Bill Binnie – Patience & Planning
one fascinating character – and the more one discovers about
his racing plans, the more interesting they become.
2005 programme, as announced in the second week of January at the
AUTOSPORT Show (left), is that Binnie Motorsports will be the one
of the first customers for a brand new Lola B05/40 Nicholson-McLaren,
to be raced at Sebring, in the LMES and, entry permitting, at Le
So who is Bill Binnie? As a bright, young man more than 20 years
ago, he raced all around the United States in single seaters, as
part of Skip Barber’s Racing programme, but while at Sebring
he discovered he was about a second slower than Justin Bell, reckoned
he wasn’t going to be a World Champion, and set about getting
a real job and making the money that would allow him to go racing
been racing competitively for the last ten years or so, after taking
a bunch of years off to make a living and making some money to pay
for my racing habit. But even while not racing I have always played
with cars and collected cars.”… And he has some gorgeous
historic cars in his possession – on both sides of the Atlantic.
“Paul Lanzante (remember him? He entered the winning McLaren
F1 GTR at Le Mans in 1995, JJ’s year) has always looked
after my historic cars in the UK. He’s currently working on
the engine of my 312PB, and he looks after the GT40 I raced at Le
Mans this year, in the Classic event.”
Bill is too modest to admit that he won that Le Mans ‘race’,
on aggregate over the four sprints – so he was twice a winner
at Le Mans last year.
had a fascinating discussion about his 312PB Ferrari, the car that
Jacky Ickx and Clay Regazzoni raced so hard in 1971 – ultimately
with very little good fortune. This was the chassis (0784) that
replaced the one destroyed in Ignazio Giunti’s appalling accident
in Argentina. At Brands Hatch, for example (above), Ickx lost eight
laps early on, after being put off the road by a backmarker, but
he and his Swiss partner still finished second, only three laps
behind de Adamich / Pescarolo.
But ’71 set the scene for that most successful Ferrari sportscar
year ever, when Ickx, Andretti, Redman, Regazzoni, Peterson and
Schenken cleaned up in the Championship.
So here we have a man who loves driving older cars, but gets a thrill
out of racing contemporary machinery too. We’ve used this
photograph already, but it sums up the satisfaction of a class win
in the greatest endurance race of all (Le Mans, the podium,
last June, with Clint Field and Rick Sutherland).
idea of entering the new Lola design at Le Mans arose 18 months
ago, but the new car simply wasn’t ready in that time frame,
so my team became heavily integrated into the Intersport effort
in ‘04. It was a very interesting year: we had to settle for
a third in class at the 12 Hours of Sebring, after breaking the
alternator late in the race. We’d led our class at Sebring,
and then I had the accident at Monza in May, while leading the class
again (Bill was hit by a Porsche, very hard), but it turned
out very well in June when we went on to win class at Le Mans.
“With an eye towards the 2005 season and what car we wanted
to compete in, I tested a Courage recently, on the Bugatti Circuit:
that’s an impressive, nimble car with very good straight-line
speed, so the choice came down to buying a Courage, and perhaps
fitting a different engine into it, or to go with the new, untested
“The biggest risks in racing are taking on the development
of an engine and a chassis, but we’ve got a lot of confidence
in both products.”
Bill Binnie’s motor racing plan for 2005 is a very interesting
one. He is a very astute man, but a very methodical one too.
Our crew consists of some full time guys… we’ve got
Pat and Adam Twinley on board, with Steve Hay, and currently they’re
in England, full-time, at the Lola factory, completing the build
of the car, and learning all about it. The European team numbers
twelve in total, some part time, some full time.
“We’ve got our base just outside the Lola factory, and
although Binnie Motorsports has two trucks currently in the states,
one is a European one, and that will be shipped to Europe after
Sebring, to cover the LMES events.”
Bill Binnie has very extensive experience of racing in Europe –
“I’ve probably raced at Spa a hundred times or so –
and won a bunch of races there” – so for him, with his
historic background, plus his love of the classic circuits, it was
an obvious choice to race in the LMES.
at it from my point of view – if I had to choose between Lime
Rock or Monza, I’ll go for Monza. But that’s not to
say that there aren’t some classic tracks, and classic races,
in the US: Sebring and Road Atlanta are both classic events.
“It may turn out that we’ll race at Petit Le Mans anyway
though – we’ll see what becomes of the fifth race.”
As we now know, that fifth LMES event is at Istanbul. It will be
interesting to see if that track fits into the Binnie ‘must
It’s the team’s planning for this year that is the most
remarkable feature of the 2005 adventure that lies ahead.
“We have every day, every flight and every hotel booked for
the whole crew right up to the September race at the Nurburgring.”
Bill certainly takes the uncertainty out of racing, for his crew,
but has he removed as many ‘ifs’ as possible from the
“The B05/40 was a natural choice: for example, the aerodynamic
numbers are better than the Lola LMP 1 car (the MG-Lola ‘675’
machine), and for 2005 we’ll have more horsepower than the
Lola LMP 1 of 2004 – and the tyre contact patch will be very
close to that machine’s. So at Le Mans, I think a good run
from an LMP2 could see the winner having a chance of being in the
top five. Just look at the speed of the Courages last year.
“But we’re heavily focused on the reliability of the
package. The car needs to be quick enough – but as we showed
with the Intersport Lola last year, it’s all about reliability.”
That car was plenty quick enough though.
“Approaching Indianapolis, we were touching 191 mph, before
a lift at just before the 100 board, a slight tap of the brakes,
down one gear, then flat through the right hander, before hard on
the brakes for the left hander. That was very enjoyable.”
how do the enjoyment levels compare, between the older machinery
and a modern prototype? I get asked this question all the time,
because I have done a fair amount of both. Older cars driven hard
are very challenging and frankly dangerous, so it takes real focus
to drive them at the limit. There are a number of excellent drivers
out there in Historics, who could easily be or have been successful
modern car racing drivers - but age, luck or money or some combination
keeps them out of the game. Modern cars are extremely challenging
to drive really well and it really is a full time job, so a driver
needs commitment, time and energy to compete and succeed in the
“A modern car is more enjoyable to drive, but every car is
delightful if you take it for what it is. But to me the venue is
such a part of it too: racing the GT40 (above) at Le Mans last year
was absolutely delightful. I’m lucky, I’m spoiled for
seen in conversation at the Classic meeting with Scott Ebert.
drive a lot of different cars competitively, and as long as you
think about each one, and think about its different capabilities
– understand the different kinds of brakes and their limitations,
and whether the car is meant to slide, or supposed to corner as
if on rails – you can enjoy a great many cars for what they
were. There have been very few cars that I’ve hated driving.
But there’s nothing like driving a modern prototype through
“However, it’s almost an honour to drive my 312 at Spa.”
Next up will be the new Lola prototype though, and the plan will
be to thoroughly test it before its debut at the Sebring 12 Hours.
Bill Binnie has even contracted none other than Andy Wallace to
test it at Moroso Park, during the week before Sebring.
We’re just about to start a new era of prototype racing, as
the first of the new LMP2 Lolas approaches completion. It’s
going to be fascinating to watch Bill Binnie, Adam Sharpe and Bobby
Julien at work this year.