The weekend saw Gail Hill taking some time off from the XJS Championship to compete in a friendly (is there such a thing) Jaguar two driver half hour challenge and the opening two rounds of a new series organised by the Classic Sports Car Club. The Future Classics series is for cars of 70’s, 80’s or 90’s vintage and is likely to attract a wide range of cars not currently able to compete in historic events.
The drivers who made the effort to travel to the newly revamped track at Anglesey were in for a treat as the clever design allows for four different circuit configurations with many likely overtaking points.
On Saturday it was the 1.2-mile National layout.
Gail racing her 5.8 litre V12 XJS qualified in fifth place for the first 30 minute Future Classics event which includes a compulsory pit stop with the driver having to switch off the engine, exit the vehicle and then get back in and restart. The field included several other XJS racers including Steve Davis who remains unbeaten in 2007, a couple of BMW M3’s, a gaggle of TR7 V8’s and a Toyota MR2. Gail was slightly disappointed to qualify fifth but was confident that the gap of only a few tenths up to third spot at least promised better things in the race.
So it proved to be with a good start she made up one spot and managed to fend off a flying TRV8 and was pushing hard with an M3. She almost got into trouble when trying to take similar lines and brake points as the BMW but found herself sliding almost off the still ‘green’ tarmac. It transpired that the BMW was running on slicks (not allowed in the series). After thirty minutes on the tight and twisty layout which included a reasonably tidy pit stop, though she did admit to forgetting to switch the ignition back on before trying to restart her engine which lost a few seconds, she finished fourth but inherited third place on the podium when the errant BMW was excluded. “I’m quite happy with the performance on such a tight layout which doesn’t really suit my heavy car in comparison to the TRV8 which took second, he got round corners so much quicker than me but were on the longer 1.8 mile Coastal layout tomorrow so things could be different!” she said afterwards.
Steve Davis however did manage to keep ahead of both drivers and took his fifth win of the year!
Sunday morning dawned slightly gloomy but dry with a forecast for rain. The V12 had developed a problem with the limited slip differential so Gail withdrew her car from the Jaguar challenge race and took up the offer to co-drive with Cov Cats proprietor Chris Boon in his 4 litre ‘standard’ XJS, similar to that which she won her title in last year.
“The main thing to get used to again was a car with power steering” she said “I feel like I could drive it with one finger!” Luckily she didn’t. Chris qualified the car third ahead of some more modified cars and held place against the highly modified 4 litre of Chris Palmer and Ray Hill (old hands at Jaguar racing). Both cars came in for the driver change within seconds of each other and Gail and Chris had a lightning quick swap but not quite enough to make up the difference. Gail followed Ray Hill (no relation) out and spent the next fifteen minutes latched onto his bumper. “I was really trying to force an error because with the extra power they have there was no way I could out drag him on the very fast, fabulous curving back straight”. But it was not to be, and the cars crossed the line 0.4 seconds apart in second and third. “That was fabulous to be so close but with mutual respect and no contact. The car is better balanced than the V12 so gets round the tight corners really well but loses out a bit due to lack of grunt, were both very happy with third though and to beat several more developed cars, roll on the next race”.
He third race of the weekend and what proved to be a cracker for Gail was scheduled for later in the afternoon and with looming clouds and no wet tyres she looked anxiously to the sky’s.
Qualifying on the longer track went well and she was on the front row with, you guessed it her new nemesis Steve Davis “his car has a much quicker engine than mine so I think I’ll do well to hold off the TRV8’s” was her best prediction before the start.
Indeed the TRV8 shot past both XJS racers but Davis soon took up his prime spot. Gail had a great battle for five laps before finally getting close enough to out-drag and out break the TR on the fast curving back straight. As the rain began fall and the track became wetter she decided not to follow Davis into the pits for an early stop but stayed out on the still relatively dry track to get in a few quick laps. At mid way she made her stop which was even quicker than the day before and this time did not forget to switch on the ignition. It took several more laps before she realised she was still in first spot.
Several minor excursions of wheels off the black stuff plus quite a bit of rear end drifts convinced her to slow down a little on the dry weather tyres. With three laps to go she spotted the blazing lights of Davis who realising he was not leading was making a charge. A cool head was needed in the worsening conditions and with one lap to go Davis was stuck firmly on Gail’s bumper. “I managed to keep far enough ahead on the back straight to prevent him getting past and made the car as wide as possible all the way round to the ‘corkscrew’ where I knew that as long as I didn’t fall off I would be OK” she said. They were 0.60 seconds apart after thirty minutes of racing going over the line but a delighted Gail took her first overall win.
“I’ve had loads of seconds and thirds but this is my first first” she beamed afterwards. With her car requiring some attention (dif and engine) Gail will be at Mallory in three weeks in her other 4 litre modified XJS to carry on the defence of her title.