Oh no, not again...





As a team we like this place. As individuals we’ve a very mixed view of the place, scene of some of our greatest triumphs, and most humbling mistakes. The good news for the marshall at the top of Rocket is that with Bear not testing he is unlikely to have his wits challenged by a flying XJS.


Stew has a good record here, sometimes. Clean sweep of the race wins in 2008, but a poor weekend in ’09 and ’10, he’s out to redeem his reputation here.


The Comer car is here for a thorough test, some mild upgrades to check out, and a mid-season handling check.











































Helen is in action again, Deano is taking her for the XJS races and a Powered By outing, but not testing. She does like it here, she won the race outright in 2009 after the leaders did their daft parallel parking test at Rocket, and she does tend to hit a speed here that’s good enough for the front end of even a mixed grid.


Departure for the track was, as ever, late. This time though it was the truck that slowed us down, the ambitious plan to fit windows and an awning, and paint it was, erm, ambitious.


No pressure this weekend, we’re not racing, it’s a bit of playtime for test day, then a holiday. We’d even planned to see the sea this time.


Test day dawned bright and hot, perfect weather despite the ominous forecast, and we sent our pet Comer out to test, glass spine and all. We’re not sure we believe he fell off his lawnmower.


Katrina performed well, and we got ourselves organised in terms of measuring and recording temps and pressures, but this track, as ever, required a few setup changes to get the best out of the car.













































We split the morning test, the sessions short but numerous, and the first session in the car showed her to be a little odd on the rear, a bit lift-offy, quite disconcerting at the corkscrew, explaining some of the lurid slides we’d spotted Philip up to.


As ever I don’t quite fit this car, I have to have a pillow to sit on because he’s so much taller, meaning the seat doesn’t hold me at all, I am bracing off the side window with my elbow in left handers, and my leg on the door bar to hold me in place. It does make for a difficult session, but the car itself responded well to the tweaks on damper and tyre pressures, she was scooting round easily at 1.25.2s lap after lap. A slow lap to calm the brain, and then a 1.24.9. To hit that time in the equivalent of a quali session is good enough for me, that’s about half a second off what I’ve done here in Helen, and I’ll bet if I plugged this thing round for the afternoon we could make it faster still. No way another F class is going to break the 1.25 barrier. I’m happy to call that a day.















































Analysis of the data logger over lunch showed where and why I was faster. To his great credit, Philip didn’t simply throw his toys out of the pram, but did assess the data, and seek to understand where and why, then went out to try and apply it. His lines appeared to adjust to the new data, and his times dropped. If this is not the point of testing I don’t know what is.


About this time a madman kidnapped me and forced me to drive an XJ6 coupe. We did, however, give it the Kutuka treatment first, and there were a good few tweaks to make, the car’s settings were all over the place.
















































Interesting car to drive, probably the most expensive car I’ve ever raced, but a curious mix of the familiar and the alien. The engine is a new thing, my first ever XK. The gearbox is missing a cog, but it’s very direct, the lever snicks between ratios so cleanly. The actual car though, driving position aside, is quite familiar, same suspension, wheelbase and brakes, lighter than my own car by far, more poke.


The seating position is very upright, a tremendous view over the bonnet, but it seems to put me on top of the steering, rather than my usual low-down, laid-back position. It does actually make steering it difficult, I can’t get the wheel over-centre, running out of lock because my arms are too close. And it is so heavy on the wheel, Jesus! I’m not exactly built lightly, and I throw heavy things about a lot, but this car had me really working to get it to turn, I needed to be stronger.












































The engine has more to give than I am giving it. Mr Bye told me he gives it 6000. That means I give it 5500. I suspect he had already given me the “safe” figure but no harm in me going safer.


It’s a great car, it grips well, and it pulls so nicely, that engine sounds great. Well, it will do, turns out the exhaust was off. Power oversteer is on demand, and knowing where they were all standing on the pit wall to watch I must confess to playing to the audience, she got a bootful out of the last corner to showboat.













































I was sent out to give feedback, so I have a job to do. Half a dozen laps is what it takes to feel the car out, and to get enough heat in the rubber for David’s probe to test. Helen’s lines work with this car. They are a bit unconventional, as assessed against the rest of the grid, but they work for me so that’s what I do. Not sure they are right for this car, but they work well enough. I can’t find the understeer reported, but maybe I’m not going fast enough, or maybe the changes we made before I got in really do work.


