Race 1

Race 2



As 2013 dribbles to a damp end, there is time to squeeze in a couple of meetings with the Classic Touring car boys. Our year supporting drivers in the JEC series has been a complete washout, their misfortune occupying so much of our time and indeed money that our own racing has been impossible. But with the Jags having stopped crashing in late August, we have time to get to work and get a car ready.


And so my beloved Helen is readied for racing. A 4 litre engine with flowed head and mild cams, a lightened flywheel and twin-plate clutch, and some 245/45/16 888s are the headline alterations since 2012, with some rolling road time to set it up. We’re still running a standard Jag inlet, a 1983 ECU and a dizzy, so no clever ECU here. There is a little weight loss, both car and pilot, the overall package is about 30kg less than last year, the power is up by 25%. Polycarbonate windows to the rear and ¾, but we’re still very heavy, with standard brakes, and we haven’t thrown the suspension mods at the car that we wanted. A pair of shiny new double-adjustable dampers are on there, but no setup time on those yet. It’s all together, and it runs and drives and stops, but we’re not at that polished peak of perfection we’d want to eventually reach.

Silverstone is therefore about going out for some fun. It’s not the most entertaining track of the year, it’s all power, stopping capability, and corner grip, not really a place that the pilot can make such a great difference. And that’s good, because I haven’t raced for a year. I’ve got used to the car again by driving it on the road, so at least it feels quite familiar in here again, I don’t get lost looking for switches or forgetting it’s not an auto. But it’s not the same as the race track, and truly throwing a tonne and a half of car at a track is a different discipline. I’m really heading to Silverstone as training for the Birkett, in 2 weeks, so it’s partially car setup, part driver re-education.


I am expecting to be really bad at this. The car isn’t competitive, and I’m going to be more rusty than an old XJ40. We’re in the pre-93 category because of the 4 litre engine. The 3.6 we’d need to get into the pre-83s is broken, duff timing chains, but according to the timetable we’ll all be qualifying together so I will get an idea of how we stack up against that grid. The 93s are dominated by Cosworths and M3s. The fast boys in the 83s are the ex-Tim Harvey Rover Vitesse, supposedly a pukka touring car, with Howard’s XJ12 a close second when he ventures out, but sometimes something small and agile can get in with their powerful cars. Our goal one day is to be able to chase them without looking totally useless. So we’re in the pre 93s, but with a car built to the pre-83 rules, but for an extra 400cc in the engine, and what we want to know is how we’d do against the 83 grid.

The meeting is to be run touring car style, quali and both pre-93 races are all on the Saturday, so it’s a busy day and then a run for home, a short, intense, neat little meeting. To get some seat time, a test day has to be done. It puts the costs way up, and because only Helen is going, I’m paying the full transport bill here.


The grim reminder of the cost of racing is swiftly issued. £330 for the races. £229 for testing. £180 diesel for the lorry. £240 of petrol. Add in tyre and brake wear, it’s a £1000 race. But it’s my birthday, so screw it. And testing does give so much more value for money. If there were no testing it would be £650 or so, for about an hour of track time. Including testing you get 4 hours of track time for £350 more. Put that way, why not test?


A late departure for Silverstone after two solid weeks of prep saw us on site by 11pm. Rain threatened hard. Having only entered the race on Wednesday (a few clubs could learn from this, I entered this event the day before I left for the track, with no late entry fee to pay!) I had no final regulations, tickets, paddock plan etc, but the CTCRC has an active Facebook page where people actually go and write things, and even as we head down the M1 there are other drivers happy to scan on parking plans and advise as to garage allocation etc, so when we arrive it’s straight to an agreed bay with a garage to stuff the Jag in. It’s a nicer, more collaborative way of doing things, that’s for sure.

Testing dawned damp but bright. It had rained like the last days of Noah’s boat launch, but stopped, so a wet track that was drying meant fit the old, worn 888s and go find out where we’re at with this thing, we’ve no wet 888 information and I need to know what they’re like. A Bear and a David basically gave me the last rites and sent me out to see if I’d die. But this was part of why we came to Silverstone, not a lot to hit here.


