Nights in shining armour

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The Kinrara Trophy is fast gaining a cult following at Goodwood. And for your first appearance in the race, what could be better than an early – and very original – Jagaur E-type?

Kinrara trophy 2018 Etype Jaguar

Of the many pinch-yourself moments routinely served to crowds and competitors at the Goodwood Revival, the Kinrara Trophy has quickly established itself as an absolute belter. Conceived to evoke the long-distance day-into-night races held at the Sussex circuit throughout its first life, the Kinrara has become the traditional curtain-raiser for the Revival weekend and this year’s event was the third of its kind. Given the meeting’s significance as the Revival’s 20th anniversary, Goodwood pulled out all the stops to assemble what many believe to be the most valuable grid of cars ever seen. It’s perhaps vulgar to define this glorious race in such terms, for there’s far more to it than money, but still there’s no denying the spectacle of 30 pre-1963 GTs estimated by Goodwood to be worth £200m gathered to race – and race hard – around one of UK’s fastest and most unforgiving circuits.

I’ve been extremely lucky with Revival drives over the past few years, with invitations to race a Frazer Nash Le Mans Rep in 2015 (in the Freddie March Memorial Trophy, which also held the Friday evening slot), a Cobra in the TT in 2016 and an Alfa Giulietta in last year’s St Mary’s Trophy. But the Kinrara was one I suspected might prove elusive. So imagine my delight when Goodwood regular Adam Lindemann invited me to share his Jaguar E-type. Not just any E-type either, but one of the very earliest competition cars.

TO APPRECIATE JUST how special it is, let’s pause and rewind. To 1961, in fact – the year Jaguar launched the E-type. Keen to give its new sports car the best possible showing, Jaguar’s Competition Department supremo Frank ‘Lofty’ England decided that a batch of the very earliest cars – complete with an optimised Project Specification – would be reserved for a select group of teams and noted privateers to race. This spec included engine block, cylinder head and inlet manifold machined and gas-flowed by the Experimental Department, plus high-compression pistons, close-ratio gearbox and a lightened flywheel among the enhancements. The chassis and bodywork would remain standard.

Amusingly a certain ‘FRW England’ was at the top of the priority customer list, with the famous Coombs, Equipe Endeavour and Peter Berry Racing teams all in line to receive a pair of cars each, with a further single car (chassis 850008) ear-marked for successful privateer Sir Gawaine Baillie.

Jaguar was over-stretched in its efforts to get the E-type into production, so while its international debut at the Geneva Motor Show and race debut at Oulton Park in mid-April were both a tremendous success (Graham Hill famously scoring a debut win against formidable opposition from Ferrari and Aston Martin), it would be four or five months before the factory would start to build cars in any number. As a consequence Baillie would wait until the summer of ’61 before his ‘special’ car was delivered, but he soon enjoyed success with a fourth-place finish at Snetterton in the Scott Brown Memorial Trophy. He was in good company, with fellow Jag driver Mike Parkes scoring a win for Equipe Endeavour and Roy Salvadori taking second place for Coombs.

“We would be recommencing the career of one of the earliest competition E-types, a full 57 years after it was last driven in anger”

Baillie would campaign the car for the remainder of the 1961 season, but then sold it soon after as a road car. The car then passed through a number of hands, eventually heading to the USA, where it remained, inactive in a private collection, for some 25 years. Baillie’s decision to sell the car for road use ensured it remained remarkably original, avoiding the fate of many early competition E-types, which were gradually evolved into semi-lightweight and Lightweight spec in the pursuit of speed.

Lindemann acquired the car in the summer of this year and immediately shipped it to the UK, where noted Jaguar preparer and racer Gary Pearson took charge of a sympathetic recommissioning which, should he manage to complete the work in time, would result in me sharing a Kinrara drive. In doing so we would be recommencing the career of one of the earliest competition E-types, a full 57 years after it was last driven in anger.

Etype 2018 Goodwood

THERE’S SOMETHING RATHER romantic about racing such a correct car. Especially when it’s ostensibly a road car. At least it is once you get over the fact you won’t be able to compete at the pointy end with cars that have lived a more active life and are raced more regularly. Pearson is as sage as they come and does little to sugar-coat the truth of the matter, but he’s equally quick to praise the originality and inherent sweetness of Lindemann’s ultra-early E-type. He describes it as a ‘proper’ Kinrara car.

