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Spa Six Hours Event September 2011
Designed in 1920 the original triangle-shaped course used public roads between the Belgian towns of Spa, Malmedy and Stavelot. The first car race was held at the circuit in 1922, and two years later saw the first running of the now famous 24 Hours of Francorchamps race and the circuit was first used for Grand Prix racing in 1925.

The old Spa circuit was essentially a speed course with drivers managing much higher average speeds than on other race tracks - a factor that made Spa very popular from its inception. Back then, the Belgians took pride in having a very fast circuit, and to improve average speeds, the former slow uphill U-turn at the bottom of the Eau Rouge creek valley was cut short with a faster sweep straight up the hill, called the Raidillon. Until 2000, it was possible to travel over the race track when it was still a public road.

Like the Nürburgring, Spa became notorious for fatal accidents, as there were many deaths each year at the ultra-fast track. The Ardennes Forest had very unpredictable weather and there were parts where it was raining and the track was wet, and other parts where the sun was shining and the track was completely dry. This factor was a common factor on long circuits, but the weather at Spa was always more unpredictable than other long circuits.

And now to my focus on racing at Spa this September.

I seem to be truly blessed with good weather when I race at Spa especially in September for the Spa 6 hour race event.

The racing schedule for the weekend was:

• Testing on Thursday
• Qualifying on Friday
• The Race on Saturday

I missed last year as my XK140’s braking capability was not yet refined enough to trust the safety of being able to stop on such a fast circuit with bery fast corner entry speeds.

So this year was going to be an exciting challenge to test the ‘New’ car on what I believe to be the best circuit in the world.

Another variable this year was that my new co-driver Melvin Floyd (From CKL Developments) was to experience this with me.

TESTING

Previous years I had had wet test testing sessions, therefore, unable to test the limitations of the car or ‘The Driver’. This year however, would experience absoluteley perfect weather conditions.

Our 45 minute session was enough to establish that the car was fundamentally different from my old XK150. The differences were a 3.4 Litre engine with bags of torque versus a 3.8, an original Moss gearbox with synchro only on two gears versus an XJ Series II all synchro box, a 3.77:1 versus a 3.54:1 Differential and finally, Dunlop Racing ‘L’ section cross-ply tyres. INTERESTING prospects to say the least??

The car’s performance was excellent, and I set a 3 minute 24 second lap time. Not bad for an almost original 1955 XK140. I say almost as we can obviously ‘Tweek’ the engine somewhat and use stronger materials for the transmission and internals etc.

The Dunlops were also surprisingly grippy, given the age of the tyres, the tread still left on them and the nature of the high speed corners

QUALIFYING

Friday dawned dull and grey and very misty, but no rain, which was a blessing. One always hopes that when testing a new car for the first time that the weather conditions are favorable, so that the car can be benchmarked accordingly.

Luckily we were qualifying 2nd in the morning at 09:45, when at least one quali had been completed and a dry line established and that the sun had started to burn off the dampness of the night’s atmosphere in the heart of the forest.

Well, we were blessed, and after 40 minutes I had set a 3 minute 21 second lap time, some 3 seconds a lap faster than Testing the previous day. In addition, the car was feeling more comfortable to drive and my speeds through Eau Rouge, Radillon and Blanchimont were improving. In fact, on two occasions, I took Blanchimont flat out whilst drifting the car beautifuuly to the outside apex (BLISS!!!).

THE RACE

Saturday dawned with bright blue sky and luckily our race took place at 10:30hrs and with a very dry track.

The prerol tank was full (Necked as we say) of petrol, I set off to the Assembly Area to wait for the off! Mel took his position up on the Pit Wall manning the stop watch and the Pit Board to show me where I needed to stop for the obligatory stop and driver change plus my lap times.

There were 35 cars in Our Woodcote Trophy race which, I have to say, is a little more civilised than previous years, when I was entered into 77 car races

The Safety Car lead us around the circuit and then peeled off into the Pits and we came around the ‘Bus Stop’ chicane and the Gantry Lights turned from Red to Green. I had my fingers crossed that all cars would make it through La Source, for the first lap.

As my race progressed, I was having a ding-dong battle with Paul Chase-Gardner in his XK140 and Nick Ruddell in his Aston Martin DB2/4. We swapped places a number of times, and on lap five I had Nick in my sites approaching Blanchimont which I turned into ‘Blind’ and we were side by side heading down to the Bus Stop at full speed. I then switched to the inside and out-braked him going into the Bus Stop.

(BLISS Mk 2 HA HA!!)

In my dice with Chase-Gardner a little later, I suffered a momentary lapse of concentration approaching Les Combe at the end of the Kemmel Straight, I went straight on and hit a number of ‘Sleeping Policemen’ and other detritis which must have caused a puncture, as by the time I had reached Pouhon the fast left-hander, the car’s steering had become quite a handful.

I did NOT want to suffer my first DNF (‘DID NOT FINISH’) in two years and I was determined to limp back to the pits, change the wheel and allow Mel to have his stint at the wheel.

So in I plodded, Dave Cousins (CKL Mechanic) immediately noticed what had happened (No Ship-to-Shore radio with us ‘Good ‘ole boy racers’!) and he leapt to the fore and man-handled the punctured wheel replacement.

Melvin and I then swapped jobs and I buckled him in and sent him on his way.

He had a good, solid race, but the damage was done by the puncture! Well, that’s motor racing for you.

This was a great five days away where we met many European Jaguar owners and classic car enthusiasts who were keenly interested in the MWS product line. The brochures were flying off the stands for both, Classic, Vintage and Veteran.

This was our last race of the season!

I hope you have enjoyed my missives throughout the year and I look forward to seeing you somewhere in the UK or Europe in 2012.

FINAL NOTE: If you have any questions for me, or my racing etc, you can contact me via the MWS office.

Have a great end to your year!

John D R

PS. Action photography taken by John Retter, Motor Racing Legends Photographer
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