"There are positives nevertheless to take away from the weekend and we showed that we had race-winning pace" - Despite some unlucky races, Alisha Palmowski had a highly promising start of the season in Ginetta Junior, securing a podium and showing race-winning pace in all three races.
The start of the 2023 Ginetta Junior Championship confirmed that Alisha Palmowski, 16 year-old British driver, is definitely going to be one to follow in one of the most exciting and propaedeutic racing series in Europe.
While the end results of the opening round at Oulton Park might not reflect this, Palmowski showed remarkable pace throughout the weekend and was consistently in contention for a race win across the three races.
Palmowski, from Derbyshire, is the 2022 winner of the Ginetta Junior Scholarship - which allowed her to make her race car debut with the Ginetta Junior G40 in a series that has seen some of the most promising young drivers cutting their teeth in an extremely competitive environment.
She went on to become 2022 Ginetta Junior Winter Series Vice-Champion and had a very positive rookie season, finishing 13th in the drivers' standings and sixth among the rookies.
Now back for a second year - this time in an Elite Motorsport entry - Palmowski aimed to run consistently at the front, after scoring her first podiums and overall wins in the Winter Series.
Alisha Palmowski slotted in fourth place in the first qualifying of the season, as Freddie Slater clinched pole position ahead of Charlie Hart and Hugo Schwarze. Making their debut in the series were also Brea Angliss (Alastair Rushforth Motorsport) and Holly Miall (Fox Motorsport), who lined up in P16 and P18 respectively for their first race.
Palmowski had a great start and moved up to third; Hart made a move stick for the lead at turn 1 on the second lap, then followed by Palmowski and Schwarze. Angliss meanwhile had gained two places, climbing up to P14, with Miall also gaining a spot when Freddie Allum spun on lap 1.
The top five were separated by tenths of a second; Hart and Slater continued to battle at the top, eventually giving Palmowski a chance to dive and grab second. After a position swap with Schwarze, Palmowski kept second place until an attack from Hart on lap 5, who displaced the driver of the #21 Ginetta down to fourth.
Slater had gained a handful of seconds, taking advantage from the fight for second between Hart, Palmowski and Schwarze; after being pushed off by Seewooruthun, Palmowski slipped down to sixth. On lap 7, unfortunately she went off in the grass and hit the barriers at speed, in an accident that brought out the red flag.
Alisha was luckily unhurt, but her car sustained heavy damage. With less than two minutes left on the clock, the race was declared finished: Slater took victory ahead of Hart, Schwarze and Seewooruthun. Angliss came home with a top ten and Miall completed her first race in the series with a promising 14th place.
The Elite Motorsport mechanics did a phenomenal job and fixed Alisha's car for Monday's second and third race of the weekend. With a rebuilt car, she would start from P5.
Slater had a good start and kept the top position from Schwarze at turn 1 - but it was Palmowski who moved into third with a spectacular getaway.
Behind the leading trio, Hart, Harrison and Seewooruthun battled for fourth and lost touch with the first group of cars. From 18th, Miall made up a few places and climbed to P16, just ahead of Brea Angliss.
Schwarze was the fastest driver on track and closed in on Slater for the lead - with Palmowski also looking to seize any opportunity should they come her way once the top two started to battle. However, time ran out and Slater crossed the finish line in first place, ahead of Schwarze and Palmowski, who secured a brilliant podium after the unfortunate accident on Saturday.
Hopkinson and Porter went off on the final lap, as Seewooruthun was handed a 5 second penalty for track limits - promoting Charlie Hart. Angliss and Miall were P16 and P17 respectively.
With a great comeback in race 2, Alisha Palmowski had her eyes on even further improvements in the third and final race of the weekend - and she clearly showed it with yet another spectacular start: despite tricky conditions, she found a gap between the wall and Slater and took the lead before the turn 1 right hander, with chaos breaking loose behind her: several cars crashed out on the slippery course.
The safety car was deployed with Palmowksi leading Slater, Schwarze and Harrison.
Hart, Spragg and Hopkinson were out of the race, while Miall and Angliss, despite an off track by the former, could rejoin.
The green flag was waved with 8 minutes to go: Slater moved into the lead and tried to pull away, as Palmowski and to watch her mirrors from Schwarze and Harrison. The weather conditions remained challenging throughout the day and, in the closing stages, heavy rain represented an extra issue for the drivers.
Alisha Palmowski had managed to open a safe gap to Schwarze on the last lap, but an unfortunate spin at the chicane exit dropped her to ninth.
Freddie Slater completed a perfect weekend at Oulton Park with three race wins and preceded Hugo Schwarze and Finn Harrison in race 3. Brea Angliss was P11 and Holly Miall was P13, completing all three races at debut.
Despite an unfortunate ending, Alisha Palmowski clearly proved that she belongs to the podium and has potential to win races.
"Overall it’s been a very difficult weekend and I don’t think we achieved the results that reflect where we deserved to be", she told us after the weekend.
"The team did an amazing job to get me back on track after the off on Saturday so a huge thank you to everyone at Elite Motorsport."
"There are positives nevertheless to take away from the weekend and we showed that we had race-winning pace so I’ll be working as hard as possible to ensure that I have learnt from mistakes and that we have some strong results next time out!"
The season will resume at Silverstone in four weeks' time, on 6-7 May.