Wednesday, 7 April 2010
Easter Weekend at Oulton Park: Monday
After a day in the real world on Easter Sunday, followed by an early night, it was up at sparrow-cheep on Monday, and off again to Oulton via McDonalds. I had decided to be bold and not use Jane (the name given to our SatNav); although after completing the 50 mile trip quite a few times I should really be able to manage it by now. This backfired as I took a wrong turn a few miles shy of the circuit, at which point Jane was duly removed from the glove box to provide assistance. We arrived just as the GT cars were completing their warm up, it’s a great feeling when you cross the road bridge over the circuit at Oulton’s main entrance, especially when you have Ferraris roaring around underneath. We were directed to park on the infield overlooking Cascades, and when we parked we were amazed, we had undoubtedly the best parking space anywhere in the history of the world. Ever. In the front row, high on the bank, with panoramic views of probably half a mile of the track, encompassing two of the best overtaking areas it has to offer; I didn’t want to get out, but I did.
Christian had decided that he wanted to watch the first race of the day, the reverse grid F3 sprint race from the start line, so we watched the VW qualifying from Lodge, and crossed the track as the session ended. We arrived opposite the pits just as the teams were starting to assemble on the grid, and I tried my best to be as inconspicuous as all the other men as we ogled the Cooper Tires grid girls. It was actually quite an eye opener watching some of these young kids going through their pre race routines, especially Daisuke Nakajima, who had his engineer stick some duct tape on the barrier, presumably as a marker to show him where to stop after the formation lap. I listened as two particularly dull sounding chaps dissected the previous day’s Malaysian GP, “They’re going to have to just dump a load of water on the track half way through each race” was countered with “They need to go back to having cars like these (Formula 3), there’d be loads of overtaking”. I wonder if they noticed that only James Calado overtook anyone after lap 1 in the main F3 race, from the whole of the top 10, they were probably too busy looking for a hosepipe. After the cars left for the parade lap, we legged it down to Old Hall to watch the start, which was impressive if uneventful, apart from Nakajima taking over from Gabriel Dias at the front, lap 2 was more eventful as Dias tried to reclaim the lead around the outside, off the drying line and entered into a predictable, but well saved 360, which left him at the back of the pack. The next lap saw impressive young Brit Rupert Svendson-Cook relieve the Japanese of the lead, again on the run out of Old Hall, a lead which he held to claim his maiden F3 win, at only the second attempt.
We crossed back to the infield after the race and watched the Formula Ford race from Druids, totally the other end of the circuit for those unfamiliar with OP, due to Christian’s constant wanderlust, and by the time we arrived there most of the expected frontrunners were missing from the action, although I never did find out why. We crossed the bridge to watch the first British GT race from the outside of Knickerbrook, my personal favourite spot, where we amazingly managed to stay for the duration of the one hour race. Let me give you some background on my son, Christian. Christian always manages to take a shine to an unexpected driver over the course of a race weekend, it was Michael Caine at the BTCC meeting last year who became the object of his obsession. This time it was his namesake (probably for that reason), Ginetta G50 driver, and Oulton Park race instructor Christian Dick, who would go on to take 1st and then 2nd in the GT4 class in Monday’s two, one hour races. Imagine my embarrassment, and everybody else's confusion, as, during a quiet moment after his Ginetta had roared past us and up clay hill, when Christian loudly exclaimed, “Dad, I absolutely love Dick”. Even the super sensible ear defender wearing family sat next to us turned to give a disapproving look.
After an extortionate lunch and a trip to the stalls for some discount Lewis Hamilton merchandise (which I craftilly got away with buying as this seasons as Lewis is #2 again) we stumbled across one of those 1990's simulators that looks like an airliner cockpit, which was playing a flying lap of Silverstone with Michael Schumacher (in a manual Benetton, so not exactly cutting edge), Christian persuaded me to take him on it, during which we were nearly reacquainted with my hot dog, although I'm sure I enjoyed the ride more than the small boy in front of me who ended up face down in the footwell.
We took advantage of the pitwalk, where we met some more F3 drivers and the now almost legendary Christian Dick (right), and got some rather nice free stuff from the United Autosports Audi team, before heading off to cascades to watch a great Abarth 500 race, in which Benny Simonsen, brother of GT ace Allan, confirmed what we thought on Saturday, that he is a hugely talented young man. Amazingly, we stayed at Cascades and watched Jean-Eric Vergne dominate the 40 minute F3 feature race, before heading back to our car, in cooling conditions, for the second GT race of the day. We saw the Barwell run Aston Martin crash head on into the tyre wall right in front of us, although that was the last action we did see from our fantastic vantage point as some fool in an orange VW transporter drove around the cordon and parked his tango'd monstrosity right in our eye line. We manoeuvred around the emptying embankment and found a spot which was almost as good to watch the MTECH Ferrari team take their second win of the day, and to witness the evergreen David Ashburn drive the wheels off his GT3 Porsche to take a great third place, rivalling Benny Simonsen for the drive of the day.
All in all another great day's racing at one of the best circuits the UK has to offer, we will be back here in June for the BTCC, but our next adventure of note will be to watch the GT1 World Championship at Silverstone in early May, I'll keep you posted.
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This weekends photos are now on our Flickr page: ifitsgot4wheels