The power track of the year, and a clear victory for horsepower. Or was it?


FTPL Silverstone


Silverstone was a key race in the various championship battles, and we were very curious how it was going to turn out. Power is key at this desolate tarmac desert, there are only four corners of note, and the ability to accelerate and decelerate the car is where much of the time is. That said, the speed you take at Copse, and your line at Becketts are extremely helpful, and it is not unknown to upset the more potent machinery here.














































For our man Comer, cornering is key. He’s up against Drage for the class wins these days, and Drage has a lot more power. We’re not blind, we can see and surmise what the effect and indeed cause are, but that car is much more potent than Comer’s. Comer’s car does corners far better than Drage’s, and it’s very good in high speed bends, so Copse will play to his strengths, even if the straights favour the more powerful car.

Realistically, Drage has no hope of taking the class F title, and that’s what we are after for Comer, so whilst he wants wins, we don’t care about wins, it’s about taking a good, solid haul of points in pursuit of the big prize. When they hand out the glassware at the dinner, the big pot goes to the guy who got the points. A sensible, cautious approach to the end of the season is what we’re counselling, we’ve been there and done it, we know how to collect  trophies, so if we have to put sedatives in his morning tea, we’ll keep him to a respectable, but risk-free pace. Not caring about the other cars you’re racing takes a mental discipline that is not at all easy to learn.














































There is still an outside chance that he could be overall champion, the top three are very close indeed, but he’s bottom of the three and his chances are the most slender, he needs the other two to cock it up. Still, it only takes one poor result, and with Gail on half points and Palmer fond of throwing it into the gravel here, you just never know.


For funsies, we’ve been playing with the XJ40 of Jefferys. Whilst repairing the rear subframe, something so broken that it wasn’t even funny, and generally bolting things on that should be bolted on, we did note that the exhaust looked pretty poor. It’s been played with, but to us that tinkering looked like it hindered, rather than helped.


So we built it a new one. Testing will now ascertain if we were right.














































The test day is a Friday. Race day is a Sunday. Sillystone is too far for us to go home again after, so we’re here for the duration. Preparations include painting the truck and packing a TV and the Freesat dish. If you’re going to do tv, do it properly.


Testing is initially fraught. The electrical cut-off switch is dodgy and takes careful coaxing into life. The rear brake lines, redone at some point in cunifer by someone, have fretted on the bracket they weren’t bolted back into properly, and one let go on the trailer. A quick sprint to the garage playing with all the circuit’s Porsches re-flared the end, and we’re back in business within ten minutes.

















































The car, new exhaust fitted, sounds bloody brilliant, all rasp and snarl, but not tinny like an oversized chavmobile, it sounds like it means business. Problem is, within two laps Matt is towing a smoke trail like a carpet, on full power. A puff of smoke on over-run is from the ruined rings, that’s fine, but this is more worrying.


The circuit thinks so too. He gets told about it, and we’re worried as hell. Freeing up the breathing could quite easily have altered the fuelling, we remember what happened to Bear’s otherwise-stock XJS when it suddenly gained an exhaust, its fuel consumption went through the roof as it simply opened its mouth and agreed to all the rpm in the world so long as it could suck on an unlimited supply of V Power. Whilst this car should be smart enough to compensate, what if it isn’t? A thorough check of what we can, and away she goes again. Same result, and once more called into the pits to be told about it. Just as well anyway, the circuit is awash with Ferraris and Porkers, FIA GT stuff and little prototype-looking stuff that is so cammy that they are louder in the pitlane than on track, Matt can’t get a lap in for looking in the mirror.

















































This time the explanation for the smoke is clear, the car has a beard on the rear bumper, and little black speckles stuck to the paint, together with a hard, rippled coating inside the exhaust tips. Resin of some sort, and it all becomes clear. The silencers, happy enough to burble in our garage, are getting much hotter on track and settling down now, the excess wadding has been farted out, the resin is getting burned off, hence the smoke. Which is why the Bear is getting a sore throat, the sweet smell is cloying.