Testing was surprisingly busy. More surprising was that it took no time at all to get up to speed. The slippery nature of the track, and it was wetter than a nun’s bathtime, meant that there was no time to play into the track or the car, it was catch the slide and be wide awake right now or suffer the consequences, I had oversteer as I left the damned pits. Adrenaline and muscle memory took over, but more than that, it’s being back at the wheel of my beloved Helen, there’s a huge joy to slithering the old girl about a wet track, we’ve always gone well in the wet. She was very twitchy, little grip at either end, lots of oversteer, but still somehow familiar.

Not that there aren’t a few changes here. The worn 888s are a bit skittish. The engine revs up much faster than I’m used to and has so much more go that there is oversteer on demand, anywhere, in any of the lower gears. A couple of laps of this and I’m sitting a bit higher in the seat. But I have long said that at such times a tiny horned devil appears to sit on the epaulettes, in this case a rather alluring brunette who is the car’s namesake, and she makes me press the loud pedal instead of the one in the middle. It’s not a conscious thing, it just happens. By lap 3 your face is one big grin, and it’s time to go hunting.


That said, I’m not quite as decisive as I might be, that engine change and the higher rpm it can deal with has me going for the gearlever and then changing my mind half the time, unsure whether go up a cog, like I’m learning to drive again, it’s not second nature yet.


Nothing out there in that first session even tried to live with the Jag, there were little MX5s and Minis everywhere, Saxos galore, and a few more serious race cars, a 911 GT car, two Nissan 350 or 370Z things from the FIA GT series, and they were all as slow as frozen molasses, the big blue boat sailed serenely past them all. It doesn't mean we're quicker, just that we tend to wake up and get on with it a bit quicker than most in poor conditions, the big Jag inspires a feeling of security. For me though, the rain was the ideal way to swiftly retrain the pilot. One wild run through the complex with the back hanging out went further than I thought, and nearly oversteered off the road, but that merely told me to calm down a bit.


A few damper twiddles for the second session, and the front end gained a little more bite. The rear was increasingly wayward, but we were travelling faster than before so whether we’d upset it or merely trying harder was hard to know. There are spinning cars everywhere, notably at Becketts/Maggots. Whatever you call the right hander onto the back straight of the National. I call it Maggots.


There’s a patch of tarmac there, no more than about 5 yards or so, and there is no grip on it at all, front or rear, absolutely slick. It was as if there were a small and neat oil spill. It’s not quite where the two tarmac types meet, but it is where everybody and their dog was spinning, I saw the front end of more cars there than I did in the mirror. Helen didn’t spin it there, which I think is partially the long wheelbase, and partly the different line I take there, the wide entry that cuts back to square the corner off means the car is a bit straighter there when you hit that patch, but my line was a bit inconsistent. A good number of cars I was chasing had a lovely pirouette there as the Jag snuffled past.

Helen was clearly working better than most, but the wayward tail was keeping my attention, as indeed did the first time I outbraked myself at the end of the back straight, slithering helplessly straight on, but there is all that lovely tarmac run off that I’d seen watching the F1, and it’s amusing to know where you’re going and exactly where to rejoin because you’ve seen it on the tele. Again, there’s nothing out here that seems to have any pace at all, and there is some serious money out here. One of the Cossies I’ll be up against is out, but doing one-lap stints, which to me tells you nothing. It takes that long to feel the tyres, let alone any setup changes. There is a Ginetta G55 now out, that’s quick but not wildly fast, I spent some time chasing it before it pulled in.


The rain restarted, and a swap of tyres to some used R1Rs, because to me these are clearly the wet version of the 888. Even when we ran them as a control tyres it was clear to us that these were destined for wet weather use, and the first session after lunch proved that beyond doubt. Further damper tweaks seemed to help the rear end a little, but with this tyre on the morning’s form turned into a whitewash, there were cars everywhere falling off the road. My brain fell out of my ear earlier, I’m just hanging onto this thing for dear life, but it ain’t half shifting. In the wet, the Porsche and Ginetta found their pace, faster in the wet than the intermediate conditions, but have come to expect that, the Jag loves the greasy, slippery stuff.

And this is inspiring confidence, there’s nothing to get your game back quite like being instantly better than the stuff out there with you. It’s deceptive, because MX5 and Saxo swatting is like being given a machine gun to hunt Bambi, but what I have learned from racing is that nobody ever really seems to care how you got the venison. It gave some good race practice, diving on little hatchbacks on the brakes at Copse should not be possible, but we were doing so and making it stick. Testing is not always a nicely-nicely follow the leader affair, you’ve got to get on with it if you’re going to learn anything.


