1 : GT Marque racing
It may be supposed, without much fear of contradiction, that one young male driver in ten has some sporting inclination. This is probably only embryonic, a small feeling of exultation answering pressure on the throttle, but racing drivers are born of such small tendencies which surely worry insurance companies and become the boring plague of girlfriends and wives as they develop. Fortunately, these young people normally take such an interest in the art of driving that with maturity they become safe and responsible road users. Few, perhaps one in a hundred, have sufficient dedication to enter the world of motor sport through the many forms of racing, autocross, rallying, driving tests or trials. Graham Hill is one who immediately springs to mind, having made many sacrifices in his early days to get going on the way to world championship. Fewer still have the hard cash to go motor sporting without tears, but many are the likely lads who write us letters starting: “Dear Sir, I want to be a racing driver but …..”
This is the first of a series of articles about the cost of motor sport. We have not gone out of our way to talk to people who have reached the top, for they almost invariably get financial backing on the way, rather do we discuss the fortunes of well-known drivers who are paying their way, pound by pound, to the front rows of the grids.
A love of motor racing most be combined with a degree of conceit, not to mention a substantial bank balance, for anyone to compete in a Jaguar. You could probably race a team of Minis for the same money, but still be a face in the crowd, yet to finish last in an E-type is equally unthinkable. This is the car that the public expect to win, without realising the enormous cost of developing and modifying the machine. Possibly it would be cheaper even to buy and race a Formula Three car, though the cash outlay at one time would defeat most people lacking sponsorship.
We chose for our first subject John Quick; let’s avoid the puns and say that he has rapidly become one of the fastest Jaguar drivers on the club scene today with eight wins or high places in 15 starts during the period April-July last year. If more cars had been eligible for the unlimited class earlier in the season he would have been well on the way to winning the Freddie Dixon Trophy for marque sports cars before his involuntary, and temporary, retirement, but more of that later.
Now a 31-year-old director of an electrical wholesale company, living in Dulwich, John first retired from motor sport after a particularly nasty crash at Brands Hatch in 1959. Many stitches and plaster casts later he finished rebuilding his TR3, swopped it for another, then in January, 1964, invested £1,200 in a secondhand E-type. His fiancée was implacably opposed to motor racing but since romance didn’t work out so well, a decision was made to re-enter the world of sport. Appropriately this was decided on, April 1st, 1964, and hardly three weeks later the E-type was bound for Holland with the writer in the passenger seat to take part in the Tulip Rally. Maurice Jobson of Marchal had fixed us up with a pair of ” outrigger ” spotlights, but apart from that, there was no preparation at all. The event was not a success, as we finished fourth in class behind the Morleys’ Healey, John Cuff’s E-type and Sir Peter Moon’s Healey, but we got some good times in places and derived a great deal of enjoyment from participation. We thought then, and still do, that a well-prepared and well-backed E-type could win the Tulip Rally. So standard was the car that the brakes faded frequently, and exhaust tailpipes had to be wired up after a session on pavé.
This whetted John’s appetite for competition and on return to England he handed the car over to Jack Playford Ltd., the Croydon engineering company, who prepared the Lumsden and Sargent Le Mans E-type, and asked them to get on with a series of modifications. First they fitted Koni shock-absorbers, and at this point, still with Dunlop SP3 tyres, it was capable of lapping the Brands Hatch short circuit in 65 sec. Next they stripped and rebuilt the engine, balancing where appropriate, and gas-flowed the cylinder head. The suspension was lowered a little, thicker anti-roll bars and springs fitted. A 3.77 axle ratio was adopted, 5-1/2-in. offset rim wheels fitted, while the braking system was improved with 12-in. discs from a Mark IX Jaguar on the front. The bill for this work was a little over £500.
April, 1965, saw the car again en route for Noordwijk, and this time the car was much better suited to the task. We had the Morleys in our class again plus a pair of works Tigers, which presented a very interesting combat, but the snow on La Faucille stopped the opposition fairly effectively. Our Powr-Lok differential took the E-type over the snow-bound pass slowly but surely (much to the surprise of control officials at the summit) and we took second in class behind the works Healey.
