Lydia Walmsley admitted she ‘couldn’t be happier’ after becoming the first female driver in Vertu MINI CHALLENGE history to score a podium finish in the current F56-spec JCW.

Walmsley went into her home weekend with a best result of fifth to her name, and was looking to continue her recovery from a difficult opening meeting at Donington Park – where she had been forced to retire from the two races that could be run.

A ninth place finish in the rescheduled Donington Park race kicked off the Snetterton weekend in tricky wet conditions, but it would be in the first of the planned races that Walmsley was able to shine with by far her most competitive showing in the series to date.

Starting from ninth on the grid, Walmsley spent the entire race battling for position with Lewis Selby over fourth spot, with the duo closing on Max Hall going into the final stages of the race.

When Selby and Hall then clashed going through Nelson, Walmsley saw her chance to nip ahead and drew alongside Selby on the run to the Bombhole before moving ahead – at that stage unaware that it was the final lap of the race.

Coming up to the line to be greeted by the chequered flag, Walmsley was able to celebrate her first podium finish in the JCW class, ironically at the same circuit where she was victorious in the Cooper category back in 2019.

“When I won in the Coopers, it was the best day of my life – and this has just topped it,” she said. “It’s been such a difficult road and we are such a small team that I didn’t think we’d ever get to this stage, and I honestly couldn’t be happier.

“I knew I was quicker than Lewis during the race but he was defending really well and I needed something to happen, and luckily it did. When there was a bit of a skirmish ahead, I had to go for the move and I had no idea it was the final lap until I saw the chequered flag – and I’ve never been so relieved to get to the end of a race!”

The podium finish was made all the more remarkable considering that Walmsley’s car is run by the smallest team on the grid by far, comprising of father Mike and long-time friend Dave Barber, against a number of more experienced, multi-car outfits.

“This result means a huge amount to me, and I know it’s the same for my dad and for Dave as we are just a small family team,” she said. “It’s also fantastic for all of my partners because without them and their support, we wouldn’t have been able to stick it out for this long. It’s because of them that this journey has continued.”