Kutuka Motorsport North



Injury of the week – still fragile of spine, but it was the loss of skin from all that scrorming about on the floor that made bathtime into that "oh Jesus" moment.


Most-played – Still hooked on Journey.


Helper of the week – well, both McGiverns in attendance, so hard to distinguish. The one thing we can say is that it was definitely, definitely, not my mother.


A different approach to FTDS this time. Writing these entries, whether they are blogs, diary entries, articles, however you see it, there is a danger that you disappear into your own stream of consciousness and produce something that is utterly unreadable by anyone else, so this week we're going to adopt a back to basics approach.


I love Cadwell. Racing a Jaguar XJS here is a stroke of genius and insanity all at once. It’s the most technical, challenging track of the year, it's a rollercoaster without rails, ups and downs, corners galore, even the straight is not straight. It's narrow, there is not a lot of room for error, and that makes it the one track of the year that the driver can really show what he's made of. Even a slow, heavy car, driven hard, can upset something much faster. We have humbled the latest-spec Evo Xs on track days here, crucified Caterhams, embarrassed Exiges, just by being braver.


It's a chance to out-drive the perception of what the car can achieve, and that’s all about flattering your ego, which is what racing is really for.  It’s always been my dream to win here, but to do so in a class D car. The closest I ever came to that was in ’08, chasing Stewert in race 1, and I was faster, pulled out to pass him more than once, had that gone full distance I might, just might, have got through. The red flag that day remains one of my greatest regrets.


I know it’s not really possible to win it in a D class XJS, but as a class we have threatened it a couple of times, John Lock pushed for it in ’07, I had a go in ’08, and unless and until the modified class E and G boys pick up the pace to finally get outside the window of D class potential I’m going to keep on trying.




































But one day, and the chances were always that it would be this weekend, a class E car is going to finally exploit  the power and weight advantage, and simply go faster than physics will let me travel. There is a limit to what I can do, both with the car and with my own limited ability.


That said, heading to Cadwell, despite the fact that the rules have imposed a 70kg penalty on me this year, I still expected to be in the top 3 in qualifying. Last year it was Lezzer, Bear, and me locking the grid on day 1, and this year I have better tyres, it’s on for Helen to get onto the front row. No other driver outside the Kutuka team is going to push hard enough in quali to put even the superior cars ahead of me, we know from long experience that many of the other drivers just don’t wake up early enough to set a lap, by the time they play themselves into this demanding track the flag has fallen.


Our great advantage is that we go flat out right out of the box, we don't wait for the car to warm up, tyres to switch on, just go. The only person to beat in quali, really, is Bear. In the race we can add Palmer and maybe Lezzer to that mix, but in quali, it’s little brother in that much faster car.


With the forecast suggesting rain I might have a chance of even beating him, though the tyres are so good in the rain that the extra bravery I have on him might not be enough.






































Cadwell is all about qualifying, and for a double-header race 1 is really about earning your grid slot for race 2, because you start day 2 where you finish on day 1. It’s not easy to pass me here, so the higher up the grid I get in qualifying, the higher I’ll finish, and if I can put it front row, I’ll be on for a red hat. A red hat on day 1 is almost an automatic red hat on day 2.


If the quali is all about maximising your potential in the race, then the race is all about the start. The startline is not wide, it’s not a massive distance to turn 1, and although the modified cars would usually kill me we know that my car comes off the line better than almost anyone for the first maybe 30 yards of a race. I nearly nicked p1 off Lezzer in ’08 til I accidentally grabbed 5th gear instead of 3rd. Doh. Once you get in front, you can defend a much faster car.


This year there is an extra complication, I'm leading the championship on points. It’s annoying, but we’re actually in a position to wrap up the overall title this weekend, and that means I can’t drive flat out and take risks, I’m supposed to drive safe and slow and collect the points. I can collect 31 points from class D whilst driving round here fast asleep taking no risks, but I want to win the race and beat all the faster cars to make them look silly. Balancing my desire to throw Helen at this track like a maniac to prove a point, against the more cerebral approach that wins the title, that’s not fun. I prefer it when the goal is simple, drive the wheels off it.






































