|In a feature that was originally published in the Winter 2018 edition of ‘The Devon Cat’, Patch Jobson speaks to Tom Robinson about Swallows Racing and his emerging racing career.
Patch Jobson is pictured to the left, sitting front left hand side of the JEC raffle car at the 2019 Restoration Show and referred to below as ‘PTJ’
|Tom Robinson of Swallows Racing was recently presented with the Castrol UK award for Best Customer Engagement 2019.
Tom Robinson is pictured to the left and referred to below as ‘TR’
Swallows Jaguar, the history and future ambitions of an established family business
Words by Patch Jobson
Pictures by Letitia Mace
Hidden away on a plain characterless A road in North Somerset is a family business that is making its mark, not only in car repairs and sales, but more importantly within Jaguar Racing circles. The only sign of the operation from the road [at the time of writing this] is an ageing E-Type Bonnet with Swallows Jaguar sign-written on it. However, behind the sign is a business that many trust, and many follow closely when they hit the track. At the helm Father & Son team Gary and Tom Robinson, we spent an afternoon with them to find out a little more.
Since this was written, the entrance to Swallows Jaguar has been completely re-designed and customers are now greeted with a full view of what is on offer as they drive through Rooksbridge.
PTJ; Swallows has an interesting history, but how did you make the decision to start racing?
TR; The business stems from a blend of family influences and engineering expertise spanning 3 generations. My dad, Gary began Swallows in 1985 after completing a five year apprenticeship specialising in both vintage and modern Jaguar automobiles.
The interest in engineering was already in the family as his grandfather, Thomas Robinson, was an aviation engineer who worked through the ranks to become head engineer of De Havilland, whilst his Dad Pete Robinson was a Master Gunsmith with a passion for all things Motorsport; it’s easy to see where the love for all things automotive comes from.
The company HQ began life in Ruislip, Middlesex but with a young family my Dad decided to move to our Acacia Farm premises, which has been home for both us and the business for the last 20 years.
This enthusiasm has certainly spread to myself and my brother Jack. With a family tree populated by engineers on both sides I guess it was inevitable that we were going to end up having some sort of involvement in the industry.
Dad’s own motorsport career began in 100cc karts before he worked his way up to reach the pinnacle of 250cc National Super Kart with works TM Backing and Team Cat Racing behind him.
This allowed him to claim victory at various legendary events including the Isle Man TT and Regular National events.
After achieving so much in the sport Gary decided to hang up his leathers and devote his energy to the business, however there was still a burning family passion for anything and everything motorsport.
This has only increased over the years and we successfully launched Swallows Racing just two years ago [in 2016] to set up this arm of the business for pure passion and for all things performance related.
This has seen us building circuit race cars, safari racers and rally cars for events all over the world with one common theme – Passion at the heart of performance.
PTJ; Which Class do you drive in and what was the appeal?
TR; We run a pair of Jaguar XJR6’s in Class D of the JEC Saloon and GT Championship as this is one of the most competitive classes and gives us a greater licence in what performance modifications can be carried out to the vehicle.
This is great for us here at Swallows Racing as it gives us an opportunity to push the boundaries and showcase what can truly be done to these understated engines.
PTJ; Can you talk us through the mind set you have to get yourself into before hitting the track?
TR; The race weekend build up is a bit of a lengthy one and with preparation beginning well before the weekend itself.
Not only with the car but if I haven’t driven a particular circuit before, then doing as much homework as possible.
We will normally arrive at the circuit on a Friday for practice, occasionally even on a Thursday so the focus begins from then.
It can be seriously nerve wracking and stressful as last-minute changes and set up tweaks to the vehicles are crucial for the weekend ahead. I find the nerves never go no matter how many races I have undertaken.
On the starting line I normally find myself constantly triple checking switches and the quick release steering wheel before I focus on a point on the horizon trying to compose myself and remain calm.
PTJ; Can you tell me about some of the specialist parts you are now supplying for your customers cars?
TR; We now have a huge range of components reverse engineered from our SR fleet that have been extensively tested on track.
Our new performance range is ever expanding with parts such as fully adjustable coil-overs for the full Jaguar range and Wortec/SR braking systems for all applications and requirements.
With our own products designed and manufactured by ourselves adding to this roster, from full exhaust systems to bespoke and unique engine builds, as well as carbon fibre styling and performance upgrades.
We are constantly updating our online shop at www.swallows-jag.co.uk and keeping our many customers informed of new products via our newsletter and social media channels.
PTJ; One of your most recognisable cars is your X300 XJR Manual! What else is currently in the garage?
TR; It’s a fairly comprehensive list right now, but it includes the following;
4.0 XJR6 (5.0 V8 Charger) – Swallows Racing car number 4
4.0 XJR6 (4.2 V8 Charger) – Swallows Racing car number 77
4 Palmer Sport XKR150’s – we also maintain two others so we maintain the main bulk of these as there were only 10 produced by Jaguar.
|A Palmer Jaguar JP1 3.0 V6 Cosworth|
The only manual S-Type R. This was built by us here as an SR project, with our SR stage 3 performance package producing 480BHP and a complete SR suspension package. It’s certainly a serious drivers car to say the least.
XJS 4.0 race car – Class A car which will be available to hire for future races
2014 F-type 5.0R – This is a Swallows Racing development car with our 650BHP performance package/Suspension package/SR Brake package. It truly is a weapon!
2014 XKR 5.0R- another Swallows Racing development car with our 600BHP performance package/Fully adjustable SR Suspension package/SR Brake package.
Land Rover AT Challenger, powered by a Jaguar 4.2 supercharger (this car was at the Goodwood Festival of Speed 2018)
2005 Jaguar XKR 4.2 last of the X100 – This is a Swallows Racing development car with our 450BHP performance package/Fully adjustable SR Suspension package/SR Brake package.
Land Rover competition Safari, powered by a Jaguar 4.2 supercharger
.. and finally a 1960 MK2 Jaguar rally car which competed in the 2016 Peking to Paris Rally, taking 2nd in class.
PTJ; So quite a collection then Tom …
TR; You could say that !
PTJ; What do you think the future holds for JEC Racing, and also the Swallows team?
TR; We are on a very exciting journey. With expansion of the team’s capabilities, and with it the vehicles performance, we have seen a great progression in results this year including a host of podiums and consistent fighting at the front of the grid.
This development will hopefully lead to some victories in the near future and possibly a championship.
As the car advances, various other races and championships, such as the Birkett relay race we competed in recently, become possible and it opens the door to us and brings exciting new challenges.
Beyond that who knows? We are already toying with the idea of taking our newly acquired JP1 to some sprints and hillclimbs and looking at how we can release more of the potential in that car.
PTJ; What would be your one piece of advice for anyone thinking that racing might be for them?
TR; First of all come along and see what’s going on at a race weekend, it normally only costs around £15 for the whole day as a spectator.
Have a go, get your car out on track on a track day, it’s how many racers started and its safer than driving at speed on the road.
One of the best parts of club racing is that it is very accessible and all the drivers are friendly and socialise together over the weekends.
This attitude is unlike any other championship we have ever known and is the draw for most drivers.
From working together to get each other’s vehicles back in action in the pits to nights out frequenting the local curry houses or the circuit bar there is always a great atmosphere.
The race atmosphere is very relaxed but when the flag drops the drivers put on a show like no other, drawing the biggest crowds of the weekend as they peddle these luxury cars around some of the best circuits in the UK.