Last session now, the sun is out, time to switch to the race rubber, the wider 888s with a bit more tread. On the drying track fortunes started to reverse, the Porsche found pace, the Ginetta was faster, and some oval-racing type pickup thing, all live axle and mad oversteer, gave great entertainment, we were on his pace for some time til I pulled my outbraking myself move again. Those Nissan GT things were still nowhere though, very odd. At the very end of the day there, enough grip that I heard the tyres at Copse. A good test day, ideal if it keeps on raining tomorrow. No use at all if it dries. But the forecast says wet, and on today’s evidence, right or wrong, I think we might be vaguely competitive. It’s on for a top 10, which at this, the power track, that would be quite a good result. We’ve managed top 10 in our previous outings and it would be good to be able to keep that going.

A few wandering folk who know what they’re watching come by to offer their thoughts on the blue barge, impressed at the sight and sound of the mad Jag on full assault, marshalls trapped on wet outposts seem to love having something to see. Well, we did manage to give them that.


As the day ends, the junior testing commences, tiny children with Saxos, including a certain junior Dorlin helplessly clutching a flat tyre and in search of wind. A whole flotilla of Saxos under a vast awning would reveal Mr Rolling Road himself lurking beneath. People do have a habit of finding us, these BARC meetings are a lot more diverse than the CSCC stuff we’re used to.


Testing ends, a garage is stolen, and there is barbeque and cake. We like cake, apparently. Neither Bear nor David were prepared to sing, but they did eat the cake. In rolls the rest of the grid, Fords of various shapes, sizes and power outputs arrive, all seemingly vying to have the biggest turbo and the wildest bodykit. I imagine they’re quick, but that sort of racing doesn’t really interest me. Silverstone, with the bar closed, in the rain, is a bit shit at night. A little wandering finds a few familiar faces, including Bellamy, the chap with the BMW M3 that blew itself to pieces in Vanessa’s face at Oulton last year. A gentle winding up is in order.



Some very serious cars here too, genuine BTCC cars for Classic Thunder, another one hiding in the Blue Oval series, the wheels on the black Cossie cost more than my entire car, you have to know when you’re out-gunned. But we have those R1Rs, our secret weapon. A look about the place, and everybodyhas a set of wets, and theirs are new. Damn. Some have a choice of three different tyre types, depending on their choice. Oh. One fella sold his 888s because they weren’t good enough. Oh dear. I think we might be the poor relation here.


Morning dawned with leaden skies and everything PWT. Piss-wet through. Hurrah. As is usual with BARC, sign on is queue-less and swift. I roll up over half an hour early, and I’m out within two minutes. They run sign on like the MG club, all the sheets are laid out at once, race by race, everybody’s name is on there, including the late entries because they must have a printer that works more than once per week. A duplicate set face the lovely signing on lady. You tell her your race, your name, she finds you instantly, and you’re gone, it’s that slick. No queue. Well then.


And then scrutineering was the same, we were early to that too, because signing on is more relaxed the drivers don’t bunch up and there isn’t a rush and a line of cars, we just pootled off, the car passed without comment save as to the sheer length of the engine, and back at base within minutes. They might have done this before.


A look at the sky and the floor, and a tyre change back to R1Rs. We roll early for scrutineering, following the Vitesse, because I want to chase it. He changes his mind and I arrive at assembly to find the M3 of Bellamy and the ridiculously shiny Cosworth of McLoughlin ahead. Seriously, this guy had several mechanics, one of who never stopped cleaning, he had a green rag that was constantly wiping everything, inside, outside, underside, it was like Andrew Jeffery on a nervous day, on speed.


It’s a long assembly area, 32 cars in it. Going to be busy, better set a lap early, or be rude as sin and bully through traffic, but I don’t want to get caught in a race, the Jag’s strengths are corner exit traction allied to a grunty low end to fire us down the straight without too much of that wheelspin nonsense, the other cars ought to be better in the corners and on the brakes, but we’re hoping they are all a bit more peaky on power delivery. And so out we roll.


It was partly because I was struggling with rear grip, partly for fun, but it was about finding the grip, because the grip was there to find, and I kept finding it as I oversteered all over the track, until I found a way that I thought worked. Plus, going faster than ever before, you’re bound to get a bit lairy now and then. I don’t think it looked as wild as it felt, there was a lot of gentle drifting going on whilst sort of telling myself off but secretly loving it.


