As she headed for the season finale at Oulton Park in Cheshire, any of the top four in the championship could win and any of them could finish fourth. The whole championship would hinge on this final weekend. Former BTCC driver Jeff Smith would join the team this weekend in an attempt to help Jo achieve her goal of the title.
Things were going well in Friday testing until a mishap saw Jo in the tyre wall. She hadn’t had an off into the tyres in four years but fortunately it didn’t cause any significant damage although Jo’s team had some bodywork repairs to do overnight. The rest of the race weekend would all take place on Saturday.
Qualifying seemed to be going well but Jo found herself down in fifth. If Jo could get a good start this shouldn’t have been a problem as with the close battling in the field, Jo could fight her way back up.
Unfortunately Jo didn’t get a good start. “Too much wheel spin” she said afterwards. This saw her drop down the order and she spent the rest of race trying to fight her way back eventually finishing in fifth. Not good for the championship but the dream was still alive if she could win the next race. Jeff meanwhile had won the race with a huge lead.
The reverse grid put her in fourth place with the cars ahead of her being ones she would usually beat so things were looking good on that front. Her chances of success though would also depend on where her rivals finished so even wining was potentially not enough.
As the race got underway, Jo got a good start and Jeff was soon alongside her. They worked as a team and they moved up the field before they were running one and two and then Jo passed to take the lead. She was now winning the race meaning she would at the very least be second in the championship. Things were looking great when suddenly something went wrong.
Jo could feel the brakes were no longer working as they should. Her pace slowed and Jeff passed her again for the lead. The brakes were clearly not right when suddenly the pedal dropped to the floor.
Heartbreakingly, Jo had to pull off and retire. Not only was her championship dream over but now she wouldn’t finish second or even third. The non-finish left her fourth in the championship. It was gutting for Jo, not only to end up fourth after leading the title race for much of the season but also because it was through no fault of her own.
Jo spoke about it at the end of the weekend;
“Absolutely gutted to end race two in a non finish with no brakes after a frantic first few laps getting to the front and in the lead which would’ve given me second in the Championship with where Connor finished. Delighted for my team mate Connor O'Brien who very deservedly won the Championship, and Neven Kirkpatrick and Alex Comis for some mega close racing all year, gutted to end up fourth overall but if you’d told me at the start of the year I was going to finish fourthth in a competitive one make championship I would have been over the moon with that. And well done Jeff for winning both races, damn he was fast! A mega season I really shouldn’t be disappointed!”
And that’s it for Jo’s 2018 season. With the car up for sale her 2019 plans are unknown at this stage but despite the disappointments of Oulton, Jo has had her best ever season in racing.By Marc Waller