Race three rocks once rain recedes - Katie Milners Rockingham Weekend

Ready to head on track (Photo by Marc Waller) Katie Milner sits on the grid for race three of the final race of the weekend for the Ginetta GT5 Challenge at Rockingham in fourteenth.

She had been hoping for a great result like the fourth place she took at the circuit last season but things just having been going to plan this weekend. Can she pull off the impossible and get a good result from nearly halfway down the field?

Things had started okay in Friday testing which was held in torrential rain. The day had been spent working on setup and the whole team felt like things were going well although with no official timing on the day, they couldn’t be certain where they were in the large thirty-one car field.

By the time Qualifying came around on Saturday, the conditions were still the same. Katie ran for most of the session and managed eight laps. Things seemed okay so surely the grid position should be good? Twenty fifth! Wait, what? Twenty fifth? Something wasn’t right and clearly the car wasn’t quick enough. She had been fastest in testing at Thruxton only a few days previously so the car and her have both proved they have the pace. Clearly some changes were needed to the set up before the first race. She had been hoping to be in the top ten at the very least so it was going to be a lot of work to recover this. Race one saw a big improvement and the track was much drier. She had fought her way up to sixteenth. Race two saw less places made up but she had fought her way to fourteenth, now in sight of the top ten where she had hoped to be running in this very competitive field.

So now she lined up on the grid for the final race of the day in fourteenth. The track was now dry and so conditions were ideal for racing. She now needed to do a lot of overtaking if she was to make her targets for the weekend.

Lights out and the race is underway. She makes a great start but immediately has to move down the banking to avoid a rival cutting across. No problem though as she’s straight past him. Thirteenth! She slices past another car on the way to the Deene hairpin and it’s twelfth. Another rival spins halfway through the corner and it’s eleventh. That’s three places made up and we’ve only done two corners. The car is now working perfectly and is clearly well on the pace. What can Katie do in this relatively short race?

Another corner and it’s another place, she’s in to the top ten and it’s still only the first lap! The next nine have made a bit of a break from the pack, but not at the same time, she starts to pull away from the rest of the field. Suddenly more action ahead as another rival spins his race away, it’s now ninth and still we’re on the first lap! She heads out on to the banking and past another rival to complete lap one in eighth, getting a name check from the commentators who seem surprised at the progress she’s already made up the field.

But now the higher up the field you get, the better the rivals so progress even higher will be tough. She completes the next lap in the same position although her nearest rival in front of her isn’t far off. Importantly she makes more ground on the rest of the pack, allowing her to fully concentrate on moving forward up the field. She’s closing on the front running pack, all battling for second and slowly each other up.

Her next nearest rival now started to drop back slightly from the pack and was moving into her sights to make another passing move. But then some of the rest of the battling pack also slowed each other up and the duo found themselves challenging the cars ahead as well as each other! Already there is just six minutes of the race left!

Conditions were treacherous early in the weekend (Photo by Marc Waller) Racing in the wet (Photo by Marc Waller) Racing in the dry proved more productive (Photo by Marc Waller) Katie with her car (Photo by Marc Waller)

 

 

 

On the next lap, the four cars ahead of her went four abreast around the banking! This could be an opportunity to make up several places if their squabbling goes wrong. As they enter the Deene hairpin, she goes for an out braking move and comes out in seventh very nearly making sixth!

On the next lap, two of her rivals put each other on the grass, and Katie takes full advantage to move to fifth place. Nine places gained in just under ten minutes of racing but it’s not over yet!

Another couple of corners and Katie is through into fourth. But on the next lap, some of the rivals she already passed fight back and she’s suddenly dropping back to sixth Katie is not in a mood to let people past though and is rapidly back into fifth.

It’s now the final lap with Katie in fifth. There are three corners to go when suddenly at the Tarzan hairpin, a rival spins. Katie is left with a gap slightly smaller than her car and no time to react. She dives as far to the right as she can without going off and somehow disaster is averted as she squeezes through with only a slight nudge of the wayward car.
This also means she is now fourth with two corners to go. The incident has slowed her up though and third place is now too far away, but worse still are the rival cars that are right behind her. She drives defensively through the final chicane and round the final corner onto the banking. She makes a great exit from the corner to power away and takes fourth across the line!

Target met, as she equals last years result!

“Wow, what an amazing race!” Said Katie afterwards “It’s safe to say the weekend wasn’t going to plan until the last race but we got the car working perfectly and I just went for it. I’m very happy with that, it was just what we needed. Hopefully we can go to Thruxton and keep the pace I had in both this race and the Thruxton test. Thanks to my team, Merlin International for getting me on the pace. Plus of course my sponsors including Snap-on Tools UK & Ireland, Walero Motorsport, Reis Motorsport Insurance, Richardson Transport and Swift”

The Thruxton rounds support the BTCC in less than three weeks on the nineteenth and twentieth of May. Katie will be hoping for her first podium in the championship as she aims to continue her rapid testing pace. By Marc Waller

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