On track with Christie Doran


CHRISTIE DORAN CHRISTIE DORAN races for Slidesports Race Engineering in the VAG Trophy.

The Scot got into motorsport after Ginetta set her a challenge to learn how to drive from scratch in just seven months when she was just 15. She passed the test and came 13th out of 15 in the British Ginetta Juniors at Knockhill.

Other challenges followed. Despite having never done any karting, she came second in class in her first full Scottish series – driving a Triumph TR8 in the Classics. Then she tried the BMW Compact Cup before tackling her first UK series last year. She came fourth in class in the VAG Trophy and is now back for a tilt at the title. Christie has joined Girl Racer as a columnist to give an insight into how the season is panning out….

THE Proclaimers have a very catchy song called 500 Miles. Forget singing it, I LIVE it.

It is great being a Scottish racer and living 20 minutes from Knockhill. You stay in your own bed, have all your family and friends around you and can chill out by walking the dogs.

Be a Scottish racer and take on a UK series and things change. You get to know motorways. You certainly get to know service stations. You have a list of favoured hotels. And you constantly need to update the songs on your iPod.

I loved doing my first UK series last year. I was excited at the thought of tackling the most iconic tracks in the country. But we covered some miles getting to and from testing and races.

I remember being interviewed at the MSVR media day at Brands Hatch last year. Alan Hyde asked how I was getting to the tracks and seemed surprised when I said we were driving. By September, I knew what he meant – we had M6 fever. I had dreams about it.

We have a bit of a ritual that marks our trips home. Manchester is normally where the traffic eases, then we reach Shap. Then we know the A66 means we are well on the way, then it is the first Scotland sign. Then we see the Saltire at Gretna and we are almost there when we reach the roadworks at Hamilton, outside Glasgow. Roadworks that seem to have been there for years and will probably be there for many more years.

It would be different if we had a big comfy car, but I have a deal with The Scottish Sun and my dad tests cars for them. So we have big cars, fast cars, estates…or very small cars. It is no joke getting all your race gear and clothes into a Toyota Aygo. And it is worse when you have a Sun photographer along for the weekend. And all his equipment.

Every meeting is a long way away. Even our new “home” track, Oulton Park, is more than a three-hour drive.

But before you can load up the Aygo at the start of the season you have a lot of work to do.

CHRISTIE DORAN I spent four months over the winter virtually pining for the race car. Each day dragged. But motorsport at every level is not just about driving. You need the money to make it happen. It was a great sense of relief and excitement when the sums started adding up.

We were delighted to stay with Slidesports Race Engineering. We did have other tempting offers, but Slidesports are at the top of their game and have done so much to improve my driving.

There has been a different challenge every year since that Ginetta Junior race in 2011. The difference this year has been continuity. The same team. The same VAG Trophy championship. The same car. We wanted to see what improvement I could make.

The early signs have even blown me away. In the first two rounds of the VAG Trophy, I have smashed my lap times and got top three-finishes at Oulton Park and Donington. Oh, and there is no truth in any rumour that we handed out boxes of Tunnock’s wafers so that other drivers were heavier.

Slidesports boss Mark Jenkins did squirrel a few packets away though. To be fair he has earned it because he has been brilliant with me. He encourages me, shouts at me or boosts my confidence – whatever he thinks I need. But, every time I go out he wants quicker laps, later braking, faster corner speed, less transfer time between the throttle and brake…and results. He is a winner and has the trophies to prove it. And he wants results.

I love that. I am so competitive and I can’t stand it when I don’t do as well as I think I should. A lot of racers have dreams and I am no different, but the first part is simple: I want to improve as much as I can and be the best that I can. If I do that then, with a bit of luck and support, the rest will take care of itself.

My Scottish Sun deal is a great way to highlight women in racing and to promote my sponsors, but it has one big drawback. The photographer. I have an uncanny knack of getting involved with something at the corner where he is taking pictures.

But, if it does anything, it stops me ranting when things go wrong because I know that camera won’t be far away and I don’t need any pics of me all red-faced and angry.

I have also had more media commitments this year. We agreed a deal with Macdonald Inchyra Hotel and Spa in Falkirk in Scotland. Part of the deal was to review the hotel so I had to stay for a spa break. And they say there aren’t any perks!

I also use their gym regularly. But I didn’t expect that deal to attract the local news station. All of a sudden I had another camera filming me and a slot on the late-night news bulletin.

That has all been good fun but the real work starts in the car. The hours of fitness training and hours on Project Cars on the PlayStation are all about getting the best out of me when I hit the track.

The VAG Trophy has some very experienced drivers so there is always something to learn. It is just a case of putting together the perfect weekend – from testing to qualifying and getting the race just right.

Oulton was a challenge because of the weather and the fact that we had not raced on the Fosters layout before.

The first race started dry then it rained halfway through. That was fun. I was really happy to come second in class, but there was almost a sense of disappointment at the same time. I wanted another lap because I was sure I could have got the win.

The second race was dry and I struggled to get into a rhythm although I did beat my personal best lap time and came third in class.

Donington was a breakthrough moment for me. It has not been the best of tracks. My first ever UK race was there and a wheel came off the car at the bottom of Craners. Last year, I seemed to be on the defensive all weekend.

This year, I just seemed to go quicker and quicker. I was lapping within a tenth of a second of the leaders. I had wanted to be able to compete, now I want to beat them. I came third in ace one and fourth in race three. They were the highs. The low was race two and a trip into the gravel as I locked up the brakes trying to avoid a spinning car.

I always try to learn from any experience. I will certainly learn from that and will come back stronger.

With Mark’s help and guidance, that first VAG Trophy win hopefully won’t be far away.

Follow Christie at facebook.com/christiedoranracing or @RacingCd By Christie Doran

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