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Racing Report

Castle Combe, Nr. Chippenham, Wiltshire - May 29th 2000
Circuit Length: 1.84 miles

Driver : Denise Manderscheid, Car No: 21
Comment : Started 26th out of 34 starters - finished 18th

Qualifying: With so much rain fall in the previous two days I was expecting a very wet and slippery race…… as luck would have it the day dawned with clear blue skies and very little breeze. At 9 o'clock at the circuit it was still clear blue skies - I couldn't believe our luck.

Qualifying at 10.20 saw 36 Mini Se7ens charge out onto the track in their usual aggressive manner to vie for grid positions for the afternoon's race. There were 36 of us. And all too soon the yellows came out as Paul Woodbridge wiped out thoroughly at Camp trying a little too hard on cold tyres on his first out lap. Sadly the damage was sufficient to stop him from racing.

With the yellows out it was impossible to do any more than catch up with the car in front and then stay in line. Unfortunately this costs the chance of trying for a flying lap and gaining a fast lap time - the name of the game in qualifying.

Three times the yellows came out at various places around the track, making it quite frustrating to try and get a really clean flying lap in.

My fastest lap time of the session was 1 min 30.75 sec - that gave me 26th. Looking at the times afterwards I was a full 3 seconds off pole position man - however, the time difference between 13th position and myself was a mere 1.75 seconds!

The Main Race: With a few clouds in the sky but no real threat of rain the Mini Se7en race started at 3.30. Prior to the green flag lap we were kept sitting on the grid waiting for the damaged single seaters from the previous race to be retrieved.

When the green flag lap commenced we all streamed slightly uphill to Avon rise followed by a fast right hander called Quarry, down Farm Straight to The Esses (first of two chicanes) followed by a fast right round Paddock Bend down to Tower Corner leading onto the second of the chicanes called Bobbies. Once out of Bobbies it was straight down to Camp corner a tricky but fast right hander leading onto the Pit straight and the grid once more.

The lights changed quickly from red to green - I had a space directly in front of me which I dived for in order to get some places but others around me had exactly the same idea. We all jockeyed for spaces as we drove up to Avon Rise for just over the Rise we would hit the brakes to make (hopefully) a quick and clean turn around Quarry. The guys around me had other ideas .

As I came up to Quarry on the inside (not the best way to approach it) four cars to my left and directly in front decided to fight over the tarmac. Seeing this I thought 'carry on guys' and just drove over the grass nearest the corner. This put me alongside Chris Huck who had made a very clean and fast exit from Quarry - so much so that I had to tuck in behind him for the upcoming chicane, The Esses.

I followed Chris round until we came to Camp. By this time he was gaining ground and getting away from me. Just as I was about to change into third for the corner I saw another car lose it in the corner, spin and thankfully go off backwards. I was through and past him before I really knew what had happened.

For the remainder of the race I was to stay behind Chris sometimes catching him up at either Quarry or the chicanes, but never quite being able to get past him. Camp corner gave me a couple of interesting moments on following laps because there was now oil down at the apex - with the rear end trying to break away it was just a question of keep your nerve and keep your foot in.

On the last lap I could feel me losing time and grip - whether I was getting tired or my tyres were going off I will probably never know but I was definitely losing ground. I made one last push to catch up to Chris as I was going into Bobbies on the run up to Camp corner and the chequered flag.

I overdid it and entered Bobbies all out of shape, on the wrong line and ended up going off the track onto very rough ground mainly grass but with some gravel as well. Bumping along the ground it seemed to take forever to get back onto the black stuff but I did eventually. Going off however, had lost me very valuable time and there was no way I was now going to catch up with Chris - instead I was being caught by two cars which until then I had been able to keep safely behind me.

As I came down to Camp I just didn't have the speed to fend off the two behind me and so instead of coming in 16th I had to make do with 18th - sigh !

Next race is June 9,10 & 11 at Spa Francorchamp, Belgium. A real treat and highlight of the racing season.

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