Discover the extraordinary women who make up this year's Vogue 25 - celebrating the woman…
With nearly 60 corners to remember, Mont-Dore is arguably the hardest course to memorise in the whole French calendar. My first visit here was back in 2015 and saw me battling with torrential storms as well as the unrelenting stream of twists & turns that make up its 5km length.
Last year we were blessed with sunshine all weekend, but even so I still struggled to find a good rhythm in the Formula Renault class.
On the right day, the Auvergne is a beautiful (and wild!) region, my first impression when I drove here was Jurassic Park, and it’s the overriding thought that sticks in my head to this day. Fortunately we were faced with dry weather and mild temperatures this time round, it gets pretty cold at night here due to the altitude so you’re always glad of the warmth in the day. I was desperate to drive the course on Thursday and arrived à fond from Lyon in my 1 litre car just after 7pm, leaving me just over an hour to do some cramming. There was fog up around the last few corners before the finish line, but it all came back pretty quickly.
On Saturday morning I had an incredible view of hot air balloons floating in the sunrise over Lac Chambon, it’s moments like this that really mark hillclimbing out because we are invariably racing in the heart of the French countryside.
Practice went well, we had two runs and I placed 9th in a class of 21 (not counting the EHCC cars) on a 2:37:282 and fastest lady – 9 seconds faster than the FR. The first thing that really struck me this year was how composed I felt driving the course this year despite not having sat in the car for a month. With so little time to think between the corners you have to remember your pace notes instantly while simultaneously processing what’s happening underneath and in front of you – imagine catching tennis balls whilst trying to balance and reciting a poem all at the same time and you have an idea of the mental dexterity required.
For sure the paddle shift makes life easier, but I think a lot of this is down to the time I spent at Formula Medicine in Italy a few weeks ago. As well as the obvious focus on fitness, I spent a lot of time there working on my ability to process information and react with the aim of keeping my heart rate as low as possible – it was a fascinating experience and I felt the impact straight away at Mont-Dore.
Coming into Sunday I had a target in mind, as ever there were some fairly crazy times being set in CN2 (sub 2:30) but I’d already told myself a 2:34 would be going well. Sure enough I put in a clean & fast run to post a 2:34:953 to put me in 9th. Run 2 was a strange one, maybe not the best start but I kept my foot down and tidied up a few lines to post a slower time that I was sure would be quicker – I was surprised to see 2:36:034 on the board.
You can easily overdrive the car through the technical sections, you have to be fast but tidy so maybe I was bit a bit loose on that run…
Thankfully I managed to improve on the final run, there was a lot of oil coming into the first hairpin which forced me to take a tighter line. I think I lost a few 10th’s on the exit of one corner gathering up a slide (which might have seen a 2:33) but finishing on 2:34:218 felt good, I was well ahead of a lot of CN2 regulars and within 1 sec of some of the really fast guys.
Mont-Dore Course de Côte in Norma M20 FCMy final run up Mont-Dore, such a complicated hill to get right with corners that come one after another, after another… took nearly a second off & pushing hard to take fastest lady 10/26 in class! :D #NGK
Posted by Charlie Martin on Tuesday, August 15, 2017
Finishing fastest lady meant collecting the largest trophy I’ve yet to win, this resulted in a lot of spontaneous airport conversations on the way home (I also had my helmet case slung over my shoulder). Either Easyjet were in a good mood or silverware isn’t classed as extra hand luggage as I breezed through onto the plane without any issues :-)
I was really stoked, finding the speed at the course that had always eluded me felt good, I’m looking forwards to Chamrousse in the Alps!