Gail's season finally under way at Brands Hatch...

Rounds three and four of the Jaguar Championship took place over the weekend and after missing Snetterton due to a broken tow vehicle Gail, in her Jaguar Classic Parts / System Store Solutions sponsored XJ40, was hoping to get off to a good start after she won here last year.

Twenty Six cars were entered for rounds three and four of the Championship which meant finding space in qualifying was no easy thing especially with the track being extremely damp after a nights rain. Gail registered a fastest lap time early on and was consistently in the top three of four cars but then got caught up with several slower cars, loosing time in the process. Meanwhile behind her other drivers, particularly in the quicker XJ-S’s were beginning to master the conditions.

Gail found herself in 6th on the grid and was slightly disappointed, especially to find that Rick Walker in his 4.2 litre XJ6 had pipped her to 5th and fastest saloon by 0.043 seconds. The car ran well though and unlike numerous other drivers she did manager to keep the car in the track, in one piece and always pointing in the right direction.

Round three later on Saturday saw much worse conditions with a steady down pour of rain creating a hoist of problems, not helped by Gail’s glasses breaking as she got ready to leave for the assembly area.

A good start saw her slip ahead of a stationary Walker and up into 4th place as she wet inside Paul Merrett’s XJ-S. Ian Drage quickly relegated her back to 5th as she struggled with front-end grip going into Graham Hill bend. Gail runs high negative camber on the front to enable the car to turn in but in sopping conditions this was hurting her and two laps later she could only watch as Kevin Doyle’s XJ6 coupe took a tighter line around Graham Hill and quickly created a three or four car gap. A brief safety car period allowed her and the rest of field to close up but at the restart the best she could do was hold off a recovered Rick Walker and Matt Jeffery, both class rivals.

This she did to good effect even though both cars were handling better in the conditions. Toward s the end Derek Pearce (Mk II) and Dave Bye were also challenging for the saloon runner up spot. Gail finished 7th overall but did hang on for 2nd in class B.

The grid for round four the next day would see her lined up behind Doyle who took the saloon win and with Walker, Bye, Jeffery and Pearce all lined up together on rows4, 5 and 6.

The weather was vastly better on bank holiday Monday but the drizzle began to fall steadily just before the cars went to the grid. Not enough to cause major problems but sufficient to affect grip levels on each lap for the first six minutes until the rain finally stopped.

Gail got off to another great start, holding off Walker et al in a packed start going three abreast at Paddock at the start. She squeezed past Drage at Clearways whilst hanging onto Doyle’s bumper at the same time. In the dryer conditions her car was far more competitive and she had every hope of getting her first class win.

On lap five she went a little too quickly into Clearways allowing Bye who had passed Walker the previous lap to get inside her going onto the main straight. The two drivers were side by side all the way up to Paddock and went round the daunting right hander still neck and neck, Gail managed to hang on round the outside and they were still inches apart as they rounded Druids and headed off toward Graham Hill.

Absolutely brilliant stuff from both drivers who never touched even having done half a lap just a few inches apart until disaster! There was aloud bang and Gail’s car lost all power! She had to coast round Graham Hill and pull the car over to stop safely and watch the rest of an enthralling race from the sidelines.

After recovering the car to the paddock it was found that the HT lead had come adrift from the coil! An easy fix but extremely frustrating for Gail, ‘in all my eleven years of racing this has never happened before but I guess you live and learn’, was all she could say later.

Bye was afflicted by a similar problem two laps later allowing Walker and then Pearce to challenge Doyle for the saloon win and 5th overall but the latter defended manfully to take his second win of the weekend.

Not the best start to the season for Gail who never managed to discover if the new ‘nanodrive’ technology synthetic oil supplied by Millers Oils did release a few bhp. The track was never dry enough to put in really quick laps but with a few mods still to come, which will hopefully increase her competitiveness she still has high hopes for the rest of the year.