Birkett bonanza sums up what turned out to be an amazing season finale for Gail and five of her Jaguar racing colleagues after she entered a team for the prestigious 60th event of this marathon and unique 6 hour handicapped relay race.
The Six Potters, in 5 straight six XJ6’s and 1 straight six XJ-S comprised Gail (ex XJ-S champion), Pete Dorlin (ex saloon champion), Chris Boon (ex saloon champion), Richard Dorlin (double saloon class winner and Pete’s son), Dave Bye (top saloon driver) and Matt Skelton (XJ-S racer and editor of Jaguar World Monthly magazine). For those who don’t know the format the race includes 55 teams of 4 to 6 drivers and cars racing for 6 hours on the Silverstone International track organised by Robin Knight of the 750 MC.
Each team submits times for team members and a handicap is calculated with top teams like Geoff Steele motor sport off scratch and others given a lap credit. The range of cars is incredible with just about every type and marque of car represented. Theoretically all teams could finish on the same number of gross laps. The Six Potters in their big Jaguars, based on previously submitted lap times, were the last team on the grid in 55th place!
When the rain began in the morning it was like manner from heaven for the big Jags which, being the biggest and heaviest cars on track with the longest wheelbase could handle the conditions remarkably well.
Gail began the race and after one lap had moved up seven places before the first safety car period, after one lap, then she began picking off more cars as each lap passed. After 30 minutes she had moved up an amazing 26 places to run 29th overall. “My car had a set of shot Toyo 888’s on the front so it was under steer city for the whole of my stint but I had a brand new set of 888’s on the rear which gripped brilliantly in the increasingly wet conditions. Quite a few cars were falling off and several suffered some damage but many others, which would normally be a lot quicker, just couldn’t handle the sopping wet track. I just stuck the rear end out and then power steered round, it was brilliant and I’ve never had so much fun,” said Gail after her stint.
She came in slightly early after her car developed a misfire after just over 45 minutes. “Something was obviously getting wetter either in the engine bay or inside the car and causing a slight electrical misfire, but I knew we were in a good position to build on for the rest of the race and with a team full of really good drivers didn’t want to break down on track and lose places so I came in before my one hour slot was up” she noted later.
The team were up to second in the handicap adjusted results and were on the same lap as the leading team as first Chris Boon then Dave Bye, Pete Dorlin, Matt Skelton and finally Richard Dorlin each did their allotted runs.
After one hour the team was leading the handicap race and maintained an overall placing around 29th. When conditions looked like they might dry up Gail did a little a rain dance and the heavens opened up stopping conditions from improving for another 50 minutes. So she says!
For the last few hours the track began to dry out but with their slender lead maintained the team held on. Gail spent five hours checking on the progress of rival teams and their Jaguar rivals, the Katuka boys who were leading last year until the final few minutes when they dropped to second due mechanical problems right at the death.
With only 14 minutes left Richard’s car began throwing smoke out the rear and he was in danger of being black-flagged and history of repeating itself. Team managers Simon Cushnie and Ray Ingman called him in and sent Pete out but with only a one lap lead the team lost time and it allowed rivals to close the gap. With Pete’s engine going into the red on the temperature gauge he was determined to carry on, knowing the Six Potters were on the verge of a historic victory.
It was only half-an-hour after the race finished that Gail and the team could finally relax and celebrate their historic win with beer and champagne. After adjusting for time lost due to safety car periods the team had won by three laps and finished a creditable 31st overall.
It’s not quite the end of the year for Gail who has got a double header in a Mazda MX5 at Brands in two weeks time. But it certainly caps what has been a another great year for Gail in her Jaguar Classic Parts sponsored cars.
FRANK UIJLENBROEK WORLDSPORTPICS