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Racing Report

Brands Hatch, Kent - November 22nd 1998
Circuit Length: 1.22 miles

Driver : Denise Manderscheid, Car No: 36
Comment : Not exactly the way I wanted to finish the season ..

Testing: Saturday morning saw me leaving home about 9.45 to get to Brands Hatch for one 20 minute test session the day before the race. It was cold but totally dry and the sun was shining. In short it was a very nice day.

The test session proved to be just what I needed - I had not raced at Brands for at least 18 months so a refresher was needed more than a complete day's testing.

First time around Paddock Hill bend, no hesitation straight over the top in 3rd gear, change into 4th near the bottom and up the other side to Druids with a quick gear change from 4th into 3rd then down into 2nd for the right hander. Then on around down Graham Hill and into 3rd gear onto Cooper Straight and into 4th. Before turning left into Surtees a quick gear change down to 3rd, followed by an easy right into McLaren then a quick dab on the brakes and change down into 2nd gear to continue on around McLaren into Clark Curve to pick up 3rd gear just before exiting Clark Curve. On exit to Clarke change up into 4th gear hugging the pit wall all the way down the pit straight until the start/finish line when you move over to the left changing down into 3rd in readiness for Paddock again.

Ralph Saunders the Pitstop boss was following me round on as he was getting ready to compete in his first every Mini race the next day. The only problem for me was that everytime I looked in my mirrors trying to make sure Ralph was keeping up I lost track of what I was doing and this caused me to lose my lines a couple of times.

Ralph had problems keeping up with at McLaren and Clark Curve because he was not using the right gears. On one lap I noticed he was dropping behind as I went into Surtees and Mclaren. But I was not paying enough attention to what I was doing and ended up off-line and slightly side-ways going into Clark Curve. I kept my foot, in drove through it and on down the pit-straight where Ralph caught up to me. Seeing him behind me I carried onto Paddock Hill but I also went into this corner off line. The car went sideways and the back-end became light - I though Oh oh Ralph's about to have a birds eye view of how not to take Paddock! Again I kept my foot in and drove through it to the bottom and on up to Druids. It was nearing the end of the session - I had thoroughly enjoyed myself, the car was handling great and I was all set up for tomorrow's race.

Afterwards Ralph told me when he saw me go into Paddock sideways with one rear wheel cocked in the air he was more than a little surprised!! He really thought he was going to end up colliding with me. Not a chance - never a moments doubt I would make it.

Qualifying : The next day dawned with a glorious sunrise - very cold and some ice around at the circuit but by the time I went out to qualify the track was bone dry. In other words conditions very similar to the previous day. I followed Ralph out onto the track with Rob (team mate) behind me. I had already said to Rob let me get past Ralph and then I wanted Rob in front so I could follow him. Over Paddock Ralph went, I followed then suddenly I lost all traction (cold tyres will do that) and ended up travelling sideways down the hill. Somehow Rob who was close behind me managed to go around me and get in front. I collected myself at the bottom of Paddock (Mike of course was taking pictures of all this) and carried on. I tried to catch Rob but was unable to. As he dashed off into the distance I ploughed on as best I could.

I didn't feel I was getting the same out of the car as I had the day before but put it down to me being slightly unnerved by Paddock. I carried on and was gradually picking up the pace when on the 9th lap I came around Clarke Curve onto the pit straight and I felt the car losing power. I continued on down to Paddock were I realised I had real problems. There was nothing for it but to continue over Paddock Hill and try to make for the grass on the left-hand side before Druids. I stopped by a marshalls post just before Druids. That was the end of my qualifying session. At least I knew I had qualified.

Race Day : I had qualified 16th in class out of 20. My best time was marginally better than what I had done the previous day in testing. But on returning to the Paddock behind a tow truck it was soon evident that I had a major problem.

I had wrecked a valve. Instead of a flat dish there was this serrated cooked mess of metal (my non-mechanical description here)! When the guys took off the head and showed me I had dropped a valve my heart sank. There was no way I was going to get out in the race. So that folks is the end of my season. As they say that's racing.

My team mates in contrast all did well - Rob was 6th on the grid, Ralph qualified one place in front of me (15th) and Phil and Jonathon qualified one and two places behind me respectively.

Watching the race is not the best loved thing of any racing driver especially when you know you ought to be out there (grizzle grumble!). But watch I did and as usual the Mini's gave an exciting start to the race.

As the Miglia's came over Paddock Hill for the first time one of the front runners lost it all and spun down to the bottom (see I am not the only one who can do this). As he was trying to collect himself another Miglia hit him hard and spun off to the other side of the track out of the way then another oncoming Mini Seven caught the original Miglia a glancing blow sufficient to wipe himself out and finish off the Miglia!

In the meantime Rob comes over the top of Paddock sees the mayhem below him and dives for the gravel (the only place he could have a chance to miss the Mig's and Mini's ahead of him). The gravel trap at Paddock is quite vicious as it is deep/wide and the whole length of the hill. So for Rob to reach the bottom in one piece was quite a feat. I asked him afterwards about it and he merely said - I just kept my foot in and prayed! Yes well nothing more to say is there.

Rob was to continue with some loss of braking but he managed to finish the race. So did my other three team-mates. Nice going guys. I just wish I had been there.

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