With that noted we’re happy enough, we can relax a bit. His left front tyre, already on the edge of reasonable, doesn’t want to play any longer, the cords are showing, so we move a rear tyre to the front, and fit a decent spare to the rear.



















































The laptimes are pretty good. We took a look at who he usually races, and what they set here last year. Before lunch comes round he’s well up on that, his high 1.13 is a decent class F pace, let alone a behemoth like this car.


Another front tyre dies, this one well and truly dead, great sheets of tread have peeled off, and it is properly killed. Never seen such damage in such little time, but it’s the tyre itself, those tall 50 profile tyres are pointless, and on a car of such weight and roll they are dying fast. Why no-one has issued an advisory for this profile tyre for the heavy machinery is beyond me – it might be in Toyo’s interests to have us eat the rubber, but what about those people who don’t work for the tyre company, the JEC themselves?

















































Were this any other series, there would be talk about this sort of thing, lively debate, technical advice. It is something the Jag series is lacking, concerns about things such as tyre destruction are generally thrown back in the driver’s face, which is not how I think we ought to be playing. To be clear, a 50 profile tyre on a car weighing as much as this one, doing the speed that the grip allows it to do, simply destroys the tyre.


This is not a difficult thing to comprehend, the car has a certain amount of grip, and it’s at a race track. The purpose to being here is to use all that grip to go as fast as you can. The maths simply gets to a point that it doesn’t work, that speed, and that size of tyre, with that mass of car on it leads to a destroyed tyre. Someone has even gone to the trouble of writing on the side of the tyre what the load rating is, as if somebody has thought of this before. But this car is obliged to use these tyres, and that means ignoring the load rating, and now all the rubber is tearing off the carcass.
















































It is expensive, and unsafe, and if you raise it as an issue you will get told that it’s your car settings or driving style. Or, my personal favourite, to slow down – a piece of advice that utterly fails to get the issue at all. We’re not cooking brakes, or blowing engines, the tyre is simply wearing itself out at an alarming rate. Look further, and you’ll find breaking hubs and failing wheel bearings. As racers we’re all looking for the competitive edge, and the odd tweak to our cars is jealously guarded, but this goes beyond that, this is a fundamental issue. Where is our technical expertise and support for this series? At this point it resides in three or four disparate teams, and relies upon an exchange of information in the bar, and the information never filters up the tree.


But I digress.


The remainder of the day sees the time drop again, even as the smoke clears and disappears, and a further rear tyre dies.














































Last session then, and new front tyres to heat cycle, decent rears, time to set race pressures for Sunday. It goes well, the day ends just as the work is done. Closing time was a low 1.13. Perfectly good, respectable time, that could upset a lot of saloons here, we approve.


The smug little oik piles into his ridiculous Suzuki and screams off to Goodwood, leaving the Bear and I to set light to sausages and work out what to do with ourselves for 30 hours. Annoying Caterham drivers was high on the list, but Bear was also flirting with TVR pilots of the small blonde variety, and the pair of us enjoyed the occasional merciless rainstorms that swept the paddock and conspired with the sun to make sure we were permanently in the wrong clothing.

















































The installation of the Freesat dish offered some Friday evening respite, but there is only so much bad television you can watch. We went to annoy Gail for a bit. One thing I did note, trying myself for size in her car, was just how well you can see out of a B class XJ40 – lots of glass, no seats to interfere with your eyeline, it has remarkable visibility.


Some idle tinkering with Philip’s car to pass the time did little to sustain us through the Saturday tedium, and having attended to the slight exhaust blow from Matt’s car we even reverted to watching the racing, until we discovered that Caterhams, even in the rain, are utterly dull to watch at Copse. The cafeteria demanded that we take out a second mortgage to be served with something I wouldn’t feed a student, leaving us to rue the fact that we were too lazy to cook despite having abundant power. The arrival of Jaguar folk late afternoon, and the appearance of the beer fairy, somewhat dulled the tedium.


















































The obsession in our camp was once again rubber. Philip ruined a tyre in a spin at Mallory, something sharp had completely destroyed a rear tyre, and the remainder were looking thin, so his arrival had a full set of new tyres I’d heat-cycled for him at Anglesey thrown on.


Stew had no such luxury, the rubber he’d paid for weeks ago hadn’t been delivered, and he was stuck on what he had. With all three cars fuelled and ready, we’re done.


