Wednesday, 19 April 2017

Back in the driver's seat



Mentally tough race weekend..

Since my crash in September, I didn’t really think it had affected me... Let’s face it, I’ve crashed plenty of times in my race career, picked myself back up, dusted myself off and got back in the car again and again as if nothing had happened… Unfortunately this last one appears to have done something to my subconscious as I now seem to have a bit of a mental block on the approach to Duffus Dip. What happened to the days where I’d fearlessly follow my old teammate and multiple Mini champ Kenny Thirlwall down there flying on two wheels?! 

As disappointed as I am in my loss of pace, I know it won’t be permanent. I won’t let it be. I know I will get over this blip and it’s good to know there’s only one problem so we can put all our focus onto fixing it ASAP… At least I know I’ve still got it everywhere else!

With the above in mind, here is how my day went..

Quali: 9th – Really disappointing for me but at least it’s single figures.

Race 1: Average race start, ended up behind my new teammate/old karting friend Michael Weddell but managed to get past and finish in 8th.

Race 2: Fairly uneventful for me, started 8th, finished 8th… I did however get off to a great start holding it for as long as I could on the outside line in battle side by side with my teammate John Duncan. We raced all the way to the chicane where he just had the legs on me and took the lead out of us two. After that, quite a lonely race really.

Race 3: Good start, was determined to fix my Duffus problems. I found myself in between two packs and as I felt I could’ve caught up and got stuck in with the front pack, Lola decided she was having none of it. The gearbox jumped out of 3rd gear twice in one lap.. After that, I dropped to 9th and it was a case of physically holding the gear lever in place in an attempt to prevent it from jumping back out but this meant I’d lost some pace again and found myself defending against the pack behind. By the end of the race I finished 7th due to an incident between two cars ahead.

Onwards and upwards… My first aim for the weekend was to finish all three races and that’s what I did (albeit in lower positions than I’d hoped). Now it’s time to get quick again and focus on re-learning the dreaded Duffus in time for Qualifying at Round 2. Remember, it’s only round 1 and a long season ahead, the fast competitive Hannah will be back. 

RAM Tubulars Scotland Ltd
Sightmast Enterprises
Ajmal Steel
Whitehaul Ltd

Thursday, 4 August 2016

Mid-season reflection

I am now past the halfway point with my racing season in the Celtic Speed Scottish MINI Cooper Cup and it’s safe to say I’ve had my fair share of ups and downs yet again this year.

Unfortunately, the downs at the moment are outweighing the ups after having a devastatingly unlucky away round at Donington Park in June. On a track I had never seen or driven before, I managed to qualify P2 and was set for a podium finish in race 1 before I was hit out of the way by another driver on the last lap. To add salt to the wound, the car didn’t even survive a whole lap in the second race at Donington before becoming victim to another driver incident and was too badly damaged to finish the race.

Qualifying on Sunday morning was ok – could’ve been better, could’ve been worse. I managed to secure 5th which was only 0.04 seconds off pole which as expected was of course taken by my guest teammate BTCC’s Adam Morgan!

Race 1 for me was great, I was fighting off Dylan O’Donnell for the first part but saw that he had to start defending for the guys catching him behind which gave me some breathing space. I was then sitting in 4th watching a good battle go on ahead of me. I didn’t want to get too involved with the podium fight in front of me as I had a feeling it would work in my favour being patient on this occasion and I was right. Adam and Paul clashed at Duffus and I’m not sure exactly where Paul’s car ended up but it promoted me to third on the last lap so for once luck was on my side.

Race 2, my lucky spell was short lived. (Still managed fastest lap though 😏!)...
I was set for another podium finish and was having yet another good battle this time with Paul Bell fighting him off to hold my position in 3rd whilst Adam and Ian Munro broke away in 1st and 2nd. Unfortunately, Paul hit the back of my car going into McIntyres which subsequently bent part of the rear crash panel into my back left tyre which started shredding all the rubber off. I didn’t quite know what had happened because I didn’t think the hit at Mcintyres was too hard and I’m not pointing the finger of blame here I’m just giving my account of what happened. 

