Jennifer Mullan and the crew down under
We catch up with Jennifer Mullan who made her international motor racing debut at the Phillip Island Classic, Australia in part two of her Diary of a Racing Driver Down Under
Part Two – Phillip Island Classic, Australia
A monster entry of 54 cars had been received for the event and we were all scheduled to be on track together at the same time. A final number of 48 cars took to the track for qualifying and I knew it was going to be important not to get caught up taking in the scenery and get on it straight away, as the likelihood of a red flag was probably going to be high and with such a long lap we weren’t going to get too many attempts at it. After the first lap it became apparent all was not well with “Black Beauty” and she started to misfire. I came into the pits on the second lap to see if there was something simple that had possibly fallen off but the team couldn’t see anything and sent me back out just to ensure I got enough laps under my belt to be allowed to start the afternoons race. I ended up 43rd out of the 48 with my first lap time before the problem got worse. Everyone in the pits worked tirelessly all afternoon to have the car right for the afternoon’s race, but it was one of those problems that you couldn’t tell if it was fixed until I was running on track. To everyone’s disappointment by the end of the warm up lap, the problem came back and I just had to try finish the race as best I could to avoid falling right to the back of the grid for the next race with a non-finish.
More head scratching and parts changed on Friday evening left us hoping that this time we had found the gremlin. It was then onto a dinner that had been organised by the Classic Formula Ford guys locally. I was asked to do a small interview after dinner and I was up straight after Rick Morris, fresh from telling his stories of how he raced and beat Ayrton Senna back in the day. It was a tough act to follow but we got there and I hopefully didn’t bore everyone too much.
With all the work done to my car on Friday evening, the Ecurie Australie guys were keen for me not to miss out on any more racing and we managed to arrange for myself and Claire who was also having a few problems to go out and do the warm up lap of the Formula Vee race to see if we had sorted our issue. All appeared to be well and I returned to the pits happy that we were back on song. However just at the end of our own warm up lap at the start of Saturday morning’s race, I could feel the issue coming back and as the race went on it just kept getting worse. I drove the car as hard as I could as the set up changes we had made felt really good but there was just no power. I got the car home in 41st and everyone got back to work, throwing every conceivable part at the car determined to leave no stone unturned. There was still three races to go, and plenty of laps to make up for lost ground, so I was still staying positive.
I went out for Saturday afternoon’s race with practically everything in the engine bay changed other that the actual engine block and head. Coming the end of the warm up lap things still felt well. I got a decent start and by the end of lap one when I came down the main straight passing cars on full song for the first time, I knew we were sorted, as did the pit wall. There were rumors of Paul and the hero that was Andy Nethercote who had worked tirelessly on my car hugging each other with relief. I got my head down and carved my way from 41st to 27th in what was a shortened three-lap race! Needless to say I was pretty chuffed with that! After an epic looking team photo shoot on the Phillip Island grid, it was back to the house for some celebratory drinks and some sleep!
We made a few set up changes on Sunday morning to try dial in the car a little more, as when we got up to full power it changed how the car was reacting in the corners. It was time to see how much further we could progress in the day’s two races. After passing a random alcohol breath test before getting in the car, I was all set to start in 27th, hoping to move up a little further. With a few quick guys coming from the back, I ended up 26th with a new personal best 1 minute 49 second lap time, I was pretty happy with that as I knew I could have driven much better than I actually did.
I’m not really an emotional person, but the build up to Sunday afternoon’s race got the better of me with everyone. It all started to hit home the enormity of what we had all achieved as a team and we all went out in the last race and had a blast. I ended up 24th out of the 48 entries and I was thrilled, it was one of the toughest races I have ever had. I had about 10 cars stacked up behind me for the whole race and I had to drive my car like a bus to try keep them all there.
If you told me I would end the event that high up before the weekend I would have said you were mad! Some people will see 24th I’m sure and think that’s not great, you didn’t win but I never had even dreamed of winning. The purpose of the trip was to just take in the experience and results weren’t important, but I am a very competitive person so I always had one eye on the stopwatch and I just didn’t want to be last. Despite the issues I had, I don’t think where we ended up was probably too far off where we would have been even if I had more time with the car on full song. I may have made up another few spots, but probably not to many more. I feel I really maximized the time I had in the car to be honest. I couldn’t have been a happier bunny on the journey back to Freshwater creek on Sunday evening!
I just can’t thank everyone enough in the Classic Formula Ford paddock for the amazing welcome, it was a real blast racing with you all. To the Davison & Greig family and everyone on the Ecurie Australie team at the Island, a massive thank you also has to go to all you guys for the most amazing weekend.
When I started writing this I didn’t think I would be able to describe the experience but judging on the length of this blog I have done ok! I hope you haven’t been too bored and have enjoyed reading my story! Where we are going from here isn’t quite clear yet with regard to when my next race will be. We are working on a few exciting things and I hope it will all be more clear in a few weeks where we are at and I will be able to share it all with you. Maybe this time next year I might be filling you all in on Phillip Island take two!!!
8th April, 2016