Unbelievable: almost off into the gravel trap on the first corner. I’ll get my well-thumbed excuse book out later, but for now I’ll blame nerves, because this is a much bigger deal than I imagined it would be.
An old colleague had suggested that we try setting some electric vehicle records: among other stunts, a speed record for reversing a milk float. An interesting idea, but although I do have form for going backwards fast, I would rather do something more relevant. I had just driven Porsche’s new Taycan and was mightily impressed. Perhaps, I suggested, Porsche might help us establish some records with that car.
Porsche did more than help: within hours of our phone call, it had started to put into a place a formidable campaign. Rather than rack up speed records with the Taycan, it instead wanted to concentrate on endurance records. And not driving the car on an airfield or even on the unchallenging and rather boring two-mile bowl at Millbrook Proving Ground in Bedfordshire. Porsche fancied Brands Hatch or Silverstone: a circuit at which it has won many races, particularly in the Group C sports car era of the 1980s.
There have always been employees at Porsche who have excelled in motorsport outside of their day jobs. Herbert Linge, who started at the company as an apprentice mechanic during the war, became a top-flight sports car racer in the 1960s. Jürgen Barth, who played an important part in developing the 911, won Le Mans in 1977. And Fritz ‘Huschke’ von Hanstein, a Mille Miglia and Targa Florio winner, also ran Porsche’s public relations department.
Rob Durrant, who works in the Porsche GB press office, is a former racer and in this project was proven to be a master logistician. Covid-19 scuppered an earlier date set for our record-setting bonanza and a clashing event put paid to the revised date, but eventually the stars aligned and we were booked in at Brands Hatch. There’s plenty of Porsche history at the Kent circuit: there was the famous BOAC 1000km in 1970, won by Pedro Rodríguez and Leo Kinnunen in a Gulf Porsche 917, and the 1984 BAe 1000km won by Jonathan Palmer and Jan Lammers in a Canon-sponsored Porsche 956.
Durrant first scanned the records (which you can see on the Motorsport UK website) and picked out 12 that could be set, all from a standing start. We would first aim to establish a record for 50km, then continue all the way to 1000km, posting en route records for imperial distances and for the distance covered in hours.