Having driven the MR2 from our B&B to the circuit, Karen went to sign on at Race Control, whilst the boys removed the number plates and then carefully applied Karen’s racing numbers for the very first time!
Scrutineering was the first major challenge of the day. Obviously, Darren and I had done everything possible to ensure the car would pass, but we were all extremely nervous as we queued outside the Scrutineering Bay at 8.00am. Our scrutineer was very friendly and made short work of checking over the car. He was very happy with everything and reminded us to keep lubricating the cable pulls to stop them jamming up. The result of weeks of work? A nice little blue ticket to show the car had passed scrutineering which we had to tape inside one of the rear windows.
The MR2 Challenge qualification session was due for 9.00am and Karen was getting more nervous as time progressed. At 8.45am the cars were called to the Assembly Area. I followed the car into the area, and chatted with Karen and some of the other drivers until time came for Karen to get ready to go out. A quick final check of the bonnet pins, remove the extinguisher pin, and she was out on the circuit with everyone else.
Karen was a total novice to Snetterton, and her qualifying times were a reflection of that, but more so of the fact the car was very uncompetitive. It was carrying far too much weight, had a standard induction system, and the exhaust seemed very restrictive compared to every other car. Karen qualified as 16th out of 17 for race 1 with a time of 1:51.79 and 15th out of 16 for race 2 with a time of 1:52.24. The drivers who qualified behind were experiencing mechanical difficulties…
Karen’s first ever race was at 12.35pm. She formed up on the grid in last position due to non-starters. She didn’t get the best of starts but had frankly only driven the car in its current form for ½ hour by this time! Karen’s position throughout the race remained static at 14th and last, but her lap times improved to a best of 1:47.56 and she had a clean race and really enjoyed the whole experience. We were really happy with her improvement.
The 2nd race was on the following day and we arrived at the circuit at about 9.00am, and checked over the car. Karen had driven it to the circuit from the B&B, so one of the first jobs was to remove the number plates again, and black tape that had been used to cross out the racing numbers for the road.
The MR2 Challenge race was due to start at 11.00am, but everyone was called to the Assembly Area very early and the cars ended up forming on the grid for a race start at 10.30am. That’s the first I’ve ever known races start early, let alone on time!
Karen once again formed up in last spot thanks to non-starters, and got a slightly better start this time. She stayed in sight of car no.17 (Paul Barber) all race. Apparently she could begin to catch up to him in the corners, but he’d re-establish distance along the straights. So that sounded like a job for Darren and myself to sort out. Obviously, she found it a fantastic experience and her lap times improved further to a best of 1:43.94.
All in all Karen had a fantastic weekend, made all the better by meeting the friendly people involved in the MR2 Challenge, be they drivers, their mechanics, family or friends, etc. She’s really looking forward to the next race at Cadwell Park, which at least she has driven before and loves as a challenging circuit.