First year saloon car racer Laura Tillett ended a challenging maiden season in the Milltek Sport Volkswagen Racing Cup a mere two points shy of the championship top 15 at Donington Park Grand Prix Circuit on Sunday, 13th September, after two battling performances in the season finale.
Sittingbourne-based Laura had been hoping to wrap-up her first year in ‘tin tops’ with a real flourish in rounds 15 and 16 but, despite great determination and focus, her competitiveness was again impacted by the power issues which have blighted the second half of her season in the category.
Disappointingly for Laura, her weekend got off to a frustrating start after an unfortunate excursion in qualifying midway through the session on Saturday, 12th September. Running well with the 13th fastest time prior to the spin, the 24-year-old ultimately ended the session 23rd overall.
With a huge amount of work to do in round 15 on Sunday morning, a dramatic start in the lead group resulted in a couple of cars going off into the gravel at the Old Hairpin which eventually led to the Safety Car being deployed.
Holding 21st position at the resumption on lap five, Laura broke into the top 20 shortly after and although edged back a place on the subsequent tour she moved back into 20th position on lap seven when Graham Ewing slipped back.
Then climbing into 19th at the expense of Mark Clynes a lap later, Laura continued to pick up her pace but her VW Golf GTi didn’t have the straight-line speed it should – an issue which first reared its head with turbo problems during the Spa-Francorchamps weekend in mid-July.
Profiting from a moment for Tim Snaylam on the penultimate lap, Laura grabbed 18th place which the SlideSports driver held to the chequered flag before being elevated into 17th due to a post-race penalty for a rival.
Notably, the Kent racer continued to set personal best lap times throughout the race – within 0.4 seconds of top 10 pace – to confirm her strong progress even with the continued power issues which made the straights very hard work.
Beginning the 40-minute second race on the ninth row of the grid, Laura held 17th on the opening lap and despite being nudged back a place she battled back on lap four and then moved into 16th a lap later. Running fairly comfortably, just before mid-distance Laura was hit with a five second time penalty for a track limits infringement and the net result was an eventual finish in 18th place.
“It’s been a tough weekend and tough end to the season”, said Laura, “I pushed really hard in qualifying and the spin was entirely my fault, but we just didn’t have the pace to come through in the races. We’ve still been having a problem with straight-line speed which has been there since the turbo problems started at Spa.
“The car felt good, and my times were consistent, but there’s just a lack of power somewhere which made everything really hard work – especially in the 40 minute race! It’s not been an ideal season for my first year back, I just hope people can see there is some potential there and come onboard to give us some support for next year.”
She added: “I’m unsure what we’ll do next, I’ve still got a desire for single-seaters and they do suit my driving style more, so we’ll probably look at doing the MRF championship again in India over the winter. It’s all down to budget what we do next year, we’ll have to wait and see!”