I hope you all enjoyed the Easter break!
Mine was spent at the picturesque Oulton Park race track in Cheshire. This is a lovely 2.7 mile circuit – winding, descending and climbing through parkland, lakes and trees. However, it’s also quite a narrow, tricky and technical circuit, so requires 100% concentration and precision to get the best out of car and driver.
We arrived on Friday in preparation for Saturday’s practice and two short qualifying sessions. All progressed reasonably well, despite little track time during the two Free Practice sessions and we qualified 4th for Race 1 and 5th for Race 2 – a respectable first qualifying, but we both felt we could’ve edged into the top 3.
Easter Sunday was no day for rest, and we concentrated on sorting out our driver changes during pit stops. We spent the rest of the day with the Team – bit of fitness, a few laps of the track on our road bikes, and a (healthy) pub lunch.
Easter Monday was ‘race day’ – first of the 2015 season. I woke to thick fog, but this gradually broke to a gloriously sunny spring day, with huge crowds. Credit of course to MSV for their outstanding facilities, but great spectators who must travel far and wide to enjoy their motorsport – and pleased to meet so many of you – thanks for the welcome and all the support, it really is appreciated.
There were two 1 hour races. I started Race 1 at 12.00 and it was an amazing sensation as the 32 car grid, combining more than 15,000 bhp, exploded away from the rolling start. However, several incidents followed and the Safety Car was twice required to protect the marshals whilst cars and debris were collected. But once cleared I gradually picked up race pace and felt increasingly confident in the car, which is surprisingly easy to drive quickly for long durations. My 30 minute stint was soon over and a slick pit stop saw Ross take over in 3rd place. However, the engine cut out at Shell Oils and Ross had to stop and go through a rapid ‘re-cycle’, which cost valuable time. But, once on the move he also found his confidence, bringing the car home in a highly creditable 2nd – a podium in our first race!
Race 2 was started by Ross at 16.00. There were less incidents, and he did a sterling job against far more experienced competition, and then having to manage the traffic when the GT3 cars came bearing down as the session progressed.
The car was handed over to me in 6th place and I set my goal of another podium. The car felt good and I started to pick off places whilst managing both the faster and slower traffic. All was going well but there were two slower cars ahead competing into the Knickerbrook Chicane, I braked on the outside, but the other car moved across and I couldn’t slow my car down anymore. I caught his rear end sending us both down the ‘cut through’ before rejoining. Fortunately no places were lost and, whilst the other car apparently went into the pits, I focussed on race mode, eventually crossing the line in another 2nd place.
However, the joy of another podium was short lived as the earlier incident was one of a number under review and I was eventually penalised, so the hard work and well earned finish were sadly taken away. I was disappointed because there was never any intent and I felt it was a racing incident, but the Team advised not to appeal. They said it was a shame but we’d achieved and proved enough this weekend, and we are in a good place at this stage in the season. I appreciate the stricter approach taken by the officials and I hope that they are consistent but fair with this.
Overall, a very positive first British GT race weekend, however it is a long championship and consistency is key. As always, I’d like to thank everyone, and in particular all of the Beechdean AMR team, for their faultless efforts all weekend!