First Drives

14 November 2012

Driven: 1962 racing Jaguar E-Type

A sodden Goodwood: possibly not the ideal place for your first E-Type experience… Piers Ward reports

Piers Ward
Car image

If ever there was a moment to experience my first Jaguar E-Type, this is not it. We're at Goodwood (one of the more potentially crashy UK tracks) as part of Jaguar's ongoing celebrations of its imminent F-Type, which means we're also surrounded by hugely priceless pieces of historic Jag racing machinery (as pictured above).

Unfortunately, it's rained so hard that the circuit is more puddle than tarmac, and the owner of this particular racing E-Type is watching closely. My familiarisation of the car consists of: sitting in the driver's seat; my instructor prodding the starter button; and then me driving up the pit-lane. This could get painfully expensive very, very quickly.

Still, not to worry - the windscreen wipers work, and the mechanics have helpfully taped an enormous red-line on the rev counter at 5000rpm, so it's pretty clear what they want the E revving to.

This is a semi-lightweight E-Type from 1962, re-built for the E-Type Challenge race series, and raced so competitively by Alex Buncombe this year that it won the championship. Alex is also watching today, but it's safe to say that his seat isn't in any danger of being nicked by me.

The car develops 348bhp and 458Nm from the straight six engine. And because it's a racer, all the interior is stripped right back so it only weighs 1002kg - compare that something modern like a 1310kg Porsche Boxster. The E also running on historic tyres, which are notorious for having minimal grip in the dry, let alone the monsoon conditions at Goodwood.

But does any of this matter as I trundle out onto the track? Of course not - I'm driving a racing E-Type, at Goodwood. Life doesn't get better than this.

There are a few things that become clear very quickly. First - with all this water, there's lot of understeer into the corners. Second - with all this water, there's lots of oversteer on the exit of the corners. Third - with all this water, there's lots of aquaplaning on the straights. Which means this is a gentle run.

The good thing about the E-Type is that feedback through all the controls and seat are excellent. It's easy to tell when you can push and when you can't, and so long as you avoid the bigger puddles, it's surprising how fast you can go on the straights.

The engine is punchy, but not terrifyingly so. And so long as you're gentle with the throttle - squeeze it like a rifle trigger, rather than stabbing at it - there's just about enough grip to stop the car spinning.

The lesson for the day is to do everything in moderation - brake gently, turn in smoothly, and then ease the throttle in at the same time as winding the lock off the steering. Boot it too early and you'll head for the grass, which at Goodwood means you'll also hit a bank.

Let the car do the work of flowing from one corner to the next, don't force it, and then it will come back with all four wheels still on it. Fortunately, that happened with me. One very wet seat and right leg thanks to an open window, but no damage done - even my instructor Will seemed happy. Or relieved. It was hard to tell which...

(Photos: Rowan Horncastle)

Tags: jaguar, goodwood, f type, d type, e type

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