Dep-O Magazine

Castle Combe Autumn Classic: A Lap In A Jaguar XK120

Doing this for a living you can get blasé about fast blasts around circuits – especially when ‘hack scaring’ is a common unofficial sport amongst racing drivers…

2013 Castle Combe Autumn Classic Press Preview Day

I need a grab handle. There isn’t one. Erm, time to improvise – and quickly – for we are upon Avon Rise and Quarry is looming. Fingers attempt to gain purchase along the top of the door’s window. I’m not Spiderman, but this will have to do.

Being strapped loosely into a XK120 fixed-head coupé during the Castle Combe Autumn Classic Press Preview Day, came as a surprise because Charlesworth doesn’t tend to fit inside old sporty Jags – let alone coupés. Even without a bash-hat, normally, I’d have as much chance as slipping back inside the old man’s testicles, because generally they are designed for short-arses.

2013 Castle Combe Autumn Classic Press Preview Day

I can’t remember how many times I’ve orbited Castle Combe, but this ride – with Rob Newall at the wheel – has to be one of the most memorable. Rob, a leading contender in the Jaguar Enthusiasts’ Club Racing series, instantly put me – if perhaps not the marshals – at ease. He’s quick, smooth and capable. The track is damp but drying thanks to the sun winning an argument with the rain.

Working the wheel, we drift through Quarry with barely a thought before blasting along Farm Straight and side-stepping through the Esses chicane with apex-bothering accuracy. Already, I sense my cheeks are going to be knackered from this perma-grin.

The XK’s captivating sound and performance is perfectly suited to ‘the Combe’, and the experience is massively enjoyable and slightly invigorating without ever being intimidating. Through Old Paddock Bend, Hammerdown and Tower – our speed is only checked by the Bobbies (the Esses’ twin) – before howling through Westway, Dean Straight, slip-sliding through Camp and then the drift-fest that is Folly.

2013 Castle Combe Autumn Classic Press Preview Day

Unlike faster, wider tracks, you never feel a bony fateful finger tapping you on the shoulder to remind you of your delicate mortality – but then this circuit, its infrastructure and staff tend to feel like a home away from home, so I can hardly be objective about it.

All too soon, the speed, the noise and the sideways stuff are all over after a mere few laps and we’re ambling back into the pits… I’ve missed this sort of malarkey – actually it has been a while – but until today, I hadn’t realised by how much.

I fear the racing itch is back.

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