Image copyright 2006 Derren Phillips. Further images can be found here:Mallory Images
A 5.30am start meant Karen and her entourage arrived at Mallory Park at about 7.30am, and in time to get one of the ever decreasing amount of parking spaces within the paddock. There was time for a quick natter with some of the other competitors whilst dodging rain showers, before signing on at Race Control and presenting the car for Scrutineering. With the formalities complete, it was time for Karen to get changed and make her way to the assembly area for the first qualifying session.
Qualifying 1 saw the cars out on a damp but rapidly drying circuit. Karen immediately bagged some impressive times as far as we were concerned, but lots of others went faster. In the end, Karen qualified for Race 1 in 17th position.
Qualifying 2 was a rather different matter. As the cars trundled toward the assembly area, the black clouds hanging above could contain themselves no longer. Karen sat in the pit lane in a heavy downpour. As the cars went out (Karen first!) there was standing and running water on the track. I swear some puddles had decent waves on them! Karen had been instructed simply to survive the session and bring herself and the car back in one piece. She kept what seemed a steady pace without a problem and we were all delighted to discover she'd outpaced many other faster cars/drivers to qualify in 12th position for Race 2.
Race 1 started well, with Karen running alongside the car in front driven by Robert Howes. Robert had other ideas and drifted across to give Karen the choice of slowing up or ending up on the grass. Sanity prevailed and she slipped back to chase hard. Most of Karen's race was spent in a duel with Chris Stewart in a MK2 car. At one point she passed him, only to be re-overtaken on the run to the hairpin where the superior brakes of the MK2 helped him. Karen proceeded to keep up and every so often would be very close. As the two race leaders (Patrick Mortell and David Litchfield) approached to lap them, Karen decided to try and go through as they went past. Unfortunately this all happened at the hairpin and as Karen began to move alongside Chris he shut the door with a loud bang! Karen was concerned the damage was bad, but as it turned out it was only a slight cosmetic ding on the passenger wing. Their status quo remained until the end of the race and thus Karen finished 17th.
Race 2 had a very confused start! Robert Howes jumped the lights and others began to follow. Karen started when the lights went out, but unfortunately Neil Glynn in front of her had jumped his start and decided to reverse into position! Karen had to go grass cutting to overtake him on the outside, but once done she seemed to be fairly well up the field into Gerard's. The race was going really well for her and thanks to a poor start by Sarah Wherry, she was the leading woman at the beginning of the race. However, the superior power of Sarah's car saw her overtake Karen down the back straight later on. The worst problem for Karen was when Kevin Poole's car began dropping gearbox oil in front of her and covering the entire front of her car!! Karen managed to stay on track despite the very slippy conditions, but this prevented her from overtaking Kevin and thus she had to slow her pace dramatically for at least 3 laps. Despite this, she finished 13th which equals her best ever finish so far.
Congratulations to Karen on a fantastic performance. It was an especially sweet performance, having taken place in front of her friends and family. It appears she has more than enough skill to make an impact on the series if only she had a car with more pace. That's a job for her spanner monkeys to sort out...