Katie Milner bounces back at Rockingham!

Katie Milner Katie Milner and her family team headed to Rockingham in Northamptionshire last weekend to take part in the first rounds of the BARC Junior Saloon Car championship.

Previously known as Saxmax, the JSCC is similar to the Ginetta Junior championship in offering the ability to race cars to 14-17 year olds. Because it uses Citroen Saxo’s, the budgets are considerably lower than the BTCC supporting Ginetta championship.

We’ve not covered Katie’s races before on GR so first an introduction. Katie is the daughter of Jonny Milner a former Autograss, rally cross and rally driver. He has won several titles and was double british rally champion in 2002 and 2003. He also won the national Gravel Rally championship in 2010. Katie has followed in his footsteps and has been racing a mini in Autograss since she was 12. In 2013/14 she was junior champion and last season she competed in both the British and National championships. She finished second in both. This year as well as the JSCC she is continuing to race in both Autograss championships and aims to win both. This would make history as a female has not won either Autograss championship before. Her sponsors, Nimbus Motorsport and Merlin International have backed her for the last 3 years providing parts for the mini in Autograss and they have stayed with Katie as she moves into also competing the JSCC Saxo.

So back to the JSCC and Rockingham. The weekend was definitely a case of “In at the deep end” as it was her first time driving her Citroen Saxo around a circuit as well as her first competitive visit to the Northamptonshire facility.

She had just the Friday test session to get used to the car and to learn the difficult Rockingham infield circuit which uses part of the oval and a section of infield track to form the circuit. Unlike the Autograss racing where Katie is out to win, her first season in the JSCC is all about learning and gaining experience ready to go for it in 2016. Friday was dry and sunny and she completed a lot of laps with her instructor, Adriano Medeiros. Her times were good, not far off the more experienced drivers and she was happy with her setup ready for qualifying on Saturday morning.

It rained first thing on Saturday and although the sun came out by the time the JSCC cars headed out for qualifying the track was very slippery. This was her first time on track in the rain but Katie hoped her experience in the much lower grip world of Autograss would come in handy. On her first lap out of the pits, she found her brakes were still cold as she reached the hairpin at the end of the oval section and rather than risk a crash she went straight on. This meant she found herself heading around the oval to rejoin the circuit. As she rejoined the track at the other end of the oval she was already going quite fast and going into turn one she started to slide. She quikly and correctly moved to correct the slide but the car suddenly gripped and this sent her car straight towards the wall. There was a huge bang as the car hit the wall and bounced into the middle of the track. The car was heavily damaged and she was lucky to be missed by a fellow competitor who spun past her in avoidance. The Rockingham emergency crew were quickly on the scene and luckily, other than feeling a bit battered, Katie was unhurt.

“I would like to thank the team at Rockingham for such a speedy response to get across to me, and for checking me over in the medical centre.” She said afterwards.

But while Katie was okay, the same couldn’t be said for the car. The whole front was heavily pushed in and it had considerable damage to several mechanical parts too. It looked like Katie’s weekend was over almost before it began.

But with the Milner background in Rallying where teams and drivers never give up unless they really have to, they weren’t going to be stopped! While the rest of the field went back out to qualify, Katie and the rest of the team were packing up the damaged car and their equipment to head to York, where the car could be straightened on a jig. The trip was three hours and they got straight to work putting the car back to a race-able condition. If your road car had to have similar work, you’d be lucky to get it back within a few weeks but incredibly Katie’s car was done the same day.

They then made a further trip for another hour back to their home base where they could get hold of the parts to complete the repairs and get the car fully ready to race. The whole team worked until 2am in the early hours of Sunday to finish the car. They then grabbed a few hours sleep before heading back to Rockingham ready to race.

She had missed the first race held on Saturday afternoon and as she also hadn’t been able to qualify, she would start from the rear of the field. She got a great start and then concentrated on finishing the race and getting valuable experience in her first ever circuit race. She crossed the line just outside of a top ten result in eleventh out of fifteen cars.

It had been an incredible achievement by Katie and the team. To fix a car in less than 24 hours that you’d normally expect to take a week at the very least. Katie showed her determination, getting back in the car and racing despite feeling sore and battered from her shunt the previous day.

If Katie and the team just miss out on a top ten with that kind of setback, just think what they can do next time! Katie and the team will be out next at Mallory Park on the 23rd and 24th May. By Marc Waller

Ouch! (photo by Marc Waller) Still a lot to do at this point (Photo supplied by Katie Milner) Welding the car (Photo supplied by Katie Milner) The repaired car lines up on the grid to race (photo by Marc Waller)


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