After a quick stab of the brakes, not a whole lot appears to happen. At least not much in the way of deceleration - I’m nowhere near the end of the left-hand pedal’s travel, but the wheels have certainly locked up.
That’s just the start of how alien driving this Jaguar F-Type rally car feels (and, come to think of it, the words ‘F-Type rally car’ sound pretty alien too). Reaching the first corner, the back end steps out so I instinctively countersteer, only to be calmly yet firmly told by my co-driver for the day - 2018 Under-25 Welsh Tarmac champion Jade Pavely - that I’m being much too aggressive with my inputs.
Not just the steering inputs - all of them. I’m driving like we’re on an Asphalt handling course, not a small, muddy rally stage. Then, I find myself wincing as we approach a drop that I’m sure will destroy the front end, which, of course, we clear fine thanks to the added ride height.
The other thing that’s a bit odd? There’s no roof on this car, so I can hear the now raspier exhaust note afforded by a centre-box removal rattling off the trees, and am under the constant threat of getting caked from the various loose surfaces we’re splashing over.
The decision to use convertible F-Types as a base isn’t quite as bonkers as you might think. Rather than being born out of an urge to fill the face of whoever drives one with a load of mud and dust, it’s a nod to Ian Appleyard’s XK120 that he used to win the RAC and Tulip rallies. It was, you guessed it, a convertible.
Motorsport safety has, of course, moved on considerably since then. As such, the two base F-Types have been shorn of their electric folding roofs and fitted with sturdy FIA-spec roll cages in their place. The sumptuous standard leather seats have been put in the bin (or, hopefully, been turned into lovely office furniture) to be replaced with bucket seats and six-point harnesses.
It rides about 40mm higher on softer springs, with the spring rates reduced by 53 per cent at the front and 43 per cent at the back. The three-way adjustable dampers, meanwhile, come from rally specialists EXE-TC. Jaguar has taken this brilliantly silly project very seriously.
Both of the converted cars are powered by the base 2.0-litre engine, primarily because they’re each over 50kg lighter at the front end than a V6-powered F. And let’s face it, 296bhp is plenty on mud and gravel, isn’t it?
Each car sits on 16-inch wheels - the smallest rims ever fitted to an F-Type - shod in gravel tyres. The brakes have been beefed up, and there’s now a mechanical limited-slip differential on the rear axle. All of the electronic aids - ABS included - have been switched off permanently, hence the constant, hilarious urge for this rear-drive rally car to shake its ass. And finally, my favourite bit - there’s a huge four-lamp light pod on the bonnet.
By my third lap of the compact course, I finally feel like I’ve managed to rewire my brain to this very different style of driving. I’m feeding the power in more gently, my steering inputs are slower and less overly-dramatic, and I’m getting a real sense of what the car can do. Other than make me smile, which, by the way, it’s stonkingly good at doing.
Coming to the turn-around point (the course was supposed to be a circular lap, but the weather earlier this week had other ideas), I give the long carbonfibre lever for the hydraulic handbrake a good yank, and jink the wheel left. I had thought I wasn’t going fast enough, but the system’s so effective that the car gracefully pirouettes around. And is now pointing the wrong way, because I’m an idiot. One awkward manoeuvre later, and we’re in the right direction.
The return leg is much smoother, and I’m more than a little gutted that I’m about to experience my last few minutes in the car. The last section is navigated tidily, and then I get a little greedy with the throttle coming through the last chicane, making the rear step out wildly and smashing a cone - plus a GoPro mounted on the rear arch - wildly into the undergrowth. Oops.
I’ve driven almost every kind of F-Type Jaguar has built over the last seven years, from the inline-fours to the shouty SVR, but I’m not sure any has entertained me as much as this tail-happy dirt hooligan. Now, if only Jag would put it into limited production…