The 2016 Junior Saloon car champion had decided on the popular Ginetta championship using the G40 model to make her senior car racing debut. With help from Sponsors including new backers One Call Insurance and the Yorkshire Wagyu company, she had undertaken some winter testing to gain experience in the car before the start of the season.
But there is no substitute for actually racing so on the Thursday before the weekend, Milner and the One Call insurance racing team arrived at Oulton Park for the weekend's events. The championship is often very close and has some drivers who are a lot more experienced in the cars so Milner was unsure where she would fit in the competitive field.
Friday was reserved for more testing, which was more useful as conditions should be the same as the weekend ahead. The weather threw almost everything at them which in many ways was ideal as Milner could adjust to the car in all the conditions that may occur during the race weekend.
She was feeling quite happy as the day drew to a close but they then had two days to wait before they were next on track. Saturday had sessions and races for other events racing that weekend including British GT and the British F3 championship. The team spent the day making sure everything was as good as it could be for race day as well as watching some racing.
Easter Sunday was then a quiet day, Milner made sure she got an early night ready for the big day.
Qualifying was first at 8:30am. The track was very wet from overnight rain and there was still some drizzle falling as the cars took to the track. Milner went straight out and tried to make herself some space to set a quick lap. The slippery conditions really showed with cars going off all over the place. Milner had a scary moment herself when she locked up but managed to keep on track;
“The wheels totally locked and I was sliding towards the gravel but I pumped the brake pedal as much as I could and I just managed to stay on.”
The results of her efforts were an excellent seventh on the grid.
“I'm happy with that, it was really slippery out there and so that's a good result for my first ever session in the championship.”
With three races scheduled that day, she didn't have long to wait until race one. Conditions had improved slightly but it was still very wet. As the lights went out, Milner got a good start and was right with the front running back heading into the first corner. The pack were quite bunched up as the cars braked and steered into the corner and Milner was pushed towards the outside. As they exited, all the cars drifted to the outside, forcing Milner off the track and onto the grass. Now on a dry day she may have been able to run down the grass for a bit before re-joining but with the rain the grass was like ice. She held on for a second before spinning. Her car headed for the tyre wall and disaster but somehow she managed to slow it down and it just made contact with the tyre wall with the lightest of touches.
But she was now nearly facing back up the track with the pack rapidly disappearing, it seemed all chance of a good result were gone before the race had barely begun. But Milner is not someone to give up easily and she quickly got the car going and roared off down the track in pursuit.
Incredibly as the cars reached the first corner on the second lap, she was already on the tail of the final car in the train. Within another lap she had passed several cars. This continued for the remaing laps until she took the flag in an incredible eleventh place, having made up fifteen places in eight laps! Her best lap time was better than several of the cars that were in front of her too.
So despite the first corner incident, she was now feeling even more positive and confident about the races to come.
Before race two the sky darkened considerably and it started to drizzle with some light rain. The track was dry but was there about to be a huge rain shower. Milner and the team thought about what to do. Do they gamble with slicks in the hope that the rain doesn't come or do they put on wets and make sure of not having any issues with sliding off in the wet?
All the other teams put on wets. If they went with slicks and the rain did hold off, Milner would have a huge advantage. But if they were wrong and the rain came, they would need to do a lengthy pit stop which would put her well out of contention.
It was a difficult decision and the team left as late as they possibly could before also bolting on the wheels with wet tyres. She then raced out to join the grid. She made a good start and immediately started passing cars. As she got closer to her qualifying position of seventh, things started getting tougher as the rival cars around her were about the same pace. She got into a good battle with a couple of drivers, passing and repassing
As the race continued it became clear that the conditions hadn't worsened and in fact it was drying so the tyres needed looking after. But as everyone was on the same, it meant they were all doing the same thing.
As the race entered the final lap, she was battling for seventh place when the car in front braked much earlier than expected. She lightly tapped the back of the car but fortunately no damaged appeared to have been caused.
However after a couple of corners, her bonnet started lifting. Milner drove carefully around the final lap, knowing that ninth place behind her was a long way back. She crossed the line in an excellent eighth place. She has also set the seventh fastest lap of the race, Given that this was Milner's second ever race in such a competitive championship it was a great result.
After the race she received the good news that the eighth place finish had given her pole for the final race. A pole in Miner's third ever GT5 challenge race would be a great opportunity but also a big challenge. But Milner is always happy to take on challenges and so she looked forward to the final race.
However disappointment was to come when one of the races before hers had a big crash in it which caused massive barrier damage. The resulting delay meant there was now no time to run the third race and it would be added to a future meeting.
Milner was disappointed but also pleased with her performance. She also had a race to look forward to in the future where she would be starting on pole. She spoke about her feelings at the end of the day;
“I’m happy with today, although obviously I’m disappointed to not be able to have the third race I think the weekend has gone well. I’m really happy with my lap times compared with the others. The Huge thanks to all the team for all their work on the car, I’m really pleased with how the new team set-up has worked this weekend. Also a huge thanks to my sponsors, One Call Insurance, The Yorkshire Wagyu Company, Swift and Merlin international plus all my other supporters. I’m really looking forward to Rockingham now”
Milner's next race is at Rockingham in Northamptonshire in two weeks’ time. After such a strong debut, Milner and her team are feeling optimistic of having another great weekend.
By Marc Waller