Still the brakes were not quite right, so cooling vents were cut into the front wings and a scoop hung under the inboard discs at the rear, with an evil-looking pair of breathers rising to the atmosphere via the rear side windows. A D-type exhaust system ended under the passenger’s door. All told, a further £600 was spent in 1965 on various modifications, preparation, a new axle when the Powr-Lok died, and tyres, producing what was effectively a well-prepared Group 3 rally car. On racing tyres, it achieved a best lap time of 60.8 sec. at Brands Hatch.
Rather ambitiously, John entered the car for the Alpine Rally in August, 1965, and the best we can say about that was that it turned out a fine social junket, starting in Marseille and ending in Monte Carlo. The journey down was not without its moments, as when it got dark we realised that long flames came out of the exhaust pipes on overrun. After a substantial meal in Tournon, on the N7 we cleared five pavement tables of diners with two quick bursts on the throttle . . . A practice run the night before the rally proved that the brakes could be faded going up the mountains. The inspection hatch over the differential was removed (this, of course, being a coupe) and, while this helped, it did fill the car with sickly-smelling smoke every time we stopped. Of course, it would have been simpler to save the car on the quick sprints between hairpins, but that doesn’t occur to a crew about to win a major international rally! We left the road very early on, luckily bounding straight on into a pea-field and rejoining the road further along, but the impossible reverberating noise, heat and fumes were getting us down and it was almost with relief that we holed the sump on a stray rock at breakfast time.
It says a lot for the car, and its preparation, that during 1965 this E-type covered 33,000 miles, mainly on the road, but including two rallies, several races and a number of sprints. The only mechanical trouble was a broken valve guide, without complications, at the end of the season.
During last winter a great deal more work was done by Playfords turning the “E ” into a track car. The head was modified by Weslakes, though up to the present time it runs on the original triple S.U. carburetter arrangement. The engine was stripped again and bored out 30-thou. to 3.9 litres, a diaphragm clutch fitted, lightened flywheel, and a 4.2-litre gearbox installed. The body was completely lowered, with the suitable suspension modifications, and all removable items of trim were thrown away. A glass-fibre bonnet cost £65 (and another £35 spent making it fit), fibreglass doors and bootlid fitted, incidentally making the car Group 4, 6-in. rim wheels fitted at the rear, tyre equipment now being Dunlop Yellow Spot racers at £50 a set after discount. A special driving seat cost £35.
There are certain expenses which have to be incurred before the novice ever gets to the starting grid. First he needs a Restricted competition licence issued by the R.A.C., costing a guinea. On completing six races of restricted status he can get a National licence, costing two guineas, and with further experience an International licence costing three guineas. A medical certificate must be produced, and most family doctors charge about a guinea for carrying out the prescribed tests. The racing driver must have a ” bone-dome ” helmet meeting the B.S.I. standards 1869 or 2495, costs ranging from £10 10s. to £19 10s. for the Bell helmet favoured by many professional drivers.
On March 16th the car was taken to Goodwood on a general practice day for running-in, the track being shared with Hill and Stewart practicing with Ford GT40s. John and Brian Playford put in 100 laps limited to 5,000 r.p.m., getting the times down to 1 min. 40 sec., and noting that the Jaguar was as fast into the corners as the Fords—but left way behind coming out! The session cost £50 in tyres, incidentally, and since the brakes were still not satisfactory, thicker discs from a 4.2-litre Jaguar were fitted, together with more effective scoops at the front.
After driving Peter Lumsden’s E-type, John decided to have the steering solid-mounted, that is without the rubber bushes that reduce the road-shock. This requires an exceptional amount of precision and care in setting-up, but makes the car quicker in response and more sensitive. On March 30th the ” E ” was taken to a general practice day at Brands, getting under the minute for the first time despite under/oversteer handling problems and poor engine pick-up. A few days later it recorded f.t.d. at a Brands Sprint with a best lap time of 59.4 sec., still with twitchy problems like weaving under braking. The next week the car won the first round of the Freddie Dixon trophy series at Castle Combe, setting up a marque record of 1 min. 16.8 sec. in the process, and John recorded in his diary that while driving round waving the cup out of the window, and steering with his knees, he lost control and almost went into the ditch.
