The Donington Historic Festival is regarded as one of the most prestigious events of the UK’s historic racing calendar and this year’s event was no exception as the Historic racing season got underway in earnest once again. M & C Wilkinson had an action packed weekend in store with Jamie Boot and Paul Pochciol out in Jamie’s E-Type ‘5RPP’ in the GT&SCC race. Then in the in augural race for the newly formed ‘Jaguar Heritage Series’ Jamie was once again competing in ‘5RPP’ and Matt Nicoll-Jones competing in the M & C Wilkinson E-Type ‘AFW’.
In the GT&SCC race qualifying was on Saturday, a solid performance put Jamie and Paul 13th overall in a highly competitive forty car field. Race day was then on Sunday at midday with Jamie out first, Paul was then to do the middle stint for Jamie to then take over the car once again to the finish.
In Jamie’s first stint from the off he made good progress moving up the field and into the top ten before handing over to Paul for the middle stint. Paul took over the car and immediately managed to set a good pace in damp conditions by slowly improving his times lap after lap. Paul managed to move up to eighth overall by the time he pitted for what was the final compulsory driver change. Jamie then took over the car to the finish, a more than creditable performance by Paul may we add in what was his first race in an E-Type.
As the raced neared the end and with the track now dry Jamie set a consistent set of times to enable him and Paul to finish eighth overall and fifth in the GT4 class.
Monday came and with glorious sunshine the M & C Team had high hopes of a highly competitive result in the newly formed ‘Jaguar Heritage Challenge’. Qualifying was first thing in the morning and straight away Matt Nicoll-Jones reacquainted himself well to one of our E-Types. Within a handful of laps Matt took provisional-pole by over a second from the competition, despite not managing to have a clear lap at that point! As the clocked ticked down with only one lap left Matt was certain he had clear air to improve upon his benchmark time of 1.20.043. Unfortunately an electrical glitch occurred as he entered ‘McLeans’ and the car came to a halt. The ‘works’ McLaren Driver Andrew Kirkaldy in Martin O’Connell’s E-Type managed to just eclipse Matt’s benchmark time on his last lap, taking pole and therefore putting us second on the starting grid with Jamie in his E-Type eighth overall in a thirty car field.
The race came shortly after lunch and a frantic start briefly saw Matt drop down to forth at the first corner before he re took second by the end of the first lap. Matt was vastly underpowered in ‘AFW’ and lap after lap as he exited ‘Roberts’ he passed Martin O’Connell as he exited the corner, however, Martin’s car then managed to power back alongside Matt each time they entered ‘Redgate’. Each time Martin heavily blocked Matt on the exit swiping the front of ‘AFW’s’ nose clean off. On Matt’s third attempt he finally out foxed Martin into ‘Redgate’ but unfortunately oil on the track at the ‘Old Hair Pin’ put Matt off the circuit and allowed Martin back into the lead before the red flag came out.
Over ten cars had managed to spin on the oil that unfortunately transpired to be an engine failure with Jamie’s engine. As the cars were recovered from the gravel the remaining competitors lined up on the grid in readiness for the re start. The Clerk of the Course driving the safety car spent the red flag period out of the safety car and planted on Martin O’Connell’s bonnet talking to him. Matt took the time to speak to the Clerk to ask if the pit window was open and to make him aware he would be pitting with the safety car immediately after the restart.
The race restarted under the safety car for the first lap following the red flag. At the end of that lap the safety car then pulled in with Matt following, however, the safety car then stopped in front of Matt not allowing him to get past to then complete his mandatory one minute stop therefore costing him well over ten seconds! Matt completed his stop to then re-enter the track just behind Martin, without the delay of the safety car he would have managed to come out ahead of Martin to then give him clear air to therefore try and enable him to open up a gap (in theory) so that once Martin pitted he would take the overall lead of the race thereafter. Unfortunately as he passed the pits a lap later it transpired that the diff had let go at the ‘Old Hair Pin’ meaning Matt pulled over and had to retire the car.
Matt immediately wanted to speak to the Clerk of the Course driving the safety car to see why he had stopped in front of him after the re start. The clerk decided to tell Matt ‘he was entitled to do so’ and that ‘he shouldn’t have passed him in the pit lane!!’ Absolute nonsense and after discussion with race control the newly promoted clerk of the course was promised to be reprimanded for his actions. With the failure of the diff we are not able to know how the delay would have affected our result (if we had finished) but we cannot help but feel that this was a pre conceived plan to try and hamper our attempt at winning the inaugural race of the Jaguar Heritage Challenge.