There’s another issue. The Tutu Challenge. Due to a foolish bet from early this year, Stoopid Stew bet that he’d beat me and Bear here, both days. Loser of the bet has to wear a pink tutu in the Snett paddock. There is more at stake than mere points today.


The plan, therefore, is to Golf Lima Foxtrot (a phrase I stole from the police, GLF - go like...) on day 1, get a podium, collect the red hat, and then do a hot half lap on day 2 to get the gap on class D, then tour it in without taking any chances, let the class E and G cars go and just cruise it in to win the class, maximum points, win the title. I won’t like day 2 at all, but it has to be done.  Drive hard on day 1 to earn the cruise on day 2.


A high grid slot means a good qualifying, and a good start is therefore needed on day 1, I have to finish the race high enough to get a good starting position on day 2. I recall what happened to me in 2008, I taken out of the race as I got stuck behind a slow class E car, and rammed off the road at the hairpin.


Happily, rain saved the day this year. A wet and dry test day on the Friday showed what we’ve always known, in changeable track conditions Helen is the car to have, so much more stable and planted, awesome grip, I was all over the Bear (yuk!) all day. Only in the last part of the day with it drying out was he able to get his gap on me, and only a second a lap at best. With a wet qualifying predicted I know nobody else on this grid will get anywhere near this sor of pace.


Both my door mirrors are now shattered, victims of the annual bollard contest. The only way, for me, to a seriously fast time here, is to straighten the Hall Bends as far as you can, they are a fearsome right, left, right, left sequence that goes up and down like a whore's drawers, into a downhill braking zone for the old hairpin. There are bollards left and right, and I tend to lay out at least one per lap as I straighten the road to carry more speed. Trouble is, they’re taller this year, and smashed both my mirrors before the morning test was over.


A rain-lashed race day proved my rain dance had worked, and other than the distraction of whether Mr David’s model friend was going to show up or not, it was game on. I led the Bear out to qualify, and it took him much longer than he’d like to catch me. Three laps in and we're pulling away from the pack hand over fist, it’s drying fast, but then it rains again, which is great.







































Rain late in the qualifying session nullifies cars who take time to play themselves in, it takes time to get the balls to go fast here, and rain means it gets more slippery just as they get braver, and if they didn't switch the tyres on in time they will have no grip. It’s as if the other pilots don’t watch F1, rainy quali means you go as hard as you dare, as early as you can, because if it rains again you’re screwed.


I was actually a little cross with myself, because I wasn’t as aggressive as I should have been. In my determination to apply calm and smoothness to the controls, I dropped a little time. Bravery would have been faster. Only minutes later and there’s a peculiar monument at Park, there's a Jaguar-shaped sculpture up in the air like a mad artist dropped an XJS out of a helicopter. Oh God, not Felipe repeating his 2009 crash, surely? No, his car is silver this year, the only dark green one is, oh dear, Drago. He’s out of the car and walking, but his car is on top of the tyre wall. Oddly, it doesn’t look badly damaged, depending on the damage to the underside.


Red flag, session over. The timesheets give Bear the pole by 8/10ths. I said I should have been quicker, pole does matter here, the inside line to Coppice is critical. I’m p2, but about 3 seconds faster than Chris in p3. If it stays wet, this will be a whitewash.


It didn’t. The sun baked down, the model never showed up, what a let down. Still, p2 on the grid, time to think about the start. Bear has the critical inside line, with Chris right behind him. This is where it gets interesting. It’s maybe 300 yards to turn 1, 4th gear flat out up the hill, if I’ve got nothing in the way. No way I’m going to make it there in 2nd place.


My class D car is 1/4 tonne heavier than the class E cars, and it gives away 100bhp. And yet it's on the front row of the grid on merit. I know we have all got used to it happening, but it is worth considering what has to go on in my cockpit relative to the modified cars to make this happen.


Off the start they are going to murder me, they can all

accelerate much faster. If I sit bang in the middle of the

track then if Bear makes a perfect start there’s a hole

to the left Chris will come through, and enough to the

right to maybe have Stewert come past too, assuming

he doesn’t smoke the tyres as usual. Either way, I lose,

and it’s a day to be selfish.