The odd line into Maggots, the wide line at Luffield, both put you onto more grippy tarmac for a good launch onto those long straights, the inside line seemed more polished.Helen absorbed that tricky bump out of Maggots without excess wheelspin, just a little feathering or a short-shift to 4th. It must have helped, because we were assassinating cars in a straight line, in a straight drag race with Al Weyman’s much more potent Camaro we had an even contest until we hit the 120mph mark. Same deal against a 300bhp Capri that weighed a lot less, though he would claim to be at less than full throttle due to traction concerns. Big girl. I did have to feather for the kink in the pit straight, tried it once at full-throttle because you have to for Dermott's sake, but I didn’t do it again.


We caught a lot of cars, nobody caught me. I had a fair inkling we were doing alright, I hoped we might squeeze into the top ten. As quali ended the long, low shape ahead was an SD1, and I could swear I could see Howard again, meaning we were coming up to lap him, and that in itself is something special, he’s the guy who dominates the Jag series so if we’re quicker than him at this track we’re doing alright. You don’t know though what someone has been up to, he’s the king of finding a space and setting a lap, and there can be another ten cars half a lap behind you setting blistering times, but I was hopeful we’d crack top ten, wet weather has always been kind to us.


I had a bet going with the Camaro driver for this meeting, been winding him up for days on Facebook and given we’d lapped him in quali, shortly before I sailed straight on under braking yet again, we certainly won that bet. Bombing cars into Copse was rude, but frequent, and the blue flags were out in force for us. Copse itself was a beautiful corner. Helen has always been hugely forgiving, so get the nose in, it’s got a tiny slide going, add power, and then massage the car through the corner in the long drift that the old T1Rs taught us, it was great fun that we enjoyed yesterday and did better today. It must have looked good, the marshall at Copse out came to find us later to tell us as much. It was immense fun, I bounded out of the car afterwards like Tigger on a promise.


As the session ends, that big gantry that Silverstone has with all the fancy displays on it, the big BARC shield lit up and the list of the top ten cars gives you the qualifying result before you even come in. Reading it bottom up I can’t see Helen in the top ten at all. Bloody hell, I thought we’d make it in, I really did. I can see a few names I know, BEL is the Beemer, MCL is the Cossie, but someone called HAL has beaten him by nearly a second, that guy’s going well, but we didn’t make it. Shit. Another look, closer to it this time, wonder what HAL was driving, and HAL is HAR. HAR could almost be me. Obviously it isn’t, but that would be damned funny.


Back to base, and the look on the face of the Bear and Officer David suggest we might be right to dream, I caught both of them actually laughing, and they tell a fuller story of relative speeds. They think the Cossie might have been faster, but he pulled it in early and I think I was faster later on. The timesheets confirm the impossible, Helen is on pole by 8/10th of a second, we just took pole on the combined 83/93/2005 grid. Pole! Beat that superfast Vitesse by 3 seconds, Howard by 5. Any of our 6 fastest laps was good for pole, so it’s not one banzai lap, it’s genuine speed. 31 cars in the mirror of the Jag that’s just come out for a play. Holy shit, how did we do that? To put it in perspective, today's time in the wet is the same as we did in the dry the year we started racing.


That seems to be the theme up and down the paddock, complete shock. Nobody expected this, least of all us. And the great thing is, that achievement is appreciated, we are congratulated by people who really mean it, they love that a big old Jag has nicked pole. This is partly because it has now stopped raining and we know in the dry that it will all change, but for now there is genuine acknowledgment and praise of the car’s unexpected capabilities from all manner of sources, it is a popular development. We’re not used to being popular. I’ll enjoy that whilst it lasts.


The track keeps on drying, and the switch back to 888s comes shortly before we’re called, despite prayers to the contrary. Ah well, you can’t have everything. To say this was a meeting from which we expected nothing, we’ve now converted completely into “how do we win this” mode, and the answer is, without rain, we cannot. I said top ten would be good. I think that’s still about right. All I really wanted was to win my bet with the Camaro chap, and starting from pole is a pretty good start.


En route to assembly it occurs to me that a practice start would be sensible. Two of them, the second with a few more rpm and more gentle playing in of the pedal works better. 3000rpm and ease the foot up. Ok, try that. What I can’t do is stall on pole. First race start with a twin-plate clutch. My first time on track in the dry with 888s on, so I have no idea how she’ll behave, we’re still on our wet settings and I don’t know where to brake or how hard to corner, I’ll have to feel it as we go. Not ideal, learn the track as you try to lead a race, but we like a challenge.


