Oulton Park Bites Back

After a fantastic pair of opening races at Silverstone where James Gornall took 2 straight wins, surprisingly there were already some paddock murmurings that the championship was pretty much already decided….however for anyone with any experience of UK club racing, that was never going to be the case…and this was proven beyond doubt as the day unfolded.

Qualifying

Qualifying took place in pretty much the ideal conditions…cool morning air, hardly a breath of wind and a completely dry track surface. To save any confusion and to maintain fairness, cars were released onto the circuit in Championship positional order. This meant James “Jiggy” Gornall had clean air and space to get out in front and try to lay down a marker…which is exactly what he did, and in the most forceful manner.

With most of the chasing pack either caught up in traffic or fighting each other for position, Jiggy made the most of the empty circuit in front of him and posted a blinding 2nd lap of 2:04.189 to take pole in Race 1 followed by a 2:04.418 on lap 4 of the session which was enough to secure pole in Race 2. These times were all the more impressive when compared to 2nd place man Ian Jones who took P2 in both races with a 2:05.199 (over a second off the pole man) and a 2:05.774 to secure P2 in Race 2. The biggest loser from the early Championship leading pack was Steven Dailly who retired after a few laps with mechanical issues after an accidental coming together with the car of James Nutbrown.

Race 1 Top 10 Grid Positions
Gornall 2:04.189
Jones 2:05.199
Nutbrown 2:05.540
Carrington Yates 2:05.595
Dawson 2:05.828
Hunter 2:05.907
Huntley 2:06.372
Dailly 2:06.550
MacMillan 2:06.677
Yates 2:06.783

Race 2 Top 10 Grid Positions
Gornall 2:04.418
Jones 2:05.774
Carrington Yates 2:05.879
Hunter: 2:05.954
Dawson 2:05.968
Nutbrown 2:06.604
Huntley 2:06.544
MacMillan 2:06.787
Dailly 2:07.127
Parkes 2:07.223

Excluded from the qualifying results were Peter Dell and Phil Adcock after their cars were deemed to be slightly under the minimum weight post quali, and also Ruaridh clark for failing the minimum ride height check. These three would start from the back of the grid…with an additional 10 second penalty also added.

Race 1

Although the skies were grey and the temperature had dropped since earlier in the day, the circuit was still dry as the field of BMW Compacts lined up in formation. Jiggy would surely have been concentrating hard as he remembered a less than perfect start he made here last year, and as the lights went out it looked like he had made a decent start. However, James Nutbrown who was starting directly behind Jiggy had got off to a real flyer and was right on the pole man’s bumper as they built speed on the approach to Old Hall. Ian Jones from his P2 grid slot had also made a cracking start and he managed to find pace around the outside into Old Hall where he then pushed hard through The Avenue to mount his challenge for the lead from Jiggy who was still desperately trying to defend his position from Nutbrown behind. Giles Dawson was also putting massive pressure on Nutbrown as well and clearly hoping to capitalise on any mistake or tangle from those in front. As the front two of Gornall and Jones entered Cascades, Jones’ car on the inside car got a little bit loose which resulted in a nudge to Gornall. This resulted in Jiggy making a trip over the grass and losing almost 20 places in the process.

The resulting loss of momentum for Jones meant that Nutbrown was handed the lead, followed by a hard pushing Dawson in 2nd followed through by Owen Hunter into 3rd. As the train of cars headed through Lakeside, Jones was trying hard to get back to racing speed, however as he defended from a fast charging Gordon MacMillan, the 2 touched and Jones speared off just prior to the entry to Island Bend. Unfortunately, a hard contact with the tyre barrier resulted in an early end to his race and a fairly heavily damaged car.

Steven Dailly who was watching from the pitwall after failing to get his car fixed in time to take his grid slot must have been cursing his luck as he witnessed two of his championship rivals losing bucketloads of points…but as we all know, that’s racing!

So, at the sharp end, as the cars rounded Lodge to complete their first lap, Nutbrown led, followed closely by Dawson, who was himself being pressured by a determined Owen Hunter. A few car lengths behind was MacMillan who had Matt Parkes and Mark Skeats filling his mirrors. Tom Langford was next up, followed by Sam Carrington Yates desperately trying to make up ground after a less than perfect start where he lost multiple places.

Behind the leading pack of drivers, as ever there were battles for positions being fought throughout the field, each driver giving their all to make up ground and gather points.

Into lap 2 and Nutbrown had his head down attempting to break away from a closely following Giles Dawson. His outright pace seemed to get the better of Dawson as Giles made a costly error by sliding wide at Island and making a trip over the grassy infield. In doing so he handed P2 to Owen Hunter and dropped multiple places whilst attempting to navigate his way safely back onto the circuit. This allowed Gordon MacMillan into P3 where he set about chasing down the 2 leaders.

