It’s been an odd year so far and somewhat disheartening with the defence of my Jaguar Saloon title getting off to a poor start when I missed the opening two rounds due to transport problems. I wasn’t too worried, as this season only ten of the thirteen rounds will count but it did take away any room for further problems.
We then went to Brands Hatch and in fairly terrible conditions I qualified 3rd in class and finished 2nd after a good race with Kevin Doyle, but importantly I had beaten several of my main rivals from last year. In round four the next day in near perfect conditions and starting on row three I was hopeful of better things. A great start saw me on the bumper of the Doyle XJ6 coupe and then a slight mistake exiting Clearways saw Dave Bye in a similar car getting inside me on the run up to Paddock.
We were still side by side having gone round that daunting but brilliant bend, round Druids hairpin and down towards Graham Hill bend where the left hander would favour me, when my car lost all power forcing me to retire! In the event it turned out to be the HT lead that had parted company from the coil, the first time I have had a mechanical DNF in years.
Such is life, but it meant I had only one decent points scoring round from four!
Next we went to Silverstone where my XJ40, which is slightly down on power and considerably heavier than the XJ6s and MkII of my rivals, is at a disadvantage. Third in qually was about the best I could expect but soon after the race began I was up to second and defending hard from Doyle, Pearce in his MkII having created an unassailable lead. Lap after lap I was able to hold Doyle off, allowing him to pass on one occasion knowing that he was out-braking himself, I quickly recovered the lost ground. So it continued until eight minutes from the end when he once again tried a dive up the inside at the very fast Copse right-hander. I left two car widths off the apex in order to avoid a collision as he locked up but he still managed to spin me out and down to 9th before I recovered and took up the chase again. Third in the saloon class was the somewhat disappointing outcome.
More transport problems caused me to miss the Anglesey round and so at nearly half way through the season I’ve only had two decent points scoring rounds – aaaarrrrgh!
In July we went to Castle Coombe where bizarrely, after eleven years of racing, I was making my first appearance. Qualifying went well considering I had not tested, was bedding in new brake pads and had to replace a rear nearside tyre that also needed scrubbing in. So my 7th overall in the 21-car grid and 4th in class was not too shabby especially when less than a second split 3rd to 8th place
I was confident that around half a second was to be gained in the first race on Saturday now that my brakes were functioning better. So it proved to be, though a four car sandwich at the start saw some paint swapping on both sides of my big Jag and the loss of a door mirror cover. A great race saw some of the leaders fall over each other and the leading saloon encountered mechanical woes. I recovered from 8th early on to take 7th and get up to 3rd in class and eventually finish 4th overall. Not bad for my first time at Coombe.
The next day proved to be the highlight of the season so far. Starting from the second row and on the outside of the grid meant there was far less chance of being squeezed on the run up to Avon Rise. As the pack moved over the right to defend a line into Quarry I took my one and only chance and went round the outside having been able to retain my fourth spot: just!
Ramm’s XJ-S was always going to be quicker but I managed to slot into 2nd ahead of Pearce and Doyle’s saloons and so began a race-long defence that at times saw Pearce and I touching on the very fast and undulating run up to Quarry. He got alongside me numerous times using his superior power on the faster sections of the track from Bobbies Chicane to Camp Corner and up to Quarry. That was where I had to defend the hardest but I was able to do so due to being quicker through the more technical sections, the two chicanes and tighter right-hander at Tower.
When the last lap board came out and I looked to see where Pearce was, I was somewhat relieved to see him spinning out at Camp Corner, knowing that my first saloon win of the season was now just one lap away.
So it proved to be and crowd were brilliant at what has to be the friendliest track in the UK. I’m now up to third in my class but with just five rounds left in the Championship I do need a few more results like this to have the slightest chance of holding on to my title.
Realistically that looks unlikely but there are still a few tweaks that can be done on the car, namely loosing some weight, as I am still some 47kg over the minimum allowed. The next two rounds will be at Mallory Park, effectively my home track, over the August Bank Holiday weekend – I can’t wait.