Season in review – RD3 & 4 Oulton
The work for Oulton mid may really started the moment Easter was over and the mess of Silverstone still fresh in my mind. The rear basket definitely needed replacing as it had taken the brunt of the hit on the wall at hanger straight, but the jury was out on the front of the chassis. The only way to be sure was strip it all down and take it to Arch. As it turned out, a rear basket, some paint, and a load of front suspension pieces was all that was needed, but suffice to say, with the blown engine in qualy one days racing had consumed half my planned budget for the year.
So, just when you thought all the bad luck was over with…onto more engine woes. On the first shakedown with the freshly restored car at Oulton I was seeing very high oil temps and pressures all over the place. It also didn’t feel very quick, but it was difficult to compare to last years data as the engine maps had all changed. Something wasn’t right, so it was back off to Caterham who took the engine apart and gave it the ok and a quick run at Ministers dyno facility which it passed….And so onto Friday testing, which in all the drama of the run up I had forgotten to book. I managed to get one session off Jon Walker (much appreciated Jon) but pressures were still all over the place and so a faulty earth or stack dash was where the finger was pointed. Everyone at Caterham gave me the thumbs up to carry on. Unfortunately I had no more sessions left. Still trying to diagnose this faulty earth I was driving round the paddock when the engine started making a strange sound…and this time I got the thumbs down from Caterham…… There was the potential that during the incredibly quick engine change at Silverstone that the radiator hadn’t been flushed out (they had flushed it properly…but everyone was looking at possibilities of why this engine was sounding sick) and so mid afternoon on the friday #32 had its second new engine in a month, complete with new rads/coolers etc. Surely this time we’d be ok?
So onto Saturday with minimal testing, and a drying track. I had no wet track time since my big crash and I was more than a little tentative, but the car still didn’t feel very quick but I put it down to my driving rather than another engine fault. I qualified 18th out of 30th. I really couldn’t afford a bad result if I had any hope of doing well in the championship.
I got a really good start, but at cascades Jamie Ellwood caused a crash which took out a few cars and I had no option but to take to the grass in avoidance. I rejoined pretty much at the back of the field and tried to set about making up some places…but it was incredibly hard work…and after the event looking the footage I couldn’t even tow other cars so I was having to be incredibly late on the brakes to make a pass stick. About 20 minutes into the race and after a red flag intervention I heard another very funny sound coming from the engine…and that was that. My first mechanical retirement in R300’s. Several weeks later it was diagnosed a third party internal oil pump component had been “improved” or so the manufacturer thought for a new batch of engines which caused adverse oil starvation issues in race conditions…and that was that. I failed to finish round 3…and as I was chewing through engines there was no point putting another one in as there was clearly a fault which had to be diagnosed. Unfortunately for me I now had 3 DNF’s…and no engine and with Zolder (RD 5 & 6) only a few weeks away it would be a struggle to make the trip knowing the car would last. Pretty quickly it became clear I wouldn’t be making the trip to belgium. 😦