Castle Coombe debut 2012

The Jaguar Classic Parts/ JEC Saloon Championship made its first appearance at Castle Coombe for five years over the weekend for rounds 7 & 8 of the series. It was also the first time that Gail has raced there having only previously done a track day and that was six years ago.

A healthy grid of 21 cars made up of mixed saloons and XJ-S’s were entered, class B (Gail’s class) being especially competitive with six previous Championship winning drivers turning out. The #52 car had been fitted with new brake pads, which needed bedding in and a new rear tyre that also needed scrubbing in so qualifying was somewhat compromised though Gail really enjoyed the fast, challenging and very undulating track. She was slightly less pleased with a 7th overall (4th in saloon’s) though 5th to 7th on the grid were split by just over three tenths and knowing that around half-a-second was being lost due to a slightly spongy brake pedal Gail felt confident that she could go faster later in the day.

 Round 7

Gails start could have been better and she was soon swamped by the three saloons of Palmer, Bye and Connew, two on the nearside and one on the offside. Palmers X300 was being pressured by Bye’s S1 coupe and Palmer was soon rubbing door handles with Gail’s XJ40, Connew was rubbing the rear wing too as space began to run out; the Coombe circuit really wont take four big cats side by side! Connew backed off leaving some of his paint on the #52 car, as did Palmers X300, then as Bye eased ahead and moved across his coupe tagged the front of the XJ40. Gail backed off slightly to avoid more contact and a potential accident. She was down to 8th and crucially had lost a class position.Gail_and_Dave_at_Coombe

Two laps later and with a much quicker car and full confidence in the brakes she out braked Bye on the approach to Camp Corner and was back up 7th. Richard Dorlin’s leading saloon, in 4th place, was in trouble at mid point throwing all its water out of the radiator cap and the two leaders in their Class G V12 powered cars fell over each other handing the lead and win to Ramm’s XJ-S. Gail began a race long chase of Pearce and Doyle for the saloon win but they had created a comfortable gap early on and whilst Doyle was doing his level best to pass Pearce’s MkII and nearly tripping himself up in the process they finished in that order. 

A 4th overall and 3rd  in class meant Gail has not been off the saloon podium since the end of 2010, even though it was something of a gift with Dorlin’s car expiring before the end. She really enjoyed the circuit though describing it as one of the most challenging that she has raced at and friendly with so many spectators cheering the drivers on. 

Round 8

Gail was much happier with her grid position on the second row on the outside and after holding off a fast starting Bye she had just about maintained her place as the field sped towards Quarry. The leading cars all took a defensive line going over Avon Rise towards the right hander and realising that this would be her best and only chance to get past the lighter and more powerful MkII and S1 coupe of Pearce and Doyle she put her foot down and went round the outside and managed to slide back in behind Ramm as they exited Quarry.

Somewhat surprised that her manoeuvre came off and knowing that Ramm’s XJ-S was much faster than her saloon she began a dogged defence of second place. Pearce was the only man who could keep in touch which he did for lap after lap. Gail was quicker through the back part of the circuit from The Esses to Bobbies but any mistake exiting the chicane meant that Pearce could pressure at Camp and Quarry. Three or four times they were side by side on the run through Avon Rise even coming together briefly on one occasion.Hill_and_Pearce_very_close-_Jim_Robertson_Photography

Both drivers were showing great respect for each other though and this little ‘love tap’ caused no real damage. In sweltering conditions Gail was counting down the minutes and she was hugely relieved to see the last lap board after 20 minutes hard racing. Even more relieved when she spotted the Pearce, MkII slewing into a spin exiting Camp Corner. Sadly a half shaft had broken causing a retirement and robbing the large crowd of a last lap duel; not that Gail was complaining.

She was ecstatic at coming home 2nd overall and registering her first saloon win, a result that puts her 3rd in her class overall.

‘The car was brilliant today and after realising that there were only really two places on the track where Derek was quicker or could pass I defended when necessary and just tried to ensure I made no mistakes, the best race I’ve had for ages and it’s nice to not be looking at his tail pipes for a change’.

The next double header will be at Mallory over the August Bank Holiday weekend.