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Donington Festival

Having spent last year shaking down my new Jaguar XK140, I thought I would change tack on a number of fronts, by changing clubs, changing the configuration of the car and inviting a new co-driver to race with me in the Motor Racing Legends, Woodcote Trophy starting with the new Donington Festival.

I arrived at the circuit on Friday afternoon and proceeded to set up the new 'Rig' for 2011. With the new Dastle Race Box, new MWS livery, with attached awning for rest and entertainment and the race car marquee with its newly adorned Banner Advertisement fitted, it was well received by many MWS Customers and hopefully MWS customers-to-be during the weekend.

My new co-driver Melvin Floyd, co-director at CKL Developments arrived towing a 1930's Bentley on its way to Scotland, as can be seen in the background of some of the pictures.

Luckily, scrutineering was being conducted on Friday so that we wouldn’t have to worry about that hurdle early Saturday morning. She past with flying colours, thank goodness. As those of you who know me, this, for me is the most nerve-wracking part of any race meeting. The race for me is a doddle (HA HA!!).

The second most important factor is the weather and, apart from it being a little windy, we had sunny and dry conditions, which were ideal for Mel to get used to the XK.

It was also good for me, as this was the first time I have raced the car with Drum Brakes all round and using Dunlop CR48 racing cross-ply tyres.

QUALIFYING

Quali commenced at 10:10 am for 30 minutes. I went out first (As it's my car of course, Uh huh!!) to get to know the new car configuration and I slipped in a lap time of 1 min 37.5 secs, which was satisfactory for the first race of the season. Slipping was the name of the game. I had forgotten that these tyres are far more ‘Slippy’ than the Vredestein radials I had raced with over the last six years.

Mel got into the swing of it as well and set some good lap times. But we wondered whether the brakes would last for the 30 minutes of qualifying and the subsequent one hour race. It was fingers crossed??

We qualified 25th out of 32 cars and 6th in Class. This new 'Class System' is all new to me so it was, and will be quite a learning curve to see who we can beat during the season.

THE RACE

Luckily the race started at 16:40 hours and the ambient temperature had dropped to approximately 17°C and more than a little windy, but dry.

It appears that we will be using 'Rolling Starts' this year. This is much less stressful on the car compared to standing starts. I started the race for my 30 minute stint and soon realised that the track was very slippery, from a combination of the older cars dropping a lot of oil on top of rubber having being laid down from the newer Class 'C' cars such as the Jaguar XJR9s on very wide 'Slick' tyres.

It was quite a learning curve, I can tell you. But after a while I was finding my lines by making them tighter through Old Hall and Coppice especially, and taking a much wider line through Redgate and keeping my foot down for the Craner Curves to prevent the rear coming round on me.

The drum brakes were holding well for my 30 minutes but I did wonder whether Mel would inherit these similar characteristics???

After 30 minutes I came into the Pits and only just remembered the Pit Lane Speed Limit of 40 mph and jammed on the anchors in time.

I jumped / fell out, grabbed my cushions to accommodate Mel’s longer legs and I strapped him in, briefed him on the circuit conditions, the brakes etc and off he went!

All I knew at this point was that he was going round, as there is no ship-to-shore radio as in F1.

After the race, he said that all was fine, however the brake pedal was getting a little longer towards the end of the race. We will only know the facts when my Engineer Keith and I take the brake drums off for inspection.

But Mel enjoyed himself and I thought that we made a 'Good Racing Couple', to date??!! Only time will tell, (Joke Mel!!)

We finished 20th out of 32 cars and 4th in Class. So this was a marked improvement over our qualifying position, and an excellent first race of the season.

POST RACE ANALYSIS

My best lap time was only one second off last year’s time driving with 2 X Disk brakes on the front and with the more grippy Vredestein tyres. Great stuff!! Here’s to the next race!!!

The next race of the season will be held at:

Dijon–Prenois in France, at the GP de l’Age d’Or on the weekend of the 25th and 26th June

Will we see you there? I hope so!!

John D R

NOTE: Action photography taken by John Retter, Motor Racing Legends Photographer

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