Historic scene with Gordon Cruickshank

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Stormin’ the mountains
Best place to see the Mille Miglia? From on board a D-type, says Jaguar’s design chief

Enthusiastic, and tactful. That’s Jaguar design chief Ian Callum, fresh back from a Mille Miglia adventure and brimming with excitement. On an open-road thrash round Italy at eye-rolling speeds, some moments are inevitably more exciting than ideal, but Ian glosses over them. “Even moments when things – didn’t quite come together, they were soon past.”

There was a ‘works team’ of Cs and Ds, but Ian shared the wonderfully original long-nose D-type we featured in January with owner Clive Beecham, backed by preparer David Brazzell and the Jaguar support effort. During our shoot on the car Ian promised to report back, and is as good as his word.

“Third time I’ve done it, and the best by far,” he says. “Maybe I shouldn’t go back – I may have used up my nine lives… Yes, it was uncomfortable and noisy at first, but I was soon completely relaxed, even at over 100mph. Of course we’d had our warm-up in Scotland.”

This was the firm’s own private ‘Mini Miglia’, 180 settling-in miles through the Trossachs and over the Rest and Be Thankful pass before the big one.

What about the D let loose around those long open Italian roads? “It’s hard to judge, but it felt as quick as my F-type. When you pulled out you had the confidence it would get you past.”

Adrenaline runs high on this event; the 400-plus competitors are woven into hundreds of support vehicles, classic cars and enthusiasts in over-driven Fiats all attempting to share the route; entrants trying to hit controls on schedule find themselves on the wrong side of the white line for long exciting moments down the outside of traffic streams.

“We both drove quickly,” says Callum, “and the overtaking becomes intense – you have to trust your co-driver. We drove half each, and both got a chance on lovely sweeping roads. It’s funny, you can be on your own for long periods, but we fell in with the other long-nose [James Martin and Charley Boorman in Jaguar’s D] and had a bit of banter with a Testa Rossa we got friendly with. We all stopped at a café and the crowd went wild – two Ds and a TR parked in the road! Actually we were late at the final control after that lunch, but the two Ds drove in side by side and we got a massive cheer. Italy loved us.”

With closed-road events about to be permitted in the UK, it’s hard to guess if British onlookers would show the same open-eyed passion – on my last MM I saw three nuns yelling ‘Avanti!’ – but I reckon the police might not throw themselves into it the same way. One of Ian’s highlights was following a police car through the mountains: “There were the two Ds and a Gullwing and we were pushing, but that policeman could really drive! And it was an off-roader – amazing that a modern car like that can keep up.”

Of course, I hint, the forthcoming Jaguar SUV wouldn’t have trouble… “Oh, that’ll be much quicker.”

One of this D’s special boasts is that it contested the Monzanapolis races in 1957 and ’58, so a time-trial on the hallowed and recently resurfaced banking had extra significance. “We were only meant to average 55kph but Clive gave it some up the bank. That was fabulous!”

Through 1000 relentless miles the D performed faultlessly, impressing the man charged with shaping the marque’s current range. “I was astonished at the capabilities of that car. The Ds must have been the quickest things there. We must have touched 130 in places, but it felt planted and stable. I thought it would wander but Malcolm Sayer got something right about that wing profile.”

Callum must have felt secure – he says he nodded off at 100mph in the co-driver’s seat. “Just for a few moments – well, you spend 12 hours in the car, then dinner… You’re lucky if you get four hours of sleep.”

A gruelling time, then.

“The physical toll hits a few days later. Coming down off a four-day high was hard – I can see how daredevils get addicted to the adrenaline. I felt flat and I had to get into my TR6 and have an early-morning blast to recharge myself.”

Tearing round Italy has sparked a new thought for Callum. “I love the D-type; I think I’d be happy with a good replica for early Sunday mornings.”

Not what you expect from a company man, but proof of an enthusiast.

Traffic on the ring road
Coventry comes to a stop as Motofest celebrates cars and the city

Whistling past 100,000 people, the Rover-BRM Le Mans car returned to the roads of Coventry for the first time in 50 years when the city held its Motofest in May.

It was demonstrated on the road here in 1965 prior to heading for La Sarthe to become the first turbine entry in the French classic.

Packing out the ring road, the 2015 event brought out BTCC saloons, classics of all types, Le Mans entries, stock cars, motorcycles and Group B rally monsters including the partly Midlands-bred Metro 6R4 to celebrate the city’s extensive motoring industry history. Coventry marques Triumph and Jaguar featured, with the Spitfire replica Le Mans team and a parade of big cats including a Broadspeed XJC coupé, XJ220 and XJR-9 sports-racer.

Among static exhibitions and an evening concert, drifting displays added the right scents to the weekend, and the organisers say next year, thanks to the new closed-road laws, their 1.5-mile route up and down the ring road will be run as a competitive sprint. Now that’s the right way to use a ring road.

Long-distance reunion
Marathon meeting evokes endurance rally days

Gaydon reverberated to the rasp of exhausts at the end of May when the Historic Marathon Rally Show set up camp around the Heritage Collection. Backed by the Endurance Rally Association and aimed at celebrating those tough long-distance events such as the two World Cup Rallies and several London-Sydneys, the focus also covered early events in the growth of historic rallying, and naturally remembered ERA founder the late Philip Young.

Around the Warwickshire venue were World Cup Rally Triumph PIs (top), a squad of Landcrab Austin 1800s that survived London-Sydney in 1968, a London-Mexico Capri, a Pat Moss Alpine-Renault, Roger Clark’s Tour of Britain Escort, a TR4 that Brian Culcheth piloted on one of the insanely demanding and sleepless Spa-Sophia-Liège events, and even a replica of BMC’s Vanden Plas Princess service barge.

Figures from this branch of rallying’s past included works team members such as Mike Broad, winning co-driver on the 1977 run to Sydney, Paul Easter, Den Green, Barrie Williams, David Sutton, BMC competitions manager Bill Price, Rootes and BL driver Rosemary Smith and many others from this arena where sleep-resistance and on-the-hoof car fixes counted more than outright speed.

In between parades of historic cars, Ford competitions manager Stuart Turner related some of his inimitable tales and Triumph works navigator and author Graham Robson extracted memories of their long hours at the wheel from those involved. The day closed with a tribute to Philip Young, whose ex-works Healey, which stole headlines from the moderns on the 1981 Himalayan Rally, resides in the Heritage Collection. And even the Magenta kit car he drove on the 1977 London-Sydney was present.

It was a rare chance for so many figures from the sport to get together – organiser Ted Taylor reckoned some were still arguing over results from events that finished decades ago.

Another plaque on the wall
Remembering a fount of engineering achievement

In this year of Jim Clark significance it was suitable that the Historic Lotus Register and 750MC got together to commemorate the place where so much of that legend was made – the one-time Lotus factory in Delamare Road, Cheshunt, North London. Up until 1966 this was where all those race-winning devices from Formula Junior to F1 and Indy were built, alongside the lithe and innovative 7, Elite, Elan and the Cortina road cars. Much of the buildings remain, one now used as a gym, and marque figures led by Hazel and Clive Chapman gathered here on May 31, the anniversary of Clark’s Indianapolis victory, to unveil a plaque to that achievement. Mike Costin, John Miles, Tony Southgate, Jackie Oliver and many Lotus mechanics attended, while the four-wheeled element included Clark’s own Elan and the Type 38 he drove in STP livery at Indy in 1967.

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