There are two ways to break into saloon or GT racing. One is to buy the best machine currently available in hope that it will not be superseded too quickly, and the other is to develop the potential in cars which have been left aside because they never were the best available. The latter course is naturally slower and may be just as expensive in the end, if you are doing pioneer development, but anyone with mechanical bent is going to derive more satisfaction from whittling away those fifths of a second purely as a result of improvements.
Of course, it is important to make sure that the car has enough potential to get there in the end. Warren Pearce has ” arrived ” this season, having established his E-type as one of the most successful marque cars of the year, and what is more to the point, it should go on being successful in this category for two or three years to come. Moreover, on reliability, the Jaguar can usually be relied upon to figure well in Group 3 and Group 4 long-distance events, its failure to do so recently being purely the result of leading drivers transferring their affections to cars which are more immediately competitive.
Warren became involved in racing back in 1952 when he joined Eric Brandon’s Cooper outfit as a mechanic, and in 1955 he got an XK120 going reasonably well simply, as he puts it, by concentrating on elementary tuning. This was replaced by an XK150, which became progressively more modified until, by 1963, it was lapping the Brands Hatch short circuit in 61 sec.—with standard bodywork, too!
Handling became a penchant with this driver. Perhaps a lot of people become too starry-eyed when they hear about tremendous claimed power output figures, but these come to nothing if the power does not reach the road and very often this is just what happens. As the XK150 aged, the rear springs settled an inch and the car handled better than ever before, losing its oversteering characteristics.
In May, 1964, the XK was replaced by a secondhand E-type which had been badly repaired after an accident. The reasons for an ” E ” are many, apart from the fact that Warren has always been a Jaguar man. It is now the cheapest second-hand buy having all independent suspension, disc brakes all round, so many features developed in racing, and, of course, a robust and powerful engine coupled to an infallible, if slow, gearbox. A start can be made today with only £650, and by picking his events carefully the novice may be doing better, quicker, than he could any other way.
The development of this E-type is interesting. With no other preparation apart from fitting Dunlop R6 racing tyres it lapped Brands Hatch in 65 sec. Substituting a 3.54 axle ratio for 2.9, and fitting Koni dampers, reduced the lap time to 63 sec., but according to the owner there was very little steering control. Much work was done during the winter, such as fitting 6-in, rims at the front, 6-1/2-in, rims at the back. The rear suspension was lowered, longer lower wishbones being fitted, and the shims were removed from the driveshafts. Special anti-roll bars, factory torsion bars, and heavier coil springs at the rear were all used, along with 2-3/4 degrees of negative camber at the back (and half a degree of negative at the front) to produce quite neutral handling. Other modifications included fitting 12-in, disc brakes from a Mark IX Jaguar, with bigger pads and a Lockheed servo; boring the cylinders out 30 thou. taking the capacity to 3.9 litres; gas flowing the head and fitting 1-7/8-in. valves (a Group 4 modification); fitting D-type camshafts with 3/8-in. lift, triple Weber carburetters on special manifolding, and rebuilding the exhaust system.
The car was raced and sprinted at many venues, but times at Brands Hatch are inevitably used as a yardstick and, in 1965, the lap time had come down to 60 sec. with unofficial excursions Into the 59-point-something bracket. Still there was more work to be done. The standard gearbox was disposed of and replaced by a close-ratio box from a 3.8 Jaguar. A set of Minilite wheels were chosen, shod with Goodyear tyres because they are cheaper. Minute suspension changes, usually too small to be measured, were all having their effect. A 3.77 ratio axle was chosen, while a new exhaust manifold proved itself worth all of two seconds on the Silverstone Club circuit—now the car was able to take the Mallory Park circuit record (GT) from a Ferrari 250LM. Helped by slipper pistons and Dykes rings, engine output had risen by around 55 b.h.p. to 280 net sustained, but with a standard bottom end it will rev to 6,250 with the help of balancing.
During the winter of 1965/66 the body was stripped out and lightened to 2,550 lb., helped by an aluminium bonnet and a works glass-fibre hardtop. Steel doors are retained, with Perspex windows, and a roll-over cage fitted inside.
