Snetterton 16th / 17th October 2010
Rounds 11 and 12 of the Jaguar Classic Parts Saloon Championship
The final two rounds of the 2010 Championship were held over the weekend and for Gail it was a case of what might have been. Earlier this year at the start of the season she had qualified first then rolled her car in the first race and registered a dnf and dns. She was out to make up for this and aimed to finish the season on a high, which is exactly what she did.
The grid was merged with the JEC XJ-S Championship, something that will be a common feature next season so there were 30 big cats taking to the track for qualifying in very tricky damp to drying conditions. Gail had competed in similar conditions two weeks earlier in an MGCC team relay race and her recent experience certainly paid dividends when she saw that only one other saloon had out qualified her and he was in a more modified class. Her main rivals the West Riding trio of Richard Dorlin, Dace Bye and Pete Dorlin were all behind her and she would occupy 8th place overall in the merged field, which was a very satisfying start to the weekend.
Conditions had improved markedly when the starter let the packed grid go later in the morning. Gail was balked by a power sliding V12 XJ-S and quickly lost a place to Rich Dorlin and try as she might early on she could not get past the V12 of fellow instructor Stewart Lyddall. The gap to the leading saloons became impossible to overcome so it turned into a defensive drive to hold off Bye who had rapidly made up ground after a storming start.
For several laps another modified XJ-S that of Roger Webster was between the two drivers who were competing for runner up spot in the class B standings. When Bye squeezed past Webster he put immense pressure on Gail and as they braked later and later at the Esses her car became increasingly unbalanced. ‘I give away around 100kg to the coupe’s and it certainly tells on the bendy bits and under brakes, eventually I thought discretion was the better part of valour especially as we are all out in the Birkett in two weeks in the same team’, she said later. Bye eased past two thirds in and pulled out a lead as Gail defended from Webster for the remainder of the race.
She finished 9th overall and 4th (3rd in class) in the saloon element. Satisfactory after what happened earlier this year, Bye registered fastest lap too, which put him in a strong position for runner up behind Rich Dorlin who not only sealed the class B title but the overall Championship, and well deserved too.
The final round the next day took place in glorious sunshine, a fitting end to a great seasons saloon racing. Gail was again caught behind a slithering V12 off the line and Webster too moved outside to relegate Gail another place. Determined though to hang onto the leading trio of saloon headed by Pearce’s modified MkII she went round the outside at Sear and got past Webster and Lyddall and onto the tail of Dorlin who had not started so well. As the race progressed the four saloons were like peas in a pod and as the leading V12’s and modified 4 litre XJ-S’s created a comfortable gap they could get down to the serious business of racing each other.
All that is except Gail who also had to contend with Lyddall just on her bumper determined to regain his advantage. Pearce and Bye swapped places twice then Bye slowed (clutch problems) and then there were three. Dorlin gained a place from Pearce with Gail hard on their heels then after withstanding huge pressure from Gail Dorlin finally mad a mistake going wide at Sear and onto the grass outfield. That was all Gail needed to make up another place and pile on the pressure to Pearce.
This was all the more harder as Lyddall got alongside or even slightly ahead every lap on the long run down Revett straight. Gail though always took a tight inside line and even though her car at times was squirming under later and later braking she held him off. Pearce though is a wily campaigner and he too adopted a safe line and never put a foot wrong. At times they were inches apart but he took 4th overall and 1st in the salon contest. Gail though was more than happy to come home 5th overall, 2nd in the saloons and 1st in her class.
With one overall win and two other class wins from 12 races her disappointing start to the season was behind her but oh what might have been had she registered good points early on!
She and the West Riding crew as well as Cov Cats proprietor Chris Boon and Jaguar World Monthly editor Matt Skelton will all be defending their Birkett 6 hour relay crown at the end of the month at Silverstone to end the year.
A slightly smaller than usual grid of 14 cars was not unwelcome for Gail and the other drivers at this notoriously difficult track. The winding 2.17 miles is very tight and not really suited to the big Jaguars, though all of the drivers do love racing on it there have been plenty of incidents in recent years as the big cars struggle to find a way past each other.
That was certainly the case again this year and Gail was very happy to leave the circuit on Sunday night with just very minor damage and a few less championship points than she had hoped for after qualifying on Saturday morning.
