Kutuka Motorsport NORTH



2010 RACE 1.



Most-played in the garage this week - we weren't in the garage, stoopid.


Injury of the week - probably fatal barbeque effects.


Helper of the week - The Dermott, the David, the laws of physics.


HELEN FTDS Snetterton 2010












































I should be clear about what the mission statement is this season. We're going to win the overall championship. I have never really cared about championship points, the challenge has always been about doing the impossible with the wrong car. The two race wins with this machine mean more to me than any glassware at the end of the year.


But it’s not about me this year. We’ve a loyal, determined, hardworking team helping us, and they want a title to give to our achievements. Whilst we’ve done remarkable things, I can see their point, it’s not recorded anywhere unless you get the big pot.


So yes, this season we’re after the championship. And for me that means driving more slowly. We built a car that is supremely capable, and I used it to hunt E and G machinery last year, falling victim to bad luck and over-exuberance to the tune of 4 DNFs. At no point when falling off or colliding was I under the slightest pressure from the class I compete in, it was all about chasing the modified class cars and beating them, that was the excitement.


I could, as many people have told me many times, have won it last year, if all I’d done was race for class victory.


This year, to deliver the championship, that is exactly what I have to go and do. And that does mean driving more within myself and the car. No more floating the car through the corners and trying to bust lap times, just fast enough. It is a difficult concept for me to grasp. I can’t decide whether the discipline required to do that is part of the psyche I’ve been missing. Perhaps this test is one I should welcome.













































But it does feel a bit like going to club baby seals. We know this car handles. She’s not the most powerful in the class, but she flies round corners and I’ve been in the seat for 3 years, she and I have no secrets anymore. I have more experience than most of the current crop of drivers in the class, probably more track time than the rest of the class combined. Helen is probably the best car, and I know last year I had many seconds’ advantage over them. It’s like sending a professional runner out at a charity fun run, when they win they look like a bit of a prat. It is possible that the other cars have improved of course. We hope so.


Still, off to Snett we go. Despite begging, pleading, and an offer to perform very lewd acts, the lady on the desk won’t let us test. The track is quiet for the entire day, there can’t be a dozen cars out at any one moment. A row of silent XJS and saloons sit in the paddock, waiting for the call that never comes. Got a nice bit of sun, had a few drinks, most relaxing.


Saturday dawned and out to qualify. The Bearded Wonder had beaten me to the punch, the crafty sod. I had to give Helen the gun out of the pits, dummied a move at turn 2, and outbrake the Kermitmobile at the end of Revett. Not supposed to be possible to do that, D v E, but Mr Facefur likes to play himself in slowly. Helen likes it hard instantly.


Quali was the first time on these new tyres at a very fast track, and though there is more grip, the tyre is also a little bit disconcerting, you can feel the tread squirming on the tyre, there in fact feels more movement than a T1R in a fast corner. Turn in and the car feels like it’s sliding, even though it’s got hold, it’s like one of those sticky things you throw at a window and watch tumble and ooze their way down the glass. I much preferred the dramatic wail and easy drift of the old tyre.


But these are faster, there is no question about it. In a busy quali by the time I was sure I had the feel of the tyre we were in traffic, but I played myself in, and set a decent lap at the end of the session hunting Darth Pearce’s mark 2. Laptime is a 1.26.4, 4 tenths faster than Angelina managed at the end of ’08 – albeit she did that in perfect conditions on a good track with 70kg less and Chris Palmer two tenths off my nose to draft down the straights! Not a perfect lap by any means, lots still to find, but it was always going to be good enough for class D.


And so it proved. 2.5 seconds clear of the next car, which is an age, and drivers already complaining about the tyre not giving up the grip. 4th on the grid was unexpected. I disagreed with the grip complaint, it was there, but at huge cost, the wear on it after just 15 min of quali was unbelievable.














































This was always going to be about the start. We’re 4th on the grid, I cannot possibly hold Palmer, Lezzer and Coppock to turn 1, they all have anywhere from 60 – 120bhp on me in lighter cars on wider tyres. The contest is in my mirrors, Seath and Ramm. Seath’s D car is clearly more powerful than mine, and he does make a good start. Ramm’s E machine is an unknown quantity, it’s meant to be quick, but the only time I’ve drag raced it the driver was playing himself in and getting out of the way.


