Qualifying went well (By Marc Waller)Katie Milner and the Merlin International racing team headed to Donington at the weekend where the Ginetta GT5 Challenge had it’s final championship rounds of the season.

Milner has had a season of mixed results as despite showing lots of speed she has had a lot of issues and bad luck which have prevented her from getting the results she deserved. Would this weekend finally be the one where it all worked out?

Testing went well although conditions were terrible with heavy rain and a soaked track. Milner was always well inside the top ten in every session and so she felt confident heading into the weekend.

Qualifying on Saturday was dry and Milner showed great pace from the start, times and positions changed regularly through the session with Milner ending up a strong eighth around a second off pole and only a few tenths off third place. The first of the weekend’s three races was later that day and everything looked positive.

It rained before the start and the track was wet. Milner made a great start but heading towards the first corner, the cars either side of her closed in squeezing the car from both sides. This caused her to lose pace and at the same time a lot of positions. Milner ended up fourteenth by the end of lap one. She fought back for the rest of the race making up two places but while passing those two, the rest of the pack had pulled too far ahead and she ran out of race time before she could pass anyone else. The other two races would be held on Sunday when the forecast was for dry weather once more.

In the first of Sunday’s races, Milner made an even better start than in the first race, scything through the pack on the run to the first corner. Things were looking good until they reached the corner. Behind her, a rival tapped the rear of another car which was alongside her. This turned the car into Milner. Milner’s quick reactions and excellent car control held the resultant slide and things were still looking okay until she was hit a second time. Physics then took over and her car spun right in the middle of the pack!

It looked like the entire field was going to miss her until one of the last few cars came through unsighted and straight into the front of her car. The impact did huge damage to the suspension and steering on one side of the car meaning she was out on the spot. Not only that but the damage was so great that it looked like there was a strong chance of her missing the day’s and the season’s final race.

But Merlin never give up and always rise to any challenge. They quickly got the car back to the team awning and quickly dismantled the car to check what needed replacing. Some of the other teams offered help and there was soon a large group of people working round the car. The front corner that had taken the impact needed totally rebuilding, the steering needed replacing and there was a lot of bodywork damage. With only a few hours until the next race it looked to be tight on time but with the repair squad split into various groups on the mechanical and bodywork issues it was actually repaired with time to spare. Other than a lot of tape on some of the more difficult to replace bodywork areas you wouldn’t have even known it had been in an accident.

Milner was determined to reward the team for all their hard work in getting her back on track but there was a problem in that she would be starting towards the back in twenty eighth place due to the non finish.

Katie gets squeezed in race one (By Marc Waller) This then ended race two (By Marc Waller) The whole team worked to fix the car in time (By Marc Waller) She couldnt come back from the second impact though (By Marc Waller) She came through the field in the final race in the sunset showing what could have been (By Marc Waller) Katie walks away from her only dnf of the year (By Marc Waller)

 

 

 

The race got underway at five, Milner made an astonishing start, she picked just the right piece of track to power down and sailed past ten cars into the first corner. By the end of the first lap she had already made up an incredible twelve places but suddenly there was a red flag. Several cars behind had a big crash at the chicane leaving no option but to stop the race.

Frustratingly, her great start and determined passing was now for nothing as the race would start from scratch. She would have to do it all again.

At the fourth race start of the weekend she made a good start once again, although she didn’t quite get the luck of the previous start. She had made up several places though and over the rest of the shortened race she made up several more positions coming home an excellent eleventh. If the race had run full distance, her pace showed she would have made it well inside the top ten.

It had been another difficult frustrating weekend but Milner had once again showed she has the pace if only she could find the luck to go with it!

“What a day! The car was damaged really badly in race two after being hit and spun on turn one.

Team Merlin did such an amazing job to get me back out in a short turn around. I came from the back in race three, ten minutes and seventeen overtakes although I was gutted after the first red flag when I’d made such a great start.

Thanks as always to all my sponsors including Snap-on Tools UK & Ireland, Walero Motorsport, Reis Motorsport Insurance, Richardson Transport and Swift.

It’s not quite the end of my season as I have some non-championship races planned but, 2019, I’m so ready for you!” By Marc Waller

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