Despite it being already more than a third of the way through the year, last weekend Lydia Walmsley and her team headed for Snetterton for the first rounds of the year of the Mini challenge Cooper classes.
The Norfolk circuit would host the Cooper Pro class which Lydia is a part of, the cooper class which forms part of the same grid and the Cooper S class who have their own race. Friday was the first day of the weekend for testing and practice. Unfortunately, it was rather wet with frequent rain showers. On the positive side, it certainly gave Walmsley chance for wet practice but getting an idea of meaningful qualifying times was difficult.
The rain continued overnight but had stopped by the time qualifying started on Saturday morning. This meant the track had partly dried but at the same time, it still had wet and slippery areas. This meant tyre choice was a bit of a lottery as conditions were not fully ideal for wets or dries.
Walmsley had gone with wets and with it being a relatively short session for the length of circuit (nearly 3 miles) there would be no chance for a change of mind. Cars were spinning everywhere and Walmsley had a near miss with another competitor who spun across the track in front of her. On the next lap, someone re-joined from a spin in front of her, which spoilt another qualifying run. She was the fastest of all in sector one of the track but the problems on her fast laps left her down in seventh on the grid, several places below where her ultimate pace deserved.
The first of the weekend’s two races was on Saturday afternoon and although some dark clouds in the skies made it a difficult decision on which tyres to go on, the now dry track meant that slicks were the safest option.
As the lights went out, Walmsley made a strong start but was then slowed into turn one avoiding another spinning car. This left her back in her qualifying position of seventh but it was soon irrelevant when there was a big crash amongst the Cooper class cars on the second lap. The debris on the track meant the race had to be stopped and the restart would be a whole new race.
Unfortunately, time constraints meant that it had to be considerably shortened and the race would be just seven minutes.
This time, Walmsley made one of her best ever starts taking fifth by the second corner hairpin. She then fought with rival Dominic Wheatley for several laps until an attempted overtaking maneuve forced her slightly wide, letting a rival through from behind and dropping her to seventh but she caught and passed one of her rivals before the end of the race leaving her in sixth, a great start. Walmsley wasn’t happy though and wanted more. The second race would be just before half past ten on Sunday Morning. She would start in sixth, where she had finished race one.
A great start saw her straight up to fifth and right on the tail of the leading four. It looked set to be a strong race when suddenly at Palmer the car wouldn’t go into gear, meaning that Walmsley nearly came to a complete stop. Eventually a gear was forced in but not before all the Cooper Pro class cars had streamed by.
Walmsley pushed on but with reduced pace as the gearbox was still not wanting to change on some upshifts. Despite this, she began passing rivals and eventually crossed the line in seventh after a fierce battle with Hannah Chapman which ended in Walmsley’s favour.
It had been a solid but ultimately frustrating weekend for Walmsley. She had shown her pace on several occasions but circumstances had meant she was unable to get the results that her ultimate pace deserved.
Walmsley commented on her race;
“I'd managed a great start and was up to a comfortable fifth having pulled a huge gap behind me by the end of the first lap so the race looked promising. First to fifth was a single train of cars I expected an exciting race. However, my intermittent gearbox issues throughout the race caused me to drop to the rear end of the Cooper Pro pack. I managed to fight the car back to seventh though which was a great finish considering the circumstances! We now have lots of work to do on the car for round two at Oulton Park on the 15th of June!”
I have to say a huge thank you to all my sponsors without whom I wouldn’t be racing; Morris Lubricants, Barber and Clarke Ltd, Whip Street Motors LTD, Derek Hales Limited, Coastline Graphics, Simon Rourke, M R Walker & Sons, Ropelet, Rennat HelmetDesign, A&D Motors and Totally Your Designs”
Walmsley will be hoping for a strong weekend at Cheshire’s Oulton Park in June. With the Gremlins ironed out she could have a great weekend at one of her favourite circuits. By Marc Waller