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Racing Report

Spa Francorchamp, Belgium - June 8,9,10th 2001
Circuit Length: 4.35 miles

Driver : Denise Manderscheid, Car No: 21
Comment : Started 23rd out of 26 Mini Se7en starters - Finished 14th

Qualifying: What a treat to be back at Spa - with two days of testing cum qualifying and a third for the race the Mini Se7en Club members had a chance to relax and enjoy the wonderful surroundings. The weather was to prove dry the whole time we were there - a real treat considering we normally have a mixture of rain and sunshine.

Each of the qualifying sessions was to last 30 minutes and was just enough time to get back into the groove and remember the track. It was my fifth time at Spa - a circuit I very much enjoy as much for the track time as for the atmosphere in the Paddock and of course the wonderful BBQ the club puts on each year.

With only 30 minutes of work to do on the track on each of two days there was plenty of time to wander the Paddock and watch the testing of the other series - the Renault Sport Clio and Lamborghini Super Sport just to name two.

My first test session on the 8th went without a hitch - relearning the circuit. I surprised myself - I remembered quite a bit. And there is a lot to learn on the Spa Francorchamp circuit. For the first time out I equaled my best lap time of last year. This was a good start and I was pleased.

The following day we were out just after 1pm, it was a little bit warmer and more humid. I was hoping to better my lap times. And I did by 2 seconds but then so did most other drivers so not much in the way of a position gain there.

Out of 26 Se7ens out qualifying it was clear I was going to be around 23rd on the grid. But there would also be 23 Miglias out there at the same time.

The Main Race: Ours was the first race on the Sunday morning at 9.45. This was not really bad as we, like a lot of others, stayed at the des Bruyers pub/hotel a short drive away from the circuit. And so having breakfasted at 7.30 we arrived at the circuit for 8.30.

By 9.30 we had been ushered out of the Paddock up to the F1 pit lane where we waited in grid order to go out onto the track.

Formed up on the track I then tried to figure out where the lights were - not an easy proposition when you have 40+ mini's in front of you! I knew there was a second bank of red/green lights half-way back from the beginning of the grid on the left and yes sure enough I had it spotted or so I thought.

The green flag lap was uneventful for most of us except for Tim Sims 2nd position man, who was destined not to start the race because his engine died half way round.

For the rest of however, we did not have to wait long once formed up again on the grid for the red lights to come on. I just caught sight of it as it flickered into life in a slightly different position than I had expected! Nevertheless as soon as it was green I shot forward and made for the bottom of Eau Rouge along with the rest of the pack.

Ralph Saunders who is normally like a pocket rocket at the start must have missed the lights as he suddenly came hurtling up behind me, around me and then off into yonder pack!

The first lap at Spa is always a sight as we all jockey for airspace up through Eau Rouge and down the long straight to Les Combes the quick right left before Malmedy where I came to painful grief last year.

On this occasion I was just about to turn in right at Les Combes when from my inside comes a blue shooting star - Rupert Hind comes up too fast to turn in loses it and slides from right to left in front of me just as I turn in! Nice one Rupe - lost one of my nine lives there I did. Quite how I never got collected I shall never know - thanks to whoever up there is looking out for me.

I was not to see Rupert again until several laps later when he buried himself in the gravel at Pouhon.

On that first lap I was happily following the others through Fagnes and into Stavelot when the yellows came out. What we were about to find out was that Phil Harvey in a Miglia had been unlucky enough to drop oil on the first right hander through Stavelot. Ralph Saunders had been one of the first Se7ens to meet the oil - unfortunately the pocket rocket ended up embedded in the gravel trap!

Just before I reached Stavelot Chris Lewis in a Miglia came past me - a bit surprising he must have had a problem elsewhere on this the first lap. As I turned in to the right hander I could feel the car slide on the oil but just kept the power steady and drove through it. Catching up to Chris Lewis I thought 'he's got to have an engine problem….' There was no other reason why I was able to overtake him and carry on down to The Bustop. Chris Lewis was to retire after completing only one lap.

For the next six laps I continued to keep the pack in front in sight but was never quite able to catch them up enough to overtake. I came close a couple of times though.

On the final lap I had just crested Eau Rouge when the blue flag was waved at me. As I glanced in my mirror I saw a profile of a Miglia rise up over the top of Eau Rouge coming right at me! It had to be the leaders…..yup I was being lapped by a gaggle of front runners. Thank goodness they had caught me up just beyond Eau Rouge - Miglias can easily be doing 130 mph through Eau Rouge versus around 100 mph for a Se7en. Better not to mess with them!

Unfortunately the se7en in front of me was not so lucky and was caught by the Miglias just as he was about to enter the chicane at Les Combe. He was tapped into a spin, recovered and lived to finish the race.

And so another years racing was over at Spa. For me finishing in 14th meant championship points - this the first time I have finished this high and in the points. It cann't be bad………… roll on the next opportunity to visit Spa.

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