Lights out and it’s pretty tight into turn 1, I have to position the car so I can’t be passed up the inside by Seath like I was last year. Fortunately the late brake and tight line work on this tyre without flying into the cabbages, leaves enough room for those on the outside without sacrificing any speed. I was trying to be a bit kind!


As we exit turn 2 it’s over. I got a decent run out of the corner and there’s an instant 50 yard gap back to the green squad as Seath, Webster and Ramm fight it out, Helen waves her perky rear at them and she's simply gone.


By the time we reach the startline the green cars in the mirror are a dot, and then turned red – the Bear's coming! I make that 14th to 5th in one lap. Sweet.


I know that if I put one lap in at a reasonable pace that’ll do for fastest lap, but the front three are having such a good tussle I’m still up with them. As we fly down the straight with Palmer and Coppock almost touching wing mirrors there’s a clatter of debris flying up and scarring my car, there’s glass and plastic showering off my headlight mesh and windscreen. I instantly assumed the lead pair had touched and I’d got a faceful of mirrors, but they keep going. It was debris from the saloon start, but at 120mph it's hard to spot which type of car the pieces came off.


Hang on to them for one lap, basically playing the role of high-speed video car, by which time the Bear has caught up with us. No sense trying to defend, we’re not in the same class, he has a faster car, and his target is two cars ahead, so I did the girly thing, pulled over and lifted to let him slide past. It’s not exactly thrill-a-minute racing driver behaviour, but we're only racing D class cars this year, I simply have to obey my orders. Probably shouldn’t have done so quite so obviously right in front of the spectators, race committee etc…








































Lap 3 and the Bear closes on Lezzer. Coppock finally gets past Palmer and he’s away. As the lap ends the Bear goes into Russell side by side with Lezzer, who has now killed his T1Rs and has no choice but to cede the place to him into turn 1 on lap 4. Bear is now right on Palmer’s bumper, and I’m now right up Stewert’s boot.


With my orders ringing in my head and nothing in the mirror – literally nothing for another dozen seconds – I’m settling in to follow Stewert round when out pop first yellow and then instantly red flags. As I head for Sear it’s clear why, there’s a yellow XJ40 on its roof. My thought was Chris Boon, but the tall figure in blue overalls is too thin for that, and unless he was wearing a blonde wig out there that’s Gail. At least she’s out and walking, because that looks pretty dramatic, the ground’s torn as if Time Team excavated the car from an ancient Jaguar burial mound.


That’s it, race over. On countback the result stands at the end of lap 3.


Doesn’t matter to me, that’s full points, my first clean opening round to a season, ever! No damage, no mechanical woes, class pole, fastest lap, win.


Still, tomorrow’s race will be fascinating, 25 minutes, ten added to standard to compensate for today. Half the cars here have never run that long, and probably only a few of the drivers know what it’s like to run a half hour race. I don’t know if Chris Palmer can manage that long without a cigarette?




































Race 2 then, and once more it’s all about the start. I have Seath alongside, so this is a pure drag race. I have the inside line, so he needs to be at least far enough ahead to squeeze me into the corner, and I brake later than he does, so my job is fairly easy, use Helen’s big torque to stay in contention, obey the rpm the rolling road told me I need, and short-shift it within the power band to get maximum pull, just ignore the other car.


And it goes exactly to plan, it’s neck and neck, he’s revving the car far higher, I’m changing up at 5000rpm and holding my nerve, don’t get suckered into someone else’s gearchanges. It works so effectively that we are perfectly side by side into 1, not bad to say I’m fairly sure he has a ported head on that thing. Brake late, hold in tight to give him space, probably a bit too kind as it lets him hang on a bit longer on the outside, but by turn 2 it’s all over again, Helen gets another good exit and I’m clear to run, two hot laps should seal this one.


So it is written, so shall it be done. My fastest lap was lap 2, clear air and travelling at a safe speed, rather than hanging it out and getting ragged, fast but tidy, and it sounds arrogant, but I know as I cross the line that that was good enough, Helen's got fastest lap in the bag, we can already afford to back it down a smidge. And yes, I do actually think of me and the car as "we." Another quickish lap to be certain, ease off to let the recovering Bear sail by down Revett yet again, and that’s it, I consciously ease off a bit. The leaders this time are not falling over each other, and much as I’d like to be up with them squealing tyres I can’t afford the rubber or the risk, let them go.


