Lydia Walmsley bounces back to score eighth place finish at Knockhill
In challenging conditions at Knockhill, Lydia Walmsley faced an uphill battle following her first DNF of the season, but fought back admirably charging up the field and ending the weekend on a high with a superb eighth place finish in the Mini Challenge JCW class.
Dealing with challenging conditions throughout the weekend at Knockhill, Lydia Walmsley finished on a high with a superb eighth place finish in the Mini Challenge JCW class. Displaying excellent speed in all conditions throughout practice and qualifying, Walmsley fought back from a retirement in race one, to gain six position to end race two in 12th, before charging through the field to close the weekend out with her tenth top-10 finish of the season in race three.
Lydia enjoyed valuable track time at Knockhill prior to the meeting, with a midweek test session followed by two practice sessions in dry conditions on Friday. The opening session was a particular highlight as Walmsley paced the field in the early stages, before finishing fifth overall with the second fastest third sector time of any driver. A 15th place result in session two followed, leading to Lydia’s quickest time of the day placing her inside the top-10 leading into qualifying.
Typical Knockhill weather on Saturday meant that qualifying was held in wet conditions, providing an extra challenge across the 30 minute session. Extracting good performance from limited sets of wet tyres was the key to a fast time, with Lydia ending the session 10th. Walmsley’s strength came during the middle sector of the lap, while also showing excellent consistency with six laps within half a second of her best time.
Race one was set to take place on a predominantly drying track until a short rain shower led to a delayed start to enable the teams to revaluate their tyre selection. Lydia, along with the majority of her rivals, elected to start on the slick tyres in anticipation that the track would dry, even with a reduced race distance of 15 minutes.
The challenging conditions made for a tricky start as Walmsley sustained some damage on the opening lap, dropping to 14th. From there, her pace was encouraging as she passed Hybrid Tune driver Ryan Faulconbridge on lap two and closed in on the top-10. Misfortune then struck as Lydia was caught out by track conditions and retired from the race following a trip to the gravel, scoring her first DNF of the season.
With race two grid positions based off the finishing positions from race one, Walmsley faced an uphill task starting a dry race two from 18th. Making a clean start, Lydia gained two positions on the opening lap, before moving up to 14th by the end of lap two with passes on both Daniel Petters and Simon Reed. A safety car period on lap five allowed Walmsley to close in on the drivers ahead and move towards the top-10.
As racing resumed, Lydia overtook Jamsport Racing’s Marlo Cordell for 13th position before then setting her personal best lap of the race on lap 11. A thrilling side-by-side battle with Jamie Petters then unfolded with Walmsley and Petters trading positions across the line on both laps 13 and 14. After Bill Hardy overtook Lydia on lap 17, Walmsley was finally able to make the move on Petters two laps later, and with an overtake on Dominic Wheatley in the closing stages, Lydia ended race two in 12th to complete a great recovery.
Lining up 11th for the third and final race of the weekend, Lydia avoided first lap drama to move into the top-10 as the safety car was deployed. When racing resumed on lap four, Walmsley was targeting further improvements and set her fastest time on lap six, three tenths of a second faster than her best from race two. Lap nine saw a brilliant lap-long battle between four drivers, with Lydia moving into ninth ahead of Oliver Meadows and Lewis Selby, while losing out to a hard-charging Joe Tanner.
Following a second short safety car period of the race, Walmsley was tasked with defending from Meadows and successfully kept the two-time podium finisher behind her. At this point, Lydia ran just three seconds behind a podium position, with Knockhill providing trademark close racing coupled with good overtaking opportunities. Moving ahead of Nelson King for eighth on lap 21, Walmsley closed the race well by once again defending from Meadows to score her third eighth place finish of the season and her career best Mini Challenge JCW result at Knockhill.
With the grid for each race based on the finishing positions of the preceding contest, Lydia faced an uphill battle following her opening race retirement but fought back admirably. Walmsley’s strength in a wet qualifying, followed by her superb racecraft to move through the field, will give her confidence heading into the final races of the season.
Lydia now sits 11th in the championship standings and with just two rounds remaining in the 2023 Mini Challenge JCW championship, Walmsley will be targeting a top-10 championship position. The drivers will now head to Silverstone to complete on the National layout for the penultimate round of the championship on the weekend of 23rd/24th September.