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Racing Report

Croft, North Yorkshire - Sunday August 15th, 1998

Driver : Denise Manderscheid, Car No: 36

The most northerly of the British circuits to be enjoyed by the Mini crowd, Croft is technically very challenging. Despite the 6 plus hours journey from Oxford where my pit crew come from, it is certainly well worth visiting.

Croft is one of the more basic circuit's with facilities at a minimum - the main thing missing being a club-house where food and drink can be obtained. Fortunately there is a very good pub within a mile of the circuit - a steady stream of drivers and crews from all the Championships racing at the weekend were to be found there at various times.

Of course I can hardly complain about the road journey 'cos I flew up to Teeside airport which is approximately 8 miles from Croft itself. A hire car made it easy for me to get around from airport to circuit to motel where I stayed for the four-day weekend.

An early start was made on the Friday morning as I was out on the track testing by 9.30. Conditions were good, dry but with a fairly strong wind. The 2.1 mile circuit proved to be quite a hand-full. Trying to find land-marks to judge braking distances and turning points into the chicanes and right-handers proved almost impossible. There were very few markers to assist you.

From the start/finish straight down to the first right-hander followed quickly by a sharp left-right chicane into a long off-camber right curve up to another right-left chicane before the straight down to Tower Bend a right hander. From Tower Bend up a slight rise to a long fast left/right at Jim Clarke Esses and on in top gear and flat out through Barcroft an easy right onto a quick short straight to Sunny a double apex long right-hander. Speed is of the essence here as a quick exit ensures a good fast sprint down to the S Bend prior to the hairpin at the beginning of the start/finish straight. From a fast entry to the S Bend the driver then has to step on the brakes hard to come back for the right-hander, at the end of which is the hairpin leading onto the start/finish straight. And so onto the next lap……..!

I do not think I have come across a more strenuous track, more difficult even then Spa Francorchamp in Belgium. After the first test session I came off the track feeling exhausted. Between test sessions a chat with Steve Bell winner of the Mini 7 Challenge last year, proved of great assistance. Steve talked me through the corners, gear changes and places to make up time.

Shortly after the afternoon session started it began to drizzle making the track greasy in parts and dry in other's. A great combination. Still it proved good practise and was to prove valuable for the race.

Qualifying on the Saturday saw 26 Mini's taking part - the weather was good, a bit windy but dry. Qualifying times ranged from Steve Bell with a fastest lap of 106.48 secs to yours truly doing 111.87 secs . My times gave me 23rd on the grid out of 26 total starters.

Race day dawned on Sunday with the very real threat of pouring rain. First race was the Formula 600 single seaters who completed their race without being rained upon. Next were the TVR Tuscans whose race was declared to be a wet race by the Clerk of the Course just prior to them going onto the track to begin their green flag lap prior to starting the race. This delayed the start somewhat as the TVR crews then had to change to wet tyres in the holding area. Just before the TVR race started the Minis were called up to the holding area not knowing whether to stay on dry tyres or change to wets. It appeared to be drying out so we all stayed on dry tyres.

The start for me was a good one where I was able to make up a couple of places. But ahead of me at the first corner there was lots of contact. As I entered the corner a car spun in front of me and I had to take very sharp evasive action to miss him. His front bumper just clipped my front offside wheel arch - but I was through and able to continue. I managed to keep up with the pack for most of the race and made it up to 19th position by the 6th lap. But from then on I struggled with a lack of power and by the last lap was down in 22nd position.

The threatened rain had held off but for more than a hand full of mini's there was a lot of damage through door-handling and rear-end shunts. Thankfully I did not have any body work damage but I am still waiting to hear what the loss of power was attributed to.

My next race is at Castle Combe Nr. Chippenham in Wiltshire on September 12/13. It should prove to be a very good one - Castle Combe has lots of run-off, is very fast and always proves to be exciting for the Mini's.

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