The second race of the series, but can we improve on Donington Historic Festival? I think so!!!
Dijon-Prenois is a 3.801 km (2.361 mile) motor racing circuit located in Prenois, near Dijon, France. The undulating track is noted for its fast, sweeping bends.
It was built in 1972, and hosted the Formula One Grand Prix five times. The first F1 race was run in 1974 on the circuit`s original 3.289 km (2 mile) layout. In 1975 an extension was added to lengthen the circuit as well as to re-profile many of its corners before the time F1 could return to Dijon in 1977. The 1979 French Grand Prix featured a memorable battle for second place in the final laps between Gilles Villeneuve`s Ferrari and René Arnoux`s Renault, which was finally won by Villeneuve.
We decided to travel on Wednesday to Dijon and test at the circuit as neither I nor Melvin Floyd had raced there before. This turned out to be most fortuitous, as my first Free-Practice where I was ‘scrubbing-in’ a new set of Dunlop tyres ended with three punctures. In my first session I set a 1 minute 56 second lap time.
On Friday during qualifying, when the ambient temperature had climbed to 22°C, I set a qualifying time of 1min 52sec lap time. So, between YouTube (over the last month) and the real thing, I learned the track layout quite quickly. Mel and I set some respectable times and the car was performing to specification. And no punctures!
We qualified 24th out of 29 cars and, in amongst original Jaguar Le Mans ‘D’ Types and 1950’s Astons this equated to 5th in Class 4.
Saturday was race day and, as the car owner, I always start the race. There were 29 cars in the start line-up comprising many driver nationalities from GB, such as Rob Hall, Ludovic Lindsay, Patrick Watts, and Gary Pearson and, from Brazil, Carlos Monteverde, and from France, Sweden and Swiss contenders for this one hour endurance marathon. (Well it was in this heat!!).
The race started well and I settled down into an endurance rhythm and continued to set consistent lap times in the 1min 53’s for my stint at the wheel. The race started at 14:40 and the ambient was now 29°C. This made me watch the water temperature, as well as my Lap Timer and Rev Counter, as I then began to ‘Short-shift’ the gears at 5,800 rather than the usual 6200.
In addition, I realised that the front Drum Brakes were beginning to wear, but not ‘Fade’, but just a ‘longer pedal’. So going into the first corner, I started to dab the brakes early, cruise up to the corner then throw it into the bend and get on to the power to make the car turn and not allow it to under-steer. This trade-off helped the brake cooling enormously as I needed to hand the car to Mel with at least some brakes left.
I managed to overtake, I think, three or four cars, which gave us 21st place. But these races can be races-of-attrition, especially when it’s a high ambient temperature race.
Our obligatory pit-stop was rather slow, my fault, (Sorry Mel), but he did a grand job, considering it’s only his second race in the XK. Mel was holding 16th place until the final lap, until a fast Austin Healey 100M ‘Got him’ on the last lap.
However, it was to our surprise that during the presentation in the Motor Racing Legends Hospitality Marquee that we were presented with our........
.........3rd in Class' Trophy
……….by Duncan Wilshire and the Vice President of EFG Investment Bank.
What a coupe, we were over the moon!!!
POST RACE ANALYSIS
An excellent race all round. Mel did have ‘Brakes’ at the end of the race. The XK performed well, but was very hot and needed some TLC to cool her down. BUT, as Mel drove under the MWS Marquee, we noticed our fourth puncture of the weekend. Luckily, this happened on the so-say, ‘Cooling-Down’ lap, thank goodness. Lady Luck was on our side (This time!!)
The next race will be held at:
Silverstone Classic on the weekend of the 22nd, 23rd, 24th July
Will we see you there? I hope so!!
John D R
Action photography taken by John Retter, Motor Racing Legends Photographer