Having set fire to the barbie once again, an off-colour and decidedly subdued Webster failed to lift our spirits to the usual manic nocturnal levels. We accepted the invitation of the Doyle clan, and by 1am it was generally agreed that we were all indeed as pissed as a rat. It is interesting to compare corners and cars with a seasoned veteran like this, I still regard myself as the clueless newcomer, and I can’t shake the feeling whenever I speak to Papa Doyle that a) he is actually a grizzly bear in disguise, and b) I’m somehow being tested to determine whether I actually know what I’m talking about. I make no such pretence.
















































7am Sunday, and finally something to do, the paddock awakens to an early signing on, but the cars all fly through scrutineering, no emergencies to tackle, nothing. Whilst this is a good thing, it’s also conspiring to make us feel a bit superfluous. There is literally a ton of spare parts and tools aboard, and other than lending a wheelnut to an Aston driver – which means he stole it, of course, never did see that again – nobody needed anything.


Stewert’s car is riding with us these days, and that means things get tightened up as needed, but other than leaking oil like a badly-maintained refinery we can’t find any faults that we have the spares to address. I mean, she needs a fuel tank, engine, gearbox and probably 6 shocks, but we’re looking for smaller jobs than that…


Senior Jefferys is a blur of polish and dusters, we can see his eyebrows meet in disapproval as he discovers the coffee cup rings on the rear bumper, but as he claims this to be therapy then technically we’ve done him a favour.


Qualifying brings an end to the torment, finally we’re racing. I do like Silverstone’s assembly area, the twin rows of cars make it a pseudo-grid, standing at the front is a little like doing Brundle’s F1 grid walk. Without the celebrities, just the egos. We have managed to get our drivers out promptly, and off they storm.














































Stewert’s car, after all the shunting to scrutineering and assembly, has clearly fouled its plugs, the car is on 8 or 9 cylinders for half of quali, she finally clears her throat late in the session, and sets off after a clearly-improved James Ramm. Ramm has clean air and it takes many, many laps for Stew to close him down, which bodes for an interesting race, because neither Palmer nor Coppock look quick.


Gail too seems a bit slow, indeed from our informal speed trap on the exit of Woodcote, we’d suggest she’s not that much faster than Jefferys, who is having a pretty good qualifying. We do need to get him to be ruder in traffic though, his manners are a real disadvantage.


Comer appears to be faster than the other F class cars. We didn’t expect that to be honest, he’s not got any power upgrades so this is all about the exit onto the pit straight from Luffield, he must be cornering better than Drage, there’s no other explanation. Our three cars are making very different noises as they pass, the high howl of V12 is nothing like the more meaty rhythmic drone of Jefferys’ 6, and Comer’s roadgoing six is more quieter, more liquid version again, the class of car can be identified by noise alone.


Drage’s car continues to flicker flame from the exhausts, and spends more time this weekend with the bonnet up than down, reinforcing our suspicions that his new-found power comes at a high price. There is no question about it, that car this year is much faster in a straight line than before, but it seems a bit delicate. Whilst it lasts, good luck to him. Wish he’d knock that giant dent out of the rear buttress though.














































Palmer is not as fast as we were expecting, I don’t think he’s dialled into that new car yet. Either that, or its shiny newness is making him more cautious, which is both understandable, and commendable. I keep saying, not that anyone listens, the XJS are changing before our eyes, the car has moved from banger to classic whilst we were looking at the laptimes. It will not be long until a full grid of these will be a real novelty instead of a standing joke. Which is how a lot of other series see us right now, low numbers, 2-tonne barges, oil leaks, smokescreens activated by the starter button… But it is changing awfully fast, the standards have moved significantly in the few years I’ve been playing, the quality is ever-improving.


Merrett’s car looks slow through the corner, but it picks up along the pit straight like nothing else out there, the rumours of some 500 lb/ft may well be somewhat exaggerated, but there is no denying the go in the thing.


Timesheets reveal the usual suspects at the front, Stew on pole is as anticipated, it simply looked fast enough, and so it was.


Ramm’s performance impressed though, he takes the class pole quite easily, and the visual gauge therefore that Palmer wasn’t quite on the pace is accurate. Gail is not as fast as we thought, but there are no real shocks.


