Oulton Park is one my favourite circuits on the Carrera Cup Calendar. It’s fast, flowing and very technical. A good lap time around the Oulton Island Circuit would be a 1:23:00. A quick pole for a BTCC car would be nearer 1:26.00.
My journey to the circuit on Thursday night was not as planned; 2 of the 4 rear tyres on my RV blew out after a nasty pothole on the M25 motorway surface. By the time the 24hr emergency tyre people arrived it was 11:00 the next day meaning I had missed the first test. I arrived for the second test with enough time to do 6 whole laps, on old Monza tyres, so it was straight into qualifying with virtually no testing.
Whilst not an ideal start, Oulton Park is a circuit where I as a driver and we as a team have performed well traditionally. Last time here in the Touring Car I was on the podium, albeit in a front wheel drive. The time before that I had won my race. Hopes were high and making the podium was the goal, despite being a little on the back foot.
Dinner and an early night were needed on Friday, so I did exactly that.
Refreshed and ready for the next day I went and sat in the car whilst the SlideSports team finalised the set up based on the weather, track temperatures etc. It is critical at Oulton Park to get a clear lap for qualifying and put in a good time. The 3 possible overtaking places at the circuit are all into fast braking zones and very risky. Oulton is an “old school” circuit meaning the barriers are close the track – punishing any mistakes severely.
First few laps were spent bringing the tyres in – at Oulton the car needs about 3 laps. The skill in the Porsche is to get the heat into the fronts. The rears have c500bhp to help, so bringing the tyre temperatures up in a balanced way is a real skill which I have had to learn this first half of my debut season in the Carrera Cup. The onboard dash pressure monitor is a real help in knowing when the tyres will be at their best.
Unable to get a clear lap in we had to settle for a disappointing 6th in qualifying which was not where we needed to be on the uphill part of the grid. With no line-lock systems in these cars it was going to be a ballet of pedals, to a) get the car off the grid quickly b) not jump the start and risk a 10 second penalty. What fun!!
Starting 6th on the grid wasn’t exactly where I wanted to be so getting a good start off the line would be crucial. As the 5 second board was shown I planted the Porsche’s accelerator to the floor bouncing the 4-litre engine off the start procedure ECU map limit of 6500rpm. As the lights went out, boom, we’re racing. I got an OK start level with 4th place into Old Hall Corner 2 abreast. Cars were jostling about all over the place and I was in the thick of it. Oulton is tricky to overtake so every driver is fuelled with the same emotion off the line into the first corner – to get ahead.
I saw a gap down the outside of the Avenue into Denton’s so positioned the car to make the move as I had got a better drive out of the corner. 4th placed Fairbrother moved over unsighted forcing me onto the grass at 120mph. I kept my foot in bouncing my way towards Cascades at terrific speed, but I needed to get back on the tarmac to slow the car for the corner. The next 30 mins I kept the pressure on for 4th at one time so close, we almost became one. Desperate to claim 4th I went for the undercut, braking late and wide into the Island hairpin - A little over exuberance on the throttle on exit resulted in a 360-degree spin opening enough of a gap for 4th place to maintain his position, me finishing in 5th.
When the sun is blazing there’s no better place to be than Oulton Park on a Sunday afternoon. With air temperatures in the mid-twenties, the sun had warmed the track surface to the late thirties. Tyre starting pressures were vital. The SlideSports team did their sums starting my tyres on precise pressures to give the car decent grip throughout the race. They knew I desperately wanted a podium.
I needed to get off the line quickly to get far enough ahead of my competitors. I was on good set of tyres having only run 6 laps in FP2, so I was looking for a podium finish without question.
I got my great start off the line which catapulted me up the order into 4th place, less than half a second behind 3rd placed Dockerill. I filled his mirrors lap after lap, applying the pressure hoping to force a mistake. Twice I had the nose of the Lordes Carrera up the inside, but Dockerill drove an honest race, defending well and covering all the bases making it difficult to pass – such is the character of Oulton Park Circuit.
So a 5th and a 4th plus getting quicker each time we take the car out isn’t a bad result for the Lordes team, with a decent points haul towards our Championship where we are currently running in 4th position just 7 points behind 3rd, and we’re only half way through the season.
Driver / Director