Rain and trophies at Oulton Park
We arrived at Oulton Park with 29 points and the championship in sight! I’d only ever driven this circuit virtually…needless to say iRacing and Project Cars took a bit of a battering in the lead up. Nonetheless, there’s no substitute for driving on the real tarmac.
While I was at a slight disadvantage, Mark had raced Oulton previously…although that was 7 years ago and this is the guy who managed to forget his own hotel keys two weeks ago…
Time for testing
We were keen to get as much track time as possible so we booked a test session for the Friday with the aim to stay out all day and collect as much data as possible.
Things started well enough, although I was struggling to get enough heat in the tyres and the ABS was playing up as usual. There isn’t much in the way of run off at this track, however, the overwhelming feeling is that this place is utterly awesome! I am an idiot for not coming here sooner!
A friend popped into the pits – he used to race bikes and we have a good natter on the different lines and how the circuit is so different for bikes and cars.
The weather is even being kind – we are on slicks and the sun is shining but it isn’t too hot: perfect.
Time to give the old girl a quick wash…
Disaster strikes…again and again!
Coming into the banked hairpin at the bottom of the circuit I manage to over-cook the brakes, the ABS turns off whilst I’m braking and I lock a wheel…I manage to come off/on the brakes a few times, which slows the car down but I’m going into the gravel and I know it!
I think it’s good to sample the local stones from each circuit in the UK but as I’m going over the gravel, I realise this one might be the one I hit the wall on, a part of my body that was more 50p shaped has suddenly become a lot more 20p to 1p shaped… I got so close to hitting the wall that before I start to breathe again the medical car is parked on the grass and a guy is running towards me. He asks me if I’m ok and what happened and the next thing I know I’m being dragged out by another unimog. Is this where unimog’s go to retire, banished to a life of pulling people who have run out of talent straight into the kitty litter..?
Definitely time for some Debbie&Andrew’s sausages!
As of all that wasn’t enough, we manage to go out with a bolt cross threaded on one of the wheels, which results in a horrible vibration from the front. To cap it all off it is has gone from 10% chance of it will rain to a 10% chance it won’t!
Ok – head down, look at the data, tomorrow is another day! Off to the pub for food and drink with the team.
Getting to grips with the wets
I start qually and we are with the whole grid, so after letting the Mosler and the GT3 Ferrari 458 go past I start to try and build some speed, which is when it starts raining. Not a problem, except I’m on slicks with no ABS or traction control or stability control *and* I’m surrounded by 500k GT cars.
Well I like 350zs and I actually like driving in the rain so I’m just going to try and enjoy this. The pit board, it turns out incorrectly, calls me in, time is running out and Mark needs to do his 3 laps. I have managed to qualify above the Porsche 997 911 cup car. Mark is concerned that I need to do another lap but we have little choice, we back the car into the garage and the team manage a tyre change in under a minute, which given we don’t have air jacks or centre locks is a miracle! Mark goes out on a set of Dunlop wets.
We have agreed with the stewards that we have done enough and after getting into trouble with parc ferme we are allowed to work on the car. Evidently, Britcar have their own guy who releases you from parc ferme and the track also has a head marshal that thinks he should release us, which given it’s his race / track is fair enough.
Thunder and lightning…very, very frightening…
I feel I choose to start this race but it turns out the fastest qualifier *has* to start and given the weather got progressively worse through qually that is definitely me anyway. So…time to face my demon – a rolling start, up a hill, in a thunderstorm, on a track I hardly know. Yea, this will be easy!?
Adrenalin is pumping and the car feels great on these wets after all the trouble we had on the slicks. Hammer down and I manage to keep it together and overtake one car, we are out paced by most people on this grid due to a lack of torque / ABS / traction control / ESC etc but the Zed holds its own in the corners and overall my lap time is about where we should be in our class.
The visibility is terrible, people always bang on about how bad it is but you just don’t know until you are behind a car with a working diffuser on race wets chucking what feels like a tidal wave over your front window! (The windscreen wipers used to be faster than this, I’m sure???) Lap times drop for everyone and I start to really enjoy it – although with no practice in the wet here I’m struggling to find the best lines for grip, other than knowing that the racing line isn’t it!!
Coming up from clay hill having just been lapped by a BMW M3 GTR in front is another M3 (E92? I’m useless with BMW model numbers but a very new one) has braked with a wheel on the inside grass and gone straight over the track into the barrier. Quickly the double yellows start to wave and a safety car collects us just after the third corner, but it hasn’t got the leaders and I just happen to be 2nd in the queue. The safety car comes round and I decide (with no comms to the pit crew) to pit the car and swap driver.
Mark hauls me out of the car (thanks!) and slots himself in, after some rejigging of the safety car we have jumped 4 positions. Mark manages to overtake 2 of the Porsches, a GT4 CS and a GT3 Cup into the first corner as they don’t seem to be enjoying the lack of heat in the wet. Mark has also bullied his way past the white Ferrari 458. The leading Ferrari GT3 is just in front of us and Mark is fighting to unlap himself! We finish the race a respectable 3rd in production and 2nd in our class.
Did I mention it was wet? Well it’s even wetter now…and the pit crew are soaked to the bone but they all still have smiles on their faces! Honest…they are smiling under those hoods!
This time, the grid is made using your second fastest lap time (also me due to weather) and that puts us a few places up the grid. I feel like I’m gaining some confidence on these insane wet tyres that seem to instil trust. The flag drops and the amount of spray is unbelievable, I know the blob on the right is a Ferrari because I see him stab the brakes, I think he won’t want to hit a 2006 350z so just drive right across the front of him and force my way past a BMW and a Porsche using the same method! You know I’m popular! 😛
We are racing with the GT Endurance boys this time as well so the grid is a lot larger, coming through the first turn there is a BMW Z4 GT4 facing backwards and a 997 GT3 coming over the grass back onto the track at speed. In iRacing he would of got a 4x for what he did and probably Dan Craft would of given him a penalty for his track re-join but hey-ho, having missed him by a few inches we had gained some decent places. The Mosler, the R8 LMS and the red Ferrari 458 have gone off into the distance.
When I hand over to Mark we are doing quite well and leading our class. Mark brings it home a very respectable 2nd place after some epic wet weather driving, which saw our lap times drop significantly. Oh and look at that…it just stopped raining!
We have had another good points scoring weekend that should see us get into the top three for Production, turns out we are leading the P2 Production Championship at the moment…!
The SPL lower adjustable arms that do away with the big piece of steel that holds the helper springs is awesome, we can change the angles on the rear in a few seconds now.
Looking down the pit lane at all the lorries with their motor homes and hospitality built in is a bit of a weird feeling, we are there in a van with a trailer giving away free sausage batches. Some of the other teams come over and congratulate us and take a sausage batch as payment. The feeling in the pits is a positive one and Britcar deserves to get a few more people on the grid.
Thanks to our the sponsors
Abbey Motorsport – Quick thinking and continued support is the reason we are scoring points at this level!
Debbie & Andrews – Sausage power!!!
Right…time to finally dry off!