Sir Stirling Moss, the racing knight, was reunited with his Reims-winning C-type Jaguar.
The first event at which Jaguar Heritage Racing was present this year was the 2012 Mille Miglia retrospective in May. This year’s running of the Mille Miglia has particular significance for Jaguar as it marked 60 years since Sir Stirling Moss and Norman Dewis (then Jaguar’s chief development driver) took the start in the first disc-brake equipped C-type. Later that same year Sir Stirling Moss recorded the first win for a disc-braked car when he drove another C-type to victory at Reims, paving the way for the wide-scale use of the technology that we all take for granted today.
It’s hard to think of a racing driver quite so loved, yet in spite of his uncanny abilities (15 grand prix victories between 1951 and 1961); Moss never won a Formula One world championship. Basic decency saw him lose out to Mike Hawthorn in the 1958 Championship. Hawthorn had (at Moss’s suggestion) bump-started his car against the direction of race traffic and Moss defended him in a subsequent stewards’ enquiry. Moss won the race, but in retaining his second place, Hawthorn won the grand prize.
Jaguar founder Sir William Lyons wasn’t one to waste money on motor racing, but even he admitted that the C-type was a good investment. “My proudest moment,” he said later, “was in 1951, when my Jaguar first won the Le Mans 24-hour race.”
Basically a tubular frame carrying a breathed-upon XK120 straight-six clothed in Malcolm Sayer’s diaphanous coachwork, the C-type is simply one of the most beautiful racing cars, ever. On its original drums brakes, however, it had only one good stop a lap. There was a solution, however.
“Norman Dewis and I did the testing for Dunlop on disc brakes,” says Moss, “and the breakthrough when they were sorted was unreal. This pea-coloured one was the car that I won at Reims in [in May 1952] and it was the first race victory for a disc-braked car. It revolutionised braking, I can really tell you.”
The “pea-coloured one” chassis XKC 005 is still on its original MDU 212 registration and worth many millions. It’s clearly been fed on racing food and is in fantastic condition, with the cockpit patina just as Moss would have stepped out of it and immaculate coachwork.
Moss doesn’t do banzai laps any more. Why should he? He clambers behind the wheel of old Jag. “This is a beautiful car,” he says, surveying the cockpit. We exit the pits, the brassy exhaust note bathing the crews readying for the next race. Moss gives a running commentary of braking points and apexes, clearly relishing the drive more as he starts his second lap. It might not be fast, but his double declutching is perfection, the braking smooth and his first application of steering never needs a second adjustment. I don’t suppose you forget things like that.
The Jaguar Heritage Racing programme is operated and managed by JD Classics, based in Maldon,Essex. JD Classics will prepare both the C- and D-type Jaguars which will take to the track, and have responsibility for all race-day activities. Jaguar Heritage Racing will ensure that Jaguar is as well represented in historic motorsport today as it was when those same models competed in period is one we were only too happy to accept.
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