Positive Progress - Katie Milners Knockhill Ginetta Weekend

She gets ready to head on track (Photo by Marc Waller)Katie Milner’s Ginetta GT5 season continued last weekend with a trip to the Knockhill circuit near Dunfermline.

It’s the second and final time this season that the championship races on a BTCC weekend with the associated large crowds and big tv audiences on ITV4.

The BTCC weekends provide two Friday test sessions which were ideal to give Milner plenty of track time. Her only previous experience of the circuit was in the Citroen Saxo from Junior Saloons so she would need to adjust to the different ways the rear wheel drive Ginetta handles around the short but undulating circuit.

Friday proved to be very wet whereas the forecast for the weekend at that point was for dry and sunny weather but all track time is useful and Milner quickly got up to speed, ending the day in tenth and not far off the ultimate pace.

Surprisingly when Saturday came around, qualifying was wet once again so the Friday experience was even more useful than was first expected. Milner got quicker throughout the session ending up tenth and less than a second off pole, an excellent result considering much of the field are far more experienced in the cars.

It looked like Saturday afternoon’s race would be an entirely dry affair as it started in bright sunlight. Milner had to avoid a big accident just in front of her heading down Duffus dip as several cars made contact, launching one in the air just in front of Katie. She had to slow slightly and move off line to avoid the accident which lost her places but at the same time she had passed the cars involved in the crash and the net result put her ninth at the end of the first lap as the pack followed the safety car.

Ninth became eighth on the fifth lap before making up a further place four laps later. By now rain had started to fall and initially it was light enough not to make a difference to the warm track. But within another couple of laps, what had been light rain became extremely heavy. The track was rapidly soaked. Conditions were now ideal for wet tyres but the length of time it would take to change meant it wasn’t a move worth making unless the whole field did the same.

So Milner continued to circulate as fast as she could on slick tyres. Fortunately the early dry running had put some heat into them meaning they weren’t completely undrivable but as Milner said “It was just a case of trying to keep it on the black stuff”

Several other drivers then made mistakes moving Milner to sixth and then up to fifth as the car ahead of her had received a ten second penalty for a jump start so he would need to stay more than ten seconds ahead of Milner to keep fifth.

She had to avoid a flying car in the first race crash (Photo by Marc Waller) Friday was very wet (Photo by Marc Waller) Knockhill is very undulating (Photo by Marc Waller) Katie was  quick at the Scottish track (Photo by Marc Waller)

 

 

 

It looked like it was going to be fifth for Milner but a tap from behind from a couple of rivals caused her car to slew sideways. Her incredible car control saved things from disaster both times and they were unable to pass. But the loss of time from the incidents had dropped her to more than ten seconds behind fifth leaving her to cross the line in a still excellent sixth place.

This would put her in sixth position on the grid for race two on Sunday and hopefully there would finally be a dry race on a weekend which had been originally been forecast as a dry event!

Dark clouds loomed once more as the grid formed just after the days first BTCC race but fortunately this time they held on to their contents.

Milner made another good start as the lights went out but found herself boxed in after a driver ahead had a very slow start. With the championship’s drivers being so evenly matched, any time not going as fast as possible is going to cost positions and Milner found herself back to eighth at the end of lap one. This race was being televised and hopefully Milner could attract the tv director into giving her One Call Insurance backed car some tv time. An incident between the top two then bought out the safety car and promoted Milner up the field.

A couple of cars slipped by at the restart, the second one aided by Milner being slowed going off line as the first one passed. This left her in ninth with the rapid Seb Perez now behind her looking for a way past.

Milner was determined to not let anyone else past and what followed was a spectacular qualifying style lap where she took her car to the literal limits of the track on every corner. This battle also attracted the tv coverage to show her car giving her sponsors valuable live television coverage. The lap proved to be her fastest of the entire weekend.

Her extra push worked as not only did Milner stay ahead but she also pulled out a bit of a gap as the final laps counted down. Eighth was now too far ahead to do anything about but a ninth-place finish was a strong result particularly as she was able to show off her skills on live terrestrial television.

“It’s been a positive weekend,” said Milner after the final race “I was happy with how race one went particularly with the tough conditions in the second half, some of the trickiest I’ve raced in. Race two was another positive race and I was pleased with my battle with Perez. This season was always meant to be a learning year and I feel I’ve learnt a lot this time. I have to say thanks to my sponsors as always, One Call Insurance, The Yorkshire Wagyu company, Swift and Omologato.”

“Next up in the championship is Donington where I’m hoping to go for my best Ginetta result to date. Before that I’ve got an outing in a Porsche at Britcar also at Donington Park which I’m very excited about. I’m not sure whether it’ll be a help to my Ginetta weekend or not. I guess we’ll find out!” By Marc Waller

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