Oulton Park 29/30 March 2019

The team launched their 2019 season returning to Oulton Park, where their 2018 ended prematurely. The team joined BEMSEE for their 2nd round at the Cheshire circuit, alongside a star studded compliment of over 20 outfits, both F1 & F2.

The team made the short journey to Oulton Park early on the Friday morning, with dense patches of fog, it was soon burnt away by the warming sun, providing ideal conditions. Having altered the gearing from their last visit, a newly refreshed engine, optimism was high, but with it being 5 months since the lads had been out, the plan was to start off steady and build up.

The sidecars were called for practice, and waited in the holding area, before being returned back to the paddock following an incident in the session before. We hope the rider involved is OK. Credit to BEMSEE, they decided to call an early lunch, and the sidecars would be out after that.

Excitement was building, and the teams headed out. The first few laps keeping pace with the KTM powered F1 outfit of Pettis/Phillips, who were at Oulton Park for their first time, and keeping in touch with the outfit of Pettman/Robinson.

Perhaps it was the length of time they’d been off the outfit, but the laps felt quicker, with the engine running sweet, and the outfit performing flawlessly.

Practice was cut short after only 4 laps… with Ste needing an unplanned loo visit, somethings just can’t be helped, and the amount of micky taking he received after that, he won’t make the same mistake again!

The first words out of Dave’s mouth when returned to the paddock were “F**king hell”. It felt much quicker that their last visit, with less time to recover between corners, and fighting against the relentless acceleration. Dave was struggling to naturally find the block on the platform, causing to panicked leg kicking to locate it. It was quick and comfortable for both, but fitness already appeared to be a weakness.

Out for the 2nd practice, the time was reduced following several earlier incidents and to ensure there was time for qualifying later in the day. Dave was happy as they were accelerating up Clay Hill much better than their visit in October, achieving that moment of weightlessness as they powered over the brow. From Old Hall down to Cascades, was certainly quicker, with Dave commenting how he was unable to wave at the spectators. Steve was powering out of Old Hall, into Dentons, then hard on the brakes for Cascades. Dave was working hard, keeping over the back of the outfit round Old Hall, then switching to left for Cascades, but it felt quick and comfortable, before thundering up Lakeside, and into Island Bend.

Any nerves about the chicanes had gone, and whilst Dave wasn’t quite able to work the left in the second Chicane like some of the quicker teams, it didn’t pose too much of a problem.

The team stood around the circuit passed comment on how quick the lads were going, unable to snap a photo on their phones as they passed, unlike last year. Whilst practice wasn’t timed, spirits were high.

The lads headed out for Qualifying, with a large entry, it appeared everyone had hatched the plan of arriving early. This resulted in the lads heading out last, which wasn’t too much of a concern.

Early on in the session, they passed the outfit of Pettman/Robinson. Pettis/Phillps on the F1 passed shortly after, and the lads clung onto the back of them for half a lap, before coming up behind the F1 outfit of Best/Slater.

Pettis/Phillips with the power of the Thou’, roared past them no bother, however that wasn’t the case for the 600.

Down into Dear Leap, and onto the start finish the F1 had the shear power to pull away, Ste tried to tuck up the inside into Lodge as Best/Slater took a wide line, before cutting back across to the apex closing the door on Ste & Dave, before powering down to Cascades all the way through Shell Oils.

Pettman/Robinson managed to pass the lads back, as they were held up in the corners by Best/Slater, and into the 1st Chicane, it was Best/Slater, Pettman/Robinson, and Ste & Dave behind.

Both Ste & Dave were getting frustrated, whilst the F1 of Best/Slater had the speed down the straights, into the corners the lads felt they could have gone in quicker, but couldn’t find a way past.

With both Ste & Dave getting frustrated, it was a drag race out of 1st chicane, that saw off Pettman/Robinson first, before dropping down towards the 2nd chicane, with the F1 of Best/Slater to the left, the door was open for Ste to launch up the inside. Dave launching himself up over Ste’s back, getting his weight as far forward for the impending hard breaking, and right turn into the 2nd Chicane.