Standing at the front of collection seeing the grid assemble, it puts it into perspective, and I am allowed a small chuckle. Banter with the Beemer, we both know I’m dead, but he hasn’t got a tax disc and can’t go for milk after this race. His face when he clocked that I wasn’t joking…


Reality has to hit, and the heavyweight Jag with the stock brakes isn’t going to cut it here. Everybody knows it. I know it, Bear knows it, David knows it, all the other drivers know it. Doesn’t mean I have to accept it, and I lead a brisk green flag lap in the hope that nobody will have time to gather their thoughts. Red lights on, the 5 second board catching me by surprise, revs up.


Lights out, clutch up, it actually bloody works, tiny wheelspin and launch, second, third, why has nobody passed me yet? Cossie going backwards in the mirror, indeed everybody’s going backwards in the mirror, fourth gear, Copse, turn in, power out, check the mirror, we’ve got a gap. An actual gap. Chuff me, we led into turn 1, did not expect that. Hard on the anchors into Maggots, tail wagging the dog under braking, and they all rush at me on the brakes, I cannot stop anything like they can. But, I tried to plan for that on the way in and tried to go part-defensive in case one of them is a diving merchant, she’s stopped, turned, sort of,  but the track is still a bit green, we get the power down better and we’re away again.



For about four hundred yards, when that M3 comes on song and matches pace, then reels me in again, and pulls alongside as I go for 5th, this is an outbraking contest into the complex, with him on the outside. Hit the pedal late as I think I dare, which is far too early, he goes a good 50 yards later, absolutely mugs me. Wow. No way I can do that. Run in close astern, but he’s got a better front end on that, I can’t run out onto the straight as fast, it’s over.


Muffed Copse this time, in too early, but still nothing in the mirror, because Cossie is fighting Corrado. It’s another two laps before the Cossie breaks free and closes on me, and when he does it’s the same move into the complex, but this time Helen takes him deeper into the corner and runs out wide, the long wobbling Jag is a bit off-putting and delays the inevitable for another two corners, he passes down the outside of the pit straight to cut across my nose at Copse, job done. And then really clears off. But we made him at least work for it. A bit.


Corrado now in the mirror, and a more even contest save that by driving defensively I’m a bit helpless,and I’m over-driving in a quest to stay ahead, a lap later and he’s being pushed wide at Luffield, but to do that I’m over-committed into the same corner, he’s got the grip to cut back up the inside as Helen pushes wide. We still have some grip and under power close back on his boot to pretend to cut to the inside for Copse, but we can’t possibly hope to make stick, pull out of it, down to 4th. Damn. No red hat. But 4th’s pretty good, can we hang onto 4th? Well, there is a serious gap back to 5th already, I can’t see them. Maybe yes then. There are still some fast cars back there, but it doesn’t matter if they are faster if they get held up enough early on, we can perhaps hang on in there.



The clutch pedal feels softer than before, which is strange too. Has it bedded in now? Have I already ruined it? But there are headlights in the mirror now, distant, but clear. Either I’m about to be lapped, which seems a bit unlikely, or p5 has found his pace and he’s after me. Head down and push, because there’s traffic ahead already, we’re lapping cars in short order, the pre-2005 grid are scrapping it out in close racing, but I’ve three times the power of the little yellow Fiesta, and closing speed is high, the Jag picks them off in groups of two or three at a time, close your eyes at Copse because you only got three of the five on the way in, and that Alfa is awfully close, pop out on the exit and blaze past, the guy in the 206 hasn’t seen me at all and those headlights astern are definitely gaining.


Last lap board, those lights are 4 round ones, that’s a Beemer, and that means M3, and that means oh dear, but there’s a red Fiesta to bomb, he hasn’t seen me and that sort of helps because as I push through that makes a 2-car width roadblock, gives me time to straighten Helen up out of Luffield and then it’s a short drag race to the flag, too short for M3 power to beat Jag. P4, bloody awesome! Best result here by a long chalk. Nice work. Helen gets a congratulatory pat on the dash.



