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  • Writer's pictureLIAM REDFORD

Maiden podium finish for Lydia Walmsley in the Vertu Mini Challenge

It was a breakthrough weekend for Lydia Walmsley at her home circuit of Snetterton as she scored top-10 results in all four races and achieved her first ever podium finish in the Vertu Mini Challenge.

Lydia Walmsley, Vertu Mini Challenge, 2024 Snetterton
Photo credits: JEP

Achieving her first ever podium finish in the Vertu Mini Challenge, it was a breakthrough weekend for Lydia Walmsley at her home circuit of Snetterton. Competing in four races across the event, Walmsley scored top-10 results in all-four, making significant gains in the championship standings.

However, race two of the weekend saw Lydia charge through from ninth position to finish in third to give her family run team, Lydia Walmsley Racing, their maiden podium in the series.

Arriving at her home track of Snetterton, Walmsley was looking to continue the momentum she had generated from the second round of the championship at Brands Hatch. In a weekend where she continued to work on car setup, Lydia scored three top-10 finishes, including two seventh place results as she maximised her performance. Following the postponed race the season opener at Donington Park, the Vertu Mini Challenge drivers would race four times at Snetterton with a large haul points available as a result.

The event began with the customary pair of test sessions on Friday which were held in dry conditions. After limited running in session one of the day, Walmsley was able to complete 13 laps during session two and ended the day with the 12th fastest time. With an expanded grid of talented drivers at Snetterton, Lydia was aiming to fight for a strong starting position in qualifying.

Qualifying was the first session on-track at Snetterton on Saturday and was initially held in fine conditions. Drivers had thirty-minutes to set a fast lap time and would be aiming to take advantage of the peak of the new tyre. Walmsley got out on track early, which proved to be a smart decision, and set the tenth fastest time overall. With rain falling during the second half of the session, drivers were unable to improve in the closing stages of qualifying.

The first race of four to take place across the weekend was the held-over contest from Donington Park. Lydia lined up 14th on the grid in wet conditions, an extra challenge with few drivers having any wet weather experience in this car at Snetterton. As a result, Walmsley made a measured start which was a smart plan as she gained one position at the conclusion of the first lap. Continuing to find her feet in the tricky conditions, Lydia moved up to 11th in the JCW class at the end of lap two as issues for both Josh Porter and Nelson King elevated her up the order.

The JCW Sport class machine of Albert Webster had moved ahead meanwhile, with Walmsley clearing the JRW Motorsport driver at the end of lap four. Lewis Selby had also encountered an issue, elevating Lydia inside the top-10. Now with a sizeable gap ahead of her, Walmsley was able to manage her lap times and bank valuable knowledge ahead of three further races to come. Crossing the line in ninth position following the late retirement of Ant Whorton-Eales, it was an encouraging start to the weekend.

Conditions had suitably dried for the second race of the day for all drivers to be on slick tyres, with the grid set by second fastest times set in qualifying. Lining up from ninth position, it was a brilliant start at her home track as Lydia moved up to sixth, while setting the fastest middle sector of any driver. With debutant Josh Price also picking up a ten second penalty ahead, Walmsley was in a net fifth position and was looking to make further progress.

In the early stages of the race, Lydia was able to comfortably run with the leading group of drivers and she was applying pressure to NAPA Racing UK entrant Lewis Selby. Ending lap three just a tenth of a second behind her rival, Walmsley was looking to make a move on the Directors Cup leader while being mindful of drivers behind. On lap five, Lydia was able to set another fastest middle sector of this race, missing out on overall fastest lap by just two tenths of a second.

Walmsley continued to run in the tyre-tracks of Selby while showing extremely strong pace throughout the lap. A maiden top-5 finish of the season looked to be secure, until a thrilling final lap saw a podium chance emerge. As Maximus Hall began to struggle in third, both Selby and Walmsley continued to gain on the Brands Hatch race-winner. Into the final corners, Lydia was able to make a smart manoeuvre to get around both drivers and take the checkered flag in third position to achieve her first ever JCW class podium finish in the Vertu Mini Challenge.

Lydia Walmsley, Vertu Mini Challenge, 2024 Snetterton
Photo credits: JEP

The third race of the weekend took place in dry conditions with a top-5 grid reversal seeing Lydia line up in third position. Walmsley made a good initial launch to hold her position, before defending from Nelson King into the Wilson Hairpin. Ending the opening lap in third spot, Lydia was continuing to hold her own against fast drivers behind. On lap two, Walmsley ran side-by-side with Jamie Osborne before the NAPA Racing UK driver pulled clear.

Bradley Gravett was now on Lydia’s tail and was she was able fend off her rival before setting the fastest middle sector of any driver on lap three. Despite championship leader Dan Zelos moving ahead of Walmsley, she held inside the top-5. Lap four saw Lydia enjoy a fantastic battle with Gravett as the two drivers exchanged positions before Walmsley held ground. As the race settled into a rhythm during the middle portion, some spots of rain with six minutes remaining through up a further challenge for the drivers.

After overtaking Gravett, Dominic Wheatley was the next driver behind Lydia with the Excelr8 Motorsport driver showing excellent speed throughout the event. Despite Walmsley’s best efforts, Wheatley found a way past, but Lydia was able to secured an excellent sixth place finish in the race three of the meeting at Snetterton.

The final race of the weekend took place on Sunday afternoon with Walmsley starting from tenth position based on original qualifying times. A heavy rain shower prior to the race meant that a large majority of the field started on the wet tyres. However, track conditions remained extremely treacherous with some parts of the circuit damp, while others were soaked and therefore choosing a suitable setup would be a challenge. Lydia made a good start to the race and ended lap one in ninth, moving ahead of Josh Porter but losing out to a fast-starting Jamie Osborne.

After falling behind Nathan Edwards on lap two, the rain started to fall harder on certain parts of the track which proved difficult for all the drivers. Nonetheless, Lydia continued to focus forward and ended lap three side-by-side with Edwards, just missing out on claiming the position.

As the race progressed, the Vertu Mini Challenge drivers were improving their times and Tom Ovenden was now the driver ahead. Although Walmsley was right behind her rival, a tenth-place finish looked on the cards until an action-packed final sector of the last lap saw Lydia overtake both Ovenden and Edwards to finish in eighth position.

Lydia enjoyed an excellent weekend at her home circuit which saw her claim her maiden podium finish in the JCW class of the Vertu Mini Challenge. Walmsley and her family run team have continued to take the fight to established outfits and this podium finish was the result of hard work and dedication from both the driver and team.

Carrying the momentum forward, Lydia was able to finish inside the top-10 in all four races and make significant gains in the championship which sees her move inside the top-10 for the first time this season.

The next round of the Vertu Mini Challenge will take place at Oulton Park on the weekend of 22nd/23rd June.



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