Jaguar XJS Racing

From the Pitlane








Snetterton opener



Kutuka North fielded the new and substantially reduced JEC-support crew for Snetterton. Gone are the Lyddalls, the cars, and the McGiverns, all now held in reserve for our own race efforts.















































Instead we dispatched the northern pairing, with Comer’s championship-winning class F car, and the annoyingly-smoky Lister XJ40 of Matt Jeffery, with a spare car shoved in the back of the truck just in case, the undefeated “Vanessa” for use if one of our pilots had woes.


First race weekend of the year usually goes a bit wrong somewhere, but this time we were prepared for most eventualities. Of course it would be all the other eventualities that struck.














































Comer’s car had very little development other than basic maintenance. As he’s not planning to do all the races and this year isn’t a championship hunt, the car is as she left off last season, other than a few bits here and there to keep her running properly. A recent shakedown at Cadwell followed unexpectedly-extensive welding to the screen surround, but other than resealed hydraulics throughout and the replacement of a destroyed radius arm bush, she was in familiar shape.


She is nursing a new symptom, however, an electrical gremlin that strikes unexpectedly, and caused a cut-out of power at inopportune moments. A box of parts to swap to try and find that problem looked, to us, like our biggest headache.














































With rivals likely to bring substantial upgrades it was expected to be a less-dominant weekend than perhaps we’d become accustomed to seeing, but with the emphasis on fun and smiles per hour, we’re not complaining. When it comes to championships, been there, done that, got too many t-shirts, and it’s not always that enjoyable.


The Lister has been a right pain to prepare. All the right parts, in all the right places, but she will not comply, just plain awkward. The entire engine bay has been stripped back, painted, and reassembled, with new seals in the brake callipers throughout, and a reworked bottom end in the engine in an attempt to correct the damage caused by an overheating incident last May.
















































The latter has simply not worked, you can’t polish a turd, and the car is still down on power and leaving smoke like a refinery. The only thing that has really done the trick we expected is the long-awaited suspension mods to finally allow both front and rear camber, with the addition of 17” rims and 235 rubber.


So it was then that we always anticipated a rather difficult weekend, but not quite as it occurred.













































In testing both cars went well. Snetterton in April has, over the years, frozen us solid, soaked us to the skin, and given us significant sunburn. This weekend gave us all three at once, plus fog, and high wind. Oh yes, and occasional hailstorms. Testing was what you might therefore call variable conditions.


Joined by Webster in Kermit, the day was rain-lashed and bone-dry every twenty minutes, meaning our three heroes got lots of practice in case of rain, and bugger-all running in what turned out to be the prevailing race conditions, because after this test we didn’t get a wet track again.














































The day did provide a few interesting highlights though. There was a moment that did give us some pause for reflection. A small boy in a giant blue XJ40 going up the inside of a pink Porsche 911 in the rain around Coram is a bizarre collage of images, and it only gets stranger when you consider the Porker was being driven by someone calling himself Jay Kay, who we understand to be a musician of some kind. It’s an odd way to spell “Jake” but dyslexia should never be laughed at.


Our driver briefings were as thorough as ever. “Philip, it’s wetter than last time you went out” was as deep as it gets. Well, when you’re dealing with a pilot who’s done more of this than you have, what else is there to say?












































Driver feedback proved frustrating. What’s the car doing, does it understeer, oversteer, what? No, neither. We give the small boy-child a shake and see if there is more information in there, but that’s all Matt has to offer. It must do one or the other, because they all do eventually. If they do neither then you can go faster, that’s how we roll. The elder statesman is more thoughtful in his feedback.


A new boy in the ex-Doyle coupe was around for testing, the engine bay in that car a wild jamboree of colours, but all beautifully finished, and with a few interesting touches that I’ve not seen on all that many of the XJ6s. Not that I know what the hell I’m looking at with these old girls anyway.














































As the day settles and in roll the remaining cars, a Marcos towed by a giant barge of an old Bentley Mulsanne S drew our attention as best tow vehicle ever. Just the right amount of neglect on it, faded grandeur is a tricky one to pull off.


Race day showed bright and breezy. Dry with occasional showers and heavy hail to sting wind and sun-burned skin. With both cars readied the night before, a late and relaxed start to the day gave us plenty of time to mull over the concept of breakfast, a rare beast on race weekends for the last 5 years.













































Chris Pizzala makes his first appearance in his own class F machine. It doesn’t look like a top flight class F machine yet, but they do take time to make into your own car and I’m sure he’ll have a fun developing it into something more to his own taste as the addiction takes hold. We reserve the right to give him an obvious nickname based upon a contracture of his surname.