It is odd how your brain actually talks to you. It’s the angel and devil sitting on your epaulettes, only in this case it’s Dermott and David’s stern instructions on one side, and my aggression on the other, and they simply steal Mr Aggressive’s pitchfork and stab him to death with it, there’s no way I was going to be allowed to push the envelope.


By half distance, other than the fun of backmarkers, it’s getting a little repetitive. I’ve lifted even further, cruising around in the 1.30s and trying to be as consistent as I can be, the goal would be a dozen identical lap times! I’ve nothing in the mirrors, and I’m lapping saloons and XJS alike for something to do.


Gregory made life more entertaining by spinning in front of me, his eyes huge through the screen staring right at me as I tiptoed past him. Baby Jefferys does something similar, but that aside it’s pretty calm out there, like a test day where you’re running an engine in. The lines don’t change, it’s just the speed.


Part of that is counting the cost of the rubber I’m using. After race 1 it’s clear that they are not lasting at all well. This 25 min might be the last I see of my left front tyre.


I briefly slip as I catch the recovering Lezzer, he dropped it at turn 1 and is only 50 yards ahead as I round the corner. I know his rubber will be dead and I’ve been saving mine, mischief takes control of the throttle for half a lap until reason intervenes, let the Lezzer go.


The appearance of Bye and Dorlin in the mirrors is welcome. I wait patiently the few laps it takes for their little dot to become full-size cars, let both through, and then nail the pedal to hang with them. They’re having such a scrap that it seems my duty to get it on tape, so pick up the pace and chase for a lap.


They are, however, faster than I want to go, to hang on to them means taking more risks, because they’re at it full chat. I have to let them go, I’ll bin it or knacker my tyres if I try. It’s hard to consciously let another car go when in your heart you think you could race it, but it’s not my job today.







































Coming across Reynolds towards race end he clearly doesn’t understand the score, and races me. No blue flags, because the marshalls can't possibly keep track by this point, so he blocks me in the bends and has more power in the straights. I outbrake and pass him as he takes a bizarre line into Sear, and he powers back past and blocks. I don’t know who he thought I was, maybe he’d been racing an imaginary blue XJS all race, or had forgotten there were no blue ones behind him on the grid, but my last lap was more terrifying than the previous dozen as this kamikaze backmarker tries to kill me. I lift off and follow. Let me tell you, 1.32 laps are incredibly tedious.


Glad to see the flag before I fell asleep or I lost my patience.


Class win, by a lot. I hadn’t realised how comfortable we were out there, but that no-risk cruise, fast asleep at the wheel, was still faster than the other D cars were managing. It looks like Seath and Drage fought each other and slowed themselves down, I was still pulling away. It’s something like 45 to 50 seconds gap back to 2nd place. The "hot" lap 2 is still a slow one in the 1.27s, the results sheet makes for undramatic reading.


Still, job done, a perfect score this weekend. Ironically, if all goes to plan this year, one or even both of these races won’t count to the final points tally.


Inspection of the tyres is bad news. That left front might survive Brands Hatch, but only just. If I test it probably won’t. This is not the basis on which I was sold this rubber. Last a full season? It won’t do ¼. And that’s without testing! What we’re doing on this tyre I don’t know. I would expect a T1R tyre to last 10 times longer on that front corner than this R1R has done.


Speaking to Ian Drage after the race he was of a similar mind, suffering heavy wear and unable to find much extra grip or speed from the tyre, and equally puzzled why the weight had gone up so much. I had to agree, yes it needed raising, but all that extra mass as we moved onto tyres with half the wear rating of the T1R – check the sidewall figures for confirmation! – was always going to hurt us.


To say we’re the cheap and cheerful class, the cost of doing business at even slow speed has just gone right up. The solution we came up with was to run these tyres until dead, and revert to our stock of T1Rs. I consider it likely that by the end of Anglesey the class will have all reverted back to the old tyre. One wonders if this wasn’t the intention all along.


A successful weekend then, but a costly one. Still, championship job done.


















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Jaguar XJS Racing

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