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KUTUKA MOTORSPORT

 

 

 

 

 

 

Last Updated 11/01/09


 

 

Angelina

TRACK DAY November 2008

OK, so, it didn’t end quite as planned, but that was still quite a day. Yes, I would have preferred the car to be a little longer than it is now, but the amount it will cost me to reshell her is not staggering, and the end result should be another step forward for the car. I did say I was looking for another leap forward!

Our guest drivers and passengers all got at least three sessions on track, and our thanks to Terry Dye and the JEC for being so accommodating to our journalist guests, couple of names you may have heard of, Marcus Pye and Roberto Giordinelli. Yes, really. No, I don’t know how we got two such legends to a cold, wet trackday to drive 3 old XJS either. The formation driving with Stewert for the photoshoot was something different though, there can’t have been 6 inches between the cars, we don’t get that close even at Cadwell, but it seemed that all enjoyed themselves and it was nice to introduce a few new people to the world of racing.

The eventual crash just before 4pm was a horrible combination of circumstances. The poor girl driving the car, under some pressure to do so, took to the track in lethal conditions, I was actually impressed to find unexpected inherent ability, but though she made no mistakes it still went into the wall at what I’m guessing was about 70mph as a result of something beyond her control. Life isn’t fair.

The back of the car stepped out suddenly on a constant, gentle throttle and we were heading for that wall, probably the case no matter who was in the driving seat, the track simply bit her. Ray Ingman was gracious enough to note that a heavy oil spill on the exit of Gerrards had him elect to retire the Elise from track for the day just before we went in the wall at the same spot. Sadly then, much as I would like to point fingers and make women driver jokes I can’t find any blame to throw, if anything it’s really my fault making her try the car in the first place in such poor conditions.

What is of some concern is the barrier at Mallory. It’s Armco in front of a solid earth bank, with a line of untethered foam cubes in front. The Jag going in there swatted the foam aside and hit the barrier direct. There is no tyre wall. I’m no quivering pussy and I take my risks with a smile and a song, but is it really adequate at a car circuit to have no tyre wall? Had there been one there would be two effects, the car might have lived, and more importantly my poor driver would likely have suffered less than she did – the strain on a slender neck being rather more than on mine.

As for the car I’m not that fussed. I know that sounds crackers, having just won the class D title with it and spent 2 years fettling it, but the only part I think is truly beyond repair is the body itself, which is by far the least precious part of the whole assembly. I tried to explain to the distraught driver that this is a rather different world to road cars and the panels are the cheap bit, the work to reshell is actually not that bad, but I don’t think she was buying that.

The shell has been racing, I think, for 7 or 8 years, and it had a good few thumps before I started adding to them with my ’08 crashes – of which I must remind the world I had 3 (Snett quali, Anglesey, and the Cadwell shunt) – in addition to which she has started to suffer with the classic old Jaguar symptom, tinworm.

A look round after Snett showed daylight visible in a couple of areas of the floorpan behind the seats where the water pools up, a hole in the rear arch someone disguised with gaffa tape, the front end hasn’t been the right width in the whole time I’ve owned the car, and the rear was stoved in long before I bought it, we’re hardly talking about a pristine shell.

The car’s safety kit all did its job superbly, a pair of stiff necks after that speed of impact is remarkable. And the cage etc all survived, the engine’s intact though sump is cracked, radiator is the only costly part mangled, and that just means I need to save some pennies and buy a better one. The front of the car took a severe hit, but being class D was all steel and still all there, and it soaked up a lot of energy, the car has smeared her nose into pancake up to the front subframe but no further.

Thank god that of the team’s cars it was the all-steel Angelina who went in, that crash in a fully-modified car like Stewert’s doesn’t bear thinking about.

The plan is a reshell, I bought a good XJRS shell from Chris Robinson earlier in the year to use as the base to my future E class plans, and it’s already largely-stripped anyway, so I shall rebuild Angelina into her, which is a problem for only one reason, I had a really good name picked out for the car that shell was to become so I’ll need another car to use the name on.

The plan is to build a better, faster, nicely-prepped, cleaner D class car from the bits, which will mean a better car to hopefully go faster in. The cost to do so is not huge, it’s about the same as I spent last winter improving the car, and the time is not much more severe than I would have had to spend to strip Angelina down to properly repair for ’09 anyway. The odd thing therefore is that despite my car being written off I don’t really think I’ve lost a great deal, and I should hopefully be at the Brands track day with a faster car than I finished the year with.

Technically then Angelina’s story ends here, she’s dead and may she rust in pieces, but it’s just a bodyshell so watch this space for Angelina II’s tale commencing early December.


 

SNETTERTON 18/10/08

Such a short gap between races but mercifully only a set of brake discs to swap after warping them in the rain at Combe. Not sure why my car should so suffer this year, having done years on the last set, including 18 months in my hands, but she has been munching them in wet conditions.

In the end she never got the discs, Alex ran his pads too long in testing, took them to the metal and killed his brand new discs, so the new ones meant for my car went to him. 2 sets in half a day of testing is not good, but at least this was a daft error rather than a fundamental car problem.

That it then murdered the second set before the end of Saturday’s race is less funny, that pointed to the driver not really behaving nicely and gradually bedding them in, something backed up by the puffs of tyre smoke I drove through behind him on lap 1 of quali. And they were the tyres I intended to run at the Birkett too, so a doubly-bad Bear.

First time this year I’ve not tested, with funds tight and the Birkett to do next week there’s just no fat in the budget, and I was confident enough in the car that I decided I could do the job without the test. All I need tomorrow is 3 points, so pole would do and I had high hopes of that, I anticipate a comfortable pace advantage.

I was therefore saddened to find Gary wouldn’t be coming. Although he would have needed me to have a really lousy day to win class D, I could have driven round at 6/10ths and finished 10th in class and still won, it still cheapened things to win the class without taking to the track.

What it did do was remove any hint of pressure, and I was already pretty relaxed anyway, so quali was a real giggle throwing the car about, despite being flagged in for what they thought was a loose wheel that turned out to be nothing. Driving through Alex’s lock-ups and muttering about my tyres until his throttle stuck and threw him off, chased Stewert til he went in and then minced about by myself til I went in for the tyres checking, all very calm and collected, Revitt might well be the 140mph they claim, but in a class D car it’s like going to the shops.

Came out of the pits right behind Russell and amused myself not letting him get away for two laps, the everlasting elastic effect as the 6 litre’s straight-line speed then shrinking the gap again in the corners, the speed difference through Coram was huge. All that ended as Alex came out of the pits, obeyed the blue flag to let Mark through and missed me sitting off his bootlid, took his line into turn 1 and left me spinning down the grass, which shook and bounced the car til it broke the oil cooler.

I rejoined and thought it was a puncture given the sudden oversteer and smoke in the mirror, so came into the pits to find I was leaking oil like a refinery. I can’t begin to describe the mess I made of the encampment or how long it took to try and clean it up after bypassing the cooler, 8 litres of oil goes such a long way.

Encouraged to find I’d qualified third on the grid despite my horsepower deficiency. Stew and Darth well clear in 1st and 2nd, but I’d done Russell and that was cracking news. Better yet, Alex had class E pole, which left a few scratched heads because we all know he’s got no power and this is a real power circuit. This rather pointed to the E class cars farting about quite dramatically, and Palmer was 9th, so what he’d done wrong I don’t know.

To the race then with the sort of relaxed approach you can only get when it’s a nice day, you’ve qualified far too high to be able to defend yourself off the line, and the result doesn’t matter, I practically burst into song on the grid. Again.

Sure enough Russell screams past off the line, not a thing I could do about it, 240 horsies and well over 1500kg vs what must be 400 ponies in a lighter car on wider rubber, not a hope in hell.

Worse, as I hurtle down Revitt it’s that damned Palmer in 5th and closing me down on the straight, which puts me defensive, driving too much in the mirrors, and a nice screw-up at the chicane that meant a lap later I lost the horsepower fight and dropped to 5th.

A good 8 laps then of one of the most entertaining, clean races I’ve been in, because now I’m not defending I can drive properly, and I’m a hint faster than Chris. Our eventual fastest laps were 8/1000ths apart, his being the quicker, but you get the idea, pretty close stuff. Can’t get him on the straights, my exit onto Revitt can’t make the difference, but turn 1, the chicanes, Bomb Hole, Coram, all mine.

And in pushing him on we both close down Russell again. Stew and Darth are long gone, but that’s 3rd place and a red hat, and I want it. Red hats aren’t easy to come by, I only have 3.

Very close racing with Chris, so close to nibbling his rear skirt several times but it’s clean, and a lot of fun. Poked my nose up his inside at Coram couple of times but don’t have the stopping power to outbrake him, weight and tyre disadvantage just enough to stop it being a viable move, but ever so close.

Being able to race with total commitment because I didn’t need to finish was a real joy, and as we lapped Scoins, who leaped out of the way, Chris got the tail out a little and allowed me to run alongside him onto Revitt. I had 4th gear, so nothing to do for a bit except bury the throttle and write a shopping list, and as I see him check the mirrors to find where I’ve gone I offer him a cheery wave. Didn’t wave back mind.

Our pursuit of Russell got very close, he and Chris drag-racing down the pit straight, but it’s ended by Darth’s yellow flags, because we caught Beecham to lap him as we got there, Mark just got in front of him before the first yellow but we didn’t. We obey the yellow flags and don’t pass Bob, who thinks he’s not got out of the way well enough, moves over and slows right down, unaware we can’t pass. Mark therefore runs away and gets an instant gap on us which we’d never close down.

Chris abandoned the chase, probably because with Darth in the grit he now gets a red hat, and defends me to the flag, we had a superb, close race but I never did quite get him. I’m alleged to have been throwing my car at Coram with some recklessness, but it didn’t feel it from the cockpit, watching the video afterwards there’s more track to use and I’m cross I was holding such a tight line.

Timesheets showed a 1.26.7 lap time, which a visit from a certain Mr Lock in the paddock confirmed that after a year of trying I’d finally done what I wanted and got underneath one of his class-shattering lap times. That’s what I call a way to end the year, that meant more to me than the win at Oulton.

I’ve said all year that the races in D are irrelevant and mean nothing if we aren’t on ’07 pace. If we don’t get to the Lock times then even if you win you’ve not beaten him, because if he were out he’d have kicked your arse, so I race him and Gail despite neither being out. Far as I’m concerned Snett was really the first time I actually won the class. Been close a few times, but this was the one.

And one other thing that time ought to do, if logic were to be applied, is dispel the long-standing rumour that Lock cheated his way to ’07 wins. It’s been said both softly and loudly by so many, but we’ve never been subscribers to it, and have long said that if we can get a D car to hit the same times or better them, given the world knows full well what I’m running then where would that allegation now stand? Either he did it legit, or I’m cheating too.

There are plenty of those who’ll tell you it’s the latter, but go and ask Dave Ball, other than a set of shocks and finishing the suspension bushes off he’ll tell you all day long it’s the same damned car but with the setting up finally finished. And if you don’t believe him, check out the last 8 months of “from the driver’s seat” because it’s all here. Ideas how to make a car’s development any more public are welcomed. We even declared the car’s weight at Cadwell of 1573kg.

So, if you know what’s in the car, and it’s legal, and it does a particular lap time, then that time is achievable legally. Dur. Which means you can’t apply the broad-brush argument we heard so often that Lock was simply too fast to be legit. Which leaves the matter where exactly? Well, it leaves it as the sour mutterings of the defeated.

Why do I bother to mention that? Well, it bothers me. It bothered me then, it bothers me now. Some fella cracks the handling on a fat old Jag, drives it well and scares the crap out of a bunch of far more expensive cars, and rather than a pat on the back they call him a cheat. Not very nice when the game’s so dependant on us all getting along.

The only thing I can’t work out is how to make another quantum leap forward for next year like I’ve enjoyed this season. There is more to come from the driver, I don’t have a deal of experience yet and I will get better, but the car needs a tickle too. I could change to class E, but I really don’t like the notion of buying your way up the grid.

I could convert Angelina to class E, take the weight out and stiffen it all up without touching the power, throw away the power steering I so despise, the times here suggest I could annoy Chris all next year without spending one single penny on the car, which would be funny, but I’m reluctant to mess with the car now, if I change the weight then my shocks and springs might need a tinker.

I’d like Alex to race her next year, let me play with Megan whilst he uses the car to annoy D class. But he says not, and I can see why. If he did well in it then it must be the car. If he doesn’t when we know what the car can do… Plus he’s sold on class E, and having played with that car I can see why.

Which means me and the blue beastie will be together again in ’09, and if I’m not converting to E I need to make class D go faster again, because there’s no point if you don’t improve.

I think, think, that maybe a bit more power, maybe have a head done, fit a big throttle, that sort of thing, would help. Perhaps lose more fat from the car, do a bit more welding on the shell and stiffen it up a little, swap a few more mountings and bushes for new items, tighten the whole thing up and sling her back out with another year of driving under my belt, see what we can do. Needn’t be too costly, and if I can find even 20bhp it’s going to get very interesting if I can get corner exits right.

Aim for 2009? A dry-weather outright race win. Never been done from D class, and it should be. Other than that, there are those pesky Lock times to find at all the tracks it rained at this year.


 

Castle Combe

26/11/08

Combe was a strange one. With the damage repaired after Cadwell’s prang I had time in hand, so there were a few minor fettles to do to the car, nothing major, just a few little bits to tidy up. Yanked the trip computer at last, with the revelation of just how fat the car was on Cadwell’s scales I need to get weight out anywhere I can, so a few ounces saved there is a start!

Combe itself is a strange place. It’s as if everyone you meet has several hats, the bloke taking tickets turns out to be the clerk of the course, the delightfully sharp-tongued firecracker in the café is probably chief scrutineer, it’s all very entertaining, and though we were on site several days it didn’t get old!

Testing was very limited, it was £LOTS per 30-minute session, so we had 30 minutes. Fast track, great fun, I think it’s faster than Snetterton down the back end, and Quarry is quite a corner, choosing a braking point there depended lap-to-lap how brave I felt rather than a fixed point, though to be fair that’s true anywhere we go, does anyone really pick a fixed point every lap?

I briefly tried Roger’s car as the rain briefly showered the track, but that wasn’t the reason I only tried it for three laps, that car scared me witless. Pitching it into Camp corner a good 10mph less than my own car it dived into wild oversteer, gripped, and then did it again, two big wags in the same corner, and the same at every bend, I couldn’t drive it straight at more than about ¾ pace, the car clearly hopelessly amiss and everything I ever said about Roger being taken back in an instant, to get that car round here in the time he does he must be a hero. Of course we’d later find not one nut on the car was actually tight and that cars tend to act up with major components not fastened in.

Late in the afternoon we managed to negotiate more track time, and I went for a game of chase the Lezzer, which is what we call the hare and hound race Stewert and I like to practice on test days. And quali. And races if we get half a chance. The odd thing is that in dry conditions despite my enormous power deficit the cars were inseparable, we had a full 30 minutes absolutely full-on racing, attracting a crowd of other team personnel to watch. Cue Dermott on his best stand-up comic form.

At the end of that time there was a big, black circular soot mark on my front skirt, looked like a shotgun had gone off. Stewert’s exhaust had soiled Angelina! It was pretty close racing out there, despite the long straight there are enough crucial corners that 6-pot handling is enough to negate much of the V12 snort, so it’s 3 tracks in a row I’m going to have Stewert worries on race day, and that’s not normal. I may have lost some of the awe in which I held G and E class cars, but still, it’s, you know, him, in that, it takes a mental adjustment to believe it.

To race day then, and qualifying had a few sprinkles of rain to make life interesting. Palmer clearly very fast, hauled me in very quickly and passed me to chase Stewert, but not before Alex had joined us in bombing Hastings with the Kutuka train into Quarry, but quali was a disappointment for me, I could feel I wasn’t on the pace.

Sure enough only 4th on the grid alongside Stewert. But by now it’s lagging it down, and I’m now on the wet tyres, time for a play. Green flag lap quite quick, Palmer finding the grip, so fast that p5 couldn’t stay with us.

As the lights go out Stewert gets wheelspin and I’m third, initially dropping behind Darth and Palmer, and I go for a look into Quarry up the inside. Fully-committed to it but Darth shuts the door, fortunately by his admission giving me no option but to have to stop, and we just kiss fibreglass bumpers, tiny nudge of paint, nothing more. Tried him on the exit, and again into Tower, out of Tower, up the back straight, and a stupid look at Camp which put me in a big slide on the lock stops and let Stewert slip past again.

He now resumed the Darth-bothering, I settled into chase the Lezzer mode, mirrors empty, no other car in sight. These two nutters play formation powerboats and let Palmer slip away a bit, I got a run at Stewert exiting Camp but without the power to take advantage, I end up in a close 4th trying to work out if I can do both of them at once without turning my car into a chessboard from the acreage of black and white paint I’d collect.

The safety car was a surprise, and I realise my regulation knowledge needs improving. Worst error was that I forgot to pay attention, dawdling along behind, waiting for someone to catch us up again, which took an age, but forgetting to stick to Stewert’s bumper, so when the safety car did go in I had to play catch-up in a hurry, the only bonus to which was that I had a gap on Hastings before we even crossed the start line. Amused to watch Gary swarming my mirrors behind the safety car, all over the road close behind in an attempt to distract and worry me. I’m not fooled.

Much closer p1-4 this time, Palmer not running this time, and Stew increasingly-desperate to attack Darth as the time ticks down until he out-braked himself and span at the second chicane only a few hundred yards from the flag to give me third back.

As we tour in though it’s not Stewert or Gary behind me, it’s Filipe Comer! The excellent human being has done Gary and nicked a point off him, my championship points tally at Snett needs only be 3 now to clinch it, not 4, class pole and I’ll be class D champion. It’s at this point I have to remind myself that I wasn’t really after the class title this year so it’s not really all that important, but I’ll take it if it’s on offer!

Pretty confident at that, fairly sure I can take pole at Snetterton, the car’s good enough and I do like the place.

The unexpected promotion to 3rd made me a dribbling buffoon in post-race interview, at least at Oulton I had the time to rehearse. Quick peek at Darth’s car and mine in the pits shows no real damage, only the most minor of nibbles. My brakes have warped in the wet, the discs are growling, I’ll need to change those again. The brake attrition rate has become worrying, it’s now about a set of discs every 2 meetings, per car. I don’t know if it’s the water or the abuse they’re getting now Angelina is starting to bustle along a bit.

Roger’s car is a wet, muddy, crumpled mess, it might live but it looks pretty sorry for itself. The beard is at least intact.

 

Derth Pearce un masked !!!

 


06/09/08

Cadwell Park

A strangely disappointing, frustrating weekend. Lots of anticipation, precious little racing.

Arriving Thursday evening for a leisurely test day build up we were rewarded with clear skies and a shooting star display that would cause even the most miserable to pause for a second, the threatened rain seemed impossible, until about 3am when it came in, building to a 6am roar and a mid-afternoon torrent that stopped the test day completely.

Fortunately we were on all day, so we got a full morning in to remember where the corners go, or in Alex’s case find them for the first time, despite the rain it went well. More mechanical trauma than usual, Stewert lost a rear hub, but we carry one spare, fortunately. I swapped brake discs, at one point fearing Dermott was going to murder me, note to self not to pull the steering over into the lock that favours you on the nearside without checking the fella on the offside is actually happy for you to do so. Three laps of the paddock chased by a man in shorts waving a torque wrench.

New brakes made this a very different car, my confidence was sky high in these conditions, a few laps on the new discs and the car felt really good even in the pouring rain. Afternoon cut short when the Tiger thing smashed itself up, I was actually out in Roger’s car when that happened to see how his car fares, we’d made him make changes after watching his Anglesey footage and wanted to see how it now behaves. Sadly a lap at low speed getting used to someone else’s car didn’t show anything of real use, we shall no doubt try again one day at a faster, drier track.

So to qualifying, still raining but nothing like so hard, stuck to the wet tyres and found it very Oulton-like out there, wet but drying, so made the most of the tyres whilst it was wet. I was second out, made my way past Reynolds before we crossed the start line, Alex right behind me, I ran and he chased, same deal we do with Stewert, only this time Stewert had messed it up and not got to assembly promptly so he wasn’t part of the Kutuka train.

As the session wore on I could see Palmer and Skelton coming down Park as I entered the gooseneck, and as I was further down the gooseneck each lap as they appeared I knew I was faster, so it looked pretty good. I was however alone again and I missed having a driver to race against, sure I could have pushed harder. The layout also lets you see the flag half a lap before you take it, which is where I made my first big cock-up. Seeing the flag and sure this wasn’t a good lap I enjoyed my last time over the hump, gave it the full Mountain powerslide to amuse the spectators, and then a bit of a tail wave at Barn.

Of course when the time sheets appeared that last lap was my fastest and I’m only second. Stewert’s 2/10 faster, and I threw that much time away at the bloody Mountain, I tossed pole away having fun. Damn it. Stupid boy.

Never mind, it’s a front row lockout for the team, if I’m going to be second it’s at least to one of the two drivers I can accept being second to. It’s made worse by my belief that I am quicker here today than Stewert is, I’ve got all the advantages other than engine power. He hates the track, he struggles with motion sickness, the V12 is easily out-handled by my car, I take different lines and can carry a lot more speed in crucial corners, so it’s my race to win and I’m almost dismissing Stewert as an irrelevance.

I know, what the hell, this is the championship-leading V12 driver, with over 100 more horsepower in a lighter, fully-modified car, and I think I can beat him with Dave Ball’s old D car that’s had a lick of paint and an engine nicked out of an X300? There is such a thing as over-confidence and I’ve already screwed up qualifying. 2nd place on the grid and I’m not happy, what the hell is wrong with me?

Weighed by Terry and the gang post-qualifying, taken to the circuit weighbridge and then onto the JEC scales at Camp Ingham. Both report 1573kg, some 63kg overweight. Matt Skelton came in over 20kg less, but then everyone’s favourite Jaguar World editor is more scales-friendly than I. Still, can’t argue with my car, that’s really depressingly legal, it’d be overweight without any fuel in at that. Which means I’m trying to delude myself that one of the heaviest cars on the grid, in the class with the least horsepower, is capable of playing for real with the V12s. Having an attack of Walter Mitty, aren’t I?

