Castle Combe Autumn Classic Press Day
Thursday 15th August 2013
Report by Letitia Mace
Pictures by Roger Gage
I was invited by JEC Competitions Secretary, Terry Dye, to join a small group of people associated with JEC Racing, at the press day for Castle Combe Autumn Classic.
Arriving with Brucie at 9.30am in pouring rain, I was greeted by Terry Dye, who took me to sign in and introduced me to Rodney Gooch (Castle Combe Sales and Marketing Director). I was issued with a wrist band which allowed me onto the race track as a passenger, later in the day.
Terry and I then retired to the “tavern” where we met up with Roger Gage, and I was introduced to Peter Dorlin (West Riding Jaguar), Nick and Ian (Twyford Moors), and Rob Newall, all regular JEC Racing competitors. We were soon joined by Rebecca Gibbs and Ray Ingman from Jaguar World Monthly.
Rob Newall, Nick & Ian (Twyford Moors), Pete Dorlin (West Riding Jaguar) and Ray Ingman (Jaguar World Monthly)
Welcome refreshments were served while more introductions were made and at 11.30am the serious part of the day began in earnest, with a presentation by Marcus Pye (Classic Motorsport PR) and interviews with all relevant race organizers, including our own Terry Dye, who outlined the general structure of JEC Racing and the race programme for the JECR contingent at the Castle Combe Autumn Classic this year.
A little of the history of Castle Combe, which opened just 18 months after Silverstone in the summer of 1950, was related in this presentation. It is one of the longest established circuits in the UK, and until 1999, followed the original layout around the perimeter of the old air base. In its first year Stirling Moss won a race and other famous drivers like Mike Hawthorn, Colin Chapman, Les Leston, Roy Salvadori and John Surtees drew huge crowds in the ‘50’s. Today, the circuit boasts modern facilities for competitors and spectators, and the resurfaced, reshaped circuit provides what is generally recognised as the closest circuit racing in British motorsport.
The Autumn Classic was new last year and attracted a lot of interest, so for this year it is being expanded further with the hope that it will grow from here and become a low key West Country version of some of the more high profile historic racing events.
The presentation was followed by a photo call. First the race organizers, and then a handful of racers, representative of historic motorsport as a whole and future participants at the Castle Combe Autumn Classic, were photographed with their cars on the startline at this historic track. Mercifully, the rain had at this time passed over, leaving some blue sky for the time being.
My first time out as a passenger in a racing Jaguar, with Peter Dorlin at the wheel.
Drivers were then invited to complete several laps of the track, alone, after which they then gave demonstration laps to passengers. I was lucky enough to be driven round the track first by Peter Dorlin in his Mark 1, and then by Ian in the Twyford Moors XK150. While I was out in the XK150, apparently Peter Dorlin’s Mark 1 went into a spin, as the rain returned and lubricated the track. Fortunately, being the other side of the track, I was completely unaware, and returned to this rather unnerving news!
This was my first visit to a race track, and my first experience as a passenger in a racing car! It is definitely a “must do” if you get the chance, and I think that you subconsciously absorb some of the handling techniques which might prove useful if ever you are unlucky enough to get into a skid! As Nick (Twyford Moors) said afterwards, “From the trackside it may look like we are doing very little, but believe me, we are active all the time, continually adjusting and correcting the cars progress!” As a passenger, I can now vouch for the fact that it is definitely full on and takes 100% concentration!
I was amazed at how nimble the Mark 1 was – I would never have thought it possible that a big chunky saloon with a high centre of gravity could corner as it does. I have seen plenty of pictures, but there is no substitute for being inside the cabin as it corners at what feels like 45% !! On the trip round in the XK150, the rain returned and due to the recent dry spell, the track was lethal – Ian could not even put the ample power down on the straight without risking a spin, and it was in these conditions that the Mark 1 did go into a spin! Fortunately for me, I was by now a passenger in the XK150, but that too was also very twitchy, so Ian could not demonstrate the full potential of the car – 4/10’s was how he described it!
As a passenger with no control, it was difficult not to feel at least some apprehension, but I also felt it was important not to show this as it may make the driver nervous and cause him to make a mistake. After my drive, I asked Ian if carrying a passenger made him feel nervous, and he said “Yes, definitely – added responsibility!”
We were treated to a lunch buffet by Castle Combe, which was generous and delicious and allowed more time for meeting new people and discussing the racing practice that day, our experiences, and hopes for the Autumn event. Later on, after lunch, the drivers were allowed a few more test laps alone. The track had dried and just listening to the cars powering down the straight I could tell that it was nolonger slippery – their progress was smoother and faster!
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All information correct at time of publishing.