Sunday, April 20, 2008

2008 First Race - Oulton Park

The rain in Spain may well fall mainly on the plain. In the North of England it seems to concentrate on Oulton Park.

Actually it did tease us a bit with some dry periods, but come our race it was bucketing down.

Off we went, at a cracking pace. I could barely see the car in front and had to really steel my nerves just to drive fast enough to keep it in view. There was standing water everywhere and I just didn't feel I could go any faster. And that was just the warm-up laps.

The visibility was appalling. I'd taken all the precautions I could - Rain-X'd windscreen, contact lenses rather than glasses, and a chamois-sponge to wipe the inside of the screen. But nevertheless we had to brake by faith and circuit knowledge rather than being able to see the corner ahead.

I think most of us considered pulling out after the warmup laps (two, in wet conditions). Some did so. Others were sure the race would be scrapped, but lined up on the startline in case that had some effect on the points. But no - the race was on.

I did my best. The usual policy of "stay on the track and wait for enough people to fall off in front" was working quite well. Chris Rome was driving better than me, and overtook me into Knickerbrook. I was almost holding onto him until he decided not to bother with the Knickerbrook chicane a couple of laps later, which gave him a couple of seconds and put him well out of reach.

I concentrated on staying on, and keeping ahead of Andy Skinner, who I could see approaching - but still some way back.

The conditions were actually improving by now, and some dryer lines appearing. I was beginning to enjoy myself, but I couldn't help feeling rather relieved when Martin Kay parked his car in the deep gravel at Druids, causing a red flag. It does seem daft that one car in the gravel at the slipperiest corner of the track can stop the race, but that's the way it is. As we were over half-distance, the race was declared, and the "count back" mechanism meant the official race was a mere three laps long.

I'd qualified ninth, and made up one place to finish eighth. I was happy just to have finished in one piece, and extremely happy to get eighth.

Oulton had been pretty miserable up until that point. We'd been huddled under awnings in the pouring rain and howling wind, and I'd been thinking "it's cost me about three grand to be here - why?". But after the race it somehow all seemed worth it. I'd raced, the car had survived, and I was in the top ten. I couldn't wait for Rockingham.

No comments: