Despite dire warnings of heavy rain for South Wales on Saturday, Pembrey was more or less dry on the first day of racing. Due to a Caterham sprint event in the morning, Karen and her friends were able to have a comparatively long lie-in and enjoy a hearty full breakfast at their B&B before arriving at the circuit to find that scrutineering seemed to have started earlier than expected!
It was a good job too, as it turned out. Karen's was the first of the Subaru Cup cars to enter scrutineering and they weren't happy about the amount of thread (not) showing through some of the nuts on the rollcage and the presence of a video camera. The camera was removed and they warned us over the bolt length but provided her with a ticket to allow her to race. Following Subaru Cup cars were much less fortunate, as the scrutineers took umbrage at the fact their cages weren't fitted with door bars. It took a couple of hours until the situation was finalised by the Clerk of the Course (CofC) overriding their ruling and giving the go ahead for the cars to race. (The safety regulations for this class of car does say that door bars are optional, after all!)
Qualification began with the track showing the odd damp area and shallow puddle. Things seemed to go well and Karen looked pretty quick. Unfortunately after a handful of laps, her friend Darren's Subaru Cup car expired and he wouldn't take any part in the weekend of racing. Martin White's 'Cup car was giving him some cause for concern with erratic handling traits too. Towards the end of the session, Karen got a little bogged down behind a group of cars but in the end she qualified really well. She was placed 9th overall, being only a second behind the experienced racer and instructor Sam Maher-Loughnan and a couple of tenths behind Martin.
Race 1 began with Karen not getting her usual lightning fast start, but she clawed back places and was hunting down Martin’s Impreza. Martin span out and Karen pounced on the opportunity to pass Andre Severs ex-touring car Honda Accord. This now put her 2nd in the Subaru Cup behind Sam and easily within the top 10 overall. As she passed the pit wall though, she was presented with a black flag showing what looked like her racing number! Having not been involved in any incidents, she assumed she'd mis-read the number and continued racing. Next time around she dumbfounded to realise it was her number, and began to slow allowing other cars to pass as she made her way back around to the pits. She was sent to the CofC who told her a grid marshal had spotted that her right sleeve was considered too low down her arm and that for safety reasons she'd been called in. Why on earth it couldn't have been resolved on the grid is beyond anyone with an ounce of sense. Karen's race was ruined. We thought it was a DNF, but in fact she was classified as finishing 16th, which would have consequences for the following races…
Karen's 16th place in Race 1 would mean she started in that grid position for Race 2. Obviously she was now quite a way down from the front running Subaru Cup cars and behind new 'Cup driver Adrian Howells. Karen and Adrian were now surrounded by GT150 and GT200 class MR2s. Again, Karen didn't enjoy her usual fast start and ended up bogged down behind the mk2 MR2 of Dallas Jackson who can prove difficult to overtake safely despite the power advantage. As a consequence of this Karen was being harried by novice driver Mark Thomas in his mk1 MR2. In lap 3, Karen came through Spitfires and was moving right to take her line ready for the left hander of Dibeni when Mark tried to drive around her on the outside! One of Mark's wheels locked up Karen's right rear wheel and began to spin the Impreza. Mark's car then continued forwards to collect the Impreza's nose. Both cars ended up on the grass on the infield. Parts of the bumper were now fouling the front wheel and Karen's race was over.
When Karen returned to the pits Darren immediately sprang into action and had restored much of the bumper back to a decent condition by the time Richard had returned from the outside of the circuit. Between them they then managed to fix the bumper back in position and restore the under-bumper plastic shielding back into place. It was typical that they were caught in a brief shower of rain whilst doing so! The sun soon came out though, and Richard took the opportunity to replace the rear brake pads to save doing so on Sunday which was supposed to be very wet.
An incredibly frustrating day that should have seen Karen fighting for top honours in the Subaru Cup instead saw her with nothing to show for all her hard work. With Darren not managing to race either, it was a subdued evening for everyone as they ended up having a few drinks and some fish & chips or pizza back at the B&B watching the Eurovision Song Contest. A decent sleep, a fantastic breakfast and a bit of sunshine lifted everyone's spirits ready for the final race of the weekend on Sunday. Once again, Karen was to start from 16th on the grid but she was determined to be able to finish this race and claim as many scalps as possible in the process.
As the race start approached, it began to rain lightly. Thankfully, this race went more or less to plan with Karen making good progress through the field to the delight of her supporters. Karen finished 3rd in the Subaru Cup and 8th overall. A fantastic result given her start in 16th place, and finally some success following the miserable day before.
About Karen Phillips
Karen races her Impreza WRX in the Nippon Challenge, a race series for Japanese and Asian cars. Karen has now 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.