To the race then, and Stew and I have joked about this before, what if we ever get the day we’re racing each other for a win? It was hypothetical until we did the Meldrew last year at Brands, but though we want a 1 – 2 finish we both really really want to be the 1 in that 1 – 2. Obviously we race full-on, don’t take a sane view and hold station or race to the last lap board or some cunning strategy, it’s flat out, race like he’s your worst enemy, death from the lights to the black and white squares, and that’s fine with me. Team orders would never work on us anyway, we’re too competitive, in different classes there’s no purpose to it, and I couldn’t have obeyed them if they were issued by Helen of Troy herself. Well, maybe.

As ever a practice start on the green flag lap, car nicely static on the grid, not rolling, good launch, it’s all going to be in that squirt to turn 1 and my only hope of overcoming the horsepower deficit really is to panic Stewert enough to get him to light up the tyres and lose traction long enough to get me in front, so a good launch on green flag lap is a gentle nudge in that direction.

To the grid for real then, and this time the car’s rolling, have to use the brake to stop that, which doesn’t make my start quite so good. Lights out and I still get the drop on Stewpot, but a wail of 12 and he even gives me a little squeeze on the way past, the cheeky bugger, it’s 1 – 2 into Charlies. Loz Ball in my mirrors, a good start and he’s got Palmer well behind him. I’m getting the corners better than he though, so he can’t make the E car power count and I’m free of him and after Spew, hauling him in on the brakes. Just as I’m closing in the red flags come out, only 2 laps run we’re all held on the Mountain and re-assembled on the grid with it all to do again.

More green flag laps, more waiting, then lights out again and for the second time I get the drop on Sir Spewalot, only to have him blat past on sheer power, but I’m closer this time, and it’s Palmer in the mirrors instead of Ball. Same story though, my line onto the straights is different to both Captain Carrot Chunk and Palmer, and it’s a fair way down the straight before the power difference shows at all. In the V12’s case it’s as I reach about 5000 rpm in 4th and look for 5th gear down Park straight, which for me is about where the marshall’s post is just after the dip in the middle, Stewert’s car at that point vanishes like he gained rockets, but it’s not for very long because he brakes earlier, I can see he can’t slow the thing down.

Checking the mirror though Palmer’s car does start to gain, he’s later on the middle pedal and closes at the end of the straight.

And here lies my problem, because I’m now wedged up on Stewert’s back end, and he is braking early and going slower through corners than I want to, but I can’t pass him as I would another D or even E car by getting that great corner exit and lunching on him down the straight because his huge power comes into play and he buggers off again, the extra speed I carry is made redundant by the extra 6 cylinders.

All the spectators see of us on the pit straight is our two cars appear in shot nose to tail, unaware that I was hard on the throttle sooner and right on his bootlid two seconds earlier, as we appear out of the trees with a 10 foot gap it looks like I’m living with the V12 even as I’m being blown away by its power despite driving my socks off.

So I’m in a strange little world, that bit faster than the leader anywhere that isn’t a straight acceleration zone, but I will only be able to make it past under braking somewhere, and he’s putting the car exactly in the right spot to prevent that, in fact I’m starting to lock the front tyres because I’m on his boot when he brakes earlier than I expect and I’m having to load the car up in a real hurry.

I’ve got Palmer behind so I have to go a little defensive, but I’m not honestly all that worried, it’s easy enough to defend here, but if we mess this up I could lose p2 to Chris, p2 is a hell of a race finish to throw away, in racing Stewert for 1st I could end up 3rd.

But I want to win, it’s not in my head to hold station and preserve the 1 – 2 for the team so I rather arrogantly ignore Chris and focus ahead. My best chance comes as we exit Charlies onto the straight, Stew gets the back sliding as I get a good exit and pull alongside, nose is right alongside his driver’s door and I’m flat out, but that bloody V12 muscle shows again and off he goes, and you know what, slipstreaming doesn’t help me!

At least that gives a few seconds respite from the Palmer, now so close to Stewert that I can smell his brakes as he smokes the back tyres, but being so close my lines are compromised, I only have any velocity with clear air, if I get off line even a little I’m not carrying the speed and I haven’t got anything under the bonnet to get me out of trouble. This is the real problem trying to mix it at the sharp end with the wrong class of car, I need as close to perfection as I can manage – which isn’t very close! -  just to hold station, the boys with the horsepower can much more easily mess things up for me than I can for them.

Russell is now sniffing after Palmer, this is getting interesting and I’m going to have to make that lunge on Stewert somewhere and let him defend from the other two because they will swallow me like an appetiser.

Close as hell coming over the Mountain, thought I was going to land on his boot, and big lock up as he brakes too soon for Hall Bends, if anyone in the crowd thinks we’re not racing they weren’t watching the same race, but half a lap later it’s red flags again and we know this one’s over, we’re re-gridded and chequered flagged. Jobson in the wall at the Hairpin and Merrett off at Hall Bends, both seem undamaged and OK.

Shame though, that was becoming a real fight and I was going to have a go at Stewert sooner rather than later, it would have been interesting indeed to see how that would have shaped up, because though it would have been clean no way would it have come easily, on the brakes at the Gooseneck or Mountain was my plan…

Still, a very different day for me. Earlier in the year, on the grid at Brands with Stewert and Derek right in front I was a star-struck nervous wreck because these are the V12s we all follow round in awe, yet here we are at Cadwell and I’m growling in my helmet because I want past this damned V12 so I can get on with it. A few minutes up the sharp end and the racing part of my brain ages about ten years!

But it’s finally become clear to me that the V12s aren’t superhumanly fast machines, having watched the cars of Davis, Pearce, Lyddall and Hill screaming round last year as a doe-eyed novice I was left with the sensation that these were mythical beasts that are operating on another level, but it’s not true, they’re lumbering brutes that merely happen to have a lot of power, and they’re vulnerable. It has never been clearer to me that Class E is the way to make a Jaguar go quickly.

That said the power of a V12 is properly irritating. Right alongside on that straight, got it absolutely right through the corner as he messes up, utterly flat out, I can’t do any better than this, and then there’s that single, tragic moment at which the V12 power comes in, I stop gaining and the speeds equalise. Cars at over 100mph with a foot between them, but essentially static so you can count the rivets and see the driver at work as if we’re sitting in the paddock, then snap and off he goes. Not fair I tell you, just not fair, stupid big engines.

Anyway, second place and the class win, but it feels like I’ve had to settle for it. I don’t suppose I’m meant to see it this way really, 2nd place in a race with 8 modified cars in it is supposed to be OK, but it’s far more than twice as bad as 1st.

Lots of grief to give Stewert then, he practically falls out of his car after being weighed, but it’s not long before I’m giving him absurd amounts of wind-up, asking him if he wouldn’t mind getting his roadblock out of the way tomorrow. Of course he does remind me that we’ve just had the team’s first ever 1 – 2 finish, which is outrageous success given the equipment and budget we’re working with.

Alex too gets weighed and holds up the team’s trend of hugely heavy cars, he’s even worse than me with 140kg of excess weight in the car! His 8th place is something he’s distressed with, though it’s still his best ever finish and good enough for third in class for his second ever class glassware. And this is the guy with 5 races to his name! The demands are high in Kutuka boot camp.

So twelve hours now to wind Stewert up and go to race 2. The gift we left him of a carrot on his driver’s seat to remind him of last year’s nausea doesn’t seem to have put him off, indeed I screw up race 2 by myself. Hugely confident going to the grid, sun’s out, I know I can beat him, if I can get into turn 1 first it’s over, I will get away, I just know it.

Lights out and it’s working, my car is fully ahead off the line as I go for 3rd, this is it, got him. But that’s 5th gear, not 3rd, the car slows like I hit treacle, and Mark Russell rams me in the boot. Not his fault, unavoidable, I grab 4th but still need third, Stewert and Palmer are through, and Loz Ball too, and now I’m screwed.

Faster than Loz through the corner I’m alongside much of Park straight, but have to give in in the braking zone, Russell trying the outside of me and taking a lot of kerb as he gets hung out a little, and I’m all over Loz, I need to make this pass. I can see Hastings in the mirror and I know Russell will pass me soon no matter what I do, leaving me between Ball and Hastings and a certain victim because Gary will close on Loz with me in the middle and there will be a wild lunge somewhere. I’m way faster here and I need to get clear and make it count.

Problem is I’m back in Stewert territory, this car hasn’t got quite the same power but it is lighter and the driver knows a thing or two about deterring overtaking. We both fall victim to Russell before lap 2 is even partially completed, simply sings past on power, so nothing now between me and Hastings. Lock up down the gooseneck and dive inside Loz, taking grass but no power to finish the kill.

Loz brakes hard halfway through Hall bends, which I take as a clear warning to back off, but he needn’t bother, because the feared contact at the rear end comes at the Hairpin. I knew this was coming, I have the car as stable as I can on entry, not pushing the grip because it’s in my head this is about to happen. I know you can’t pass here, but it doesn’t mean you can’t try, and sure enough there’s a smack in the rear quarter as I’m almost through the turn, the tail’s knocked wide, gather it up but I’m on the grass, only got one front wheel still on tarmac.

Full opposite lock, still on the throttle because lifting now is death, the tail well wide and throwing mud and grass, bucketing along the uneven ground with the engine revving as the wheels bounce and skip and re-bite but the car comes back and she jumps back on the tarmac, going to have to catch the rear going to the right again but I’m still on the throttle and it should wag its way through Barn after a bit of sawing.

But Gary’s run in alongside, having hit me and left me on the grass he obviously decided if you’ve had the impact why not finish the kill and make sure he can’t come on again, not expecting it to be catchable. He’s so close that in the middle of the big slide Angelina buries her front bumper in just behind his front wheel, it may even have been that that arrested the slide and helped me back onto the tarmac, but when she jumps back on the track she does so with speed and momentum and swings in with the rear wheel, a giant game of conkers.

The move is now reversed, it’s my car giving the heavy hit to the rear and Gary spins 180 degrees across my nose and off into the tyres, whilst I go through Barn onto the pit straight. Daft thing is if he’d backed off after the first hit I’m not sure I’d have saved it, but as it was once she bit and came back it was like one of those desk toys with the swinging ball bearings.

Sadly there’s a roaring in my helmet and smoke in the mirrors, even some in the cockpit. Fast check of the instruments says it’s not the engine, but the smoke trail is undeniable, and where Gary parked the car means a red flag anyway. Pull up on the grass on the straight and scramble up the bank, awkward as I had my thumb in the wheel as it span round and I seem to have wrenched the elbow on the other arm so I’m moving rather like a crippled penguin.

Rear wheelarch is down on the tyre, and it’s a strong piece of bodywork, no way I can get that off again, I can’t take the restart even if they’d let me. Rear bumper is half missing, the rest dragging on the tarmac, but that’s nothing. That’s it, race over for me, drive it back in, climb out and wander to the grandstands, meeting good old Dermott sprinting up the hill, dodgy knees and all, to see if it’ll take the restart. Not in the time we’ve got, nice try but no, sadly.

So I’m going to watch an XJS race from the stands. I’ve never seen one before, ever. Ten minutes then of cheering on Stewert, Alex, and Roger Webster. Why Roger? Well, why the hell not? Plus I told him if he didn’t beat Drage we were going to hit him.

And so it unfolds, Stewert runs lights to flag, under pressure from Russell all the way, but heartening to see that even with eight million horsepower he can’t pass Stew either, he’s got this one in the bag. It’s Alex that’s the joy to watch, because from seemingly nowhere he jumps into 4th place off the restart and he not only holds it, but he’s pulling away from Loz and he’s catching Palmer. All he wanted from this race was to get his 6th signature and ditch the novice cross, but he’s molesting the championship leader in a car that cost less than the wheels on the three cars ahead.

Not only that, but when Matt Skelton disappears and it’s clear that Roger has Drage beaten we have El Webster as D class leader, and that’s a joy as well. So there I am, out of the race with a damaged car, a bust thumb and a torn elbow, my championship points hopes for the day in tatters, but cheering like a football hooligan as my three drivers bring home the bacon, outright win, 4th place and 2nd in class, and the first class D win for Roger, not bad for a race I’m not in.

So a good day despite it all. But the sad thing is the number of racing laps I got for my £265. By my count 5 in race 1, if that, and less than 2 in race 2. £40 per lap. About £25 per minute. I know lawyers that charge less than that, hell you couldn’t spend money that fast if you instructed a lap-dancing lawyer in Spearmint Rhino. Actually that’s probably a new concept the world is crying out for. Applications may be emailed to……

 


9/8/08

Oulton Park

F**K Me, I Won !!!

 

has been suggested that perhaps I may like to elaborate a little on that.

I said pre-Oulton that I had something to prove, that probably ought to do it. If I sound happy I probably am, I won a bloomin’ race. Me!

Big test at Oulton, and the modifications to my car all worked, brakes were a massive improvement now the rear ones do something, and the cornering was hugely improved, understeer had vanished, and it was a question of getting to grips with the track.

As ever it’s not about winning D class, it’s about that devil John Lock’s 07 pace. We’ve no-one this year that’s risen head and shoulders above the class like that and become the one to beat, so it’s still that guy’s times I’m looking to try and match. Couldn’t quite break into the 2.06s, that last bit I needed to match him just wasn’t there. We’d had heavy rain overnight, I hit a flat 2.07 just before lunch, the track getting a hint faster.

Left me in a quandary though, before I went I had set myself a 2.08 as my goal for the day, that would be 3 seconds faster than any non-Lock D car went in ’07 and likely good enough to win the class with, so having set a 2.07 I’ve cracked that, so do I go out again? On the one hand fast enough is fast enough, why risk car and driver pushing further, but on the other what’s the point of testing if you don’t push the limits and try for that 2.06, I’ve not gone off the track yet so I’m not fully on it!

Trying to economise a bit and get the last out of the pads I run two laps too long and murder the front discs, so the car is juddering like hell on the brakes. Tyre pressures are set, do I go out again?

Alex is flying, he’s in the 2.09s, and given the entry list that’s going to put him about 4th on the grid, it’s actually Stewert struggling, his motion sickness is back and he can’t dial into the track, just can’t get on with the place, he’s a hint slower than I am, and that’s never happened before. We agree to go out to play chase in the afternoon, so I’m abandoning a meaningful test as of that point, we’re instead going to compare V12 with straight 6 handling round here and see where it is each car is faster.

Obviously that degenerated into a race, and we spent ten minutes glued together, changing places to become both rabbit and greyhound, and it became apparent where each car’s strengths lay.

D seems a little later than G on the brakes, turn-in speed higher, with a hint more speed at Druids, and the line at Cascades and the hairpin different, I’m not toting that V12 anchor. V12 grunt made an overtake on Stewert dicey at best, he just buggers off in a straight line, I had a stab at it round the outside at the hairpin, but we’re just playing at this point.

A bigger gap between us so we didn’t trip over each other in various braking zones and we’d both have set a faster lap than we’re putting in as we dive about defending and attacking, but how can you resist an impromptu race? It’s also fair to say that racing Stewert and trying to live with that V12 makes you raise your game somewhat, you’re really being pushed.

It’s exciting though, to be on pace with a V12 for real is a new thing for me, we’ve had the odd track before where the speed difference has been low enough to play for a lap or so, but I know this one is not Stewert’s favourite track and the sheer number of corners helps me, so I have to confess to ending the day feeling pretty good about the track and the car, but it’s also messing with my head to have a D class car on the same pace as a G.

I understand the theory that a 6 cylinder here has an advantage in some ways, but we’re conditioned to believe that the godlike power of the V12 makes you invincible except to another class G car so it’s a tough one to comprehend. I understand why, I’m just struggling to accept it.

We measure Chris Palmer on consistent 2.09 laps, which puts Alex is right on his pace., which by rights shouldn’t happen, he’s standard engined, much heavier, and he’s still only on what, his 4th or 5th race, so Chris must be off form.. He clearly needs a Stewert of his own to chase to raise the bar, it all looks bloody good for race day

Of course race day is when the skies opened and all my practice went down the drain. Quali was very wet, and I’ve learned my lessons about the rain. No more chuffing about with good-condition scrubbed Toyos, put the full-wet unscrubbed tyre on. I have only got 40 profile tyres in full-tread, but slap them on and out to qualify we go. Ray Hill right behind me out of the pits, but by turn 3 I’m alone, he asked me afterwards how the hell I’d managed that, but the answer lay wrapped round the dayglo-orange wheels, I’d got grip!

Lap 2 sets pole position, not that I could know that, I’m in complete isolation on the track and I’ve lost any reference to anyone else, with no gap to measure I find I’m not really pressing the limits now. With Stewert stuck in the gravel at Lodge on lap 3 with what turns out to be a broken steering column it ought to now be impossible to set a fast lap if we are all obeying the yellows. Told myself off a little about my pace though, why am I out there if I’m not right on it? David and Dermott will be cross with me.

Alex puts it tenth, he’s not a big fan of the rain despite the fact his best results come in the wet, he’s fast in the wet but lacking confidence to put the lap in, he’s alongside Stewert. Gary’s second, he obviously dialled into the track as I was pottering about, sets his time on lap 5 despite the yellow flags, so it’s D class first and second, Palmer looks dangerous in 3rd.

Ray Ingham has a good look round my car in assembly, fingering the tyres. I’m still on full wets, which may seem an odd choice given the rain stopped an hour ago, but I’d expected a fair bit of inspection as soon as I found my D class on pole. If you’re ever going to get your car called into question it’s a result like that that’ll prompt it. Sadly no such accusation, which is a shame as to be quick enough to be suspected of cheating would be brilliant.

Ray asks how much grief I’m going to give Stewert when he comes through, he’s clearly expecting the rain meister to carve through and will I give him the position? Like hell I will.

Couldn’t believe how terrifying sitting on pole in assembly can be as it sinks in that you can only cock it up from here, and sitting for 20 minutes mulling on that in the car messes with my tiny mind. Happily the commentators’ confident brief to the spectators that class D cars are the quick ones amused me.

Even the green flag lap is different from this perspective, I’ve got to lead it. All manner of hand signals from the marshall that make no sense at all, no clue what I’m being told, clock the green light at the pit exit and decide to trust that, wish I’d read the blue book better for green flag procedure, but I never ever expected to be up here and you’d feel a bit dumb asking someone what you’re meant to do, the guy on pole ought to know the score, they don’t know that I’m not really supposed to be up here.

Floor it out of the pits, remember it’s a green flag lap and I’m meant to set the pace, slow down and wait for Gary, potter round Cascades and suddenly pulling myself up in the belts staring in the mirror because Chris Palmer’s broadside behind us, then broadside the other way and on the grass, he’s about to bin it on the green flag lap and I’ll have to lead another one of these in a minute.

Happily he gets it back but there are oil flags out all over the circuit. I’ve been warned in assembly by the marshall that this is now a 15 min race, not 15 min plus a lap, and secondly that there’s oil down, particularly at Hill Top. Sadly I didn’t know where Hill Top is, but there is a rainbow of oil down everywhere, the single seaters smashed themselves to bits in race 3 and Druids is lethal even at green flag pace.

Line up on pole, marshall taps on the window to tell me there’s oil down exactly where I’m sat, so good luck. Great. Brief debate with myself about whether to go in 1st or 2nd gear, it’s dry enough for 1st, in fact looking at how dry some of the track was I’m wondering about these full-tread tyres.

Lights out and launch in 1st. Wheelspin. Feather the throttle, no go, still spinning up. Change to second, wheelspin, I’m just going nowhere. Happily Gary isn’t moving either, I get a sense that the entire grid is sitting there spinning up the tyres and ten minutes later I finally manage to modulate the throttle and get away, inside line to Old Hall and into the lead.

Leg it on lap 1, pushing on, car sliding exiting Cascades, a slither through 3, monster the kerbs at the chicanes even though it’s wet, wheelspin in third exiting the first, turning it in on the brakes at the second, curse myself for oversteer through Knickerbrook, a dozen flashbulbs popping in the crowd, but Gary’s vanished, I’ve not seen him since the hairpin.

Druids is evil, and the tail wags as I crest Deer’s Leap on the oil, but that’s it, a lap at the front, and I’ve got a lead. An actual, honest-to-God lead. Me! In an XJS race. What the hell is going on?

Bit braver lap 2, though Old Hall is slippery the track’s drying fast, really it’s the oil making this a tough one. As I head for the chicane Stewert’s exiting turn 3, headlights ablaze, he’s slaughtering ‘em and he’s coming after me – on my tyres as well, the treadless cretin stole the new tyres I was on yesterday! His words from the paddock jump in my head – so far as he’s concerned there’s only 1 other car on the track, it’s blue and he’s coming after it.

There’s already more grip than the last lap, quicker even though I’m not pushing as hard, I’ve lifted a bit for a safety margin but the track is just better already, though Druids is still as vicious as an ex-girlfriend. 18 XJS on Toyos are clearing water and oil quickly, and by the time lap 3 is over I’m in trouble. Tyres are starting to chirp under braking and in corners, track is now dry enough to give up the grip.

Tyre pressures are set for a wet track, and the full-tread is now generating so much heat that lap 4 feels worse than the first, even though the track is clearly much faster now. Car has gone into chronic understeer, the fronts are cooked, struggling to get it turned in and having to upset the rear with the throttle, I may as well be in a V12 at this point. It would be about this point that I understand a voice from the crowd shouted for me to “stop Stewert-ing.” Someone must have a reputation.

A brief calculation and I can’t work out if I get 6 or 7 laps. I think it’s 6, but it may be 7, if it’s 2 and a half minutes per lap and it’s a 15 minute race, and Bob leaves his house at 4.30 travelling west at 60mph, oh crap, corner.

Lap 4 and I can see Gary coming through turn 3 as I leave the hairpin, and that’s a little bit closer than last time. I’ve had a chat with my brain and instructed it to keep calm and just drive and not look at anyone else, because I’m leading the XJS race by a fair bit now, no D car has ever won it, if I fall off worrying about a driver 2 corners behind me I’ll never forgive myself and Dermott or David will kill me dead. I’ve got family here today watching, there’s Chris and Alfie in the crowd too, if I throw this away I daren’t go back to the paddock. Put everyone else out of my head, just drive round to the finish and all will be fine, the pressure is on the chaser and he’ll probably bin it, we’re on lap 4 and I think we only get 6 laps.

Lap 5 and I’m measuring the gap, he’s not playing ball and binned it yet, he’s pushing hard but the back end of the track is still slippery as a nun at bathtime, my tyres aren’t a disadvantage there. Let him catch me, I know he’s on dry tyres and if he goes off-line he’s in trouble, so a conscious effort not to react and try any harder, have a nice quiet Sunday drive.