Chris does make a good start. But I make a good start

too, the odds are we will both out-do the Bear for the

first maybe second, two seconds of this race, the clutch

in that red car is bloody horrible, it’s more aggressive

than even Stew’s twin plate, and I’ve seen him make

starts that either leave him about p9, or setting off like

a Saturn 5 rocket. Money is on him making another

mess of it. Stew as well, hopefully!


I have clean air, Chris will have a screen full of red. He’s

in trouble. We know from Mallory he would have

out-started Alex off the line if they were side by side,

but guess what, he drove slowly in quali and crashed

into the tyres, it’s tough, I’m here instead, ha! Once

we reach the corner, I’m back in the game, this is the

class D curse, I have to get to a bend before the race

begins for me.


As a plan goes it was pretty simple. My execution was

less effective. Of all the bloomin days for Bear to make

a good start, and sodding Stewert as well! I got a

good launch, but Bear made it work, he flies off, Chris

goes through after him before I can remember which

way left is, and Stew goes round me with two wheels on

the grass to run into Coppice side by side with Chris. So

much for that idea.


Time for plan B, apply cornering prowess and see what

happens. Stew gets in front of Chris and they do get in

each other’s way, but as I’ve not fallen over anyone I’m

still full chat up the hill and Helen slices up the inside

into Charlies, a repeat of last year’s move on Chris,

only this time he doesn’t turn in, I’m back into 3rd.

Did I just overtake a class E car for position?


Running wide on turn in to 3 I drop a rear on the grass

and get sideways, hold it, but onto the back straight and

I know that’s just screwed me up. Oddly Chris is still

working out which way the track goes and by running

down the middle of the road I’m still ahead by Park,

what a bargain.


Round Chris curve, hauling Stewert back in, Palmer has

got his act together a bit, and he’s thinking about a look

at me. I don’t think so, not here! Stew is struggling a

little, and I’ve been telling him for years how crap he is

at the Gooseneck. I run much hotter over the hump,

looking to the outside. He drifts out wide onto the racing

line, hits the brakes, and Helen cuts back inside, later

on the middle pedal, and steal his p2 as easy as you like.



Not pre-planned like most of my overtakes, but a rare

piece of opportunism. It was a risk to dive at a

team-mate, but it stuck, got me out of Chris’ reach. Did

I just pass Stewert for position? The E and G class

champions in half a lap? Talk about a “dear diary” day.

Coming out of the corner and Stew lights the tyres in

desperation, I only have to get a little defensive at the

Mountain, and we’re into my territory now, the bollards

fly as Helen takes her line, I love this part of the circuit.

Nowhere else we go is like the woodland section of this

track, nowhere. Bear is well within reach, so can I hang

 with him? Erm, no.


Lap 2, and Chris passes Stewert, but I have him

covered for the full lap until we get to the start/finish

straight, and he simply powers past. I really can’t do

much about it, except hurl the car up Coppice after him,

which shuts the gap again. I make a mistake out of

Charlies, run wide, and that gifts him 50 yards, off he

goes towards Park, brakes waaaaaay too late, locks up

and spins off the road. By my count that means he’s

fallen off at the same corner twice in about 6 minutes of

track time. Lucky he doesn’t have to report to Dermott

and David like I do, they’d have me strung up in the

marquee by the soft parts if I did that. I know full well

that’s game over, lap 3 and this race is done.


I can’t catch the Bear, he’s too fast. Easily. I can escape

 from Stew, he’s already well back, and Chris isn’t fast

enough to come back from that spin and pass me again

in the next ten minutes, that’s race over, drop the flag



Lifted off almost immediately, put it into cruise mode,

brake earlier, a little less apex speed, short-shifting,

knock a couple of seconds off the laptime, I know I’ve

not hit my actual pace yet by a good two seconds, but

I know what the other D cars can do here, and I’m

already clear of that.


The Bear gets ever more distant, I’m watching Ramm,

Merrett, Comer etc, at Cadwell as you come down the

gooseneck you can see cars coming the other way along

the back straight, about 30 seconds behind you.


