In His Own Words – Part One - Marc Haynes
Marc Haynes is a recent addition to our collection of motorsport's movers and shakers, a gentleman racer himself, Mar's other day job is as the Managing Director of the world famous Haynes Motor Museum.
The last few years though have seen the emergence and rapid growth of his Bute Motorsport outfit's GT Cup Championship - 2010 sees the emergence of their new Pro-Am GT Trophy product and, as you'll read here, they have big plans for expansion in 2011.
That though is for Marc himself to tell you - and he'll do it verbatim - In His Own Words.
I wanted to race as a child but with my health difficulties I never really thought it would be possible.
Oddly the next step on the road was my having my car stolen at university in 1993. I replaced it with a Porsche 911 SC and had some special new hand controls fitted developed in Italy by Clay Reggazoni which allowed hand control of a manual car. Semi Automatics were the exclusive realm of F1 back then.
I then met a hill climber, Joy Rainey, who’d been running competitively in hill climbs despite her own disability. She was looking to get a Sprint Championship together at Curborough (something the dsc Ed had a very small involvement in too!) back in 1993. She had to fight hard to get the permissions to do it and I was very happy to support her – I literally used to turn up in the Porsche, stick on a timing strip and away I’d go.
The following year I bumped into Steve Smyth from Mirror Racing in Warrington. He had some racing Porsches parked outside the front of his workshop and I showed some interest – It was Steve that first said to me “Why not have a go at racing?”
It was a bit of a struggle back then – initially the only thing a disabled driver could get a license for was sprinting and only at Curborough but thanks to the likes of Joy things began to change - In 1993 the MSA said we were allowed to sprint at other venues and then things began to loosen up and myself and 3 others went and did our ARDS test at Silverstone.
One of the major issues was that we were asked to prove that we could get out of our cars unaided in under 10 seconds – and I did! Happily its something I haven’t had much cause to use in the last 16 years. In all that time I’ve only been off the track 3 or 4 times.
I started racing in the Porsche Classic in 1994 in a 911 T – and by 1997 I finished 3rd in my class. I raced with them until 2001. It was a great club racing experience and we raced at some wonderful tracks including Zandvoort and Spa – A wonderful feeling.
I met a guy called Eamon O’Connor who was doing some really ground breaking work on hand controls, very bespoke stuff but difficult to replicate what someone could do with two feet as well as two hands. For me heel and toe downshifts weren’t possible in a manual car and there are always development budget constraints too of course.
The next big change then came when my good friend Colin Broster came to see me after he’d had a race in a Ferrari 360. “That’s the car for you,” he said and he was bang on the money!
By that time I hadn’t raced for about 3 years, the business was going well and had taken up a lot of my attention. The bug was still there though and the Ferrari was, as Colin had said, the car for me!
“It had a semi-automatic shift which meant that the car cost just £400 to convert to hand controls as compared to the thousands of pounds and hundred of hours that it had cost with bespoke controls. Soon after I drove the car someone made a comment which stuck with me ever since when talking about the Ferrari paddle shift “Pull a lever for down shift and Micheal Schumachers feet take over” absolutely spot on.
I was immediately comfortable with the car and, despite the fact that it was the first car I’d ever driven on slicks, I got my head around it pretty quickly.
Peter Hignett at ABG ran the car for me in 2007 and I was due to do some Intermarque racing but the Aston Martin Owners Club decided rather late in the day that the Ferrari 360’s inclusion was the “wrong direction for them.”
There wasn’t much else around – There was Britcar of course but for my purposes the 2 driver format was difficult with a modified car.
I had a crack at the Castle Combe Special GTs but it didn’t really work for me, there were around seven 360s but no Porsches and I wasn’t too keen at being lapped several times by the Radicals! I even did a one-off race with the Irish Porsche Open field as an ‘honorary entry’!
In truth though there wasn’t anything that really did it for me so I decided to have a go at putting something together myself.
Working with MSVR from the beginning I put a trial race meeting together at Snetterton in November 2007 and we had a very encouraging response, 24 cars and plenty of variety Porsches, Ferraris, TVRs, BMWs
I’d done it on the basis of asking myself, and a few others, what we wanted from a race package – Hospitality and TV were pretty close to the top of the list and we also put in the no pro drivers rule too with short races and plenty of track time, stable and simple rules and regs – All in all it had to be fun.
Over the winter we talked to MSVR about the concept and came up with an 16 race 8 round series.
It seems to have been a success and we had a grid of 28-30 cars straight away.
The trickiest thing to get right has been where to put the cut-off for the competing cars. From the beginning we aimed the Series at the older Ferrari 360s and Porsche 996s – There was already plenty of debate though over the Ferrari 430s and Porsche 997s.
Fiorano Ferrari were involved early on too – they were good people, had some very well prepared cars and weren’t remotely interested in British GT!
They were keen on us taking a look at the 430 so we did some evaluation and despite some initial concerns the 430 Challenge seemed to work well alongside the 997 Cup.
In 2009 we had a much clearer structure, 430s with an upgrade were in, so were the equivalent Porsche 997s and moved to Group 2 with GT3 and more modified machinery forming a new Group 1 and we had 4 Groups.
Group 1 was for the fastest group of cars and whilst we got a really good line up from the beginning the reality was that the cars were getting faster and faster and that became something of a problem with some of the much stronger GT3 cars with drivers that were still amateur drivers but with more race experience and there’s no cap on talent.
