We hate Mallory. We’ve always hated Mallory, and when the petition went up for everyone to sign to help save Mallory I would have cheerfully started one to shut the wretched place were it not for the precedent it might set that could later affect real race circuits.


On a summer’s evening, with the barbie sizzling away down by the lake, it can be a pleasant place, but in terms of facilities, access, and the most mind-numbingly dull track layout it is godawful and I wish we didn’t have to come here. It’s the downside to cars being stuck in a championship, they are almost compelled to contest every round and that means dragging your complaining support crew along.




A huge amount of work done since Brands. Comer has a rebuilt engine, a stock 4 litre AJ16 without any bells or whistles. The Brands accident resulted from the main water hose from pump to block having burst. It takes a fair pressure to pop a silicone hose, so we were a bit concerned, and that meant no more 3.6 engine, throw it out and rebuild a trusted, but worn, unit. Not cheap, even a gentle and cost-conscious rebuild using slave labour sets you back £1000 when you add a new cooler and a trip to the rollers to run it in.


Jeffery has also had a lot of expense, modified 4 litre engines that go bang, then borrowed modified 4 litre engines that go bang, cost a large lump of money to set right, and a lot of time. Then there's my engine to invent. Add to this the Bear’s ambitious project to make fibreglass panels for pretty much every piece of every car,  it became a frantic 3 weeks. When you have spent so long sanding that you can hear your triceps complaining at work the next day it’s time to reconsider your hobby.



Cars loaded Saturday night, we were due on the rollers Sunday morning – the beauty to West Riding Jaguar’s facility being that it’s remote, and therefore a 24/7 service. The odd man who greeted us wearing a deerstalker had us a bit concerned, but we warmed to the place even as the sun seared the colour from the day.


A tricky day on the rollers, but Comer’s car was run in, and made exactly the right amount of power for a stock 4 litre engine. We don’t twiddle with them at all, roadgoing class cars to us are to be kept roadgoing spec, you get an enlarged throttle and that’s your lot, so by my rules no A class engine makes more than 250 bhp. But they should run forever. My last engine – pushing the my own boundaries at 248bhp – lasted 4 seasons and only went awry because my oil cooler pipe O rings got tired and emotional, they just keep going when they’re standard equipment.




The Jeffery car, however, was deeply disappointing. Everything done right, everything checked, measured, machined, expensive and beautiful, the bits in this thing were like jewels. And it smoked like an oil refinery, that had caught fire. Numbers were right, no signs of the new bottom end having any problem, but the car was an expensive device for pushing large volumes of high velocity smoke. A swift phone call to a wildly-disappointed boy pilot but he agreed with our assessment, you don’t want to be risking all those expensive bits, pull the entry. The development of an engine cannot be rushed, and breaking it in the first outing would not be wise.


Finished up and off to Mallory, where the fine summer evening allowed the barbeque by the lake to become a most pleasant evening, punctuated only by the wildly-inaccurate hurling of chicken bones at carp.




Morning, and a relaxed start to a pretty busy day. Whilst the TV cameras are here it’s unobtrusive. Other than a bracket on the repainted Barclay car you’d not really notice. That new paint scheme, incidentally, is so that he can collide with Roger Webster without anyone noticing. I still hate the yellow and red theme to his new engine, but oddly enough whether I like the colour doesn’t seem to be high on his list of priorities. Very strange.


Comer is doing two races, and the qualifying is not widely-spaced. The odd sports/saloons challenge is first. Philip takes time to wake up to any circuit, he is one for whom testing brings great rewards, so this quali is his test for the main event. Just as well, as his pace was crap. We took comfort from the fact that at least his engine didn’t smoke, and it kept its coolant in. Sorted that then. Now we just need to go faster. There are a couple of tweaks we can make to help, we’re running ultra-cautious with a new engine, but nothing drastic to be done here, it comes down to the driver finding his zone on the 888, he isn’t comfortable here yet. It is, remember, the first time here for some on this rubber, whilst some have been testing.




