Race Report: Snetterton 6th April

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Photograph copyright Sarah Wherry, reproduced with kind permission.
Karen’s visit to Snetterton began on Thursday 5th, when she arrived at the circuit early in the morning to find brilliant sunshine would be the order of the day. Thursday was a practice day and the plan was to have last years champion Sam Mayer-Loughnan give her some coaching to improve her performance. Previously Karen’s results at Snetterton had been her worst, but in her defence much of this could be attributed to technical issues.

The coaching went well; with Sam being happy with some of Karen’s current lines and helping her improve the others. Following Sam’s help, Karen was much happier and more confident attacking the circuit and her lap times improved to be a good couple of seconds quicker than her previous best race time.

Later practice sessions didn’t really improve on this time, but the car was running on the new Falken tyres instead of the original Yokohamas and there was a good deal of traffic out on the circuit. The air temperature had also risen dramatically.

At the end of the day the decision was made to race on the new Falken rubber, using the new lighter alloy wheels. Karen was generally happier with grip levels on the Falkens throughout the entire circuit and it was felt this confidence was definitely what was most important.

During the practice day, there had also been the opportunity to have the car weighed on the official scrutineering weighing equipment. The car was in a post-race condition, with Karen on-board, a dash of petrol, and the older heavier alloy wheels. The result was 1075.5kg. That’s 25.5kg over the minimum weight. We figured that using the new lighter alloy wheels would reduce this, and we weren’t wrong…

Race day was Good Friday 6th April, and it was a cool early start for scrutineering at 7.30am. Thankfully the car passed through without problem. The next hurdle was to be the qualifying session at 9.00am. This was due to be half an hour long and we were left wondering about tactics. Should we try a couple of light petrol loads for less weight with a splash and dash between them? Or a heavier load to see her through the entire session? Due to the difficulty in finding somewhere to actually perform the re-fill, it was decided to go for the latter.

The session began, and Karen peeled out to begin her laps. By our reckoning, she’d only completed seven laps before the chequered flag was shown and the session was over. We’d made the mistake of assuming half an hour actually meant that amount of track time, when in fact it also allowed for the cleaning up of the track and turn around for the next session. Thus actual track time was about a quarter of an hour. By Darren’s timing, Karen had improved her lap time again to a best of 1:36.19. However, we were very disappointed and felt this could have been much better with a lighter fuel load.

Our mood improved when we saw the qualification results. Karen had qualified 14th out of 24 for Race 1, and due to her consistent lap times had qualified 10th out of 24 for Race 2. Darren had been extremely accurate with her best lap time. He’d quoted 1:36.19 and the actual recorded time from the transponder was 1:36.18, a mere one hundredth of a second out!

The sun was still beaming down when the cars formed on the grid for Race 1. Karen had a good start seeing her going through Riches between Tim Cartledge #42 and Steve Woolfe #88. Unfortunately she was blocked from progressing further. At Sears there seemed to be some incidents towards the head of the field. In lap 2, whilst going through Sears Karen drove over some debris and had to swerve to avoid larger chunks of something possibly from the previous incidents. After another couple of laps Karen watched as Tim’s car began to fishtail through Coram until he turned off the circuit and drove to a Marshal’s post to retire. Later, Karen was distracted by a cloud of dust kicked up by cars ahead at Russell chicane which caused her to fluff the exit significantly and drive over the higher kerbs which resulted in the car bucking violently with both rear wheels jumping in the air. Karen crossed the chequered flag 10th in the official classifications. This was later amended to 9th place after the cars were weighed post race. One of the cars in front had been found to be under weight and was therefore excluded. Karen’s car was found to now weigh 1059kg. This was a mere 9kg above the minimum weight. The differences from the previous weight check being due to the use of the lighter BBS alloy wheels. Suffice to say we relieved there was a margin, and shan’t be looking to reduce weight further. Karen’s friend John Wilson #17, also from Worcester had a great first ever race to finish in a fantastic official 6th place. (Which may have since been amended to 5th?). Congratulations to John and to David for preparing the car and getting such a great result.

Tim Cartledge’s retirement from Race 1 with engine failure was especially galling as Tim and friends had spent a couple of all-nighters getting a new engine installed in the car to make the Snetterton races.

This meant that for Race 2, Tim’s grid position a couple of rows ahead of Karen was empty. She got a great start and tucked in behind Rob Howes #7 to pass a couple of cars on the inside of Riches and again through Sears. Rob then started to suffer with a puncture and was forced to retire, gifting Karen with 5th Place! Karen’s husband Richard and friends Darren and David were stunned when they counted the cars around Coram and into Russell chicane to find Karen in such a position. It wasn’t to last though. In a rush of blood to the head, Nigel Butterfield #34 tried an audacious dive on the inside through the Esses. At the last moment Karen spotted it and thought that if she turned in on her normal line he’d effectively T-bone her car! Discretion being the better part of valour, she took a wider line and although Nigel did manage to scrub off some speed he ended up side-swiping poor Karen. (See the picture above). Whilst Karen recovered, several cars streamed past including John Wilson #17. Karen had consequently dropped back to 10th. With a couple of laps to go John span at Russell chicane and Karen overtook him before he could re-join the circuit. John quickly set about catching her up and was soon right behind her. Karen was forced to defend her position through the final lap until the chequered flag and a well deserved 9th place. If not for the clash with Nigel then she may have finished in a higher position.

Another alarming incident during Race 2 was when one of the cars retired into the pit lane from Russell chicane with a spectacular raging fire in the engine compartment! The marshals soon put a stop to it, but after the race each car was checked to ensure the pins had been removed from their on-board extinguishers. Subsequently, a car was excluded from the results for this not being done.

Congratulations to Karen on a job well done. From a circuit that had seen her worst ever results, hard work and determination had provided her best results so far in the MR2 Challenge. Many thanks to Darren and David for their support, to Sam for his tuition, and to everyone else who was kind enough to cheer Karen on.

Finally, it should be noted that poor Sarah Wherry’s car #23 suffered a terminal engine problem during practice and she was unable to compete in the races. Thus Karen was un-contested for points in the Women’s’ Championship. Sarah promises to come back with a vengeance at the next meeting at her local circuit Cadwell Park in May.

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About Karen Phillips

  • Karen races her Impreza WRX in the Classic and Sports Car Club (CSCC) Modern Classics series, with her husband Richard as a 2nd Driver. The races are mini-endurance events involving a driver-swap. Karen has previously raced in the Nippon Challenge, a race series for Japanese and Asian cars. Karen has been racing since 2006, having started in the MR2 Challenge.
  • Please check this site regularly for updates on Karen's progress through the season and developments with her race car.

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