The third weekend of July saw the third meeting of the season for the Mini Challenge competitors Brands Hatch in Kent hosted their annual Mini festival which Lydia Walmsley took part in in her usual Cooper Pro class car.
After her first podium at the preceeding round at Oulton Park, she was hoping for more of the same at the Kent circuit.
Friday testing was in mixed conditions with both wet and dry sessions. With the forecast for the weekend also looking uncertain, this made set up difficult! Walmsley’s usual coach, Joe Tanner was on hand as usual to offer guidance and advice.
Saturday was qualifying and the first race and with a lot of heavy rain overnight and into the early morning, the track was damp when the cars headed out for qualifying. There was an early red flag before Walmsley headed out again. She was on slick tyres as it was clear the track would soon dry and they would then be the key to setting a good time. A small harmless spin was caused by a further brief rain shower but after that, Walmsley got quicker and quicker.
Another red flag meant a further delay but by then Walmsley was third. The restart came with only a few minutes left and by the end of the session, Walmsley had taken third on the grid, only missing out on second by one hundredth of a second! It was her best qualifying of her Mini challenge career to date.
As the lights went out for race one she got a great start, pulling alongside second place. For the next few laps, Walmsley and the second placed car battled fiercely for the position but with both still staying in touch with the leader. A Cooper class car then had a big off at Paddock Hill bringing out the safety car for several laps. By the time everything was sorted there was just time for a short end of the race. Walmsley nearly passed into second at the Druid hairpin but some defensive driving by the second placed car saw Walmsley remain in third place as she crossed the line to secure her second trophy in a row.
Race two proved very eventful with the top seven all fighting for the lead. Walmsley started third but initially dropped to fourth on lap one. She then made a successful move for third before following that up with another move to second. That one didn’t work out and with how close the pack was, this dropped her back to fifth. She fought back up to fourth but it was now the final lap and a slight collision with an unsighted backmarker (His mirror was folded in) meant any chance of making further places was gone.
The contact in that race had done damage so her tiny team set out to fix the car in the gap between races. There wasn’t the time or the parts to do a perfect job so the team did the best they could with what they had. The reverse grid for race three left her once again in third as the cars lined up for the start.
Unfortunately the car was not fully back to normal after it’s earlier contact. After initially fighting in the lead group, worsening understeer saw Walmsley drop down the order. Some robust contact from rivals as they passed didn’t help matters. This left her to cross the line in eighth which became seventh when a rival further up the field was given a ten second penalty promoting Walmsley to seventh.
Walmsley spoke after the weekend;
“A fantastic weekend with great results. I just want to say thankyou to Brands Hatch, the Mini Challenge team and also the marshalls for a fantastic festival! Also thanks to all my sponsors;
Morris Lubricants, Barber and Clarke Ltd, Whip Street Motors LTD, Derek Hales. Coastline Graphics, Simon Rourke, M R Walker & Sons, Ropelet and A&D Motors. I’m already looking forward to my next races at Croft in North Yorkshire in just a few weeks time!” By Marc Waller