Second quali would find more time, but then it will do for everyone. Time on track is the only way to find velocity, and the more you have the better you should get. Philip is in a tail-chase with those who have had time here on 888s from the moment this starts until the moment he can get to grips with the rubber and apply some of his bravery. The question for us is not whether that will happen, but when, and if he will find his limit or keep on getting braver until there’s an off. Just how it is with no testing and such a fundamental change as altering the rubber.


There’s a very fast turnaround between the two qualifying sessions, Comer goes from one straight to the other, it’s that sort of day. Unquestionably the surprise of qualifying was Merrett, back with the series for the first time since his oil-slick escapades of 2012. More than one driver was heard to ask, darkly, if they personally would have chosen the same track to make their reappearance, and on TV too. That word has it that his car was putting out 450bhp on only ten cylinders, and that it will be running on ten today because it’s broken, did not allay any fears. Everyone would be proven wrong, because Merrett took pole. A little smoky, but pole.




At the other end of the spectrum Philip is almost last. Whilst Tim the light would make an appearance in a quest for more advance, Philip is running into what I can only describe as muscle memory. You expect Mallory to pass by at a certain speed, so you drive at that speed. Shaking yourself out of that requires an external stimulus, and for Philip it’s usually racing, he’s always faster in pursuit.


Somewhere in between the old hands are starting to slip down the grid. Hill, Pearce, Lewis etc are all lower down the order these days. There are mechanical woes too, Bye requiring major surgery after qualifying, Butterfield’s immaculate Daimler would not see the race. Morrant’s brand new car is barely ready for the event and trolling around slowly, and to confuse everyone yet another bloody white-painted XJ6. Enough, OK, someone paint one an actual colour, please? How about red? There aren’t any red cars. Someone, at random I’m picking Dean, your car is now red. That’s all there is to it. Red.





That’s if Deano can keep a fan belt on, of course, his car ate two today. Another weird performance, again, from Frost. We’ve said it before, but it doesn’t make sense. If you’ve got a powerful 6 pot, you go best at twisty circuits that you can use the handling advantage to spank the V12s, yet he goes best of all at power tracks. Silverstone, Snetterton, and now Mallory. Not Brands, like Ramm, but the ones without all the corners in. Baffling. Has anyone checked it’s not a V12?


And what of our friend David Howard? Well, he’s out-qualified for once, but we don’t see that as much of an obstacle for him. Now that’s out with the Jags a lot the secret to that car’s speed, the incredible traction that lets it lay down the power so well, is out. Couple that with the smooth driving style and that’s why he wins. Simple. Hard as hell to emulate, but simple.


Our wanderings in this paddock reveal much that remains unseen. Young Butterfield’s bouncy XJ40 has no operating rear dampers. Gail has a squeaky bush, which prompted so many obvious but necessary jokes I was unclear if she was going to laugh or punch one of us. There was some scolding of her for lack of suspension maintenance, the wise old heads of the series ought to know better.





But what really catches our attention is fibreglass. There is a lot more of it about of late. Wings, bonnets, bumpers, doors, there is little of some XJ6s that are still steel. Great for weight, less practical when it comes to the rub and nudge of racing at Mallory. The XJS, despite being the newer, more “advanced” cars tend to shy away from GRP to quite that extent, at least for now. More a question, I think, of the saloons exploiting the new rules that allow for lightweight panels without considering if they really need them. Perhaps. That said, the Bear is in a full-time production line now as he creates every panel possible for the XJ40 as those fat old tanks struggle to lose the pounds.


And so to the race. It’s like this. You’re on the tele, so behave, but you’re on the tele, so go like mad and create some entertainment. 30 Jags battering into turn 1 is a hell of a thing to see. Smoking, nudging, screaming engines and tyres, it’s a spectacle, and fair enough. But they all want to make that killer move to stand out, and even when there are no cameras you get crunches at Mallory. Someone is going to be on the grass exiting Gerrards, someone will run up the back of another at the hairpin, someone will smite another car on the way into Gerrards, this is just what happens.







