Race Report: Snetterton 15th July

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Video copyright Matthew Holland, reproduced with kind permission

Just for once the MR2 Challenge cars weren’t required for scrutineering at the crack of dawn. This gave Karen and her crew a chance to actually enjoy their full English breakfast for once!

Having arrived at Snetterton circuit, the car was unloaded and given a bit of a wash just in time for a heavy rain shower to wash all the soap off. As the car was presented for scrutineering the sky began to brighten and the rain stopped. After inspection the car was given a ticket to race and there was only a short time to chat with the other racers before the qualifying session began at 9.50am.

Thanks to the increasing amount of sun and a decent breeze the track had dried nicely with only some dampness remaining at Riches and Sear corners. Karen’s husband Richard and their friend Darren watched her progress from the Esses. Karen seemed to have found a decent amount of free track around her most of the time and Darren’s unofficial timings seemed to show she was doing well despite being out on brand new shaved Falken tyres. When the timing sheets were published it was obvious that there were performance improvements amongst the other racers in the MR2 Challenge and thus Karen had qualified 27th for Race 1 and 30th for Race 2 from a field of 38 cars. It should be remembered that 14 of the cars ahead of Karen were MK2 models with their power, grip and braking advantages.

Image copyright Matthew Holland, reproduced with kind permission

Race 1 began in bright, dry conditions. Karen had a great start that saw her gain at least one place before the first corner of Riches, and she even managed to overhaul the #18 MK2 of David Henderson at the following Sear Corner. Unsurprisingly, however, he then proceeded to use his power advantage to make a break from a good deal of the MK1’s along the Revett Straight. On the third lap Karen was being harried by Chris Dunnett #31. She spotted a waved yellow flag as she entered Sear and began to lift off the throttle in anticipation, causing the rear of the car to break away and she span off. As Karen struggled to recover onto the track several cars drove by losing her all her hard fought places. She was now trying to claw back places and Arron Pullan #26 was first on the list, followed by Chris Dunnett #31. Karen passed Ivan Thomas #59 and was then chasing down Steve Woolfe #88 on the penultimate lap. By the time Karen reached the Esses on the final lap, she had indeed overtaken Steve. At the very final corner of the race at Russell Chicane, Karen accelerated out only to lose traction on the soil and plastic corner markers strewn across the track during previous incidents. She couldn’t hold the car and the resulting spin lost her the four places she had just recovered. It’s a good job we didn’t have an in-car camera running as the audio may not have been for the feint of heart… Karen finished 16th in class A for production MK1 cars.

Image copyright Matthew Holland, reproduced with kind permission

Having watched the events unfold from the Esses, Richard and Darren believed that Karen had done pretty well during the race and waved at her as she drove past on the cool down lap. Karen was giving the thumbs down sign and Richard assumed there was some problem with the car. The guys quickly made their way back to the paddock to meet her. Strangely, she was nowhere to be found and it turned out the cars were being weighed in the scrutineering building. The guys were also dismayed to hear that Karen had spun on the exit of Russell Chicane just before the chequered flag and dropped four places! Sure enough, upon her return Karen was furious – Both with herself, and the fact that the MSA official had decreed the car underweight by 3kg at 1047kg. Karen was left assuming she would now be excluded from the results entirely!

The guys were left reeling. The car had previously been weighed on the same scales at Easter and found to be 1059kg in exactly the same specification and with the same low fuel load. It turns out a number of other cars had suffered a similar fate. Many cars that were either under or over the 1050kg limit all seemed to be about 10 to 12kg lighter than expected!

Luckily, the decision was taken by the MSA official not to exclude anyone at that point, but warned that cars would be weighed after Race 2 and those underweight at that time would definitely be excluded from the results. Richard was left with no option but to play safe and to add more fuel than usual to the car for Race 2 to act as ballast and ensure a post race weight above 1050kg. (At least, against their scales, anyway…)

Image copyright Sarah Wherry, reproduced with kind permission

Race 2 was another dry race. Karen started 30th and thanks to a couple of vacated grid slots ahead of her and some brilliant overtaking she was 25th by the time she’d reached Revett Straight, claiming places from Hugh Gilmour #98, David Cross #13 and David Block #40. In the second lap, Karen caught and passed Chris Dunnett #31 to start chasing Rob Howes #7. This was until Rob and Karen came across a Rogue MK2 car recovering from a spin at Russell Chicane. This managed to intervene and allowed Rob to pull away. Karen was left leading a pack of cars that had now caught her up, headed by the bright orange car of Ross Stoner #22. Both of them were overtaken by the MK2 of David Bryant #38 along Revett. As they went under the bridge and approached the Esses poor Ross had a massive moment and span out in a massive cloud of dust. This now released Hugh Gilmour #98 to begin his attack on Karen. As Hugh closed on Karen they both overtook David’s MK2 on lap 8. By the final lap Hugh was worrying Karen, but at the end of Revett his brakes deserted him and he was forced to overshoot down an escape road instead of making the Esses. Karen managed to hold off the advances of David’s MK2 until the chequered flag to claim 25th place in an enjoyable and closely fought race. This meant Karen finished 11th in the production MK1 class A.

A great days racing and a triumph for the MR2 Challenge coming after the previous debacle at Mallory Park. The spectacle of a grid of 38 MR2’s streaming through the Esses and Russell was awesome. Karen completed both races, when she had been facing disqualification. Her result from Race 1 could have been fantastic, but for some unfortunate mistakes. Solace must be taken from the determination to recover positions that saw her produce some great racing. Karen knows there’s still obviously much room for improvement. Once again the race results seem skewed thanks to the weight of MK2 cars at the head of the field. It seems the 2008 season will hopefully resolve that issue by having split grids for MK1 and MK2 cars at each meeting, to keep everyone happy…

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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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