This place is pretty dull usually, but it actually produced a decent weekend even for those of us watching from the sidelines.
Bear in mind this track is 4 corners, linked by straights that reward raw horsepower, it’s not like Brands where a really good driver can make a big difference, it is really hard here to beat a more potent car with a half-decent pilot. That said, a poorly-driven powerful car is never any use, and there are some alternate lines here that do pay dividends to those with the wit to go looking for them.
Team Katanga arrive on a glorious sunny Friday evening, a stark contrast to Brands’ epic rain-lashed week of pain. We’re 3 cars up, delivering an XJ6 coupe shell for Papa Doyle, meaning the enormous bulk of XJ40 is in the rafters of the transporter. Fortunate that it fits a space designed for an XJS.
With a summer-ish feel to proceedings, the barbie was more liquid than food, but unusually for a Jaguar event, by 11pm heads were on pillows, leaving the Bear and I stalking the paddock looking for trouble. I swear there were tumbleweed blowing across this concrete desert.
Race day dawned bright and hot, and with the circuit adopting a more consistent approach to signing on these days the unhurried scrutineering actually went faster than at most tracks. The system of definite “windows” of time for each group of cars, with a ten minute buffer between them, worked surprisingly well. Lessons to learn here.
Quali was always likely to be busy, because cars clump up, and the only sure way to get clear track is to be out first. It’s about the only thing we have managed to beat into our two drivers with any consistency, but they do at least try to get there first. Our usual vantage point atop the pit wall for quali offered the usual visual estimation of who is quick and who is not, but you can only tell from here what top speed is like, and this particular spot is really only a measure of engine power.
Diagnosis is that, as expected, the V12s have this on top end. To us, it’s a toss up between Doyle and Merrett for sheer top end. Howard looks quick enough, but if we had to put money on it, it’s one of the other two. Doesn’t mean a damn thing, but we like this part of the day here, you are close to a bundle of very big engines going by at full chat, and it makes the hair on your neck tingle. I can’t speak for anyone else about what other hair it makes fizz, and I’m not doing a survey to find out for you.
Back at base, Comer reports wild oversteer. Which would explain him falling back into the pack, and it’s unclear whether this is a tyre issue. A nagging voice in the noggin as we chew through a costly breakfast, and it’s loud enough to yank the front wheels. A problem at the rear means we check the front, obviously. And bingo, straight away there it is. Broken droplink on the front anti roll bar.
We’re overjoyed, as indeed is he. Not the driver, the car has broken. Odd, you might think, to celebrate a failure, but the car is something we can fix. Flailing around for tools to extract the broken bolt leads to us making lots of Caterham friends, there’s a honking great pair of artics with huge awnings, and beneath each of them lurk no fewer than eight Caterhams in various states of undress. Properly-outfitted crews crawling across these tiny cars, and they have lots of shiny tools, everything is clean and organised, and yet it’s bedlam under here. I sort of like it, there’s a bloke standing in the middle directing operations, this guy could clearly orchestrate a small invasion should we ever take against, say, Belgium.
And they have a stud extractor. Hurrah. Repairs are swift. Comer back in action. God knows how it must have felt out there with that broken. And he’s so polite about it too, where I’d be leaping up and down shouting that my car was definitely broken and we are going to find where before anyone is allowed to eat, Philip was almost apologetic about the small amount of oversteer he thinks was present. Bless him.
No apparent reason for Matt’s off-pace time, however, save that he got caught up in traffic and stayed there. Whereas Dean Sewell out there found a huge gap to play in, all by himself with no-one within ten seconds either direction, Matt was in a gaggle of cars that never separated, and spent the whole quali driving on the mirrors, or trying to pass people. Not how you set a time.
Slowly, however, he may be learning that once you’re out there you’re on your own, and there is no point complaining about difficulties, fix the problem now yourself or suffer. You don’t get another go at it, nobody’s going to credit you extra laptime or give you a consoling pat on the head, if you screw it up, you remain screwed. It’s not the first time he’s done it, we’ve seen him sit haplessly in the middle of a traffic jam before, waiting for the world to sort it all out for him, and it is only after we’ve seen him screw up enough sessions like this that he is ever going to get it. We’re not slow to tell him either.
Pole is set by Patrick Doyle, who will not, amazingly, be allowed to race. Daddy Doyle is enforcing a stern lesson in car preparation, because Memphis Belle has broken with a problem junior should have repaired beforehand. As penance for his sin, no repair work is being permitted, his day is over.
The weather stayed scorching hot, and the race was as dry as a three-olive martini, all the grip in the world.
Howard powers straight into the lead, and there he stays, unflustered and without drama or incident, lights to flag. He does make it look easy, the car never seems wayward, no lock ups, oversteer, just roar of engine that gets louder or quieter as the gap gets bigger behind him.
Lights out, and with Doyle missing,
The big scrap is actually between Frost and Davis, which was not expected. Potent V12 at a power track vs what seems to be a less than perfect class E car that usually spins a lot would not ordinarily be much of a scrap, but it is, all race long. Actually impressive, and we’re not that easily impressed.
Doyle v Hill is another amusing fight, but it’s clear he’s quicker, plainly so. He just needs a way through, but it seems inevitable. When the Hill XJ40 goes missing we can only guess at what happened, no damage visible, but clearly something occurred. But nobody is going to get close to Darth Pearce in the mark 2. It’s unclear to us what has happened to Hill this season, because last year she and Darth were fighting like cat and dog, but this year he’s clear of her by some margin. I know much has been written about “restrictive” rules, but she’s lost more weight from the car, it shouldn’t be slower than it was.
Likewise all those XJ6s haven’t got magically faster, they were already finished, nothing in the regs has suddenly magically made them faster, not a lot of development going on there, so why has that gap grown? She was no match today for Doyle on raw pace, he was faster.