By the time I reached the exit of Clarks to go onto the back straight my car was making the most horrendous noise, awful smell and was losing speed fast as you can see from the blue smoke in Malcolm's footage my car was clearly not in a good way! This is then when the race 2 four-car-incident unfolded. With my car losing speed down the middle of the straight the others had to go either side to pass me. Paul Bell and Malc Mcnab were bumper to bumper passing me on the right and Red car 91 was trying to pass me on the left. The red car got pretty close to me and started moving even closer. I had nowhere to go with Paul and Malcolm being on my right hand side and Red car being on my left all I could do was keep my wheel straight and hope the others did the same. Next thing 91 is across my bonnet before collecting Paul who was hit sideways and up onto two wheels (I thought he was going to roll right in front of my eyes but thankfully it landed again!). 91 was then sandwiched between Paul and Malcolm who had nowhere to go as it all happened so fast and unexpectedly. Malc and Red car didn’t finish the race. Paul and I managed to limp our cars over the finish line although I was in last place as I had a quick visit to the pits. The accident was called as a racing incident.

Anyway, determined as ever, my team got my car back in one piece again for race three and there were a few familiar fast faces joining me at the back of the grid ready for an epic comeback in the final race of the day. Myself, Malcolm McNab, Paul Bell and Morgan Murray all had a big challenge on our hands trying to get through the mid pack as quickly as possible without any dramas. For once, I had an amazing start. I made it from 24th up to 9th with a few laps still to go but side by side with Brandon Walsh down Duffus we were both fighting for the same position and came together. Luckily we both finished the race, Brandon ended up better off than me finishing in 9th but I was okay with a 12th place considering everything that had happened previously but still disappointed in what could have been but I can’t think like that so again, it’s onwards and upwards. One of these days things will go in my favour.

As a result of Donington, I had dropped down the championship standings from a promising 3rd to a deflating 8th however I am looking on the bright side and know I can still come back from this. With just under half a season still remaining anything can happen, it’ll be a close call this year and from being back at Knockhill despite further bad luck and on track incidents, I have made my way back up the championship standings into 6 th place so who knows what the last three rounds will hold.

Aside from the doom and gloom of how unlucky I’ve been, I have actually achieved a lot this season as well with many consistent solid finishes and finally achieving my first overall win showing the guys I’m just as capable! It has been a long time coming and if I can manage some more of those performances for the rest of the year then I am in with a good chance of a great comeback for my RAM Tubulars sponsored Race MINI.

Tuesday, 26 April 2016

Start of the season doesn't go to plan

Race report time. So Round 1 is now done and dusted and I am going to call it the “Almost but not quite” round.

Monday, 14 March 2016

Pre-season trackday testing is a first!

Time is ticking and the season is getting ever closer and I just can’t get enough practice under my belt! I would say this is the most prepared for an upcoming season I have ever been so hopefully my organisation and preparation will pay off in the first round!

In the last few weeks I have been taking part in as many trackdays as I can afford to get those vital extra practice laps in on top of official pre-season testing. 

In previous years it seems I have been a bit of a slow starter, only getting on the pace a few rounds in to the season which is too little too late and that is why this time I have hit the ground running and have made sure I got straight back on track as soon as the notorious Knockhill weather conditions permitted.

Luckily this year, so far, the weather has been fairly snow-free. I have had tonnes of testing in the rain with lots of torrential downpours so my confidence has grown even more in the wet and will be doing lots of rain dances this year to try and get the weather to work in my favour! However on the 28th of February I took part in a Track Scotland trackday and for once it was glorious clear blue skies and sunshine with low track temperatures which made for perfect dry testing conditions which I was very happy about.

Ever conscious of the wear-and-tear these extra trackdays might be having on my car, I won’t be back out again until the next official test in a couple of weeks to give my car a bit of breather and my team Minimax Motorsport the chance to get some more work done on it to make sure it’s race ready again. I certainly need to invest in some new wheels after taking a fair few hits on them last season they are somewhat 50p shaped now rather than the perfect circle they should be! 

Since revealing my 2016 RAM Tubulars chrome and pink livery, I am delighted that the design seems to have gone down well receiving lots of compliments from everyone and it definitely stands out on track - especially when the sun makes an appearance - although many people have joked saying they wonder how long the chrome will stay intact… Hopefully I can stay out of trouble on track and keep the car in one piece but don’t go thinking for one minute that I’ll be holding back out of fear of ruining my fancy chrome, there’s plenty more where that came from so I won’t be backing out of any moves to keep my car “pretty”, it’s elbows out and each man for himself in the Scottish MINIs and I look forward to some more close racing in the season ahead.

Thursday, 25 February 2016

The best female racer in Scotland returns!

Happy 2016 love:mini readers! Sorry for being a stranger, but after a busy few months with changing jobs (to go and work for my main sponsor RAM Tubulars Scotland Ltd) and moving north to Aberdeen again I am now back and ready to write… 

So, first of all let me summarise my 2015 season and update you on how my off season has been going in preparation for my championship pursuit in the 2016 Celtic Speed Scottish MINI Cooper Cup.

