It’s the first time the duo have raced together in the same car having both driven as team mates in the JSCC in 2016.
They would be racing the Porsche, belonging to Wilmott’s dad, in the two 50 minute races with practice and qualifying held beforehand on the same day. Both drivers would start a race each with a driver change about half way through, Wilmott starting the first and Milner the second race.
Merlin international were running the car as well as a second car, a BMW 3 series for Willmott’s dad and a second driver.
Testing on the Friday had gone very well. Willmott had already driven the car in racing conditions but Milner was less experienced with it. By the end of Friday both were setting competitive lap times and things were looking positive for Saturday.
The positive feelings continued into practice with both drivers taking to the track they were the fastest of the class 3 invitation class and third of the class 3 sprint race class plus fourteenth overall.
In qualifying they improved further, still first in invitation, third in the class 3 sprint class but now eleventh overall. Things were looking very strong with class victories and podiums looking very possible and an overall top ten at least! There was a small issue at the end of qualifying when Milner had to pull off but this was traced to a minor fuel issue and things looked all set for two great races.
Willmott was taking the first start and he lined up in the pitlane with the rest of the cars waiting to head out to form the grid. As the cars started to pull away for the green flag lap, the Porsche started pumping out a huge cloud of white steam, looking more like a train than a racing car. Wilmott slowed but completed the green flag lap hoping the steam would clear but as he approached the end of the lap it was clear something was very wrong and he headed to the pitlane.
The team immediately got the car open and found that a cooling system issue had caused one of the hoses to blow off releasing the steam. The team worked quickly to try and get the car back out before the race was over. Obviously there would be no chance to get a good result but it was their only chance to test the car on track to see if the issue was fixed. The hose was replaced in the right location and the car sent back out but it soon became clear that there was a much bigger issue with the cooling system and so back to the pits it came.
With the entire race meeting for Britcar taking place on just one day there was very little time for the Merlin international team to diagnose and then fix the issue. The design of the Porsche meant there was only a small slot to work on the engine under the bonnet and so there wasn’t much space. After lots of work, lots of frustration, lots of water going to the engine and even some eggs, the car was fixed with almost no time to spare. It wasn’t perfect but the team had done the best they could with what they had available. Everyone would be keeping their fingers crossed that the car would hold together to give everyone the result they deserved.
Milner headed down the pitlane to join the grid, looking forward to finally getting some racing. They would be starting further back after the race one problems but Milner was confident her speed would move her up. As the rolling start got underway, Milner got a perfect start and was already queezing through the middle of two rivals. It was tight but there was no contact and she squeezed through as the cars reached the first corner.
Up ahead one of the other cars had spun and the pack braked hard. Milner was just finishing her move on the two rivals as the pack suddenly almost came to a total stop. Hard on the brakes and with no room to move left or right, Milner tried hard to avoid the slow cars ahead but unfortunately just tapped one of the pack. She hoped there was no damage as it was a relatively light tap. But it soon became clear that the Porsche’s relatively fragile front end had not stood up well to the impact and Milner pitted.
The team confirmed the worst possible news, that the car was out of the race after just a single lap. Milner was gutted especially as they had the pace for at least a class podium and maybe much more.
“That was a tough weekend.” She said afterwards “We kept running into problems with the car and then the race two incident left me with nowhere to go, I’m gutted as our pace was really strong. I’m taking that as a positive from the weekend. I’d love to do more races with the Porsche and Ollie [Willmott] so we’ll have to see if we can find the budget.”
“My next race is back here at Donington Park in the Ginetta G40 GT5. I’m hoping racing the Porsche will help my pace and I’ve love to take my first Ginetta podium. Thanks to all my sponsors for this season including One Call Insurance, the Yorkshire Wagyu company, Motordrive for my amazing new seat, Swift and of course Merlin international.”
Her next and final Ginetta meeting is on September 23rd and 24th at Donington Park. By Marc Waller