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04 Aug 2022

The 993 Register Baton Challenge

After 86 handovers and nearly 4000 miles, the story of the 993 Register’s Baton Challenge can be told at last  

It all started with a forum post: “Hello fellow 993 owners. I am delighted to announce a 993-specific event for October and November 2020 that has the potential to involve all 1200+ members of the 993 Register…”
Back in 2020, Mark Hamilton – then-Chair of the Club and still the 993 Register Secretary – had an idea. The upheaval of the COVID-19 pandemic’s early months had forced people to isolate and many events that would usually be held over the course of the year had to be cancelled, but the whole point of a Porsche is to be driven. Instead of inviting more than 1200 members to the same place, perhaps it would be wiser to invite them to do the same thing instead.
Mark’s solution was a relay. Starting at Cornbury House itself, a baton would be passed from member to member on a long-distance trip around the United Kingdom, all by 993. Volunteers for the next handover could make themselves known in the forum and coordinate with the current holder of the baton by private message, social distancing measures would protect everybody during the handovers and photos would be taken to track the baton’s progress. It was straightforward, safe and it offered the perfect excuse for a drive after spending much of the year in lockdown.
The 993 Register’s members evidently thought so too, because a good number of volunteers stepped forward just hours after that post and even more joined them the next day. By the time the first handover was made on 18 October 2020, it was clear there would be plenty of people who would be happy to take the baton all over the country in style. The relay was already off to a great start and the baton made it to Leeds by the end of the month.
Unfortunately, COVID-19 came back with a vengeance. When the second lockdown came into force in early November, it was necessary to call a halt. Then came the tier system that meant different parts of the country were operating under different safety requirements, complicating travel and handover arrangements, followed by the third lockdown that would stretch well into 2021.
The relay itself was still a fundamentally sound idea that was too good to just abandon, though, so the 993 Register’s Geoff Crawford suggested adapting it and starting over.
“As I live down in the southwest and movement was allowed here, I asked for the baton to be posted to me,” he explains. “When it arrived, it had been damaged in the post. The southwest was also locked down by then too. This gave me the opportunity to create a new baton out of a real 911 piston and conrod, and also to create a plan to circumnavigate the UK in a pre-determined route and hence to get as many 993 owners and Regions involved as possible.”
The third lockdown lifted on 30 March 2021, so the first handover of the new relay took place at Land’s End the next day on 1 April. The new baton would now head up to John O’Groats and then make its way back down to Land’s End, with the general intention that the route would be an approximately clockwise circuit around the entire United Kingdom. Using the same simple system to coordinate handovers as before and setting up a dedicated Facebook page that the public could see too, the 993 Register’s members started their engines and joined the fun. In an additional step, they would also raise money for Parkinson’s UK and a target of £1000 was set.

With the new approach in place and the COVID-19 situation being more favourable, everything worked much better on the second attempt. The baton made good time on the way up to John O’Groats, arriving on 13 July and being delivered to Al and Jenny Cook (whose 441-mile round trip means they also hold the distinction of having made the longest journey), but the trip back to Land’s End included more detours and ended up taking a good deal longer. In fairness, where was the need to hurry when everyone was enjoying themselves?
“The group handovers stand out most,” Geoff remembers. “It was all about meeting and chatting with other 993 owners, and it seemed that, when a group got together and did multiple handovers, that really worked well.
“Particular mention must go to the Scottish participants, who made a great effort to cover the mileage. The Scottish members showed me great hospitality and several guided me on great journeys across their spectacular land – and I even took the opportunity to complete the NC500. The drive across the Cairngorms and the drive up to John O’Groats are of particular note.
“The Isle of Wight handovers were also memorable – again, it’s a great place to drive. David Shields there has a particular connection to Parkinson’s UK because one of his friends is very poorly with that. He gained good publicity from several media outlets.”

In a grand tour that nearly reached 4000 miles in total, the 993 Register’s volunteers would travel through Wales, Northern Ireland, Scotland and England, make the crossings to the Isle of Wight and the Isle of Man and take in sights such as Jodrell Bank, the Imperial War Museum, Belfast’s Titanic Centre, Edinburgh Castle, the Forth Bridge, the Aberlour distillery, the starting grid at Goodwood and, of course, plenty of Porsche Centres. They also made it to almost every single one of the Club’s Regions, with the only exceptions being the Channel Islands.
There would ultimately be 86 handovers, with some of the 75 people who held the baton at one time or another – sometimes for hundreds of miles, sometimes for just a handful of paces – being part of the chain more than once. Finally, Jeremy Harris made the 37-mile journey from St Austell to deliver the baton back to Geoff at Land’s End on April 1 2022, completing the relay exactly a year to the day after it began. The 993 Register’s members had indeed risen to the challenge and their original target of raising £1000 for Parkinson’s UK was easily passed too, standing at £1640 at time of writing.

“Every owner that I spoke with or that helped to facilitate handovers was very friendly and helpful,” Geoff says. “I would not like to single out one or two of special note – they were all excellent. Some individuals were very generous and some who donated wished to remain anonymous, but they know who they are and I thank them.
“A big thanks to everyone. Everyone seemed to have fun, was a good sport, made it happen and seems to have thoroughly enjoyed connecting with other 993 owners and driving their wonderful cars.”

But the story doesn’t end there. The relay clearly proved that the 993 Register’s members are an adventurous bunch, so Mark Hamilton has recently announced that a new challenge to succeed the relay will begin soon. This one will be designed around visiting RNLI lifeboat stations so, if you’re a 993 owner and you fancy taking a trip to enjoy some sea air, you’ll soon have another great excuse to go for a nice long drive…
If you would like to help the 993 Register support Parkinson’s UK, please visit the just giving page here

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