To be honest it’s a wonder the inky green E-type made it to Revival at all. By the time the car arrived from the States, Pearson and his team only had a scant month to complete its preparation before the big weekend.

The most time-consuming task was to install a roll cage. Period originality is one thing, but you can’t race a car without 21st century safety equipment, so GB 8488 now boasts a stout roll hoop, although not the full cages sported by many of the other E-types. Pearson’s crew then went through the whole car to make sure it was prepared and ready to race, sympathetically uprating it but keeping it very much a fast road car, at least compared with the highly developed race cars that characterise the modern historic scene. As such it’s very much in the spirit of the Kinrara and a fine snapshot of what Lofty England’s cadre of chosen teams and gentleman privateers would have raced back in 1961.

The magnitude of what racing in the Kinrara actually means hits me when I wander into the assembly area. The array of machinery is truly awe-inspiring; a dozen luscious V12 Ferraris flanked by eight lithe E-types, a quartet of pugilistic Aston DB4 GTs, a couple of raucous early AC Cobras, a pair of bellowing Austin Healeys and a solitary Maserati 3500 GT adding to the aristocratic mix.

Apart from having a quick sit in the car on Thursday afternoon to get seat and belts sorted, the E-type and I are strangers, with the Friday morning practice session (the best times from which will decide the starting order later that evening) is my first and only chance to get acquainted before the race itself.

Lindemann is in the same boat, so starts the session to get some laps under his belt. It’s wonderful to see GB 8488 circulating a race track once more, the crisp snort of its 3.8-litre straight-six distinct amongst the more frantic Ferrari V12s as it spears by the low-cut pit wall and heads towards the braking area down at Madgwick corner.

With so many races to pack into the weekend, track sessions are always short and sweet at Revival, so as Lindemann returns to the pit we make a quick driver change and I head out to join the precious fray.

It really is a beautiful thing to drive. The motor is lusty and generous in its delivery, revving smoothly to 6000rpm. There’s not much point working it harder as the 3.8-litre straight-six doesn’t draw as hungrily from its triple SU carbs or exhale as freely through its cast exhaust manifold as the snortier E-types that race in the TT do, with their spitting Webers and tubular headers.

The four-speed gearbox has a heavy shift but a shortish throw, with a tight, mechanical-feeling gate that’s a cinch to navigate, while the similarly weighty clutch has a short throw and positive bite. In period, E-types were notoriously hard on their brakes, or rather the brakes were too modest for the performance of the rest of the car. Pad materials have come a long way since the Sixties, so although the solid discs remain modest in size and braking distances a little longer than you might expect, they shouldn’t need too much looking after through an hour’s racing. The pedal certainly remains encouragingly firm during practice.

Etype Jaguar Goodwood 2018

“In period, E-types were notoriously hard on their brakes, or rather the brakes were too modest for the performance of the car”

There’s great pleasure to be had from feeling the long nose dip into the braking area for Woodcote. Sliding your right foot across to stroke the throttle as you brake initiates an endlessly satisfying process, one where you roll your ankle to bring up the revs, slot the gearlever from fourth to third then pause a moment for the Jag’s front-end to settle before progressively pouring on the power and feeling the rear-end (and your right foot) subtly do the steering. There’s also one lap where I brake too deep, put the left-rear wheel on the grass and execute a swift 360-degree spin, but let’s keep that one to ourselves, shall we?

Lindemann and I end up qualifying 17th on a 1min 34.394sec (a whopping six seconds shy of the front-row E-type of Jon Minshaw and Phil Keen), which is pretty much what Pearson predicted and right in the middle of the grid. Taking the start of any race tends to hold your attention, but when you’re literally slap-bang in the midst of the most precious grid of racing cars ever assembled your mouth goes drier and heart thumps a little harder.

WHEN THE 5SEC board is shown the Goodwood start-finish straight comes alive with rising revs and a sweet haze of petrol fumes fills the air before the Union Jack drops and we all slew away in a flurry of wheelspin and fog of tyre smoke.

