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  • Writer's pictureLIAM REDFORD

Impressive speed goes unrewarded for Lydia Walmsley at Donington Park

Lydia Walmsley’s pace was exceptional at Donington Park, firmly establishing herself as a frontrunner in the Vertu Mini Challenge: after an impressive qualifying she was contending for a top-5 and ran as high as third in race 2 – but her speed went unfortunately unrewarded.

Lydia Walmsley, Mini Challenge JWC, Walmsley Racing, 2024 Donington Park
Photo credits: Jakob Ebrey Photography

Lydia Walmsley asserted herself as a consistent frontrunner as the Vertu Mini Challenge season got underway at Donington Park. Walmsley qualified an excellent seventh in a highly competitive grid of drivers, before contact during race one resulted in early retirement. Race two was held in challenging conditions with the majority of drivers fitting the wet tyre on a drying track. Lydia drove from seventh through to third before retiring from the race after going into the gravel at McCleans.

Returning to the Vertu Mini Challenge for the 2024 season, Walmsley was aiming to build upon a superb 2023 season which saw her achieve her highest championship finish to date. Ending the campaign tenth in the overall standings, Lydia also enjoyed her career best weekend at the final round of the season at Brands Hatch. Therefore, she was aiming to carry this momentum into the upcoming campaign where she would remain driving for family run Lydia Walmsley Racing.

Donington Park was a successful venue for Lydia in the 2023 season and she was looking to replicate this with extra experience under her belt. Thursday’s two sessions saw Walmsley complete 26 laps in dry conditions, with her fastest time in session two placing her ninth overall. Her consistency was exceptional and this saw her set nine lap times within two tenths of a second of her best.

Qualifying took place on Saturday morning and although the track was dry, some damp patches remained off-line following overnight rain. All drivers fitted slick tyres and worked hard to build tyre temperatures in spite of the cold conditions. In a session disrupted by a red flag, Walmsley set an excellent lap time which placed her seventh in a highly competitive grid of drivers.

The grid for the opening race of the weekend was set by the drivers second fastest laps from qualifying and this saw Walmsley line up on the third row of the grid, in sixth position. It was a great initial start for Lydia who was immediately challenging for a top-5 position. However, misfortune then struck as contact with a rival saw her retire from the race prior to the end of lap one.

Following Walmsley’s race one retirement, the team did a superb job in repairing the car overnight. Unfortunately, heavy and persistent rain forced Sunday morning’s action to be cancelled at Donington Park with rivers running across the track proving dangerous for the drivers. As a result, the Vertu Mini Challenge drivers took to the track for one race on Sunday with the grid formed from the driver’s fastest laps in qualifying.

Lydia lined up seventh on the grid with the track damp, but continuing to dry. All drivers began the warm up lap on wet tyres, with Lewis Selby pitting for slick tyres prior to the start of the race. As the race got underway, this looked a smart decision by her rival with a dry line quickly forming on the track. Nonetheless, Walmsley made an excellent start against her fellow wet tyre runners and moved up to sixth at the conclusion of lap one.

Walmsley had previously shown exceptional speed in tricky conditions and this pace was on display once again. After a close battle with Jamie Osborne, Lydia completed a fine move which saw her move inside the top-5. Continuing to set lap times among the fastest of those on wet tyres, Walmsley could sense a maiden podium was within reach. Her progress continued on lap five as she passed Maximus Hall for fourth.

Immediately catching former British Touring Car Championship driver Ant Whorton-Eales, Lydia got a fantastic run out of the final chicane and drew level with her rival. A fantastic late-braking move into Redgate corner saw Walmsley move into a podium position, before opening out a gap in the subsequent corners. Slick-shod runner Selby was now right behind Walmsley and she was fighting hard to keep him behind. Locking up her front tyres into McLeans following a technical issue with the gearbox, Lydia ended up in the gravel and therefore retired from the final race of the weekend after an extremely impressive run.

Lydia’s pace in both damp and dry conditions was exceptional at Donington Park, firmly establishing herself as a frontrunner in the Vertu Mini Challenge. Qualifying an impressive seventh placed her among the veterans in the series and she was contending for a top-5 finish before contact in race one.

Walmsley continued to display her skill in tricky conditions in race two, running as high as third before retiring from the race. She will aiming to carry this speed forward into the second round of the championship which takes place at Brands Hatch on the weekend of 11th/12th May.



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