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The Masters Series Top Hat Racing at Snetterton - 21st March 2009 - XK Challenge

A wonderful start to the 2009 Race Season!

The racing season has just kicked off and yet another brand new format to report on. Last year the JEC Jaguar XK Challenge had joined forces with The Masters Series.  It was a truly memorable championship for me winning Class ‘C’ by just one point. Following on from this successful championship and arrangement with The Masters Top Hat Series, we continue to race with last year’s 45 minute two driver race format.

However, this year, there is a different format for me and my very successful XK150. I will now be co-driving the car. Why? Over the Christmas break, I was made an offer I couldn’t refuse and I sold the 150 to a Canadian gentleman (I’m sure he won’t mind me calling him that) called Read Gomm (no relation to the famous Maurice Gomm of F3, Jowett and Jaguar fame).  Read has kindly asked me to co-drive the car for the ’09 race season, as he has never raced before (Just a Porsche Turbo, up and down the M3 etc).

So can you imagine the first race weekend at Snetterton last Friday and Saturday, when we arrived at the circuit to do some Testing of the car, the new owner/driver, the ex. Owner (and how nervous he was, mainly because of the unknown quantities involved in such an exercise - none of them logical all of them emotional).

When CKL delivered the car to us in the Paddock we both got suitably dressed for the occasion. All Read had been given was a DVD of last year’s race with me at the wheel (Falling off the ‘Black Stuff’ twice) and a Circuit Guide to help ease him into the hot seat.

My fears became totally unfounded as Read took to the track. Within a few laps, he was clocking 1 minute 34 seconds, only 2 seconds off my last year’s pace. Very impressive!!

I then began to wonder if this chap was going to be faster than me. Surely not? Not on his debut to motor racing. Thankfully not! My blushes were spared as I took to the track to clock my fastest time ever at Snetterton of a 1 Minute 30 seconds.

The car was performing well, after some TLC and race preparation over the winter, thanks to the boys at CKL.

I have to say that the weather was absolutely wonderful, both on Friday and Saturday, with highs of 16 deg C (61F in old money). Put that together with newly scrubbed tyres, the car responded perfectly, both in terms of performance and handling capabilities.

Read and I thought through the strategy for race day and we decided that it would be prudent to qualify at the back, especially knowing what I know about the first corner at Snetterton and its usual catastrophes, where I had to take to the grass yet again last September to avoid a major collision.

Thank goodness, we had decided on those tactics because, as predicted, there was a pile up at the start this time, with Andrew Moore and David Wenman in their XK120’s and a very expensive Lotus Elan 26R of Stephen Bond coming together.

Read shouted to us on the Pit Wall, “That’s three places I’ve made up already” HA HA!! And that was before the race had started.

The race was finally on, and Read was obviously faster than a number of other cars in the race and he duly picked them off in fine style. But, it was to be short lived, as Read came into the Pits with a passenger door that had decided to open on its own. I jumped across him as I have always kept a “Bungey Strap” in the door well, just for this eventuality. With Read duly “Strapped” he was on his way, but with valuable time lost.

When Read came in at the half way point I took over and continued to dice with the pack, especially with the “Young” Keith-Lucas (Andy) down the Revett Straight, where I just had the edge on speed and out-breaked him going into the Esses. Pulling away from Andy, I could see Stephan Ziegler, in Mark Gibbon’s re-fettled XK120, in the distance and set my sights on overhauling him.

As the end of the race approached, I developed gear change problems especially changing down from 4th to 3rd and 3rd to 2nd, so I thought I would save the car, finish the race and ensure that Read achieved his objective of gaining another signature on his Race License and towards getting his full International license status by the end of the year.  And that we did in fine style.

We finished a respectable 6th overall in the XK race, AND with the 3rd fastest Lap Time of the XK’s. Well done to Read on such a fantastic beginning to his motor racing.

It was a great first weekend where I met a number of MWS customers whom I shared ideas with.

Our next race will be at Brands Hatch on the 23rd May

Hope to see you there!

John D R.

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