And so does it prove, mercilessly flogging Helen round with the valves dancing on the bonnet, waiting for the telltale feeling of the car falling over the end of the acceleration band and grabbing the next cog, the dash is wildly confused by these higher rpm and flickers between 6500 and 7000 like it’s on a spring. But I used to change gear at 5-5500rpm, this rpm is alien to me. And it’s not enough, we’re cornering faster, accelerating earlier, I’m still needing 5th gear three times per lap. I need a higher diff. We put a low diff in for this race. Shit.


More worrying is the spurt of water onto the screen every lap. Not blowing out at high rpm, it happens when applying power after braking hard. That’s a bit odd. Engine sounds good, power is fine, it’s not a head gasket. I don’t think. Very strange. Worrying though, there’s a lot of money in that head, and it’s had its last skim. Temp gauge says all is well, so what is this, exactly?


Tyres are fried from lap 4 onwards, indeed they turn to hot jelly just as the other cars switch them on, we used all the grip immediately and I think they’ve overheated. I was pushing too hard to try and stick with the really quick stuff, I know better than that, but track position is king and you don’t want to lose places easily, scrapping for position instead of accepting defeat ate the rubber. A look at the timesheets later confirms it, in fact in both races laps 2 and 3 are fastest, lap 4 has an immediate 1 second drop off that persists for the rest of the race, that’s how long I have on the rubber at this pace. The other cars turn them on about lap 3 and hold that for a lot longer. After the drop off our laptimes are extremely consistent, which is something I always look to after the fact. I think consistency is important, it is not enough to be quick occasionally.



Slowing down lap, wave to our friendly marshall at Copse, pits. Rude symbol to the race winner, Bellamy, as he gets interviewed, he takes it well. Parc ferme, and a chat with M3 pilot, who we beat by 3/10that the flag, and an innocent inquiry of Mr Camaro about the terms of that Facebook wager we made coming into this meeting. It’s fair to say the Jag has surprised both of us. That she’s still wearing steel panels and glass is all the more surprising. He doesn’t have a tax disc either.


Race 2, only hours later, would be almost a carbon copy. The clouds rolled in but failed to drop their load, a tiny sprinkle of water at the very end of the race made no difference at all, whereas what I needed was a downpour with everyone on dry tyres, we could have won that. Maybe. But if wishes were horses…


A little spanner throwing in between, the long brake pedal meant a pad swap, just in time. To combat that water squirt, an extra lean on the head with a torque wrench. Empty the catch tank, that high rpm is making her breathe a bit, and we only have the standard breather at present.



Reloaded and rearmed, more leg pulling of various pilots, but holding onto p4 now looks doubtful, and the question is how many more will come by if I haven’t escaped early on? A check of the laptimes from the pre-83s puts us bang on pace with David Howard, we’re 2/10th slower which is interesting. To be able to hold that XJ12 in the dry, before we’ve completed Helen’s diet, is encouraging. She still has the heater fitted for God’s sake. We can take some comfort from this.


So to the race. Riding the brakes on the green flag lap to bed in the pads, but the pedal feels better now. Grid, lights, go. I made more of a hash of this start, too much wheelspin, which was a shame because despite that I just about held onto the top 3, a proper start would have got up the inside of the Cossie into Copse, and p2. Instead, a tail-chase on that Corrado. Hurtling towards Becketts, the black shape in the mirror is that damned Camaro, oh dear. But as I hit the brakes in tandem with the Corrado, he runs well wide behind me, clean off the road. Strange.


Early lap grip from the Jag means a good exit, and gaining on the Corrado down the back straight we can pop out of the slipstream for a look, he’s defensive on the inside and later on the brakes, I can’t really do anything about that, but we’re making him work for it. Same deal at Copse, but we’re losing this one, he is getting away. Nice try though. And we’re still 4th. The brakes are much better with new pads in, I can go a little later because it feels better, and I reckon this is faster than last race.



The fast M3 astern, wherever he went, reappears a couple of laps later, and we’re a sitting duck, tyres gone off again. It’s interesting that the Jag turns them on instantly, but goes off fast, whilst they all work in reverse, it must be weight at work. I didn’t kill them as thoroughly this time, perhaps, but they still went off in a rush. He’s through up the inside at Copse, couldn’t even defend that to send him wide, and there’s a red M3 a little way back, but he’s the chap who crashed in quali, and we can outpace that one.