Last year’s season ended on a high for me. At the final round I achieved my highest finishing position so far - just one step away from being 1st, only being beaten to it by Oly Mortimer whose consistency and experience won him the race over myself, still being prone to the odd mistake here and there. I was really hoping to achieve the final step on the podium for the final round but it wasn’t to be so my goal is to aim just as high for 2016 and hopefully it won’t be too long until I get there! 

Overall, 2015 was yet another rollercoaster although I figure racing just wouldn’t be the same if it didn’t have the ups without the downs. With the season ending so well I was just really relieved to have proved to myself that I can do it and I am extremely grateful that my sponsors, friends and family saw my potential and believed in me enough to stick by me even when things were looking hopeless. I never would have thought I’d be 5th in the overall championship by the end of it!

The annual awards ceremony for the SMRC was held at its usual high class venue – The Sheraton Grand Hotel and Spa which is situated in the heart of Scotland’s capital city. This year I wasn’t expecting anything other than the “Ladies Cup” in which I can’t really say was a great achievement seeing as I was the only female competing in the championship for 90% of the year, however I am always grateful for the extra recognition and amazingly I was then surprised with, not one, but TWO special awards. I couldn’t believe my ears when the winner of the SMRC Driver of the Year Award was announced as being me as well as being awarded the Edinburgh Student’s Charities Quaich for being the top lady driver competing in Scotland in 2015 –mnow that definitely is an achievement as I do have some strong female rivalry in this country. 

After a month of relaxing and enjoying the festive period, it was time to spring back into action and be ahead of the game for 2016. Lola (my race Mini) was sent to the body shop for some long awaited TLC repairing her battle scars, patching her back up and painting her white as a blank canvas ready for her new vinyl wrap design to go onto. This year we are certainly going to stand out from the crowd as we opted for a chrome wrap with bright satin pink and brushed aluminium black and I must say… she is looking FABULOUS!

This year I am also lucky enough to have full car sponsorship from my main sponsors (and now employers) RAM Tubulars Scotland Ltd. They have changed my life over the past two years and now we can work together to help change the lives of others too. It’s so nice to be able to raise funds for a good cause as oppose to raising it for myself in order to get back on track - thanks to RAM Tubulars, a massive weight has been lifted off my shoulders. Together we are going to be utilising my involvement in motorsport in 2016 to help raise money for The ARCHIE Foundation.  Over the course of my 2016 race season in the Scottish MINI Cooper Cup, I will be selling spaces on the roof of Lola and 100% of it will go straight to the charity. In the near future, ARCHIE will also be taking a whirlwind visit to Knockhill Racing Circuit to meet Lola the Race MINI and have a blast round the track with me behind the wheel whilst I dust off the cobwebs and practice getting on the pace again for the fast approaching season commencing in April!

Friday, 9 October 2015

Up to speed before the finale

So I've had another couple of months break from writing for love:mini magazine but I'm back and I've got LOADS to fill you all in on (and it's mostly good news this time!).

The last time I wrote for love:mini, I was in a state of despair at how badly my season was going both on track with my results and also off track financially my season was looking to be coming to an end. Luckily, I landed back on my feet. I managed to pick myself up, dust myself down and muster up the motivation and will power to carry on fighting to secure the budget needed to get back on track and I'm so glad I did because since my return at the MINI Festival in August, it has proved to be somewhat of a considerable turning point for me. 

Since then I have achieved my best qualifying position, my best comeback after an accident mid-race, my first ever OVERALL podium and then as if one podium wasn't enough I managed to go on and get another - one step higher! Now with just one final round left remaining of the 2015 Scottish Mini Cooper Cup, I have one step left on the podium that I haven't quite managed yet. 

With the absence of a couple of my closest competitors forecast for the final round, can I manage to finally get that overall win? Or has my lucky spell come to an end? Who knows, but I will be trying my very best to achieve what I thought at the start of this season would have been an impossibly unrealistic result.

As I have a few rounds to update you all on I will try and keep them fairly brief with a short-ish summary of how each round since (and including) the Mini Festival in August went.

