So that is the first race weekend done and dusted and what an experience it was, for me as I had spent so little time in the car the main thing was all about getting to the end of the day unscathed, which we just about did although I definitely had a few hairy moments, and to learn how a race weekend works, procedure, time tables etc and not to do anything silly.
Heading Out For 1st Qualifying Session
Firstly we were blessed with the weather, I had been watching forecasts all week and whichever you looked at we would get wet at some point but miraculously other than the odd drizzle we had a day of dry running. Qualifying was at 10.40am and was a 20 minute session where your quickest time set the grid for race 1 and your second quickest set the grid for race 2.
Now I had been watching YouTube video’s all week on how to drive a Radical SR1 round Oulton Park, so in my head I knew what to do I just had to actually go out and do it, in an ideal world I to achieve a time of 1min 51 seconds which was 5 seconds quicker than I went in testing the week before, so we all drove down to the holding area 20 mins before qualifying was due to start and I sat there running the lap through my head, just like a real racing driver :-)
The only fly in the ointment was that due to heavy rain the night before the track was damp so it was declared a wet session so qualifying would be run on wets, so out we went but in all honestly on the racing line the track was pretty much dry, you just had to be careful to not go onto the wet stuff.
I slowly built up my speed and had a good few clear laps and by the end I could really feel the car moving around under me as I pushed it, in the end I got to the point on a couple of corners where the tyres were at their limit and I had a few scary sideways moments but at the end I achieved a couple of laps in the low 1min 52’s which I was delighted with especially as we were on wet’s, so this meant I started race 1 in 6th and race 2 in 5th, out qualifying my more experienced team mate on both occasions, so after Qualy it really felt like job done, now it was just a matter of 2 races to go.
Post Qualy Interview
I must admit both races flew by and in all honesty I really don’t remember much as I was so focused on keeping it on the black stuff everything else was a blur, you don’t even notice anyone watching until the end and also my team were displaying my pit board every lap but I never noticed it once, Oulton Park really is a challenging circuit that grabs your attention with the quick corners as there really isn’t any run off before you hit the barrier so it is really difficult to balance speed with bravery.
So race 1 was at 1.30pm so you meet in the holding area 20 mins before the start in race order, get yourself strapped in and comfortable then follow the pace car onto the track for your lap to the grid, here it is about warming the tyres and bakes, then you take your grid position, not really sure what happened here but the marshall’s got myself and 5th mixed round so we had to swap positions after our green flag lap which followed next, again this is all about getting the car up to temperature, So now it is time for my first race start, the first mission here is not to stall.
Once we were all in grid position we waited for the 5 second board then everyone ups their revs to around 6000 RPM which is all very exciting then the lights go out and we are off, miraculously no one stalled and we were off racing. In all honesty my problem here is that once the lights go out you have to be at 100% straight away, no building up slowly but it did take me a couple of laps to get to where I should be so lost a couple of places.
In the Radical SR1 Cup there are three different championships, I’m never going to win the overall as some of the younger drivers are much quicker at the moment but there is also a Rookie Cup and the Fangio Cup for drivers over 45, needless to say the Fangio Cup is my focus at the moment, it is here that we had a good battle, for the whole race I kept one of my competitors behind me, he was quicker on some parts and I was quicker on others, but then my team mate took me only to spin on one of the quick left handers but he recovered then came at me again, this time he got me down the straight but then the next time I saw him he had spun and hit one of the barriers but overall in the race he was definitely quicker than me, in the end I came home as the winner of the Fangio class which meant a trip to the podium and a trophy from my first race which in my wildest dreams I never expected.
A 20 minute race really doesn’t sound long but I was so happy to see the chequered flag, these cars as so physical and mentally draining I really had enough by the end, I really don’t know how the F1 and LeMans drivers do it.
Really Happy with Race 1
Another Interview as Winner of the Fangio Class.
So we had a spot of lunch and waited for the 2nd race at 5.30pm, by this time the temperature had dropped noticeably and whilst sitting in the holding area it started to drizzle again, we had to wait longer as in the previous race someone had put it into the barriers and done some serious damage to the barrier so this had to be repaired first, but eventually we were on the grid revving the engines waiting for the red lights to go out.
Now this race didn’t go quite as well as the first, unfortunately the car in front of me stalled so I had no where to go so by the time I had drove around him I was pretty much last but I caught one of my fellow Fangio competitors and then ensued a great race where I finally threw it done the inside going into the chicane and took the place, I didn’t realise at the time but my team mate also stalled it on the grid so I was now the lead Fangio car but then it all went horribly wrong.
I really don’t know what happened but looking in the racing drivers book of excuses I think I was trying a little too hard on a cooler, damp track and going through one of the chicanes I floored it on the exit only to hit the inner kerb and the car instantly spun round and before I knew it I was on the grass and facing the wrong way, bugger, all that hard work lost, basically I just run out of talent.
So now I started to panic a little and for whatever reason I couldn’t get it into first gear so I tried to pull away in 2nd and then got it on the track only to stall it in everyones way, bugger again, so in the end I had to retire and just watched the rest of the race with the marshalls behind the barriers, once the race was over I jumped back in the car and drove it back, so in the end no damage was done, in reality I was very lucky as when I was driving back one of my competitors had binned in into the barriers on the last lap and had done some serious damage but luckily he was OK.
So in the end it was a very mixed weekend with a great Qualifying, a race one trophy then a spin and DNF for race 2 but overall I left the circuit with a big smile and an eagerness to get in the car again as I know there is still a lot of speed left in the car and myself.
Still Smiling after a rather eventful race 2!
A Big Thank You!
Firstly I just want to say a huge thanks to everyone who came to support us, some driving a long way to get to Oulton, it was brilliant to see so many friendly faces there and despite the cold weather everyone seemed to have a good time.
Also a big thanks to Simon and Darren and UPE Motorsport for doing a stirling job in giving me a brilliant car to race and also thanks to Radical for doing such a brilliant job of making everyone feel so welcome, there were 8 rookies but there is such great sense of comradeship in the paddock it is a brilliant place to spend the day.
Next Race meeting and hospitality.
So the next race isn’t until the 12th May at Snetterton but if anyone fancy’s coming along just let me know as we can get a limited number of passes and also if you want full hospitality please let me know in advance as I need to book it with Radical, basically it is £30 a head and you get breakfast and lunch on race day + drinks and nibbles through the day, I have to say the food was epic, if I had been given this in a restaurant I would have been happy so as you can imagine it is much better than any other race track food + you can spend the day in the paddock.
I am going to try and edit some video footage later for my qualifying and races so if I can figure it out I will upload it.
Roll on Snetterton but until then back to the day job of being a HiFi dealer :-)
Thanks for reading,