ClassicCarsMonthly-team will be touring South of Britain. Saturday 30th April (Dutch Queens Day) we will check out the 360 Endurance event at the freshed up Snetterton race track. Formed by a group of enthusiasts that all share a love and passion for motorsport, the 360 Motoring Racing Club successfully organised and ran the first 360 six hour endurance race for clubman type historic saloons and GTs in August 2010. We are very much looking forward to the race and it should be a blast to meet up with our friends and learn about their fast vehicles. Our dear readers will be treated with a video and a full report.

360 Grid 2010The massive appeal of a mixed bag grid hiding anything but cracking 60s and 70s hotties is one thing, but this 'alternative Six Hours' will boast more than the swift Cortinas, agile Mini Coopers and barking letterbox Alfas. Entries allow cars up to the end of 1989 which we expect will draw quite a flock of youngtimers. Image galleries at 10/10ths and Facebook show serious testing of 924s, Beemers, Fords and I even spotted a Dolly Sprint. Mmmmmh, the more the merrier is our motto. Let the racing begin!

Organising

In the field of classic car-organising the 360 Club is something different. Most of the drivers also campaign their cars in the Masters Series, Equipe GTS, Barry Sidery-Smiths plannings or Pieter Bakkers FISC-series and should all be proud of their rankings. The 360 race though is a once a year event and does not count for any of the mentioned series. It's just huge fun maybe with a nodd to test bedding for upcoming endurance races this year such as the Spa Six Hours, Gentlemans Race and such.

We had a good chat with 360-mastermind Claire Smith:

Hi Claire, thank you for sharing your precious time and giving us some insight. We're happy to advertise the 360 and hope as much as you do that this will result in a masive turn-out and a gorgeous grid.

We've read on the 360-website 'an endurance race as it should be', what exactly do you mean by that?

"Classic car racing can be a costly endeavour. One will need more than pocket change when doing all season racing even with humble machinery and a voluntary DIY-team. Also consider a bit of testing and mild preperation, travel and transport, hotels and not to forget the necessary food 'n beverage, all this can pile up the bills. Also entry fees are getting bigger and bigger as classic car racing seems to be on the up.

The 360 Club tries to offer endurance on a budget and all in old school tradition. Think Willhire 24 Hours:"

The Willhire 24 Hours (sponsored by Willhire Vehicles Rentals) was an endurance race for production cars held at Snetterton between 1980 and 1994. It was the first ever 24-hour race in Britain. A variety of drivers took part in these races. For instance in 1983, when the Tony Dron/Win Percy/Andy Rouse/Phil Dowsett team won in a 4.6 Porsche 928S. Other well known names are Martin Brundle, Tiff Needell and the inevitable Gerry Marshall.

"We as a club, treat our members like customers, because thats what they are! We believe customers are always right . . . So, it's endurance racing as it should be."

How did the 360 start?

"360 started from a thread post on the motorsport forum 10/10ths. Actually in the same understated way the Willhire 24 Hours took off:"

Willhire Vehicles Rentals owner Roger Williams was approached to sponsor a Snetterton motor racing event. Roger talked about sponsoring a 6- or 24-hour event, initially as a joke, but the offer was accepted and the Willhire 24 Hours was founded.

"I remember the topic started as an alternative six hour race in the UK: there isn't any! We wanted it to be aimed at budget-end clubmen, people who are real grass roots racers. I loved the idea as soon as I saw the topic, and the thread began to gain more and more momentum. It got serious when a few of us, who had organised race meetings before, said we could do this.

Most of the group were men and you know what they are like: they never get things done! So eventually I got things going and formed the company in December 2009. The 360 Club got recognition from the MSA as an organising club and the rest as they say is history!"

2011-03 360 MRC/360Montego2010---kopie [small]How did you get involved in classic cars and racing?

"My father owned a garage and workshop. He was simply magical to watch and could do amazing things with paint on cars. We were always around the cars and I loved them.

I was born in Aveley, Essex which was not far from Fords Advanced Vehicle Operations at the Aveley plant. The famous Mk1 Escort RS was made there.

I have loved endurance all my life and have been to Le Mans too many times to give away my age so I best not say. But it wasn't until I met John Smith (my Race Director) through a friend that I became involved in the organisational part of Racing. And here I am, masterminding the 360."

Claire, you must have a favourite (dream) car: try name one on a sensible budget and one beyond budget.

"Sensible budget? For a dream car? I have to say I'd love a Mk1 RS 2000 Escort, but that would be impracticable. As for beyond budget I would have to go for the Bugatti Veyron. And not because it is the fastest or indeed the most expensive, but just because I would know that it had cost VAG more to make it for me, than they had sold it to me for! Ha ha! Actually the new LMP1 Audi R18 is what I call a sports coupe. One day . . ."

 

As the LMP1 is a thoroughbred racer: do you race yourself?