The Drage machine comes with tales of serious work over the winter. You never know how much to believe of the rumour mill, we prefer to see it with our own eyes and make our own diagnosis. Whatever the truth, none of the developments are yet aimed at fixing the battered bodywork, but expectations are for something with serious straightline speed. We quite like that idea, because we like to play the underdog, it’s more satisfying when life is difficult.











































Papa Doyle sports a new class B coupe. It bears all the signs of a car that is still being finished, but it’s there, and he could drive a herd of cows if you put a seat on it.


V12s are thin on the ground, but then the Jags are generally. 3 in G with the addition of David Howard’s XJ12 that slaughtered everyone at the end of last season. 2 in E for the Saturday as series stalwarts like Chris Palmer go elsewhere to get their racing thrills. 4 in F with the addition of Pizza.


Saloons are ever scarcer in number, 6 on the list, and they are all in B, but one. The addition of XJ8 and XK8, Aston DB7s etc to the regs have produced… entrants in any of those classes.















































So only 15 cars line up for qualifying, and it’s a sad sight. This assembly area used to bulge with two full grids, I remember lining up here and the cars having to queue up out of the gate to fit them in, and that was just the XJS. Now the combined grid doesn’t take up half the space. With no Kutuka, no West Riding, no Palmer or Hill, a lot of the big-hitters are simply not here. They are all out there racing this year, but not here. The question as to why ought perhaps to be asked.


The depleted Jag field is therefore joined by a motley collection of other cars, that pink Porsche is here, a Mk1 Capri, and, terrifyingly, Caterhams. A swift driver briefing reminds the Caterhams that if they dive on Jags in braking zones they get killed.















































Quali was interesting to watch from the sidelines. Howard was clearly fastest, Baby Doyle hampered still by the crackers idea of running T1R tyres on the front. Ramm and Webster an unexpectedly close duel, 7/100ths in it at the end as the Bearded Warrior finally got the front end working on that car.


A drag race between Drage and Ramm was interesting. I’ve watched that silver and orange car scamper away in my windscreen with alacrity, so to see such a tight contest between the two spoke to either a slow Ramm or a fast F class. You can never be quite sure. The Drage machine also looked better in the corners than we’ve seen previously. He did appear to have found a little time, whereas Comer lost a great deal of his and was significantly slower than his outing here a year ago. The F class gap in quali was substantial.
















































Jefferys was going well, he brought it home 2nd in class, which given the leader was the ex-D car and ballistic missile of Derek Pearce wasn’t too shabby.


The race, sadly, was dry. After an eventful start Howard took the lead and ran away. Ramm barged into second by rubbing it along the Mk2 of Pearce after he was baulked by the slow launch of Howard. Baby Doyle chased, but with T1Rs on the car now all round he was a sitting duck and fell prey to Webster. Even Drage briefly chased him. Pizzala toured round slowly from the very first corner with brake failure.















































Taylor made himself some elbow room off the line, tagging both Jefferys and Comer, the former immediately experiencing wild car imbalance and dropping off his own pace.


Senior Doyle ran briefly in 4th before his clutch died and he retired, and Drage shortly after with his own brake failure, both Dyno-Rod cars now up a certain creek... With only 12 runners left, and a 3-mile track, this turned into the most boring race ever. Nobody but Paul Merret raced anybody else for the rest of the day, Howard phoned it in from the front as Ramm earnestly strove to close down a car which could clearly go far faster. That said, the closing stages got closer as backmarker Bob came into play, and perhaps the V12 started to measure the 20 minute distance.















































All in all though, Gods help me if this wasn’t one of those races that you’d pay not to watch again. Every car had 400 yards available all to itself, and it looked like it. Only Paul Merrett did anything of note, starting dead last after his clutch hydraulics died on lap 1 of qualifying, he powered from 14th to 4th as that big V12 simply snacked on the smaller engined machines. 518lb of torque claimed, and it looked like it, though a drag race against Patrick down Revitt suggested otherwise, the T1R-shod machine’s inferior corner exit ought to have left it a sitting duck, but didn’t.


