Wednesday, 7 April 2010
Easter Weekend at Oulton Park: Saturday
I have been waiting all winter for the chance to go and see some live action, and this weekend it finally came around as we headed off to Oulton Park for the British F3/British GT openers at my favourite non-F1 circuit. I bought my tickets on the day they went on sale, although due to there being no Sunday action at this meeting, we decided not to camp, but to travel first thing on both the qualifying day (Sat) and the race day (Mon). Christian was almost as excited as I was, and we had no trouble being up at 6.15, so we would have enough time to cram in a McDonalds breakfast and still get there for the first action at 9. Armed with the obligatory camera, autograph book and programme, we started the usual routine of finding a good place to watch then moving after one session either to the paddock, a food stand or the greener grass of a different spectator area. By lunch time on Saturday we had visited every corner of the circuit watching the practice and qualifying activity and decided to go and have a look around the paddock. Christian did his standing on the podium bit and we walked down the back of the pit garages, which for some reason contained the GT cars this year as opposed to the F3 teams which occupied them at last year’s event. There was an unexpected treat there in the form of a road going Pagani Zonda parked at the back of one of the garages. Next stop would be lunch from a burger van, I decided that I would push the boat out and had an £8 burger meal (not a misprint), and as I was putting my ketchup and mustard on it, I accidentally knocked a jug of milk all over some poor chaps food, leading to great embarrassment, I offered to replace the soggy hotdog, but the man insisted that it would be fine as it was. If you are reading and recognise yourself as this person, which is unlikely seeing as my current readership would struggle to form a five-a-side team, I am deeply and truly sorry, not only for the condition which my actions left your lunch, but also for the unpleasant smell which must have followed you around all day from your milk covered jeans, which you had failed to notice as I left the scene, beetroot faced.
Lunch eaten we returned to the circuit and watched the Ginetta G20 race, which this term benefits from a smattering of the new, more aesthetically pleasing G40, which due to its increased weight, and the lack of experience its new owners have of it, struggled for pace against the outgoing G20. We stayed at Old Hall corner for the second race of the day, the inaugural round of the Trofeo Abarth 500 GB, which we had been looking forward to ever since the announcement that the first round would take place on this weekend. It turned into a great race, even though we were deprived of seeing Ben Winrow challenge for honours due to an early retirement. Won by Gareth Howell from the super quick Benny Simonsen, brother of British GT ace Allan, who was contesting his first ever car race, and Charlie Butler-Henderson, brother of Fifth Gear presenter Vicky (which made me think maybe we could have a ‘Brother of a Celebrity’ championship, although this reality TV concept is probably already on the drawing board at Channel 5). Whilst watching the 500’s, it was great to see F3 driver’s Alex Brundle and James Cole mingling with the crowd at Old Hall so close to their championship debut’s, they had come down to watch the action and Christian lost no time in doorstepping his first pedallers of the weekend for autographs (more info in ‘Christian’s autograph book: Part 2’ later). Chapter 1 of the Jean-Eric Vergne show followed, which we were fortunate enough to be watching next to the parents of Welsh F3 star Hywel Lloyd, who seemed to be enjoying the race until their boy was crudely taken out early on by Carlin’s James Calado, leading to some wild gesticulation by Lloyd Sr. This kind of clumsiness has become a bit of a feature in Calado’s fledgling career, as evidenced by the Oulton commentator referring to him as James Collision, and was perhaps explained in a conversation I had last season with the Dad of a fellow Formula Renault driver, who shall remain nameless, who offered the view that Calado could afford to take bigger gambles, and risk accidents, because he enjoyed sponsorship and funding that many of his contemporaries could only dream of. A good day’s spectating was rounded off by the lack of traffic on the way out of the circuit, and we left thoroughly looking forward to the main action on Easter Monday.
Part 2 will follow in the next few days
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