Donington Park 2014-08-3031

I was not feeling too hopeful going into the Donington Park double header. Since investing in a fancy ECU the car has not had the transformation in performance that I was hoping for. After Castle Combe I had the XJ40 back on the rolling road for some cam timing adjustments but found that power was actually down although torque was marginally better. It did not fill me with confidence and with a record 36 entries including another very quick class B driver, Dave Bye in his immaculate Series II coupe, I could see myself going backwards.

Qualifying on Saturday seemed to support my gloomy outlook with 10th overall and 4th in class, behind Bye, championship leader Simon Lewis and Matt Jeffery in a similar car to mine. With several other quick cars just behind me on the grid it certainly promised to be a tight race. I was also, one again slower than last year adding to my frustration over the ECU. Still, to look on the positive side I always race better than I qualify and several cars ahead of me were not a great deal quicker in terms of lap times. A rolling start though would not aid my plans as I normally make very good starts, which is down to the better torque characteristics post ECU changes.

I was on the outside of row 5, which is where  like to be and as we all roared down to Redgate for the first time I pulled ahead of Jeffery next to me on the grid and made another place up when an errant XJ-S missed his braking point at McLean’s and went off. Bye, Lewis and the leading XJ-S drivers pulled out a healthy gap as I spent the next few laps defending like mad from Jeffery, Pearce, Philpot and several others. When a mid race safety car was deployed we all closed up and the usual mayhem following the restart ensued. Several lapped cars were caught up with the leading pack and four leading cars passed one before the start / finish line which the clerk of the course was happy to remind them of after the race. I managed to hold on to my hard fought 8th place and 3rd in class when the chequered flag dropped but then made up two more places, post race, when the errant four were handed out 10 second penalties and several of us were promoted up the order. In fact I narrowly missed out on 5th and 1st in class but just 7 tenths in the end!

That meant a third row start and with 3rd place finisher Dyson not racing on Sunday an extra place made up to 5th on the grid and an inside row start. As ever it was a fairly busy first corner and although Frosts XJ-S tried to go round the outside at Redgate I managed to hold him off. Important because that kept him between Jeffery and Lewis (who had suffered a five place penalty on Saturday) and I needed all the help I could get. Encouragingly I was pushing class B winner Bye in the first three or four laps but then a missed gear meant he broke the tow and I had to spend more time looking in my rear view mirror as Frost, Lewis and Jeffery were all doing their best to find a way past my very wide XJ40.

In actual fact it turned into one of my best races of the year with judicious defending just about everywhere and some very quick driving though Craner Curves and through Old Hairpin. Eventually the faster and lighter XJ-S of Rid Frost out dragged me into Redgate leaving my two class B rivals to take up the chase. Lewis did so with zeal and twice we were side by side rounding Redgate and going into Craner Curves with Jeffery lurking, ready to pick up the pieces just behind us.

Twice I managed to hold him off but when, with three laps to go, Lewis got a run out of Coppice I was mega defensive going into the chicane, tight on the inside. Lewis, though three quarters ahead of me, and on the outside, tried coming across to take my line but with slight contact (his rear wheel on my front nearside bumper) I was having none of it and we consequently both missed our braking points. In plumes of tyre rubber smoke and still touching, by now bumper to bumper Lewis was gently shunted towards the gravel trap, having missed his turn in point. I managed to get through the chicane but Jeffery was the real winner slipping past my virtually stationary car.

Unluckily for him a dodgy wheel bearing caused him to go off as I pressed to regain the lost position going into Redgate. Lewis never quite got back in contention and I came home 6th overall and 2nd in class once again, although this time I felt a well deserved and hard fought result. There was no bad feeling either after the race, as superb close racing is always likely to result in something similar and with just some tyre rubber to T cut out of paintwork no repair costs to worry about.

The car was a bit quicker and I was more competitive so with the final race at Oulton in September and some new rubber to fit (my tyres were shot) I think I can get a good result at my favourite track.