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Aston Martin Owners Club at Donington Park 9th October 2010

It was wonderful to be invited to race once more at this most prestigious UK circuit formerly owned by the late Tom Wheatcroft.

Following the failed attempt to make Donington Park the new Formula 1 race venue, it gladdened my heart to know that (Son) Kevin Wheatcroft had managed to raise the funding to ensure that Donington would be restored to its former glory.

Not a lot had changed since my last visit in 2008 but, with a new car and a bit of ‘Ring rust’, I set about the task of getting to know the slightly modified circuit.

Having walked the circuit on Friday evening, the only difference was that they had made the ‘Esses’ coming into the Start & Finish Straight (The Wheatcroft Straight) shorter.

This actually would catch out a few of us old (I mean experienced, of course) drivers out. What this meant was that the Back Straight (Starkey’s) approximately 100 yards shorter. This in turn made the Wheatcroft Straight 100 yards longer.

This would lead to a slower top speed Starkey’s Straight and a much faster Wheatcroft straight going into Redgate Corner.

The net result of this was that the braking points to the Esses and into Redgate were very different, thus many cars would find themselves going through the ‘Kitty Litter’ at the Esses and burying themselves in the ‘Litter’ at Redgate from whence there is usually no way out.

On race day, the Met Office had promised us bright blue skies and a high of 22°C. What transpired was a day of very dark, ominous clouds and 15°C, BUT, thankfully dry throughout.

Yours truly was ready to Qualify, (Or so I thought) but the net result was about 1.5 seconds off my pace from two years ago. This I put down to a couple of things: a newly configured circuit, a different car and I believe a continuing brake issue. (Q. So when has a couple made three? ANSWER = If you’re Welsh, then it does!!)

I had booked a garage for the weekend and found myself in amongst a happy crowd of Sunbeam Tigers, for their Sunbeam Challenge Race.

I left the car to cool down and on my return, the car would not move! Why? Well, to cut a long story short the rear Drum Brakes had seized on. I tried with a helpful Tiger Mechanic to move the car under engine power and to find the manual adjusters for each drum. Result – FAILED.

I had been talking to Guy Broad earlier and, believe it or not, he was the only one to know anything about drum brakes on Jaguar XK’s at Donington that day. So I asked him to help. With me moving the car again under engine and clutch movement, Guy saw the adjusters through the holes in the drums and, after a lot of effort, Guy managed to turn the adjusters and freed up the shoes from the drums. PHEWWWWW!! Luckily, this allowed me to make the race later in the day. (THANKS GUY!!)

The race was the last one of the day at 6:15 pm, in the gathering dusk. In fact, the race did not commence until 6:20 pm, and we had to resort to headlights to find our way round. Not to worry, I did find my way round and, I even knocked another second off my lap time. This is only 0.5 second off my old 3.8 Litre XK150 Lap Time at its peak. So it bodes well for next year, when I will make sure that I have a full day of testing on the Friday before the race.

My last race of the season will be held at:

Mallory Park with The Masters Series on Sunday the
24th October.

Hope to see you there!

John D R

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