A number of weeks ago we caught up with Shanel Drewe Racing, who provided us a valuable insight on how they built in a few months an entry into the Junior Saloon Car Championship. We decided to catch up with them again to see how they are finding their first ever season in any motorsport event.
Since the first race at Oulton Park in March, the JSCC teams have already visited Pembrey and Snetterton, so the series is already a third of the way through their season, and have two back-to-back races coming up at Rockingham and Donington over the Whitsun week.
Oulton Park was all about Shanel getting her first race under her belt, and to come away clean ready to start the next race. From that point of view the team was hugely successful, and to go with it, 19th and 17th place out of 23 starters was a real bonus, and demonstrated that there is a strong benchmark to build on.
In April, the JSCC moved on to Pembrey. From the relatively straight forward first event at Oulton, Pembrey demonstrated that every race has its own challenges. Shanel says “this was a real test for us, both on and off the track. With the help of our partner Dansoft Aviation Services, we were able this time to undertake Friday testing. This consisted of six test sessions throughout the day, and was an incredibly tough day for just my dad and I to take on. The three morning sessions were taken up with having to find our own set-up, a detached gear box selector, somebody misjudging their braking and impacting the rear of the car, and an exhaust that would simply not stay sealed. Then at lunch time, the heavens opened and rained all afternoon. Just to round off the day, cracked front disc’s and broken exhaust sections had to be remedied before the day was out”.
It is one of the strengths of the JSCC that got Shanel and her father through the day, as if it were not for the direct support and advice from other teams, their testing would have finished perhaps after just the first session.
The race days fared much better for them, but with an unfortunate on-going issue with the exhaust that was pulling away from the manifold during each event, meant a vital loss of compression and power as the race wore on.
Shanel Qualified 19th on the grid for both races. What is starting to become a theme for Shanel this season is her strong starts, and ability to take advantage of the close action. In race 1, and with an exhaust blowing more loudly as the race wore on, Shanel went from 19th to finish 16th. In race two a scintillating start from Shanel seen her move from 19th to 14th in the first lap, but an incident on the first lap brought out the safety car, and a lap later a restart, which turned out to be a race-reset, meaning Shanel had to move back to 19th. Undeterred however, Shanel, gave another great start and was up to 15th this time at the end of the first lap.
During the race, Shanel suffered rear end race impact damage which unknown to the team, bent the rear offside pin. Added to this the loss of power from the exhaust lost Shanel further vital straight line speed and there was nothing she could do to defend from those behind her, but still managed to finish a highly commendable 15th. Both races saw a number of incidents and DNF’s, and for Shanel still new to the sport to navigate this and bring the car home is strong testament to her approach.
Snetterton was again a completely different event. This time, high temperatures, sun, and a very long track to learn. Mark added, “I thanked my lucky stars for the warm weather as budget pressures meant we were sleeping in the back of the van on air beds, something Shanel took in her stride as she just wanted to be there.”
Testing at Snetterton was a little more relaxed this time, with just three Friday sessions, but in the first we found some carry over from the Pembrey damage with some wheel alignment issues, which again we were so grateful to other JSCC teams for both noticing and helping us fix.
Another first track for Shanel, and with such long lap times, (2m35s average), the 15 minute sessions would not provide much lap experience. This time Shanel qualified 20th and 18th out of 23 for the races. The fact that the second race saw Shanel move up the grid on her second best qualification time demonstrates there is a strong consistency to her times.
Shanel again demonstrated some of her excellent race starts and first lap performances, moving up to 17th and 15th by the end of lap 1 in each race respectively. But as Shanel is willing to be open about, without any previous motor racing or even karting experience to draw on, she is building her race experience head on and only had 60 minutes of race experience coming to this event.
Race one was extremely hot, which impacts the Junior Saloon Car’s power quite considerably, but it is worth noting that Shanel was only one of a few drivers who actually managed to match or improve their qualification times. Shanel managed to finish race one in 20th position. This boosted Shanel’s confidence and she entered Race 2 further up the grid and with a gritted determination. At the end of lap one Shanel managed again to go from 18th to 15th position, and was fighting hard to maintain this position and was doing well against many other more experienced drivers. However, whilst defending a corner later in the race, a rear end shunt pushed Shanel wide and allowed a number of cars by on the straight. With her bodywork rubbing her tyres Shanel achieved a 19th place finish.
Overall with a third of the season behind them, and good clean finishes at each event so far, this provides a good base line on which to build on.
On examining their experience to date in the JSCC, Shanel and her father both agreed on what they have learnt.
The first is that the JSCC is looks after its own, and without this support they would not be where they are now, and are particularly thankful to Connaught Racing, Milner Racing, Team Orex, Tockwith Motorsport and Westbourne Motorsport which have all come to their aid at some point.
The second is the strength a wider team can bring. On their own and with limited technical experience they will always be at a slight disadvantage, but they have started to form some close relationships with other individual fellow racers where we can help each other as much as possible.
Mark’s final note is “as a spectator you only ever seen the competition on the track, and what you never really experience is the camaraderie off the track between the drivers and teams. With our nerves of the first few races behind us, we are now getting more and more excited about the season, we just wish it wasn’t going so fast.”