Image copyright Lance Wittenberg, used with kind permission
A dull start to the day brightened quickly to bathe the Northamptonshire Rockingham circuit in bright sunlight. Steve Vince and Rob Jeffries (MR2 MK1 #35) had great pleasure in telling us off the awful conditions in the previous days MR2 Racing. Wet conditions akin to driving on ice, etc.
Nothing like that kind of weather for Karen, as she drove into the assembly area before qualifying. It was already becoming fairly warm and all the drivers would experience rising temperatures in their cars. Richard got Karen to wait to go out to qualify at the back of the field, with the aim that she got some clean track around her whilst re-familiarising herself with the track and warming the Yokohama A048 tyres before she was lapped by faster cars. Karen enjoys the circuit with its flat out sections along the banking and technical in-field with varied corners, cambers, crests and dips. She seemed fairly content with her qualification effort, but once again the car seemed to let her down on the power front and she qualified 27th out of 30.Image copyright Lance Wittenberg, used with kind permission
By the time of the race, the day had really hotted up. Karen was to start directly behind her friend Jim Bridge #30 in his Nissan 350Z. As the red lights went out, Jim laid down he laid down two black lines of rubber. Karen overtook him through the first banked corner and closed on Dave Cross #7 in an MR2 MK2. Dave was having clutch trouble and was limping home to retire. Karen passed him before the hairpin, but she herself had been overtaken by two MX5’s. At only the third corner there was a large accident consisting of several MX5’s. Karen squeezed through the melee, but as the other cars rejoined the circuit she was clattered again for no good reason as they went passed her. Karen was left trying to figure out if her car had been damaged and lost concentration which saw her go wide and onto the grass at a later corner! The MX5 onslaught still wasn’t over and she was mugged by three more of them through the chicane onto the banking. Despite Karen being able to brake just as well as them, they’re still so much more nimble.
Another couple of recovering MX5’s passed her into the hairpin on lap 2. Things then settled down and Karen set about trying to keep in touch with the rear of the pack of MX5’s. Meanwhile, Jim’s 350Z was nipping at her heels. At the beginning of lap 5, she nearly had a couple of the MX5’s into the hairpin but decided that discretion was the better part of valour and yielded, thinking they might shut the door a little too violently…Image copyright Lance Wittenberg, used with kind permission
On lap 6, the superior grunt of Jim’s 350Z saw him overtake Karen along the banking and into the hairpin. Plonking himself right in the middle of the battling MX5’s! It was at the end of that lap that she began to be lapped by the leading cars. On the next lap she out-braked MX5 #67, but narrowly avoided being clouted by another one who we will optimistically assume hadn’t seen her on his inside…
Karen was now really battling with #67 and they swapped places a couple of times, with the beginning of Lap 8 seeing Karen in front. She made sure of overtaking the other MX5 that had previously baulked her as well! She was really gunning for it now as they chased her hard and she was determined they should not get past! This increase in pace saw her fastest lap of the race as she caught up with another pair of MX5’s in front. The chequered flag meant she couldn’t advance on them though. Karen finished in 24th position overall.Image copyright Lance Wittenberg, used with kind permission
Karen made a point of visiting the Clerk of the Course and complaining about the driving standards of the MX5’s. It turned out that Jim also had to scream to a halt for them as they rejoined the circuit after that first lap incident. In such circumstances drivers are supposed to wait to rejoin only when it is safe to do so and would not hinder other drivers. This was the last time the MX5’s would make up the bulk of the field with their own series forming part of the Nippon Challenge. Pembrey onwards would see them with their own races…Click here to watch the Rockingham race video.