Donington Park/ Oulton Park

The final double header of the season was at Donington Park to be followed two weeks later at Oulton Park with the final round of the Jaguar Classic Parts saloon championship. Qualifying was dramatic for Gail when the rear hub failed putting her into a spin. With the help of Cov Cats proprietor Chris Boon the pair returned to Coventry, replaced the hub, brake disc and calliper and were back for the first race of the weekend.

Gail had qualified 5th in the 26 car grid and 2nd saloon but on lap one she locked up the rear and missed the chicane in spectacular fashion, regaining the track in a shower of gravel, some eight or nine places down. A reasonable recovery drive saw her finish 9th overall and 3rd saloon, maintaining her run of podium finishes which began in late 2010.

The next day saw a return to form with a strong drive to finish 4th overall and 2nd saloon. She benefited from some misfortune to her close rival Kevin Doyle who had mechanical woes meaning that she leap-frogged up to second overall in the saloon championship standings, though series leader Derek Pearce had already done enough to clinch the title even though his car was badly damaged at the start.

That meant the trip to Oulton, one of Gail’s favourite tracks, would be mostly for fun, though class A saloon driver Thomas Barclay could pip her to runner up spot in the overall standings if the result went badly.

Things didn’t get off to a good start on Friday night when she was loading the big Jaguar XJ40 onto the trailer, the exhaust, which had also been damaged when the hub sheared two weeks previously, fell off! After using a ‘Manitou’ to lift the rear end clear of the trailer and getting the car up on some ramps Andy Parker and Simon (Gail’s partner) did sterling work to weld everything up. Close inspection revealed that the rear system is effectively unserviceable so that’s an expense for the winter. The patch up proved OK for Oulton and should last for the final race of the year; The Birkett 6 hour relay race later this month.

Things did improve much when she got the car off the trailer the next morning prior to scrutineering when the front spoiler got wedged on the winch. By the time she was ready for qualifying several other niggles had completely destroyed her mind set, allied to the wet track and virtually slick tyres (it is the end of the season after all) qualifying was a nightmare. ‘My head was just not in the game and I thought that if I really pushed all I would do was put it into the barrier, something a BMW did just in front of me at one point. I came in after 15 minutes deciding that wherever I qualified I would just enjoy the race and fight through from the back.

So it proved to be with her worst qualifying session in five years; 12th on the grid though luckily there were only 15 cars entered, which was a little disappointing, but at least meant she was not too far behind the front runners on the grid.

Oulton_park_start_2012_webA good start was essential and with head and mind back on the racing that’s exactly what she got. Making up three places by the time the pack got to Old Hall, three cars wide was something of a squeeze as they rounded the fast right hander but all drivers managed to avoid contact and as they sped down Dentons toward Cascades she had made up two more places with some fairly affirmative moves down the inside.

Passing Roger Webster’s XJ-S had proved problematic two weeks earlier in the first race at Donington so Gail knew that a first lap move was imperative if she not to loose contact with the leading saloons. She had great drive exiting Brittens and once again using every inch of the track shot inside Webster and then out braked McGregor’s X300 saloon as they approached Knickerbrook.

A perfect lap and it was only half done. The leading saloon of Thomas Barclay was by now though someway ahead and so Gail began to chase him down with Webster hot on her tail. Three laps later and she had a good drive through Deer Leap giving the opportunity to move inside at Old Hall, although Barclay didn’t make it easy squeezing her tight to the edge of the track.

Having gained the inside line however she was able to take the position and move up to 4th overall and lead the saloons. Barclay soon got caught up defending his position from Webster, which he succeeded in doing but this allowed Gail to pull six seconds clear and chase the invitation car of Alistair Dyson. It was not to be but when the flag dropped on her 11th successive Jaguar championship she took the saloon win and runner up spot overall, loosing her crown of saloon champ to Pearce who was not able to repair his car in time.

‘At the end of the day having missed three rounds due to various issues this year and with one dnf, finishing as runner up this year having registered three wins, three seconds and three thirds is not a bad season. I’m hoping to get enough money together to upgrade the car over winter and make her a little more competitive. With the racing being closer than ever and next season more drivers coming into my class and new rules it should be a classic next season. The Birkett is in two weeks and that’s always brilliant so all in all its been a great season’.