By mid race distance Nutbrown was still leading and making an excellent job of setting error free consistent lap times…something that Hunter wasn’t enjoying at all as he prayed for one locked wheel or sideways moment from the leader. The fact that Hunter was setting consistently faster laps than Nutbrown only became apparent afterwards, and would frustrate Owen even more as he failed to turn this superior pace into a decisive passing opportunity.

From his lowly position of P19 after the first lap exploits, by the end of lap 5 Jiggy had fought his way back through the field to 9th, in doing so setting the fastest lap of the race on lap 4 (a 2:04.753). He would eventually make up another couple of places to finish in 7th to collect some decent championship points after what must have seemed to him like a disastrous situation on the first lap.

As the race reached it’s conclusion, James Nutbrown took the chequered flag to secure his first ever circuit win, and boy did he enjoy it…as well as deserve it for a sterling drive. Owen Hunter finished 2nd after putting maximum pressure on Nutbrown throughout, but not being able to find a clean opportunity to attempt a challenge for the lead. Gordon MacMillan took 3rd, but it was far from comfortable as he had been chased down by a very determined Carrington Yates and Matt Parkes who were all over each other directly behind him. Mark Skeats followed this bunch up in 6th place after a great showing, with Jiggy hot on his heels searching for a few more points.

Top 10 finishers were:
Nutbrown
Hunter
MacMillan
Carrington Yates
Parkes
Skeats
Gornall (FL)
Dawson
Huntley
Sharp

Race 2

After what seemed like the longest wait ever due to some endurance racing taking place, it was into our second race of the day. The weather had held out and the circuit was still bone dry. After his DNS in race 1, Steven Dailly was back on the grid for this one, as was Ian Jones in a decidedly “second hand” looking car after AW Tracksport had worked miracles to get him race ready with seconds to spare. Simon Welch also managed to make the grid after a weekend he’ll probably want to forget.

As the red lights went out Jiggy made a good start, created a gap, led every lap, took fastest lap and won by over 10 seconds….so nothing more to report!

As we all know, it’s never quite as simple as that in club racing, and especially not in the Nankang Tyres BMW Compact Cup Championship, and although James Gornall made this one look easy, there was plenty of action and door handle to door handle racing happening not so far behind him. Although Ian Jones started and looked quick enough throughout in his reshaped car, he was excluded from the results after missing a black flag (or two….) due to his exhaust system looking as if it wanted to escape from its home under the car, so for the purposes of the race report he unfortunately won’t feature further (sorry Ian!)

Behind Jiggy the fight for the remaining podium places was really hotting up, with Owen Hunter having made a strong start protecting a solid P2 from a pretty determined looking Giles Dawson. As the raced progressed Giles would get close to the rear of Owen a number of times, but in trying to mount a challenge he would lose a bit of ground only to regroup and try again with the same result. He also had to be mindful not to push too hard and make any mistakes, as a closely following Steven Dailly would have taken advantage immediately. As the race worked its way to a conclusion it was clear that Jiggy was on a planet of his own as far as pace and he took a decisive win. Owen Hunter took a very well deserved and hard fought P2, with Giles Dawson delighted at securing the final podium place. Steven Dailly was a bit happier after taking a some very valuable 4th place points and James Nutbrown even more so by taking a fairly comfortable 5th place after a solid drive in which he wasn’t troubled too much by those chasing.

It’s difficult to keep track of every driver when compiling a brief race report, however mentions have to go to Mark Skeats and Gordon MacMillan who have both found some serious race pace this season so far, Keith Towers who continues to improve every time he races, Ben Huntley who is surely going to enjoy a podium at some point soon, Matt Parkes who is starting to show he’s one to watch, and once again young Ruaridh Clark, who if he ever manages to get through a qualifying session will doubtless be a regular top 10 finisher. David Sharp and Jack Yates are also just a bit of luck away from a top 5 spot this season as well. These “name checks” are only a few of the drivers that could be highlighted, so please don’t be offended if your name isn’t mentioned!

Summary

As we take a breather before the next races at Snetterton 300 on June 11th it might once again be said by some that “it’s all over” already…however as we witnessed at Oulton Park, nothing is ever decided in motorsport until it is mathematically impossible for a championship standing to be overhauled. A single driver error, a puncture, a nudge or a mechanical failure can drastically alter the course of a championship…and very often has! So, for anyone who thinks that it’s already all over?…NO CHANCE.

Snetterton 300 on 11th June….Bring it on!