2012 – RD3&4 Oulton Park Race Review
Frankly I’m not sure of the value of meteorologists in the UK. In the fortnight leading up to the race according to any source the only thing that was guaranteed was Oulton was going to be wet, the question was surely just how wet? Therefore most people got quite a surprise when it was dry, give or take for the whole day. Still, Oulton is a fairly unforgiving circuit in either condition as the number of people who successfully destroyed their cars on the friday dry test demonstrated admirably, several not making the Saturday races.
My lead up to the event had been good, I had been quicker than my team mate Mark Shaw by a couple of tenths a few weeks previous but really not a lot in it and the Friday test was frustrating. We had very little running due to the amount of red flags and come the last session of the day the car started developing gear selection issues. We felt we had fixed those for race day though. Mark on the other hand was flying and at least the equal to me or quicker.
Qualifying went very well, I ran a great time in clean air but for the second qualifying in a row when trying to go quicker didn’t get the right tow at the right time. Going into the last 2 minutes I was still 0.4 quicker than Mark in second before he got some great times in end up taking pole by 0.4 second. The stage was set for a great race then!
In race one I got a great start, but not as good as Fauldsports James Sharrock was had his nose ahead of my car at the 15 meter point in the race! Unfortunately for him that would be it as his throttle cable snapped and he cruised to a halt with the rest of the grid taking avoiding action around him. As I reached turn one in the lead I had SPY Motorsports Ian Payne right behind me with Mark back in 5th place. The only thing I try and do in this situation if you believe you have the pace is to try and break free and so I effectively did a qualifying run trying to ignore the attentions of Ian behind. By lap 6 I had edged the lead out to 1.3 seconds and most importantly out of the tow window. Also Mark had caught Ian up and those two were now battling however Mark had demonstrated how quick he was in qualifying there was no way I would be easing up and carried out flat out until the last couple of laps. Mark couldn’t shake Ian off his tail until the last 5 minutes when Ian made a small mistake but by which point I had a 4 second lead and wasn’t going to give it up. I took the chequered flag by just over 3 seconds in the end having lead from start to finish. Mark managed to get fastest lap by 8/100’s of a second. Frustrating but there you go! Still, I’d now won the first 3 races of the year so I can hardly complain! The only slight concern I had was the gear selection issues creeping back in for the second part of the race. I half put it down to how hard I was having to drive the car and it isn’t really an issue until mid race. SPY’s Ian Payne scored his maiden podium in R300’s, a just reward for his pace given the lack of seat time he had after his RD1 Silverstone damage.
Race 2 later on in the day I managed another good start from pole position and lead the pack round Old Hall, this time with Team Leos’s Peter Ratcliffe’s right behind me. Mark again hadn’t got the greatest of starts and had lost a few places in the run down to turn one. The problem though this time was Peter was really coming at me, on lap 3 out of druids I had to go defensive. My pace was okay, but certainly not as good as it was earlier and I wasn’t able to break free. Part of this was self inflicted due to the new tyre rules. My plan had always been to run the first 2 race meetings on the season on 4 tyres, and my back right literally had nothing left to give. I would of swopped it for my other rear tyre in my declared allocation but it was on the other side and by the time I realised Avon had packed up. Worried it might be wet I chose to simply leave it and make do but it gave me a wondering rear end and I was having to wait to fully get on the power out of important corners, noticeably Knickerbrook and Druids.
Still, I thought I got a break when through Druids when on lap 4 a load of water washed across my helmet. Were we finally about to get rain? I pushed on, the track still bone dry. Through Island I was a bit more cautious than normal but again still dry. Out of Shell Oils and on the run to the first chicane at Foulstones the track was now wet (despite 50m away and 10 seconds earlier Island was dry). I realised going in just how wet it was and got the car slowed down, but not enough and ran off the track on exit onto the grass. Fortunately I had slowed down enough, and despite losing several seconds the others were all struggling as well and I rejoined in the lead. Whilst I had “got away” with a little off track excursion at the chicane I was finding out by leading which corners were wet and which ones were dry. Having experienced rain at Druids a lap earlier I went in more cautiously (you don’t get second chances there) and it was dry…however Mark Shaw behind had been able to read my car’s behaviour and carried more speed in leaving me defenceless on the run down to lodge. Down to second then. Despite my rears the car felt really good in the changeable conditions and I was ready to take advantage. Through a now damp Island next lap Mark had run a bit too wide and I was able to get down the outside of him for Shelloils and then drive two abreast through the corner and somehow I made it stick on the outside, find some grip and I was back in the lead.
Now was my chance to break free and I managed over the next couple of laps to take the lead back up to 1.3 seconds with over half the race gone…and then the gear selection issues came back. I noticed them first on lap 7 and then once or twice a lap thereafter I couldn’t get clean shifts from 4th to 5th. My lead was coming down at an alarming rate and on lap 10 I didn’t get the change out of Druids and Mark was able to clean drive by me. The symptom was literally getting stuck momentarily between gears and could be clutch or gearbox. It was pointless defending as he would get through regardless and at that point of the race the last thing I wanted to do was hold us both up and others join the party.
I sat on his gearbox until the last lap waiting to make a move and got a great drive out of lodge over the start finish line. Mark went defensive but I wasn’t pulling out of it and I retook the lead at Old Hall with only the remainder of the lap to see out. Mark was straight back at me on the run down Cascades but I held the position through the corner but as soon as I exited the corner I had a massive sense of Déjà Vu. Here I was, having lead most of the race 2 at Oulton Park now on the run down to Island on the last lap defending from a DPR car. Last time it was Gordon Sawyer and I ended up spinning across the grass backwards and finished 9th. Gordon ended up wearing the tyres and a large bill.
So, was a repeat on the cards? Fortunately not. Not only was Mark very good out of the corner and going to have a run at me anyway as I was defensive going in, the gear change caught just enough for Mark to be past me like a flash. Back down to second, half a lap left. I tried to hassle him through the chicanes but knew my best chance was on the run out of Druids. As expected Mark went defensive and whilst I had a good drive it wasn’t good enough. On the brakes maybe into lodge? I’d say half a gap was offered to me…..some people would of gone for it, but to be honest there was no way I was going to get past Mark without significant contact damaging one or two cars and frankly thats never what my driving has been about. I probably wouldn’t make a very good touring car driver…..
So the win streak was over, I took second with Mark getting his first well deserved win of the season.
Still from the last 8 races I’ve taken 6 wins, a second and a third so I can’t be too unhappy. Mark took fastest lap which means despite us both getting a win and a second Mark has narrowed my lead in the championship to one point. All to play for then? Just a bit!
Posted on April 28, 2012, in Caterham, DPR Motorsport, Motorsport, Photography, Racing and tagged Caterham, Ian Payne, James Sharrock, Mark Shaw, Paul Wilson, Peter Ratcliffe, R300. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.