There is still more, much more, that could be mentioned, but that is the outline specification of a car which last year had 17 outright victories in 35 starts, plus six other class wins and four second places. Also it has tucked away marque sports-car records on the Brands Hatch long circuit, Silverstone Club circuit, Snetterton, Castle Combe and Mallory Park.
With such an inspiring competition record, it was more than a pity that the rain was pouring down on the Monday morning when Brands Hatch had been booked for our track test, the day after the L.M.C. meeting in fact. Warming up in the Paddock, the pretty but purposeful-looking car sounded raucous and quite exciting. Warren did some slow laps getting the feel of it, finding at least three “rivers ” on the roadway which moved the car bodily. Some trouble was being experienced with misting-up and the centre wiper was not very effective at speed, while a fair amount of water was coming in from various angles, but still, there are plenty of worse machines to be in on a wet day.
Bearing in mind that we handled the car with great respect in the conditions, it was still remarkable how well it behaved. Warren’s purpose has been to achieve completely neutral steering by adjustments of front and rear roll centres, and we found, in fact, that the car will under or oversteer entirely at will, depending on lock and throttle.
There is, of course, a great deal of power—enough to spin the rear wheels in third coming out of Clearways, unless the car is dead in line for the top straight. It is time to select top in the dip, in front of the grandstand, but within 150 yards a judicious driver would, on such a wet day, think of slowing down again. Now with twin servos, the brakes are absolutely amazing, and we could without doubt have stopped completely before reaching Paddock Bend. That the car weaved under braking is mainly due to a slightly awkward driving position, which calls for athletic gyrations to heel-and-toe, but the owner doesn’t have this problem. If required, the steering wheel can be raised anyway to make it easier for long legged drivers. Paddock Bend never seems to live up to its reputation until you actually get into trouble, and the ” E ” took it very calmly in its stride, hardly deigning even to twitch crossing the stream at the bottom of the hill. Lots of power going up the other side, then back on the fabulous brakes, and an effort to select second without a crunch. John Quick drove the car recently in a sprint, getting a best one-lap time inside 58 sec., in the course of which he missed 2nd and coasted round in neutral; his praise of the neutral steering is warm. A shade too much power coming out of Druids will make the tail twitch slightly, then a very smooth downhill line into Bottom Bend and the drag along Bottom ” Straight” to Kidney in third. Clearways seems to many people to be the most difficult corner of all, certainly to us in a strange car on a soaking track, and unless the throttle was used very carefully, the Jaguar would wriggle like a sackful of monkeys. It has been said that driving a racing car in the rain is like driving a touring car on ice, and while the Jaguar is too well behaved to make that quite true, it is easy to understand the feeling.
Three things stood out particularly after the test drive. The engine revs very freely indeed, and with more power than was needed that day. The brakes are outstandingly good, and the suspension was nothing like as firm as we had expected — the car feels and rides the humps whereas John Quick’s car, for instance, is much firmer and may go with them. However, the steering on John’s car, being solid-mounted, is ” faster” than the steering on Warren’s car, that being virtually unaltered, and this may be the answer.
If you add up the cost of parts, then cost the number of manhours, the ” prototype” Jaguar is worth as much as a GT40 before purchase tax. The money did not have to be found in one lump, however, and obviously the time spent is labour of love. Warren Pearce motor engineers, whose address is 59a Cadogan Lane, London, S.W.1, are prepared to quote in the region of £2,000 for a full race conversion, including labour, but excluding lightened body parts. Approximate prices of the major conversion items are as follows: two anti-roll bars, £11 each; set of Koni shock-absorbers, £50; Minilite wheels, with spline conversion, £128; competition clutch, £23; pistons, £65; gas-flowed cylinder head, £100; Weber conversion, £130; exhaust conversion, £60 fitted; brake conversion with twin servo, £113; oil cooler, £25; suspension modifications, £13; close-ratio gearbox, exchange, £55; competition flywheel, £10; replacement axle, £44; engine balancing, £17. By the time the cost of a set of racing tyres has been included at around £50-£60, a foam-and-leather covered steering wheel, competition seat and so on the bill for parts is approaching £1,000, to which must be added hundreds of hours for building and developing the car. Then you negotiate the cost of lightening the body with alloy or glass-fibre and the overall cost comes into perspective.—M. L. C.