Last lap board, we do only get 6 laps, and I’m now watching how much distance per corner I can lose and shedding time like it’s cheap, all I have to do is get the nose over the line first, it doesn’t have to be by a big margin so a very careful last lap, barely on the throttle, braking so early it’s obscene. I know it’s safe at Druids, no way he’ll pass me at Lodge, so I only need to be ahead by the time I leave Knickerbrook and it’s over, but the back lets go on the exit and for a split second I’m convinced I just lost it at what’s effectively the last corner, but she comes back and I watch Gary wag his own car in the same spot a second later.

Almost stationary at Lodge, tiptoe round the corner, ignoring him right behind, straighten her up, punch it for the line, job done. 0.6 seconds in it despite a lap 3 lead of 6 seconds, but 6 thousandths will do for all I care, take the flag a happy bunny, first XJS win for D class, I get my championship lead back, and Kutuka makes it 7 wins from 8.

Marshalls very enthusiastic, hanging out of their posts and cheering, it’s the first race  today they’d not had to sweep up with a brush, so they’re clearly happy about that. The fella with the giant orange foam hand amused me hugely, glad I didn’t see that on a hot lap, I’d have fallen off the track!

Park ferme, dragged out of the car and sent to find a man with a microphone, managed not to dribble on it, and I’m dressed up like a racehorse and sent away to sweat into my new red hat. Humbled by a round of applause from the other drivers in park ferme, but I feel like a bit of a fraud by winning on a dodgy track, not the same as if I’d blistered round on a sunny day in an epic battle with someone, it feels a bit flat. I know, stupid isn’t it, win outright with a class D car but sound disappointed about it.

Weighed with the rest and happy to be well legal, back to base to accept a very cheerful Dermott’s smack on the back, think he dislodged the other lung, but who can complain! Even David seems happy, and for the master of impassive expressions that’s a rare sighting.

I was very happy that the car they’ve have worked on and advised me about and we’ve assessed and talked about and analysed proved good enough to win with, and that I could achieve it for them. I hope it’s some small thanks for their hard work and patience that they’ve caused a small footnote to be added to the JEC records that a D class car has now won outright for the first time. Certainly their contribution far exceeded mine, I merely steered the thing.

The win didn’t and hasn’t actually sunk in, not made the impact on me you’d think it would. In some ways it was a flat race, I started alright, didn’t make any huge errors, got the car to the finish, it just happens to have been in first place. Only the time sheet tells me that I was 37 seconds ahead of my V12-powered rain-loving team-mate, and that’s the bit I shall chew on with some glee.


 


 

01/8/08


The new master cylinder has transformed the brake pedal. It’s high and firm again, which is often the best way with so many things. I think the warning signs must have been there on Saturday’s race that the rears weren’t working right, but I didn’t spot it. Stewert didn’t like the pedal at all in my car even in the paddock. I should have known then that it wasn’t right.
I can only assume that I wasn’t under enough pressure on Saturday to spot the problem, the car was comfortably fast enough to do what I needed, which is to win D class, without pushing it too hard.
Front end was squealing the tyres everywhere, but I’ve got used to that by now. I have also found out why, and have a fix for the problem that should make the car significantly quicker again. Between the two changes it should reduce front pad wear, and start to plane the tyres more evenly, I’ve had problems with what looks like excessive camber, but now I know why and can cure that the rubber should last longer too, and it was already doing pretty well.
I’m left to wonder what might have been on day 1 of that last race weekend if I’d had the brakes and the handling I think I’m taking to Oulton Park. Chris Palmer was ½ second ahead of me, is there enough in the improvements to have worried him?
I did like Oulton last year. I had problems on the test day, never learned the track because of the engine transplant in the paddock, but I really enjoyed myself, passed Upton after a long fight in the race, and closed on Loz Ball there fast, I nearly caught him napping as he fought Merrett. Only John Lock was faster in class there last year, and he’s not human anyway, he was about a year ahead of anyone.
My car at that point was a bandy piece of crap with a driver only just getting his 6th signature, Oulton was where I lost my novice cross. If I can’t do better than the 6th in class this year I may get grumpy.
Angelina’s repairs didn’t take long. N/S wing not badly damaged at all, just a ding. O/S was knackered, that’s what hit Sam’s door and they’re not strong panels. With patience it would salvage, but it’s time for a new one, it got a nudge from Hastings at Snett anyway, and I can see it’s not the first time this car has had the front end repaired.
Headlights both bust, but at £15 each I’ll survive. Just needs a grille. Alex uses the cunning of the forest and his own fur to fibreglass the skirt together. Paint and stripes already in stock, just some replacement stickers and she’s back in action again within a fortnight, good as new. Probably better, took the chance to do a bit of cleaning, tidying and lightening whilst I have the wings off, you never stop finding bits you can do without.
Been an odd few weeks. The Sam Clarke crash took the wind out of my sails to a surprising extent. Couple of ways you can look at the weekend, either way it was still a lousy do.
On the one hand the brakes didn’t work correctly, my car didn’t stop, and I hit someone. Racing incident, we accept there’s that risk when we take to the track. Or if you decide not to believe there was a mechanical failure and I simply outbraked myself and hit him, well, again, that’s a racing incident, a mistake.
On the other hand, it’s such a well-prepared car, so pretty, such a high-profile car and driver, that it becomes far more than a simple racing accident. The level of blame and scrutiny increases proportionate to the cost of the damage. And that’s fair enough, you go sailing into an expensive car then who cares why it happened, it’s a right bloody disaster and the driver who hit it becomes a pariah. Only natural. Not at all relevant, it shouldn’t matter if it’s two tail end cars or the two leaders that tangle, but understandable when David twats Goliath.
We’re not used to the front running cars making contact with each other, and at this point no doubt my name will be mud. I expect Sam has a voodoo doll, and that’s fair enough, he’s got a big repair bill and the ballache of getting it all put right, and whatever the cause his damage was my doing, he should be spitting blood and bullets, and he’ll probably punch me in the eye next time he sees me.
I have little doubt that finding a mechanical problem with the car will do nothing to appease the inevitable whispers that will be circulating by this point, but it hardly matters what is or isn’t being muttered, finding a problem means there’s a cure, and the best answer to any criticism is to go faster still at Oulton.
It does add a certain level of determination to my preparation, and a number of jobs I might have shirked have now been done, my arms tell the tale of long, hard nights in the workshop, and Angelina is practically chewing through the restraints to get back on circuit now.
Front end bushes, so long planned, are finally done. Took three days to get the suspension apart though, ball joints that won’t separate, pins that are rusted solidly into the subrame, three days of fire and sweat to split it all and get two wishbones on the bench to put the new bushes in. It should all be a little tighter in there now, front end should behave better and give me a more neutral car without the heinous understeer.
Water pump started to leak for no good reason so had that off, apart and resealed and refitted. Oil was spotting from the cooler housing, so oil drained, housing off, sealant, refitted. Fancy LED rain light that lasts forever had half the leds failed after a year so that’s had to be swapped. £50 of complete junk that then.
But such niggles aside and looking ahead, at Anglesey the car was 2 seconds per lap faster than her nearest rival. I now know that the car was doing that with lousy brakes, front ride height all wrong, and carrying 20kg of fuel more than I should because the fuel gauge was wonky. The car going as it is, brakes repaired, ride resolved, new bushes, lighter car, and a driver with a point to prove, bring on Oulton, really can’t wait to assault that track again.
In the meantime other projects have also suddenly appeared. My hunt for a wing for the red car led to my usual begging call to Chris (Robinson), and next thing you know I’m toting an entire XJRS bodyshell home rather than it go to the scrapyard, the poor thing was screaming to be made into an E class car.
Then a trip to the local JEC meeting with the two race cars quickly unearthed a flood-damaged 3.6 auto that was nothing more than a storage problem no-one wanted, owner Andy Gawley immediately loving the idea of the usable components coming back to life under a race car, and now that’s sitting on the garden too, because when it arrived it was far too good to simply chop up for parts. Other than a plate in the driver’s side floorpan all that’s really up with it is the interior and a few wild electrics, both of which we rip out of a race car anyway, so it looks like the entire car will survive at this rate, not at all the original plan, but don’t look a gift horse in the dental work.
This means there are now 5 XJS down my yard in various states of repair. It’s getting a bit much, something has to go, and at this point it looks likely that will be my V12 road car, which is dying at an exponential rate, think she’ll have to be broken, no resale value and the engine’s a perfect spare for Stewert, looks like I’ll be moving to drive a 3.6 racecar-in-progress this winter.
Don’t ask me what class though, no clue yet, I want to build an E car, but I think I’d like to do that over a long period of time, a D built from scratch would be good, and I have a couple of wild ideas about that I may need to run past Terry and the committee to see if I’m allowed. Nothing so daft as Alex’s request to race one of the Lynx estate versions painted as an ice-cream truck. It all makes you think about 2009, and we’re only halfway through ’08.


ANGLESEY

28/07/08

Anglesey – snatching defeat from the jaws of victory.
Well, I properly messed that up, didn’t I? Day 1 went as planned. Day 2 didn’t.
Having had time to analyse the tape and the car I can say with some certainty that steaming into Sam Clark with the front brakes locked was not the plan. I braked a touch earlier than I thought I needed to because of the brief sprinkle of rain we’d had in assembly, he was 50 yards ahead and I wasn’t trying to pass, he’d got that lead on me in about 10 seconds and Sam was gone.
Fronts locked almost immediately I hit the pedal and cadence braking did nothing, straight in. It was a horrible experience, the tyres are locked for about 3 full seconds so in that weird slo-mo world of impending disaster it takes an age before the impact and you’re just helpless. The car won’t slow down, pulsing the pedal did nothing, no steering, just heading up the hill with no control and knowing I’m about to arrive with about 30mph too much.
Even as it was happening I was failing to understand why, the car doesn’t behave like this, mini lock-ups happen all the time, I’ve dealt with a hundred of these so why’s this one not working all of a sudden? Initial reaction was that there must be a damp bit on the track, no big deal, but when the wheels didn’t unlock I realised I was in trouble, and I couldn’t work out what to do to fix this one. Last ten yards before impact my foot went to the floor, as if by magic pressing harder would solve everything.
No go, right into his passenger door. Sam half-spins and we end up nose-to nose. I’ve stalled, he didn’t, and drops the clutch again, drives through me and away, taking what was left of my front spoiler off. I restart the engine and set off but there are hideous scraping noises within a yard and I steer off the tarmac onto the grass to join the marshalls.
As I struggle out I see that I’ve driven onto my own dislodged front spoiler, the car itself is actually fine if I’d backed off it, but how can you tell, and once you’re out of the car you’re done.
Having to see Sam afterwards was difficult. You’ve just been in a car accident that you can’t explain, but it’s definitely your fault and you’ve got to apologise to the poor sod you hit.
It’s all the worse for him being so reasonable after the fact, no swearing and jumping up and down, just wanting to know why and how. Being unable to explain that was a very difficult thing indeed, I just don’t know, the car didn’t stop but I don’t know why, I don’t know what I did wrong. All you can say is that I didn’t get the car stopped and I hit you, thought I’d got it right but I hadn’t. Not good.
First retirement of the year, first big crash I’ve been in, first time I’ve hit someone, and I do it to a pristine V12 when I’m not even trying to pass him. Yes, we’d had a bit of a play through turns 2 and 3, but he’d cleanly cut my nose off and he’d run off, he’d got 50 yards on me already and that fight was over, I had this one all by myself, Sam’s car was simply there when my accident arrived.
Since then of course I’d pulled the car down to find out what the hell happened. First port of call were the tyres. Two huge flats on the fronts, tyres wholly unusable, but not a mark on the rears.
Video comes in from Stewert’s rear-facing camera, and then from our intrepid cameraman’s external shots, and it’s all front end smoke and nothing from the rear, despite the uphill, and the car doesn’t slow down at all.
Conclusion is the rear tyres never locked. Rear pads are fine, so much meat on them they’re nearly new. Interrogating my sources guides me to the master cylinder having partially failed. Worse still, with the list of symptoms in the car it’s probably been deteriorating for the last couple of sessions.
The hard stab on the pedal under compression up the hill and it’s finally caught me out, no help from the rears and straight to the accident. Having re-read my own Rockingham write-up I can see the signs there too, lots of whining about front pad wear and being nervous on the pedal, I assumed it was just that track.
Swapping the master cylinder is not what I’d usually class as routine maintenance. A call to Covcats tells me it’s been on the car about 5 years. To me that’s pretty new. To the team that’s old and wants swapping. How do you know what to swap at what interval?
Having been to Anglesey before I had a huge track advantage in quali on day 1, and that meant no pressure on me in the race, so that first-lap on day 2 was probably the hardest I’d been at the middle pedal all weekend, it’s the only explanation I have as to why it was fine on Saturday and evil on Sunday.
The team also have concerns over my front ride height, which has altered since the season began and is now wholly wrong, which also explains a couple of handling issues. Fixes for both these problems were in progress within 24 hours of returning home from the track.
Sadly my prang and DNF means instead of a 30-point lead I’m instead 2 behind Gary again. Not what I’d expected after race 1 with a 2 second a lap advantage. Damn. I’ve already had a series of Jag champions line up to tell me off for making life difficult for myself, Terry as well, if you’d like to add a slap or two feel free! Oulton therefore becomes vital once more, instead of a comfy 2-dnf cushion I have to play for it all again.
Unfortunately therefore I was the second car to splatter a pristine V12 in as many days. Gail’s was a real shame, not her fault at all. Poor old Alex was cringing at first thinking she was blaming him. His tape is sadly lousy quality but the time from the car appearing to impact was nothing, he was fenced in by other cars and it’s like a movie or something, three cars abreast and the middle one goes straight into the obstacle, very relieved when she told him he was innocent.
Both cars a bit bent. Pair of front wings needed, skirt will repair, headlights and surrounds bust. Both are back in action quickly enough, it’s just bodywork and within a fortnight of the crash both are fixed. Quite a repair bill though, 2 cars with heavy front end damage. We need 2 wings, a skirt, 3 headlights, 3 headlight surrounds, 2 grilles, a lot of aluminium, some mesh, 2 indicators, paint and stickers.
Race 2’s disaster aside the weekend was very interesting. Quali – Webster out-doing Hastings! Roger is much faster when being chased or chasing, gets his blood up a bit and he flies, and when Reynolds got to Rocket, spotted it was a left, dived right and therefore pulled across Roger right in the middle of a braking zone, bang! Roger’s then so cross he put in the p2 quali lap. Bingo!
So we just need to wind Roger up in every quali and he’ll be at the front in no time, have Darth Pearce scratching his head and wondering how the hell that green car is on the front row. I do wonder if the colour of that car is related to his Incredible Hulk temperament? After that though he was in the Gail crash, which both he and Loz point at each other for, and which I must say became particularly and unexpectedly nasty in post-race discussions, and then in race 2 he was getting door-handled by Drage!
Coppock went off during negotiations with Hastings in race 2, not sure if that was contact or not, but I saw all race 2 from up high on tyre wall on the hill, great spot! Humphries was charging, I thought he was going to take Hastings for the lead too, but he seemed to have an attack of the sensibles and save his p2, which given what a stunning result it was for him I can’t argue with.
I’m a bit bewildered why Gary was off the pace. He got track position, but he had 2 D cars all over him all race, fell off in race 1, and though he got a 3rd and a win it was by driving a very wide car instead of outright velocity. I was also a little baffled by Loz Ball, he was here last year and with that E class I had expected him right at the front, but obviously using road tyres had unsettled his track knowledge from ’07.
I had a great day 1, at the end of which I had pulled a 22 point advantage over Gary Hastings, closed the gap to Stewert down to 3 points, my gap to Chris Palmer was 12 points. I had race 2 in the bag before the lap was half complete, already dropped Gary enough that I wasn’t defensive, all set to run off again, just get to the flag and it’s a good day, and I then damaged 2 cars, and am 2 points now behind Gary instead of 28 ahead. As for the overall championship, though never on the cards it’s now an impossibility rather than merely incredibly unlikely, so class title now is what we seek..
I’m told that in racing these things happen and that even after years on track mistakes occur. That’s not much by way of consolation when you’ve done something like this, the self-belief takes a real knock. I was standing on the tyres watching the race go by, and was considering taking the rest of the season off, just take a break from it, hang the bloody championship battle now I’ve gone and handed the lead away so stupidly.
That idea had gone by the time I was home, it all adds a bit of spice to the year now I’m up against it again, it was obviously too easy before and I had to mess things up.
To some degree I have to be encouraged by day 1. 2 seconds a lap advantage over the grey meanie, easy win, actually ahead of Chris Palmer first lap and half on the restart, lifted off at 2/3 distance as he was creeping away and I was never going to catch him. Odd though to be only a couple of hundred yards off the leader when I decided to preserve the car to the end, never been anything like that close before. Even Brands was nothing like that much of a pace advantage, and I know now that was with a car with 2 fundamental problems. With those fixed it should be faster still at Oulton, and that appeals to me.


9/6/08

Rockingham

With Mallory behind me I had at last finished enough races to have finally completed a season’s racing, so Rockingham was technically the first race of year 2. Whether that meant I’d learned anything remained doubtful, I was happy enough just to return from Rockingham for a change not in need of a major car repair!

Liked Rockingham on the test day, went quite well, though the second hairpin eluded me all day, bad understeer, and I cut the test short because front brake pad wear was so heavy, they’re expensive and I’d run out of spares. I was a bit ginger on the brakes, something undefinable missing, which Gary Hastings exploited to the full on race day.

Loved the banking, flat out, 5th gear just before entry to turn 1, you could reach out of the window and touch the wall. You’d lose a finger, but you could. Down low to the white line, don’t cross it or get a spanking from a marshall, and out and up back to the wall, just 120mph ish in a humble D class, 4600rpm in 5th gear and I catch myself leaning away from the wall as it comes back towards you. Feathering it in the early sessions, flat later on, awesome, could do that all day.

Times fell, I was still making a pig’s ear of some of the braking zones, far too early in some. Chasing Chris Palmer about for part of the session, little surprised he wasn’t disappearing on the infield, but nothing I could do about him on the banking.

Swapped cars with Alex, or rather I stole the red class E car off him for half a session, see what the car is like these days, tempted to swap class on the spot, E is definitely the way to go. Leave the engine standard, leave the 16"wheels and 225 tyres on it, I don’t care, give me that car to scare myself in please, right now.

So to race day with confidence. And it all went a bit wrong after that. Rain as we’re being called to assembly, panic tyre pressure change and last of the lot to get to assembly, so nothing but slow cars in the way, really struggling to get clear air, and not fast when I did.

Second hairpin was lethal for me, I could not get the nose to stick there at all, same problem I had at Mallory, the one lap I did hook it all up I outbraked myself and took a cone out at turn 2 and ballsed it up, so having passed Matt Skelton I wasn’t at all shocked to see he first pegged the gap and then dragged me back in, he was clearly faster before I’d even seen a results sheet.

I wasn’t happy about my performance at all. Second in class to Skelton was acceptable, but my chin was down a bit at not being able to press the advantage I’d bought with a test day.

Half an hour running about trying to find a tyre van, because Alex’s tyres were bald as a stripper’s chuff, the rain looked like it was here for the day, we’d 4 wet tyres and 4 new scrubbed tyres just arrived, but the latter not on wheels yet. No go on a tyre van, we’d have to share the 4 wets out between me and Alex, so a debate about what tyres to fit which end of which car. And then the sun came out, thank God. It was unclear until right before we went out if it was to be more rain or keep drying out, and it stayed dry.

Stewert unhappy, having taken pole in the rain he’d prayed for more. But with the rain over my spirits returned, whatever was messing with my brain disappeared and normal service resumed. Alex was after a signature to climb another rung on the novice cross removal ladder, but I told him signatures be damned, let’s go out and f**** have ‘em, we know the place in the dry. Judging by his subsequent assault on the lower order he must have listened to me, which is unusual.

On the grid for the green flag, the track was much, much drier and hotter than expected. It had been drying slowly in the paddock, but hidden behind those huge metal grandstands having the occasional peek at the track we’d still no idea the track was bone dry, it was lucky we’d dropped the tyre pressures again, but still not really enough.

Red lights out and I got her away well, reacted faster than Gail and Matt and went between them, first time I’ve ever passed another XJS off the line, then the old 4 litre simply out-dragged Matt’s 3.6 all the way to turn 2, and with Gail’s car not seemingly as powerful as it should be she too was left on my outside all the way to the hairpin, Hastings in close behind me, he too passes Skelton.

Cleanly through the hairpin, bit close to Chris Palmer, Ray Hill still in touch but far enough back, Gary not a threat from way back there so swung wide for the entry to turn 3 and turning in when the grey car appears alongside in a do-or-die move that can never work if I take the corner, so I’m hung out wide, 2 wheels on the grass and Ray Hill comes by as well. Gracelands is the fast left and I put it back up Ray’s inside to take 6th back, and close on Gary onto the main straight. Way faster through turn 1, reeled him in and he’s gone by the exit of turn 2.

First time I’ve made it past Gary, last time I tried it we collided. Defensive for a turn but legged it then on the infield and pulled an easy second out, which I held despite my tentative braking until I screwed up the hairpin and dropped the time just as Mark Russell closed in on us.

Gary very hard in his attempted moves, my rear skirt takes a knock or two, and no way it’s going to work for him round the outside of the narrow right-left flick onto the banking, but he tries it anyway.

Mark uses the power and takes me before turn 2, then runs wide and I put him between me and Gary, where he stays until after the second hairpin, but I’m too defensive and cock up the exit yet again, he storms down the outside, Gary too far back to make a move I pull in behind Mark for the corner and again the grey car steams in with it all locked up down the inside, no choice but to cede the position.

Race must be 2/3 through by now, and I’m back behind Gary again. Still way faster through turn 1, only as I go down the outside he applies the squeeze towards the wall and I’m doing 120ish into a narrowing gap, which isn’t quite what I signed up for.

Close chase through the infield, a moment of wide-eyed terror as we find Mark Russell slow on the track in front and weave to miss him, target fixation at work, focussed on Gary’s bumper when it suddenly jinks right and there’s a slow car sat there instead! So close now that we’re touching bumpers through the infield but I take Gary back again through turn 2, and there’s Alex off in the gravel, throwing his balaclava about on the tyre wall and looking a bit grumpy. Arm out of the window, thumb up to ask if he’s OK, and the little sod ignores me! Here I am driving a weaving XJS one-handed, trying to ascertain if he’s got both legs still attached and he’s busy taking in the scenery.

Lost out to Gary in the damned essess again, a slide that took the offside wheels clean over the tall yellow kerbing, and I’m back behind him again. This is getting silly, I’m clearly quicker, leave me alone!

