Katie Milner was excited to be racing in what would be her highest profile weekend yet, with a very large crowds and big tv audiences, it was the perfect platform to show what she's already capable of after only two race meetings in the competitive Ginetta championship.
But things would be far from easy as the high speed Thruxton circuit is one of the most challenging on the calendar and Milner only had brief experience here from testing. On top of this, track time during the weekend would be limited with just one qualifying session and two races taking place.
Her test at the circuit had gone well previously and so Milner felt reasonably confident as she headed out for qualifying. But she found the car felt very different to the last time she was here with the tail being very twitchy on high speed bends. This wasn't great as Thruxton is a track where you need to have confidence in the car to set a really fast time. But there was no time to do anything but try to adjust to the cars new characteristics. Milner did this with surprising ease and with a few minutes left she started on what looked set to be a fast lap. But part way round disaster struck with the car starting to cut out as she rounded the sweeping bends around the circuit. She managed to limp back to the pits where the problem was traced to a loose relay. But there was now no more time to set a quick lap, leaving Milner feeling disapointed with fifteenth position.
“It just cut out coming up the hill.” said a frustrated Milner afterwards. “I was on my fastest lap of the session too.”
Analysis of her laptimes showed that she was probably set for a top ten grid slot without the problem so hopefully she could make up ground in the races.
The handling issues were looked into by her family run One Call Racing team and the problems were sorted in time for the first of the weekend's two races last thing on Saturday.
Milner did another one of her incredible starts, helped by her years of Autograss starting experience. She passed two cars straight off the line and by the end of the first lap she had passed another five cars. Things looked really strong when a rival began to tap the back of her car in the corners. He did this for a couple of laps, getting harder and harder before he hit her hard enough in the club chicane to cause the car to start to spin. Incredibly Milner's lighting fast reactions, caught the spin and despite the car being turned 90° to the track she pulled it back round, losing only a single place in the process. Unfortunately the same rival that tapped her, was still behind her and a couple of laps later, he tapped her car going into Church, the fastest corner on the track. Milner was sent into an uncontrollable high speed spin across the grass. She managed to slow the car and get it under control before it hit any barriers but she was now a long way behind the pack. With it being so late in the race, there was little chance of a recovery drive like she had managed at Oulton Park and all she could do was to catch and pass as many of the backmarkers as possible before the chequered flag came out. Her task was made even harder by her bonnet coming loose, a legacy of the impact at the chicane earlier in the race. She ended up in twenty third, not ideal but a good recovery drive in the circumstances.
The second race was televised live on ITV4 so Milner was hoping she could fight up the field once more and this time hopefully stay there!
She made a strong start once again although at the complex she had to run wide to avoid a spinning car. She had to take more avoiding action a couple of laps later as another car spun on the fast part of the circuit. But she'd made it up to the rear of the second of the chasing packs that were behind the lead battle and was looking to move higher. But incredibly disaster struck again as a rival knocked her car into a spin at Goodwood. She managed to recover quickly but dropped back behind the next chasing pack of cars. She pushed as hard as she could fighting back up to eighteenth in the few laps that had been left.
“It's been a really frustrating weekend, I've had the speed in me and the car but have been left with little to show for it” Said a frustrated Milner afterwards. “I'd looked set for a top ten finish in race one before I was spun off and then a different driver has done it again in race two. It's annoying because people will see where I finished and might not realise the reasons behind it especially when I had the pace for another strong finish.”
“Thanks to my sponsors as always, including One Call Insurance, The Yorkshire Wagyu Company, Swift and Merlin international. We've got Silverstone next. I've raced there before but not on the GP layout we'll be using but hopefully my previous experience will help me to some good results. I'm looking forward to it.” By Marc Waller