I woke up feeling very excited for the day ahead. Oulton Park was bathed in glorious sunshine and I had my first day of working with the Routec guys to help get the car dialled in. Got myself signed on and then headed over to introduce myself and agreed I would head out for the first session to give a base set of times to look at when making changes. Almost missed the start of the first session getting the front bumper back on but Simon Roche came to my rescue and sent me off to get changed while he took care of the final checks. Having done a large number of sim laps around Oulton I knew where I was going but having never been on track the first session was all about building up gently. Having said that I was feeling comfortable straight away and found myself overtaking a few other Compacts.
My day would end soon after though with engine trouble 2 laps in to the 2nd session! Although a deal was done to get me an engine for race day I had missed out on three quarters of the track time available to get up to speed and having to try and put money thoughts out of my head.
Qualifying – 36th
The overnight rain had been replaced once again glorious sunshine and the track was bone dry by the time it came to qualifying. I set about getting my 3 banker laps in before starting to up the pace but this plan backfired as I just never found a clear spot on track. When I finally felt like I’d really hooked a clean and clear lap up one of the other Routec cars span right ahead of me and in avoiding contact the lap was ruined. The lost momentum also meant I had to give way to other cars and my last lap was full of traffic so returned to the pits feeling rather frustrated. turned out I was 2 seconds off what I had managed in my half an hour the day before! Not good enough. However we were all given post session checks and 4 drivers were put to the back meaning I’d start a few places further forward at least.
Race 1 – 29th
We were held in the Assembly area for a loooong time while changes to the initial grid were sorted out due to times being removed. I’m surprised we didn’t all melt! Although my getaway was slightly better than at Brands it still wasn’t good enough and I would lose a couple of places by the end of Turn 1. As we exited the first corner a large cloud of smoke with flashes of Compacts scattering in various directions was visible. We all made it through the mild carnage and soon the safety car boards were out! My first ever safety car experience. After what seemed like a very long 2 laps we were back under green again. A few of the recovering front runners quickly came past before I made a good move on one of the Raw cars at Hislops chicane right where my support were watching! For the remainder of the race I was pushing hard to chase down Pawel and got to within around half a second but just ran out of time to make the pass. Keeping the car on track and avoiding any dramas had seen me make a bit of progress after my poor qualifying.
Race 2 – 32nd
Between races I’d had a chat with the Routec guys about what I could improve at the starts and got some advice to change my target revs which helped a bit with my initial launch off the line. I got a little hung out to dry on the outside of turn 1 but made sure I held my own on the inside through turns 2 and 3 to hold position. At the first chicane with everyone checking up ahead I lost momentum and the guys coming from further back behind me managed to get good runs and make it 3 wide which was interesting! I then settled in to my race and chased the battles ahead hard and towards the end was involved in a 3 car scrap that would see us all finish within a second. Great stuff! The race ended slightly prematurely due to the meeting running late and probably not helped by a few cars going off which was a shame as I had the pace to have a go at passing the guys ahead of me.
In summary it was an extremely hard weekend and I was lucky to even be racing after the engine going on Friday. It has taken a large chunk out of my budget but the guys at Routec were fantastic getting the engine changed overnight. Massive thanks go out to them as they were working until at least 2am! I’m not too disappointed with my pace considering I missed most of the test day and was running on my old tyres. I’ll be coming back stronger at Silverstone with my engine back with improvements, fresh new Nankang rubber and hopefully a strong day of testing where we can improve the car.