2 laps then of close fighting, tried the outside of the exit of turn 5, carrying much more speed but he hangs me way out wide and almost off the track, this is going to take some planning, and for once my brain intervened and plotted and planned, it takes 3 corners of weaving and jinking to get him defensive enough to create the gap, the plan was to go up the inside at Gracelands like I did to Ray Hill, and it works, kind of. We’re side by side through Gracelands and into Tarzan, brake early and let him sail back up my inside, run wide and I sneak past to take the place, job done.

A corner later than planned, but it’ll do. Bit of a big deal for me actually, it’s about the first time ever I’d actually planned a pass and didn’t get it through sheer luck after sitting on someone’s bumper for ten minutes. Cover the inside into the last chicane and he tries the outside, spinning and last seen going up and over the kerbs and off the track.

Saunter across the line for the win, no-one visible in the mirrors, despite our fight Gary and I had buggered off 10 seconds down the road from Loz and Ray, so I’m happy as you like, punching the air and hooting like a horny orang-utang. Good, hard race, but it does cross my mind in that moment for the first time, what the hell happened to Matt and Gail? If I’ve been keeping track then I think I’m 5th overall, which is my second highest finish ever. Excellent.

Stewert returns to camp with his laurels and winner’s trophy, which he gives me with trembling hands because he’s about to drop it, adrenaline requiring payback. With the glassware rattling about in my hands I quickly put it down, only now realising I too have an attack of the shakes. Must have been a decent race!

Learned a lot from Gary in this race, I am now much better defensively than I was even at the start of the race, it’s something I didn’t learn last year because I was always hunting someone, never being chased, but now I have pursuers to worry about as well as the car ahead.

Still a very entertaining race, good fun despite my incompetence, the video playback made for a diverting few minutes, even if I cringe at the driving on display and the gibbering chimp who takes the flag.

My car needs more work, the rear is very well planted, but the front is understeering, if I cure that she’ll fly, so much more to come yet, and that’s before we play with horsepower, it’s still a stock AJ16 and I could have a head done if I only had the funds.

Bring on Anglesey, I’ve been before and I was reasonably fast there last year, hopefully the better car will show something more. We’ve put Mallory behind us, which was a track I didn’t know well, Rockingham was new to me but we managed it, but now we’re off to visit an old friend in Wales, should be good.

 

Post-Rockingham

A more relaxed week than usual, we threw a clutch in the red car and did some messing about with brake cooling ducts, see if we can’t make the new new discs last a bit longer. New front discs for all three cars machined up for us by Dermott of www.power4peanuts.com and are not only fully-drilled, but cheaper than buying off the shelf ready-done, so I was well chuffed with those.

Angelina got her new discs at Rockingham, the old ones that have been on the car all the time I’ve had it, and which looked a bit ropey even when I bought it, finally gave in at Mallory, each front had 3 or 4 full-thickness full-radius cracks in, clearly the water cooling of the sodden track had taken the last of them.

I have, after a long and difficult talk with myself, had to finally park up the V12 auto road car. I’ve been pouring the fuel into this beast for the last 3 winters as a "sensible" winter car, but the economy on it, always cripplingly poor at about 15mpg average, has now been joined by a host of other problems.

With money tight and fuel so dear the old girl is now hauling me a mile to the train station’s park and ride, and I’m on the damned train now. Sitting there last Friday with the stench of someone’s sick wafting up the carriage I missed the Jag quite a lot, but fuel and car parking charges, well, that’s money, a week of that I can put fuel in the race car to do Anglesey with. So yes, that’s right, I’ve effectively retired from road driving to afford to race. Some would say if funds are that tight what business do I have racing anyway, but to these people I would offer a rude gesture.

Oil and filter change, and I’ve gone back to the temporary air scoop I added for Rockingham to get more air in the car. It worked a treat, no more misting up in quali, but it wasn’t meant as a proper job, just a quick one, and I’ve rid myself of that now in favour of a far neater fix.

Replaced my door cards too, the ones that I had on the car were those it came with, and they were in a bit of a state then, they have been constantly falling off, and having been soaked a couple of times they were more duct tape than leather by the time Mallory had finished with them, so little of the hardboard still intact there was nothing left to screw to. Happily with Megan going E we have a spare pair, so I’ve fitted those, which neatens it up a bit.

Not liking the fact that having done alright a couple of times there are a lot more pictures and visitors and interested sets of eyes scrutinising everything, and I’m having to tidy her up a bit because suddenly there are people looking and the "it’s a race car" excuse isn’t really cutting ice any longer.

Meant to do her front poly bushes at last but hit problems and couldn’t. Matt Skelton had asked if I wouldn’t mind fitting cotton reels instead, but I think that may rank up there with his advice to soften two of the offside dampers right off, run 15psi in the tyres and try the start in 5th gear. Mind you, I did tell him in assembly at Rockingham that there had been a sudden change and he was racing anti-clockwise. I also had Gail try out her own brand of comedic mind games, she asked if I would please ensure I stayed behind her off the line, such deadpan delivery you wonder for half a second if that isn’t in fact a rule you’d missed in the final instructions.

I’d wanted the poly bushes so as to make the nose a bit more pointy and my corner speeds go up, the car has been getting increasing understeer and I don’t know why because I’ve not changed anything. It’s all early turn ins and the nose pushing wide, speed compromised by having to wait to be sure the front will make the turn before I plant the throttle, unlike the V12 I’ve not got the power to break the understeer so easily. It’s probably safer handling than it had last year, but lots of scope for improvement yet.

Brake pads have stopped disappearing so quickly, the gentle braking at Rockingham even in that fairly heated race appears to have saved them, but the brake callipers decided the seals had had enough and whilst messing with brake lights both front callipers let get, so off to reseal those.

So as usual my prep goes down to the wire, still assembling the front end at 11pm Thursday night. When exactly did racing take over my entire life and start removing things like my road car, social life, and sleep? I haven’t had a quiet, early night in over a year!


30/5/08

Mallory Park

Rained. Raced. Survived.

Bright but breezy when we arrived, most people convinced that’s how it was going to stay, only me as the prophet of doom, but when the skies opened about 8am on Sunday they didn’t let up for about 3 days.

Qualifying was great, plenty of grip relative to most, great fun chasing Stewert, he was powerboating round the track and actually holding me up, which I found very amusing as I’d already wound him up considerably before we went out! The need to find clear air led me to pass both Loz Ball and Gary Hastings in half a lap, both then span into the wall at exit to the Esses on successive laps, fortunately both OK and cars only slightly damaged.

Bob Beecham obviously less fortunate, the car looked like a write-off, and session then red-flagged.

I seemed to have more traction than just about anyone other than Jim Quirke, he is a bit of a wet Mallory specialist and we had good sport in quali. Pleased to pip him on the grid, but also rather scared to find myself second to Derek by 6/100s, that meant a front-row start in the wet in front of several drivers who turn into torpedos in wet weather.

Rain intensified as we went out, and I was pretty much screwed. Tyres I had on were perfect for qualifying, but I had a set of full-tread tyres in the truck and hadn’t fitted them, and as the rain got heavier and bounced off the track I knew I was going to struggle. Car was misting up badly, blowers on full, window down, couldn’t get any airflow, couldn’t see.

Amazed to get the drop on Derek off the start, though he eased ahead again after 50 years or so a move round the outside of Gerrards was easy enough and for 15 glorious seconds I led the race. Eyes like saucers, almost a relief when Stewert came blasting past into the lead and I had someone to follow again, Kutuka formation flying in 1st and 2nd place.

After that moment of joy I pretty much screwed everything else up and tossed the race away all by myself, lucky to finish 6th outright and 3rd in class, my performance didn’t merit even that. So yes, 1st to 6th in conditions that earlier that morning had favoured me so strongly there were bets whether I could make D class history by winning a race outright. So much for that idea, I made a right Horlicks of it.

Completely mugged by Matt Skelton, having an amazing drive on full-tread 55 profile tyres, caught me completely unawares, headlights flew out of the spray so fast I thought I was being caught by a V12 and it was only when I saw the number alongside I realised I was handing the class lead away. Then I put it off at the hairpin despite knowing I was struggling to get round that corner at all with heinous understeer, basically I screwed up just about everything you can get wrong – can’t see, can’t get the grip, not trying hard enough, basically deserved to be sent home.

Note to self, next time it rains put the rain tyres on. And next time you’re fiddling with the car don’t: i) accidentally block up the cabin air supply or ii) disconnect the wiring to the driver’s side blower with your big clumsy meat-hook hands whilst doing something else. No bloody wonder I couldn’t see out of the screen and was scrabbling at it with my gloves down the straight. I’d also add iii) don’t saunter about in pissing rain in your overalls and boots getting sopping wet. Oh, and iv) don’t measure the distance to the car behind you and just go fast enough, push like hell until someone shows you a red flag. Idiot.

Chuffed with Alex’s performance though, 2nd ever race, first time in the car in E class form, first wet race, 3rd in class in both quali and race after hard battles with experienced drivers like Hill, Hastings and Coppock, bloody good show.

I will try harder at Rockingham. I will try harder at Rockingham.

I will try harder at Rockingham. I will try harder at Rockingham.

I will try harder at Rockingham. I will try harder at Rockingham.

I will try harder at Rockingham. I will try harder at Rockingham.

I will try harder at Rockingham. I will try harder at Rockingham.

I will try harder at Rockingham. I will try harder at Rockingham.

I will try harder at Rockingham. I will try harder at Rockingham.

I will try harder at Rockingham. I will try harder at Rockingham.

I will try harder at Rockingham. I will try harder at Rockingham.

I will try harder at Rockingham. I will try harder at Rockingham.

I will try harder at Rockingham. I will try harder at Rockingham.

Actually, cut and paste takes the point out of doing lines, doesn’t it?

 


 

20/5/08

Engine start as of mid-week, though what the hell was wrong with me on Tuesday as I tried to remove and refit the propshaft I don’t know, I was weak as a kitten and couldn’t get a one undone. Same job Wednesday night after an extra couple of hours kip and Popeye had had his spinach, very odd! Recently read an article that suggested sleep was altogether unnecessary and no-one was sure what it’s for. Well, I don’t have the answer to a theoretical question, but I’ll tell you one thing, give me only 4 hours of it and I can’t handle a spanner.

Do I confess my mistakes with the transplant? The upside-down dizzy? The stripped threads that hold the radiator panel in that I keep ignoring because I can never find the right tap? Nah, pretend it’s perfect.

The oil pressure, having been the worry for me for months, turned out to be a gauge fault, so to reassure me the only thing I can do is fit one that doesn’t rely on senders and crystals and electricity. I don’t know why such a device would gradually pack up, I assumed elastictrickery was either on or off, but what do I know? So it’s time to downgrade the technology to a good old-fashioned wet gauge that rams oil down a pipe and moves a needle.

Need several parts here, a gauge, a pipe, and the adaptor. The first isn’t a worry, MGB gauge to hand, and a nice bit of stainless braided pipe, all "borrowed" from that V8 project I will one day finish, a £2 adaptor and off it goes, perfect.

I know some folk don’t like wet gauges, oil in the cockpit, another pipe to break etc, but I’ve got a whacking great accusump to fit and no-one seems to worry about those, so knickers to it. So keep your fancy stepper-motor backlit electric gauges, mine’s from 1968, but it works!

Where to fit it? Well, class D regs are a bit restrictive, strictly speaking I can only put extra gauges in areas vacated by the radio or removed switchgear or trip computer. I still have the latter, I like it, I use the timer, when I remember, to tell me how much race is left, but I want it up high, in my eyeline. No option then but to ask the race committee to clarify for me if I can have an extra gauge in a more convenient location. With no answer and time running out it goes in the radio hole, not ideal but it’ll have to do.

And that’s really that, car runs, it’s got the extra oil gauge to keep me happy, and with new pads on the way as spares she’s ready to accept fuel for Mallory testing. Fingers crossed, because if I read Jagracing correctly I have in fact already set a low-57 lap and won the class before I even set out for the track.

No pressure then, for a track I’ve never done anything at other than explode in a big way. Should I mention that Brands was always going to be my best track as I’d already done four races and a trackday there, and that I’ve only done 5 laps of Mallory, in the wet, or do such troublesome facts merely get in the way?

Put it this way, I’d rather crawl naked through a field of thistles than go to Mallory, which has held nothing but cold, wet misery for me, and there is no track anywhere in Britain I wouldn’t rather race at. But that’s my challenge, can I overcome my bogey track and at least get a car to the finish? For me the race next week isn’t really about the result, I just want to get an actual race there that finishes with all cylinders still operating! After that I want to see if the un-nerving rear-end feeling the car gave me at Gerards last year has gone, and I want to see how fast you can tackle the Esses. In the dry please Mr. Weatherman? I am not expecting a good result though, whereas I did at Brands. But then I have 3 times more track time at Brands than anywhere else.

And the red E class car? I have a nasty feeling I’ll be chasing it!

Of course this racing thing isn’t all dirt and grime and working til you collapse, immediately after Brands my morning post, in addition to the usual threats, brought me an invitation from Hatfields. Very few people seem to have noticed that the immaculate Lister saloon throwing itself about is being piloted by Andrew Jeffrey, the big cheese there, so it was with some interest that I accepted the invitation and found myself in a hotel in Sheffield.

Christmas day for me and Alex, a line-up of the newest and shiniest Jaguars available, a nice man who keeps handing you the keys to whatever you fancy and then a 20 minute blast unconstrained by salesman, obey the satnav and see what you think.

Obviously what I wanted was to know what, nowadays, is the spiritual successor to the XJS V12, and find myself sitting in an XJR. 4.2 litres with a supercharger, yes, OK, that’ll do. Alex elects for the 2.7 twin-turbo XF. Very different cars, both with their own appeal. Alex likes diesels, that’s just what he is, but even sat there with a determined sneer at the ready I was amazed by the performance of the old oil-burner, and fascinated to watch as he flicked the gearbox to sport and tried out the paddle-shift box.

My favourite though was the big petrol-gobbler. Steering a bit too light for my tastes, I like a wheel with heft, it’s my biggest grouch about XJS racing that I have to have power assistance – I’d happily carry all the bits and a weight penalty if need be, but please let me have direct control over the steering, even my road-going V12 runs power-less, even if it is a bitch to park.

Anyway, this is not a road test report, just a muttering that’s Jag-related, but I must extend our thanks to Andrew Jeffrey and the guys at Hatfield for the invitation, great day out and a real eye-opener for this particular worshipper of the world of old cars, turns out some of the new stuff isn’t half bad. All I have to do is wait 10 years til I can afford one.

Mallory entry list fluttered through on Saturday morning, and bewilderment all round as to why there are only 20 entries? We had been told it was a full grid. Alex has had his race number changed and his class left as D, so some phoning round to determine that he stays as 74 and is E class. But F is half points, G is precarious for the same, there are 3 or 4 G class cars missing. Even the fully-populated D is down to 10, something’s amiss!


09/5/08

So, another year, another engine to swap. I suppose it ought not to be a big deal. I’d had mild concerns about the lump since February, and I did notice when sat on the hill waiting for scrutineering at Brands that if I dropped the car in 2nd and turned the engine off, the car still slowly ran away. Sure it normally holds, it did last year!

She still drives, in fact she’s not smoking at all, so had to do an autopsy to find and cure the problem. Problem 1 though is where is all the coolant? And problem 2, if the coolant was low why didn’t I get a warning?

Problem 1 is easy, refill the car with water. I don’t get half a gallon in before the answer is clear, the big fat hose on the back of the pump has gone pop in a big way.

 

Blown Hose

 

Hole this big means I dropped all 8 litres of coolant somewhere on track, extremely fast. The one witness I have says it happened at Paddock, the car threw an avalanche of water out of the nearside front wing. Fortunately because of my funny line there I appear to have merely washed Mr Palmer’s gravel for him.

It does beg the question why no-one appears to have seen it, no marshalls flags, no wet line on the track, but then I suppose when a hose explodes so completely we’re no longer talking about a water leak so much as dumping it. Clearly Angelina wants to fight forest fires.

Short version is therefore that it looks like I threw all the coolant into the kitty litter, then ran the engine for about 3 more laps, getting hotter and hotter until the rings started to complain and the smoke started. Temp gauge normal, but then it would be, it’s got nothing to measure. Warning light for low-coolant had the wire off the expansion tank, so worst of all worlds, driver unaware he’s lost all his coolant, and a water leak so short and neat the marshalls never saw it. I’m so very very glad that red flag came out!

And that is totally unrelated to the low oil pressure I had all weekend, but it seems now that the oil pressure was in fact fine, it was the gauge itself at fault. I don’t know how the gauge works or why it should read ever-lower until it gives in, but the engine I just put in was still in an X300 when it came in, running, and had normal oil pressure according to that car’s instrumentation, but now it’s installed in the XJS the dash resolutely claims about 5lb pressure. Changing that for a mechanical gauge shows it to be fine, so the conclusion is there was little wrong with the last lump until that hose let go.

Anyway, time for another heart transplant. Chris Robinson came to my rescue once again, he’d got an X300 that I could come and get to yank the engine. Can’t say fairer than that, technically he’s my engine sponsor! Delays mincing about with the red car mean I didn’t really get on with it as fast as I should, Tuesday before I attacked this job in earnest. It being an unfamiliar car, an autobox and the need not to damage the donor vehicle she doesn’t exactly jump out of the car. But it’s the first engine I’ve had I’ve seen running first. The mileage says 134000, but no smoke, it starts and idles like a sewing machine, all looks good to me.

X300 out, Angelina in. Happily Angelina is so practiced now at engine swaps that she can in fact now drive in and if you stop hard enough just cough the lump out of the front, we have the engine removal timed at under an hour. Takes longer to transfer the bits off one engine across to the other than it does to pull them out and put them in.

Three nights to carefully take the engine out of the X300, finding all the little extra clips and hoses and connectors the race car doesn’t have, then a good half day taking all the bits from one engine and transferring to the other, pulleys, pumps, alternator and bracket, inlet manifold, dizzy, exhausts, hoses etc, it takes some time. Backplate ground to accept the manual flywheel, clutch and box refitted. The burst hose is replaced in silicone, I don’t think there’s now any rubber hose left in the engine bay, other than bottom hose, and that only because it’s not really a shape suited to swapping easily.

We pushed the X300 outside on Saturday morning, and working alone as the others toil on the red car I strap the new engine into Angelina early Sunday evening. By no means my record time, that was at Oulton park, but the difference there was that was three or four men putting in an engine that had already been in the car and was ready to fit, here it’s just me, and there are a few bits to adapt. And you have to stop to feed the troops, make tea,

Whilst the engine’s out I can put a few dabs of blue paint in the engine bay. I’m not going for a show car here, but if I can make the inside at least the same primary colour as the outside it’s a start.

Scrape the crossmember clean, brush out all the bits of gravel and muck that the car attracts even when I’m not going off the track, replace a flattened power-steering pipe that looks like it took a hit during an engine swap, general tidy and look round, it’s the best time to do it given you can get in the engine bay and get at things!

So, engine in by Sunday night, and it runs well over a week before the race. I think that’s a record for me. I’ve never had a car anywhere near ready this early.

I suppose it could do with some tyres and brakes, but they cost lots, might put that off a bit longer yet, I’m finding that the Toyos last for ages even once they’re nearly bald, I’m on the same tyres I put on for the Birkett last year, they’ve so far, by my calculations, done nearly 10 hours of track time, which is enough to do about 2 seasons, testing aside.

So much to do to the red car that we call Angelina done at that, no improvements to add, same car as at Brands, only hopefully with more oil pressure and no bits to go pop. Looking forward to Mallory, I was there last year, rammed in wet quali and exploded on lap 5 of a damp race, so I’d never really driven it properly, no idea how the car will behave, though I think I can recall that it’s basically only right-hand corners, right?

Interestingly, given it’s nearly a new track for me, I’ll be testing there the Wednesday before the race on nearly equal footing with Alex in the newly-E-class red car. Obviously he’s never been there either. I’ve got 5 damp laps to my credit and a year of additional race experience. He has a car that’s 200kg lighter, with a hint more power and superior suspension. He’s going to beat me in his third ever race isn’t he! Damn.

I have however said it before, and I will repeat my belief that he is in fact likely to turn out to be faster than I am. It’ll take a bit of time to get experience at the circuits and with the constantly-changing car, but if he keeps it on the black bit and it doesn’t rain it should go well.

It’s kinda unfair pressure to put on a novice driver really, slap him in an E class car built by a team that’s not having a bad year. Everyone seems to have forgotten that he’s not done more than 1 ½ races. The JEC site forgets to list him as a novice driver in their reports, Terry forgets he’s new because he’s being sheltered under the Kutuka umbrella-ella-ella, his face is known in the paddock so it’s forgotten that he wasn’t out with us last year, but he’s only ever seen the red lights go out twice.

So if he goes slowly people forget that it’s because he’s got no track time, he must just be no good, and if he does well they’ll attribute that to the car – if it’s part of Kutuka it must be a decent car because look how well their lead car is going this year. So sorry Alex, but your reputation is screwed however well you do.

At least he can take some solace in the fact that people who know what they’re talking about and who’ve taken the time to watch the in-car footage have unanimously complimented what they’ve seen. And they don’t know what we know about the things that were wrong with the car at the time and took us until Brands to find and repair – reassess the video with the knowledge that we sent a novice driver out with a car with mechanical faults and oversights to give the machine a trial by fire, then see how well you think he was doing.

Why am I ranting about this? Well, who else is going to? He’ll not shout up for himself will he, and the rest of the planet appears to have forgotten, but amidst the clamour about Drage and Scoins and whoever else comes out, there’s a rookie driver here in the Kutuka camp and my money’s on him to be scaring the wits out of experienced drivers at a track near you very soon. Including me. Bugger.

 

David does a bit of wiring !!

 

 

Kutuka at work


29/04/08

The race weekend began, for us, Wednesday night, rumbling off south in the truck to Sussex. Brands is a big one for us, 4 hours plus, about the furthest we go. A bright and early start had both cars on the rollers Thursday , and it was apparent that the previous figure I’d had for Angelina was wrong, she was putting out less power than expected. In fairness we weren’t there for her anyway, but a quick power run showed 237bhp, not the 250 I was told last time I had her on any rollers. It was worth knowing though, and to once again see precisely what revs she makes her power and torque at so I can alter my gearchanges accordingly.

The red car did however like a bit of a play, we had a good session on that and took it to what was achievable with the current mix of parts. Fascinating to watch, Alex and I know the basics to engines (not that you’d believe it with my track record!) but it’s something else to watch someone in action who truly knows their stuff.

