Charlotte Birch has a learning experience as she tries to make Pembrey progress

Charlotte had to learn the track on her own this time (Photo by Marc Waller)

Charlotte had to learn the track on her own this time (Photo by Marc Waller)Charlotte Birch’s debut Junior Saloon car championship (JSCC) season continued last weekend with a visit to the Welsh circuit of Pembrey.

This year is very much a learning season as Charlotte adjusts to car racing as well as learning all the tracks themselves. Although this doesn’t mean that she’s not pushing to get some good results. Her tiny family team make up for their small numbers with their enthusiasm and in particular the expert skills of Charlotte’s dad. He not only kept Charlotte’s car in top shape but also helped fix several of her rivals cars. With someone like that on her side, Charlotte can always be confident that her car will be in the best shape possible.

Things weren’t made easy by some torrential rain on Friday, causing some of the test sessions to be rained off. When you’re learning the tracks for the first time, all track time is important so Charlotte was eager to get going when the weather finally cleared up. Unfortunately, she had no driver coach for this one and so had to get on with learning the circuit all by herself. This is where the on-board video really comes in useful as Charlotte can watch herself back after she comes in and look for areas to improve.

Saturday saw a further practice session before qualifying towards the end of the morning with no racing until Sunday. Charlotte was a little disappointed to end up thirteenth in both sessions but she was improving with every lap. She used Saturday afternoon to study her on board video and could see lots of areas to make small improvements. Overall this would make a big difference to her lap times and so hopefully the races would go well. Her dad spent the time changing her brakes to improve the stopping power of her car. This would give Charlotte more chance to be able to out brake other drivers and generally have more chance to race with her rivals. With the cars being all the same in the JSCC, even seemingly small things can make a big difference.

When Sunday came it had been raining but by the time the race got underway it had stopped. This had left the track very slippery. Charlotte made a good start and raced with the pack through the first lap. She battled with cars in front of her and had a good fight with Liam Thompson. The slippery conditions caused several slides but Charlotte’s quick reactions and great car control bought the car back under control. She ran slightly wide in the closing stages losing her chance of a top ten but twelfth was a good start to the weekend.

Race two was again in dry weather. The rain had fallen heavily between races but the circuit had mostly dried when the race got underway. Charlotte again made a good start and stayed with the pack through lap one. There was a bit of a pile up in front of her going into the hairpin at the start of lap two and she successfully avoided the mess. This moved her up the field and things looked set for a great result. There was a safety car period for several laps while the mess at the hairpin and then the race was on again.

race two looked set to be a great result but sadly it wasn't to be (Photo by Marc Waller) Charlotte had some good battles over the course of the weekend (Photo by Marc Waller) Charlottes small family team is literally just that (Photo by Marc Waller)




Charlotte was lapping well and looking to find a way up the field but with just three laps to go, she pushed a bit too hard and her right front wheel just ended up on the grass. The rain had turned the surface of the grass into something with the grip of ice and it sent Charlotte’s car off the road. She fought to regain the circuit but even her quick reactions and car control skills couldn’t stop the car going off this time. She did howeve,r manage to slow it up considerably and when the inevitable contact with the tyres came, it was light. Sadly she was out of the race and it was a frustrating end to a weekend which looked set to give her another top ten result.

Despite the disappointment, it had been a weekend of progress with Charlotte learning lots and gaining in confidence. Her skills and car control in the wet were clear to see and with some small improvements around the track she could leap up the grid. She also leaves the circuit with a mostly undamaged car, something which several of her rivals were unable to say with some badly damaged cars after the race two pile up. Her car will be back to it’s best in time for the next rounds with her dad expertly preparing it for the next round.

Donington Park is next and Charlotte’s aim is to improve her qualifying pace to try and start higher up the grid. This should give her more chance of racing with the leading pack and getting her best result to date. Every race is a learning process with more experience gained and will hopefully boost her on to success both over the closing stages of 2017 and into 2018.  By Marc Waller

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