Things began badly on Friday afternoon in testing when on a first flying lap of the second session a near side drive shaft split as she rounded Corum Curve. The car slewed sideways as the hub assembly sheared and the rear wheel bounced off down the track ahead of Gail who managed to control the car and bring it safely to a halt.
The newly prepared 5.8 litre 400 bhp car looked a sorry site and the marshals did a great job of recovering the car without adding to the damage. Luckily though it looked worse than it was. Gail’s partner was at the track at 7am the next morning and a new drive shaft and hub assembly was fitted in time for scrutineering at 8.20am.
She had only driven the car once in testing at Goodwood a fortnight before but was reasonably happy to qualify a tentative fourth in the 30 car grid but not so encouraged by the 2.6 second slower time compared to the two front running cars.
With 30 XJ-S on the grid she had a great first start making up one place by the time the pack arrived at Riches. She managed to hold off Stuart Lyddall for the whole of the race even though he put her under a great deal of pressure. Things got a bit hairy when the leading cars came round Corum on lap two. Coolant from a split hose covered the track and as the two lead cars flew off in all directions Gail managed to avoid the slippery deposit and exiting from a cloud of dust found herself in second place behind a flying Steve Davis. She held on to second and was delighted with her first race in the tail happy V12 ‘the trouble is with so much extra horsepower compared to my old car, tons of torque and better brakes but only on road going tyres it’s a real handful to get round corners you really have to drive the car and concentrate totally or you end up facing the wrong way’!
Race two on Sunday saw her on the front row but this time she did not start so well ‘my technique of low revs, engage and imagine I’m driving out of Tescos' car park let me down’ with to much wheel spin she lost twp places to Pearce and Lyddall by Riches. With Davis leading the four big V12’s soon extended a lead over the following cars but on lap two yet another car dumped coolant or oil all over the race line into the Esses. Yet again cars slewed across the track and Pearce lost out with Hill and Lyddall both squeezing past his stranded car. Gail managed to out break Lyddall three laps later at the same spot taking a very tight line to avoid the still slippery track. She pushed hard to gain her first overall win and managed to get a few quickest laps under her belt. However with two laps to go and both Davis and her threading their way through back markers Gail’s V12 got a bit tail happy exiting Riches and she lost some time getting things back under control. ‘It was good enough for me to hold on to second spot again and I did close the gap to Davis compared to yesterdays race, we are now only tenths apart and I thought it would take a lot longer to get on the pace so I’m delighted and will be smiling for a fortnight’ she said afterwards.
With rounds three and four in a fortnight at Brands she will be hoping to give the boys at the front another run for their money.
photo Cheltenham jockey club
photo Cheltenham Racecourse
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