Cars reloaded and on to Brands, first people to arrive, so prime viewing spot for us, and we found that from the tall lorry cab you could see everything from Paddock to Maclaren, superb news if the weather went all Snetterton on us.

Test day Friday, morning only, both cars, big Dave Eyles testing the red car as part of the hire package. First time out for the car with an experienced driver, so we threw the test day in for him to help us set the car up, with the best will in the world Alex’s experience at Snetterton was never going to give us more than basic feedback, and Dave’s input as test driver here was invaluable.

Angelina was off nicely as well, my only concern being the ever-falling oil pressure. I’ve had an eye on this since the track day back in Feb, I said I was a little worried about it even then, and by close of play at Snett the gauge was showing about 20-25lb hot at full chat. My experience with the first AJ6 in this car was that this is an engine not far from death, but unlike that time there was no smoke, and she wasn’t using oil, so the conclusion was that the electric gauge itself was at fault. Solution? Piece of tape over the gauge so I couldn’t see it.

That worry aside the car was working superbly. The new rear springs allow the power on a touch earlier, and with Dermott’s input on tyre pressures the car was nice, a bit of understeer in her, but the setup allowing me to take Paddock very fast and on the power early, and to balance the back on the throttle at Clearways. Result was a healthy lap time, a tenth under what I set last November in my fake-E-class car, but I don’t think I was even driving it particularly well, it could go faster.

Called the test to an early close, I might have hidden the gauge but that oil pressure worried me. Oil change in the paddock, see if real race oil in place of my stuff would save the day. Tiny pressure increase, and the hope that better quality might be all I needed.

Stewert twitching at the concept of being at a test day and not getting to play himself, but he was here at the track day and his time round this place last November was awesome, so we kept him calm with Snetterton footage and bacon sarnies.

Roger Webster arrived with his car trying to set fire to itself, cut-off switch wiring shorting out, so we descended on the car to sort him out, leaving the barbeque to itself and unfortunately turning our dinner into meat coins, but better that than Roger’s car aflame. What sacrifices we do make to the racing gods!

Saturday – quali.

We were fortunate to have the three cars first out, did a bit of formation flying red white and blue by lap 2, and the usual bit of playing about that comes from being chased and then chasing your team-mates.

Got stuck in traffic, a lot. I knew I hadn’t got close to Friday’s time, but I got a couple of laps in playing with Loz Ball, who I know hates the track and who you could almost see cursing every corner – he’ll openly tell you this place doesn’t suit him. No real clear laps because of traffic, so I was well pleased to be told I’d qualified first in D, I had expected Matt Skelton to take that honour and me to be on the tail of a Hastings/Coppock fist-fight. In fact star of quali was Philip "Felipe" Comer who’d be fighting at the front with a magnificent qualifying run to take 4th in class, clearly a man who loves the track!

When it transpired I was 4th place overall and Stew had pole that was time for happy faces all round, though Dermott’s congratulatory whack on the back did in fact displace a lung. I’d not however duplicated yesterday’s time, and I was going to have to push like hell in the race to achieve my goal, which was to equal John Lock’s time from last year. I know, what sort of a bizarre goal is that anyway, but I have it in my head that’s he’s still out there racing with us this year, probably because he’s showing up to the races, so it’s no good if we can’t match what he was doing last year because that means we’ve not caught him.

Bit embarrassing being called to the clerk of the course for my line at Paddock – all 4 wheels across the white line on the exit – pushing too hard, I usually put two over but I’d been letting the car out too far, so a slap on the wrist for that. Never been here and not been called to the headmaster, but couldn’t grumble, I’d definitely done it!

The Eylesman had put the hire car in a solid spot, and he’d identified for us what the braking shimmy was, so with Dermott on the case fixing that he was in good shape for a charge through the midfield.

Minutes to go and Roger returns from the TTRS race with the offside front bashed in, a spin at the end of the race got him collected by a Golf. The team leap into action again, hydraulics and big pieces of bar get the wing off the wheel, the bumper a duct-tape special, and Dermott tracks the car as true as she’s going to get, he’s back in action with moments to spare.

Race – how lucky can a man be?

Let’s be clear, I was entirely and completely saved by the red flag, because when it came out my car was screwed.

Wind back a few minutes though and I’m lined up in assembly in grid formation. Stewert’s car is right THERE, and that’s bloomin’ Derek Pearce in front. Bloody hell, what’s this game? Not helped by Alex wandering up and asking "what the chuff are you doing up here?" which was pretty much my question.

Onto the grid, and I don’t usually get nervous, a few thumps of the heart as the red lights come on, but that’s it. This time though, well, Christ Almighty, the offset grid means nothing in front of me but clear air, the pole sitter is within spitting distance and there’s 30+ tons of Jaguar behind me. My heart climbs clean out of my chest and dances on the dash for a bit.

Hastings in the mirror, big worry is Skelton next to him, he’s got the inside line and it’s the place to be at Paddock, I’m hung out on the outside. I always ruin my start and I’m going to get Skeltoned down the inside and probably Hastingsed to boot, and I’m a nervous wreck on the green flag lap despite singing the Wombles song to distract myself.

I always peer across at the driver next to me on the grid, but Chris wasn’t ready to exchange a cheery wave. The timetable was running late, and I was barely in position and in 1st when the 5 second board came out. For once I got a good start, little wheelspin and I initially catch Pearce a fraction and I’m alongside Chris longer than I’d expected, and clear of the expected Skelton/Hastings attack, which is when I dared breathe again, tried to dive down Chris’ inside at Paddock but not really carrying the speed to make anything of it.

Into Druids on Palmer’s boot and wondering if I can scare him a bit. By Graham Hill bend I’ve a small lead on Skelton but I can see Hastings all over him and I realise I’ve got it made, I’ve an E class to chase and the Ds behind are going to fight amongst themselves and slow each other up.

Stuck with Chris about 1 lap but he was slipping away and I’m watching the mirrors hard, Skelton and Hastings have changed places but they’re still fighting and I’m nicely clear. Bit of a moment at Maclaren lap 2 lost me time to Palmer and that was really the end of my realistic challenge, and to be fair my actual race, I was in limbo after that.

Pressed on but can’t dent Palmer’s lead, but I am easily dropping the Hastings/Skelton fight and by about lap 6 I was relaxed enough to mutter that this is just like testing. I’m ashamed to admit at that point I backed off, abandoned any hope of catching Palmer for glorious third and decided on a plod to the finish to get that first class win. I’ve never had such a luxury, to just pace the car to the end, no-one to chase, no-one chasing, just driving round, no tyre squeal, no desperate late braking, no racing, I can go faster but what’s the point, I can’t even see p5 in the mirrors down either straight. I must be growing up or something.

I can still see the battle for first ahead, as I lift for Maclaren/Surtees/whatever we’re calling this corner I can see Lyddall stuck up Pearce’s boot at Clearways, you could hold up a finger and cover them both.

And that’s when I offended the race god. He doesn’t like people who back off and plod along, and he decided first to give me back markers and then kill the car. The back markers aren’t used to seeing me, and I found I had to actually race some of them for position, and I can’t remember where the bloody light switch is to warn them because the blue flags have disappeared. Came across the heart-breaking sight of the red hire car smashed and in the gravel at Druids, yellow flags preventing me lapping backmarkers, glass all over the track, no way to see if Dave was alright.

Round the corner and Ray Hill is off, the ex-Covcats car, now E class, has obviously smacked into the D class Kutuka hire car, bugger! Still, if Eylesy was racing an E class she must have been going better, we’ll worry about the paintwork later.

Coming up behind Beecham his car was smoking horribly on over-run and my cockpit filled with smoke through the air vents, but when I got past, coughing my lungs up, I was dismayed to find it wasn’t clearing even with the window down.

As I came down the pit straight I looked in the mirrors to see how much time I lost in the traffic, and that’s when I saw that I was laying a heavy trail of smoke, I’d not seen it til that moment. It’s coming out of the back, so I must be burning oil like there’s no tomorrow, and I know that symptom, it’s had it. Can’t believe it, 4 or 5 minutes to go, and she does this to me!

The car did smell hot and oily but I’d assumed that was Beecham’s oil smoke. Checked the dash, temperature a little above the "N" mark but not obscene, can’t check oil pressure, so it all looks and sounds normal but it’s me, the engine’s going. Not rattling yet, no horrible grinding noises, and I do know that sound by now, but I’m not going to finish this race, there are 4 or 5 laps to go. No black and orange flag though, I’m obviously not leaking or trailing anything, but I can’t responsibly keep it going any longer.

It will run a while longer, I know from Anglesey that a 6 cylinder with no coolant in laying a smoke trail will in fact go for several minutes, hell it might even make the flag, but I’ve got to consider the other racers. It’s going to explode, if I drop any oil or seize the engine and put myself in the barriers it’s red flag and probably a big fat Brands-sized fine. Got to retire from the only lead I’ve ever had, just find a safe place to stash the car, the little road on the infield at Paddock is ideal if I can’t get to the pits.

I’ve already lifted right off as I came round Paddock and put the indicator on to pull off. And that’s when the red flags came out. Never have I been so pleased to see a red flag. I do wonder briefly why the yellow flagged Druids crash has taken 2 laps to turn red, but I’m not complaining, I got screwed by the reds twice last year, and for once that flag is saving my bacon, first class win salvaged.

Back in the pits and now I’m slowing down the temperature gauge soars and smoke starts pouring out of the bonnet louvres. Park it up and stagger out of the cockpit. Steve Davis catches my eye and runs his hand across his throat. Nod agreement, yep, this one’s broken, can’t argue! But bloody hell, I won one!

So, see it how you will, whether it’s a legitimate win or I was gifted it by that race god who knows, but that barbeque offering of meat coins yesterday obviously did the job.

Within minutes I’ve a new engine sourced. Chris Robinson is and continues to be my guardian angel when it comes to parts, and he’s on hand within moments to congratulate me and offer me a replacement lump I can collect in the morning if I want it. Sometimes I lead such a charmed life I can’t believe it.

Chris is the one that tells me I was actually smoking for 2 or 3 laps before the flag came out. I was so fixated on my lines and looking for flags and backmarkers and the Hill/Eyles crash, and not having been under any pressure after the first corner I’d not looked in the mirrors for a good few minutes, so it’s not just gone, it had in fact started about the time I lifted off to cruise to the finish, I probably unwittingly saved myself!

Quick look under the bonnet and I’m not actually dropping oil, which is great, I was initially worried if I’ve trailed smoke for three laps I could have dropped something, but she’s not quite at that stage, just stopped in time, but she’ll not run again. Mixed feelings about the red flag – it saved me but denied Stewert four or five more chances to try and pass Derek, says a lot for the year so far that he’s actually disappointed with 2nd place!

Matt Skelton stops in his car to offer his congratulations, always a very generous man with his compliments I can’t help but feel had he held off Hastings just one lap he’d have had the pace to chase me hard, and my engine would have let go trying to fend him off, another stroke of luck really.

Day not over yet, the red car returns with Eyles at the wheel, and she is pretty badly damaged, but nothing we can’t fix. He at least is OK.

Roger Webster returns, ten second penalty for a jumped start, and a hole in the radiator. Swapped that for the spare we carry, enough to get him racing again tomorrow, and then half an hour helping Chris Palmer strap a new hub on the damaged saloon for transport, which makes it 5 Jags I’ve worked on this weekend. No wonder I’m knackered.

Lots to do by Mallory, but for now we open the celebratory booze, we’ll go home and back to the real world in the morning!


18/04/08

This week the racing god decided to test me, but I was worthy. Oh yes, with a week to go he said let us test this mortal with cold and wind and rain, and lo, didst I persevere. Fie, cried he, let us maketh the new rear springs of a different internal diameter, but lo didst the mortal stand before the altar of the garage DVD player creating spacing collars.

This enraged the god and he caused it to pass that the Stanley knife should slip a few times to test the patience and pain limits of the humble being. When blood loss did fail to prevent progress did the god mysteriously shrink the shock absorber top mounting bolts that they become loose. The afflicted man didst take this offering of water and wine then produce, with the misuse of rear anti-roll bar drop links and the gift of fire.

Angered didst the race god then create man-flu and inflict same, causing his disciple to awaken in the night to frequently vomit and watch the world spinning merrily, but lo didst the man recognise only the sensation of Cadwell Park and persevere to fit a new fuel filter.

The god next tried subtlety, and had Alex make fibreglass body panel repairs so enthusiastically that all the fitment holes didst disappear. The humble acolyte didst proceed to redrill and fit the pieces, and proceed to stand at the Vice of Workbench to reconstruct the bent and twisted pieces of car that, though they be hidden from view, shouldst nevertheless be straight.

Satisfied with the man’s dedication the god didst reward him with a car that now sits so level that it may be measured with a spirit level, and to construct a cold air feed of passable appearance and function.

Thus encouraged didst I proceed to fill and sand and paint the repaired rear bumper as chavs in ludicrous cars did mock battle in the Fast and the Furious, and invent a song about Jaguar racing that fits the tune of "the Wombles." Then taketh the stripes of Halfords and refitted to the bonnet didst I, assuring that this time they be in fact straight and vaguely parallel, and there was much rejoicing.

The god didst cause Dermott to call the afflicted human to ask for an explanation as to how and why he was able to weave in the middle of Coram on a video he had viewed, and why he appears to throw his car with a sudden assault of steering input that cannot possibly be necessary, but the god didst miscalculate the effect of a substantial slug of gin to combat the plague he had inflicted, and allowed said critique to morph into advice to alter the tracking a smidge.

And so it came to pass that the man didst largely finish his race preparations by 10pm on Sunday and fall into deep sleep after a hearty sacrifice of wine and pizza and the company of Eva Longoria on the magic viewing box of worship, for the racing god has no problems with worshipping other idols so long as they be pretty. Here endeth the lesson.

It’s been a hard week, OK?


07/04/08

SNETTERTON 5/6th April.

The idea was to have a calmer season and see if I can actually drive or not, no hiding behind a disintegrating car, get the machine right and whatever’s still wrong is therefore my fault! Didn’t happen, refitting the power steering pump I broke the engine – got the bolts confused, put a longer one in the bottom corner and broke a piece of alloy out of the housing, instant oil leak when I started her up to load in the truck, so that was gummed up with that epoxy fake steel stuff and a prayer, and made us late setting off.

So off to Snetterton, and testing, a quiet rumble across country in the truck, definitely the better way to travel than an asthmatic camper van.

 

The drivers and there cars (guess who is in pink)

Sent Alex out in my car in the first session whilst we sorted Megan’s brakes, and he went and did as instructed, learned to drive by throwing her off, twice in the first session. Minor damage, dented front wing spinning at turn 2, collected a cone or two, but he quickly learned the limits, and it’s the only way to do it, I was off 4 or 5 times in testing there last year.

Handed him Megan back after I’d scared myself in it – wild ride, and went out myself. Shocks set according to Dermott and his magic bouncing, softened the rears and tightened the fronts, and she was off like a bloody bullet, had me doubting my timer, so I was hoping quali ought to look good, if I could get a clean lap I’d be well up the order. We played with the shocks after that but put them back again, she was so good round Coram and turn 1 that I wasn’t messing further, and stopped the test early.

We were keeping an eye on new drivers, watching Alex’s times falling through the day, and the younger Doyle was also on track much of the day in his saloon, seemingly going quite nicely too, one to watch!

Finally got time to put the stripes on and we got a lot of positive reaction to the red white and blue Jags. Stewert’s car as ever was photographed a thousand times, it’s that bit different without being too wild. Lot of nice comments about Angelina’s new louvred look too, makes her a bit more aggressive without being silly about things, and those little led indicators are quite pretty, it cleans up the front up no end, I was quite happy with the overall look.

Of course Sat quali didn’t turn out as I planned. With Alex being a new driver he had that daft briefing to attend – which if you’ve done a test day seems a little unnecessary but rules are rules, so we pushed everything up as far as we can to give more time, early sign on and scrutineering, and get his car to assembly for him. It made us a bit early if anything, I was first on track in quali, which I hadn’t planned.

The wet track made me initially circumspect, and I was cautious the first two laps, by which time Stewert had passed me, and the Lyddall effect took over, I can’t help but chase him and we had two awesome laps, his car spinning up and throwing entire puddles and kerbstones at me as he takes half a dozen bites at the throttle. But lap 3 and I locked the brakes at turn 1, and it was all over after that. Came off the pedal and turned in, but I was now wide on the very wet line and just caught the grass, and that was it.

Tried to keep her out of the wall, gentle steering inputs but I had time to register how much the damage was going to be long before the tyre wall got me. Quite a bang but largely uninjured and the car wasn’t as bad as I expected, she was mobile and I offered to go and park her out of the way, but session red-flagged. Drove it back. Lots of running about then trying to get the rear skirt that had been ripped off delivered back to the paddock so I could reassemble the car. Finally got hold of that after half an hour of running about, by which time the faithful team had straightened the front wing. They nailed on the skirt and reattached the rain light as I tracked down a new backlight courtesy of Kevin Doyle – thanks, I owe you big time!

Fortunately the damage was merely cosmetic, the tracking was still fine and she was running OK and I’d somehow still qualified third in D. Took a gamble in the race, tried the start in second gear and went out with tyre pressures set for the rain.

 

The Grid for race 1

Started OK, and quite quickly hooked onto Lawrence Coppock’s tail, Skelton and Sharman were astern but tripped over each other and quickly fell back. I had a look at Lawrence absolutely everywhere, because he in turn was stuck up the boot of Hastings, so I’m stunned to realise the D class lead is about forty feet ahead of me and maybe this is do-able, maybe I will get to play at the sharp end a bit.

I was faster through Bomb Hole and Coram, and kept sticking Angelina’s snout up Lawrence’s inside on entry to Coram and generally dancing about in the mirrors, but each time I tried something I lost time and dropped back again. He was all over Hastings at Coram too, and they swapped places twice before half distance, I tried to capitalise on Hastings going wide at the essess but found the door shut hard, and it was all getting a bit wild.

Half distance and I spotted the red car of my brother off the track at turn 1, and looking out of the side window I saw him safe on the tyre wall, half-forgot to finish the corner and showed off with a full 360 spin, somehow slotting it into second and resuming with only a slight loss in time, must have looked like ballet from the tyre wall, but I’m a few seconds back from Lawrence now and have my work cut out chasing him down, and that same lap the rain started.

The increasingly-slippery conditions suited my over-pressured tyres, this is why we’d done it, and I quickly hauled the lead pair back in, I had a time advantage in these conditions and the Bomb Hole manoeuvre worked on Lawrence this time, Angelina snuck through into second and straight to the flag, to my delight, second place, highest ever finish and fastest lap, not bad for a car stuffed in the tyres this morning!

Looking at the lap times it’s encouraging to note that as soon was we get a wet track a humble D class can be the fastest car out there, but if the V12 can’t use its power and it’s now a handling exercise you’d hope the 6 cylinder cars could have a play, if there was ever a day for a slow car to shine it was the latter end of Saturday’s race. I need a few crumbs of consolation, alright, let me pretend it means something.

Coming in I was even more pleased to see Stewert had won it. I knew he’d be good in the wet and there he was with the garland, dribbling over the microphone, superb first win.

Race 2 was chaos. A freezing night at the track, no-one could get warm, and again went out on over-pressured tyres, expecting either weather or lack of temperature. Alex starting at the back because of the DNF, Stewert from pole, me seventh, highest ever.

Tried a second gear start and made a right balls of it, bogged down and Merrett came past like a rocket, Lawrence took me down the left easily, I found Matt Skelton alongside and had to be a bit rude to save my place in third. I chased down Coppock for a couple of laps, passing him under the brakes at the end of Revitt. That put me on Hasting’s tail, and this is when it all got very heated. I had a fast car in front and one behind, and all hell let loose. Lawrence and I swapped places I think three or four times, outbraking each other at the end of Revitt and turn 1.

The tyres were starting to go off a little bit, because it was clearly no longer as cold as it had been and it wasn’t bloody raining this time! Then the engine started to act daft, spluttering for a second halfway through a corner or pointlessly in the middle of a straight, not all the time, just a second every couple of laps to worry me, so I’m wedged in the middle of this high-speed, aggressive traffic jam with the car starting to slide and an engine that might not do as she’s told, and I do recall begging the car to be kind.

Any time I managed to get Lawrence behind me I had a look at Hastings, he was just that fraction too quick down Revitt no matter how fast an exit I got from turn 2, that car has some legs on it. It was the same story as Saturday, I was looking at him through Coram, inside, outside, anywhere, but he was defending into the braking zone and trying to go round him would let Lawrence through, anytime he looked in the mirrors he’d see a blue car, it was just a different one each time.

Eventually the pressure told and Lawrence got by both of us, who just couldn’t defend from everyone all at once. Once through Lawrence just ran away.

With Coppock fleeing I had to pass Hastings because the lead is no longer the silver car ahead but the blue one legging it into the distance, so I tried to go round the outside at Coram, where I clearly had a lot more traction even with the tyres as they were. With my front wheel alongside his door and creeping nicely past his car seemed to lose grip and slid wide into my offside, we touched halfway round with a fair thump, putting me on the grass and screaming a word I wouldn’t say to my grandma, but it wasn’t a huge moment. Which is odd, because the grass was wet, so how I’m still alive I’m not sure, I need to see a video!

Andrew trying hard Locks the brakes into the chicane

The big problem now was that bounder Mr. Skelton, who had shed his pursuers and was now all over me like a rash. I had the legs on him on the straight so would get clear and then try something new on Hastings, and we were back in the pattern as before, Matt would come past me as I was all crossed up after an attempted overtake, then he’d be slowed trying to pass Hastings and I’d pass him back under the brakes somewhere or simply out-drag him. It’s only a 3.6 v my 4 litre, and it does start to show somewhere like this. Matt squeezed past him at one point, but it didn’t last long, but I was left scratching my head, because that’s two cars who can pass Hastings, just me who can’t, apparently!

At one point we were three abreast, and after his own attempt to re-pass Hastings Matt was run well wide at Coram himself, and later went sideways through the bollards at the chicane, how he held it I don’t know, I took evasive action for the spin that never came, but he suffered as I got an easy run past. This fight went on to the flag, and with hindsight I screwed up. Because Matt and I were having no trouble passing each other and it was so clean I could keep having a go at Hastings, mess it up, drop back a place, get it back, try again.

