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Racing Report

Silverstone Towcester, Northamptonshire - March 6th 1999
Circuit Length: 2.24 miles

Driver : Denise Manderscheid, Car No: 21
Comment : Started 13th Finished 9th in class 16th overall Considering what the Gods threw at us something of a minor miracle!

Qualifying: The day started with a very pleasant drive from Alton with clear blue skies and even some sunshine. But it was not to last - by the time I drove into Silverstone circuit at 9.15 am the sky looked very grey and it had started to sleet very lightly.

There was an extremely cold wind and sleet turned into very light snow flakes so by the time I went out to qualify at 11.10 the track was very wet and slightly greasy. It was definitely time for wets. I had just started the first full lap of the qualifying session , came around Copse to find ahead of me the track was full of white smoke. A miglia had blown his engine in spectacular fashion and was just sliding off the track to come to a halt on the grass. He was sufficient distance ahead of me so he wasn't a problem. Or so I thought. In fact unbeknown to me the Miglia had thrown pieces of his engine across the track and I had picked up some of these.

I carried on down to Club Straight, into Brooklands and then Luffield only to find at the long right-hander at Luffield that the car didn't seem very responsive. The entry to the Pit Lane is immediately after Luffield and it was not until I had passed the pit lane entry that I realised I had a puncture. In order to get back to the Pits I had to negotiate the whole length of the circuit. By the time I limped into the pits the tyre was completely deflated and I could feel I must be running very close to the rim.

This was a very bad start as I had to complete three laps in order to qualify for the race at all. 15 minutes is not long to qualify in. The crew changed the tyre very quickly and sent me back out again. I was able to complete my three laps before trying for a flying lap which was going well until I entered the left-hander at Brooklands a bit too early and ended up spinning towards Luffield, over-corrected and came back across the track to end up part-way into the grass and mud! I got going again only to find the chequered flag awaiting me - and so ended the qualifying session.

I ended up having to replace the tyre completely - fortunately the wheel rim will live to run another day.

After all that I still managed to qualify 13th out of 17 Mini Se7en's but best of all my team mate Rob qualified on pole. Of my other team mates, Jason qualified 7th, and Jonathan and Phil qualified 16th and 17th.

The Main Race: We were the sixth race of the day - it got progressively colder and kept lightly snowing on and off. At about 2.30 we started up the engine to warm up the car in readiness for the race at 3.20. A moment after the engine was running the skies just opened up and started throwing large snow flakes down. They melted as soon as they touched the ground but it did nothing for visibility.

I drove up to the holding area prior to the race in really miserable conditions. While waiting to go out on the track it eased a bit. During the green flag lap visibility was good and it had stopped snowing but we had been warned to put our lights on and have the windscreen wipers going all the time during the race and this was enforced by the marshalls prior to us starting the green flag lap. We were also told prior to the green flag lap that the race was being shortened to 8 laps instead of the usual 10 - presumably because of worsening weather conditions.

As soon as we were formed up on the grid the red lights were on and turned to green very soon after. I made a good start making up at least two places prior to copse which we all seemed to get through without mishap. The amount of spray being kicked up by the cars combined with the snow which had begun to fall again made for very interesting driving conditions in deed.

I managed to stay with the pack for the for the first four laps - then the weather got worse and visibility became a real problem. All the while I was able to follow another car then I could more or less make out some landmarks and see where the corners were. But as soon as he turned off and retired I was on my own!

Visibility was down to less than 100 yds on the Club straight with the snow still falling and spray being kicked up. The Rain-X on the front windscreen had been working wonders but the screen was now beginning to mist up slightly. As I came round for my 7th lap I saw a red Mini parked off the track in the barriers. Despite having direct line of sight to him as I came around Woodcote I could not make out whose car it was -visibility was so poor. I later learned it was my team mate Rob who had pulled off the track and stopped as his screen had totally misted up and in his view conditions were so poor that he could no longer continue.

On the 7th lap coming around Copse visibility was so poor that I made a very late turn and the Mini following me tried to overtake on my right-hand side. He was alongside me when he lost it completely and spun out. I saw him in my mirrors begin to spin and just kept my foot in. I then lost track of him. I was later told that he did a complete 360 before coming back in behind me but he never caught me up again and because of bad visibility I never saw him again in my rear view mirror.

And so ended my first race of the year - in a snow storm on the National circuit at Silverstone. It continued to snow for the next race which was red flagged after the second lap. The final race of the day was cancelled. My next race is again at Silverstone on the National circuit on Saturday March 20th.

Let's hope the weather is a bit kinder?

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Terra Novus 2000, Web Mistress: Denise Manderscheid