Despite a shaky left leg I manage to get the E off the line better than the cars immediately around me, but by the time I snap into second gear progress is hampered by a brace of 250 SWBs on the row ahead. If this was a tin-top race I think I’d have fancied my chances of pushing between them with elbows out, but there’s no way I want to damage them or harm Lindemann’s lovely Jag, so I ease off the gas and immediately get swamped by the row behind. The cause of the bottleneck is soon apparent, in the crumpled shape of a silver 250 GTO (prepared and driven by that man Pearson), which suffered chronic clutch slip off the line and got thumped in the tail by Richard Meins’ beautiful CUT7 E-type.

As a result of the mêlée the run through Madgwick and down to Fordwater is equally nerve-wracking, with cars all around jostling for position in the first heated moments of the race. Discretion feels very much like the better part of valour at this stage, so I decide to find some space, settle into chasing down the cars ahead and doing my utmost not to forget to enjoy the simple pleasure of driving such a historically significant E-type on a track that’s blessed with equally authentic period charm.

And there really is plenty to enjoy. The Kinrara was conceived as a race for early original cars that haven’t been developed as intensively as those that do battle in the TT. In the three years since the first race its popularity has seen the Kinrara’s status increase, and inevitably that means it attracts cars that are raced regularly and are therefore quicker than those that remain truer to the road-racer spirit of the early Sixties. Still my softly-softly strategy begins to bear fruit, with those bolder souls who mugged me at the start now being reeled in one by one as GB 8488 begins to find its groove after a lifetime away from the track.

“When you’re slap-bang in the midst of the most precious grid of racing cars ever your mouth goes drier and heart thumps a little harder”

Overtaking at Goodwood is a process that requires brains and balls: the former because you build a run on the car in front a few corners before you make your move; the latter because you still have to brake decisively later or carry considerably more speed through one of the key corners to stand any chance of making it stick. This is made harder in a car with modest grip and longer braking efforts because they need room to get slowed and slew through the corners. Besides which, I really don’t want to be the one who makes a clumsy lunge and piles into another car.

By the time I start scanning the pit wall for an ‘in‘ board the narrow tyres are really beginning to struggle for grip. It’s not quite like having a thin film of oil on the circuit, but it is noticeable how I’m using more corrective lock and being more circumspect on the throttle. Then again it’s so easy to tune in to the E-type that you can adapt your inputs so long as you listen to the machine. With some decent overtaking moves completed and the pitstops underway, I’m pleased to bring GB 8488 back in eighth place for Lindemann to takeover and – hopefully – complete the race.

THE POST-STINT buzz is one of the best feelings you can experience, but once the adrenalin subsides it’s equally satisfying to watch your car in action. Especially when we’re treated to one of the most spectacular sunsets I’ve ever seen. Golden light glints from the curves of some of the most beautiful cars ever made, the fulsome Ferraris and athletic Astons all looking magnificent and quite distinct from the torpedo-shaped E-types, even as they are silhouetted against the fiery sky.

The sight of a silver Ferrari 250 SWB slamming into the left-rear quarter of E-type number 27 snaps me from my trance-like state. Poor Adam has been harpooned by the optimistically piloted Ferrari, and for a while it’s hard to see what the outcome has been. Once the tyre smoke and dust clears it’s a relief to see that Jag and Ferrari have both got underway once more, GB 8488’s stout Coventry steel standing up rather better than the Ferrari’s flimsy Modenese alloy.

Up front there’s an absolute humdinger of a race between Niklas Halusa and Emanuele Pirro’s sensational 250 GT SWB ‘Breadvan‘ and the flying E-type of Minshaw and Keen, with further spectacle provided by the ever-entertaining Rob Huff wringing the neck of Richard Meins’ CUT 7 in pursuit of third place and Simon Hadfield hustling Wolfgang Friedrichs’ handsome DB4 GT in the latter stages of the race.

When the chequered flag drops, Pirro takes an emotional and well-deserved win for himself and Halusa with Minshaw/Keen a close second. And Lindemann in GB 8488? Despite the assault at St Mary’s he brings the E-type home an eventual 16th: the car bearing the scars of battle; Lindemann wearing the smile of a man who’s experienced something very special. It’s been quite an adventure, not to mention a fascinating behind-the-wheel insight into the formative days of a Jaguar legend. What a car! What a race!