What It’s Like To See Silverstone From Inside A Jaguar E-Type Lightweight
Photography by Nat Twiss
A last minute proposition has me heading over to Silverstone on a cold and cloudy morning. I’d been asked if I wanted to have a few passenger laps in a special E-Type. Maybe there are people out there who would decline a proposition like that, but I’m definitely not one of them, and they’re not likely to be reading this anyway; I got over to the circuit as fast as possible.
Fast forward a few hours and I’ve got a helmet on and am being belted into the passenger side of a stunning metallic green E-Type Lightweight, piloted in this instance by the talented Myles Castaldini, driver and preparer of many a vintage racer.
The tight cabin is full of the heady scent of race fuel. The switches on the dash, the slightly worn bolsters on the racing buckets, the scrutineering stickers plastered all over—they only serve to communicate one thing clearly : this machine has a purpose that it’s carried out before and is ready to again. The inline-six under the long hood in front of me rumbles to life and gives everything a slight rattle to everything nearby. It’s a car with plenty of confidence, and I’m about to find out if it’s actually good at its job.
When I think of old race cars, they tend to have a silhouette resembling the E-Type, aerodynamic curves, a long snout, and muscular, wide rear haunches. There’s a reason Enzo Ferrari called this car the most beautiful car ever made, it’s an icon, and one that dominated my childhood imagination in a way that no other vintage car quite could. I have the privilege of extensive access to a lot of fantastic machines, and I thought I had it better than most but when the E-Type accelerated out of the pits it became startlingly clear that the men and women behind the wheels of these cars have it better than all of us, by an incomprehensibly large margin.
This is a ton of fun. It’s one thing to see these cars dance through the Maggots-Becketts complex at Silverstone, but a whole different world to actually feel the G-forces becoming stronger and stronger through each successive turn. Pure nirvana you feel to the bone.
As we head down Wellington Straight into the Luffield complex the engine nears redline and the shift light’s blazing on the dash. The car squirrels a bit under braking, as Myles shifts down to take the tightening left and right turns ahead. This part of the circuit is always a joy, from any vantage point, with the cars often sideways under the violent weight transfers required in this section. It’s a perfect display of the visceral beauty of classic racing. It’s always amazed me how narrow the margin of control looked, and watching the expert driver sat next to me felt like trying to watch a ballet inside of a moving football.
As the turn tightens the sidewalls flex beneath you before finally slipping into a deftly-controlled oversteer and then transferring the momentum to the other side for the approaching right-hander. Powering away from the apex at quite an angle, the nose pitched in the air under acceleration, we take it out for a few more laps. The limit was still yet to be hit, and even as a passenger, I was itching to experience the satisfaction of a perfect lap. It’s a dizzying and euphoric experience.
I raced go-karts as a child, and while I understood the mechanisms behind racing, and was actually saw some success in the sport, I simply wasn’t mature enough to understand and manipulate the addiction and emotional passion behind the pursuit of speed. Although with huge asphalt runoffs at a circuit like Silverstone, it took this experience for me to really understand, in some way, the feeling that drivers of these cars must have had in period while trying to tame these then-cutting-edge monsters on race circuits that compared to now (and sometimes actually were) narrow country lanes. It’s truly exhilarating and has left me trying to find a way to get back behind the wheel, even if it’s just a bit to the side. So, who wants to lend me some time in their race car?