At the time of writing this the “official” race report is just out. There is a little bit in there that irritates me, and I have to deal with it here, because, to me, it seems unfair. Unsightly flapping wings being an unsightly advert for JEC racing. If your car is damaged but roadworthy, you keep driving, you don’t retire it just because there are cameras. No racing driver would.


If the car is working, you keep driving. If you’re wrong to do so, they have this clever system which involves pieces of coloured fabric on sticks that they wave at you. There doesn’t seem to be a flag for “we don’t like how your car looks.” We have chided drivers before for quitting without reason, you can nurse even a seriously broken car home with some skill and caution. This car, however, was mechanically intact, indeed we could see that because we could see the suspension, so why on earth would you retire it?







And, really, isn’t that what the TV audience wants to see? How many tuning in to Motors TV are Jaguar-owning hubcap polishers? How many are motorsport enthusiasts? Of course it’s the latter, these people tune in to watch a race, and part of racing is watching the carnage. Tune in to the BTCC, all trailing bumpers and a Porsche series that competes to see how many splitters they can leave at Thruxton, Ginettas that shed bonnets and keep right on going. Tim Harvey waxing lyrical because Sheddon has just deliberately driven into a tyre barrier to get rid of a flapping wing. Nobody says these boys should retire from a race because they knocked some paint off.


How far do you want to take that anyway, should we come in because the polish is not quite up to par, or the lead car has collected too many flies? It’s balls. If it runs, you keep going. Determination is part of the sport they pay to see, nobody tunes in to watch some lily-livered ponce endlessly droning round waving everyone past with a by your leave, they came to watch a race, and the big old Jag that takes a beating and keeps right on going is part of that. An unsightly advert my eye, it’s exactly what most of them tuned in to watch. It’s Mallory, it happens. Bugger-all else does here.







Whilst I warm to my theme, and get my rant over with, how much more unsightly is a damaged front end than, for example, an XJ40 steaming into an XJS and causing a safety car that wastes several laps of live television time? Or the Motors TV camera car colliding with another machine and trailing its bumper along the floor for a few laps?


Singling out one individual, whilst the more major incident goes almost unremarked is curious. A race report should not be written with editorial comment, but carefully neutral. Either dirty laundry is to be aired publically, in which case let’s see it all, or not at all.


Anyway, there is now a new brown flag just for Jag races, to be waved at any car they consider looks a bit crap.






Anyway, there was a race, and things happened. Which is not unusual. All the things you expect to happen happened. There were collisions at Gerrards, a car on the grass at the exit, a crash at the hairpin, mechanical failures, and a spin at the Essess. You know this is coming before we start, so really you can take last year’s report and just change the names, this place does not deliver anything new.


Except one. Paul Merrett. Absolute catastrophe last year, nearly won it this year. If it’s true that this car was making 450bhp on ten cylinders, then by extrapolation he should have over 500 on all 12, and given how much faster his car was than Howard’s in a straight line then Christ knows what would have happened on full power. That thing goes. Still not impressive in a corners, which is why Howard would win this race, but by God does it pick up on the straights. Now admittedly Mallory is the least-technical and most-power-dependant circuit of the year, but this was a warning shot. If that car can be made to go round a corner then it would be extremely fast.









But come the safety car it all changed, and they would end up in a brief, breathless sprint to the flag, which was a different game because Howard went defensive, then couldn’t escape. A last-lap side by side trip into the essess saw Merrett edge a nose ahead on the exit, but then on the outside line to the hairpin, which wasn’t going to ever work. He was simply out-braked on the way in, and that’s all she wrote, Howard held it. A much better showing from Merrett than we’ve ever seen before, however. I suspect Castle Combe won’t suit him as well, the bumps of that track require a different machine, though it does have that almighty straight. Be an interesting race to see.