Each lap they fall back by a big lump, before race end

it’s Roger, then Stewert I’m seeing each lap. I don’t

know what’s going on, because I swear I’m fast asleep

now, and we’re still pulling away easily. Some places

just suit some people, I just happen to like it here. I

can’t really explain it any further than that, but it just

makes sense to me and I struggle to understand why it

doesn’t to everyone, it’s so easy to just let the car flow

round the place and try not to interfere with it too much.


Watching for the last lap board, because only the winner does a full slowing down lap, and I want to play my horns for the crowd at the café, I have to do that on the last lap of the race. It takes forever, the race is longer than usual and we hit nearly 20 minutes, but eventually there’s the board, and I give the spectators the Dixie horn as I crawl round Hall Bends at very low speed. P2, red hat. All I need to know is did Stew get third for that precious 1,2,3 we’ve always wanted? No.


Timesheets say we won the class by 49 seconds despite lifting off. It could have been well over a minute. I really, really don't understand why Helen is so much faster. Yes, the new front springs have transformed her handling, but I swear, swear, that I was barely moving out there.








































Back in the paddock and inexplicably into parc ferme. I do hate it when they do this. The engine’s hot, the brakes might have cooled enough not to cook, but it’s not ideal, and you never see anyone actually check anything, or get an explanation what was happening. I don’t like the secret society part of it all. A horde of hot cars and sweating drivers is generally an uncomfortable and short-tempered bunch. Not my call to make.


Chris is behind me and spitting blood. Front of his car is stoved in, and he is a sweating torrent of swear words aimed at Stewert. Chris hit him in the boot and is unhappy that Stew was racing him for position. I’m not quite sure what the issue is, because I came to a race circuit. It’s that old argument, he’s faster so should be let through. Nobody ever lets me through. We might be racing Jaguar XJS, but we are still racing.


If we follow that logic, we should hand out the trophies after qualifying. And he should have let me past a good few times as well! But it’s not the first time we’ve had this discussion, and we’re never going to agree it. So far as I’m concerned we’re all in it for track position. I’ve made life easy for other drivers a  few times, and ironically usually it’s been Chris that benefits. It’s a bit rich to start whining about people being obligated to let you through though. There’s no such obligation, it’s just not a rule!


Needless to say, when he put the case to Stewert, nursing damage to his beloved paintwork, there was an argument, and it’s interesting to watch these disputes at this time of year, because they do get more heated. I feel a little sorry for Chris, actually, because you do tend to rail against the world when you’ve just had a tricky race. Bear has just beaten him by half a minute, and it’s made worse because he’s had a really crappy day so far and it’d be nice to blame somebody else. It’s just a game. Sometimes you lose. The answer is to work out why, and try again.


Back to camp, and there was an audible squeaking from the car as I went to assembly before that race, so wheels all off, check of brake pads, waggle hubs about, check for anything bust, leaking or deceased, but nothing is apparent. Throw it back together, refuel, rearm, and we’re ready for another sortie.


For now, time to kick back, cook dead animals, drink beer, and forget about the racing til the morning. A successful day, 3 class wins, 3 fastest laps, 3 class poles, perfect score for the whole team. It’s not our first, and it’s not our first 1,2, 4, but it’s our best ever finish at this track, and we can celebrate that!


Bright sunshine. Damn.

Getting monstered by the modified cars off the start...







Lap 2, and Helen is not playing ball with the lightweight ruffians. If you want to try to pass me, work for it.








Race 1 over, cars all intact. Well, red and blue are, the white one now has a new rear end modification after Palmer's mistake.


...and lining them back up for the overtake. Lyddall falls victim to Helen at the Gooseneck.


Chasing the Bear at Hall Bends. Some bollards still standing, for now...


It's this way, dopey.


Lonely, I am so lonelyyyy....


Aaaallll by mysel-el-elf, don't want to be aaaall byyyy myself....

Helen has a lonely run, winning the class by 49 seconds despite lifting off on lap 3.


Class D, E and G champions in line astern. But both E and G are in Helen's mirror, and that means she's in front of them. Aww.


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Jaguar XJS Racing

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