Oulton Park MINI Festival, August, Round  5
After a great day's testing prior to raceday, I managed to pull my best qualifying result out of the bag with a 5th place! I got off to a great start and flew right up into 4th place when Joe Tanner seemed to have missed the start lights. Frustratingly I went wide going into Cascades sending my car flying across the grass before rejoining mid-pack. I then tucked back in behind Joe who was also recovering from his bad start and had planned on following him through the field back up to the front but that plan was short-lived as I was collected by Reis Robertson - when he had a moment at the first corner - and I was sent into the barrier. It was unfortunate but unintentional - just one of those wrong place at the wrong time kind of incidents. However my team were very impressed with how I came back from that accident as I managed to get the car going again before it even came to a full stop after hitting the wall and managed to catch the pack and gain a couple more places with a heavily damaged car all before the chequered flag a couple of laps later! 

Personally, that was quite an achievement for me as the Hannah of old would have got out of the car after it stopped crashing and sat on the tyre wall in an almighty tantrum with floods of tears. I am liking this newfound determination! The second race was just as crazy as the first but luckily for me I managed to only just avoid the lap 1 carnage at Island Bend and was on a mission to redeem myself securing another top 10 finish with 6th place.

Knockhill, August, Round 6
I went into this race weekend not knowing what to expect. I had a slight uneasy feeling that after such a great time at Oulton, I'd be disappointed by a poor performance on my return to my home circuit. Testing also didn't help, I wasn't driving well and ever the tough crowd to please, my team Minimax Motorsport weren't at all satisfied I was driving to my full potential and made me get back out and try harder but I'm glad they did! Qualifying I managed another 5th place even after hitting the wall in the second lap! 

Race 1 was the rescheduled race that had been cancelled in May due to the fog so for that I started 11th and had a great time working my way up to finish 6th. Race 2 I started P5 (from quali') and was enjoying a good battle with Chris Reid until I was knocked off at the hairpin by another driver but I got back on in 10th and finished 7th - so still a good race! Now for Race 3, reverse grid time! I was promoted to 2nd on the grid and after a great race I managed to hold onto 3rd and achieved my first ever podium! The reaction I received from that was just amazing and made it so much more worth it. I was certainly feeling the love from everyone and was so humbled by the amount of people that have been rooting for me!

Knockhill, September, Round 7
Another brilliant weekend racing with my team Minimax Motorsport! The weekend didn't actually get off to a great start. Admittedly I was slightly disappointed by qualifying position of 8th. Then getting another awful start in race 1 to drop down to 9th where I sat patiently behind the car infront for a few laps before choosing the right moment to pounce (at the hairpin). Annoyingly they tried to come back at me by driving into my rear quarter on the straight but luckily it wasn't me who came worse off from their failed and somewhat desperate attempt to get back past. I finished the race in 6th. 

Race 2, the heavens opened and the track was fully wet and then some! Starting 6th, I dropped a couple of places but fought my way back up to finish 7th putting me P2 for the reverse grid. Race 3 - back on the front row! For once I had an absolutely amazing start and went straight into 1st and built up a considerable lead by the end of the first lap. It felt surreal leading the race having no-one infront to chase (but I wasn't complaining! I could get used to that!). 

Sadly yet again it was short-lived as I made a mistake under pressure on the wet track and slid off onto the gravel at the chicane and at that end of the grid you can't afford to make any mistakes! I lost two places from my off road excursion and followed Joe and Oly with the intention of losing no more ground. Devastatingly for Joe (my teammate from the previous season), his car broke down with 1 lap to go as he was leading the race promoting Oly to take the win and me to take my second podium one step higher in 2nd place - so thanks Joe, but sorry about your lack of luck :-(!

Overall, I am so glad to be doing my sponsors, friends and family proud by getting the results after such an abysmal start to the year so a big thanks goes out to everyone who has stuck by me and carried on believing in me even when things were looking hopeless!

Congratulations to my teammate Kenny Thirlwall who managed to secure the overall championship win a round early. I will be sad not to have him around at the last round but wish him all the best in his future plans to move to bike racing!

Now to focus on the final round. I look forward to the excitement and inevitable dramas that it will bring. Wish me luck!!

Monday, 29 June 2015

Having a crisis of faith...

First of all I would like to apologise for my absence from writing for love:mini magazine.
The past couple of months have proved to be extremely challenging for me in terms of the racing.

