Challenge Championship 2011

July 5 9, 2011 - The JCNA Challenge Championship in Dublin, Ohio (my first ever "Challenge" Ive attended) was a 5-day event combining a slalom, rally and a concours, all organized to coincide with a huge local car event in Columbus(Arthritis Foundation cruise-in). Our Jaguars joined ranks with thousands of cars attending the cruise-in, and we saw a large variety of vintage American iron, new muscle cars, original VW Beetles, as well as one of a kind vehicles like a minivan turned into a drag racer, and the Bat mobile to name a few. Tom Curren and I drove Toms truck to Ohio and back for this event, trailering Tom's 1952 XK120 and Ray Pannones 1966 E-type (Ray flew to Columbus to join the event and attended the concours with his beautiful red E-type). Tom and I of course had signed up for all of the events offered, and we kept the 120 busy as all the dirt and dust we cleaned off the car prior to the concours proved.

The start of the event was a Tuesday evening get together at "the Barn" which included a catered barbeque dinner, dessert and drinks. This was hosted at the Central Ohio Jaguar clubs clubhouse, and its the furthest from a barn that you could imagine! A club member has donated the use of a warehouse-like space to the club, and active club members have done an amazing job of customizing and decorating the space to make it into a Jaguar haven. The white painted walls provide a great clean backdrop for all the Jaguar signs and other memorabilia hanging on display. On the floor was a variety of Jaguars on display scattered among numerous dealer signs, mannequins wearing race suits, helmets and pit lane passes. The place had a great ambiance, and the first night's get together gave us a fun and informal start to rest of the weeks events.
Theentire Challenge Championship was primarily organized by Jim Baker and George Keller from the Ohio club, and those two wonderful men actually own most of the cars displayed at the Barn.I should mention here how incredibly dedicated and hardworking both men were, yet they managed to remain calm, nice and patient as their phones kept on ringing! Jim and George stayed late on Sunday July 3rd and met Tom and I at the Barn in order to help us drop off Toms trailer for safekeeping for two days. Theres a long story of our drive to Ohio a few days early in order to visit with Toms family just north of Columbus, including our struggles with minor engine overheating issues, no air conditioning, a few blown tires, road side camping in the race car trailer, late arrival into Columbus, doing minor surgery on the truck at Toms moms driveway in order to replace a serpentine belt, etc. I wont bore you with the details, but you get the gist Im sure. On the other hand our drive back was COMPLETELY uneventful, with the truck and the tires in fine form, and done in an easy17continuous hours.

On Wednesday morning I slathered on sunscreen, put on my bandanna and buckled my seat belt in the 120, doing my best to feel FAST. It was time to slalom! The venue was a short 10 minute drive away from our hotel at the fairgrounds, and we soon found the familiar layout of the slalom cones in a large open parking lot. Over 40 drivers participated in the slalom so the turnout was impressive. Once we got acquainted with the course and the pavement at the fairground both Tom and I cranked out some respectable times. I finished with a time of 44.4 seconds, good for a first place trophy in class SP/L, and Tom was 0.2 seconds behind me with a second place finish. Yes, you read that right! This will surely never happen again, so Ill take a moment here to pat myself on the back for my most excellent result! Dick Maury, the President of JCNA, was there with his green rocket (it says that right on the license plate!), and he and Art Dickenson (Art is the previous slalom record holder) both got very good times with Dicks green E-type. Dick promises to add power, get new tires, and come to our fall slalom at Fantasy of Flight to break the slalom record!

On Thursday we had another early start as the rally drivers meeting began at 7 a.m. Many driver/navigator teams showed up that morning with a look of focus and determination on their faces, with clipboards, notebooks, calculators and stopwatches on hand. Tom and I stuck our finger in the breeze in the 120 to estimate our speed in the rally, and we used no satellite aided navigation, just the rally maps, and still finished the almost 100-mile rally with only an 11 minute total error. Yes we were the last in our class, but we expected it, and we had a GREAT time driving together - we didnt think wed place well in a time/speed/distance rally without the equipment to do it properly, so we just enjoyed the drive. Just finding our way was prize enough for us, considering our lack of equipment! The rally took us on scenic country roads, through covered wooden bridges, and it ended up in Dayton Ohio at the Packard museum where our lunch waited for us (did I mention how much they fed us? :) We then made our own leisurely way back to Columbus and got ready for the evening banquet where the slalom and rally awards were presented. Tom and I lucked out and got to ride to the dinner location on the back seat of a dealer supplied XJL, marveling the entire way about the luxury of the brand new car. I should briefly mention the thunderous applause I got when receiving my slalom trophy, but I really need to continue on with the story

Friday was set aside as a day to clean the cars in preparation for the concours the next day, as well as for enjoying the sights and sounds of the cruise-in that was well on its way in the merchant circle just outside our hotel. We also attended a very informative E-type seminar on Friday afternoon, and the day somehow just went by in a flash. We had minor sprinkles and showers on Friday, but all the rest of the days of this fun event were sunny and warm with just a touch of humidity. Perfect car event weather if you ask me!

Saturday's concours had a total of 121 Jaguars attending, and 65 of those were E-types! We had a dedicated Jaguar show area adjacent to our hotel, and our display of our cats attracted a lot of the foot traffic of the cruise-in happening in the same general area. Tom Curren won second place in the concours in class S02, behind Dick Maury's E-type by just 0.002 points. Ray Pannone won an award in the crowd favorite Best of Show class, and Jerry Wise collected a concours trophy as well. Other familiar faces included Larry Heil who participated in the concours, and I also saw Tom and Liza Wright on Saturday walking around and studying the cars like an expecting parent would do they sold their aluminum bodied XK120 at Amelia Island auction this spring, and their next Jaguar iscurrently being restored. I cant wait to see that XK150S roadster when its all done!

Many new acquaintances and friends were made, and a lot of the time Tom Curren was surrounded by people wanting his opinion or advice on their cars, or wanting to see all of the photos on his iPad --s o Tom was popular as always. Since the slalom was the kickoff driving event for the week Tom and I started very popular among the fellow attendees right off the bat, and Tom and I even had a protg in the slalom -- Eddie Cole from the north Georgia club rode along with Tom and he also asked both Tom and I take turns riding along with him in his white E-type, coaching him around the slalom course. At the end of the day Eddie was not only finding his way through the cones with no help from anyone, he was even taking the correct line that we taught him.I may have even talked some Canadian club members into coming to Fantasy of Flight for the November slalom! Ill be SO proud if our new friends across the border do come to Roar and Soar because I convinced them to do it.
The Challenge Championship turned out to be an even better event than I expected in every possible way. The people, the cars, the things to do at the event were all top class, and I came back home from a wonderful, fun and relaxing vacation with great memories and some new trophies to put on the shelf!