Castle Combe 12th/13th July 2014

ahead-of-simon-lewis-breifly

After a disappointing Brands Hatch where my car was not as fast as I had hoped after forking out a load of money on a trick ECU I decided to just enjoy this weekend and see how the car goes before deciding what to do next.

Combe is fast becoming one of my favourite circuits, especially Quarry corner with its very fast, bumpy, curved approach and tricky braking over the blind crest that flicks left before the 90 degree right hander and the track suits the big Jag quite nicely so I was hoping for a more competitive performance.

It looked reasonably hopeful after qually with a much better 8th overall (in the 26 car grid) and 3rd in class and just two tenths slower than my Brands sparring partner, Guy Connew (6th overall and 2nd in class) although the class leader, Simon Lewis, is still 1.6 seconds quicker.

Race one started in perfect conditions and the first few laps were frenetic to say the least. My start was not quite as rapid as I would have liked but I was on the tail of Guy, who had passed Lewis going into quarry. For several laps all three of us were nose to tail until Guy got completely sideways going into Quarry, having left his braking a little too late. I was sure it would end in tears but somehow he kept control, although not before forcing Lewis to go wide to avoid a collision. That was the opportunity that I needed to slip up the inside and move up two places to 5th overall, the leading cars having already created a healthy gap up front.

guy-chasing-lewis-and-gail-after-his-moment-at-quarry

For a couple of laps I thought an unlikely class win might be on the cards but with failing grip from my fairly tired rubber and a car lacking in top line speed I exited Quarry a little too wide and cold not hold onto the position. I was though able to fend Guy off until a few laps from the end when he went just a bit too quickly into Camp corner and the last I saw of him was flying off towards the Armco. Luckily it was only grazed but he dropped well down the field as a result.

With one of the lead cars having an oil pipe problem very early on I finished 5th overall and 2nd in class and with a big smile on my face.

Race two the next day was always going to be one of defending my 5th position. I had a quick V12 XJ-S next to me on the grid and an even quicker XJ12 starting on the back row after mechanical problems on Saturday.

I was well positioned to pass Lewis at the start, who was just ahead of me on the grid but traditionally does not start well and there was a nice gap on the inside just made for my Jag. I was not best pleased however, and made my thoughts known after the race, when he pushed me right off the track onto the damp grass, following some light rain in the morning. Light damage down the nearside resulted but  I was more upset because it was a deliberate act that could have resulted in disaster with 21 big Jags all steaming down the track just behind us.

holding-off-drage-and-the-fast-recovering-howard-xj12

After that he soon pulled out an unassailable lead and I tried defending against the two V12’s, which I knew was a forlorn hope. I did have a cracking race with Ian Drage’s XJ-S after passing him exiting my favourite corner, Quarry. He paid me back a couple of laps later but we had an enjoyable tussle before his faster and lighter car pulled out a healthy gap.  After that the race was a bit lonely with no real threat from behind. Still a 7th overall and 2nd in class once again was not a bad pay off for the weekend.

My car does need to go back onto the rolling road though as it is lacking at the top end of the rev range. That will be the next job before I raced again, probably at Donington at the end of August.