Again, the by-eye measurement that Comer had Drage covered is accurate, he’s faster by a good margin. What tends to happen now though, from what we’ve seen, is that Drage will get a bit faster in the race, and Philip will slow down a little, if they turn into hunter and hunted the superior power in Drage’s car will see it prevail. At the same time though, it doesn’t matter. Were this race 1 of the year then I’d say fight it out, have a good scrap, if I were out there I wouldn’t give in to a more potent car, I’d out-corner it and show the miscreant that they’ve wasted their money.


But, and it’s a big, round, Lopez but, this is the penultimate round of the year, and the only hope in hell that Drage has to win class F is to goad Philip into an error and a DNF. The orders are therefore clear, risk nothing, if he gets close, let him sail by, settle in and collect the points. I know it’s an ego thing, and any driver wants the bragging rights for beating the other guy, but it’s not important at this stage, the racing part of the year is over. The class wins are nothing to squeak about if the points aren’t tight, that’s just irritating glassware to store, the prize is the big pot in January, and at this stage in the year the more sensible pilot is looking to rehearse his victory toast.















































Should Philip be seen to be racing Drage we’ve told him not to come back to camp after the race. Philip may go and play on the second Snett race at the end of the year when he can’t be beaten, but not until.


Which leaves us with only Stewert – who should also be a bit careful today as he can seal the G title – and one other racer in the form of Jefferys.


The timesheets have him as third saloon. Well then, that works! Only Gail and Darth Pearce ahead, all the class A saloons astern. A D class saloon should always beat an A, but that is not how it has usually been, and with Phil Woods out we’d usually expect him to be way ahead of Matt. We say that with all due respect to Matt, but pre-upgrades he’s never had even a hope of defeating Phil at any track anywhere – suddenly a bit of power and above all a bit of actual practice, and that grid sheet looks very different.


The small child looks upset that he’s only mid pack. This was always the danger, show a flash of promise and he thinks he’s Senna. A dose of reality is needed, and we’re good at that. We tell him we expect him to move forward up the grid in the race, and beat all F class XJS. He’s never done that before, but we issue the orders, it’s achievable.


The weather rumbles ominously, and with half an hour to go the rain can be seen coming in, but it never arrives. The race is dry. We’re already packed away, campKutuka, satellite dish and all, is already stored. The cars are refuelled, levels checked, they’re all done, and with our new-found efficiency the place is suddenly barren.


The race is delayed slightly, a minute of silence on the grid to mark the death of a man I should probably have heard of but haven’t. We’ve no objection to such memorials, such respects should be paid, but a dark part of my mind wonders whether the deceased would want the racing delayed, the horde of racers inconvenienced with the burden of whether their cars will start, if the cameras will last for the extra time as they sit recording blank racetrack for ten minutes. After all, the dead guy was a racing type, and I don’t know any such people with high-octane blood who could get on with the idea that even one man would have to wait even a second to push the starter button on their behalf. A nice gesture nonetheless.


















































As the grid forms after the green flag, Darth Pearce’s car suddenly expires, we’re a man down before it starts.


Round they again on a fresh lap, and this time we’re in action. Ramm appears in sight first, Stewert’s start lets him down, and Ramm has this won from the second he first hoves into view. Not on raw pace, he wasn’t the fastest car, but he was fastest most often, because the three behind him are trying to kill each other.


Palmer ends up off line and running wide at turn 3, his car becomes fully airborne as he flirts with the gravel, finds an escape road and hops the kerbs as if he wants to drive a Dodge Charger. Full points for keeping his foot in, my brain would have been full of past memories and my overalls full of something else. He regains the track and somehow his position.


The pack have parted like the Red Sea around a very slow Merrett, car trailing what appeared to be sparks, and straight into retirement at Becketts, parked out of the way immediately. Only post-race will it become clear, or rather rumoured, that the entire exhaust manifold had fallen off the left bank of that monster V12. I can’t quite believe that’s true, but it was certainly dragging something, very unfortunate for him.
















































Stewert v Palmer v Doyle is an immense scrap all race long. Every time they pop round Copse the order is different to how it looked as they vanished from sight into the complex. Our lofty vantage point offered 2/3 of the track as our vista, but what on earth Stew was doing out of sight must have worked, because Baby Doyle was passing both he and Palmer down the back straight each lap, and yet they’d reappear back in order.


