Porsche Club Race Report Oulton Park 31st July 2004
Car - 924 Carrera GT
Testing on Friday had gone well, with the me getting very close to a good suspension setup for the first session. The times weren't too bad, but I noticed while following Colin Ingram and Richard Harrison that I was getting the same lap times but was losing out in a straight line. The car hadn't been rolling roaded since Snetterton so it would be simply a matter of making an adjustment and seeing what worked. Well it seemed it was my lucky day as I got it right first time and as soon as I took to the track I could feel the difference and the lap times dropped. The 944 turbo was here for me to play with too, so time was shared between the two cars and I made a conscious decision in the mid afternoon not to run the GT any longer and risk a reliability problem in the race like last year
First Porsche practice for the day was the Open, you can read more about the trials and tribulations here. Just like in the Porsche Open I was first into the collecting area and therefore first out on track. The Harvey boys (Mark Rogers and Ian White) were keen too and lined up close behind me. I let them go, preferring to take a lap or two before going for it.
This seemed to work as Mark Rogers let me by and I just about kept pace with the class one car of Ian White. On lap 4 Gill held the pit board out and was wildly pointing at it. She was excited because she had just put "P1" on the bottom pf the board. I was fastest in class, it was some time since I had seen that. The time was in the low '1:41s but I thought that there should be more to come as i had dipped into the 1:40's in testing. I kept pushing and P1 stayed on the board for another couple of laps but then I was getting demoted and my times were not improving. The car started to struggle under braking and I was unable to improve my times. I had misjudged the track temperature and the tyres were overheating. I hoped to get another quick lap in but on the final lap dropped to 5th, behind Lee Birkett.
The times were very close with just tenths separating cars in front and behind. Before the race however I gained a place as the new "just been on a diet" Lee Birkett suffered from being 3 kg below the minimum weight at post qualifying scrutineering. He had to start at the back of the grid !
Although the Open practiced first the race order was reversed. I took up my position on the right hand side of the grid and remember thinking "this isn't the best place to be at Oulton Park" and at the same time trying not to think about what happened last time I was here.
There was to be no green flag lap, and fortunately Pete Morris drove briskly round to the grid allowing us to get some heat into the tyres. After three "Cheshire minutes" the lights came on and we were released. I got a bad start, not enough revs, followed by a baulked gear change into second. The track in front was clear and I had plenty of space until a swarm of 911s surrounded me. Adam Egar was closest, chopping in front of me, taking avoiding action from a developing incident. Mark Rogers and Richard Harrison were attempting to swap paint when Derek Gregory in his 944 S2 joined in the fun and seemed to give Mark a little nudge from the rear. This tipped him into a spin in front of Harrison, who was in front of me as Richard tried not to T-bone Mark who was now positioned across the track. I braked in front of a cloud of tyre smoke and had to decide when to go again. I got it right because I passed the rear bumper of Marks car with literally inches to spare. I was now down to second last.
Being in that position would not have mattered so much if I hadn't played my points doubling joker this weekend. I would really have to race hard to get a worthwhile amount of points for the day. Newcomer Paul Clare was battling with Chris Stewart and between them they had blocked the track so I couldn't move forward. Adam Egar meanwhile had avoided getting tangled up with Rogers and passed me through Cascades. A good move, but not for me as the extra momentum he had carried him past while I was stuck behind and lost another place to Lee Birkett as the gearbox baulked again on the change to fourth. This was not going well at all.....
Lee was being aggressive and I decided to follow him towards the front of the field. Paul Clare was still in the way and I had to wait for Druids to get past him. Next up was Chris Stewart who simply overcooked it on the exit of Lodge. I and caught Lee, who almost lost control at cascades. Around the hairpin and down to Knickerbrook we went, catching Barrie Maskell in the process. Now Barrie is an experienced racer and he braked just a little bit earlier than would have been expected. Lee reacted and lost ground, but I was quicker back on the throttle and passed him on the run down to Lodge.
Barrie was to be my next victim and I closed under braking for Lodge. We went through Cascades together and I dived to the inside under braking at Island to take another place. This was only lap three and I had made more passes than you ever see in the whole of the formula one race. Crossing the line to start my fourth lap Alvaro was just visible. I carried a lot of speed through Old Hall, using the touring car line (the grassy bit) and closed up on Alvaro. Yet again another place was recovered at Island, but this time it was simply because he outbraked himself. ABS ! who'd have it !
By the time I got to Druids I was up to Ian Oliver but the waved yellows were out as Marcus Holden in his 3.2 Carrera came back onto the circuit after taking a bit too much of the green stuff. Ian passed Marcus at Lodge but I was unable to follow through. I drew alongside going up Deer Leap and being on the inside made the move stick under braking. By the time that we were round to Knickerbrook again I was back with Ian and repeated the same move on him that I had done to Marcus.
The next gaggle of cars were about 60 yards ahead but the car was running and handling so well that I started to make real inroads immediately. Fraser Robertson was the first to be passed under braking for Knickerbrook. Life was going to become much harder now as the next three cars of Ingram, Gregory and Harrison were battling closely. It took me another lap for me to catch them and was sure that I could take some more places back if i was firm. Richard Harrison was having the same idea and passed Colin ingram under braking for Lodge. Ten yards further down the road Derek Gregory was going round Lodge but as he went over the crest the back end started to rotate. Both Colin and I thought it would be easy to correct so Colin went to the inside to retake his position. i went to the outside to pass Colin. By the time Derek was at the bottom of Deer Leap he had gone from driver to passenger and was slewing across the track. He exited stage right into the tyres at the narrowest point of the circuit. He bounced back onto the circuit and Colin had to swerve violently to try and avoid him. This took him into the armco on the left hand side of the circuit and I had to follow Colin so as to avoid Derek who was still coming deeper onto the circuit.
Colin had an impact with the armco which lifted his car almost 30 cm into the air and then bounced him back onto the circuit. I thought I had threaded the needle but the front end of Colins car made contact with my rear wheel and spun me round at something like 75 mph. Regular readers will remember that a similar thing happened at Croft in September 2003 at 120 mph so catching the spin and avoiding going into the pitlane at 75mph backwards was almost instinctive. After coming to a stop I restarted the car and set about trying to make some more places up.
The steering wheel was not in the correct position and I approached Old Hall with a little circumspection. Though the car braked and steered there was definitely something wrong with the back end as it oversteered round the corner. I was powerless to do anything other than continue circulating keeping out of everyone's way in an attempt to get some finishers points. I finished 17th, two laps down and 8th in class. It could have been so much better. By the end of the race I still had the third fastest lap and could well have been taking a pot home. I think I like the Island circuit !
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