16 year old Lydia Walmsley learning on and off the track

I am just over half way through my first year in the Mini Challenge and it has been exhilarating but I can't believe I am already nearing the end of my first season. Being only sixteen, I am the youngest competitor in the Cooper Pro class. Moving into senior racing has been a huge step up from a junior formula. Drivers can compete in a junior championship until they are seventeen so I had the capabilities of staying in the JSCC for another two years. However, we chose to make the massive leap as soon as possible – it’s a decision I’m grateful we made.

Obviously, being so young in a senior championship has meant that I am competing against adults who have a lot more experience than myself. Although this is the case, I feel as a team we have learnt and progressed quickly and I feel we are setting ourselves up well for next year. At our most recent round at Oulton Park in Cheshire, we were sitting 5th in qualifying up until the final lap. This is an indication of exciting pace and a testament to how hard everybody has worked so far.

Although moving into a new championship has been exciting and a great challenge, it has provided us with some difficulties. We have had a few teething issues with the car which is to be expected as it’s a new build. We have had a recurring ABS issue which has crept up on us on four out of the five meetings we’ve had. We have also had power steering failure too which unfortunately cut short our qualifying at Snetterton. Hopefully, our ABS gremlin is now fixed and doesn’t want to say hello again any time soon! Obviously, these mechanical issues haven’t meant that we have had to retire from races. However, it does mean that my lap times are slower when we have the ABS issues. Everyone racing the Mini Coopers are using the ABS at all the large braking zones as it’s the fastest way to brake. Therefore, when I don’t have the ABS, I have to resort back to by JSCC Saxo days with braking softly to avoid locking up the wheels. So even though the ABS issues haven’t limited my track time, they have limited my potential.

This year overall has been a challenging one! I have been taking my GCSE exams – it’s been difficult to focus on studying when you want to be racing! Thankfully, none of the Friday test days before a race meeting coincided with any of my exams so I was still able to focus on school work without having to miss any test days! There was a six week break between the Snetterton and Silverstone meetings which luckily matched the five week exam period. Unfortunately, it is somewhat difficult to focus on algebra and photosynthesis when at the race track though!

For the remainder of the season, I hope to continue to progress as we have done already. My last race meeting is at Rockingham in Corby. I hope for some brilliant results there especially as it appears to be the last time we will get the change to race there. It’s such a shame as I always really enjoy the track at Rockingham as it’s quite technical – I will be sad to see it close.

I can’t wait to continue this journey into 2019. I hope to do really well next year and have an incredibly successful season!