Comer has Drage covered initially, but just one mistake changes that. Drage is his shadow, but Philip is faster through the bends and has it done until a hint too much entry speed at Becketts runs him wide, and the pass is as easy as infant chocolate theft, the Dynorod machine sluices by.


He gives idle chase, but we are pleased to note that he doesn’t do something daft, he takes his points.


This leaves us with young Jefferys, who drops back a bit, then stabilises, then drops the chasing saloons, and before you know it has passed Comer. He then erases the gap to Drage, and he kills him too. By the time the flag drops he’s got a healthy gap to Drage, and is off after a distant Webster. Jesus, what have we done? We’ve created a monster, he’s the second saloon home!


Stew is eventually released when the Doyle machine starts to lay a smoke trail and retires, oil cooler not playing ball, but the squabble has Palmer just enough ahead that though the Lez closes him down there aren’t enough laps left to make it stick.















































As it ends, and we note that we’ve been here three sodding days to watch that, Stew has done the job, he has enough points that he is again modified V12 champion. Not bad for a year he’s sitting out.


Comer has gained enough that he needs only 7 points from Snett to win class F, and is still in contention, remotely, for the overall title. It does rather look like Palmer’s though.


Baby Jefferys is still punching the air when he comes in. For the first time, ever, he looks like he’s been out for a race. He has actually tried. Complains how hard it was too, for once we’re actually satisfied he gave it a proper go. And it shows in the result. Senior Jefferys is circulating the car like Dougal from the Magic Roundabout, a bundle of wonder and manic glee. Watching him trying to hug the Bear was sheer comedy. We’re calling them happy with that then!


Conclusions? Jefferys can go faster yet. Post-race video analysis says he can be a second per lap faster, but there’s a solid base to work with now, both in the car and the pilot.


Comer needs more power, again video shows he’s far superior in the corners, so long as he keeps his head, but he’s getting out-powered for sure. Fortunately I have a plan. He may yet be allowed to have a proper race at Snett. After he’s won the title.


Kutuka call that a good day. Three cars, three undamaged cars, lots of glassware, lots of points. Home for pizza. Roll on Snett!



Early morning at Sillystone. I don't think the puddles are from this car.


We've not been here long enough yet.


I'm pretty sure we used to carry our own cars in here. How we ended up with three of someone else's I'm struggling to recall.


A rare shot of test day without 300 Ferraris in it.


No longer smoking like a battle tank, despite the other similarities.

What a surprise, an R1R that can't stand the punishment.


Have you ever seen a Jag tyre this ruined? It wasn't old.


Testing over, and out come the jacks for a look about.


Just because it's not broken doesn't mean it hasn't broken.


And I thought the song said that silence is golden?


I've no idea what all these shiny bits do, obviously. 


Innocent comment deleted due to sense of humour failure by someone too stupid to understand that this site has nothing at all to do with the JEC.


You know when the big motorhomes pull in and the big dishes erect themselves and track the satellite? We don't have one of those.


It's so much prettier on the lattice wheel, just look!


Katrina wears one of Helen's 2012 rims whilst we wait for the new tyres to roll in.


Unscrew a few things, poke about, you just never know what you're going to find.


Nothing exciting, sadly.


As the clouds roll in, the Bear performs the customary clingfilm repair to Lezzer's window.


Loz Ball's old D class, now in vaguely E class form, in that the passenger seat has fallen out, and someone has stuck dayglo tape on bits of it.


The weather threatened, but never did pay off. This was the sky only 30 minutes before the race, but nada. Shame.


Silverstone's wonderful double-file assembly area.


We need grid girls. Lots of them.


I think he's just been kicked right in the sprouts.


Judging by the look on Darth Pearce's face, he's prime suspect.


Fast in clear air, but Eleanor's weakness is still getting off the line. And so, once again, will it prove today.


Very shiny, lots of time and money and attention spent. Huge power claimed, every modification you can imagine. It lasted to turn 1, lap 1.


Eventual winner James Ramm. We're desperate to say something about ramming speed, but we just can't bring ourselves to do it.

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