Should have counted the laps, shouldn’t I? Skelton passed me after yet another failed look at Hastings into the last chicane and as I powered back alongside for a turn 1 overtake the bloody chequered flag is out and we cross the line 0.157 seconds behind, me down in 4th place! No "last lap" board like we get elsewhere, caught with my knickers down.

So I’m 4th. 4th? I was trying to pass for the lead earlier, what the hell went wrong? It was a tremendous race, we had a phenomenal fight, I was trying to pull myself up in the belts to look over the bonnet because we were so close, and Lawrence swears he was off the controls at one point being propelled along by me pushing on his rear bumper. I don’t recall touching him, but who’s to argue?

The standard of driving at the front was superb, it was hard but there was generally just enough room left, though that was probably mostly due to the experience of the others. You can tell when you’ve had a good one by how quickly your rivals come to see you afterwards, formation flying with Skelton after the flag it looked like his head was going to fall in two if he got any happier. So though I was disappointed with the 4th place it was certainly a good contest. Lawrence tells me that if all the races are going to be like this he doesn’t think he’ll live long!

Tyre pressure in the paddock after the race? 49psi. Told you they’d gone off a bit! I’ve never been up that end of the D class grid before, and it’s intense. Passing Hastings takes some doing, but I think it’s Mr Skelton who will be a big concern to everyone if he gets hold of any extra horsies.

Mustn’t keep messing up in qualifying. That more than anything that screwed me up. If I’d held it on the black stuff I may have done better. The track was drying, the fast quali laps were set on lap 6 or 7, mine was set lap 2, so what could I have done if I’d stayed on? I may not have had to fight for some of the places, and that would have run over to Sunday too. I don’t think the car ever got to show its true pace, the new shocks have transformed it. I will however have to now re-learn all the circuits.

Anyway, good weekend, encouraging, and it seems I’m a lot more competitive than I was expecting to be. I may occasionally upset the established front three, and that’s good enough for now. I have to look at this as a year on year build, not go from rookie year falling off and exploding to expecting to win anything, the guys at the front of D have been at this a while and they’re not just handing the places over. There’s a lot more to come from the car though so it should get faster as the year progresses.

My brother had a decent Sunday too, I was pleased with that. The red car needs more work, she was rev-restricted, and the rear end needs attention, the way she bit him at turn 1 I don’t think anyone would have held that, watch Roger Webster’s video when we post it, I wouldn’t like to have tried to catch that, would you? We’ll have it sorted for Brands, we know the solution and the parts are on the way!

And what about Stewert? Double win, what a result! A dozen seconds clear of second place is serious speed, and that lap time is a Steve Davis-bothering time, it’s a shame he wasn’t out this weekend. All hail King Lyddall, teach us your ways oh Great One… Well, he deserved it, I’ve since seen his videos, and, well, bloody hell!

Sadly my video camera didn’t like the cold and dropped dead on lap 3. Best bit of footage I’m ever likely to get and it’s not chuffing worked. Damn. Bring on Brands, right now please!


7/4/08

Run up to Snetterton and races 1 and 2.

Angelina’s stripdown and rebuild continued at speed right up to the test day, last minute as ever, and I broke it at the last second as usual.

She went blue a couple of weeks back, the bodykit fell on again, backlights, and then she came out of the way whilst we tended to Megan, which took longer than expected, so she sneaks back in on Sunday before Snetterton, not exactly lots of time to spare. When she came back in we finished off the headlight/airbox, refitted the.wiper panel, bonnet had been louvred and was now to be painted, the car re-stickered and the cut-off handles I’d moved are re-sited and reconnected.

The front lower arms, now I’ve had time to look, aren’t poly bushed, so the new bushes arrived Monday, but I ran out of time to fit them, it’ll be done by Brands. I’d the day off work to increase my chances of finishing the car, but the discovery that my worn rear hub was making itself known again prompted a trip to the scrapyard to attack one of their XJ40s, which cost half a morning, the bush project was abandoned.

I hope that 6 new shocks, new rear radius arm bushes and new butterflies, plus fitting the missing front end poly bushes might make the handling a deal tighter. It’s been suggested to me from some quarters that I probably won’t notice the difference, but from others that the car will be transformed. I guess we’ll have to see what the time sheets say.

If I want to go faster why not spend the money and have a head done for some power? Well, I can’t afford it, and as Dermott and David keep telling me, there’s no point adding more power until I can use what I’ve got, and when that’s coming from two people who spend their time making engines put out vastly increased horsepower then you’ve got to listen – they aren’t saying it for fun.

So I’m still running a totally stock engine as it came off the pallet from Eurojag. It has the higher pressure regulator that came with the car, whatever that adjustable ECU is, and when it was last on the rolling road it put out an estimated flywheel figure of 250bhp – Jaguar’s official figures for the AJ16 engine say 255. In theory I ought to better Jaguar’s figure, but that relies on a) Jaguar telling the truth in the first place and b) not having a tired and emotional engine.

So, stock power, my only weapons therefore handling and weight. Pretty much the route Matt Skelton’s been going down too, if I read Jaguar World right, but I’ve not strapped on that anti-tramp system he’s trying, though Ray Ingham did suggest it. Apparently it’s rubber-bushed to comply with class D regs, but so minimally that it may as well be solid mounted, as close to the rules as you can get legally, and Ray ought to know given he’s on the committee!

So very much on the last minute finishing off, Snetterton approaching in a hurry, late nights and running about as ever, she also needed to return to class D specification, but I’d added seats etc back in for the track day, so it was just the interior trim to refit, and to this day I still don’t know if I’m allowed to ditch my wood panelling or not so I put it back in, which I still think is a bit incongruous in a race car. Stewert found a spare DT timing beacon, so I splashed out and got a lap timer. If we’re going to get a bit more serious about this racing thing it would be useful to know what times we’re doing in the car. I call her done about 5pm Thursday, just in time to go…..


18/3/08

Angelina prep – week 2, paint and miscellaneous mucking about!

With the dents filled and the bare metal etch-primed the whole car gets sanded down – of course the gods dictate that the sander died at 4.01pm on Sunday as soon as all shops close, so it’s mostly done by hand, and frankly my triceps couldn’t be less pleased. Mind you, have you seen the cost of a half-sheet sander these days? My block of wood is much cheaper!

Car is then masked up and ready for paint, bonnet and boot and bodykit aside, they’re separate off-car bits far as I’m concerned, and by mid week she’s sat in grey primer. It’s this stage I have to call Alex to come and restrain me from picking up the filler and sandpaper and going for another go, there are so many little bits still there, the front wings are still a bit rippled but will the mandatory Toyo sticker hide that, do I need to look at the fact the bottom edge of the boot is still wavy?

Angilina in Primer

After a cold night duct-taped to an office chair in the garage I can see that he might be right and that she is indeed ready for gloss.

Got mechanical bits to attend to as well, both ends of the car need work on the springy and spongy parts, and there are little things like tyres to order. Solved the latter last week, 8 Toyos ordered, 4 per car, plus in a moment of insane generosity I sussed what to get Alex for his last 8 birthdays, Christmasses and the like, Classic Spares set him up with 4 of the weird sized tyres the Plastic Pig calls rubber. But it’s better that than him splattering that little car into bits using the wooden 50p pieces it’s on now, we can’t go losing Kutuka drivers, they’re not easy to recruit and train.

 

 

So what kind of stuff have I wasted my time on this week?

Dropped a front spring to see if I can tell what it is that I have, because we think my car was supplied by someone other than the usual suspect, and Dermott’s brain can calculate spring settings from a few basic measurements, which is handy. He’s a useful fella to know! Of course it took 15 min to get it off and an hour to refit the damned thing, but at least now we know. Not going to change them, I just want to know what they are!

I’m still trying to legally hit the 1510kg minimum weight, and I’m not there yet. Getting closer all the time though. I’ve been told the weight was set before a roll cage became mandatory, which is why it’s so difficult to reach, but I’ve got ideas left in me yet!

There are places though that I want to put weight back in, like the front wings, because my car has the splash panels removed. It struck me that they’re originally aluminium so they’re not heavy, and I have had to remove a huge pile of shredded rubber out of the big cavities at both sides, plus a fistful of gravel, I’ve probably carried more weight about than was saved by whoever removed them!

Also lurking in there is the water catch tank - most of last season I was topping up the coolant after test runs, quali etc, and emptying the catch tank.. It was one sunny afternoon that Dermott pointed out that the water I put in each time was the same amount of water I was emptying out, and just how (censored) stupid was I? He’d got a point. Most of Dermott’s advice is dispensed with a joyous profanity, you should have heard the word he called me at the Birkett when he caught me cleaning the windscreen with Autoglym…

Anyway, that catch tank is the downside to the inner wing infill panels, because you need to get to it to empty it, so it’s either move the bottle or make them easy to remove. Easy to remove could however mean "falls off at 120mph" and these things don’t make you popular.

So I’m on a quest for weight loss, including the driver. I know, I know, what do I think I’m going to gain if I obsessively crawl all over the car taking tiny bits? Minutely better acceleration to get that last ½ mph? Well, ½ mph is a car length over the time we’re on Snett’s back straight. I did the maths, it is. What effort would you go to to gain a car length?

There’s probably a sum you can do to work out how much better you can accelerate various weights for a given power level, but my maths is strictly "how many Mars Bars for £1" rather than "a body ‘m’ is placed on an inclined plane and subjected to a force ‘f’…" so I’m not doing it, my level of understanding is "light good, heavy bad." This week though it’s getting the paint on, and we’ll turn to lightness afterwards.

Anyway, paint prep done, holes for the pull handles I’m relocating were filled in, cracks filled, dents banged out, and by Saturday 15th she was ready for paint. And it rained all day, because the weatherman lied. It did however give me time to primer and rub down the bodykit, so when Sunday dawned dull and dry it was a veritable orgy of blue paint, front and rear skirts, sideskirts, body and inside of bootlid and rear spoiler, nearly 2 litres of Ultramarine sloshed on the job.

And amazingly enough it went on alright. Not perfect, but good enough to race with. My last experiment with blue paint was Trophy Blue, as seen on Steve Davis’ car, and it drove me barmy, weeks of messing about and getting nowhere with it – paint that needed 18 coats to cover, then a lacquer coat that showed a flaw in the underlying prep, so start again, it was hell. By contrast this solid non-metallic colour goes on high gloss, covers well, and was quite forgiving in terms of sins hidden, so three fifteen minute sessions and the car was blue.

With this type of paint there is a hardener mixed in, so it sets fast no matter what the weather, and by 7pm the car was unmasked. It does need a bit of polishing up here and there, but nothing like the problems we had with the other car, and given she only has to look OK at 5 feet it makes life much easier than doing a road car.

Easter next weekend and we expect Stewert and David back to cure Megan’s ailments, so I need to be done by then and cleared out of the garage. Plus it’d be nice to have Angelina painted and striped and looking pretty for them, so better get my finger out! First pictures of the new blue look here, better ones to follow!

Whilst mucking about I found my brakes once more need front calliper seals. I think the trackday melted the dust covers, certainly the n/s were cooked and crispy. They’re not leaking, but if they’ve been hot enough to crispify the outer covers then the seals themselves must be worthy of a change.

The pads are still very good though, they’ve done a lot of run by now, an hour at the Birkett, 55 minutes of race at the Meldrew, and several hours of trackday, and they’re now about half done, so definitely a good move to have swapped to these pads, much better than the Mintex were. The Mintex rears I upgraded to at the same time have also lasted very well, and the curious effect I was getting with the car eating just one pad has ceased – must have been to do with the loose bearing.

The car is also a bit more stable on the brakes nowadays, no more waving her arse like a German prostitute*, the pad material difference must have helped the front to rear brake balance, she stops straighter and truer than before, which I’m hoping will help at Snetterton with that big stop at the end of Revitt.

So with Angelina painted – other than the bonnet – she can come out to let Megan back in, once we’ve put the rear window back in. I hate that job!

 

 

Why did we leave the bonnet unpainted? Well, I’ve got big holes to cut in there, we’re having some louvres. The rules allow 0.2 square metres worth, so I’ve been careful as hell to measure and order the correct size to come in under that. 2000 sq cm sounds a lot, but when you compare it to the vastness of an XJS bonnet it’s barely noticeable! Quite an easy job though, they come as pre-pressed panels you just pop-rivet in place over the hole, and done, the work is in cutting the hole. Not as neat as having the panel itself pressed, but that takes a lot of time and money.

 

 

You could fill and smooth these into place, but I think for the heat the bonnet takes you’d see the filler crack in short order, so we’ll leave that be, it’s a race car anyway, right?

Not a bad week then, I think I’m actually ahead of schedule!

*my mates and I were once chased down a street in Berlin by a number of aggrieved ladies who took umbrage at the fact we did not take them up on what I’m sure was a very kind and generous exchange rate of money for services, the clatter of stilettos on cobbles being my enduring memory of the city – I thought they couldn’t run in those things? There’s no reason I specified German other than that I can definitively specify having been chased by prostitutes of that particular country, it is not that I’ve conducted a survey of various nationalities and selected the type of working girl whose wiggling is most like an XJS braking with a brake imbalance. Actually, that sounds like one hell of a holiday...


12/3/08

Bit of a trip down memory lane this week. A short trip, I’ve only been at it a year, but indulge me, because it’s last year that dictates what I’m now doing this year as my preparation.

Track day done it took me two days to clear out the garage from the post-build chaos, whip my road car in to weld the exhaust on yet again, and then Angelina crawled in on Sunday afternoon. You might ask why, if she’s pounded round Brands for 4 hours without a complaint and there’s nothing wrong, the rear steering has gone and she feels pretty planted then why the hell am I taking her to pieces? You really haven’t been following at all, have you? Good enough won’t do, it’s got to be better than that now.

Let’s be clear, as seasons go, 2007 for me was a complete disaster. The year ended OK, but for the first half dozen races I had that car fall to pieces around my ears. She was due, she’d had 6 years on track, so some of the welding and repairs I did were expected, no quibbles there. But the engines, oh God, the engines. 6 of the them, 4 of them dead. By way of recap here’s a brief summary of 2007’s engines:

1. Engine that came with the car – died a slow test-day death, nothing I could do, she never exceeded 5200 revs all day but still she blew. If I’d stopped the test day she’d have maybe done the race, but then died at Brands, she was on the way out from the second I bought her.

2. £125 from the scrapyard and died on Anglesey when a heater hose broke, steamed the coolant away and I refused to retire the car because I was winning something.

3. £100 replacement – murdered in my garage before Mallory because I didn’t know what I was doing, and blew a head gasket in the race after struggling manfully on 4 cylinders for 5 laps.

4. Old Smoky, a free engine donated by Stewert – did Cadwell, Oulton as the replacement, and Silverstone. Best bang-per-buck ever, she won a trophy!

5. Low-mileage AJ16 I actually paid for – supplied with a hole in number 6 piston, swapped back for the free one, and replaced under warranty given I never did get to race it!

6. The replacement AJ16, still in now. Totally standard, and the most reliable of the lot.

I still have all of them. The Mallory corpse is stuffed in a corner, Old Smoky is on a marble plinth in the living room (might be joking) as best and undestroyed champion of the AJ6s, the pre-killed 16 is somewhere in London as a body to experiment on, the bottom end of the Anglesey engine is re-rung and wheeling about the garage on a home-made dolly ready to go if I ever want to treat her to a head, and the shattered remains of Snetterton’s dead awaits the pistons stripping so I can have an aluminium weighing-in session that might buy me some tyres!

I have to concede that two of them were my fault, Anglesey and Mallory were all my doing. Should I have turned it off earlier at Angelsey? I was leading the class at the time, in my 4th

race, and but for the stop-go penalty she might have made the flag, could you have retired?

The Mallory problem was simply my mechanical inexperience showing, because I’m not a mechanic, and quite what an extra air hose does, let alone what the effect of a broken one is, was beyond me, when I tried to set the timing the engine revved its nuts off as it sucked happily on the free supply of air the bust hose was allowing it, and to correct that I retarded the timing so far the manifolds were glowing red. I got the engine so hot that I think we killed the head gasket, though there’s some debate about whether that did it.

Why should there be any debate? Well, it was the same head from Anglesey. When I bought the car it was estimated to have 275bhp – yes, I’m laughing at that now as well – it has this great head on it to give me the extra power, apparently with that, a high-pressure fuel regulator and a trick ECU that’s where that AJ6’s alleged extra 40 horsies were coming from.

Only they weren’t, the head was stock, who knew! So I was swapping it from engine 1 to engine 2 to engine 3, with nice new gaskets and new bolts each time, and when I finally had it looked at after Mallory by someone who knows about heads it was not only stock, but too warped to save, the head transplants were not only expensive, but pointless!

My most visible failure of the year, the engine swap in the paddock at Oulton, wasn’t really anything we’d done wrong, we’d bought what was meant to be a sound engine in good shape in good faith, we just never had time to run it up so after 3 miles of track it showed its colours!

It was either go home or swap it, and with no hope of a race entry refund what do you do? It’s £200 of race entry, plus the joy of actually making the grid. Not quite what we’d had in mind though, I was expecting a reliable extra 20 horse, and instead got a squashed hand and got through scrutineering with about ten seconds to spare. Never again!

So I can’t have any of that this year, so post-track day an immediate stripdown has commenced. Away with the fibreglass panels, bonnet and boot which have so lightened the car and given her some flattering results, then stripped off the front, side and rear skirts.

Above all else I want some reliability this year, I know I can go faster if I can just get a car under me that keeps working lap after lap so I can learn to drive the circuit instead of around a developing problem or with half my attention on the instruments to see if she’s holding together.

She looks very naked without the skirts on, exposed ducting and alloy infill panels.

 

 

Perspex windows out, wiper assembly off, and it’s amazing how fast a race car becomes a static project! Windscreen out, that broke in May and I’d one to fit, which was actually far easier than I had expected, I thought it was going to be three men, some cord, levers and plenty of Fairy liquid…that sounds a lot weirder than I mean it to…but it was a simple one-man job in the end, and she has a clear screen for the first time in 10 months.

Boot and bonnet are prepped already and ready for on, but I’ll paint them off the car. Glass side and rear windows back in, bonnet and boot hinges refitted – God they’re heavy, and I even managed to find the interior again.

Door mirrors off, going to fit something a little smaller and less, well, bricklike.

I’m not getting any extra power, we’re pottering round with a totally stock engine again this year, not a thing done at it, and sadly having taken a good long look round I can find frankly bugger-all to do to make the car a bit more slippery, so I’m afraid any higher speeds are going to have to come from the soft organic component. I’m thinking of course of Snetterton and the hour we spend on the back straight, I’ve installed a kettle and small coffee table for biscuits and magazines.

I’ve new front shocks to fit, but the entire front needs a good look at, I’m told it isn’t wholly poly-bushed, so that wants to be remedied in a hurry. The rear is, I think, OK, new shocks, butterflies and radius arm bushes, she ought to be ready to go, I set the shocks at the trackday, and though it’s tough to compare at less than full pace she did feel pretty good, we got a couple of full-bore corners in whilst running away from Stewert.

I’ve had a radiator re-cored, a £20 Ebay special refurbed to give me some guaranteed cooling, I’ve done the last three races with a rad full of Bars leak and it’s not an ideal solution so I actually spent money! Gave me a fright when I dropped the coolant though, it came out as strawberry milkshake and it was a minute to recall that it was the quack medicine in the coolant that was doing that, not a head gasket!

Ideally of course I’d love an alloy radiator, but my funds don’t stretch those sort of distances, right now money is so tight I’ll sell the wheels off your car if you leave it outside my drive too long. Rad swap was quick and easy, one of those satisfyingly chunky jobs that sound bigger than they are, it’s too quick a job to fit a coffee break either side of it. All the hoses have been upgraded to silicone over the year, at the sort of cost that could buy you a used car round these parts, and hopefully this means no more coolant woes – a good rad, good hoses, and the front skirt meshed to protect it all from 100mph debris.

The pounding out of bodywork dents has begun. Most panels were showing damage before I bought the car, and I added to that in my first race at Brands, plus there are also a couple of minor dents where the car got bitch-slapped by the bollards I hit at Cadwell. They may only be plastic but when you go through them sideways at a fair old lick they let the bodywork know about it. So it’s the panel beating kit out again, though I palmed the worst of it off on Alex, he’s far better at heating things up with the acetylene and pounding them back into shape than I’ll ever be.

 

 

I was looking to get paint on the car this weekend, which was a bit ambitious, panel repair and a complete colour change in a week, but on the other hand there’s not that much prep really, I’m not entering any competitions. Finally chose the paint, a 2-pack metallic would really sparkle, but it’s such a swine to work with to get right, so I’ve elected for a fairly bright solid colour – and picked a shade that shouldn’t get confused with either Steve Davis or Lawrence Coppock!

Having to restrain myself from endless filling and sanding, keep reminding myself it’s a race car, and there are bits of the job where I actively assess where the stickers will be going and decide that if it’s covered then who cares, but it still takes so much time, a full weekend at it and she’s about ready for primer, the most grotesque dents gone.

So mad rush now for Snett, I had Friday off after the track day and slept for something like 10 hours, but back to it now, my car to get ready and Megan to fix.

And that truck needs a bit of work, as a test run it was fine, Alex drives it well and the hydraulics etc are all good, but we’re still at the stage of having to use bits of wood to avoid bodykit damage, and I slept in the back that Wednesday night with a hastily-improvised blanket-tent over my head because it was bloody freezing in there without any home comforts fitted yet!

Why the hell do we do it? Because I want a shiny spark plug on a stand and I’ve never had one, that’s why.

 


4/3/08

So, we’ve had the track day, and all cars still live! Things did not go entirely according to plan mind you, but big congratulations to Alex for passing the ARDS test that afternoon, despite his argument with the Renault Megane he’s listing in his top-3 of worst cars he’s ever driven, and despite what he did to my car at Paddock.

 

I do wonder if I should have sent him to Silverstone, the ARDS he’s describing was inferior to what I enjoyed, but then we’re not racing there this season so maybe learning Brands was the smart move.

Compare the prices and I think Silverstone is about £25 more, but you get an Exige and if I recall about 50 minutes on track. Brands gives you a Megane and, if he’s to be believed, 20 min including the test. Silverstone has a reputation of being a bit harsh mind you, but even Brands failed one of the ARDS pupils on Thursday, so it can’t be a total walkover!

 

I took Alex round in Angelina as a passenger in the first session on Thursday morning, took a couple of laps to dial myself back into the track, but my apology for the session being a bit slow got swallowed when I saw the wide-eyed glee on his face and remembered that Paddock is a bit of an experience first couple of times down it, let alone as a passenger with someone who knows it’s there.

