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Racing Report

Thruxton, Nr. Andover, Hampshire - March 25th 2000
Circuit Length: 2.35 miles

Driver : Denise Manderscheid, Car No: 21
Comment : Started 27th out of 32 starters - DNF

A pre-season test session at Thruxton at the end of February enabled me to try out the new Selby engine for the first time this year. Conditions were cold and dry - not bad for a first drive on a newly resurfaced Thruxton track.

The three month winter layoff had gone by in a flash. I needed to settle down in the car again. It had been two years since I had been at Thruxton circuit. Best lap time then had been 1.48.01

Unsure of how the new engine was going to perform I took it easy for the first few laps, re-learning the track and getting the feel for the car again. We had all expected problems but none were forthcoming - the car handled beautifully and the engine seemed very strong. Best lap time of the test session was 1.44.26 - a good improvement on my best time two years ago.

My support team reported afterwards that the only problems encountered with the engine were an oil leak from the dip-stick and fuel pump blank and the alternator which packed up and had to be replaced. All easily fixed. The start for the season was looking good.

Qualifying: The day dawned cold but dry - and we all hoped it would stay that way. Thruxton is my home circuit and one I always loved to be at.

Out to qualify at 9 am with 38 other mini's - it was a challenge to get a clear lap and improve lap times. But improve I did and I qualified 27th with a lap time of 1.43.24.

Shortly after my qualifying session the heavens opened and the first downpour of the day occurred……….. if it did that during the race it would be interesting indeed

The Main Race: The Mini's were first race of the day straight after lunch - so we did not have long to wait in the Paddock. Just as well it was getting colder and the sky looked very ominous. The track had dried out from the mornings downpour but there was still moisture in the air. We decided to opt for dry weather tyres, as did the majority of other drivers.

As we all lined up on the grid it started to rain lightly - for the green flag lap however, it was throwing hailstones at us! This was beginning to remind me of the first race of last season at Silverstone where we raced in a snow fall.

Reformed up on the grid we waited and waited for the lights to go red - the rain came down heavier and then as it eased so the lights turned to red and then green. We were off……. And then it started to pour with rain.

I made a slow start but managed to catch up with the pack just as they slowed at Campbell for the sharp but fast right hander into Cobb - a 2nd gear left-hander. By this time there was spray everywhere and the hailstones were constant making visibility poor.

During that first lap at Campbell two of the front runners had come together. Two were stopped in the middle of the track with a lot of front-end damage - a third had taken evasive action so as not to crash into them and had ended up careering across the grass, over a ditch and up an embankment where he rolled over. Needless to say the race was red flagged and we all slowly made our way around to the start/finish line again to sit in our grid positions while the track was cleared.

By this time the weather was worsening and with the majority of Mini's running on dry weather tyres the organisers decided to let us come back into the pits to allow for a tyre change to wets.

Back in the pit lane the team had three cars to change to wet tyres - and I must say it was impressive the speed at which they worked in such lousy conditions. All three of us got back out on the grid just within the allotted time ready to start again.

It was still raining for the re-start but we all got away. During that first lap my windscreen started to mist up and I found it difficult to see were I was going. I was beginning to regret not having that de-mister fitted on the windscreen.

On the second lap it was sufficiently bad I decided to come into the Pits to get the crew to clear the windscreen. The rain-x'd cloth should do the trick I thought. But I was wrong - during the next couple of laps the visibility got worse and in the end I decided to come into the pits again and retire. Between the heavy rain, hail-stones and a misted up windscreen I felt it was better to retire than drive into a tyre wall or another car.

Considering the damage I saw in the Paddock afterwards - a good decision but not a happy one.

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