Sadly, and to my horror, those laps took me straight underneath Dave’s own time. He had told me that he’d blow my head off with a 12-bore if I did this, so I’m now technically dead. Fortunately the last session of the day sees him report the car now as the best it has ever been, and a better laptime goes back underneath mine, meaning I get to live.













































Philip has got his times down sufficiently that his glass spine says he’s done enough for the day, so with 2 sessions to go I swap his front brake pads and throw two new tyres for Dean onto the car, and go out to bed it all in.


Back in and for the last session now swap all four tyres for a brand new set of Philip’s, heat cycle them, and finish bedding those pads as this gentle test day turns out to be horribly busy, I’m knackered.


The brakes go through the terrifying Mintex bedding in phase, the brake pedal suddenly stops working as I go into Rocket, some quiet grasstracking can be fun sometimes, she gets the full autograss treatment to get round the hairpin that Rocket presents when you’re on the green stuff. Back to base, and swap all four tyres back, then swap Helen’s fronts.













































By my count that’s 16 tyre changes in about an hour, and my shoulders are not pleased. Definitely beer o’clock. As the late afternoon sun sears the place into a colourful postcard, the distant mountains poke through the sea haze, and as the steam slowly puthers out of my ears, the day sighs to a relaxing end.


All three cars are fuelled, checked and torqued for qualifying, job done. The winding up of Dave Bye, however, has only just begun.


An overnight shower left the track mildly moist for qualifying, but it dried in minutes, the full pace was available to all. Our tame pilots acquitted themselves well, Stewert would be unhappy not to take pole, but Palmer has always been a specialist at this track, and Stew’s front row is a good place to attack from.











































Comer takes F class pole, by a good second. Good man. Deano does well too, there are four class F cars split by 0.15 seconds, so his 5th in class isn’t bad at all. Of course he then gets in his Powered by quali too, and we do the typical Kutuka trick of getting him out first. There is an eclectic mix of cars out to play, where else will you see a Metro with a home-made airdam lined up behind a brand new £100000 E type, and an old blue XJS sat in front of both?


Returning from what looked to be a faster session we note Deano has dropped his time now to be 4/10 faster than the class F pole man. Getting hold of that quickly then.















































Helen rebels as she arrives back at camp. The brakes are incredibly hot, a feature of these closed-in bottle-top Speedlines, but the offside front calliper is sticking, the car can’t be pushed. With a short time to go until the race, Officer David and I fall upon her to swap the calliper. Why she should pull this trick I don’t know, but it happens, so it has to be sorted. The sizzle of skin on hot brake once again marks some pain yet to come, but he is back in action within ten minutes. Not bad for components too hot to handle and no gloves handy!


Race 1 was entertaining. Stewert became about the first man ever to out-start Palmer, and then he simply sat in front of him until the flags came out for the win. His tyres clearly went off, but he parked the car in all the right places and offered no opportunities to pass. Job done, fastest lap too. Sorted. He can drive so smoothly when he has to. Nowhere else do I ever see a driver whose style is so dependant on their mood!














































Comer’s race was undone at the start, in fact it’s Bruce who briefly leads F class, but Drage and Comer both fight back through. Philip is on Ian’s pace, but can’t seem to get back with him after they fight clear to turn it into a straight fight. Such a busy race that a full on F vs F fight is hard to actually orchestrate, faster cars coming through, and a few incidents – Roger vs Ian at the hairpin was a bit messy.


An initial scrap with Seath has Dean the victor before he knows he’s actually fighting anyone, and then a long and entertaining duel with Bruce over third in class goes Dean’s way. I said Helen likes it here.


Post race and we’ve three drivers picking up trophies. A good day. Dean in particular is grinning like a schoolboy who’s just found the good bits in his biology textbook, he and BCB had a good clean fight, and he’s once again in love with the XJS.













































The aftermath of the Webster/Drage incident is a bit bad-tempered, but the video of it shows that it’s much less 50/50 than first thought, and the balance is the other way to how it had been suggested too, but here’s that curious thing again, whilst I can  view it with interest, it makes no difference to me at all, I’m that detached observer again. It’s a very strange feeling to be here, in this crazy world I’ve elected to join, but yet it be of no importance to anyone whether I’m actually here or not.


