25th June found the BRSCC ClubSport trophy heading to Oulton Park Circuit. Oulton in my opinion is arguably the best circuit in the UK, narrowly beating Cadwell Park. The reason Oulton is so good is because it blends fast flowing corners with technical cambers and straights which are short enough to keep the lower powered cars tussling with the straight line monsters in ways that the likes of Silverstone simply isn't designed to do. The track is also narrow which promotes accuracy and bravery.
The week leading up to the race event was wet cold and about as horrid as a British summer can get. If your not British and thinking how bad can the weather be in the middle of summer, picture heavy rain traveling on a horizontal trajectory for five days straight. Discussions regarding what tyres to take and fit were had on a daily basis. The weather forecast for the race weekend seemed to vary depending on where the information was sourced from. BBC - wet all weekend, Accu Weather - blazing sunshine, The Met Office - sunny with a high chance of showers, clearly the Met couldn't decide and were covering all bases.
As it turned out the day started grey with the fret of rain in the air. It gradually brightened heading towards our Qually time becoming almost unbearably hot when wearing a race suit.
After the drivers briefing in which we were all told to behave and keep the racing clean, The team made their way to the assembly area. Stefan in car 334 lined up ahead of me in car 33 with Nick in Car 18 to our right in a different queue. David and debutant Colin made their way to the pit lane to get ready for the driver change mid way through Qually After baking for 20mins in in the assembly area we were released and thus started the days pattern of Stefan and I duelling.
Nick sadly was in epic form and disappeared off into the distance setting times to trouble the higher competition classes never to be seen by Stef or I through out our qually stint.
For Stefan and I it was much closer. We exchanged times lap after lap never more then four tenths apart. We were pushing as hard as we could never troubling Nicks times but having our own little battle. I had the advantage in a couple of corners and Stefan demolished me in others. We ran the whole of qually like a concertina, Stefan pulling away by a couple of meters only for me to close up next comer. The double apex of druids corner was where I held the greatest advantage over Stefan and come the race would rely on this corner to keep me out of trouble. Stefan has the advantage round island bend and shell hairpin.
I spent the entirety of qually staring at the back bumper of car 334 shared by Stefan and David. from the start line we were very close both hitting the brakes late just after the bump in the track surface, both fighting to keep the cars settled ready for the fast first turn of Old Hall bend. this right hander is taken with a straight dab of brake and a shift to third. the key is carry as much seed through the turn as possible without running wide on the corner exit and triggering the pressure pad on the outside curb. This pressure pad activates a camera which sends your photo to the stewards to ensure your lap time is deleted.
Turn two is hardly a turn at all its just a kink that changes the angle of the car and leads down hill to turn three of Cascades. At this point there's no change in the gap between Stefan and I. We both turn both turned in a little late in qually neither of us making the most of the cambered grip on the inside of the corner generated by an early turn in. As such we had to fight the cars to drive over the camber and drop into the apex losing a couple of tenths each.
Foot flat to the floor on the accelerator we flog all the ponies as hard as possible on the run straight to island bend. This is where Stefan had me. Turns out Stefan was able to take the corner flat while in qually I was having to lift for the turn. gap increases by a car length or so.
Turn five shell hair pin. this is a highly another highly cambered corner. In qually I ran deep and tried to maximise the exit for the up hill run. this would later change. From shell hair pin sprint to a small tight chicane of turns six and seven. this is taken by spearing the car into the first of the chicanes corners hitting the brakes quick and hard to rotate the car and stamping on the throttle again as soon as possible. I would gain half a car length on Stefan each lap here putting me into Stefan's slip stream so he could tow me up over hill top and down towards the knickerbook complex. We never got a clear run at Knickerbook always having to yield to a higher classed car. The complex was approached at closer to one hundred miles per hour and braking down hill to fortyish miles per hour with a down shift to second for turn right hand turn in. Let the car slide while getting as close to the tyres on the inside apex. as soon as the front wheels have cleared the tyres get back on the power and turn left trying not to fight the car as it takes an sweeping arch to the left side of the track this is so much easier since the install of the SuperPro control arms. Change up to third mid ark and plant your foot to the floor again as your turn right to head back up hill towards Druids.
As previously mentioned I had a small advantage over Stefan in this corner. During qually I was dabbing the brakes and dropping to third and powering through the double apexes onto the last straight before the end of the lap. during qually there was only the slightest of differences between Stefan and I.
The last proper corner is called lodge. Its a tight off camber right turn which catches many drivers out. The grip of the MRF tyres held firm and gave great confidence to simply chuck the car at the apex and deal with what ever happened after as we drove up over deer's leap to the start finish line.
All to soon the first duel of the day had to stop as Stefan needed to swap with David and I with Colin. WE entered the pits nose to tail completing our driver changes in the quickest times possible in order to allow Colin and David the maximum amount of time possible on track.
Qually ended with Nick a dominant first in class, Me second just three tenths ahead of Stefan, Colin third and Dave a very close fourth.
1st Nick 4 points Time 2mins 15.933
2nd Neal 3 points Time 2 mins 20.733
3rd Stefan 2 Points Time 2 mins 20.911
4th Colin 1 Point Time 2 mins 22.062
5th David 0 Points Time 2 mins 31.686
2022 standings so far
1st Nick 12 points
2nd Stefan 8 points
3rd Neal 7 points
4th David 1 point
5th Colin 1 point
6th Joe 1 point
After qually we had a small wait of five and a half ours until our feature race. With all teh cars running well there wasn't much to do apart from enjoy the warmth and review the footage from qually.
Colin and I managed to talk Nick into giving us both a video tutorial of his method for driving Oulton park. Turns out Nicks speed comes from a mixture of experience, circuit knowledge and bloody big bollocks. Between the three of us we identified a couple of corners in which Colin and I could make some improvements. Only small things such as use of a higher gear at Druids, a lift instead of a brake and encouragement to simply keep your foot planted.
