The Cat’s Final Snarl

This was a day I’ll always remember with a certain sadness. The Broadspeed ETC Jaguar V12C was undeniably fast, but plagued by reliability problems. And providing it with rubberware was little short of a nightmare. Its enormous weight put massive strain on the tyres, even when we shod it with gigantic 19″ slicks specifically designed for the car.

Those tyres were loathed by our fitters. The ultra low profile, allied to near-rigid sidewalls, made them virtually impossible to fit. I well remember watching with incredulity when the legendary strength of the late Micky Dee actually bent the fitting bar – by my reckoning that must be a ton of pressure – and still the damned tyre refused to plop over the rim.

But despite the problems, when the big cat ran, it was phenomenally fast. Ralph Broad and his team were tireless, and slowly the troublesome beast began to yield. By the time of its final appearance at Zolder it was at last showing its capabilities. John Fitzpatrick was leading when a dropped valve put the the big 12 out of the running. I’ll always remember the look of grief on Ralph Broad’s face when he received the phone call from British Leyland; the team was being withdrawn permanently, and the mightly Jag was to join the too-large catalogue of British might-have-beens.

It’s been mooted many times that one more season would have seen the Jag in fully-sorted, race-winning form. That’s very probably true but there’s a certain tragic “rightness” about its demise. No one who saw it will ever forget the spectacle of two tons of Birmingham metal hurling itself at the corners to the accompaniment of twelve cylinders of screaming vengeance.

I hated the thing with a passion that now feels very like love.

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