Sadly for the Merrett assault, the car started to cough and fart 2 laps from home with what looked for all the world like fuel surge issues, and indeed it would transpire afterwards that the car had indeed sucked its fuel tank dry, a little under 9 gallons in 20 minutes. Good numbers on the power stats, but Christ on a bike, how much fuel to do it?















































Comer took the class win, though a wild moment at Agostini on lap 3 suggested something wrong with his machine, and his pace fell off by some 3 seconds thereafter. He complained of oversteer, and it looked like it. Plus, the misfire was back.


Jefferys took 3rd in the saloon race, but complained of the car yawing viciously under braking after that first-corner impact. A quick test by yours truly after the race showed him to be absolutely correct, breathing on the middle pedal pulled the car hard left and locked an offside rear tyre. Problems.
















































Repairs at Kutuka consisted of diagnosing the problem and confirming that it couldn’t be fixed. He claimed it began immediately upon Taylor hitting his rear wheel, but with no suspension damage it was clearly a coincidental brake hydraulics issue, the super-old XJ40 system isn’t used by anyone else, and there’s a reason for that. We cannot fix that trackside. Options were simple. Go home, or race it as it is, but be careful as hell on the brakes. So long as you know what’s under your foot, you can deal with an imbalance, even a fierce one. Race carefully, stay out of trouble, and you can still go and play.


Comer’s car on the other hand was more simple. The diff is screwed. We saw the moment that it finally gave up, or so we thought, but with a wheel on the deck you can spin the other freely, the guy is trying to race with an open diff, and that doesn’t help at all.



















































Memories of my traumatic Mallory experience, a sitting duck for anyone with grip, briefly haunt me. Nothing we can do for that either, just live with it. An embarrassing start to the season then really, of the two cars one won’t stop and the other won’t corner. One is leaving a smoke trail like a battle tank in combat, the other occasionally stops working entirely for no good reason.


A look around the paddock does however suggest we’re not alone. 2 Dyno-Rod cars with plumbing woes, without any brakes, Papa Doyle off home to replace a clutch, Baby Doyle without tyres, Ramm with body damage, literally half the grid is in trouble.

















































Race 2 was better. Run on the 200 layout instead of yesterday’s 300 it meant a fresh quali, and a mile less track to spread the cars over.


Quali had Comer miles off the pace and it was unclear why. Matt is throwing his car into corners at higher speed than usual to avoid braking, and being somewhat surprised to find it sticks, that camber change allowing more grip than he’s used to seeing and in a perverse way the lack of braking actually assisting more with his development as a pilot than a year of trackdays. He still out-qualifies an off-form Webster, who should be thoroughly ashamed of himself. An excuse about a late night drinking wine by himself in his van was dismissed as self-inflicted harm.

















































Doyle beating Howard in qualifying raised immediate suggestions about bags being filled with sand. Doyle may have a set of R1Rs for the first time in months, but there are suspicions thoughout the paddock about whether this is a true result or the machinations of a master of confusion. I don’t much care to be honest, we’ve taken enough flak over the years for assumed tricks and games and subterfuge that I’m damned if I’m going to join in such things myself.


Comer returns with a rear wheel on fire. Three cool wheels, one red hot and pouring smoke. A collapsed wheel bearing is swiftly found and the entire upright replaced. That explains the lack of pace, in fact to get 2nd in class with all that friction and a car that was wildly oversteering with a self-steering rear wheel ain’t bad.
















































Repairs allow 4 wheels back on his wagon, but sadly that won’t fix the diff, or that misfire. Occasional hailstorms continue to beat down. There are moments that stick in your memory. For me, this meeting will forever be indelibly inscribed for just a few minutes of time. Crouched alongside the Comermobile, in bright sunshine but with the hail beating down at a stinging pace, the hot metal of the removed wheel, brakes and upright hissing and steaming around us, drivers huddled beneath the awning as the Bear and I beat this car back into action. In 24 hours’ time I’ll be pushing papers around an office desk, and that doesn’t seem somehow right.


To the race, and it was a much better deal this time round. Howard and Doyle picked up and cleared off by a lot immediately, so much so that after about five laps they weren’t in the same race at all. They diced with each other in pretty amusing style until Howard made a decisive break for freedom and cleared off, sadly doing nothing to suppress the suggestion that he was merely toying with the opposition. Doyle’s pace was good though, nothing wrong with his speed, but that XJ12 was simply faster.


