Helen pops her cherry with the Classic Touring Cars.
The rebuilt Kutuka 6-pot car “Helen” broke cover this weekend for her first racing action of the season. As it was her first race with the Classic Touring Car Racing Club, she was entered into the pre-93 series, despite our aspirations to get into the pre-83 Group One series.
The rules for the pre-93s are much easier to comply with, pretty much any XJS currently in action would slot straight into their grid, whereas the pre-83s are a little more selective, so we opted for the easy route for the first time out.
The meeting was a double-header, all on one day, and televised by Motors TV, so it was a glossy, busy affair. There were 32 cars on the pre-93 grid, the biggest race we’ve stuck a Jag into for some time, and boy does it get busy in the mid-pack.
The entry list revealed a glut of M3s, Sierra Cosworths, and it did dawn on us that essentially we were pitting a class F XJS with a shiny paintjob and a nice exhaust up against what we might have to accept was superior machinery. The only Jag on the grid comes in over 200kg heavier than the top cars, and is giving away well over 100bhp. Oh dear.
Winning this wasn’t therefore ever on the cards, midfield at best really was what we expected. We optimistically aspired to two things: a top ten finish, and to break the class lap record. The Jag is in is the top class A, due to engine capacity, and as the only car in that class there was a pretty good chance of winning the category. Instead of settling for that we thought it might be fun to steal David Howard’s lap record from one of his old sorties with the pre-93s in that monster XJ12, get another Jag on the score sheet. For whatever reason that record wasn't actually at all quick, and really ought to be very achievable.
Things did not quite go to plan. We did something we have long criticised others for, which was no testing. The car shook down at Combe last week, and having fixed the snag list we decided she was fit for combat. She wasn’t. Chronic understeer and fading brakes, plus a rusty driver who hasn’t seen Mallory in 2 years prodiced a very poor laptime in quali, good enough for 17th on the 32-car grid.
The race went better, but also far worse. A decent opening lap proved the Jag out-starts the more exotic stuff, but the brakes disappeared on about the 5th lap, the pedal went to the deck heading into the hairpin. Which was interesting, but with the TV cameras on you, you don’t crash, nor do you retire the car. Ten laps of Mallory without effective braking does get exciting.
By rolling off the power very early, treading very lightly on the middle pedal and throwing the car into Gerrards, in an attempt to cool what was left of whichever brake calliper was still operating, they recovered enough that the same trick would just about slow the car enough for the essess, and it even looked for a while as if we might catch the Tomcat ahead, but it was not to be. Coasting into corners does not make for a fast laptime.
Helen came in 10th from 32 starters, thus squeaking that top 10 finish despite her woes. The laptime was just enough to steal the lap record for the class by 3/10th. More by luck than judgement, and it’s hard to celebrate such a poor laptime, but the results sheet therefore says she’s the fastest class A car they’ve ever had at that track. For a car with no brakes and an aversion to turning corners, most people would call that a result. We’ll do so too, albeit with tongue firmly installed in cheek.
Replacing the master cylinder trackside sadly only proved that the spare master cylinder was every bit as dead as the one on the car, and we withdrew the entry to race 2.
The day did answer a good few questions though. Can the Jags compete with the pre-93 boys and the Bavarian bombers that populate that grid? Yes. Of course they can. If a class F car with a set of tyres and an exhaust can come tenth, then a decent modified-class six or twelve can play at the very front here.
Is there a home for the Kutuka Jaguars in this series? On the face of it, yes there is. We need make only a few small changes to Helen to get her into the pre-83 series, and Christine will fit neatly into the pre-93s and be competitive out of the box. Vanessa too, come to that.
Even an old XJS with a set of 888s, it seems, can still travel quickly enough to find a place to play.
A cautious foray therefore, and one in some ways to forget, but we’re happy enough, we’re not completely at sea, and we can build on this, which was always the plan. Next rounds for us come in the form of a double-header at team favourite
Top ten and the lap record?... I'd need to find 3 seconds per lap to crack David Howard's time, over and above anything this car has ever done there. That might be a bit much, but we didn't make the move to this series because it was easy. Challenge accepted!
JAGUAR XJS RACING
Scrutineering was a free for all, but it worked.
Heading out for my first qualifying with Helen since October 2010, and more nervous than a red shirted extra from Star Trek.
She did, however, attract a great deal of attention, the only Jag on the grid, new car to the series, and definitely NOT an M3.
The appearance of the red toolbox of death never signals good things happening.
A great effort from the team couldn't overcome a defective component.