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Following on from April’s initial pre-season shakedown of the XK 140, I took up the opportunity to attend the Octane Magazine’s bi-annual Track Day at Goodwood.

My objectives were two-fold. Firstly, I wanted to assess the XK for its handling capability and secondly to establish whether there was room for improvement of my own ‘Handling capabilities’, i.e. how do I improve my race-ability.

Both these objectives I hoped could be satisfied by a well-known Racing Driver, Instructor, Author and Octane Magazine and Track Day columnist, namely Mark Hales.

As many of you will know, Mark Hales distinguished himself by having raced or tested almost every type of racing car ever built, ranging from NASCAR and Formula One, through to Touring Cars and rare classic machines.

One of the most prominent cars of late that belongs to Nick Mason’s (Pink Floyd Drummer) and part of his Ten Tenths Collection, includes a Ferrari GTO valued at over £10,000,000 that he drove to victory at Le Mans.

At last year’s Goodwood Revival Mark, together with Martin Brundle started from 5th on the grid and came home 2nd in Nick’s GTO having driven through torrential rain in the RAC TT Celebration race.

Following the morning’s Track Day Briefing, I set about a 15 minute warm-up to check the car’s essentials and came back in to collar young Mark to arrange two outings!

Let me say, that the weather was glorious with an expected ambient high of 26⁰C. These would be ideal conditions to achieve my objectives!

Our first outing was getting Mark to drive so that he could assess the car’s own capability with JDR accompanying him as a passenger. As soon as Mark was ‘out-of-the-traps’, we went into Madgewick in full four-wheel drift (IN MY CAR, WOULD YOU BELIEVE!!).

The thought went through my mind that this car had to last the 15 minutes, as I was racing that Sunday in The Masters Historic Festival RAC’s Woodcote Trophy for a full 50 minute race. (More on that in my next Brands Hatch Epistle!)

Mark certainly put the XK through its paces, driving the car as if he’d known it all his life. It was quite a drive!
On returning the car to its Goodwood stable, Mark’s de-brief was unequivocal in that, based upon the fact that I prefer a little over-steer that I really shouldn’t touch the set-up and that she was handling beautifully.

After a very genial lunch with Mark, David Lillywhite and Robert Coucher, from Octane’s editorial staff, Mark and I met up once more and this time for Mark to critique my driving style. And that he certainly did. The one thing I like about Mark (probably the only thing after this subsequent foray – just joking Mark!!) is that he doesn’t mince his words.

However, I must admit to have been somewhat nervous in the company of this very capable racing driver.
I did fluff the gears a number of times, for good reasons on the odd occasion, and probably overused the brakes on certain corners etc. etc. etc.

After we’d arrived back in the Paddock, my de-brief was far more critical than that of my dear car, and that there was certainly room for improvement.

A few points covered were my use of the gearbox. Now those of you who know that I am running with the original 3-Synchro Moss Box, probably with 1 ½ synchros left, saw a lot of snicks (Going up) and crunches (Coming down). So, I have a choice, Mark explained:

‘Either, get your brain around the Moss Box and drive as they did in the ‘50’s by ‘Proper’ Heel-and-Toe and timing of gear changes or, put an E-type Box in and drive it like a modern car!’ Now there’s a financial conundrum to be wrestled with!

Secondly, improving my braking technique! As I am driving an FIA Appendix ‘K’ spec car I am stuck with Drum Brakes, and one can get through brake linings at a fine rate of knots. However, there are ways to improve my technique, such as dabbing earlier and, ‘Sticking’ the car into the corners while carrying more corner speed.

NOTE: Read more on this in my Race Report from Brands when I started to get my brain around doing just that, going into Hawthorn Bend and using more gearbox and less braking!

Finally, this day with Mark was a veritable eye-opener for me and made me realize that all sports men and women need a coach to prevent bad habits from taking hold and affecting optimum ‘Track’ performance. So I think you will have a call real soon Mark!!

Two days later I was racing at the:

MASTERS HISTORIC FESTIVAL at Brands Hatch on the Grand Prix Circuit on the 26th May!!!

Read all about it in a week’s time!!

In the meantime.

All the best

John D R
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