It did though mean that we had a year dominated by a single car & driver, Mike Gardiner in the Dodge Viper was a combination that was tough to beat, a fast and well prepared car driven by a driver with plenty of experience – A well prepped car with a less experienced driver would be no problem but for one team to dominate can be a problem if you’re tying to get competitors to commit to a Championship.
The faster GT3 cars were outlawed for 2010 and we went back to just 3 Groups and for 2011 we want to go back to specifying classes by model and balancing them from there.
For instance – If you have a 996 Cup with a flat shift you can race but you take a 20 kg penalty. Minimising weight, maximising power – our minimum weight will include the driver so there’s a further equalisation there too. Its all about total visibility to the rest of the grid, or to other potential entrants. We think that’s a far better way of regulating things.
As for some of the ‘specials’ we have racing – We will ask all of our entrants to declare the homologation of their car or whether it isn’t homologated. We’ll need a lot more evidence of the specification of the non-homologated cars and will certainly focus plenty of our attention on those entrants. They have to create their own technical passport so we know what we are looking at from one race to another and to control development.
It means that the Championship is open to a wide variety of perhaps cheaper cars but that more effort is going to be needed on their part to help us to get the balance right.
Overall it should keep the level of Group 1 where it is but allow for the inclusion of some of the older, slower GT3 cars but certainly not the more recent upgraded cars such as the 430 Scuderia.
I’m very attracted by data logging systems as a way of monitoring equalisation, not perhaps as a way of measuring the ultimate power the car is producing but they are very good at measuring acceleration and monitoring a grid and identifying anomalies.
Plus we are looking to perhaps require an on board camera system to help us to monitor driving standards. Some of these systems operate on an ignition activated continuous loop. We would only have to access the system in the event of a problem so running costs would be very low.
For 2010 though things are progressing well – we expect 30 cars for Spa (next weekend) even though it unfortunately clashes with the Britcar 24 hours, I’d rather it didn’t of course.
Having said that I don’t see Britcar as direct competition. Our biggest competition in the market where we are currently operating is our participants choosing to do something outside motorsport . The key to us persuading them not to do that is to keep an eye on the balance we are providing between cost and quality.
It’s important to be grounded about where you lie in the grand lexicon – I see us as being in the top echelon of club racing.
Having said that the GT Trophy does mark an exciting opportunity for us to step further forward.
The idea came about because we have a lot of teams wanting to do longer races, Friday testing and with pro drivers – GT Cup doesn’t cater for any of that.
There is scope to build on the relationship we have with our customers and with potential new entrants who can bring some things that are very helpful to us.
GT Trophy will welcome cars from GT2, GT3, GT4 and the Cup cars too as well as non homologated GT’s. We’ll have 4 Groups (classes) and they’ll be clearly differentiated.
There will be six GT Trophy races in 2011 and the concept is something we want to develop going forward. I have some exciting irons in the fire but don’t want to say anything more until things are more sorted.
We will be using a variable length pitstop system to equalise each Group, it’s a system that many have told us provides stability and good racing, equalising performance of the spread of machinery and driver grade combinations within each Group in the actual race being run. This is something which is absolutely vital to us and to our customers.
Beyond that we have a technically well proven and very effective system which, through quite a complex formula and using a large range of factors and data that will allow us to put an appropriate time penalty in place at the meeting concerned. The process takes a couple of hours and the teams will know exactly where they stand before the races begin.
We’ll be trialling the system in the second GT Trophy race at Snetterton on 30 October and that’s a race where we expect a strong grid with two one hour races on the same day, one at night.
Whilst there was a disappointing grid for the first race at Brands Hatch with 16 making it to the grid we lost as many as 10 after Thruxton (where Jeff Leadley was tragically killed in a racing accident) as many entrants understandably didn’t feel right about racing so soon afterwards. It was an extremely tricky situation and very difficult for everyone but we had drivers and teams committed to it who do not do the GT Cup. Despite this difficult beginning we put on a stunning show with some great battles throughout and a glorious variety of cars.
Also in 2011 we’re improving and simplifying our back-office functions with a web based registration and race entry system and the ability for the first time to accept card payments.
There’s a lot of admin work involved too as the organisation is looking to field at least 16 race meetings next year.
That means we’ll need the right number of personnel in place – It’s meant of course that I’ve been taking a step back from racing myself and I have to say that I’m enjoying getting more deeply involved in the organisational aspects of the sport. It’s a whole new lease of life for me.
I do need to thank Jonathan and MSVR. They have done great things for British motorsport and I don’t think they always get the credit they deserve for what they have done. British Motorsport needs more people who are prepared to invest in infrastructure and to make things more egalitarian. We share the same view of customer service and remembering who the customer is. The whole MSVR team are imbued with the right philosophy and it’s a particular pleasure to work with David Scott, David Willey and Chris Mount who are all so massively experienced in the organisation of motor sport. They have taught me a great deal.
I do though also need to recognise the efforts of the Bute team.
In particular Hannah Wilson, she started work as my Personal Assistant and is now our race Secretary as well. She’s been the main competitor contact from the very beginning and has been the backbone of the whole thing.
My brother Chris also deserves special mention. I spent rather too long in hospital at the beginning of the year. Three months in total, three weeks of which was in intensive care. On top of being MD for a property management and development company he stepped in for me and by all accounts with Hannah, Belinda and Jock did an outstanding job.
Jock Simpson, Belinda Edwards and our hospitality co-ordinator Kirsty Simmonds are key players – the whole team go above and beyond to make sure that the competitors enjoy their weekend. In fact the administration of this is very like being a GT Cup competitor – It’s a team game.
Part 2 features GT Sport's Jesus Pareja, the man in charge of the International GT Open and Spanish GT Championship