Whilst there was only one Championship round at Silverstone Gail was also competing in the CSCC Future Classics race, sharing the 40-minute drive with fellow instructor John Sadler. Getting a decent finish and adding more points to the board were the aims of the day, which would not be easy on the National track where power rules the day. With nine more modified XJ-S’s including five V12’s sharing the grid let alone several more powerful saloons in her class this was always going to be a tall order.
Another big grid of 26 cars created problems early on in qualifying as space was at a premium but as the field began to spread out faster and more consistent lap times were produced. In slightly worse conditions last season Gail managed a 1.12.7 in her XJ40 this year, with a slightly lighter car and using Millers Oils new ‘nanodrive’ technology oil she managed a 1.11.6. Unfortunately this was still only enough for 9th on the grid and 3rd in the saloon field, behind rivals Peace (MkII) and Doyle (XJ coupe) and nearly a second off the pace.
All to do then for the race!
A great start saw Gail gain several places by the time the pack approached Copse mainly due to the quicker V12’s having more power then grip in the early stages. Some side by side tussling with Davis’s V12 kept both drivers busy for the first few laps. Then as the quicker cars began to gain grip as tyre temperatures went up and with her two main rivals, Pearce and Doyle battling just ahead she had some good fortune.
Pearce as he moved up the inside at Brooklands gaining the racing line into the left hander and Doyle in a desperate attempt to defend left his braking far too late and locked up all four wheels and in clouds of blue smoke Gail gratefully moved up to 6th overall, though Pearce was already pulling clear around Luffield.
In fact the leading cars were extending their advantage lap after lap and it was quickly apparent to Gail that 2nd saloon was the best she could achieve. So began an epic duel with Doyle who for lap after lap tried his best to find a way past Gail’s heavier and less powerful XJ 40. At one point Doyle did briefly pass under braking at Brooklands but he went in too deep allowing Gail to regain the place within yards on the undercut.
‘Defending when necessary and taking the quicker line when opportunity allowed meant that I never really felt too threatened and I always felt that I could hang onto 6th and finish second in the saloon field’ but then with around six laps to go and Doyle making a desperate dive up the inside at Copse the inevitable occurred.
Gail was two car widths off the apex giving just enough room for Doyle to negotiate the fastest bend on the track when he hit the right rear wheel arch punting Gail into a 95 mph spin off the track. By the time she got the stalled car back under way Doyle was off in the distance and Gail was back in 11th. Doyle did later apologise for using Gail’s car as a braking aid!
The recovery went well enough but with a 9th overall and 3rd saloon eventually, after having a two-lap scrap with Palmer’s X300, Gail was not entirely happy with her days work. Damage on the car and more dropped points means that her championship hopes this year are virtually non-existent.
‘I think the rest of this season is going to be one of slow development with a focus on next year. I’ve only scored in two of the five rounds to date and will not be able to get to Anglesey in June so will miss that race too’.
Encouragingly her lap times improved again but she remains around eight-tenths off the pace.
The Future Classics race went without a hitch apart from the driver change, which took an age dropping the due down by a lap before Sadler finally got under way. Both drivers though had entertaining races with a variety of machinery from the eclectic grid.
Gail will be back out in July at Cadwell where in eleven years of racing she has never competed. A bit of testing might well be in order?
photo Cheltenham jockey club
photo Cheltenham Racecourse