how an overcrowded workshop spawned a top historics squad
© Provided by Autosport l3_9-0

A cramped workshop provided the catalyst for the creation of one of the UK’s leading historic sportscar operations.

When Bob Berridge and his guys at Chamberlain-Synergy Motorsport started having to shuffle cars around – like “one of those Chinese magic puzzles”, he says – to get to the one they needed to work on, it was clearly time for a change. New premises, new partners, a new name and a new outlook quickly followed.

The operation has been called BBM Sport, after the initials of the three partners involved, since the start of 2019. Berridge invited long-time employee and latterly technical chief Steve Briggs and former Peugeot LMP1 driver and old friend Nicolas Minassian to join the management.

BBM is now based in workshops in Daventry that were formerly the home of the Fortec single-seater team. The change of mentality since the Chamberlain-Synergy days means BBM is now a much more focused business.

“It was a case of a new building and a fresh start,” says Briggs, who started working for Berridge straight out of school in 2002. “That meant it was time to change the name, too.”

Chamberlain-Synergy was launched for the 2004 season when Berridge ran TVR Tuscan T400R GT2 cars at the Le Mans 24 Hours and in the inaugural season of what was then called the Le Mans Endurance Series. The team was, explains Berridge, a vehicle for him and long-time driving partner Gareth Evans to compete at the highest level in sportscars.

PLUS: When TVR won a sportscar classic

how an overcrowded workshop spawned a top historics squad
© Provided by Autosport TVR Tuscan was the first car fielded under the Chamberlain-Synergy banner

TVR Tuscan was the first car fielded under the Chamberlain-Synergy banner

Photo by: Motorsport Images

It derived its name from backer the Synergy Group, Evans’s medical company, and stalwart Le Mans entrant Hugh Chamberlain, who was sporting director and a crucial interface with Le Mans organiser the Automobile Club de l’Ouest.

“In those days, Le Mans was much more of an invitation race than it is today,” explains Berridge. “Hugh had first gone to Le Mans as a team owner in 1987 and he’d had an involvement every year since, so he was well known to the ACO. But Chamberlain-Synergy was a hobbyist business based at home in a 4000sq ft workshop at the bottom of my garden. It was really about me and Gareth going racing.”

They did that with some success. After a switch to the prototype ranks for 2005, Berridge, Evans and Peter Owen won the LMES LMP2 title aboard a Lola-AER B05/40. That was followed by a move into the LMP1 ranks with the B06/10 with which they finished joint second in the renamed LMS in 2006.

The business remained about Berridge and Evans going racing after it turned away from contemporary motorsport for 2008. The team switched to historics, an arena with which Berridge was well acquainted after a hat-trick of titles in the Thoroughbred Grand Prix Championship (now the FIA Historic F1 Championship) in the 1990s. The Lola was swapped for a Mercedes-Benz C11 and the LMS for Historic Group C/GTP Racing events.

“My approach was to identify the hurdles in operating such a high-technology racing car, not through just one season where you ran out the remaining life of the components, but over 10 years” Bob Berridge

The successes of Berridge and Evans with the C11 and then an earlier Sauber-Mercedes C9 — including a victory for the former in the Le Mans Legends race supporting the 24 Hours in 2012 — led to a greater involvement in the historic Group C scene. A Jaguar XJR-14 3.5-litre car, a Lancia LC2 and a Peugeot 905 Evo 1 bis were among the cars to pass through its increasingly crowded workshops.

The launch of the Masters organisation’s series for later sportscar machinery at the end of 2017 resulted in a change of focus. BBM has become one of the major players in the Masters Endurance Legends championship for prototypes and GTs built between 1995 and 2016.

“In the era we were doing Le Mans, a customer Lola or whatever was an 18-hour car, and you were hanging on for grim death for the last quarter of the race,” says Berridge.

how an overcrowded workshop spawned a top historics squad
© Provided by Autosport Move into prototype racing arena in 2005 yielded LMES LMP2 title, before reverting to historics

Move into prototype racing arena in 2005 yielded LMES LMP2 title, before reverting to historics

Photo by: Motorsport Images

“Quite often the LMP2 winner was among the walking wounded at the finish, but by the middle of the 2010s even the P2s could be driven flat. They became 30-hour cars. That makes them perfect for the MEL where you are doing maybe seven or eight hours’ running a year. You can get a least a couple of seasons out of them without a major service.”

BBM was responsible for liberating a fleet of Peugeot 908 P1 turbodiesels from the factory with the help of Minassian’s contacts. The Frenchman had occasionally been seen behind the wheel of a Chamberlain-Synergy Group C after getting to know his future partner during his days racing in the Rockingham-based ASCAR stock car series in the early 2000s.

All but one of the seven Peugeots – four 908 HDi V12s and three examples of its V8 successor, known internally as the 90X – have already made it back out onto the race track. And with success.

David Porter, a sparring partner of Berridge in historic Formula Ford in the 1980s, has already tasted success with a 908 HDi in the MEL’s US spin-off, winning its blue-riband events at Daytona and Sebring. Prolific historic racer Shaun Lynn was a double winner in the last round of the 2021 MEL at Spa in October.

