RACER Hannah Chapman has vowed to return to the grid “fitter and stronger” next season.

Rivals in the Vertu Motors Mini Challenge enjoyed three action-packed opening rounds of racing at Donington Park last weekend.

However, Chapman, who works with helmet specialists Rennat Design at Knockhill in Fife, was cheering on team-mate Joe Tanner from the paddock rather than getting behind the wheel.

She described it as “sad and strange” not to be racing but vowed to be back in the near future.

The former Dunbar Grammar School pupil said: “I want to come back fitter and stronger, mentally and physically.

“I just really, really want to do it properly next year.

“If I manage to raise the budget, I will start way sooner than this time round.

“It is a new season but time has flown by with one thing after another, which has created hurdles.”

The 29-year-old has bought a new home in Dunfermline while her work has “massively stepped up”, with the team doing “crazy hours” to make sure helmets were ready for the vast majority of drivers in the British Touring Car Championships.

On top of that, Chapman (pictured inset, by Nick Keane) will also be undergoing surgery after a health scare.

She told Courier Sport: “On a personal level, I need to prioritise my health.

“I have got a tumour on the side of my face – it is not cancerous but needs removed.

“That would be round about mid-season and it was another stressful thing against me going back on the track.”

Chapman has vowed to bounce back stronger and start raising the six-figure budget required to take to the starting grid.

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She revealed the work that went on off the track to ensure she could take part in the sport she loved.

“A lot of people say the racing is the easy bit,” she laughed.

“The hard bit is off track and looking after sponsors, entertaining guests, trying to make sure you do not run out of budget, pre-season testing and keeping the car going.

“You are letting down sponsors otherwise and you don’t want that to happen.

“You are planning for every eventuality and looking after the social media side as well.

“It is like a full-time job in itself and I have not managed to make it work, not been able to do the full-time job, to make it happen.”

However, Chapman, who discovered her love for motorsport at Raceland, near Gladsmuir, is hoping to get behind the wheel at least once this season.

The series takes in meetings at Brands Hatch, Snetterton, Oulton Park, Knockhill and Silverstone before the final race at Brands Hatch at the beginning of October.

READ MORE: Mini racer Hannah Chapman ready for the green light

Chapman, who raced last season with the Hybrid Tune team, added: “I would love to do a guest round and make a bit of a comeback at Knockhill.

“I would love to be able to do that and it is my immediate goal to keep me motivated and focused.”

In the meantime, she is hoping to take advantage of the time away from the track, including marking her 30th birthday.

She added: “I will try to make the most of this year and use it to do things I usually cannot get to do.

“I will go on holiday with my sister Harriet, all that stuff I sometimes have to turn down because of the race weekends.”