A big thank you to Nigel at EDP Photo for the action shot at the top. Check out his pictures for more action from Oulton Park and other motorsport events.
I was really excited for the second round of the season. Two main reasons: 1 – I had been here before so I had a bit of a clue as to where I was going. 2 – Its a fantastic circuit, probably my favourite so far.
I also managed to get my bike all painted up. Finally! Really happy with the look of it although the gold paint is really soft. We already managed to scratch it, and even rubbing it with your fingers dulls the gold as Brian was more than happy to show anyone he could.
Dan and Duncan were heading down from Edinburgh, while Brian came to pick me up. We got down early and I was able to sign on and get out for a half day practice. I knew I had a good braking point for Old Hall Corner and felt I carried good speed through Cascades. I crashed last year at Shell Oils so was taking it a bit gingerly but looking at other peoples pace I didn’t feel like I was losing too much time. I wasn’t trying to put together fast laps was just trying to concentrate on getting the corners right. I think that tricked some people come the race.
We had a fairly late start to the race day being out 5th practice and 7th and 17th for the qualifying and championship races, respectively. I set a blistering pace of 2:12.5 on the morning practice. It was mega busy on track and quite cold so I was taking it fairly easy. Was more worried I’d bin it before the actual races.
We were sharing the grid with the Formula 400 who started ahead of us. I basically ignored them as they weren’t in my class but it did make the racing slightly more “interesting”. I was starting 14th on the grid and had been thinking my best bet would be to go round the outside of Old Hall Bend and then try to get inside position on Cascades. When I was relaxing before the race watching at Old Hall Bend I realised this was a terrible idea. Anyone on the outside were pushed wide and instantly dropped places. So scrapped that idea and just thought to try to get to the inside and find any piece of road not occupied by someone else. I got off the line well and up to 11th by the first corner. My tactic seemed to be working. Through Cascades I saw Kev trying to go round the outside of a KTM RC390. I dived up the inside while the KTM pushed Kev wide and he had to back off. Going into Shell Oils Alan Ball came up the inside dropping me back but Pete Prichard had run on and was out the race. Next in my sights was my Brands Hatch nemesis, Tom Roberts, I got good drive out of Druids and passed on the inside on the brakes going into Lodge. My tighter and slower line meant he out dragged me and was back in front before Old Hall, Scott Wilson, who started last on the grid was now trying to go round the outside of me at Old Hall corner too but I managed to fend him off…for a while. I took a good line through the fast long left hander of Cascades; this is where I lack a bit of killer instinct. I thought about going for the outside round island bend so I had inside position for shell oil’s but I hesitated and though better off it and backed off. At that time Scott Wilson did exactly that to Tom and me. Damn it! I had improved my line through the first chicane and was able to get alongside Tom again and passed on the brakes to the second chicane. I could see Mark Hamilton just a little further up the road so knew if I get the fast bits right I should be able to pull him in. Carrying the speed through Cascades again I was able to slip past Mark into Shell oils. I could see another bike quite a bit further up the road so concentrated on trying to put in some good laps to see if I could make any headway. I don’t think I was but then saw the yellow flags out and Alan Ball in the kitty litter at Knickerbrook meant I finished 7th Ducati and 6th in class. I set a new fastest lap of 2:05.516. Was really happy with my lap times and finished ahead of the second fastest group. I knew I had some more time to come, just hope I could do that in the Championship race.
Championship Race – Points mean prizes!
Starting 7th on the grid I thought if I get off the line well I can get onto the lead group and have them pull me round and hopefully find some more speed. That was the plan. What happened was me bottling it at the first corner. I found myself on the outside of the track, there probably was space for me to lean it over and make the corner but with bikes everywhere I kind of backed out, ran wide and saw just about everyone come past me. I thought if I could just keep my head and get into a rhythm I would be able to work my way past and get a strong finish. That again wasn’t going to happen. There seems to have been a bit of a shambles at the first chicane, I’m sure I saw someone running straight through it, Mark Hamilton had out braked himself and was now trying to get back onto the corner, this caused me to brake harder, which let Brian Alexander drive down the outside of me. What a disaster!
I tried to stay calm, get back into a rhythm and Brian could pull me round as he was a bit quicker than me. Into the first chicane I had taken up position behind Brian but I braked a bit later than him and where I was I didn’t think I could find any road so I had to run through the chicane losing out on more positions. It did mean it put me in a bit of a hole in the road with nobody in front of me; I could sort out my riding and put together some good laps. I caught up to David Young and passed him going into Lodge corner. The next group was of Dan James, Philip Murden and Brian. I managed to pull them in by the next lap and dragged past Dan over the start finish line. I was quicker through Cascades than Philip Murden but was too close so lost the drive out of the corner. This let Dan back past going round island bend. I tried to find a way past but laps were running out. I crossed the line 0.1 second behind Philip and 0.3 seconds behind Dan. If I had one more lap I think I could have finished in 8th instead of 10th in class. I did set my new fasters lap of 2:05.227. Overall I was happy with my speed but disappointed with my racing. Need to get a bit more cut throat and have the confidence to go for gaps. It cost me quite a bit in this race but I will be starting 7th at Donington so will be trying to do the same and get onto the back of the lead group. The goal for the year was to be fastest of the second group. Now I’ve done that I need to try and be the slowest of the fastest group!