Jessica had initially been announced as one of the Racing for Heroes drivers at the start of the season but the funds weren’t found for her to compete. Since then she has been working away herself and finally managed to get the backing to compete at Oulton Park with the Falcon Motorsport team. She has also launched a crowd funding page to help raise funds for her racing under the tag line #imbackingjess. (http://www.gofundme.com/imbackingjess) Her main backer has agreed to match funds raised through this page so it’s a great chance to help a promising racing driver to stay on the grid.
Jessica had only limited testing before the weekend and she had never driven at Oulton Park so she faced a learning curve so steep it was pretty much vertical!
Louise on the other hand is a bit more experienced having been racing all season for her family team, Richardson racing. She was hoping to build on the three top twelve places she got last time out at Thruxton. But she was suffering with a hand injury which would slow her pace.
For both drivers it was a potentially difficult weekend. They ended up close to each other on the grid after qualifying with Louise in nineteenth and Jessica just behind in 20th. Not where either of them want to be but they were well ahead of those behind them. For the second race grid which was on second best times, Louise remained 19th but Jessica dropped to 21st as she’d set her best time close to the end of the session..Her previous times had been slower as she gradually learned the circuit which she’d never driven on before Friday.
As race one got underway on Saturday, Louise got a great start and set off in pursuit of those ahead. Jessica, having her first ever racing start in an MSA Formula car, didn’t get quite such a quick getaway but still got a nice clean start and held her position into the first corner. Louise managed to fight her way up to 14th place by the end, a solid start considering the problems with her hand. Jessica managed to gain a place to nineteenth and got quicker all race as she gained confidence in the car and knowledge of the track.
Race two was also on Saturday and was the last race of the day, Louise and Jessica made good starts and both made up positions during the race, Louise 17th this time and Jessica 19th. Jessica had been quicker than the eighteenth place car but ran out of time before she could find a way past. She was not feeling more confident in the car and had learnt the circuit. Both drivers looked forward to race three on Sunday afternoon.
Sunday was hot and sunny, Jessica was 21st on the grid with Louise 19th. Louise took off really well this time and passed several cars during the race, she passed several cars to end up thirteenth as well as setting her quickest race lap of the weekend. Jessica too looked faster and also made up positions to take fifteenth, her best positon of the weekend.
Louise spoke about her weekend after the race;
“We knew coming into the season that we were on the back foot a bit compared to our rivals because of our lack of pre-season testing and we are having to learn as we go along – which is what we have done again here,” she said. “It’s been a bit of a mixed weekend in terms of the results, but in terms of the knowledge we’ve gained, there is plenty that we can take away from Oulton Park that will hopefully help us moving forwards.
“The injury to my hand did hamper me in qualifying and it meant I didn’t perform at my best but we worked to improve my comfort in the car for the three races. The first one went quite well and we made up places to finish in 14th but then we elected to use the other two races as more of an extended test for Croft later this month.
“While we picked up two more solid finishes, we were also able to try a few things and learn more that we can take into the next event. While Oulton Park and Croft are two different circuits, they also share some similarities with high-speed corners and a bumpy track surface, so I think the work we have done will help us to be more competitive when we first hit the track at the next meeting.”
Jessica also very much had to learn as she went along on her debut in the championship. She now looks to secure the funding to continue in the championship when it heads to Croft. It’s another circuit which she hasn’t raced at but now armed with more knowledge of the car, she’ll hope to move up the grid along with Louise.
We’ll see what happens when the championship arrives at the North Yorkshire on the last weekend in June. By Marc Waller