JD Classics have a rich and extensive history racing classic cars, either by providing race support teams for our clients, or by racing historic cars under our own name. Our cars and race teams have won a number of trophies and garlands across Europe, including successes in some of the most hotly contested prestige races on the circuit today.

Hotly contested races such as the Group C/GTP Racing season – four events that attempt to recreate arguably the greatest era in sports car racing. And we were excited about contesting the fourth at Donington Park’s world famous circuit.

Nearly 40 sports cars had been registered for the 2008 season from all over the world, including iconic vehicles from great marques such as Mercedes, Argo, Nissan, Aston Martin, Tiga, Spice, as well as Porsche and Jaguar.

The new race formats with the Sprint and 1.5 Hour Enduro Format offered entrants the chance to pair themselves with guest drivers, as the organisers were lining up a number of star names from both the original Group C period and the current era to sit alongside some of the cars’ regular drivers.

We had a couple of star names of our own, though. Chris Buncombe scored a LMP2 class win in a Lola-Zytek at Le Mans’ 24-hour race in 2007 – at his first attempt no less. As if that wasn’t enough, Chris was to take the wheel of one of our period Jaguar race cars, our XJR 9 (chassis no. 188) at Donington, which had once finished a highly respectable 16th at Le Mans’ mammoth challenge in 1988.

Jaguar went to Le Mans in strength that year, with five XJR-9s competing for the coveted prize. And two of the other Jags finished in first and fourth. So the question was, could our seasoned XJR-9 repeat its model’s successes exactly 20 years later?

Qualification and Enduro Race Report

The Group C/GTP season is a joy to compete in. Whilst highly competitive, drivers and teams are nonetheless well aware that they’re pitting their wits in and against motors that are their owners’ treasured possessions. As such, the racing is conducted in a great spirit and due respect is freely given without question.

That said, we weren’t sorry to learn the grid was well down on expected numbers. With the threat of rain forecast, only 22 cars qualified for the weekend’s races at Donington that October. Starting in fifth (not quite up to the pace of the turbo cars in qualifying), we all hoped that with less traffic on the circuit, there would therefore be less risk of ‘incident’ on the track over the weekend.

With the shortness of the weekend programme and the decision to switch the Enduro to Saturday, our typically thorough preparations were squeezed into a blur of activity during the day. The weather played a big part in this, as huge downpours threatened to curtail at any moment our comprehensive set up and planning. As it was, the morning started wet, but as the start of the race loomed ever nearer, we looked set for a dry, but cool and windy run – in sharp contrast to the two hot sunny days at Le Mans 20 years back, when our XJR-9 did so well.

And then, we were underway. The Enduro is 90 minutes (including refuelling and driver changes) – 1.5 hours of high octane, full throttle racing. Not that we got the best of starts. With one eye on keeping our prized XJR-9 unscathed, Chris dropped a few places and had ground to make up.

But as the race progressed, Chris was making ground, by skilfully overtaking whenever possible, or by simply moving up the field thanks to others’ misfortune. For example, the Spice Pontiac sadly broke down having built a clear lead. The Sauber Mercedes kept pitting in an attempt to cure a frustratingly persistent misfire. And the Nissan NPT1 90 had an oil light scare. It was beginning to look a little problematic out there.

But in the event, we needn’t have worried. The clouds flying by overhead looking gorged with rain, largely managed to keep themselves in check throughout. And although the race was stopped with two laps to go (the Ford Rousch Maxum was nudged by the Porsche 962 – no real damage, just lots of bodywork all over the place) our XJR-9 came through unscathed. Moreover, Chris drove a gutsy race, and enjoyed the reward of finishing in a comfortable second place – just 14 seconds behind the Nissan R90-CK.

A very good start to the weekend. Our team and our two racing veterans were performing extremely well. So with grounds for optimism, we retired in good spirits, ready to face the one remaining day that lay ahead.

Sunday Super Sprint Race Report

When we woke up the next day though, pouring rain threatened a very wet race. But with the track flooded, the racing was suspended for several hours. Mercifully, this helped a lot. So by 3pm, the track was almost dry and most race teams started our cars on slicks.

The order of starting was as per qualifying and, once again, the Spice Pontiac led the field at the start of the half-hour ‘sprint’.

And once again, we managed to drop a few places after a less than perfect start. The Sauber Mercedes though had resolved their misfire and was eating up the track, at some point recording the day’s fastest lap. But soon, Chris and our XJR-9 were making a big impression on the contest, too.

Meanwhile, the poor Ford Rousch Maxum got hit again and, having eaten yet more gravel, had to retire with a failed tyre valve (despite having kept its team up all night repairing its damaged bodywork after Saturday’s race). Other cars opted for intermediate tyres and spent much of the race nursing them around the track.

By the end of another highly entertaining race, Chris finished a mere 10 seconds off first place, which went yet again to the Nissan R90-CK, with the previously misfiring Sauber Mercedes gleaning much credit from the weekend just three seconds behind us.

The crowd loved it. And so did we. Two second places over the weekend meant that our team and our two Le Mans veterans tasted glory once more with a first in Class 2 for the weekend – a highly satisfying conclusion to the end of our 2008 Group C/GTP season.

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