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Kent driver grabs title at Brands Hatch for most race wins ever

Tuesday, November 21 2017

Kent's Rod Birley made history at Brands Hatch last weekend (18-19 November) when he claimed the new UK record for most race wins, just two weeks after a serious crash threatened to shatter his life-long dream.

Birley, who lives on the circuit's doorstep in West Kingsdown, claimed two saloon car class victories in a Honda Integra at the last event of the Brands Hatch season, to equal and then surpass the benchmark of 625 wins set by cult hero Gerry Marshall. Marshall's total was achieved during a career spanning more than 40 years from the mid-1960s until his death in 2005. Birley began competing in 1973 and much of his success has come at Brands Hatch, with more than 200 of his 626 wins secured at his local venue. 

It's been a landmark year for Birley, who chalked up his 600th victory early in 2017 and has enjoyed something of an Indian summer ever since, to close the gap on Marshall. Upon reaching 600 wins, Rod speculated that it would probably take "a year or two" to overtake Marshall, whose photo currently hangs in Brands Hatch's Kentagon restaurant.

Birley was aiming to break the record two weeks ago, when he tangled with a rival on the final run to the chequered flag. A 130mph impact with the pit wall left him with cracked ribs - and may have written off the Ford Escort in which he has achieved much of his recent success.

With the Escort out of action, Rod's record-breaking moment came in the next best thing as his Honda was shared in a two-driver race with Jon Bevan, whose family prepared his very first racing car.

Brands Hatch was the perfect location for Birley to claim the milestone, as it's the site of many of his key motorsport memories. Indeed, he cites watching Jim Clark in a Lotus Cortina on the Grand Prix circuit as the moment he realised motor racing was for him, and he was fortunate enough to compete on the support bill at the final Brands Hatch British Grand Prix in 1986. In more recent years, in addition to frequently competing at the circuit, Birley took part in filming for Ron Howard's blockbuster racing movie 'Rush', whilst the venue remains one of his preferred Sunday lunch destinations. 

Briley said: "I am really pleased that I managed to break the wins record at Brands Hatch, where I have enjoyed most of my success. Quite appropriately, it was with the Bevan family, as George Bevan built my very first race engine for a Hillman Imp back in 1973. It's probably not the most sensible thing I have done, as I still have a couple of cracked ribs from the big crash two weeks ago!"

Hope And Birley Lead Away Rod Birley 001

Additional images: Gary Hawkins