Willhire 24 Hour

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The inaugural Willhire 24 Hour, 1980
The Saab 9000 T16 of Lionel Abbott, Ian Flux and David Sears at the 1990 Willhire event
Carlos Maidana taking a pitstop in his Volkswagen Golf Mk2, 1988
Two cars battling into Riches Corner, 1990

The Willhire 24 Hour was an endurance race for production cars held at Snetterton Motor Racing Circuit in Norfolk, England between 1980 and 1994. Over the years, the race included both sports cars and saloon cars. Latterly, it was contested by competitors running in the FIA Group N specification National Saloon Car Cup. The race was run by the British Racing and Sports Car Club (BRSCC),[1] which was also responsible for the aforementioned series.[2]

History[edit]

The race was sponsored by Willhire Vehicles Rentals (now Anglian Willhire, part of Northgate), a local car rental company, after its owner Roger Williams was approached to sponsor a motor racing event at the circuit. Roger talked about sponsoring a 6- or 24-hour event, initially as a joke, but the offer was accepted and the United Kingdom's first 24-hour race was founded.[3] The race was first held in 1980.[3] The 1989 event was 25 hours long to mark the 25th anniversary of the Willhire company.[4] The final event was held in 1994.[5]

Winners[edit]

The Willhire 24 Hour was won by a number of drivers who went on to have success in other forms of racing. The first two races saw a mix of Singleton entries, typically with three or four drivers, and teams of three cars racing in relay, with up to six drivers. Purists will concentrate on the single-car entries and the Commander's Cup was up for grabs by the single-car entry that could break the distance record over the 24 hours. Morgan Plus 8's dominated. 1980: Stapleton Motors (Stapleton/Wykeham/Down/Spero) 904 laps, 5th overall. 1981: Allied Rubber Products (Stechman/Ridley/Harrison/Duret) 955 laps, 4th overall. In 1986, the winning car was co-driven by then BBC Radio 1 disc jockey Mike Smith and Lionel Abbott,[6] who became the first two-driver team to win the race. The full list of winners is given below.[3][7] Other notable drivers who competed in the past other than those listed below include Martin Brundle,[8] Steve Soper, John Cleland,[9] Kieth O'dor, Tiff Needell, James Thompson and Gerry Marshall.

Year Drivers Car Laps
1980 (multi-car team) Pete Hall
Phil Dowsett
Martin Carroll
Syd Fox
Hamish Irvine
Andrew Jeffrey
Opel Commodore GS/E 2.8 955
1981 (multi-car team) Martin Carroll
Pete Hall
Andy Rouse
Syd Fox
Phil Dowsett
Opel Commodore GS/E 990
1982 Robb Wells
Chris Alford
Malcolm Paul
Morgan Plus 8 3.5 970
1983 Tony Dron
Win Percy
Andy Rouse
Phil Dowsett
Porsche 928S 4.6 995
1984 Bill Taylor
Paul Edwards
Barry Robinson
John Lock
Porsche Carrera RS 952
1985 Roy Eaton
David Oates
John Clarke
Ford Capri 2.8i 970
1986 Mike Smith
Lionel Abbott
Ford Escort RS Turbo 965
1987 Robb Gravett
Graham Hathaway
Phil Bullman
Ford Sierra RS Cosworth 984
1988 Lionel Abbott
Graham Scarborough
Ford Sierra RS Cosworth 1,025
1989
(25 hours)
Mark Hales
Slim Borgudd
Ford Sierra Sapphire Cosworth 1,025
1990 Matt Neal
Dave Wallis
Stuart McCrudden
BMW M3 896
1991 Kurt Luby
Will Hoy
Ray Bellm
BMW M3 909
1992 Mike Jordan
Steve Griffin
Graham Coomes
BMW M3 928
1993 Mike Jordan
Mike Burtt
Charlie Cox
John Morrison
BMW M3 935
1994 Nickie Torregiani
Del Delaronde
Andrew Jeffrey
James Prochowski
Ford Escort RS Cosworth 939

Legacy[edit]

Endurance 2CV racing at Snetterton, 2009

Snetterton's experience in hosting an 24 hour race was proven to be beneficial when subsequently, the track became a host of some British Touring Car Championship night races from 1999, and Willhire-sponsored endurance races in 2002, 2003 and 2004,[7] but full 24-hour racing did not return until 2003, when the 2CV 24 Hour Race moved to Snetterton.[5][10] However, national 24 hour endurance racing would not return until the introduction of the Silverstone Britcar 24-Hour in 2005, taking place at Silverstone Circuit. The 2005 Britcar event is sometimes referred to as the Britcar Willhire 24 Hour Race.[11]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "BRSCC year-by-year". National Motor Racing Archive. Retrieved 6 March 2008. 
  2. ^ Macknight, Nigel (1992). Showroom Stock Race Car Preparation. Osceola, WI: Motorbooks. ISBN 0-87938-652-5. 
  3. ^ a b c "The Willhire 24 Hour". National Motor Racing Archive. Retrieved 2 March 2008. 
  4. ^ "Top field for 25-hour race". The Times. 1989-06-17. 
  5. ^ a b "Round-the-clock racing". Daily Telegraph. 2003-05-24. Retrieved 2 March 2008. 
  6. ^ John Blunsden (1987-06-20). "Detroit could see a charge from the non-turbo cars". The Times. 
  7. ^ a b "Silverstone Britcar 24hr previous winners". Britcar. Retrieved 18 January 2010. 
  8. ^ "Brundle, Martin". National Motor Racing Archive. Retrieved 18 January 2010. 
  9. ^ "Monorep and Motorsport". Monorep. Retrieved 18 January 2010. 
  10. ^ "Introduction: Snetterton 24-Hour 2CV Race 2003". 2CV Racing Club. Retrieved 2 March 2008. [dead link]
  11. ^ "Double finish for MG-ZR duo at Donington". theGrid.co.uk. Archived from the original on 8 February 2008. Retrieved 6 March 2008.