"Thoughts of driving these iconic cars again spurred me on my recovery"
Philip Porter is the author of over 25 motoring titles and founder of the international E-type Club, for owners and lovers of the famous Jaguar sports car. After his own brush with prostate cancer last year, he’s organising the Round Britain Coastal Drive, which will see hundreds of E-type cars doing the first-ever complete circuit of the mainland from 12 to 29 September to raise money for Prostate Cancer UK. He tells us what inspired him to create the event and why he hopes it will raise awareness among a high-risk group of men.
How did your experience of prostate cancer affect you?
It actually had very little impact. I’ve always sought to get the most out of life at every moment and live life to the full. I remember thinking: 'I don't want to die yet because I still have so much to do and, hopefully, offer'. Although I made an extremely swift recovery, I did take life a little more easily for a month or so, at my wife's insistence, and that was an unusual experience. I do try and keep pretty fit (not marathons or anything as extreme as that, just 10-15 minutes of exercises a day and plenty of walking) and I feel that this probably helped me a lot.
How’s your health now?
As far as I’m aware, I’m 100% now. I had the operation to remove my prostate last November, had a brilliant surgeon, and had the all-clear at my three-month check-up.
So what inspired you to set up this unique event?
I’ve had plenty of crazy ideas in my life! Together with my wife and our great team at the E-type Club, we’ve organised some quite major events in the motoring world over the years. I was trying to think of something unique we could do with our E-type Jaguars and I thought of the coastal drive. The cars are loved by so many people and an icon of the Swinging Sixties – we could use the cars to attract publicity and thus raise awareness of prostate cancer. The two aims dove-tailed nicely. As far as we can tell, a complete coastal drive of Great Britain has never been done before.
When did your love affair with the E-type begin?
I saw photos of the launch car in the press in 1961 and my first E-type in the flesh at a speed hillclimb at Shelsley Walsh that same year. By an extraordinary coincidence, those are the two E-types I own, and have owned since 1977. They are superb cars to drive because of the heady mix of great performance, complete docility, excellent road-holding and relative comfort for a period sports car. One can add in the racing heritage and the sensational sculptural beauty of the design. There is nothing quite like looking down that long bonnet with its sensuous bulge and gorgeous curves. Thoughts of being able to drive these cars I’m lucky enough to own certainly spurred me on to recover from my prostate cancer as swiftly as possible and resume normal life – if my life can be called normal!
Which section of the 18-stage route around Britain are you most looking forward to?
I’m looking forward to most of it. We’re so lucky in the UK because we have so much contrasting scenery on such a small island. Every county has its own character. I love driving in Wales, which is not far from my home and has stunning scenery and great, quiet driving roads. Scotland provides more of the same and I look forward to exploring new roads up there and in the beautiful areas of England, like Northumberland and Dorset. I’m guessing the most northern parts of Scotland will be the most rugged, but most of us love a challenge.
What famous names are you expecting to join the Drive?
Formula One legend Ross Brawn is joining us for two stages in Scotland, and AC/DC frontman Brian Johnson will join us if he can. Jeremy Clarkson has offered to help with publicity, and a number of other celebs are keen to be involved if their schedules allow. Watch this space!
How many people have signed up to the event so far?
A hundred cars have signed up, which is great, but I’m pushing for at least 200. We have participants from the States and various parts of Europe, with over 200 stage bookings so far. Some are doing one stage or a few, while others are doing all 18. The excitement is building.
How can others join or support you, whether they have an E-type Jaguar or not?
All the details of how to enter and the daily stages are on our E-type Club website. But anyone can come and watch us if they’d like to. There are more and more venues hosting us en route, including several amazing castles. There will be evening functions and people are welcome to join us for some of those.
Is there a message about prostate cancer you’d like to tell others?
There is life after prostate cancer, providing you are decisive and deal with it. Put off check-ups or treatment and it might be a very different story.