Damon Hill drives the coolest of cats — his Dad's race-winning Jaguar E-type

On April 15 1961, Graham Hill served notice of the Jaguar E-type’s potential by giving the model a debut race victory at Oulton Park. Sixty years on, we reunite Graham’s son Damon with the same car. Simon Arron reports

Bonnet shot of Damon Hill in Graham Hill race-winning Jaguar E-type

Lee Brimble

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It looked like nothing else on earth and cost a fraction as much as a comparable Ferrari. It wasn’t conceived with competition in mind, yet had scored its maiden race victory within a month of being launched at the Geneva Motor Show – and that just a couple of days after the winning car had rolled from the production line. The Jaguar E-type remains one of the most striking products from a decade ripe with innovation – and the car here, ECD 400, is among the most significant of the breed.

It might have shared a few styling cues (and disc brakes) with Jaguar’s Le Mans-winning C- and D-types, but the E’s suspension and torquey 3.8-litre straight six were designed to complement touring rather than cut-throat combat. It was suitable, though, for the FIA’s newly introduced Production GT class, so Jaguar earmarked a batch of seven cars for relatively gentle modification (including higher compression, gas-flowed head, bespoke trumpets, lightweight flywheel and closer-ratio ’box). Equipe Endeavour and John Coombs Racing entered one car apiece for the 1961 Fordwater Trophy at Goodwood on April 3. They would have been driven by Graham Hill and Roy Salvadori, had the cars yet been fully assembled…

They were barely finished by the time the BARC’s Spring Meeting came around two weeks later at Oulton Park. Despite the lack of preparation time, Hill took Tommy Sopwith’s Equipe Endeavour car to victory, with Salvadori an increasingly brakeless third, Innes Ireland (Aston Martin DB4 GT) between them and Jack Sears (Ferrari 250 GT SWB) fourth. Salvadori had led initially, but as he told Motor Sport in November 2001: “The brakes were probably fine for touring, but not track action, not even on a qualifying lap. A decision was made to rush the Jags back to Coombs to sort the brakes. For some reason, Graham’s Equipe Endeavour car was given new pads and discs, but I was just given pads. Eventually the ridges on my discs from the day before just chewed up the new pads, so Graham got past me at about half-distance.”