“My approach was to identify the hurdles in operating such a high-technology racing car, not through just one season where you ran out the remaining life of the components, but over 10 years,” says Berridge.

“The deal I did with Peugeot Sport was to get BBM in the position with both support and parts where we could continue to run them for the long term. They have bent over backwards to help us and love seeing the cars out on the race track.”

The BR01 LMP2, designed by Paolo Catone like both iterations of the 908, is another car in which BBM specialises. It bought five examples of the car built in France by BR Engineering for Russian entrant SMP Racing for the 2015 and 2016 seasons, and has so far returned four to the race track.

how an overcrowded workshop spawned a top historics squad
© Provided by Autosport BBM also specialises in running the BR01 LMP2 racer in Masters Endurance Legends meetings

BBM also specialises in running the BR01 LMP2 racer in Masters Endurance Legends meetings

Photo by: JEP

Going racing in MEL and other series is important for BBM, according to Berridge.

“It puts us in the opportunity stream,” he explains. “It puts our name out there so we can buy cars, restore cars and sell cars. Running a racing team is a precarious business. You need multiple streams of income to make it work.”

Wander around the BBM workshops, and you’ll find an eclectic mix of machinery. There is the 1990 Daytona 24 Hours-winning Jaguar XJR-12 IMSA GTP, an ex-Kremer Porsche 962C and a Lamborghini Murcielago R-GT car. One of the purple Chamberlain-Synergy TVRs from 2004 is due in for some work soon

BBM was founded with the intent to focus on what might be described as post-historic prototypes. But it hasn’t quite worked out like that, although the workshops currently house a couple of Creation-AIM/Judd CA07s and two ex-Level 5 LMP2 Lolas – one open-top B11/40 and a B11/80 coupe.

Wander around the BBM workshops, and you’ll find an eclectic mix of machinery. There is the 1990 Daytona 24 Hours-winning Jaguar XJR-12 IMSA GTP, an ex-Kremer Porsche 962C and a Lamborghini Murcielago R-GT car. One of the purple Chamberlain-Synergy TVRs from 2004 is due in for some work soon.

Then there are also a couple of Ginetta-Nissan LMP3s, the second-generation car that came on stream in 2020. It was one of these that BBM kindly provided for four young hopefuls to drive in the Aston Martin Autosport BRDC Young Driver of the Year Award assessment day at Silverstone last month.

“I’m proud of the club,” says Berridge of the British Racing Drivers’ Club.

There are even a trio of Rolls-Royces of varying vintages that are part of a rare non-racing project, while BBM is expecting a Porsche 911 GT1 road car imminently. The only problem is that the BBM workshops are turning into that Chinese puzzle once again.

how an overcrowded workshop spawned a top historics squad
© Provided by Autosport BBM ran the LMP3 Ginetta for AMABA hopefuls in the recent evaluation tests at Silverstone

BBM ran the LMP3 Ginetta for AMABA hopefuls in the recent evaluation tests at Silverstone

Photo by: Motorsport Images

The working-class racer made good

Bob Berridge reckons he “hasn’t done too bad for a working-class lad from Stockton-on-Tees”. In a career that didn’t begin until he was 28, he has won titles at the wheel of Formula Ford, Historic F1 and LMP machinery, as well as racing in Formula 3 and touring cars. He’s also been a prime mover in two series now consigned to the dustbin of history – ASCAR and Grand Prix Masters, the attempt to create a seniors tour for ex-F1 drivers. 

Berridge began racing in FF1600 in 1983 at the wheel of a Van Diemen FA73 costing £635, before swapping to a Lotus 69FF in which he claimed the British Racing & Sports Car Club’s Pre-’74 title in 1985. After a flirtation with Formula 3, driving the long-forgotten Vision VF3, he was briefly a Vauxhall driver in the British Touring Car Championship.

Business commitments meant a decision to “make my racing a hobby” and a switch to historic racing. He took the Cosworth-powered RAM 01 of 1983 vintage to the 1997 Thoroughbred GP title and repeated the feat in 1998-99 with a Williams FW08. 

He was a partner with touring car legend John Cleland in an ASCAR team before being asked to take over the running of the series the following year. Three years later, Berridge was brought in as operations director of GPM. He was responsible for getting Delta Motorsport at Silverstone to build the fleet of one-make single-seaters driven by the likes of Nigel Mansell, Emerson Fittipaldi and Riccardo Patrese.

Berridge has never really stopped racing, though there have been several Sinatra-style retirements. Most recently he was at the wheel of a Ginetta-Chevrolet G57 prototype at the Creventic 12 Hours at Silverstone. He ended up winning along with Mike Simpson and Steve Tandy.

how an overcrowded workshop spawned a top historics squad
© Provided by Autosport Berridge has come a long way since his Formula Ford days, pictured tackling Druids in the 1986 Festival

Berridge has come a long way since his Formula Ford days, pictured tackling Druids in the 1986 Festival

Photo by: Motorsport Images

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