Remembrance Weekend saw the RNRM Car Racing Team head to Anglesey Circuit in North Wales for the Inter Services Endurance Racing Championship held as part of the Race of Remembrance. This 12 hour endurance race begins on the Friday with day and night qualifying with 7 hours of racing into the night on the Saturday evening and 5 hours split by a pause for a Service of Remembrance in the pitlane. This race was the final event for the team which fielded an experienced line up of drivers with Lt Cdr Keith Attwood RN (815 NAS), Lt Cdr Mike Wells RN (JHC), Mne Adam Dewis (RM Poole) and LAET Seb Unwin (RNAS Yeovilton) supported in the pits by Lt Simon Vernon RN (WSTR), LAET Daniel Blackett (HMS Sultan), LCpl Ben McLaughlin (RM Poole) and LAET Si McGee (815 NAS). The team would be racing the endurance prepared BMW 116i as raced in the 116i championship throughout the year in a class of 8 identical cars including 3 RAF entries and a team from the Royal Engineers as well as a mix of hatchbacks and sports cars in the 55 car grid.
The team used the day qualifying to adjust to the fast sweeping circuit on an exposed peninsular jutting into the Irish Sea, with all 4 drivers gaining experience of the track and car in the greasy conditions. Seb used his knowledge of the car he campaigned in the Armed Forces Race Challenge this season to propel the team to 1st in class by just 1 hundredth of a second and 33rd overall.
The later night qualifying saw rain begin to fall leaving slippery conditions for the only practice at night the team would get before 5 hours of night racing the following day. With times in this session not counting towards qualification and pole in class assured the team used to opportunity to experiment with wet lines. Towards the end of the session Keith slid exiting the fast Turn 3 with the car skipping across the grassy infield into the Welsh mud. Keith was able to recover the car to the pit lane as the session ended and an investigation into any damage and preparations for the race could begin. Other than a liberal coating of mud on every panel no damage was sustained and after a washdown the team could fit new brake pads and align the car ready for Part 1 of the race the following day.
After a brief warm up of the car on Saturday morning the Race began at 1500 with the first 7 hour session. Mike began the race and started well gaining a number of places on the laps and pulling away from most of the BMW class with just the No 9 car run by VMS Racing in pursuit. A tangle at the final hairpin saw Mike forced onto the grass and a number of Class rivals slipped through as Mike used all his skill to keep the car under control. Mike would gain places as other rivals pitted later. With the team running a strategy to run the car as long as possible on each stint to limit pits stops to the mandated 6x 4 minute stops it was necessary to extend the fuel as long as possible between stops.
As darkness began to fall Mike brought the car in to refuel and hand over to Adam just ahead of car 9 with nearly a lap on the nearest Forces competitor. Adam set off for his session in close competition with car 9 who had also stopped and now in total darkness continued to rack up the laps on the congested track. With slower cars to overtake and quicker cars looking to lap there wasn’t a moment for the drivers to relax in over 90 minute stints. With fuel running down Adam pitted under a safety car and Seb jumped in to continue the charge. Immediately up to a good pace Seb pulled away from the BMW field and was lapping well until 45 minutes into his shift, whilst attempt to lap a slower car saw contact at the hairpin. The impact buckled the driver’s front wheel and bent the steering arm forcing the car to limp to the pits and loose valuable time. The pit team sprang into action fuelling the car and replacing both front wheels however an issue with the front tyres caused further delay and by the time Seb headed back onto circuit the team had lost over 7 mins on their closest rivals.
With a clear target ahead Seb set about recovering lost time and unlapped himself from the class leader and looked to gain further time. After a near 3 hour stint Seb pitted to hand over to Keith to finish the final part of the first 7 hours and close out the Saturday racing.
Running as the fastest car in class and with other cars pitting Keith soon re-took the class lead and set about attempting to gain a lap on the field ahead of the restart the following morning. When the chequered flag fell at 2200 the team was in 18th overall and 1st in class a lap ahead of the nearest Forces challengers.
With the car recovered to the garage the pit team again sprang into action to replace the brake pads, discs and tyres and replace the bent steering arm from the earlier clash as well as conduct a full wheel alignment of the car. A package of work that saw the team leave the garage at 0130 and head for bed.
At 0900 on the Sunday the race recommenced with Keith back in the seat with a full tank of fuel looking to extend the lead before the race was paused for the Service. A quieter 90 mins saw Keith slowly extend his lead and when the intermission came the team was now 3 laps ahead of the next in class.
At 1030 the track fell silent and the team represented the Naval Service in No 1 uniform alongside personnel from the other Services and Veterans to pay respect to all those who gave their lives in past conflicts. After Daniel had laid a wreath on behalf of those present the race resumed.
Keith immediately pitted for fuel and passed the car to Mike with a healthy gap to rest of the BMW field. With consistent pace and clean racing the team continued to grow their lead and after a final splash of fuel to hand the car to Seb the team could see the end of the race ahead. When the chequered flag fell after 12 hours of racing under mild November skies the team had covered 336 laps and 705 miles finishing in 16th overall and winning the BMW class by an astonishing 5 laps over car 9 and 7 laps ahead of the nearest Forces team; a fantastic result for the team and a 1st class win in this event.
The team will race again next year as defending Forces teams champions in the Armed Forces Race Challenge, defending Endurance Champions and a close 2nd in the Intra-Services Championship. This represents a superb season for the team with a committed effort from all on and off the track.
Highlights and a full race replay can be found on YouTube by searching ‘Race of Remembrance 2022’.