So what’s with the safety car? Well, that one was Dyson senior splattering Ramm. The accident that most will focus on will no doubt be Comer hitting Dyson junior, but the big one was actually the two front runners. Hurtling into Gerrards with traffic to contend with in the form of Dyson junior, Dyson senior got it all wrong and smote Ramm, knocking him off the road whilst putting himself into the Armco. Damaged front end and holed radiator meant retirement, and a giant burgundy barge parked nose-first into the Armco at Gerrards is quite an obstruction. Safety car and recovery lorry meant several lost laps and a series of frustrated howls leaking from a Mr T Dye as he watched the television time squandered.


What of our resident risk assessor? Comer had a good start, gained a couple of quick places, and then in a move that defied our expectations went all the way round Pizzala at Gerrards, finishing the move on the grass, but making it stick. Lucky the sun had been out. Someone hit Comer up the arse at some point in these early laps, but there are too many cars with blue paint on these days to work out who.













But then the problem. Two fast saloons, XJ40 and X300, swift on the straights, poor in the corners. Comer’s car is swift in the corners, average on the straights. There is a technique to passing cars like that, and it requires patience to set it up. Patience is in short supply when you’ve your main rival hanging off your six (mmm, Six) and you have to defend whilst attacking.


Lap after lap we watched him exit Gerrards right up the boot of the saloon battle, pop out to pass, and then fail to make it as they out-powered him. There was a nearly-made-it move into the essess, but he got out of it and let the X300 go, which we thought was pretty smart. And then it stopped being smart, he saw a gap under braking into Gerrards, put the car in it, and then the gap went away. A tag on the XJ40 rear wing tipped it into a spin, which he then collected with the driver’s side, and went for a trip onto the outfield whilst the pursuing cars parted around the obstacle like something Moses would have organised.












Pizzala did very well to miss the spun saloon, and baby Coppock did even better to find the hole between Pizzala and the Armco to steal a whole fistful of places. Everyone got going again, Comer and Dyson a lap down, and it was all settling down again when the safety car appeared.


So what went wrong? Simple. Stuck behind cars you’re faster than, but which are too fast down the straight for you, with your class rival hanging off your boot waiting for an opportunity. There is a way to pass, and it’s not a late dive on the brakes. Well, it is, but it’s set up one, sometimes two or three corners earlier, you have to engineer the pass such that you close on your victim only at the end of the corner and get a run on the exit. Comer was much faster in the key corner, Gerrards, but catching the saloon too early, then following it and ending up with the same exit speed.


The "correct" approach would be to hang back for an extra couple of seconds before making your run, timing it so that you have the overspeed on exit and a side-by-side run into the braking zone where we know the XJS is better. That’s about having the confidence to hang back long enough to time the move, you have to let him get away from you briefly, it’s as simple as that. This collision really came about from the failure to pass into the essess the lap before. If you want to pass into Gerrards you’ve got to start that move at the essess to move your victim onto the line that will screw up his exit speed from the hairpin. It’s easy to analyse later, hard to do in the heat of combat, but it’s how you have to drive to pass a car that is even vaguely equivalent to your own.





Instead of that, you see a hole up the inside, you might dive for it. You shouldn’t, but many drivers have done it. Hell, Dyson did it four laps later. Hill v Bye last year. Coppock gravelled it there in 2010 passing Ramm, this was the classic Gerrards accident. Fortunately, everybody kept on going, and the irony of a later safety car for different cars was not lost on us.


Assessing the damage from the essess we were interested to be able to see an XJS suspension working, the wing nicely smushed up out of the way. Glad we fitted shiny parts under there. He gives us the thumbs up as he follows the safety car crocodile, and we answer in kind, permission to continue is granted, nothing obviously wrong with it mechanically, keep going. We too are an unsightly advert for JEC racing.


