As the reigning Max5 Mk1 Champion, 2014 was always going to be a tough season, as everyone wants to beat you.
The season started at Donington in March. As usual, I’d not sat in the car since the last race of 2013, so I knew everyone would have caught me up during the season break. I really fought hard in the first race and managed a podium position of 3rd from a packed grid. The second race really played into my hands as it rained part way through the race and my two closest challengers both went off the track leaving me with a huge advantage and only one lap to go.
Next stop was Anglesey, another great track and certainly worth the journey when the weather is fine. I missed pole by 0.08 of a second, setting us up for a great couple of races ahead. Again it rained part way through the race and I drove straight passed my fellow racer who had been caught behind a Mk3 car on the greasy track. The second race I struggled with my gearbox and managed only 3rd place, second place was again a fraction of a second ahead.
The twisty Cadwell Park was the next location for the Max5 racers and after managing to be over a second quicker than my previous best lap time I was hoping for a really great weekend. Unfortunately my gearbox gave up on the penultimate lap whilst leading, giving me my first and only non-finish in 3 years of racing since my big crash at Knockhill in 2011. After Keith changed the gearbox overnight we had to start from last and 24th place on the grid. I knew I was quick and really looked forward to some overtaking during the race. Managing to get up to 3rd in class before the safety car came out, this really gave me my lucky break, I fought past the second placed driver and with a lap to go pushed hard to catch Rob who was leading the class. Luckily for me he had a huge wobble through the Gooseneck meaning I got past him on the last lap.
After nearly an 8 week break a hot Brands Hatch was the next. After a topsey turvey test day, where changing wheel bearings and even managing to tap the only other female on circuit (sorry Sarah) we were pleased with pole positon in class after qualifying. A safety car came out in the first race, meaning my lead was reduced to nearly nothing, but after a couple of good laps I managed to pull out a good lead again. The second race after a short battle I pushed hard for a few laps to get a comfortable lead and complete my first double win of the year.
August was time for Oulton Park, a Saturday only race, and a track I’d not completed at for 3 years, but one I love to drive. First race was fairly lonely from pole position I managed to win by 13 seconds. In the second race I had a battle with a driver from the other class but managed to shake him off after a few laps and drove home to a second win of the day and with my first ever lap record to boot!
The long drive to Snetterton was next. It seems that we were now entering a battle with one of the championship organisers on how many recovery trucks can you use on a race weekend… Having broken down on the way to Snetterton and arrived on a recovery truck in the middle of the night, Snetterton was going to the a long and tiring weekend. Qualifying 3rd in class wasn’t a disaster, and I managed to get into the lead of the race only for one of my competitors behind me to forget to brake at the 1st hairpin and knock me out of the lead. I managed to get going again, but with deranged rear wheel alignment. With only a couple of laps of the race left I could only manage 5th place overall. After an amount of hammering and adjustment we were ready for the final race of the day. I managed a solid second place and with a gearbox that was increasingly difficult to change gear in, we were happy the weekend was over. The only hurdle was to get home again…. by recovery truck, which unknown to us at the time, would take 9 hours and all night…
The most local track to me on the calendar was Thruxton and the penultimate race of the season. With a healthy championship lead, another fresh gearbox, I just needed to keep the little yellow Mazda on track. Around 2 seconds a lap faster than last year at Thruxton, I was really pleased with my improvements, however it just wasn’t fast enough and my championship rival beat me and won both races. Two solid podiums a 2nd and 3rd were enough to go into the last round of the year still with a solid championship lead.
Pembury in South Wales was the season finale. A damp track in qualifying and without a working dash meant I had no idea of my lap times, but I did push as hard as I dared to without slipping off on a greasy track that had just used by the trucks. The smallest grid of the year meant all I needed to do was to finish the first race and I would become Max5 champion for the second year running. However wanting to end the year on a high, I reeled in the leader and after 15 mins of the 20 min race I took the lead. This was the first win I have had when my Dad was at the track to see it for himself, he was over the moon to finally see me win. The second race was on the Sunday morning on a damp and slippery track. I drove steadily for the first half of the race, but when the leader made an error at the hairpin I pounced to take the lead and win the final race of the year.
2014 has been an epic year; I never thought I would win back to back championship titles. Consistency has really been the key to the season, nine wins and obtaining podiums at every single track this year. I’ve also managed to be approximately one second a lap quicker at every track this year, showing that both my and the championships pace has increased too. It’s been an honour to have the BWRDC Gold Star logo on the bonnet of my car for the year, the support from the Gold Star sponsors and the Champion of Champions award have all helped increase my driving confidence. Finally without the support from my family and racing friends racing wouldn’t even be possible, so a huge thanks to everyone who has helped and supported me this year, especially my partner Keith for keeping my car running and fixing it when I’ve broken it. Amy Barker. By Marc Waller