"No, but I seriously plan to. I would really love to compete if I'm honest and I have spoken to someone about an all female team entering the 360 next year. I am really keen to do it: just don't tell my Race Director and team because they say I'm not allowed to because I'm too important for the running of the event itself!

My dream would be to one day race at Le Mans. Maybe in the Classic Le Mans I may be able to: anyone out there fancy giving me a drive? (Please mail to info@classiccarsmonthly.com)"

2011-03 360 MRC/360Race2010 [small]OK, back to the 360 then. Since I know a handfull of the guys participating 360 I've already spotted some of the goodies they will be driving. Your website says the race is up for cars made anytime up to the end of 1989. Can you tell us about the various classes?

"We have asked for four age classes in Saloons and GT's: the first is any age up to the end of the 50's, then the second to the end of the 60's, then 70's then finally the end of the 80's. When entry has closed we will split the age groups according to what is in. We will wait until the morning of the race before we announce our reclassing. This will make for a bit more excitement and will certainly add to the fun. It also puts people on an even footing as we tailor make the race to the entries and no one knows what the entries actually are! What we try to promote is the teams building the car to the best that they can with their budget without the knowledge that they only have to beat a certain car etc. The race is tailor made on the Royal Wedding Friday: our Saturdays grid will be a big surprise."

Endurance in classic car racing seems to be a bit forgotten. Is that because of 'saving precious material'?

"No I dont think so, I think its a bit forgotten because not many facilitate it! Even more a reason for us to organise the 360 event."

"I honestly believe that a lot of people would love to do a great long distance race in a classic car. Trouble is, if you take the Spa Six Hours, it's a great expense because it's a famous circuit and an established event, so people who are as we call them 'clubmen' miss out. And that's where we come in, because we remember the days of the Wilhire at Snetterton. What we are trying to do is recreate a bit of that magic era."

Well OK, the ClassicCarsMonthly Team will be present at the 360 meet to photograph, video and do a few interviews. Apart from the odd Peter Mallett, Jerry Knight, Tim Falce and Mike Bell (superb Excort BTW Claire!) can you give us a few names we must not avoid to encouter?

Mike Bell Escort RS In Portimao

"Ohhh too many, we have Radio Le Mans present with Mr John Hindhaugh. And we have some great iconic cars there as well: Nigel Webb is entering a couple of his Jaguars. He is even promising the 1955 Le Mans winning Jaguar of Mike Hawthornes! The famous '89 Wilhire winner Ford Sierra Sapphire Cosworth (still in the colours from that day) and its owner, a car that still holds the world record for winning the longest closed circuit race ever run, it ran for 25 hours! Drivers Mark Hales and Slim Borgudd lapped Snetterton 1,025 times. Epic.

MG Midget in Gulf LiveryWe have a couple of guests coming down including a few ex-Wilhire winners. We have the GULF-colours world record attempt which will be great. If you have a GULF-coloured car, bring it along and take part in the first world record attempt to get as many GULF-coloured cars in one parade at one time (check the website or email gulfcolours@360mrc.com)."

"We have the 30 minute support race for Sports Racers and GT's as well: replica GT40's etc. are going to be mixing it up with E-Types and Marlyns and Elvas in that one. So you won't want to miss that Gentleman Jack Sears is going to try and make it. FORC (The Fressingfield Oily Rag Club) are expecting to bring 50 to 60 cars ranging from the begining of the 20th century right up to the 60's and 70's. They will also be doing some demos. Ed Simpson our 'reigning champion' as such (we are NOT a championship) is going to be trying to defend his title and be crowned 360 king again and also Andrew Kitson will be there, taking pictures and whoever wins will recieve a dedicated picture of their car painted by him, which we think is lovely. 10/10th will also be there. This is a forum from and with classic car drivers. A special breed of people if you ask me."

"The thing I am really excited about is that I can now confirm that the man who made the Willhire, Roger Williams will be the guest of honour at the 360. We are very very happy he will be there. He is an unsung hero of Endurance Racing in this country, and he is very well known and liked by the people at Snetterton and we think it is very fitting that he will be at the 360. And last but not least there MAY just MAY be a famous as well."

Did you say MAY Claire?

To wrap things up, do you have some future plans to share with us?

"Yes, I need a holiday after this!

In truth, once May 1st comes we will start the ball rolling for 2012, the Olympic year. The 360 will be even bigger and better then. One thing is for sure: there will be a 360 event in 2012 without doubt.

My plans personally, I am going to take a holiday (Le Mans, what else) then look forward to the rest of the Motorsport year. For me that includes clerking in the UK at Donington, Mallory and Snetterton and also abroad in Portugal, Spain, Nurburgring and the legendary Spa which I loved in 2010 with Masters < http://www.themastersseries.com > who I clerk for.

In the meantime please keep an eye on our website, it is updated hourly by RSS feeds. Go to http://www.360mrc.com or email info@360mrc.com

And you can always join the club!"

Thank you Claire! See you Saturday April 30th!

2011-03 360 MRC/snetterton300 [large]

Words: Albert Mensinga March 2011