And so the race ends. The tally of cars with engine, gearbox or clutch woes is high. The list of those with accident damage is even longer, there are dents, cracks and scuffs in a dozen machines. A race that, to my eyes, was a good one not to be in. Funny really, they take Cadwell off the calendar because it’s too tight and likely to provoke incidents, but they keep on coming back to the track that produces more banger racing than anywhere else we go.


But then the advert from Mallory itself for this event promoted the damage as one of the prime selling points. It was right there in the promo bumf from the circuit itself, they were selling the carnage. Well, they got some. An odd, tense feeling in the paddock, but that could be because we were all imprisoned here until the end of the day. Stupid bloody place requires you to drive up the circuit to get out, and of course with the TV cameras here they’re not allowing a gap in the racing to allow anyone out. And the doughnut wagon was turning out complete shit.









The Bear has a couple of engines to work on.


I think one of them is mine.


A bulldozer.


And there was some earth-moving equipment there too.


Katy is strapped down and abused.


This rolling road was in a really odd place.


Nice work in the Barclay engine department.


Hideous colours, but nice work.


Brands rivals Howard and Ramm cosy up in the Mallory paddock. Just the cars.


A really keen eye will see the TV camera transmitter.


But he did forget to repaint the window stay.


Stirling Moss caught wandering about assembly. Jags line up for chaos. 2 races with Jags in, only one entry list...


Coppock's V12 is strangely anonymous these days.


The tyres have changed much.


Mallory's assembly isn't really big enough for Jags either, much more suited to tiny cars.


Confused man spotted looking for his nurse.


He would later spot that the clipboard is pink.


An impressive line of old battletanks.


But nobody seems to have a red one.




Close in class A, this is the whole class lined up one after t'other.


And all at the back of the grid.


Morrant's new white steed.

Once it gets up to pace and dices with West Riding we'll be completely lost.


Last minute attention to Dorlin's car.


It is also white.


That gap doesn't now seem to be there.


Oh dear.


No, this is definitely not going according to plan.




Pizzala did well to miss the spinning saloon, but Coppock managed to capitalise on it all in spectacular fashion.



Bear, fetch the T Cut, this is going to take a little work.


This was not the plan.


The new brown flag will also have a number on it, to tell you by refence to this chart just how crap your car looks.

Our plans are somewhat changed by this event. Comer was meant to be taking his car home, playing on a trackday at Combe, and looking after himself for the race, we’d be sitting Combe out. We might even dodge Pembrey at that. But with a car to fix, I guess we'll be seeing y'all at Castle Combe after all. Four foot snake.







Repairs are swiftly underway.


Two wings and a serious repair to the bumper we made him go and find.



As it stands, however, Howard would demonstrate that poise, grip and traction can defeat superior power. Which is not news, we’ve been shouting that for years. As a sidebar, presumably now that Merrett has sorted that V12 out, he’ll now retire the car before he wins anything with it, like that amazingly-fast 6 cylinder car he just got working perfectly before parking up. Anyone who know where that car is, by the way, steal it for me, I’ll give you a shiny pound coin for it any day of the week, because I think it had the potential to be even faster than the V12 is.


Oh yes, the race. Well, good, bad, ugly. Howard got the start, took the lead, never gave it up. He had the race under control all the way through, until the safety car. To the observer at the essess he was fast enough in the key corners to be comfortably out of range down the straights, he simply out-gripped his opponent and scampered off, the gap was small but stable enough. Merrett was pushing hard, but I think Howard had a bit left, didn’t get ruffled by it. Experience is everything.












Elsewhere, the usually-impressive Barclay twatted into someone and spoiled his shiny new paint, retiring the car a few laps later. The curse of the camera car, because anyone who has ever watched any UK circuit racing knows that the car with the camera in retires, blows up or crashes. Dorlin, tagged in the rear, was knocked out of gear, over-revved the engine and broke the clutch.


Rodney Frost held third place all race long, leading class C from Palmer, until for no good reason and under no particular pressure he fell off at the essess on the last lap and let pretty much the whole field pass him.