The BBC Top Gear presenter gave Stratstone's Jaguar Lightweight E-type an impressive debut in the Jaguar Classic Challenge at Le Mans Classic - starting P5 on a grid of 65 cars, and running as high as the top three. We caught up with him to get his verdict on the car
To finish first, Starting P5, how confident were you of a strong result?
Obviously, we were really pleased after qualifying so well. Overnight, we changed the differential, which meant I'd have a little less power at the top-end, but the car would also be stronger out of the corners. So, we knew we'd be in good shape. Once the race started, the car felt absolutely fantastic - really, really quick.
The first few corners looked pretty frantic
You can't be too aggressive at the start, so I was holding position - that was fine. At the end of the first lap, I had a little pirouette between the exit of the Porsche Curves and the Ford Chicane at the end of the lap, which dropped me back a bit. It was a silly mistake, which was entirely my fault. I had a bit of a run on one of the cars ahead, and thought I could make up some good ground, but then I overcooked it.
What's your verdict on the Lightweight E-type?
After my spin, the car felt absolutely magical and we were going really well. The car is absolutely stunning - simply magnificent. And with its first race here at Le Mans, we've proved beyond any doubt that Jaguar has built an entirely representative Lightweight E-type. It's totally competitive, it's beautiful to look at, and it's wonderful to drive. We also proved that the car has the pace for a podium finish, which isn't bad for its first time out.
And what was the best moment of the race for you?
Probably the start, when you've got all of those iconic Jaguar shapes all around you - C-types, D-types and E-types. Then you head out onto the main Mulsanne Straight for the first time, with everyone jostling for position. It's absolutely stunning - and you have to pinch yourself to check you're not dreaming. You think: "Am I really doing this?" I'm in a really privileged position to be able to drive and race a lot of special cars at some unique places, but this still ranks at the very top, because it's such an impressive experience. It's the very essence of being a car enthusiast. The chance to be able to race the Jaguar Lightweight E-type at Le Mans has been an utter privilege.