Qualifying in the changeable conditions had proved tricky as was evidenced by the damaged cars from earlier sessions. With a dry racing line but damp to wet offline nobody could really push too hard. Gail’s car gives away over 100kg to her three nearest rivals all in XJ6 4.2 series one cars. She knew that to be quicker on essentially a track suited to well handling cars would be difficult. Her 4th place grid slot was a little disappointing nonetheless after her strong performance at Silverstone the week before.
Championship leader Rich Dorlin was on pole, then second placed man Dave Bye followed by Pete Dorlin. Second to fourth were split by just one tenth of a second which made Gail feel even more frustrated at her sometimes cautious run round Chris Curve. Still with a good start anything was possible, ‘ my plan was to get off well, hold what would eventually be the inside line round Charlies and then hope to outbreak the guys at Park. So much for plans’! was all she said later?
When the red lights went out Bye got of to a flyer closely followed by Gail immediately behind. Rich Dorlin’s car bogged down, allowing his father Pete to get alongside after a strong start and literally squeeze between his sons Coupe and Gail’s XJ40. Very soon it became apparent that three into one does not work on the run down to Coppice, as rubbing door handles became de rigour. With nowhere to go Pete Dorlin eased her toward the edge of the track, as they neared the left hand corner he moved over a little too much whilst the cars were still overlapping each other.
Gail’s front wing began to push his car round and like a pendulum she suddenly found that he was broadside across the front of her car. In plumes of blue tyre smoke he was spat out and into the barrier. This caused Gail herself to loose control and eventually after some desperate efforts to hold the car, into a spin in front of the following pack. Amazingly she did a 360, ended up on the grass, found second gear and took up the chase with little more than a broken indicator cover!
Pete Dorlin was less lucky with damage to rear and side of his car forcing an early retirement. Gail began a fabulous fight back making up seven places after as many laps. As she was closing in on 6th placed man Lewis she had realised several laps earlier that there was a problem at the rear of her car. The rear tyre had picked up a slow puncture, almost certainly in the earlier incident.
As each lap passed the rear of her car was more wayward and finally on lap 7 going through Hall Bends Gail got some more sideways action. Once again though she managed to do an extended 360 and after demolishing the plastic markers avoided all of the beckoning barriers ended up facing the right way to continue on her way. The tyre though was virtually flat and with three laps still to go she retired the car to fight again the next day.
‘A dnf was disappointing after the start and fight back but it was a great race and more excitement at the start than a girl really needs. My slender Championship hopes have definitely now gone but I’m looking forward to doing it all again tomorrow’, said a breathless Gail.
Sunday dawned and Dorlin’s car was unbent and ready for action. Gail and he would start 11th and 12th and were certainly not to repeat the start of the day before.
With a lot of slower cars ahead it was though once again imperative to get a clean quick start. This time Gail lead Dorlin and quickly established a dominant position as she moved across his line as he struggled to get past a slower car. On the run up Coppice and round Charlies chaos once again broke out as second placed man Pearce’s Mk II lost drive and became a mobile chicane.
Cars were going all over the place and after just a couple of panel bangs Gail emerged having made up three places, with Dorlin 6” from her rear bumper.
For the next three laps they were like Siamese twins joined at the bumper. Gail was trying to use very late braking at Park as a way of making up a place and putting a car between her and Dorlin. He was having none of it and just followed her through giving no opportunity for other cars to get back on the racing line.
They did this for three laps and again at the end of the pit straight to move up to 4th and 5th respectively.
With no chance of catching the leading trio Gail then got down to some serious defending for the rest of the race. Dorlin tried everything and everywhere to get past but Gail was up to the challenge and held him off to finish with just a 0.541 second gap.
“What a great race with Pete, every time I thought I had put a car between us I looked in the mirror and there he was, we must have been inches apart for half of the race. I though he must have caught his braces in my door or something. It makes up for yesterday and we both know that that was just one of those things anyway so we didn’t fall out over it. I’m looking forward to the final two rounds at Snetterton next month where I hope to finish with the wheels on the ground” (Gail rolled her car there at the start of the season).
If it’s half as good as this race it will be a cracker!
photo Getty Images
photo Getty Images