 

Oddly he thought Druids more of a scare, but then I suppose flat in 4th towards a dead-end when you don’t know what comes next or just how good the brakes are is a bit of a worry! And I suppose the acceleration of a class D car that seems so slow in a race is still pretty awesome compared to a road car, you do sort of forget. I was being asked about speeds all day, and of course I have no idea. The new car does in fact have a working speedo, but I might cover that up, no sense the driver knowing how fast he’s about to try to turn in at…

 

So I did the same thing to my father a couple of sessions later, and my mate who’d turned up. And three of Stewert’s guests, two of who had never been in a race car before and when the shaking stopped practically did adrenaline-powered cartwheels down the pitlane. The third however was DC, who was completely unflappable, and we’d only gone out to go and annoy Stewert.

 

Bit naughty really, we went out and messed about until we could see him in the mirror, then nailed it to see how long we could keep him back there until we got blue flags, and there was much joy to be found with DC giving Stewert a friendly wave* as we finally let him scream past. Fun though, like the last outing at Brands, but in reverse, and interesting to compare cornering speeds for a 6 against a v12 when the 12 driver is actually on song.

 

*not exactly a wave as such.

 

It’s moments like that when you start to consider how much life has changed in 12 months. Last February my idea of fun was a pub crawl in sunny Barnsley and my idea of speed was pushing the limits of my old MG up the M1. This February and I’m formation flying at Brands Hatch at 100+ for fun and throwing a big car at famous corners with carefree abandon, with a passenger flicking V-signs at a shark-mouthed monster that’s sucking in small animals as biofuel and firing them out the back as barbeque morsels.

 

It ought to be terrifying but isn’t, and I realised my efforts to be all helpful and sensitive to the three green drivers I’d got along had fallen completely apart because already I can’t truly remember what it’s like to go out for the first time, that bit of the brain that stored the fear and apprehension has been drowned in a sea of overconfidence, and I realise I’m struggling to remember that they don’t know where the next corner goes, or what gear to be in, or in some cases what to do if the car starts to let go.

 

Sitting in the passenger seat was so very alien, no wheel in the hands telling me what’s happening, no idea what the brake pedal feels like, so it was a very nervous experience and I defaulted to screaming "brake" as soon as we got near a corner – I just don’t want the bodywork job, and having buried the car in Druids’ gravel in testing last May I know how easy it is to get carried away playing with braking points there! I came away from the day feeling a little as if I’d let them down a bit and could have got them more out of it.

 

Not that they seemed to feel that way, the truck journey home was all happy shouted line comparisons and gear choice and car modifications they’d like to see. Hang on, it is my car you know!

 

I found the track day rules a bit restrictive, no tyre squealing, can’t pass in the corners, it was all a bit slow. I did however enjoy harassing Dave Eyles in his M5, though the words he called me in the pits afterwards were unprintable. I found the Lyddall effect in action when chasing him, I can see the car of someone I know in front, and I’m damned well going to catch it. I’d like to say I’m sorry for crowding him at Druids, but I’m really not. He’s really going to get me for that next time he’s in a Jag, so I’ll make the most of it now.

 

Loved the GT40 replicas, wonderful sound on the straights, but what was happening in the turns? I’m used to watching the mirrors for such cars, not having to avoid ramming them. I can only assume they were taking it very gently on a pre-season shakedown.

 

I had wanted to get John Lock to take me round in his car, eager to soak up the knowledge and see what he does behind the wheel. I still consider myself a novice driver and I’m still desperately trying to learn to drive, but sadly the demands of the day meant I never got to harass him or steal* his car, which was really a great pity.

 

*I really do mean steal, not borrow!

 

The interesting part of the day was handing off my car to untested drivers. Alex was immediately quicker than I would have expected, no fear at all, he must walk bow-legged. First time on track and I was expecting gentle cornering and feeling out the limit, trying to coach him about turning points and all the other stuff they ram in your head in the ARDS classroom he’d be in that afternoon, if I could remember any of it. That idea lasted one lap before I abandoned it and we adopted a crude system by which we set lines by me pointing, and yelling the gear to be in for a couple of laps, then left him to it.

 

Got him out in three morning sessions, having to report to Terry after the second because he tried Paddock with a tight line and a lot of speed, lost the tail mid-corner and caught it, but got two wheels in the last 20 yards of the gravel trap and the pit boards made us return to base. Still, he caught it! I was also pleased to watch his feet through McLaren, to go from braking, to covering the brake to just a little lift in the space of about 15 minutes is of note, and I think I might well have to watch the mirrors for him this year!

 

It’s also interesting how many people take notice, stopping by the Lock garage to accept my ribbing for the performance of the new car I was surprised to be told of the blue-suited Harrison’s no-brake policy, and the pit-wall Kutuka spectators didn’t fail to spot it either. You do forget that you’re in the goldfish bowl on such days, and that for once it might be fellow Jag drivers watching.

 

Why the ribbing about the new car? Well, she only did about ten laps, and those were slow. We had problems, lots of them, teething problems we expected and some we didn’t. It was disappointing after the hardest week’s work of my life. I hadn’t got to bed before 2.30am all week, and Wednesday night’s disasters after such a push were almost too much to take.

 

That she ran at all at Brands was a miracle, and huge thanks to Dermott for his efforts all day to try and turn the kit of parts we brought him into something like a car. Be fair, how many people turn up to a track day, don’t get a drive but instead swap a pair of front springs, and try to diagnose engine faults, plus do a full plug-swap on a V12, without a hint of complaint?

 

The Megan update lists those woes in more detail. The big saviour of the day, for me, was the way Angelina ran. She put in about 4 hours of track time. Those who know my general luck with reliability will be astonished to learn that she ran all day without a hint of a problem. Last time she went anywhere of note was Brands last November, but her fluid levels never altered, temperatures and pressures were all fine, and she just pounded round all day.

 

The rear steer was traced to a worn hub, the new bearings I put in last time were still fine, but the outer was actually slightly loose in hub carrier, which was giving it some play and magnified by throttle input was shoving the car about. With that repaired and the squashed fuel line fixed Wednesday night she ran all day, so I was pleased with that. Admittedly the track day environment isn’t as harsh, she’s running 10 minute stints with a 5 to 10 min rest between each, and the tyres and brakes are taking little punishment, but still, happy bunny!

 

Her biggest problem was in fact the additional drivers I had booked in. Father, brother, and my old university mate who decided to be in the area. Took each of them out, gave them a few laps and handed over control for the next session.

Alex chucked it off at Paddock, and my mate did the same, only backwards, so I had two drivers to report in to Terry for a wrist slap in successive sessions. The backwards-at-Paddock incident was simple, and a classic we saw repeated half the day, rear end coming loose and the driver then hits the brake pedal, instant trip backwards. I have seen the infield through the passenger window before, so not too dramatic, I think the driver was more concerned than me. Car took some minor fibreglass damage to the front skirt during one of these incidents, but nothing to write home about!

 

The big surprise was my father, who was clearly a little apprehensive about trying the car. He successfully campaigned a blue Jag-engined Mk1 Capri in the ‘70s in Autocross races and is really to blame for us now taking to the track, albeit 20 years later than he’d have liked. In fact he’s still got that car somewhere and half-jokes about asking to put it out in PBJ!

 

He claims to have once raced against a certain Mr Button, whose son does something with Hondas these days? Anyway, it’s 30 years since he tasted Jaguar power, but when he went out alone later in the day I watched the brake lights get later and later into Paddock. Not lost his appetite for it then!

 

I also took Megan out for a couple of sessions, just a few laps in each to try and get hold of her. No brakes, an engine management system that was clearly having a bad day, but despite all that she felt pretty good, very positive on the steering, plenty of grip even on the 40 profile tyres. Rear camber needs adjusting, and we’ll know a lot more when we get the engine and brakes sorted, but it was encouraging.

 

My goal was merely to get her running for the trackday. So it was something of a shame that we’d inadvertently announced our intention to build a 1-minute car and plastered it all over the "birth of a race car" feature for months because someone (cough, Stewert, cough) pastes anything he gets sent straight into his site even if it’s a draft for something that hasn’t happened yet. This meant there were people who’ve read the damned site expecting a red missile to flash by and saw only a quiet shakedown fault-finding run. A minute laptime might not be a problem in my car in her current form, but not a brand new untried never-turned-a-wheel machine!

 

Still, all three cars ran and didn’t explode, so happy faces all round, and with Alex newly-christened we have ourselves a pilot for the hire car for Snetterton. I am still a bit worried he might be overtaking me though, if the sight of Stewert ahead gets me going faster what’s it going to be like for Alex to see his elder brother ahead? I’m going to get rammed off the track, aren’t I?

 

Thanks to Terry Dye for his efforts in arranging that track day and managing not to lose his calm completely and start strangling random drivers in the paddock!

 

Now then, the rules of From The Drivers’ Seat are that if you drive the car you have to write a bit for it. Because they drove it then for this week only therefore we have guest entries from both Peter and Alex Harrison, and if I can get hold of Mr.Crothers he’s got to as well. It remains to be seen if Stewert will do the same, but we saw him handing the wheel over. Ten quid says he breaks the rule.

 

Peter Harrison:

Despite having attended the drivers' briefing complete with hearing aid I emerged not having heard a word and had to get a supplementary briefing from Andrew, which seemed to boil down to "don't race anyone" and "pass down the left" which was simple enough! I took a minute to try Brands' coffee, and would note that it's our custom oop norf to have it hot. These things matter.

It’s a long time since I drove a car in competition, I did a lot of Autocross and Rallycross in my younger days, but I’ve never done circuit racing like this. I went out for the green flag familiarisation run with Alex and was immediately struck by the fact that he wasn’t messing about, I know we’re only crawling along but he seemed very confident with the car.

After a morning hanging about whilst Andrew got Alex as many laps in as possible it was my turn as Andrew’s passenger. Well, I remember his mother dropping him as a child, but I’d no idea it had been this bad. Andrew’s Stuka impersonation down Paddock was a real eye-opener – or eye closer, I’m not sure which.

Anyway I was spared by the chequered flag after three laps of this, and next time out it was me driving, with him as the passenger. He’s a very nervous passenger, kept shouting "brake." Sounded like a boxing match.

I went out again a little later by myself, and it wasn’t as awe-inspiring as I’d feared. I’d never been in it before, or in an XJS of any kind. I found the seats very low, I prefer a higher, more commanding driving position. I’d had to ask where the gears were, what revs it could take, find the controls, as you’d expect in a new car.

The approach to Paddock is very quick, it struck me as the one place I really didn’t want to go off so my braking was early and light. I know with practice it could be done much quicker, but it was my first time in the car so I was a bit cautious.

As I got a bit more confident in the car I started to play with it a bit more. I did a lot of Autocross and Rallycross in my younger days, so oversteer holds no fear for me, and I was getting on the power earlier each lap. I was soon getting a nice powerslide on coming out of Druids, but I found that the Jag snapped out of it quite violently, it wasn’t like it used to be on the loose stuff I raced on, which was much more progressive.

The gearbox was nice, despite the abuse it was getting it was much smoother, faster, and more forgiving than the Moss box from a Mk2 I used in my old Capri. Although the cornering grip was good what amazed me was just how good the brakes were.What stands out in my mind was the smooth and rapid deceleration into Druids as I squeezed it down into 3rd.

I got two good long sessions in, I was out for the last of the day, and I found that the car could really haul in the big saloons into Druids and Clearways, I know it’s using racing pads and good tyres, but it stood out for me as the car’s really surprising ability.

The thing that surprised me was how well it was lasting. Andrew’s had a miserable year with various pieces going wrong, usually engines, but today it just kept going, everyone took it out to drive, some of us quite badly, and it was running in nearly every session all day, we just kept tipping fuel in it hour after hour and it was willing and able.

I really enjoyed this first excursion on track with it, and if I get the chance I’ll definitely be having another go.

 

Alex Harrison

I came to all the tracks last year with Andrew, but this year I’m meant to be both standby driver and the team truck driver, carting both the 6 cylinder cars about, and things are a bit different when you’re actually going out on the track. For a start, I’ve got racewear to take, paperwork to remember, places to be at set times, briefings to attend, and the track layout to learn. It’s not like when it’s Andrew racing and I can lie in bed until scrutineering.

Briefing is a room full of men I mostly don’t know listening to Terry, a bunch of jokes I don’t understand, it’s like they’re all some sort of cult. I said cult. And it all matters, I’m meant to listen. I’m out in the green session, for novice drivers, and with Megan’s problems that means I’m not driving her, we’ll let a more experienced driver crash that, I’m taking Andrew’s car. Even that’s a worry, I don’t want to spread its bits across the tarmac. I’ve seen a few cars smashed up here, the pit wall looks a bit hard!

It all goes very fast after the driver’s briefing, Andrew’s car is noise-tested and I’m suddenly put in the car with father and sent out to drive round behind the safety car to learn the track. No warning, no build up, just Andrew pointing at the car, telling me to get in and follow the safety car, it’ll be fine because it’s dead slow, shows me where to go to get in the pitlane, gives me a string of 4-letter words as warning about what not to do, and I’m out.

I’ve driven the car before, once. Just before Snetterton last year he appeared in it at the yard, just painted, and I tried it for half a mile and scared myself stupid, it’s bloody fast as a road car. Crawling round behind the pace car on the two green flag laps though it was easy, I doubt we topped 60, but you can’t tell without a speedo.

I’ve been to Brands twice now as a spectator, and I know the layout, I’ve seen the video from in-car, so I know what’s coming next, but even at low speed it’s so different. Paddock is an actual hill. You don’t notice it, except when you’re walking up it to the bar at night, but it’s steep, you don’t get that off a video or a computer game! We laugh at Stewert for throwing up when he gets fumes in the car, but it’s not as flat as you think.

I don’t fit the car quite right, seat’s a bit higher than the new car and my helmet hits the cage and prevents me using the door mirror, that’s why we spent ages making the new car seating a bit better for taller drivers.

Slow stuff done, and a minute later I’m strapped in the passenger seat with Andrew driving. Not quite sure what to expect, he’s told me we’ll not get a full speed run, he’ll trying to show me as much as possible for the ARDS this afternoon, and we’re off.

First fast lap in a race car. Gives it some welly straight out of the pitlane, and round onto Paddock, and it feels like he’s trying to have an accident, plus he’s shouting stuff and pointing at things, but Christ knows what, because Druids comes up like we’re trying to get airborne.

The brakes are fierce, and now downhill again into Graham hill, which we seem to have some sort of argument with, past another car he shouts a rude word at, through Mclaren with the tyres squealing, Clearways and back on the main straight, then the next lap is faster and this first fast charge at Paddock is amazing. It’s so different when you’re in the car, one minute there’s clear sky in front of you, then the world just drops away. That’s my first lap on a track ever, one minute and it’s gone.

We did four or five laps, and it’s more aggressive each lap, but Paddock gets less frightening even though we’re now using all the track, kerb and whatever that green stuff is that isn’t grass. The kerb makes a racket as you go over it, like a blunt circular saw, and we’re going over it every lap.

It’s a 4th gear dive into the dip back uphill for Druids, you feel the car sit right down as you go through the bottom and you slump down in the seat. Nothing you do on the road is anything like this, your head gets heavy, the G force is familiar from the flying I used to do.Paddock’s soon a lot tamer and it’s Druids that’s still the worry, it’s the exit that’s frightening, the tail’s squirming to the left and I’ve seen the video from where he almost crashes it in qualifying here.

Session over, and it’s now a green session, and I’m right back out again, this time driving with him as passenger.

Still not easy though, after that passenger ride I can feel how slow we’re going, but at the same time I’m going as fast as I dare. Last thing I drove was the lorry this morning, and things are a bit different in here. I’ve got Andrew shouting numbers at me to remind me to change gear, and I’m trying to brake and change gear at once, but I can’t do both, I don’t heel-and-toe yet.

Once I’d got the hang of what gear I got a braver and Andrew’s pointing where he wants the car to be heading, then grabbing hold of the roll cage and crying. Mostly it feels natural, smoothing out the corners like when you’re pushing hard out on the roads, but Paddock is a real bugger to learn, it takes a few laps before I’m using the whole track.

The car felt fast, but not stupid fast, it accelerates well on the road but with all that room to play with on a big wide track you let it go and it pulls like you want, it’s not fierce in a straight line. As we come down Paddock there’s a big cloud of smoke and I see the XK8 going backwards towards the gravel.

We did maybe ten laps and then in, but we were back out again not long after, and I tried to push harder. Loads of grip, I’m going faster at Graham Hill and Mclaren. I pass my first car, there’s some slow stuff out in this session, and we have to wait for a straight so we don’t break the rules.

As I go faster that’s when it started to get harder, a few laps in I’m doing what he said and stamping on the brake pedal very late and very hard. The passenger seat has gone quiet, so I must be doing something right, or he's dropped dead in fear. I tried a bit more speed at Paddock and it all went wrong.

I was still trying to take it as a corner, so I’m trying to go round it fast and tight in to the inner kerb, and the tail came round. It gave loads of warning and I chucked opposite lock in and held the skid. but we’re wide and now we’ve used all the track and we’re going off into the gravel. It was wierd, loads of time - so much that I picked the bit of the gravel trap I was going in at, looked ahead and picked a nice bit to crash at.

We caught maybe 40 or 50 foot of gravel, but only two wheels so we got away with it, bit rough but not too bad, and I got on the power to make sure we came out the other side, stopping the session would be embarrassing. And it doesn’t slow me down afterwards like I thought, I’d always assumed that if I went off I’d be terrified, but it’s nothing.

Andrew’s since said we were better off taking to the gravel trap rather than trying to fight it to stay out and having a different accident, and I suppose he should know, he’s been in loads of them, and he can't say anything because I remember the test day here last May when we watched him go all the way round here in exactly the same spot.

Coming round again we got the black flag, which I never saw, I was still trying to go round fast as I could, but I got the message when Andrew started jabbering like a chimp, and then there was a board at the marshall’s post at Druids, so in and report to Terry about what had gone wrong.

By now Andrew’s mate has also thrown it off backwards at Paddock, so it’s not just me! Or maybe this car is still broken.

My third and last session of the morning was again out with Andrew as the passenger. The team by now are crossing themselves any time I go near the car. Better session, we have a few laps and I’m under orders to try a higher line at Paddock, and later turn, and I can tell we’re going quicker, but without the problems of the arse end coming round, I must be learning something.

Druids is still tough, too hard on the power one lap and we’re in a big slide, which took some correcting.

Faster this time, we’re passing lots of cars, one lap and there are a pair of X300s which I’ve caught up and am following round until Andrew’s shouting "punch it" halfway round Clearways, so I do as I’m told and the car just pulls and pulls and we’ve passed the saloon almost before the straight starts, it can take much more throttle there, I can try that next time round, I can feel we're going faster all the time.

Not allowed to time ourselves today, which is a pity, I’d love to know how I was doing. There are other XJS out there, but when you pass one you don’t know who’s in it or what the car is, it’s only the cars like Lock’s or Stewert’s that you recognise.

We did see Stewert, somehow he’d blagged his way out in the green session, and we catch sight of him in front. Suddenly Andrew’s waving a small stuffed bear about the cockpit and yelling "catch the Lezzer" and encouraging me to charge, so I give it some more and find the kerbs coming out of Graham Hill and into Mclaren. That white monster ahead is having trouble with traffic, and he’s not getting away, I can feel what it’s like chasing someone, and it’s brilliant.

I got nearly the full session in this time, towards the end we hit a big gaggle of cars and we come in a lap early rather than mess with them, and that’s my time in the Jag over, it’s lunch then the ARDS.

The ARDS classroom bit was interesting, and the written test was easy. I’ve heard stories about just how helpful some tracks are with the flag questions, but we really didn’t need any spoon-feeding with these, I’ve sat through the MSA video four times!

The cars we’re using are Renault Megane SomethingSport cars, front wheel drive, 220 horsepower, but we’re not allowed to top 4500 revs. It’s like driving a slow diesel! Not a nice car to drive, 6 speed box, but someone put 5th and 6th where 3rd and 4th ought to be, and I’m getting wrong gears at the wrong moments.

With a speedo I can see we’re doing 90 when I brake for Paddock, and it feels much slower than in the Jag. The lines are all pretty much the same, I’m expecting something different in a fwd car, but nothing much changes. What is different is that this car feels so slow, and it’s stuck to the floor, it’s almost boring. I know they’ve said the test isn’t about speed, but it feels like we’re off to do the shopping, without the understeer!

They’re making us take a different line at Clearways to what Andrew and Stewert insist is better. I’m with an instructor, so he ought to know his stuff, he’s got me clinging to the inside of the corner, whereas they’re both going wide because they say there’s more grip out there. My instructor says this is rubbish and they can’t be getting on the power early enough if they’re hanging about out there, can’t wait to tell them.

He’s also warning me off the kerb at the exit to Paddock, the one Andrew runs across every damned lap, he says it unsettles the car and it’s asking for trouble. Andrew will be unhappy, so that’s nice!

I think we’re out in an orange session, Stewert’s car comes past spitting flame out of the missile-launchers he calls exhausts, and then towards the end of the session there’s a very red dot in the mirror that quickly turns into a very red XJS I know very well, I painted that front end, but I didn’t expect to see her out here in action, it’s good to see it running.

It closes in at Druids, and I work out that it must be Andrew in it, because no-one else would be that daft, so I tell the instructor it’s my brother and my car, and I’m holding him up, he’s still back there at Graham Hill. That’s when the instructor puts on the indicator and tells me that he has sympathy but if I block him he’s got to fail me, so we wave as the Jag wafts past down the back straight – very quietly. The Jag disappears quickly, but the session ends too early.

The session was actually red-flagged because John Lock's car was in the gravel backwards at Clearways, although I don't think it was him that was in it, but that's what stopped the session and cut the ARDS short, we didn't get to go out again. Nobody obeyed the red flags though, loads of Jags came past, and my instructor's going mad at them. But I passed, so that's good.

Bit of messing about then, I never got a Go Racing pack because we thought we could download everything I needed from the net and save the fifty quid, but there’s one little form in the pack you need so it’s more money to throw! Robbing devils.

Back to the garage with enough time if I want it to take Andrew’s car out for the last session, but I’m thinking ahead to the drive home, and I think I’m knackered enough already, so we call that a day.

Successful day, got done what I wanted, the truck works, the Jag driving isn’t as frightening as I’d feared, and I passed the ARDS, time to harass Terry for a race number now!


