8 September 2012

Oulton Park Gold Cup

My first visit to the Gold Cup meeting and I thought it was great. It was also my first visit to the circuit for around 7 years so a lot of learning to do.

Getting to the UK was a bit fraught. My flight was delayed for 1.5 hrs and I only just made it to a medical appointment. Then, on the Friday we set off to pick the car up at Hinckley, only to join a blocked M1. Pulled off the M1 on to the A5 and it was just as bad. A 1hr journey took 3hrs!

Having picked up the MG we headed to the M6 for what turned into another 3hr stint. We got to Oulton Park at around 7pm and just dropped off the trailer in the paddock and headed off to the b&b in the rain.

The b&b was a noisy pub with a band warming up in the corner, but we were hungry so booked a table for dinner. The band was a Blues Brothers tribute and they weren't bad, so we stayed in the bar until around midnight.

The next morning dawned with blue skies and sunshine. We got to the paddock, offloaded the MG and got sorted out. Thanks to a number of fellow competitors, we got the awning erected and we were all set. Scrutineering was a breeze and we then had around five hours until qualifying.

Expecting rain, we were pleased to qualify in the dry although as said it was some years since I raced at Oulton so I had low expectations, I was right, 30th! But I was getting quicker all the time and the car held together with no problems whatsoever. 

Ken arrived with the Capri which had been prepped for the JD Classic race on the Monday and we were all set for the weekend.  We took a walk around the infield on Saturday and noted the many spectators. It seemed like the old Silverstone classic and none the worse for that.

Then it was time for the Guards Trophy race. I lined up behind a TVR Grantura and got a reasonable start. At the end of the first lap I took a run at the TVR, but being a little way back I though better of it. After that my race go a bit lonely, I was well ahead of the cars behind me and dropping back from the cars in front, however I had got past about 6 cars and then benefitted from four retirements ahead of me on the grid, thus I finished 20th and also went consistently two seconds quicker than qualifying. The race was a test in advance of the 6hrs and the car passed with flying colours.

Qualifying for the JD Classic challenge was damp at the start and at the first corner we lost an ex works TWR XJS and a replica Broadspeed Group 2 XJC which brought out the safety car, then as it went in the rain arrived proper.  I qualified reasonably well but hoped for a dry race.  Unfortunately it rained heavily.  I got second in class by default, but suffice to say I had no front or rear grip; and breasting Clay Hill on opposite lock, whilst being fun, was slow and sapped one's confidence. I did entertain the marshals at Cascades, who must have been taking bets on when I either spun on the exit or just headed into the gravel on the apex. There was no way to go faster, so new wet tyres and new dries for Spa. Ken and Tim changed my tyres in record time, so it was a shame that we didn't get a better result.

Overall a big thank you to all the marshals, organisers and of course the spectators who came to talk to me over the weekend.

This is a must do event and I hope I can be there next year.

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