Luck not on Liam's side

LUCK was not on Liam McMillan s side in rounds nine and 10 of the Blaupunkt SEAT Cupra Championships at Oulton Park. Rain made conditions extremely difficult for the drivers and both of the weekend s races were dominated by crashes and appearances of the

LUCK was not on Liam McMillan's side in rounds nine and 10 of the Blaupunkt SEAT Cupra Championships at Oulton Park.

Rain made conditions extremely difficult for the drivers and both of the weekend's races were dominated by crashes and appearances of the safety car.

The 17-year-old from Wisbech had never raced his 165mph SEAT Leon Cupra in the wet before and despite being forced into an early pit stop in the first race, McMillan produced a mature, controlled drive to finish and pick up three championship points.

But he was robbed of a remarkable second points finish when a puncture forced him out of round 10.

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Once again, McMillan was on the pace during Friday testing and was second quickest before rain began to take its toll on the weekend.

Qualifying was badly affected but McMillan kept his cool behind the wheel of his Cupra, sponsored by the Wisbech Standard.

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McMillan qualified 13th and 11th for the weekend's races. His lap times in the second qualifying session were four seconds faster than those recorded in the first and his average speed of 86.77mph was just 2mph slower than the pole-sitter.

Torrential rain greeted the drivers for the start of round nine and McMillan got off to a good start but then his luck ran out.

Hit from behind as he funnelled into the tight Island Bend hairpin, McMillan's Cupra sustained a split rear wheel rim and he struggled to the pits.

When he rejoined the race, McMillan was lat but as more experienced drivers, including the 2005 SEAT Cupra Champion, Tom Boardman made mistakes and had big accidents, the youngster drove faultlessly to cross the line in 18th overall and ninth in the new Leon class.

The rain had stopped by the start of round 10 but the track remained extremely slippery.

Again, McMillan got off to a flyer and moved up several places. He was right behind Fulvio Mussi when the experienced Anglo-Italian spun and although the Wisbech starlet did well to avoid him, Mussi's front splitter slashed McMillan's tyre and forced him out of the race.

McMillan said: "Overall, I'm quite pleased with the way the race weekend went. I'd only driven the car in the wet once before, and that was at a pre-season test at Rockingham, so I was pleased to be able to set some consistently fast lap times without making any mistakes.

"I was just unlucky in the first race to be hit from behind and have a wheel rim break, and there was nothing I could do about the incident in the second race either.

"I thought I'd missed Fulvio Mussi as he spun in front of me, but his front splitter caught a tyre. These things happen in motorsport, but I have a lot of positives to take away from the weekend and we'll build on those in preparation for the next race."

Chevrolet FIA World Touring Car driver and McMillan's mentor, Rob Huff was impressed by the young driver's ability to learn quickly in difficult conditions.

He said: "At this stage of Liam's career, it's important for him to get as many racing miles under his belt as possible, and after he'd come into the pits during the first race to change a wheel, we just wanted him to gain experience of racing in the wet and finish the race - and that's exactly what he did."

"What happened in the second race was very unlucky. He did well to avoid the car spinning in front of him and they hardly made contact at all but for another driver's front splitter to puncture Liam's tyre is unbelievable."

Rounds 11 and 12 of the Blaupunkt SEAT Cupra Championship take place at Donington Park in Leicestershire on July 14-15.

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