Deano is out again for the Powered By race, and he now has a proper handle on the machine, it gets visibly faster to the point that standing at turn 1 we watch Helen belting through the corner, unloaded front wheel waving at us as she squats hard under power through the corner, dangling that wheel like a puppy offering a paw. Never seen her in action at such close range before, it really is different watching your own car. I suspect Terry would rather we were watching from somewhere else, such is the whooping and jumping about.













































The sight of her yonging up the inside of a little Peugeot hatchback through turn 1, and then murdering the little Metro down the back straight, that will stay with me. He closes right in on Connew in the undeniably more powerful XJ6, heading for the class win, but runs out of laps before he can make it stick. So much faster through turn 3 though, the invisible elastic in effect as he homes in through the corner but just loses out on the straights. Great to watch. With time and some tweaking in this car, he could be someone I’d be watching the mirrors for without disdain, or arrogant dismissal.


Drunken barbeques turn night back into day, and race 2 dawns. For once, CampKutuka is packed away early, by the time the race dawns we need only load the cars to be gone. It makes the post-race packing process so much simpler, if there is one thing we have learned this year it is to get slick at decamping.













































Race 2 isn’t tidy or simple. I have said before and I will say again, this point in the season, and we are now over 2/3 of the way through it, it suddenly gets messy one meeting, out of nowhere comes a banger race, and it’s never just one car, it’s a sudden attack of madness throughout the field. We’re all either perfect, or there are a dozen collisions, it’s never in between.












































Sadly today was the latter. Philip has made as many poor starts this year as his insanely brilliant ones, and as they hove into view at turn 1 he’s on the outside line, Seath gives him a little kiss to say hello, slamming the door shut on Philip’s front end, contact within 100 yards of the race starting, nice! But it’s busy as sin here, absolute nose to tail shuffling for position, slow and crowded. The hairpin also looks like madness, and even turn 3 seems to be hectic, there’s that feeling of inevitability. The action at Rocket is predictable, but quite what goes on is hard to fathom from down here.













































We can see Seath’s car, distinctive in acid green, incredibly slow heading into Rocket 1, and we can’t see why. Sadly Philip suddenly appears out from behind the XJ40 he was following close, and sails right up his back end, the smoke and debris clear even from here.


Sure enough, he reappears at turn 1 again wearing a snarl on the car, but nothing serious, the bodykit is cracked but intact, bust headlight, but no real harm done, race may continue. As he fights through in pursuit of the class win it does strike me that I now have a conflict of interest, as Sewell in my own car is now 2nd in class and best placed to hunt for the class win, and he’s heading for battle with Connew to make amends for yesterday.














































There are puffs of smoke galore from Comer’s front tyres, and even as we watch Stewert put in another cracking drive to harass Palmer all the way to the flag, it’s clear that the afternoon isn’t done yet.


Lewis hassles Gail all the way to the line again – Derek has them easily beaten, but Lewis is clearly far faster than that yellow XJ40, he just hasn’t got anything like her power. His superior cornering is clear, the lines are better, the apex speed higher, but get to a straight bit and it simply pulls away again. Been there in his shoes, he has my sympathy, not a lot you can do in that situation except rattle the other driver, but he’s doing the same thing every lap, and unless he’s setting her up for a last minute change of tactics she’s going to have him covered. He can’t apparently hear me shouting advice from the sidelines.














































As the tyres get balder and more hexagonal so does Philip’s pace slow, his race was undone on lap 1, and it’s getting worse, to the point that BCB closes right back in on him from miles back, and as they go into Rocket on the last lap there is the peculiar flash of light you get from a car’s side window catching the sun as it rotates to meet it too quickly. It’s an unmistakable thing to see, you don’t even need to see the rest of the car or hear the distant bang, it’s all in the flash.


The cars disappear out of sight, and reappear after far too long a pause, Baby Coppock appears before either of the protagonists, Comer’s further-battered machine appears next, BCB is gone an awfully long time.


Race over.














































Philip’s car is a bit of a state. 4 collisions, and it seems he’s had as many as he gave. The damage from the BCB crash on that last lap is pretty bad, that passenger door and sill is stoved in again, Bruce’s front end has well and truly gone swimming in there.


