The team arrived at a bright and dry Oulton Park on Friday morning, with a busy paddock, the team set about setting up base for the weekend. As usual the outfit was almost race ready out of the trailer, and with practice not until the afternoon, the team could relax, fuel up and give the outfit a final once over.
It’s been a long while since Steven has raced at Oulton Park, David hadn’t passengered there before, and was last there on a trackday over a decade ago.
This would only be Ste & Dave’s 5th outing together since teaming up back in August, their experience together consisting of club races at both Aintree & Darley Moor… Oulton Park and the wildcard with the FSRA was a huge step up from what they’d done previously.
With 28 outfits entered, there was some high calibre teams there, with Mollyneux/Payne, Holden/Cain with wildcard entries, and super cup regulars like Hegarty/Neave, Harrison/Winkle, Crawford/Hardie, the team compared it from playing Sunday League to now playing in the premier league.
Friday’s practice was all about familiarisation, get a feel for the track. Dave’s main apprehension was the two chicanes… unlike the chicanes at Darley Moor, where Ste can almost take them in a straight line, the ones at Oulton Park are more prominent. Ian Tennant was on hand Friday, passengering another outfit, and was happy to offer advice, along with other teams around the paddock, which was greatly received.
First practice, and the boy’s were surprisingly quick, with the paddock team watching from Cascades, they watched as the lads passed, looking smooth and Dave looking comfortable, before they realised it they were back passing them! Practice wasn’t timed, so no times to compare laps with.
Practice bought one small moment for David, at the first chicane, whilst making the transition through the chicane, Steven missed a gear. Dave loosing his footing, with both feet out the back of the outfit, he managed to get one back on and pull himself back onboard. Nobodies fault, and just part of racing.
The team were happy, and with another session later that afternoon, it was great to discuss things with other teams. Dave received some frank and honest advice from Jen Stainton passenger for Team SAS. Now was the time to work the chicanes, as now it’s hopefully going to be slowest they’ll ever go through them.
That resonated with Dave, and it made sense. If he couldn’t work them at this pace, it would only get harder as the pace increased.
The second session the lads went out, with Jen’s advice at the forefront of his mind, Dave gave it his all though the chicanes, and was immediately noticeable by Ste. Following some of the more experienced crews around Dave watched how other passengers worked sections, reducing the amount of work he was doing throughout each lap, and preserving his energy.
Ste and Dave were happy, confidence was increasing, and were looking forward to the Racing Saturday.
Saturday Race Day
Throughout Friday night, and most of Saturday morning it rained, the team woke to find the paddock soaked, with standing water, a quick walk over to track side and the track too was certainly wet, but no visible standing water from their vantage point.
The weather was cold, overcast, with a gentle breeze, with the cloud sitting high in the sky, it was decided to go out to qualify with Wets, as it was unlikely the sun would make an appearance to dry the circuit before they went out. Speaking with other teams there was much deliberating as to which tyre choice would have been best.
The sidecars were held in the collection area for sometime, before being moved into pitlane to allow the air ambulance to land at the Medical Centre.
Once given the all clear the sidecars made their way out in damp conditions, Ste and Dave seemed to hold their own, managing to pass the black and yellow outfit of Millington/Hainsworth just before the entry to Old Hall. The session was red flagged after 4 laps, with the outfit of team SAS on the grass with a blown engine, and to allow the air ambulance to depart. The team returned to the paddock, and to their surprise discover they hadn’t qualified last! Qualifying 27th of 28 outfits, ahead of Millington/Hainsworth, with a time of 2:33.378.
Speaking with Joe Gaunt, passenger for Hackney on outfit #123, it took a while for them to find a way past, and were surprised at where Ste & Dave had qualified. That said the damp conditions creating a few interesting moments, with a large slide out of cascades on one lap, the lad’s didn’t get chance to string together a seamless flying lap. But not to be at the back of the grid was good enough!
Expectations were high for a nice little battle at the back, the team decided to keep the wets on as conditions hadn’t changed any, with a short time between qualifying and race 1.
The sidecars formed up in the collection area, and were held on the grid whilst the Air Ambulance made a 2nd visit to the medical centre. It became apparent that there was a dry line on the track exiting Lodge, down dear leap and along the straight. There was a mixed bag of tyre choices on the grid, with Slicks, Intermediate and Wets.
The green flag was dropped and the grid headed out on their sighting lap, the dry line continued around the entire circuit, with no standing water. The teams who opted for slicks were going to reap the rewards of their gamble.
