Oulton Park is one of the most demanding old-school race tracks in the UK. Set in what feels like a nature park, it is a circuit that rewards courage and skill, is one of the bumpiest we ever go to and yet everybody that has the chance to drive around it absolutely loves it. Last weekend Britcar took us there for the fifth and sixth rounds of the Praga & Britcar Endurance Championships. The sun shone brightly and we had a crowd of spectators to entertain for the first time this year.
Having had to change the starter motor late on Thursday night, we had a good day testing on the Friday before race day, with both Richard and myself quickly dialing in a car setting that we were both comfortable with. After a short morning practice on Saturday, we were confident we would be towards the front of the grid if we could find a few clean laps in the qualifying session to come. Richard took the first stint in qualifying and along with the rest of the field was hampered by a very early red flag stopping him from putting in the lap time he wanted to put on the board. I jumped in for the remaining 15 minutes, found a gap and was able to put us in a strong second place on the grid behind Alex Kapadia in the no 111 Praga – considering that car is allowed to run a higher engine power mode than we are (dictated by the field levelling Balance of Performance rules that are designed to effectively handicap different cars) we were pleased with that result and looking forward to the races ahead.
Race 1 was a great race at the front between three of us. Richard drove the opening stint, held second place into turn one and drove strongly to hold that through to our mandated pit stop. Pitting at the same time as those around us we were able to grab the lead in the pit lane itself as I jumped in and the 111 car was slightly delayed in getting out of their pit box. We had a great nose to tail battle for five laps before his straight-line speed advantage enabled him to get past me. Soon after, a full course yellow brought the Praga in 3rd up to my rear bumper, and rubbing salt into the wound as racing restarted, lady luck smiled on them, catching myself and the leader out – the green flags (time to go racing again) came out at turn one literally just after the leader and I had passed that marshals post and just in front of the third placed car. He saw it, slammed on his throttle and sped past both of us before we even knew that the race had restarted. I got past the 111 car in response but we were both stuck behind a Porsche we were lapping. The Porsche and I turned into the same corner and I came out with a very bent front left track rod. From there the race was all about minimising our loss, the 111 car drove around me and I was able to bring our car home in 3rd place after the remaining laps fighting a car that really could not turn left anymore. A good enough result but should have been better.
Race 2 didn’t offer us our just rewards either. Five laps in and Richard was running in second once again before a wheel nut loosened and the car chewed the wheel’s locating lugs into less than their intended cylindrical shape. We made four or five pit stops finding and trying to solve the problem and were, fortunately, able to run enough laps to be classified as the eighth Praga of the nine that started, all be it 17 laps down on the winner. It was important that we were able to be classified though and had picked up important Championship points, rather than having taken nothing from the race at all. This enabled us to leave Oulton Park still in the lead of the Praga Championship with five races (three meetings) still to go this year.
A big thank you to the spectators that came out to support the racing, and of course to my sponsors, Webcetera (who came to visit us at the track on Saturday), Hills Group and Core Modular for their support, and to Britcar for giving us all the chance to race at this fantastic circuit.