A YOUNG lady who is making her mark on the Formula II scene at the Cowdenbeath Racewall is the subject of this week’s interview by our stock car scribe Jim Turner.

Like most people Emma Mellis has found 2020 a strange year, through her work in the care sector and also with a lot less racing than she had hoped.

“I will be glad to see the back of this Coronavirus in more ways than one,” Emma Mellis told me.

“I work for a Care Company in Edinburgh and things over the past few months have been manic.

“Just recently I got promotion to Care Quality Assurance Officer and I am really glad that I did. Mind you I have to write up assessments etcetera for the carers for each new client we take on, so unfortunately it is not a nine to five job. When I was a carer I was doing shift work and was hands-on and that restricted my racing appearances.

“My father Graeme used to race bangers then after a while moved to Formula IIs and like most families that was our Saturday night entertainment booked from March to November.

“As a result I have always been around stock cars. Like a lot of youngsters who go to the racing, I was fascinated by the Ministox and when I was around ten I kind of hinted to my dad that I would like to race. Sure enough I got one!.”

Added Emma: “I was excited and a little nervous when I made my first appearance.

“I had a Mini that Tam Melrose had raced and it was a good car. It was a lot quicker than I thought it would be and it took me a while to get accustomed to racing. I wasn’t the quickest but the more I raced the more my confidence grew and I got quicker each time I went out on the track.

“I won a few races but I remember at one Barford meeting I fractured my collarbone. I got turned into the fence even before the race started”.

It did not put her off though: “I enjoyed my time in the Minis – I got to the red grade but in my last year I had dropped to the blue grade.

“At that time I was racing a Ross Falconer built car and was picking up a few good results. We did a lot of travelling over the time I was in the Minis and I not only raced at the Racewall but went to the tracks at Crimond, Barford, Knockhill and Birmingham. “When I retired the car was sold to Daniel Rae, who had it for a few years and I also believe that Taylor Borthwick was racing that car at one time or another.

“I had to retire from the Minis when I was sixteen and my dad still had his HCD chassis in the garage. He brought it up to the latest specification so I was able to have trial in it.

“I felt quite comfortable in the car and I was sold on Formula II racing. My dad had bought the HCD in 1997 and at that time it was one of the chassis to have. Mind that chassis was a bit dated when I got it but it was a good starting car.

“We kept that car until 2010 when I got a TMR chassis which was good, but without doubt the best car that I have raced is the Taylor chassis that I got some three years ago. It was a sponsorship deal from Warren of RS Motorsport and it had been initially built by Gareth Taylor, although his brother, Russell had converted it to take a Zetec engine and had raced it once at Barford.

“I found the transition from the Ministox to Formula II quite daunting. For a start I was racing in the opposite direction and had moved from a one litre engine to a highly tuned 2 litre Ford Pinto power unit. The difference in power was unbelievable”

Looking at how her Formula II career has developed, Emma said: “We decided that in my first season we would do as much travelling as possible and I raced at Birmingham, Buxton, Northampton, Skegness and of course, the Racewall.

“I gained a lot of experience on those travels, both about the track peculiarities and the changes that were need to the set up of the car. I always treat the racing as fun but that doesn’t stop me from wanting to win!

“A couple of seasons ago we decided that the 2 Litre Zetec engine was the way to go so we went and bought one. I don’t think there was too much difference, although with the Zetec there is not so much engine braking. When we got the Zetec I did a lot of laps with it in a practice session and actually managed my fastest ever lap.

“We did have a problem with the engine at the UK Speedweekend, in 2019, so we took the power unit out on the Saturday. Rob Mitchell loaned us hi spare engine to run for the remainder of the weekend.

“Paul, at East Lincs Motorsport, picked up our engine on the Monday morning and had it back to us for the Wednesday afternoon and there was a marked improvement when we got it back.”

Looking at her experiences on the Formula 11s Emma said: “I picked up my first ‘two’ win at Skegness in 2012. The track was very greasy and there had been a lot of rain but my car went really well in these conditions and I knew that if I kept my cool that I was putting pressure on the car that was ahead of me. Eventually my pressure paid off, he made a mistake and I slipped through into the lead and on to my first win.

“I would say that my best meeting was the UK Weekend meeting in 2018, again at Skegness. I had got a loan of one of John Fortune’s engines, he was using an SRD. In the qualifying heats I picked up a couple of second places and as a result I was to start the championship race from the outside of row 3. Unfortunately my gearbox played up and I struggled to select second gear when the race started.

“I quickly dropped from sixth to twentieth and whilst I tried to fight back as much as I could I struggled to get anywhere near the front of the grid by the time the race ended.

“Probably my best season was the 2019 one. I picked up three wins and was rarely out of the classifications. I managed to get up to the blue grade and missed on going to red by around forty points. In a way that was a big disappointment.

“Despite having raced since 2006 I qualified for my first Scottish Championship last year, but that turned out to be a disappointment. I had qualified for the final but it was found that my front tracking was oversize and I had to leave the track. Unfortunately I didn’t get a chance to rectify the problem and didn’t get back out. I wasn’t too pleased to say the least.

“Due to my work commitments I had never worried about trying to qualify for the World Championship although I have raced in a few of the qualifying rounds. Next year the final is at Skegness so if I am able to get to and score well in some of the rounds then I will try to qualify.

“Mind you I raced at Skeggy this year and was in a shunt and ended up breaking two toes. I hirpled around for a while until they got better but with the Covid situation and work load I decided to give the remainder of the season a miss.”

Emma enjoys the atmosphere of the Formula 11s: “I am not the only female racing IIs and don’t feel that the other drivers treat me any different.

“I certainly don’t expect or get prefferential treatment and I will race the other drivers as hard as they race me. I tend to keep myself to myself and have never thought of racing with a pink car – ugh

“Basically it is just my dad and myself that do all the work on the car, along with my brother Andrew, but I can get help from my brother-in- law Douglas, nephew Mika, and Rubens who is my wheel man.

“Mind you Mika has got a Formula II and I am sure that he won’t be making my life easy! “I am lucky to get sponsorship from RS Motorsport, ICB Motorsport, Team Beaks, Ian Campbell and Son and Edinburgh Remap.

“Dave Richardson, from RCE, has helped us a lot over the last few years. Also my mum needs a big thank-you for allowing all of our holidays to revolve around racing and for allowing me to do what I love most!”