It worked and with clear track ahead, Ste powered up Clay Hill, and straight into the following left of Watertower. The outfit run wider than it had in practice, rolling of an a touch of the brakes, the boys carried on into Druids, & Lodge.

They had fire in their bellies, giving it everything, the writing was on the wall for one hell of a flying lap, round Lodge, up Deer Leap, the lads are met with the chequered flag. 3 Laps for qualifying. The really fast lads only managed to sneak 4. It wasn’t the 15minutes they expected. Frustrating, but that’s racing.

Overnight more teams arrived, and would be starting from the back of the grid. The Christie Brothers, and both the Schofield brothers amongst them.

The lads had qualified 18th of the 21 outfits that took part, with a time of 2:17.771. Not too shabby considering the congestion, and it was the first time out of the year, they were only 1 second off their fasted lap from their fist visit in October.

Race 1 –

The start wasn’t ideal, Ste got a good launch from the line, but missing a gear along the straight gave the outfits ahead chance to pull away a small lead. The lads had hoped for a little scrap with the Outfit of Pettman/Robinson. But they’d pulled off phenomenal start, and were on it the pace immediately.

Ste & Dave kept with the back of the group, clearly trying to close the gap and get involved. Lap 2 they managed to improve their PB to 2:16.664

but into the start of the 3rd lap, their pace unexpectedly dropped. Ste shaking his head with frustration, and Dave left only able to guess what was happening.

Their pace continued to drop, as the laps went on and it wasn’t long before the leading outfits started to pass them. The boys pulled into the pits at the end of lap 6, with their lap times dropping to near 2:30, it wasn’t a comfortable place to be with the top 6 outfits, all with fastest laps under 1:50.

It then became apparent that there was an issue with the brakes… mainly that there wasn’t any, which is a little bit of a problem. Ste rolled back, pumping the brake pedal, he would get intermittent brakes. Something was amiss, and back in the paddock the team set about investing the cause.

When cracking the nuts off the chair wheel, Dave held the wheel with the brake pedal, alarmingly the wheel would turn. Something was amiss.

Further investigation, it turned out the be the brake pedal had jammed, where it pivots to open the valve on the reservoirs.

A thank you must go the Chandlers, who provided a longer bolt & locking nut to replace the threaded welded nut, the spring was reset on the pedal, before doing a few brake tests around the paddock. All seemed well, and the lads would make race 2.

There was a prolonged wait for Race 2, following further incidents throughout the day, and to accommodate the arrival and subsequent departure of the air ambulance. Credit to the staff at BEMSEE, who kept it well organised, and managed to get a full race programme in, with the curfew at Oulton Park a generous 18:30, it was a matter of whether the low lying sun would remain long enough.

The lads formed up on Row 14 of the grid 27th of 29. The sighting lap done, they formed up on the grid. There appeared to be some confusion and the out fit of Street/Griswood was positioned in the middle of row 14, and the lads seemed to form up dead last on Row 16. The flag was dropped, and the lights came on giving no chance to rearrange.

The lads make a good start and were taking chase after the F1 outfit of Best/Slater, just 1 second behind after lap 1, before it increased to 4 seconds by lap 3, before the really quick lads started passing. Dave alerting Ste to them coming up behind, they moved of the racing line, and let them pass safely, and make the most of the perfect racing conditions.

Both Ste & Dave were tired before the race started, with their quickest lap a 2:19, but at least making it to the chequered flag.

Both Ste & Dave were disappointed with their race performance. They had hopes of battling for position, however they suspect they peaked to early. The excitement of finally getting out on the outfit, saw them hit practice hard on Friday. Concentrating trying to attack the entire circuit hard, and lap quickly during untimed practice.

Whilst the lads enjoyed it, it’s race results where it matter. Races aren’t won in practice.

As a team we’ve learnt from it. We’re at Darley Moor next for Practice and Round 1 on the 6th/7th April. Rather than trying the lap the entire circuit flat out, we’ll pick one or two sections where we feel we can improve and work on those, once those are better, it’ll probably then create another place that can be improved.

There were lots of positives to take away, as a team we’re still bonding. But to turn up at the first meeting of the season and lap quicker than the last visit, is a promising start. We’ll be back to Oulton Park with W100 at the end of April.