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Racing Report

Donnington Park, Leicestershire Sunday August 2nd 1998
Circuit Length: 2.5 miles

Driver : Denise Manderscheid, Car No: 36
Comment : What a superb weekend…………..

Qualifying: What a weekend - between spills and thrills during the race to ripping a tyre on the almost converted truck-cum-motorhome on the way up to qualifying on Saturday - very definitely one to remember.

As I have already hinted the day started on Saturday with a bit of an interesting moment when we realised one of the pair of rear offside tyres on the Iveco 60-20 had split. I had to be at the circuit for 3.30 for a mandatory driver's briefing and this was to be followed at 4.10 with a 15 minute qualifying session. To miss the briefing would have been around a £100 fine and possible exclusion from the race. Some quick thinking was needed.

If we stopped to get assistance to change the tyre there was no way I would make it on time - and so after some thought we carried on. Handling around corners was much like a heavily pregnant sow negotiating a tight hairpin but with care we made it to the circuit for 3.15. Just enough time for me to complete scrutineering and get to the driver's briefing before changing and getting out on the circuit.

Qualifying for me was also the first time I had been around Donington. I soon grew to love it. It is truly a driver's circuit with the undulating hills and Craner curves followed by long flowing straights into some challenging right and left handers and of course the chicane just before the start-finish line.

By the end of the session I was really beginning to get to know the circuit and feel comfortable with it. I qualified 28th on the grid out of 37. Only 32 were allowed to start the main race.

My best lap time proved to be 5 seconds off the leader during my best lap of the session which was timed at 1:37.133 (mm:ss). I was quite happy with that for a first attempt.

I enjoyed the qualifying immensely; little did I know that I was to enjoy the race even more. Race conditions were excellent - dry not too warm and a slight breeze. Being at the back made it difficult to see the start lights. Nevertheless I managed to make another good start and made up 2 places.

The whole 32 bunch roared down to Redgate, the first corner after the start/finish line making it through without incident … well mostly. As I turned in the back end came round to meet me and I spun like a top on the black stuff. As I finally came to rest I could see the back of the pack bearing down on me and turning in toward the right hander. I prayed none of them lost it too and came over to join me. My prayers were answered and I gunned it into the corner after them.

By this time I was pretty mad at having lost it so easily and quickly, off the start line that the 'red mist' came down and from then on my one mission in life was to get back my rightful position much much nearer the front! The car was handling superbly. I was able to carve my way through the field until I was beyond the position I had started the race in. I was going well when on the 6th lap I met up with two cars trying hard to outdo one another. I joined in only to be confronted with one of them losing control and skidding off to the left across the grass. Great thinks I - now is my time to push through and get in front. Seconds later, the car that had gone off recovered sufficiently to come back onto the circuit but totally out of control. He missed the car slightly in front and to my left as he traversed behind him and then proceeded to cross sideways right across in front of me! The manoeuvre caused me to jink left unsettling my car and sending me at full speed (around 90 mph) across the grass which I proceeded to cut with ever increasing spins! Grass was flying everywhere both outside and inside the car. I managed to keep the engine running until I was able to control her sufficiently to get her back onto the black stuff. Once more I had lost positions. Now I was really mad!

I carried on once more to chase the two in front. I caught up one of them at the top of the Craner curves and decided it was now or never. I dived inside to take the corner first. He obviously was not expecting that as we made body contact. As we traded blue and white paint (both cars were the same colour schemes - lucky that!!) I kept my ground and carried on down the hill towards McLeans and on around for another lap. I could see another two mini's not to far infront of me. I was trying a bit too hard to catch them and lost the line into a right hander where I drifted too wide onto the kerb and straight into the gravel trap. Luckily I carried sufficient speed to enable me to glide through the gravel trap and back onto the black stuff.

I could see a marshall ahead of me holding out the red and yellow flag meaning beware oil on the track, as I glided over the gravel. I grinned, waved at him and thought thanks mate I found it already!! I continued on down to McLeans for the final time and as I exited caught up with yet another Mini. Good fun this………. But he was not prepared to fight. He pulled over and waved me past him. At full throttle down the final straight into the chicane I could see ahead of me another two. As I was catching them the yellow flag was waived meaning no overtaking. Someone had stuffed himself into the tyre wall just beyond the entry to the chicane. I knew this was the final lap so there was no point in pushing it, as no way was I going to gain another place before the chequered flag. And so I took the chequered flag in 23rd position - not bad considering all the excursions but next time I shall do better.

My fastest lap time during the race was 1:36.88 (mm:ss) a full second faster than my best in qualifying.

My next race is at Croft Nr Teeside airport on August 15/16. This time I have a test day booked for the Friday August 14th.

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