Chloe Hewitt Donington Mini Challenge – Disappointment turns into delight

It was tough to get a clear lap in qualifying (Photo by Marc Waller)

It was tough to get a clear lap in qualifying (Photo by Marc Waller)Round one of the Mini Challenge at Donington Park is complete.

Preparation for the weekend of the 14th and 15th of April was very last minute, due to being let down on only the Wednesday morning before the event. This meant that we wouldn’t be able to have the car wrapped, afford new tyres or test on the Friday.

The car arrived home on only Wednesday night; half sticker from last year. After a friend offering to sticker the car we de-stickered the car early Thursday morning; then stickering the car from Mid-day until 21:00 we final finished our stunning livery for the 2018 season. Shortly after finishing the car, we set off on the 4-hour journey towards Donington.

Friday morning was very wet. As we weren’t testing we didn’t have a lot to do apart from the power run. So that we can work out the 180hp per ton, so we are legal to race and get the full potential out of the car. The track dried out and the times fell very quickly. All I could do was watch from the pit wall as every other driver in my class flew past in their cars. After testing finished we were able to move into the garages to finish stickering the car.

Qualifying was difficult as all 3 classes were on track at the same time. The Cooper S (Us), the cooper pro and the cooper am. There were 38 cars on circuit all at once. I did 3 laps slowly as a shake down as the car hasn’t moved since the last round at Snetterton last year. I came in quite happy with the car and with a quick adjustment to the tyre pressures and out we went again. We had to run the tyres at a harder pressure than anyone else, as everyone had new tyres apart from us. We had no choice but to run on 4-year-old tyres due to the lack of sponsorship. After a few more laps settling back into the rhythm of things, and just to stay out of trouble so that we didn’t damage the car before the races. I managed 2 faster laps at the end of the session to qualify 7th with a 1.26 lap time. But due to someone else getting a penalty we would start the first race from 6th. Knowing where I could make up a lot of time at almost every corner on the circuit. The aim was to get into the 1.23’s by the end of the day.

Race one was one of my favourite to date. I went from 6th to 4th by the first corner and was also up the inside of the pole sitter who got a poor start. I should have stuck there but I backed out due to the first lap of the race being my first real flying lap, I was a little hesitant. I did loose a place to the more experienced Rob Austin on the first lap. However also made up a place as will Fairclough ran wide at Mclean’s dropping back to 7th. Putting me 4th at the end of the first lap. Will came flying back past on the Starkey’s Straight on the second lap. I then had a few laps to get my head down and put in some decent lap times. I could see Kevin Owen catching me in my mirror, so I tried to be braver and trust the car through the corners. In doing so I messed up my timing down Craner curves meaning I ran wide and scrubbed off speed into Old Hairpin letting Kevin come through. He pulled a small gap for the few laps he was in front before I was able to catch back up to him in preparation to make the move back into 5th. I lined in up into Mcleans but made the move the following lap after a great exit from the first corner and old hairpin I looked as if I was going to the outside but darted back to the inside on the brakes, we were neck and neck but I had the inside line for Coppice which is where I made the move stick. With that move in the bag the race leader Jono Davis had a catastrophic Engine failure down the Craner curves, gifting me with 4th. The road was very slippy where Jono had dropped all his oil, however the second time around after the failure; Kevin still close behind me got oil on his tyres and ran wide at Old Hairpin, taking the pressure off. And letting me finish in a comfortable 4th out of 12 starters. And putting in constant lap times in the 1.22’s, beating my target lap time already.

Race one went well (Photo by Marc Waller) Race two got off to a great start (Photo by Marc Waller) Race two was a close battle (Photo by Marc Waller) Chloe with her new car design (Photo by Marc Waller)




Race two was the reverse grid race. I was drawn out 3rd on the grid. I got another good start and made up a place but again lost a place to Rob Austin. Andy Montgomery came through into Mclean’s on the second lap and stretched a gap over the next few laps. I was able to reduce the gap to Andy and sat right behind him. I got a great run out of Coppice on lap 7 and went for a last-minute dive into Goddards, however Andy hadn’t seen me and turned in. I stood on the brakes as hard as I could to get it stopped but hit Andy’s rear wheel with my front left. It turned him across the front of me and him into a spin, it also sent me for my first trip though the gravel. I managed to put it in 1st gear and floor it. It only just managed to drag itself out but in this time. We had both let Tim Bill and Will Fairclough through to take away our possible podium position. Although the car was still ok car on, it didn’t feel as easy to drive, as it wouldn’t turn in as easily as before, I carried on, finishing the race in 6th place. After the race I found out that I did a 1.22.0 bettering my time from the first race, which exceeded my expectations by far. So, we were ecstatic as a team.

Huge thank you to Rock Oil, Hylton Gott Volvo, Kleers, Peak Performance Reviews, Sussex Road and Race, East Coast Mini Club and Mum and Dad for their continued Support. And of course, Jamie Grieve and Courtney Houghton for helping so much over the past few weeks especially, sorting my amazing helmet and livery for 2018.

The next round is Snetterton Mini Festival is the 12th and 13th of May! Fingers crossed for a sponsor to come along for some new tyres. By Chloe Hewitt

Written by