The damage from the Seath collision is more obviously cosmetic, but far less serious, it’s just a bent wing, nothing that a hammer and a headlamp won’t fix.


Whilst tempers may be bubbling, the calmness of not having been involved means we simply get on with loading up and readying for departure. A beaming Sewell – seriously, we could see his back teeth – hands back Helen. Were I ever to breed this car he wants her first pup, apparently. All manner of horrible images invade my fragile mind. 2nd in class and driver of the day his rewards for a clean and close race, his eventual triumph over Connew notable.












































Drage’s times fell by the end of today, but my ego is happy to see that he’s still got to find a second per lap to challenge Helen’s best here. In the tiny world of Jaguar XJS racing there are few achievements to note, the fact that I still hold the class D and F lap records here is a tiny point that helps me sleep at night.


The various colliders are up at race control, I’d love to be a fly on the wall as Philip and BCB explain two collisions in about 300 yards, but they don’t seem too fussed. It’s the council of war between those who had nothing to do with the various incidents that piques my interest. I’ve never quite understood why you’d poke your nose into something that you weren’t caught up in, the end of the race is 25 sweating, hyper drivers, hopped up on adrenaline, and those who’ve had incidents are usually pretty bad tempered. Getting in the middle of that is never a good plan. The schoolgirl chatter and mud-slinging is something we’re all guilty of sometimes, but it doesn’t make it right. Or very dignified, come to that.













































This whole “support crew” year is really changing a few of my perspectives. I suspect that when I return to combat I’ll be the better for it.


Increasingly, watching them all, the man who I think best shows his experience and his mettle, that calmness after combat that marks someone a bit different, for me it’s Derek Pearce. Having had the chance to take the time to watch everyone this season, he out of all of them is the one to emulate.













































With Helen on the trailer for the world to admire, we’re away. Anglesey, never a dull moment!








We can't stop modifying things.


The 6 gallons of paint that followed were also modified.


Working on this sort of scale is not at all easy. Bear is now part gorilla. Bearilla?










But there's always time for a cheeky blog update as you travel....





Quali. Far drier out there than it looks here in assembly.


26 Jags await permission to snarl.


It's amazing how some people can manage to look miserable even at a distance.






My baby arrives for quali.


Still got some other bastard at the wheel though. Damp track and my car on form, hmmm. Knock him out and steal his fireproofs?









Bear gets close and personal with Gail.


It's the calves you know, irresistable.











The sad thing about Alzheimers is the memory loss. Look at the poor devil, confused, lost, wondering where he is and what's going on....


















If I'd been left alone with my balaclava for a year, I would never have come up with this way of wearing it.


I mean, seriously, I'd have hung it off every other appendage before this occurred to me.










Does anyone else want to shove a giant flake in James Ramm's car?









Anglesey ho!


Because this journey includes the Woodhead pass, in about twenty minutes both passengers will knock themselves out with a large mallet.










This is what you might call an eclectic grid.


I mean, that E-type is brand new. Like it's not been out before, ever.


We might have wound up the Pug driver a little.











Stew wins Anglesey. Put him on the right rubber, bolt in the rear end properly, and miracles happen.











Race 2, and the protagonists assemble. Can anyone else hear the Kaiser Chiefs warming up?











If you squint hard, you can see a sliver of sea.


Forgot to go and find it again.











It's lonely at the top.











Lawrence Coppock assaults innocent woman, even as Comer demonstrates his amazing double-jointed arm trick.











We watch with amusment as BCB gaffer-tapes up his rear bumper, having just reversed the car into the Bear's truck front wheel. There wasn't another car within 25 feet....











He's such a charmer we've had to censor him.


Actually, I think this is race 1. It matters little.











I think I was photographed hugging her later on.


Some bonds are not easily broken.











Exhausting work this Jag racing.


Tenner to the first person to identify the driver. If only there were some clue...













This was the lap 1 incident aftermath. Cosmetics only, nothing to it. Whereas....











....this side was worse.


The front end is unfortunate, but....










...this was bad.


Open the door and the sill is not where it was meant to be. Once again the rollcage saved the car.











Helen acquitted herself very well this weekend.


3rd in class, 2nd in class, driver of the day, fastest overall F class lap. What a girl. She's mine Dean, you still can't have her.











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Jaguar XJS Racing

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