Karen and Richard had tried to book a full day of practice at Brands, but had left it too late. Apparently bookings would only be accepted for single seater practice sessions by the time Richard rang. Therefore when they arrived at Brands on Friday afternoon to see the circuit and say hello to other racers it was galling to discover that other racers had managed to get places after they had tried!
It was a little too late to worry then, so Karen and Richard marvelled at the hilly nature of the circuit having only previously seen it on television which masked its true nature. They sat in the grandstand above Paddock Hill Bend and could see virtually all of the Indy circuit laid out in front of them. Karen’s concerns over Paddock Hill grew as they watched the practice sessions in the warmth of the summer sun.
Race day did not begin well… Karen was rather poorly in the morning. Either her evening meal disagreed with her, or she’d caught too much sun in the afternoon. She was left feeling rather drained and suffering feverish like symptoms. Her breakfast was more or less just a fruit juice and a number of grimaces as she tried not to watch Richard wolf his breakfast down!
Having arrived at the circuit it seemed parking of the tow-car and trailer would be a problem. Luckily, Tim Cartledge kindly helped out with making space for us next to his good self. By way of returning the favour, Richard helped him out by making his racing seat secure in time for scrutineering.
Karen’s car passed through scrutineering without incident and immediately following this a short detour was made to the interior of the circuit to get the car on the official weighbridge. With a third of a tank of petrol, the car and driver weighed in at 1061kg. Therefore, it was decided to add more fuel up to half a tank to ensure the car would be legal at above 1050kg following the qualifying and/or race.
Richard left Karen in the assembly area whilst he trudged his way back through the paddock and uphill to sit in the grandstand again. He watched as Karen began her first flying lap and had a lairy oversteer moment going down Paddock Hill bend, causing her to fishtail slightly up Hailwood Hill. She certainly treated the corner with more respect after that. A little later, Sam Hare #62 started to lay down gearbox oil beginning at the sweeping right hander of McLaren and then throughout the rest of the circuit. This caused problems for several people resulting in the end of qualifying for at least a couple as they slid off into gravel traps. Karen managed to stay on but she was fighting her symptoms and was unfamiliar with the circuit. Jorge Calado #24 overtook her into Graham Hill bend and then suddenly decided he “needed some space”. His decision to brake sharply and leave a gap in front did nothing for Karen as she had to come to a complete stop behind him. Another qualifying lap consigned to the bin and a very unhappy Karen…Image copyright Peter Jones, reproduced with kind permission
Ultimately, she qualified last but one and was left feeling deflated and unhappy at the prospect of racing on a circuit she still didn’t have the grasp of. She was left trying to find shade in the rather warm paddock and gulp down large quantities of water.
Karen’s spirits had picked up a little after friendly chats with other racers and especially Arthur and Hugh Gilmour. (Thanks for lunch!). Her nerves began to jangle as usual as the race approached and she made her way to the assembly area without Richard who went straight to the packed grandstand to watch the race.
As the red lights went out, Karen picked up three to four places by Paddock Hill Bend, tucking up behind Tim Cartledge #42. As the cars streamed up Hailwood Hill, Karen was still on the inside but noticed a queue of cars forming around the apex at Druids. She tried to go through the middle instead and encountered a cloud of dust. As she drove down Graham Hill she spotted red flags and she began to coast back to the start line. It turned out that the dust was due to Hugh Gilmour #98 having been forced into the gravel on the outside of Druids. Whilst he was plucked out of the mire, the other cars were re-formed into their original positions on the grid. Unfortunately for Hugh, his slot was taken by reserve driver Adam Litchfield #81 for the restart.Image copyright Peter Jones, reproduced with kind permission
Again, Karen made a couple of places and followed Tim and again Druids was almost grid-locked by the number of cars. Karen managed to pick up at least another place through Druids and down Graham Hill. As the race progressed though, the positions she had gained were lost as she busied herself simply coming to terms with the circuit itself. Sarah Wherry #23 had a moment at Paddock, braking very late and hard resulting in a spin into the gravel trap. Thus a yellow caution flag covered Paddock Hill Bend for the rest of the race. Karen finished last, but was surprisingly happy with her drive and much more happy with driving Brands Hatch itself. She was also relieved to have passed a post-race weighing session with the car coming through at 1058kg.
In terms of outright results then, it was a pretty diabolical race for Karen. However, she had actually finally enjoyed the experience despite feeling quite unwell. She finished the race without incident unlike her fellow female competitor. Karen’s hoping that a return to health, some work on her suspension, and the familiarity with Mallory will yield much better results in the next Challenge outing.