Rod Birley – 678 career wins and racing with us in 2021

Number 24 in our series on drivers with the CMMCS

Rod Birley has for a long time been the driver to beat in the CMMCS Modified/Super Saloon car series which attracts some of the fastest saloons seen in national racing. I and many other drivers get a kick out of being on the same track at the same time as one of British motorsport’s all-time most chevronned driver with 678 career wins by the end of 2020 and we are privileged to have him not only racing with us but being so vital in the running of the CMMCS and our race meetings.

Rod Birley’s fastest lap on the Brands Hatch Indy circuit in his black No.44 Ford Escort WRC stands at 49.8 seconds. However, the regulations are designed to prevent anyone enjoying a runaway advantage, and drivers in all the classes have an equal opportunity of success; Rod is not always the quickest but his consistency is a great asset in building up a championship run and the tally of wins.

A quick glance at Rod’s racing CV shows hardly a year has passed for the last 47 years when Rod has not won a major championship, especially the top saloon series at Brands Hatch each year from 1997 to today. His 2020 class win in the CMMCS Super Saloons was the 16th! But some of the highlights show a very versatile, well-travelled and successful driver in lots of other race cars; he started with a Hillman Imp and progressed through various Fords (Capris, Escorts, Anglia) in Thundersaloons, modified saloons, production saloons, Modified Fords and All-comers…
1973 Scottish Production Saloon Car Champion
1981, 1982, 1983 Brafield Hot Rod Champion.
1985 Autosport Golden Helmet Award for most wins in the United Kingdom.
1993 and 1994 Thundersaloon Champion (including fastest ever saloon car lap around Brands Hatch).
1998,1999,2000 Nurburgring Nordschliefe 500km Class Winner.
See all the detail at

What about Rod’s flame-throwing wastegate-whistling Ford Escort WRC? Take a guided tour of the engine bay with Rod himself at contemplate the raw facts of the car:
Weight 1147 kilos
1998cc Turbo-charged Ford Cosworth Engine, Garrett T4 Turbo
Car dates from 1999
Eight injectors / water injection
500 b.h.p, 403lb ft of torque ( 350lb @ 4000rpm )
1 litre of Unleaded fuel to 1 mile
Four Wheel Drive, Ford Motorsport six-speed gearbox
0 to 60 mph time of 3.4 seconds
Top speed estimated at 160 mph
330mm Front Brake Discs / 315mm Rear
10 x 17 inch wheel rims with 265/30 Dunlop Tyres
Engine builder is Joe Stevens at Hart Power in Essex

Rod is one the rare drivers who has raced with us in Super Saloons (and our CMMCS predecessors) every season; he also goes out in the Tin Tops when possible. He will also be doing some races in Jonathan Bevan’s Honda, plus the BMW I had an outing with last year.

Rod’s day job is as Company director of Birley Engineering Supplies and his other interests include ice hockey. He is one of the enthusiastic volunteers on the committee of Classic and Modern Motorsport Club Southern and he does much of the work negotiating satisfactory deals and dates for our race calendar. Work on the technical details of the regulations is done by Ken Angell with our independent series scrutineer MSUK Chief Scrutineer Mike Mattison.

Rod celebrating 250 wins.

The circuits which really get him excited are Brands Hatch GP and Nurburgring. Rod’s greatest moment in racing was finishing fifth out of 220 starters at the Nurburgring or winning a hot rod race on ITV world of sport at Northampton stadium and his greatest achievement in racing was winning a European group N race at Brands Hatch on 26th May 1997. It was against the odds as BMW had been winning all the races for the previous 3 seasons. Let’s not forget Rod’s worst moment in racing, tipped off the Brands Hatch home straight into the concrete pit wall at 130 mph on November 5th 2017, by another driver.

Written by Marcus Bicknell, 26 February 2021

You can read about his career in his own words at

Read Rod’s Q&A info sheet for 2021 done for us his club: Rod_Birley_44

Download the terrific article in Performance Ford of July 2009: PerformanceFord_July09

And here’s another YouTube for you…
When you watch him race, especially from inside the car, and see the apparently effortless driving style, you cannot tell how damn quick he’s going until he comes up behind someone… then, zing, he’s past.

1988 Norcross Thundersaloon Car Championship 50 lap race at Brands Hatch
Blue and white Sierra on the outside of front row next to the Carlton, image right
The Carlton was sponsored by Mobil, Rod’s car was supported by Curtis Holt Toolbank


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