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Racing Report

Castle Combe, Nr Chippenham, Wiltshire - July 3/4th 1999
Circuit Length: 1.84 miles

Driver : Denise Manderscheid, Car No: 21
Comment : Qualifying Race Finished 9th out of 19 starters Main Race Finished 22nd out of 36 starters

Qualifying: Because of the large number of entries for the Mini seven race at Castle Combe it was decided to have a qualifying race on Saturday July 3rd as well as the main race on Sunday July 4th. My qualifying session put me 11th on the grid for the race on Saturday. It would depend on how well I did as to whether I got into the main race the following day.

It had been blistering hot throughout the week but thankfully it cooled down slightly for the Saturday. By the afternoon it was perfectly still and not too hot. With only 19 starters on the grid this was a much smaller grid than is normal - however it was to be every bit as exciting. With a three, two three configuration on the grid it was to give those with a good start an ideal opportunity to pick up places right at the start.

The Qualifying Race:

Being on the 5th row I was ideally placed to shoot up the outside. When the lights went to green I shot up the right hand side passing the row in front of me to tuck in behind the mini directly in front of me but two rows ahead. To his left had been Sarah who also had the same idea as me and managed to sharply queeze herself between me and the mini I was targeting - she only just made it. But then she was slowing up and all three of us were caught up behind a very slow front runner. I was itching to get past but was firmly stuck and had to be content with staying in the pack until we got to quarry where I was able to follow Sarah through and past a couple of cars. On through the two new chicanes which I think are the best thing since swiss cheese (a tremendous improvement on the old circuit) then on around and down to Camp a fast right hander just prior to the start/finish line. By the time we were into our third lap there were the three of us vieing for position, me Sarah and Simon. I managed to get past Sarah and kept in front and then Simon and Sarah were fighting for position with Simon winning in the end. Then on the final lap I made a mistake coming through the last chicane. This enabled Simon to catch up but I was still ahead and at Camp corner saw the chequered waiting for me. Some how Simon managed to catch up and overtake me just before the flag! And so I ended up with 9th - it should have been 8th. But what a cracking good race.

The Main Race: With 36 starters this was more the norm for Mini racing - large grids and lots of jostling for position. After the previous days race I was ready to do just as well if not better. We all entered the track and took up our grid positions. With the waive of the green flag we all set off on our green flag lap enabling us to warm up our tyres, make sure our brakes are okay and have a final check of the circuit. But something was wrong - as I started the lap my engine started faultering, coughing and spluttering - the loss of power was so sever at one point I pulled off line and waived my fellow competitors past as my car stalled. Luckily I was able to get her restarted and rejoined the pack on the green flag lap making it back to my grid position.

As the moments ticked away I was still concerned that I did not appear to have full power but the lights were red and then green and then we were off. I lurched forward all seemed to be well until three or four hundred yards away from the start the engine was faltering again. I raised my hand to warn other competitors I was in trouble. Again I had to coax the engine into life and then as suddenly as she died she came to life and I was off. But by this time I was right at the back of the grid!

During the ten lap race I had my work cut out for me and I just for a bit of excitement I had requested my team to change the setting on my car for the race so I was already expecting some different handling characteristics. But what I hadn't bargained for was any fuel/engine problems. The first few laps were a cross between a mad dash to catch up and relearning how to handle the car in the corners at speed. She was much lighter and much easier to drive. I loved it. Once I got going my engine problems disappeared and with the new handling that I was learning to love I found it easier to keep the foot in. hence my ability to pick my way through the pack.

By the end of the race I had reached 21st position - the yellows were out for much of the last 2 laps which made it impossible for me to overtake but with my times steadily improving to a 1:29.36 best lap time against a 1.30.08 in the previous day's race I was well pleased. As for my engine problem - the team thought it may have been caused by the fuel boiling while I was waiting on the grid. A full examination will tell if there is a problem.

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