Forming back up on the grid, the team hoped that by getting an excellent start they could pick up a few places, and with their straight line speed hold off a few challenges… from the start it became apparent there was a big difference to the club races. The outfit of Millington/Hainsworth got an impressive start, along with Pettman/Taylor, Ste and Dave took chase from the start, but with 26 outfits charging into the first corner, it was chaotic, Ste opting to hold back, giving them time to sort themselves out rather than being caught in the middle of it all. Millington & Pettman opened a gap from the start, Ste & Dave managed to keep it fairly consistent for a lap or two, before loosing touch.
Not deterred they kept up their own pace, before the wet tyres started to break apart, with no standing water on the circuit to try and cool them, the option was to slow the pace.
Dave did a sterling job, alerting Ste to the leading outfits coming up behind as they lapped them, whilst they couldn’t keep pace with the likes of Holden/Cain, they picked up a few lines and techniques from some of the other outfits that passed them.
There were places they could make up time, with corners they could take quicker, whilst it was easy to say so in the paddock, without the time on the outfit together, Ste & Dave lacked the confidence to take the corners like the championship teams.
Returning to the Paddock, objective 1 was completed, David now had his final signature and will have rid of his novice bib, they’d got to race at Oulton Park, and experience racing with some excellent teams, of course they were disappointed not to have managed to keep pace with the back markers and have a battle with them, that was until they saw the results sheet, knocking an impressive 16sec off their qualifying time!
Looking at the lap by lap times, even when slowing the pace due to tyre wear, the lads still managed to consistently lap 10sec quicker than qualifying.
Only after returning home, did it become apparent that perhaps the outfit had the wrong gearing, as Ste struggled, if at all to engage to top gear, and with Oulton Parks fast flowing sections put the team at a disadvantage in the dryer conditions, but proved advantageous in the wet conditions of qualifying, with the reduced gearing compared to the other outfits.
The clouds cleared and made way for clear blue sky. It was a cold autumnal day, but the track was dry, with no sign of incoming rain, weather reports confirmed as much. The decision was made to put the slicks on, with a dry track Ste & Dave were looking forward to getting out and seeing how much further they could improve.
The lads knew where they could make up more time, and with a dry track, and their slicks fitted, they were excited to get out and improve once again, Dave encouraging Steve that he was comfortable and felt they could go through Lakeside & Clay Hill considerably quicker, having followed some of the quicker outfits in race one through the sections.
The teams made their way to the collection area, a solitary black storm cloud rolled over the circuit, the teams formed up on the grid, but with some confusion as to what grid position some outfits should be on. The marshal on the left side of the grid, happily advised where they should be after the sighting lap, whilst the marshal on the right hand side, began to have teams move their outfits back onto their correct grid position.
This delay resulted the storm cloud moving further overhead, before right on time, hail stones and rain began to fall. The clerk of the course decided to postpone the sighting lap, as they expected the rain and hail to stop, however the damage was done, the circuit was wet. Dave Mollyneux deciding to push the outfit off the grid before the sighting lap. Despite much gesticulating from most of the teams on the grid to get them on their way, and try and get some warmth in their slicks before the track became completely wet, the Clerk of the course held the teams again, before finally getting them under way.
All the teams seemed to be taking a cautious approach, Ste and Dave had discussed the options on the grid, and agreed to do the sighting lap and make a decision based on that. The damp conditions, cold slick tyres made an interesting lap, with hail and rain falling, and each sector having reduced adhesion flags displayed, the lads called it a day. They were there as for some experience, but it wasn’t worth risking injury and damaging the outfit in such conditions.
They along with a few other outfits returned to the paddock and watched from trackside. The race was finally started, and the sun appeared, with spray coming from the rear of each outfit down into cascades, it wasn’t ideal conditions for slicks. The outfit of Schofield/Ryder had a moment at Old Hall, before the race was red flagged on the 3rd/4th lap.
With the conditions as they were, time running on, it was decided to not rerun the race.
All in all, an experience. More confidence and experience for Ste & Dave, despite being disappointed they didn’t get a good crack at the second race with the downpour. That said with the incorrect gearing, perhaps they’d have also been disappointed with their times in the dry,
Steve, Dave and all the time would like to thank the FSRA, NG Road Racing, the Marshals for organising and running the event. A special thank you to the teams in the paddock who’ve given the team such positive feedback, and helpful advice. It genuinely means a lot to the team, and is a great boost of confidence as the season draws to the end, and the team start preparing for next season.