Traffic is again a factor about 2/3 distance, some of the backmarkers use the lapping cars to their advantage, once again a 206 pilot pretends I’m not there to use me as a temporary buffer rather than yielding, so you have to be a bit rude and signal your intent, a new skill I have to learn as we have very clearly made a quantum leap forward in performance this meeting and we need to get used to seeing more backmarkers. We hang on to p5,there goes the flag, but there’s a big gap astern, we’re not 5th by fluke, that’s our genuine pace here. And with fresh brake pads we took another half second off overall laptime, we’re now 3/10th faster than Howard. Better than that is that the laptimes are down by a second per lap consistently over the race distance, we hit the same tyre drop off on lap 4 but we’re faster with it than race 1 because we can stop better and I’m a bit more used to the dry. It’s not bad.



Another dose of parc ferme, but then back to base, load the car straight up, tools aboard. Grab the two trophies for class wins at the rather informal prizegiving, and away we go. As the rain starts. Damn. The Bear is unusually enthusiastic on the way home. He knows that his car would be quicker again, and we both know where to find him some more power. The XJS could find a home in the pre-93s that challenged for respectable results consistently. We didn’t think that was going to be on, but we are somewhat encouraged.


So a rather unexpected result all round. We came expecting nothing, in fact we expected to lose our bet with the Camaro guy. Instead of nothing we lapped the Camaro, took pole position and two class wins, hanging just off the podium. Not a bad day’s work. It’s fair to say that Helen has announced her presence. She does that.


For those who like a statistic, Helen takes her 30thclass win, in her 30th year, on her driver’s birthday. I choose to believe the cake was for her, she bloody well deserved it today.




I’ve told David I’m passing this M3 into Copse, I always make a ludicrous prediction. He looked at me like I was mental, which was fair because I didn’t believe it either. But we did, Helen nosed past immediately on the exit of Luffield and cleared off after the Cosworth, which was fast. Took a couple of corners to get my eye in, but then it became vastly entertaining, because the Jag was on the prowl. Maggots again saw spinning cars and yellow flags, but Helen kept sneaking past anything she came near, she was better on the brakes than most, we seemed to have traction and turn in to go with it, and I must confess to hanging the car out like never before.


Part of this is the freedom to do so. Fighting a championship used to mean driving smoothly and controlled, taking no risks, but you never get to give the car a full throw. No such restrictions today, I can go nuts because nothing is expected of me at all, we’re here for a laugh and I had one. David Howard, who I went up the inside of into Brooklands, would later report on the big blue blur that went up his inside with the back hanging out, this was not my usual no-slide controlled approach at all.



Bellamy's Beemer

Broad's Corrado

Weyman's Camaro


Diff swap, fitting the Bear's old 3.77. Two useful tools here, motorbike jack, and a Bear. 


Testing dawned wet but drying, so the day begins on worn 225/50 888s whilst we get the feel of it. 


Twitchy, hesitant, uncertain, and that was just the driver. Bald 888s are a bit tricky.


A Jaguar in a hurry leaves a wake like a speedboat. Another confidence-boosting Saxo swatted.


As the day dries out it's time for the wider rubber, 245/45s. Still on a 16" rim, largest allowed for the '83s.


A last shot, in case I smash her to bits tomorrow.




Helen has a birthday. Cake is always better when cut with barbeque tools.


Lining up for quali on a diverse and eclectic 32-car grid. Aiming for top ten if we go for it.


This pair are our guide for the day, how we stack up against them will tell us how we're doing.


That's a lot of cars, and this is a short track. We might need to set a lap early.


The Fezzer only has 98bhp, the Mini was slower than you'd think, but that black shape is the Camaro we must beat.


This car was next to us in the paddock. Crewed by college students, who seemed to react badly to what happened next.


But Cossie v M3 rivalry for the win is what dominates the pre-93s, and this pair are the fast boys today.




Because we were unbearably please with them.


We might have a better car than when we started. She's really quite pretty.


From the Corrado's view, the over-driven Jag is a bit out of place. We have got to lose the weight....


The M3 pilot seems to do less work at the wheel. We will one day achieve this.


Assembly for race 2 still only has 3 cars ahead. We've not given up yet.


Looks a lot like a green flag lap. The other senses confirm it.


Big Al's Camaro claimed 450bhp, but I don't believe a word of it, and the car wouldn't touch an apex if begged.


Race 2 was a bit less entertaining. Shed a place, but faster with it.