Round Nine - Oulton Park, 29th September 2001

Qualifying

Oulton Park was a bit of a bogey track for the Golf last year - in two races I never got anywhere near the times of the other class D cars. I was determined to try and improve on that this year (and I had to if I was to have any chance in the championship). I thus queued up near the front of the holding area to try and get a good run. The track was still damp in places from the morning rain, and a couple of cars had already gone off at Druids - a fast right hander under some trees. So I followed the XJS of Stevens around for the first lap, then tried a faster lap to see what conditions were like.

Despite all the warnings, first quick attempt at Druids and the back end stepped out. I tried to catch it but was too late and ended up another casualty of the corner, stalled on the in-field. The engine wouldn't restart, so I resigned myself to qualifying out of session at lunchtime and starting at the back of the grid, until the red flags came out and the session was stopped. I thus got another chance - albeit only 2 laps - after being push started by the track marshalls. Traffic was heavy and best I could manage was a 1.59.122, way down in 20th position out of 26 starters. Worse still Rick Kerry (class D leader) was up in 9th place, with Andy Cope in 13th.

Race 

I had nothing much to lose being so far back, so I was quite relaxed for the start of the race - now in dry sunny conditions. In front of me the Escort of Edward Bourne stalled on the grid, and I had to take to the grass to go round him, otherwise making a storming start again. By the first corner I was right up with Rick (who had been held up at the start), but then on the way down to Cascades I was passed by Sean Cockrell in the Sunbeam, who had qualified last after putting his Sunbeam in the tyre wall during qualifying, also at Druids.

It was mayhem as the Group One grid approached the Island hairpin, I dashed down the inside and passed several cars, including retaking Sean and Andy Cope. On the way up to Knickerbrook I got a run on Rick in the Escort, and all of a sudden I was up to first in class and flying.

A gap appeared ahead and I pushed on, creating a bit of breathing space between myself and Rick - things were looking good. Then I caught the Rover SD1 of Kingsley Marten - he was quick on the straights, but slow round the corners. I followed for a couple of laps, and then Mark Cholerton spun right in front of us both exiting Island hairpin. We both made it round safely, and next lap I got a run on the Rover up the hill to Knickerbrook. He moved right to block, and as I moved to the outside he then moved back - I immediately went to the inside but the Rover blocked again and I had to lift off and follow through the chicane. I considered having a go at Old Hall but it was too dangerous, so I stayed behind and waited for a better opportunity. I was too far back at the hairpin, and then through Knickerbrook chicane the Rover got totally sideways, and I had to go down to first gear to slowly follow behind - I was now being seriously held up and Rick was now right up behind me again. I had another quick look at Old Hall but again it was too risky, we completed another lap and I was getting worried - my lap times were almost 2 seconds quicker than the SD1, I simply had to get past.

Approaching the hairpin, Rick was now right with me and I panicked - I had to go down the inside or Rick would, so I braked late and tried to take the place - far too late. The front wheels locked, despite pumping the brakes I couldn't get them to grip down the slippy inside part of the track, and I went straight on and across the grass. I even had to go straight on to the full circuit's tarmac because the engine had stalled and I had to restart it - remembering my qualifying spin, the engine never restarts when its hot. I kept it running and rejoined - back down in about 16th place, almost back where I started. So now I was last in class, and behind yet more Rovers - this time Chris Bright and Steve Barber. What a disaster.

The following few laps I try and get past Bright, again I'm way quicker through the corners and under braking, and indeed I can easily outbrake him at the hairpin - but every time he simply powers past on the following straight and I'm back behind him again. Then on lap 9 disaster - the engine starts making a strange noise, then I lose all power exiting Druid's. I have no choice but to pull into the pits and kill the power - my race is over.

Post race investigation shows its either a dropped valve, or possibly even a broken bottom end - looks like my season is over. On the plus side my in car lap timer shows some very quick lap times, so I run off to the control tower to get the results sheet. As a consolation for a terrible race (and the end of my season) I've smashed the lap record by over a second with a time of 1.47.883 - Oulton Park is no longer my bogey circuit.