Further adrift, and it’s our pet Comer who is the man on a mission. Once in a while he pulls out one of those performances that has us stand back and applaud, a really good drive. Cadwell last year, for example, or Donington in quali, drives that do give you cause to cheer. This was one of those days. A series of brave, decisive, and clean overtakes, a big handful of scalps claimed, no damage, good pace.
Battle with Connew nearly ended in tears, the blue saloon’s slightly rude move to close the door when the XJS was alongside resulted in a scuff of rubber and a big cloud of dust, but rather than losing his cool, our bearded hero pulls a clean pass in the same spot a lap later. Clearly the car was now working well, and liking the new brake pad material.
For Jeffery it was a rather dismal tale, but then he was due. We’ve been telling him about the race gods and the law of race maths for some time. For every great day you have to expect a greater number of disappointments, they’re not all sunshine and lollipops, you only get one winner per race, and that means a lot of people who lose. You have to take your turn losing, and the faster you are, the harder it is to accept.
A jumped start gave him a ten second penalty, but not understanding the rules the boy pulls into the pits to serve it, only to have it explained that it’s not a stop and go, just a time penalty. Costs himself therefore the full pitlane time plus his static chat with the marshalls, and comes out way down the field into battle with the lower levels of the grid. In his red mist, too much right foot in Copse results in oversteer, and failing to unwind the opposite lock after the big lift off fires the car the other way into a big anticlockwise slide onto the outfield. So far round Copse was he when this happened that he found a gravel trap. We didn’t even know there was one.
The crash does put the rear of the car into the tyres with some damage to rectify, but curiously the giant Jag burying herself here reveals a large girder beneath the gravel that broke the front suspension on impact. Not quite what you expect from the nation’s premiere motorsport venue.
Mixed bag of fortunes then. Comer is one big smile, a good day’s racing and it shows. The enthusiasm is infectious. The boy Jeffery one big frown, a series of minor mistakes adds another year of experience in one go, it usually takes ages to get a jumped start, serve a stop/go and have a crash, but he’s just managed it in ten minutes flat. So it is that we all learn.
We load up early these days. Missing the trophies is a little rude, we try to get there when we can, but we’re loaded and away almost before the applause has finished echoing across this vast concrete wasteland. Another Silverstone survived.
Halfway into the season, and we can reach a few conclusions. For our money the Comer/Katrina combo is still the best class F package in the corners. Not the fastest in a straight line by some margin, and the other class F cars have taken a few steps up in handling too, that much is clear.
But on a good day like this, it’s a good, fun car to play with, which is what it’s all about. The new diff works. The change of brake pad material has also worked well, bringing the cost right down, instead of £200+ to do the car, it’s about half that now, with no discernable drop in performance. If anything I thought the pad had more bite than the old Mintex. We will have to monitor their lifespan.
The pilot too appears to be having a good time of it. Over a year since the last damage to the car, no wild or controversial meetings, a long list of clean passes, and still doing his amazing launches off the line. Fun. It’s what it’s all about.
For those having a miserable day, misery likes company. The Jeffery clan on the way home follow their damaged race car on the Kutuka trailer for a short while. An errant piece of Silverstone’s gravel chooses this moment to jump out. Guess what happened next…
Life sucks. Get used to it.
Repairs required before the next round, but when that is to be is unclear. The next meeting is Anglesey, but as a single race on the back end of the moon, both our boys are sitting it out. Can't blame them to be honest, whoever thought that one up was a bit daft.
To mitigate Matt's woes, the car was misbehaving, it seemed clear that one or more dampers had failed in the race, the car was chirping a rear under heavy braking, and that usually means a wheel without damper control in this car.
That car will be in for a rear end, plus damage repairs, but he's not out til Mallory in about three months.
Comer on the other hand is doing his home circuit - Castle Combe. But he has no damage, and we can even look at tarting the car up a bit. Talk about mixed fortunes.
Combe will be fun. We like Combe, especially in the wet.
When you're low on coolant, why not try a refreshing fruity beverage?
Powered by Pimms.
Getting some sun at concrete beach.
Kutuka's crash test dummies prepare for qualifying.
Assembly. We liked the row of opened doors, but I swear we don't pose these shots.
Qualifying would be busy.
The monkeys are trying to climb out of the enclosure again.
The catch fencing is not to protect us from the circuit....
Still the best paint scheme in Jaguar racing.
Bit low on the front Bob, try a couple of extra spacers.
Concentrate on the fact he's fuelling the car, not that I took a photo of a man in shorts.
Maybe I ought to have people pose for these.
Plug leads that leap off all by themselves, and a car that delivered no power below eight million rpm.
Not a happy bunny.
Kutuka attack the root of the oversteer issue.
Yes, we were getting sunburn as quickly as it looks.
Man in loafers surveys the sweating crew at work.
Don't start, I was returning with the stolen stud remover, OK?
Lady of leisure takes a more relaxed approach to the repairs.
Nice flapjacks too. We mean actual flapjack.
Having achieved all he wanted to with the XJS, Palmer has transferred his affections to the big old saloon.
But he looks relaxed.
Sixty-seven billion horsepower.
OK, a smidge under 500, but losing them by the handful, race by race, apparently.
There is much to learn from this car.
Steel panels, small wheels, glass windows.
But it works, and he uses the car a lot. A lot.
And who would have ever put money on Doyle to win a beauty contest?
But the saloons generally win the paintjob competition these days.
Webster demands his keys back from the valet.
Darth Pearce readies himself for combat for the thousandth time.
The only evidence of the duel with Connew which so nearly ended in tears.
A little rude that one, but we live to fight another day.