So what have I been up to you may wonder? Well, I was hoping for a great return to the Scottish Mini Cooper Cup aiming to be just as competitive as I was towards the end of last season which would've seen me become a regular top 5 finisher. Sadly this didn't quite go to plan. After a couple of DNFs, a LOT of bad luck and also driver error on my part, my start to the 2015 season has been rather awful! This certainly hasn't been my year that's for sure but it's been a good test of my resilience and determination. A few moments of weakness left me extremely close to drawing a line under this season and taking a break from the racing until next year, however, the seven long weeks that lay between rounds 2 and 3 of the Mini racing gave me a lot of time to think and reflect (and also a lot of time to miss the excitement that comes with a race weekend!), so I decided to push hard to obtain the budget needed in order to pay off my current damage bills and pay the team to get me back on track.

Things were looking pretty grim up until a couple of days before race weekend. If I had had no success in my search for sponsorship then I would have had no option but to advertise my race car for sale and be forced into an involuntary retirement. Luckily, after a massive plea for help on Facebook I managed to achieve what was needed to allow me to race again. Not only did my plea for help reach over 13,000 people, it also attracted the attention of a couple of BTCC driver's who got in touch to offer their advice and shared my post. The support from everyone has been truly amazing and is a massive part of what makes my racing all the more worthwhile. Having people believe in me is just the best feeling in the world but on the flipside it can also be the worst feeling in the world when I can't repay them with good results!

I remain positive though (I have to!) and believe I can become the dark horse of the Scottish Mini Cooper Cup once more. When I look back to last season, the turning point in my driving and my results were happening around about now so nothing is impossible and I am not defeated yet -nor will I ever be because I am not a quitter! It'll take more than a couple of bad spells to put me off racing so provided I haven't received any more lengthy repair bills between now and round 4 then I will be back to try again in July. Wish me luck!

I would also like to give a massive shout out to my sponsors who continue to support me and have faith in me even when I am not performing to my full potential. It would mean to the world to me to show them again what I am really capable of. An almighty thanks goes to RAM Tubulars Scotland Ltd, The NWH Group, Nexus24 and King Edward Tyres. I really wouldn't be able to do it without them and everyone else who has donated towards my season.

Back in the hot seat
It was a tough weekend at Knockhill. My return to the racing wasn't the successful comeback I was hoping for after my big push for sponsorship to help me continue. I really wanted to hit the ground running and race the wheels off my car like I did last year. Turns out I did quite literally race the wheels off my car but not in the way I'd planned (see picture)!

 Luck and talent definitely weren't on my side this time. I felt as though I didn't really get to knuckle down and test the car properly on Saturday due to it being so stop/start between cars going off/red flagging sessions and having my own car problems with the ABS failing it became a rather disappointing day, however I remained hopeful for raceday and had faith in the team to fix Lola's brake problems overnight.

Unfortunately for qualifying the ABS issue returned (or never actually went away) which put me down in 18th. Thankfully Minimax continued their efforts in getting to the root of the problem and the car was 100% fixed and ready to go for race 1. Sadly I couldn't repay their hard work with a good result finishing only 14th. If I had raced like I know I can race, a sub top 10 finish wouldn't have been unrealistic for race 2, but yet again that didn't go to plan with a 13th place finish.

Although, as much as I'm crying about how rubbish I'm doing, there were drivers out there having a much worse day than me. I am heartbroken for Carol Brown whose BMW engine decided it was game over ending her raceday prematurely and also my new teammate Martin McGeough whose newly bought MINI (ex Max Bear machine) was sadly written off in an unavoidable incident down Duffus similar to how my car was written off in 2013, so I wore one of Martin's Courier Connections Racing t-shirts for the final race of the day - I know it hardly makes up for a written off car but it's the thought that counts!

By race 3 I had finally got my head in a better place and was ready to stop sunday driving the car and start racing it! Sadly it was too little too late. I finished the race in 14th, one lap down from everyone else due to a stop in the pitlane for a wheel change after the original was destroyed in the first lap. 

In a moment of weakness I wasn't going to finish the race but my team told me to shut up and get back out there and I'm so glad I did. Never give up, you never know what is around the corner. 

Now it really is time to show what I am made of before people start thinking this girl isn't to be taken seriously. To have gone from being a top 5 runner with a laptime of 62.8 last season to finishing at the back of the pack at the weekend really is killing me and it's even worse when so many people are asking how I got on. All I want is to say I've done well and had an amazing race weekend but so far that hasn't happened. So now I need to focus, man up and prove that I am worthy of being at the sharp end once more and start being more clever about my racing. Time to get serious. See you all at Round 4. 

Massive thank you to all my sponsors and my team for still believing in me, I promise the old Hannah will be back soon! ‪#‎Minimax‬ ‪#‎RAMtubulars‬ ‪#‎theNWHgroup‬ ‪#‎nexus24‬
Love Hannah.