As the start of the race approached the weather began to close in with the sky's turning a darker shade of grey and the clouds slowly coming together to close out the sunshine.
Charlotte our series coordinator ushers all the ClubSport competitors down to the assembly area. Where we are lined up in grid order.
Once the marshals have finished clearing the track of the carnage of the Track Attack club races they release us to form up on the grid. This was to be my first race start this season. Both Nick and Stefan have been lightning quick off the line in our previous races.
Trundling out the pits I'm planning my green flag lap and how I can get the temperature or the tyres and brakes right for the race. The rest of the field was weaving around and stamping on their brake pedals while I didn't see the need if we were having a green flag lap.
We were lined up on the grid and the marshals run for their posts. I look to the gantry expecting to see all the lights turn green and green flags to signal the green flag lap. Instead what I see is the starter hold out the 5second board and the red lights go out to start the race.
Panicking that I hadn't done my proper warm up routine I completely mess up the start. I didn't have enough revs to launch the car forward so it simply bogged down and crawled off the line.
Nick, Stefan and a host of other cars shit past me and I was in last place before I'd passed the start line. I was going so slowly I had chance to pick out the team's confused faces on the pit wall. Considering your not allowed to stand on the pit wall during the start of the race shows that they had covered more ground on foot then I had in my race car.
Luck was with me however. Being so far back kept me out of the harms way as we rounded turns one, two and three Cascades. Turn one saw a car off the track to the left and one on the right recovering from an off near the pit exit. Turn two saw yellow flags waving as a warning for turns three. There were cars everywhere on the grass and the track. The yellow flags meant no over taking. Nick and Stefan were just ahead navigating their way into cascades. I got to the turn just as the green flags came out meaning I could plant my right foot and crack on.
Passing Stefan on the inside the extra momentum gave me a moment's hope that I'd be able to have a run at Nick going into the shell hairpin. Not a chance of it. Stefan was all over the rear of my car and I had to go defensive myself.
Coming out of shell Nick was held up at the first chicane by a couple of higher class cars recovering through the field after their various offs at turns one and three.
This brought Nick close enough to think about a move over hilltop and down to knickerbook. Again though this thought was quashed as Stefan was having exactly the same idea for trying to pass me.
Going so defensive to fend off Stefan in the first right handed I compromise my left turn meaning I had to go even more defensive in the left handed and recover what I could on the second right leading uphill.
Up the hill to druids became a drag race. Stefan closing the gap inch by inch millimetre by millimetre to the point he was just starting to over lap my rear bumper.
Remember me saying I held a slight advantage at druids in qually? Well after chatting with Nick and watching his video footage that slight advantage had become a chasm.
In qually we drove druids with a dab of brake and a down shift to third. Now in my enlightened state. We grazed the brake pedal just enough to trigger the brake lights and held fourth gear. This gave me a corner exit speed nearly ten miles per hour quicker than in qually. It also pulled me a gap of two car lengths on Stefan. This gave me chance to breath and look for Nick who was already half way to the final proper corner of lodge and untouchable. Stefan and I would keep Nick in view for just two more corners, after that we were on our own.
Yes if we had stopped squabbling and worked together we could, maybe, have reeled Nick back in. But we didn't. We continued fighting between ourselves lap after lap with all the vigour and enthusiasm of a husband and wife having crazy angry sex after an argument.
Time and again I held off Stefan's advances as he closed up at island bend. Held station through the second part of the lap and dropped away at Druids. Fifteen minutes into the race as the pit window opened Stefan decided to make his move.
For some reason I can't explain I'd started dabbing the brakes just before island bend. I didn't do this in qually. I had never done this in previous events at Oulton as the turn was very easily to navigate with just a lift and was potentially flat out on the right day.
Stefan had clocked this mistake and sent the move up the inside of the turn just as I dabbed the brake. I saw him coming but there was nothing I could do apart from hope he ran wide on exit.
With our roles now reversed it's funny how island bend suddenly didn't need a dab of brakes anymore.
For another four laps we duelled. Hindered and aided by the race leaders coming round to lap us. Catch us at just the wrong time and Stefan gains five car lengths. At the right time I could slipstream right up to Stefan and clearly see his eyes in his rear view mirror.
Druids was my best opportunity to retake my position. No longer grazing the brakes but simply lifting letting the car rotate and stamping on the throttle hard enough to dent the bulk head I made huge gain's but never quite enough to close the gap for an overtake. The last lap before Stefan pitted I had to back out of the turn of collide with him due to the speed difference in this one corner, sending me Very sideways and letting
Stefan escape yet again.
Stefan pulled into the pits and I decided to complete one more lap before putting to swap with Colin.
Our pitstop was smooth. I climbed out, Colin jumped in for his first ever racing laps. A quick report and check if tyre pressures and we released Colin into the race.
Because I had completed an extra lap. Colin and David were now running half a lap apart. Half a lap in our favour as it turned out. All we needed from Colin as safe consistent lapping. Which is what he gave us. After his installation laps he settled in and set lap times within four tenths of each other to the end of the race.
Within the Mazda2 class the final results were.
1st place Nick
2nd place Neal and Colin
3rd place Stefan and David.
Huge thanks must go to Octane Distribution, SuperPro Europe and MOT Motorsport. With our their suspension bushings and tyres there is no way I could have races so closely with Stefan. The control and poise these parts give is amazing.
If you are thinking about starting out in racing or are looking for a new. Cost effective race series. Mazda 2 racing us for you.
Any questions drop them in the comments below or drop me an email to email@example.com.
See you at the next event
Race Team Manager