26/02/08

At the time of writing my brother’s ARDS test is approaching fast, it’s just 2 days away, and Team Kutuka are busy speculating about the outcome. Well, it’s 2 days away when I write this, but probably not by the time Stewert has managed to push sufficient buttons as to post it onto the site, so my speculation below is probably out of date before I make it. That said we’re thinking of making FTDS a fortnightly update instead, given Stewert has yet to write a word he’s not keen on doing three at once just to catch up!

So, anyway, Alex and the ARDS test. Could be interesting. I’ll not deny I’m somewhat responsible for nudging him to have a go, but he’s definitely interested in trying his hand and we’ll be fascinated to see how he fares, there is something of a bet going on within the team. Stewert as ever is wildly optimistic, Dermott's being mysterious and therefore hedging his bets, and I’m confident he’ll be quite quick, if slightly worried he won’t in fact make me look completely useless – I could be hanging up my helmet by next Friday!

It should hopefully make for an easier entry into the racing scene for him by doing this track day, he’ll be out there with people who want to help him, with other cars out having a play, so a bit of car proximity without the demolition job an experienced racer does to a novice at a test day, hopefully a more gentle introduction than I recall.

It’s not yet a year since I first sat in an XJS race car, and I very clearly remember the terror of that first lap of the first Snetterton test day, I’d done 200 yards before I was passed down each side by a Porsche and Ferrari, and the language that came from me was vile.

Do you remember your first time on track? I’d never done so much as a track day, so for me nosing that XJS out of the pitlane at Snett, my only track time being my ARDS, never having driven a race car alone, or this car on a circuit before, or in fact even above the speed limit, was a little edgy. You’re essentially on your own, turning onto a strange track in the middle of a test session full of Porsche SomethingCup cars, in an old Jag sporting a big black-on-yellow target on the bootlid.

Despite having looked at the track map and knowing there’s a right turn ahead I was lost on the track for some time. Completely, the corners kept coming as a surprise for about the first 5 laps, and all the time there are cars coming past me like bullets. That first lap my reaction was that I had made a huge mistake and I couldn’t do this.

Lap 3 the brakes went and I had my first off, and I did that about three more times that same day, plus a glut of rather heavy cross-kerb excursions at the exit of the Esses and the excitement of accidentally discovering what I believe they call trail braking trying to chase a Porsche. Most memorable was seeing another XJS in the mirrors hauling me in over half a lap and deciding that if he could go that quickly then surely so could I. In a desperate attempt to keep the gap from shrinking further I attempted turn1 at a silly velocity on completely the wrong line and went so far off the track I could have fitted a plough and applied for an EC grant!

What I know now is that it was John Lock behind me, and that the sensible thing would have been to move over and try and follow him for ten seconds, but how was I to know? Hell, we knew only Dave Ball, and he wasn’t there, we’d parked next to Stewert merely because we recognised the shape of the car hiding underneath the bodykit and lairy spoiler.

That was the day before our first race of the year. I had no way of knowing until that session though whether I was going to be competent enough to make the first grid, no way at all, no frame of reference, it could all have been an expensive mistake. It still might be, come to that.

Anyway, I’ll be watching Alex at Brands with great interest. All being well we’ll get him circuiting Brands in Megan or Angelina, or both, soaking up as much track experience as he can with as many people as possible, and hoping Stewert, Dave Eyles or even little me don’t take him off the track in our eagerness to show him what close racing looks like.

I suppose I ought to be concerned Stewert might try and get some revenge for our last outing at Brands, the sight of Angelina in his mirrors definitely seems to have got him out for a little blood next time he gets chance.

Is Angelina finished? No. Damn. I had a list of things I must do before the trackday, and a list of things I want to do by Snetterton test, and the track day must-do list has mostly slowly been transferred across to the test day wish list. Having attacked Megan with all the time I can muster it was Monday night before I found the wibbly rear wheel bearing that likely accounts for the rear steer. Irritating given I did that four races ago, because I must have screwed it up last time, and that’s pretty annoying, it’s one thing to have something fail, but when it’s so soon and it’s probably your own fault it’s quite another.

With the garage full of the other car I’m working on Angelina outside, and whilst wrestling with the hub at 9pm in the rain I managed to drop it and flatten my big toe good and proper, and briefly considered setting a match to the car as I hopped round saying words mummy doesn’t know I know.

With the pain dulled by the application of a glass of the only booze I could find – and therefore breaking my self-imposed alcohol ban - I sensibly abandoned any work on the bearing in favour of refitting both seats, moving the old harness to the passenger side and fitting the new driver’s side harnesses. Which is when it dawns on me that I’ve been carrying the original passenger side inertia reel belts round all year for no good reason.

I always find the seats a pain to fit, the holes never line up no matter what. Working from scratch with Megan I found that even when you painstakingly measure and mark out the holes with tape measures and rulers and even set squares it doesn’t matter, you’ll still end up waggling the drill in the holes and having to scrounge about for big thick washers to make your under-floor spreader plates. And with Angelina’s seats coming out over 2 months ago someone lost all the bolts, so it took over an hour to get the seats back in. The new 6-point harness for the driver at least looks the part, I may have spent a moment congratulating myself.

Must fix the fan while I remember, that quit for no good reason but still works with a direct feed so that means having to diagnose the XJS electrical system, something I look forward to about as much as root canal work.

I didn’t have a second car in mind when I left the track in November, my car was meant to come completely to pieces, every nut, bolt, and washer, and go back together with care and thought and advice from the team brain-trust, be as good as I can make her. Instead I’m hit with a mass of unexpected delays and problems with the hire car and now running flat out just to try and get two cars to a track day with any sort of hope that they’ll last more than five minutes.

In some ways it’s been handy to have the track day there as a deadline, because otherwise the new car would have eaten up every second of time right up to Snetterton as we do and re-do and rethink things. This way it’s together and done.

But it’s been a panic at the end, Sunday was a 17-hour day in the garage, and it can be a problem putting in those sort of hours. Your office job the morning after can suddenly seem a bit slow and sleepy, warm radiators and the gentle roar of the typing pool instead of the cold hard garage floor and the scream of electric drills as 4 men desperately try to fit a car together, the office somehow seems like the holiday and will anyone notice if I hang the “engaged” sign and curl up under the desk while my muscles recover?

Monday night when I had finished with Angelina I joined Alex in the garage til 1am to polish the mess that was Megan’s oversprayed-to-hell paint, 1200 wet and dry, compound, T-cut, polish, every panel, but it’s coming right, it will at least be smooth if not high-gloss for Brands, the shine will come later as we keep doing it, but it’s sort of satisfying after the misery of the outdoor work earlier.

It might seem a bit dumb to be cleaning up the paint when the car was missing her rear anti-roll bar and rear window, but bear in mind I was hopping round on one foot and I’d really had enough at that point!

So Tuesday night should see Megan finally assembled and down on her wheels for the first time. We’ve not tested her at all, she hasn’t moved under her own power yet, and she’s going to Brands tomorrow. Not my finest hour really, I always wonder at people who show up to races with broken cars, not having touched them since the last outing, and though a new build isn't quite the same we’re definitely flirting with unprepared disaster. Still, I usually turn up with a car I’ve spent ages on and is now broken in new and exciting ways, so no different to your average weekend I suppose!

But the goal has altered now, we’re no longer going out to pound the new car round lap after lap to break records, it’s a basic shakedown, see what does and doesn’t work, what is failing or what works nicely, if all the prep has actually created a car. Full setup will occur at Snetterton, test springs and shock settings and new roll bars. By then I’ll have done all the work to Angelina I had planned too, so that will certainly be an interesting day.

Trackday ahoy, time to see if all this stuff still works and I can remember what a corner looks like!

Tune in next week to see if it actually worked out!

 


14/02/08

Well, OK, so the 14th of February, Vaseline Day, has been and gone and I didn’t update this, but if you were looking for this on 14th itself there is a question why you were on t’internet instead of wooing someone. That’s right, I said woo. It’s not used enough, here begins the campaign for increased woo use. I might have got side-tracked, where was I? Ah, yes, Jaguars.

As we get closer to the trackday it’s time to start finalising what the hell we’re going to do with the cars this year.

Obviously I’ve given it some thought already, and committed, car and wallet and accidents permitting, to a season with the JEC again. But there’s the TTRS I do intend to get out with a couple of times, the Silverstone GP outing is calling to me. The only problem with TTRS I can see is the tyres.

 

Angelina

Rare photo of me still actually on the tarmac at Copse.

 

According to TTRS rules my class D XJS would be in their class E, and the timesheets say that the fastest car out there in that class at the Meldrew was a second faster than I was on the TR1s. I’d be allowed to fit 888s for the TTRS, which ought to make the car faster. On a longer track though the XJS ought to stretch her legs a bit more, the other cars in the class are some 2.6 litres down on the XJS and I know in a straight line I was outdragging that Sunbeam, so even on the TR1s it shouldn’t be totally humiliating.

 

But to be certain of being competitive it means 888s, because the XJS mob are all sniffing round the series with interest. Any other XJS out there is going to fit them, and I can’t live with another Jag on better tyres. TTRS have moved the modified XJS into a higher class but I can’t chase another D class XJS on stickies, I’d have to upgrade if I want to race them, and that’s £300 of tyre, new wheels whether I want to change diameter or not, it’s another set to buy to cart about.

That’s a few quid, and that’s if I can get the brakes to take it, anyone remember all the cars up on stands at Anglesey after the Future Classics race on stickies, cooked callipers all over the shop? I’ve already got front brake ducts after a fashion, but it would need more front and maybe even rear scoops of some sort, perhaps even some diff cooling if I’m going to do longer races.

So to fit 888s is a big and expensive deal for me, but if I want to play with the other XJS in that series I either need to do something special behind the wheel - like learn to drive - or spend the money. Not that appealing anymore is it? Cheap entry fees can’t hide the, what, £4-500 outlay?

I know everyone raves about better tyres, but I’ve little experience of them, certainly none in my own car, and it might be nice to keep it that way. No, hear me out, stop choking on your coffee, I have a reason.


Angelina

Birkett chaos!

 

I used stickies on Stewert’s car in the 2-driver race, but I can’t compare grip because I hadn’t used it on TR1s. I’ve raced against other 6 cylinder cars that were using them at Anglesey, I recall chasing Dave Ball on the Dunlops (I think) v my TR1s and the frustration at losing him lap after lap, and I’ve seen the potential speed advantage at Silverstone when Robbie ran them in the Birkett, but I just wonder if finding out what real racing tyres are like won’t spoil me for the XJS races?

I know, it’s good to have the experience of other things, but what’s the goal for 2008? It’s to get a little bit higher up the class D grid, maybe get a good day and try and steal the odd third place. I’ve not been around long enough to have become bored with just the one race series at a time, so though I’d race pretty much anything given a chance the real aim is the XJS races until the season is over. Anything I do that involves running the car in some other form might be counter-productive?

I don’t know, I’m speculating, but if the goal for the year is to become better in one specialised area of racing then maybe I ought to stick to that and not muck the car about at all, run it exactly in class D form at all times. So if I’m out in TTRS expect the TR1s, and don’t bother checking your mirrors for me, I’ll be that dot getting smaller but hopefully gaining experience.

Later in the year there’s the Birkett. I did it last season, it’s post-XJS championship, and I’d love to do it again, but I want to see how we’re doing in terms of race pace before I commit to something like that, I was nothing like as quick in that race as expected and I don’t want to let the team down, so I’ll need to see some serious improvement at other tracks before I put myself forward as a potential entrant.

What’s been done at Angelina this week? Little. Swapped those rear shocks at last, which was more of a struggle than I thought. The AVOs that came off were a shade wider than the Gaz, not much, just enough that the bottom bolt wouldn’t go solid, and the shocks were being pulled to a funny angle because the car didn’t have the usual XJS spacer in either side. Once I’d spotted that and improvised a replacement it went together fine, but quite where I set the adjustment on them I have no idea, the first lap of Brands will be interesting.

New front shocks are here, but that’s it. Should pop them on at the weekend, and the front drop links, but I must, MUST, find out what the deal is at the rear end.

One noise source has already been found, damned silencer has popped out of the rubber mounting and the pipe is rubbing on the drive shaft, hence the racket. That’s an easy fix, the rear brake pads are fine, but it seems the line might be leaking, and someone squashed my fuel lines when it seems they dropped the poor girl last week. But I have to find the bush that’s let go, and oddly the radius arms look OK, so what the hell that is I don’t know yet, one suggestion was a bearing letting go. I did the main wheel bearing late in the year and that’s still fine, but there are others! Then a nut and bolt check and throw her at Brands.  So plenty to do to be sure it’s safe to race, and no time left, as ever!

I can faff with the paint after I’ve pilfered a new batch of stickers from Terry! For now I’ll have to keep the fibreglass bonnet on for the trackday. I wanted to try her out at Brands with the new stuff on in full class D spec, get a hint of her potential for ’08. Not, I suspect, that they’re going to let me at Brands in full gravel-threatening mode at the track day.

Had my fireproofs cleaned too – what a fuss over very little. The dry-cleaners became convinced they had to send them to Timbuktu and have them rinsed in virgin’s blood or they’d spontaneously combust, so I had a £30 bill, a 3 week wait, and a certificate of fireproof-ishiousness, which all seems a bit much when the fellas at GPR tell me the Nomex itself is the fireproofing!

New harnesses are here too, glad I checked, because they were dated for ’07. I’m upgrading to a 6-point harness while I’m at it, and for vanity’s sake ordered them in blue, how pathetic am I?

At least Megan is coming together now, that’s a real relief, a fortnight ago I wasn’t sure we’d make it, but it’s a lot better now she runs, just hope I can get her out and Angelina in with more than ten minutes to go before we’re due to load the truck!

Still, I can’t wait to breathe that heady aroma of engine oil, hot exhaust and abused gearbox, nothing quite like it, I swear if you could bottle it you could flog that stuff to racers nationwide, a quick waft under their nose in a morning would be better than a triple espresso.

I can see it now, an alloy bottle, old fuel injector on top to dispense it, just needs a name… Eau de Cockpit? Might be misinterpreted. Essence d’Essence? OK, bit much if you don’t speak Froggy, erm, Perfume de Victoire, CK Castrol, Stink de Blown Engine, Sweaty Racewear pour homme, Fragrance de Boiled Coolant, Extract of Sump, Diff Musk, Scent to Covcats, XJ Moisturising Services, Toyo Tyresmoke? I’ll get my coat…


06/02/08


OK, ladies and gentlemen, and drivers, it’s 8 weeks til the first race, and with none of my preparations in any way complete I find myself in a panic and yet hugely excited about the start of the new season.
Part of it is the strange peace that you get at a race weekend. Once that car’s in the back and we’re on the way the worries and cares of everyday life are gone. Some people go on holiday, but to me these weekends are my holidays, nothing in my head except racing and tyres and petrol, who cares where the money’s going to come from for the next round or why I’ve forgotten to pay the TV licence again, we're off to do battle, just one clear, pure purpose, let's shelve reality for a while.
Soon I’ll be out in the sun in the middle of a deserted race track, rousing from my slumber only to laugh and joke and turn tyres into useless smoke, with a shot of adrenaline to spice things up, endless reminiscing over corners past, and forty pounds of meat on the barbeque.
And that early morning feeling as you step out of the camper into the low sun, cold, quiet, damp air, dew on a hundred windscreens, the early poppling of a distant exhaust, the wail of a dozen kettles as the circuit gradually wakes. It’s all rather peaceful, unless you’re the poor devil still spannering frantically – there’s always one, but I’m hoping I’ve done my share for a bit and it’s someone else’s turn now.
So yes, holiday time so far as I’m concerned. I know, where’s the relaxation in throwing a Jaguar at the Bomb Hole, but tell me if at that moment there’s anything at all else on your mind! Course not. Sounds like relaxation to me.
Seems to be a lot of speculation about at present, and I do like to throw my couple of pence into the hat. There’s a championship at stake of course, and my interest is obviously the class D cars. There are several drivers in class D that stand an excellent chance of laying on a real battle for the spectators this year. Although no-one’s sure what they’re up to in terms of who is out in what class we'd expect the Hastings/Coppock/Skelton fight that was brewing so nicely last season to come to the boil. Sadly I don't expect to be in the mix with them, I had a bit of a fluke result at Silverstone in August but other than that it's going to continue to be the midfield playground for me.
I’ve watched my videos, I’ve seen the fundamental flaws in both car and driver, and I know that realistically where I ended ’07, merely aspiring to a top 3 in class here and there, is the best I can hope to be again in ’08 until either talent or vehicle improve.
So far I’ve done little to nothing at all to develop either since the last race. My entire non-working life has been directed at the new car to ensure that it’s as good as we can make it. Why so keen if it’s for another driver? Well, having to explain to one’s parents that the car you helped build fell apart with your little brother inside it is hardly a conversation to look forward to.
Nervous part of the week was painting Megan. Not exactly a nice job, days of sanding and filler and primer and wet n dry paper, my hands look like I spent a week ice-fishing. And of course I messed it right up after all that prep and it was Alex to the rescue to paint the car without it looking like I used a hoover or the Mr.Bean method.
Where does this leave Angelina? Well, new shocks ready to go on the rear, new ones on the way for the front, my aim is just to get the bushes redone in time for the track day, but that’s my lot. I think I’ve got enough brake pad left to get me through the track day. The tyres should also last, but maybe ordering a set might not be a bad idea.
Ordered new Mintex rear pads to carry as spares. I’ve a problem with the o/s/r calliper, it wears one pad down to the metal very fast but the other three pads are fine, so I’ve got three Red stuff and three Mintex that could go for some way, but can’t really mix and match them into a set, so bit of a swine. I’ll try to work out what's wrong with the calliper before I put the new in, it’s clearly not right.
Also ordered a set of anti-roll bar drop links and poly bushes, which isn’t exactly a fiver’s worth. I know my V12 road car needs the n/s doing, and I don’t know if Angelina is on poly or rubber. I figured get the poly and donate them to Angelina, and give her old ones to the V12, they might both like corners a bit better then. No, I’m not turning the V12 into a G. Just no.
Angelina’s paint will have to wait til after Brands, so I’ll be out in green again, sadly the blue will have to be delayed, I have Easter weekend in mind for the gloss. Except I started the paint prep a while ago and bonnet and boot are in primer, so quite what she’ll look like on 28th I have no idea!
I’m not the only one who’s busy though, the truck was MOT-ed this week, Alex loaded Angelina in the top deck and my V12 in the bottom, because it needed a test load for the test, and what better than its proper laden weight of two Jags? So first test of the new hydraulics, an MOT for the lorry, and now we’re mobile. But it will be sporting the name of the removal company we bought it from, no time to get that repainted either, which has Stewert wailing and gnashing his tiny teeth in frustration because he wants his team name splashed all over it.
I’m not convinced he’s thought through the effort involved in repainting what I think we calculated at 550 square feet of lorry sides, though we look forward to him fulfilling the vow that he’ll work 24/7 to ensure it’s done, we’ve seen him after a 6 hour day and it’s not pretty.
So still so very much to do, and it’s a bit close as to whether we’ll make it, it is looking a bit fraught for Angelina and I swore this year we’d done with the firefighting and were going to have a more thoroughly-prepared and therefore relaxed season. The best laid plans and all that!


30/1/08

Slow week for Angelina, swapped her rear shocks, 7-year-old AVOs for new Gaz, but no idea how to set them up really, I counted 68 points of adjustment lock to lock, which is a huge number, and being new I can’t just set them proportionately the same as the tired shocks of a different make, so I’m setting them soft and will try to set them up at the Brands track day. I’ll have Mr D do his magic bounce on the car, he can tell more from that than I can in 40 laps!

So much to do by then, I’ve not even started the repaint in blue, or dropped the front and rear subframes to check all the bushes, and I know she’s broken, she was tramping like a bitch last time out and steering from the back, how she didn’t fall off the road at the Meldrew I don’t know, but it was nothing to do with me.

Why have I not started? Well, it’s Megan’s fault, isn’t it! I’ve been working on her every day since 25th December. I was down at Stewert’s place at Christmas, but yes, we snuck out to start taking bits off that morning!

Even the day of the JEC dinner I was at her that morning and doing what must have looked like a dodgy deal for an anti-roll bar in the car park that evening. That’s 36 days in a row. She’s got the garage tied up and until she’s finished poor old Angelina will have to wait. I’ve got a list as long as my, er, arm, of things I want to do, but for now I need to get the undercarriage sorted, maybe the paint, and get her to the trackday to try her out.

I popped her a battery on and fired her up after 2 months stood and was unhappy the oil pressure seemed down, but that’s because I can’t remember what it was before! I was getting silly readings before I put the oil cooler on, 80lb+, but it settled down a lot with the cooler, to 65lb or so, presumably just the extra pipe length, glad I didn’t put it in the boot as I’d threatened! But on startup again it seemed to down a bit, just a hint, guess we’ll find out if it’s my paranoia at work at Brands, but with my run of luck with engines last year I’m a bit concerned, it’s only a standard lump but I don’t want to do another engine change, I’ve had enough, really.

I’ve also got to return Ang to class D spec, bonnet, boot and glass to refit, and the interior. Not a 2 minute job! But to quell any speculation let me be clear. I am NOT going to change to class E. No matter how many people tell me I am, or that I have, or that I will or that I should, I’m class D for ’08. OK? I still need to learn to drive what I’ve got, I’ve only done 1 year and I blew up engines for most of it. Once I’m happy that I can in fact drive, of which so far we’ve seen precious little evidence, maybe then we’ll think about going a bit quicker.

For now though it’s flat out on Megan to get her done, I’m projecting 2 more weeks and she’ll be painted and running and I can throw her out and return to my other mistress.

Even once I’m happy Angelina’s running and good to go the list of other to-do jobs is horrible.

So plan is to get Megan out, get Angelina in, help Alex finish the truck so we’ve got a way to get to Brands and somewhere to sleep when I get there. Then I can tackle the rest of life and the other jobs that have cropped up that aren’t race related. When do I sleep? Er, 2 til 7 usually, I’m completely knackered!

We’ve recently got hold of Roger (Webster)’s tapes from the ’07 season, and it’s been fascinating. The way the grids worked out in ’07 I was usually slap in front of him on the grid, so I get to see myself cock up start after start, and I’ve also been astonished to see just how unstable the car looks. My in-car footage has been pretty tame, but from outside both ends are waving like flags in the breeze, it might be time to slow down a bit and keep the car a bit more settled, because I seem to be on the edge of an accident for half the lap.