Teenager, Emily, suffers brake failure at over 100mph

Track action (Photo by Marc Waller)The youngster was in her Ginetta Junior race car at Knockhill in Scotland on Saturday in her first free practice of the day when disaster struck.



Having completed almost the whole of the 15-minute session without problems, and posting some impressive lap times too, she had no clue what was to unfold to very soon after. Emily takes over, “I’d been lapping really well, and I’d just posted some impressive times which I was pleased with. As I came down towards the final corner, flat in 6th, I hit the brakes for the super tight hairpin. They initially bit, but almost immediately the pedal went long, and the car wasn’t slowing down. I knew I was going to crash so I managed to get down two gears and had to make a split-second decision of how to hit the barrier; so I threw the car slightly right and then full on to the left, hoping to go in to the barrier sideways and cause less damage to the car. I cleared the whole of the gravel trap, just sliding over the top of it and sideways in to the barrier.”

The impact was huge, so much so that the crowd gasped as she hit the wall. The red flag was immediately put out to stop the session, although it was the last lap anyway, and the emergency rescue vehicle deployed to attend to her possible injuries. Fortunately, her car had bounced a little way back from the barriers which allowed the corner Marshall’s, Doctors and medics enough space to force the door open and attend to her whilst they determined what her physical state was.

After some ten minutes of checking and re-checking with the young driver in the car, they were happy to release the belts and allow her to be moved, albeit very gingerly. The crew extricated her from the car to wonderous applause from the watching crowd and carried her to the safety of the ambulance and in to the medical centre for further tests.

Watching at that corner were her parents, Samantha and Mark, who, as you can imagine, were somewhat stunned. They spoke about the ordeal, “We’d been watching Emily progress through the session and she’d bee showing some good pace. Watching her approach the corner this time was frightening really, as this time around her car was most definitely not slowing down in any way. As the apex came and went in a flash, we could see her positioning the car and then an almighty thud, which scattered the Marshall’s on the post; it was that fast, they too didn’t get a chance to brace themselves, but fortunately none of them were hit. All we cold do was to go over to the area and watch as they attended to our daughter. You don’t appreciate the work they all do and the speed at which they work, but it’s very impressive and we’re all so very grateful indeed. It’s hard when you’re unable to do anything about the situation yourself especially as it was so close to us.”

Track action (Photo by Marc Waller)Following numerous tests, it was deemed that there was no major injury to Emily herself with the exception of some heavy bruising to her ribs, sternum and foot, but otherwise this young lady was almost fit to leave. Following on from the tests, the Doctor asked how she managed to go in sideways and not forwards, to which she stated, “if I’d gone in forwards, the car would’ve been destroyed, and I wouldn’t be able to race this weekend, so I decided sideways was best all round. It seems to have worked”

When she got back to the team, the car had been released to them and they’d begun working out what the problem had been in the first place and went through her data trace to see if there was anything this could show them too. It was found to be a damaged brake caliper on the left rear wheel and it looks to have been damaged by something hitting it, causing it to lose hydraulic pressure.

Team manager, Andy Richardson, and Driver Coach, Kieron Vernon, trawled through her on board footage and data to ascertain what went on before and during the incident, and they were shocked at her presence of mind, with Andy commenting, “you’ve got fighter pilot reactions to do what you did with all that going on, it really is quite impressive.”

Emily spoke of her ordeal when she got back and told us, “I did what I could to save everything, and it seems to have worked. It’s weird that when you’re in that sort of situation, you do what you can to save the vehicle or there’s no racing. I must admit, I was a bit scared as I’d done everything I could to prepare myself and the car for the impact, but then I realised I had no more control over what was about to happen, just to sit and wait for the crash to happen. I did brace myself by taking my hands off the steering wheel but didn’t get my left foot off the brake as I was still hoping it might slow down…it didn’t.”

The team managed to repair the damage in time for qualifying in the afternoon and Emily went for another check-up and was deemed fit enough to race, if she wanted to. She went out, qualified 17th and finished both televised races the next day, held in treacherous conditions, in 14th and 13th places respectively.

This young lady is clearly one tough cookie and is an inspiration to us all.

Next round is at Silverstone on September 15th and 16th, the latter being broadcast live on ITV4

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