At Brands Hatch again on April 24th for the second round of the Trophy, the E-type won again from pole position, although it was still oversteering. The best lap of 60.4 sec. was credited as a marque car record but the car was not pushed hard during the event.
Insurance is a vexing problem, but race organisers are much happier if the competitor takes out at least personal accident cover. A representative cost is 30s. per £1,000 insured for death for a race not exceeding 60 miles, but it would be better to pay around £10 per year per £1,000 for any number of race meetings in Britain, not exceeding 60 miles in length. Certain life policies are obtainable for racing drivers at normal rates.
Insuring the car is more costly. To cover a Sprite for a race not exceeding 60 miles, £10 premium with a £75 excess is a fair estimate. For more expensive cars, the premium per event will be roughly 10% ot the value plus a heavy excess.
In order to get plenty of opportunities to race, the novice may join the B.A.R.C. or the B.R.S.C.C, who between them organise events on most circuits in this country. It costs a guinea to join plus an annual subscription of three guineas, the entry fees per event usually being three guineas also. When the car is so modified as to be purely a track car, a driver will save the cost of road insurance and take it to the circuit on a trailer.
Another victory followed in the third round of the Trophy at Oulton Park, though an Aston Martin DB4GT which crossed the line first was debarred from the competition as it didn’t qualify as a marque car. On then to Croft, where Bernard Unett brought out Alan Fraser’s Tiger for the first time and beat John’s E-type, which finished the race second with falling oil pressure. In the handicap race which followed came the first real mechanical disaster as the crankshaft broke.
A special crankshaft was obtained from the Jaguar factory and installed in time for the next weekend, accompanied by a bill for £130 including fitting. At Silverstone, seven days after the blow-up, the E-type was again on the grid for the Trophy, but finished fourth as the engine was tight and oil was pouring on to the rear tyres.
During the next month the car did four more races; all GT events including some very potent machinery, and collected a pair of third places behind GT40s. Then at Castle Combe again on July 29th John spun on the first lap while in a very tight bunch, stopped with the back wheels on the grass, and had the front-end demolished by another competitor who was ” mostly out of control.”
This is the sort of disaster that every driver fears, and if we can reduce a lot of disappointment to purely financial terms, for that is the purpose of the article, the shunt cost at least £300, though the rebuild has not yet been completed. Four or five months of racing last year have cost a further £1,200, excluding nine sets of tyres at £50 a set, and since the car was purchased exactly three years ago it has cost just on £3,000 in development and maintenance.
What is there to show for all this? Well, personal satisfaction is incalculable, but must be sufficient to carry on and make more plans for next year. In two years of sprinting and racing, the E-type has collected 48 awards, mostly pewter tankards, at an average of around one per weekend during the season. Starting and prize moneys have been negligible, coming to about £20 this year, so before anyone accuses a Jaguar driver of being a pot-hunter, they should think of what goes into the bid.
John’s advice to anyone starting in motor racing is to decide in the first place exactly what group of racing the new-boy wants to concentrate on, reckoning that switching between Group 3 and Group 4 has cost a lot of money unnecessarily.
For his money, John has an E-type which is one of the fastest in the world, barring the special lighweights, and one of the two most successful marque Jaguars in this country—we are track-testing the other belonging to Warren Pearce. Before the accident, the car was able to lap Brands short circuit in under 59 sec., and with Weber carburation next year a target of 56 sec. is in mind.
With such an outlay, the driver of an ” expensive ” car would be unwise to concentrate for ever on small events, and next year John is going into racing partnership with Warren Pearce with a much more ambitious programme in mind, taking in a number of European endurance events where the cars should figure in the final results.—M. L. C.