Katie Milner has enjoyed her best weekend in the Ginetta GT5 Challenge to date after showing great improvement at Rockingham. In just her second meeting in the series, Katie collected three top-5 finishes from the four races, including two fourth places results to end the weekend. Despite qualifying in 16th for the opening race, Katie’s race pace was extremely strong which enabled her to move forward and challenge more experienced rivals. Starting from pole in race four due to the reverse grid from the previous race at Oulton Park, Milner narrowly missed out on a podium finish to finish in fourth, but her performances will fill her with confidence heading into the next round at Thruxton this weekend.
After some small test sessions leading up to the weekend, Katie took to the track Saturday afternoon for qualifying at Rockingham. Following her success in the Junior Saloon Car Championship at the circuit, Milner was hoping for a strong performance and was immediately on the pace in the opening laps. As the session progressed, Katie wasn’t able to improve like many other drivers and with the times so close, this led to the Team One Call driver starting the first race from 16th, just eight tenths away from the top-5.
With the times extremely tight, Katie knew progress could be made during the opening race of the weekend, but with three races to come Sunday, minimalizing damage was also a top priority. Milner made a great start and gained three positions on the opening lap to move into 13th as the safety car was deployed to recover Max Bird’s car. Following a lengthy period under the yellow flag, Katie enjoyed some close racing after the restart and held 13th position for the opening three laps. On lap eight Milner made the move for 12th after following Ollie Wilkinson through the field while a number of drivers ahead fought for position. Just one further lap remained, with Katie holding onto 12th to collect valuable championship points and gain much needed experience ahead of three races the following day.
Race two of the weekend took place on Sunday with the grid positions based on the finishing positions from the early race on Saturday. Lining up on the sixth row of the grid, Katie made an excellent start and avoided the first corner drama by staying to the inside and moving up to sixth position. On lap two, Milner was able to pass the fast-starting Matt Palmer and closed onto the back of Xentek Motorsport’s Simon Traves, a driver who Katie would continue to battle throughout the day. Improving her lap times during the middle portion of the race, Milner got within four tenths of her rival before dropping a way slightly in the closing stages. Nevertheless, fifth place was secure and this marked Katie’s best result in the season to date.
A quick turnaround between races enabled Katie to keep the momentum she had gained from her season’s best result earlier in the day. A partial reverse grid meant Katie started race three from fourth and once again she made a good start, dropping just one place to the faster drivers behind. By lap three, Milner had been shuffled back to eighth but she knew she had the pace to regain the lost positions as previous race winners Ryan Hadfield and Lewis Brown made their way through the field. An excellent lap six saw Katie gain three positions to regain her position in the top-5, capitalising on the group ahead fighting, while pulling off great moves of her own. Milner was able to also get around Oulton Park race winner Max Bird on the following lap, exerting her strength through the first part of the lap. Despite rapidly gaining time on fellow rookie Ollie Wilkinson in the closing stages, Katie took fourth position and one again improved on her best result in the Ginetta GT5 Challenge.
The fourth and final race of the weekend was the postponed race from Oulton Park where Katie would start from pole, a daunting prospect on just her sixth series start, with a podium position certainly within reach. Dropping back to fourth on the opening lap, Milner knew it would be hard to keep the dominant Hadfield and Brown behind her, with Traves also finding a way through. On lap four, Katie pulled off another incredible move into turn one, this time on Ollie Wilkinson who had moved into fourth on the previous lap. Pressure from behind was alleviated when Wilkinson took a trip through the grass on the following lap, allowing Milner to catch Traves who had been moved down to third. With both drivers running their best laps of the weekend, over half a second in Katie’s case, it was a dash to the flag with one mistake handing the podium to the other driver. However, it was Traves who took the podium ahead of Katie in a brilliant fourth, running the same pace as the leaders in the closing stages. From 16th on the grid in qualifying to challenging for podiums in the final races, it was a fantastic weekend of improvements for Katie who is proving she has what it takes to be considered a serious front-runner in her first year in the Ginetta GT5 Challenge.
Katie’s performance at Rockingham was extremely impressive given her experience level driving the Ginetta G40 in comparison to her competitors. Her strength on the brakes and throughout sector one was highly commendable, in addition to her overtaking ability in places such as Gracelands which enabled her to move up through the field. With her ability to improve throughout the weekend, especially during Sunday’s triple header, Katie’s confidence was growing every lap and this meant she was able to improve when some of her rivals faded. However, there is no let-up in the Ginetta GT5 Challenge with the next meeting taking place this weekend at the high-speed Thruxton circuit in support of the British Touring Car Championship.
You can keep up to date with Katie’s progress using the social media links below: