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  • Writer's pictureLIAM REDFORD

Superb start to the season for Lydia Walmsley

Over the two opening rounds of the 2023 Mini Challenge JCW season, Lydia Walmsley has impressed with five straight top-10 finishes, including a best finish of eighth. Discover more about the driver that is enjoying a stellar start of the season in a privateer entry.

Photo credits: Jakob Ebrey Photography

Lydia Walmsley has enjoyed her best ever start to the Mini Challenge JCW season following another strong showing at Brands Hatch. Walmsley begun the season with five straight top-10 finishes, including a best finish of eighth coming in race three of the opening weekend at Donington Park.

These results are even more remarkable considering the first five races of the season featured dry, damp and wet conditions with difficult decisions surrounding setup and tyre choice at play. Lydia also achieved her best ever qualifying result at Brands Hatch with an eighth place starting spot, just three tenths away from the pole position time of former champion Dan Zelos. Lydia’s achievements are of further significance considering she drives for single-car family run team Lydia Walmsley Racing, with privateer entries now a rarity on the TOCA package.

With the round three of the championship taking place at Lydia’s home circuit, Snetterton, she will be looking to build upon this impressive start in front of her local supporters.

Lydia made her circuit racing debut in 2016, competing in the final round of the Junior Saloon Car Championship before embarking on a full campaign the following year. The Junior Saloon Car Championship is a cost effective one-make junior series with drivers competing in Citroen Saxo machinery. Series alumni include former W Series driver Abbie Eaton and current FIA Formula 3 star Luke Browning. In Lydia’s first full campaign she immediately impressed, finishing fourth in the opening round of the season before ending the year seventh in the standings.

In 2018, Lydia stepped up to senior racing and competed in the Mini Challenge UK Cooper class, a highly competitive championship racing on some of the most iconic circuits in the country. Lydia finished the season ninth in the Pro class standings, however 2019 was set to bring new milestones.

Returning to the Mini Challenge UK Cooper class, Walmsley stood on the podium five times and secured her first ever victory coming at Snetterton, her home track. Ending the year fourth in the overall standings, Lydia was hoping to build on this result as she continued in the championship for the 2020 season, this time as part of the TOCA package with races broadcast live on free-to-air TV in the UK. Despite a reduced calendar, Walmsley still secured two further podium finishes and once again ended the season inside the top-5 of the championship standings.

The 2021 season saw Lydia take a further step with her family run team, racing in the Mini Challenge JCW class. Since 2020, this championship has been a permanent feature of the TOCA package and serves as the main feeder series for the British Touring Car Championship, with multiple teams from that series also fielding entries in the Mini Challenge JCW class. This means a very high level of competition each meeting, with hundreds of thousands of trackside spectators across the season and millions watching on TV. In her debut season, Walmsley ended the year 22nd in the standings with a best finish of 10th coming at the final round at Brands Hatch.

Lydia continued to develop throughout last season with consistently improved performances and despite a large crash at Snetterton forcing her to miss the three races, she was able to finish 19th in the standings with another top-10 at Brands Hatch.

Returning to the Mini Challenge JCW class for 2023, Lydia aimed to continue her progress and regularly challenge for top-10 positions. The season begun in encouraging fashion after qualifying 11th in the opening meeting at Donington Park. Involved in a number of thrilling battles in the opening race, Walmsley begun the season with a tenth place finish in dry conditions, missing out on ninth by less than three hundredths of a season.

Race two was held in contrasting wet conditions, but Lydia once again excelled to claim her best ever finish in the championship of ninth. Lining up on the fifth row of the grid in the televised race three, Lydia and team made a great call to start the race on wet tyres on a damp, but drying track. This move brought immediate rewards as she finished the first lap inside the top-5. As the track dried, maintaining position was difficult but Walmsley still

ended the race in eighth, again securing another career best JCW class result to leave Donington Park ninth in the overall standings.

Arriving at the second round of the championship at Brands Hatch filled with confidence after her milestone weekend, coupled with previous successes at the circuit, Lydia was hoping to build upon this impressive start to the season. She did just that in qualifying, setting the eighth fastest lap time and only three tenths away from pole position, once again her best result in the JCW class.

Two more impressive results followed, with ninth place in a wet race one and tenth play in a dry race two, cementing her position in the top-10 in the standings. Despite a puncture whilst running in a strong position in race three, the team were able to change the tyre to ensure Walmsley finished the race, a smart move considering all classified finishers in the Mini Challenge JCW class receive championship points.

Lydia’s start to the season is even more impressive considering the family run team in which she drives for, with increased costs and the expansion of established teams making it increasingly more difficult for privateer teams to compete and succeed on the TOCA package. Walmsley currently sits 12th in the overall Mini Challenge JCW championship standings, 13th when dropped scores are taken into account.

Lydia’s notable improvements, combined with the reverse grid element of the final race of each weekend, means that an overall victory is not out of the question, with her first podium finish in the JCW class a realistic target in the remaining events. Walmsley will now look forward to the next round of the Mini Challenge JCW season which takes place at her home circuit of Snetterton on the weekend of 20th/21st May.

Photo credits: Jakob Ebrey Photography



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