Well, what a mixed weekend at Oulton Park, as I enjoyed a strong opening race but suffered a bruising bang into the barriers in race three.
The weekend began very positively with third fastest time in qualifying, and I was in buoyant mood going into race one. I wasn’t that confident coming into the event but the car had been amazing, night and day better than it was here last year. In fact, it was the best that the car had felt in a long time.
I started third on the grid for the opening 15-lap race on the softer option tyre and, having briefly lost track position, retook third spot on lap two. Then chased the two race leaders as well as defending from a snarling pack of cars behind. My trusty Mercedes-Benz A-Class soaked up the pressure as best it could, the biggest problem being Ash Sutton’s Subaru Levorg leading the chase. Sutton in turn had a gaggle of cars on his tail and he became increasingly desperate to get by and eventually gave the Mercedes a nudge at the Hairpin on lap 10 and charged alongside as we ran out of the corner. Having been forced wide, I defended as quickly as I could but with Sutton unsighted alongside the Mercedes, Sutton was edged onto the grass.
It looked spectacular but Sutton backed out of the move and dropped in behind me again, but he was able to use his lighter Subaru to pass for third, leaving me with my nine kilos of success ballast to secure fourth place and also the Independents’ win.
Ash was unsighted. He is a mate so I certainly wasn’t trying to wipe him out, but I had been struggling on the soft tyres and probably needed a bit more front camber so he was able to get on to my tail. Overall though, it was a good result and should have set us up for the rest of the day.
From fourth place in race one, I would now carry 48 kilos of success ballast in race two and I was running sixth before a lurid slide at Cascades, the fast downhill left-hander on lap four. I was struggling with the balance with the extra weight. It was difficult right from the start and I lost a place to Gordon Shedden; then I tried to brake early for Cascades and the car just locked up and spat me sideways. I don’t know why but that dropped me back to the 14th place and with the balance and the weight, I couldn’t really do much from there. It is so hard to overtake here at Oulton Park that I was stuck in traffic for the remainder of the race.
That left me 14th on the grid for the final race, but I soon jumped forward to 13th and ready to pounce for more places when I was attacked by Dave Newsham’s Chevrolet Cruze. The two cars touched at the Hairpin and the contact pushed me out wide. As I tried to defend, Newsham was edging alongside in a situation similar to the brush with Ash Sutton in race one. This time, though, Newsham backed out of the throttle and the Merc was turned across the front of Newsham’s car and fired at high speed into the barriers. With lots of damage, I was out of the race on the spot and the race was neutralised to remove our wrecked car.
It hasn’t been a perfect weekend but again we have shown we have good pace and are in a more competitive place than we were 12 months ago. We go to Croft next and I am sure that we will be able to score good points across all three races.”
Next stop for the Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship is at Croft, North Yorkshire, on June 10/11.