The unveiling of the product of Swallows Racing winter labours at Silverstone GP circuit was much like aristocratic young ladies being wheeled out for the first time at a formal society ‘Debs’ ball. The XK8 was wearing a fine set new threads and looking extremely glamourous and it wasn’t long before a crowd had gathered around her with their envious eyes. They were out of luck, this labour of love already belonged to Jack Robinson and he was about to spin her around the dancefloor for the first time.
Joining the ‘Ball’ for his debut race was Swallows Racing parts manager Joe Osborne driving the ‘Naughty Forty’ (XJ40) that Jack campaigned last season. Andrew Maynard spent the winter refreshing his XJ40 with more than a ‘nip and tuck’ to smooth dents and wrinkles from years of racing. A fresh coat of white paint applied and new Castrol livery echoing the IMSA Jaguars of the late 1980’s. Finally, Andrew’s car was fully re-bushed, rear axle re-built and pre-race checked at Swallows ready for Silverstone. Returning to the party Damian Gray our man in the Cotswolds making up the trio of XJ40’s with F1 livered car. The final debut of the weekend came with Gary Robinson behind the wheel of our enormous race truck fresh from passing his HGV test. Gary hauled the four cars, race spares, tools, and catering equipment from Somerset to Northamptonshire as easily as you could say ‘Yorkie’.
After a blustery night and early start for scrutineering the Jags were first up and qualifying on a damp but drying grand prix circuit. At 3.6 miles this is the longest circuit on the CTCRC Jaguar Challenge calendar. The XK8 looked very stable on track, we have learnt so much from preparing Tom’s car over the last few years especially with regards to suspension set up and chassis dynamics. Once again, we were using suspension from AVO, brakes from TAROX, air-filters from Pipercross and our own fabricated exhausts. Getting a car set up correctly first time out isn’t easy and only having had half a day testing we were over the moon when Jack put the car on ‘pole’ all be it by a hundredth of a second in front of Guy Connew’s V12 XJS. Andrew had his best qualifying session to date, pipping Damian for the first time with Joe tucking in behind.
With brightening skies and a dry track for race one, the afternoon’s racing got underway with Jack making a good start and leading the pack of Jags into Copse for the first time. Now with a dry track it wasn’t long before both Connew in V12 XJS and Mike Seaborne in Derek Pearce’s XK8 could use their more developed cars and greater power to overhaul Jack’s advantage on this quick circuit. Running faultlessly the newly built XK8 with Jack driving superbly was able to secure his very first podium in just his second season with a well deserved third overall and second in class. Andrew enjoyed a good tussle with the XJS of David Ringham and Damian’s XJ40, but when the chequered flag dropped Andrew prevailed. A little further back Joe brought the ‘naughty forty’ home safely having had some fun with a few much lighter Fords that were sharing the grid.
Feeling very satisfied with our efforts, the team sat down for a communal evening meal of pork chops, apple sauce, stuffing, and veg cooked by chef Colin. Sharing bread, beer, and wine, we thoroughly debriefed the day’s proceedings before turning in ready for the start in of BST and the first day of spring. When we awoke, we discovered that, spring had sprung a leak. Heavy overnight rain was still falling as dawn broke.
Venturing out onto a very wet track, for Swallows this brought an optimistic feeling because we knew this was Jack’s best chance of a win. Making an excellent start it wasn’t long before Jack was able to easily pass Connew in the XJS, the wet nullifying the power of the V12 and he set about catching Seabourne. It took less than a lap before he was on the back of the fellow XK8, closing in at Village before going around the outside of the Loop and completing the move out of Aintree onto the Wellington straight. Jack proceeded to open a narrow gap which he managed to control until the chequered flag. In the meantime, in the pack behind Andrew was having another ding-dong battle with David Ringham’s XJS, Damian sadly out of the proceedings with a clutch problem. Joe was having a baptism of fire learning how to control the XJ40 in the wet and doing an excellent job of keeping it tame and on the tarmac. Our celebrations of Jack’s first win turned to disappointment as we found he had been penalised for apparently overtaking under a yellow flag which no one including Jack could see in spray as he was committed to the move.
Our disappointment subsided as we reflected on the achievement, a pole, third and second overall for Jack in a newly built XK8 race car first time out. Andrew in the newly fettled gleaming XJ40 gaining lots of admirers, Damian a successful qualifying and first race, sadly no second race with the clutch problem and Joe completing qualifying and two races, one in the wet without a hitch and not a scratch on the car. Swallows Racing’s reputation is certainly enhanced by building another quality race car.