Ramm had a lonely run in 3rd, and Pearce a similar afternoon, neither of them really got a race to speak of, set off, finished, saw no-one in between.















































Despite that, several duels emerged. Drage initially set a good pace and dropped Comer, then threw it completely off the road at Coram for no reason we could immediately see. Back on track he closed on Comer, but the pace wasn’t there, the straightline difference was gone, and despite Comer’s diff woes there was a pretty decent fight of it. Comer dropped it onto the dirt just long enough at Russell (or whatever you call that corner they ruined now) just enough to ruin his drive out of the corner and let Drage pass, but they were then nose to tail to the flag. The deduction, right or wrong, for those of us standing atop the chilly mound of Agostini had to be that something on the car was no longer functioning as it had earlier in the day. It made for good sport though.


Webster was locked in perpetual torment with Taylor and emerged the victor, he’s a wily Beard when defending, and when his hangover has faded. Jefferys, despite the braking issues, wrestled the car round with aplomb, his Jedi training is coming along nicely, and entertained with a lengthy battle with the monster we call Doyle
















































To say what mechanical maladies they were carrying, this was a much more satisfying race for the junior Kutukans. Philp actually leads the class F and XJS points table at this point, Ramm leadsE, Howard G, and Darth Pearce the overall saloon and joint championship table, we think. Hometime. We have a to-do list for each car, and within 24 hours of that race both were already in pieces.


We are aiming for a step up for Brands, where the two will be joined in action by Vanessa, appearing with Stewert at the helm in a 2-driver event. We were tempted to enter her into the JEC race on the Sunday in order to start dead last, but of course she’s not legal for the series, which puts the kibosh on that plan.







Small man in gimp suit attempts to shield the Bear from another random hailstorm.









A very high standard of presentation from the new boy, who we have named Spiderman.





Accidentally left this on after the Cadwell playtime.


I think it was faster with it on.





Some of the grid for the V8 race.


I would have quite happily climbed into any one of these cars, they all sounded like a rockfall onto the felt roof of a sturdy hut. A hut full of dinosaurs.








It was amusing to watch the Jags come into assembly, because without knowing it, all the drivers lined up their cars as if for a photo shoot.








At least the Kutuka juniors have learned the trick of getting themselves out to qualify early.


These little lessons are hard-learned but easily forgotten.


















For those wondering why Merrett is dead last - clutch master cylinder failure in race 1.


Don't worry, the Kutukans had one in stock for him.









The big cats line up for race 1.


What's really distressing is that actually this is about it, Bob Beecham has parked funny, nobody else is coming....








The rain was so sporadic but so heavy, that the paddock kept turning into one of those reflecting pools.









Three very different cars take the top 3 spots in quali.


But Darth Pearce's qualifying heroics can't quite translate into the same kind of race pace, this car dances on the edge.


Bit of a shame really, because he may well be the fastest of us all.










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And yet barely a mark on the MkII he rubbed it down.


After first-corner excitement though, a fairly dull race for Ramm as he chased that very swift XJ12.











Fast and getting faster, but look carefully and you'll note that this car has thrown up.


We like these candid shots as the cars come back in, before anyone can clean off the evidence.











A man who understands that there's a lot of weight in the wiring.


And who makes us appreciate Mr David's neat and thoughtful work all the more.











Senior Doyle's new and shiny coupe.


We noted to his long-suffering support crew that it was indeed most shiny and presentable.


"Give him time" they opined, with a twinkle. 











Quali for race 2.


Drage's bonnet is open so often these days that fellow competitors are asked not to cough, whistle or snap their fingers nearby in case it pops open all by itself.











New bonnet mascot for James Ramm.


We suspect it might hinder top speed.











"Now then Matthew, I've only just polished this, but do your three laps and bring it back in, because it will need doing five times more before the race."


Daddy Jefferys might have an obsession.











And this is why we named him Spiderman.


The colour scheme of the car only made it worse.











Broke that!


The source of Comer's qualifying woes.











Best weather of the whole weekend for race 2.


When you look at this occasionally drab line, ol' Beardy's eye-burning paint scheme suddenly makes sense.











From this angle it's a classic JEC meeting, a variety of shapes, sizes, colours and abilities, it's like a bizarre Benetton advert, with Jaguars.











But from this angle the sad truth becomes clear, there aren't any more cars.


It is getting easier to watch them go without us.











Back home, and already unloaded, the weather salutes Vanessa in suitable style.


And we're back in the garage.










Jaguar XJS Racing

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