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Oulton Park Race Report

A look back to our glorious race day, from just over three weeks ago. We do try to bring you reports in a timely fashion, this time there was a delay whilst we are all involved in planning for 2024, the final prep for Croft last week and our forthcoming USA rounds.


Let's start our look back with another wonderful highlights reel from Marc Peters

Our official photographer, David Stallard was at the event. Check out the quality and variety of his photos here. He offers drivers a members package price, for all photos at the event.


Full results are available on the TSL website here.


Our write up this time comes courtesy of Mark Paulson, who also published the race reports in MSN and Autosport.


In Marks words: Almost four weeks after the club’s one-day event at Mallory Park, the other half of our series were in action at Oulton Park for the annual Cheshire Challenge, on Saturday 23 September. An early-autumn sojourn on the fast, undulating and narrow 2.69-mile circuit was always going to be a hit for our penultimate meeting of the regular season.


Our three classic series were joined by three more modern sets, along with welcome guests from the Morgan Challenge, for a seven-race programme. Early morning rain made for the challenge of a slippery track for the first few qualifying sessions, before the remaining damp patches under Oulton’s trees were eventually burned off.



The busy programme featured a few more stoppages than ideal – admittedly, not unusual for Oulton Park – but expert marshalling, recovery and race administration meant that the schedule could be completed with minimal impact on race durations.



First on track were the Advantage Motorsport Future Classics, joined by the Adams & Page Swinging Sixties Group 2 classes.

Facing the worst of the weather for their early-morning qualifying session, the majority of quick laps were set at the end of the half-hour. The Future Classics Porsches dominated the times, with Silverstone winner Richard Harman (944 Turbo) going fastest, ahead of Tim Bates (911 RS). The 944s of William and James Dingle and Michael and Liam Wright completed the top four, ahead of lead Swinging Sixties runner Stephen Pickering aboard his Sunbeam Tiger.


Come the race, conditions were much improved, with lap times some 10 to 20 seconds faster. Bates made the best start and immediately set about building a margin over Harman. Pickering initially ran third but was quickly caught and passed by his Swinging Sixties rival Mark Campbell’s Triumph TR5.


Bates’s gorgeous 911 held a 10s advantage prior to becoming the first of the frontrunners to take his mandatory stop. But a safety car soon after meant that others, including Harman and Campbell, could benefit from serving their stops under yellow flag conditions.


Once Simon James’s Tiger had been retrieved from the Druids gravel and green-flag running resumed, the race order was rather different. Dean Halsey’s Datsun 240Z which, with no spark, had retired at the same time, but was left in situ on the grass beside the grid hatchings. Campbell and Pickering had benefited further from the Swinging Sixties’ quick-as-you-can pitstop regulations and ran first and second, ahead of Harman and Bates.


Harman’s 944 quickly demoted Pickering’s Sunbeam through the Avenue, with Bates then also powering past. Bates then managed to pass Harman and Campbell on successive laps to regain his place at head of the field. He went on to claim a 5s victory, his first in the series since the corresponding event in 2019.

Behind Bates, Harman too managed to catch Campbell’s well-driven Triumph. He put it under severe pressure over the final three laps and made one last-ditch effort as the pair exited Deer Leap for the final time. But Campbell held on by a nostril, or 0.031s to be precise, winning the Swinging Sixties section in the process.


Jon Wolfe, whose TVR Tuscan V8 had served a 20s winner’s penalty at its pitstop, caught Pickering for fourth in the closing stages. The Wolfitt Racing driver looked to have missed his opportunity when he ran wide at Cascades with only a few minutes remaining. But Pickering made his own mistake on the following tour and Wolfe swept passed for second in Swinging Sixties.

The Dingles completed the top six ahead of Keir Edmonds’s 911 Carrera, while Jonathan Crayston’s Lotus Elan S4 took Swinging Sixties Class L honours in eighth. Crayston would probably have been pushed by Steve Hodges, who threw his Lotus 7 S2 around with verve as he scythed forward from 18th on the grid but was unfortunate to get caught behind the safety car and effectively lose almost a whole lap.


The tricky morning conditions also served to mix up the Mintex Classic K grid. Maximising the final lap was crucial, as grip improved in the latter stages. As a result, it was a Lotus Cortina lockout of the front row, with father-and-son duo Paddy and Julian Shovlin securing pole position in their smart Jordan Racing Team example. John McGurk improved by more than 4s on his final tour to claim second on the grid. The MGB of Hugh and Mark Coleman put in a giant-killing effort to qualify third, ahead of Paul Tooms (Lotus Elan GTS) who, crucially, didn’t manage to nail that final lap.

Unsurprisingly, more powerful machinery proved tough to tame in the greasy conditions. Jamie Boot was fifth fastest in his 4.7-litre Ford V8-engined TVR Griffith, while the Jaguar E-types of Harry Wyndham/Tom Woods and Mark Russell managed eighth and ninth behind Tina Cooper’s Austin Mini and David Beresford’s MGB.


On a drier track, Tooms led within half a lap of the 40-minute race and Boot’s progress was equally good as he charged to second. The pair then traded lap times before leaving their mandatory stops until the end of the pit window. Tooms emerged with a 2.4s lead but Boot immediately eliminated that with the fastest lap.

With worn tyres, Tooms was struggling to prevent his rear brakes locking and a big lock-up at Druids sent him through the gravel, handing the TVR a 7s lead. With the bit between his teeth, Tooms somehow overcame his car’s limitations to respond with the fastest lap next time around, only for Boot to better it once more as he recorded a 6s victory.


Behind the lead pair, the E-types were closely matched for much of the race. Russell was putting Woods under intense pressure in the second stint, before slowing in the closing stages. So, Woods brought the car started by Wyndham home third while Russell’s troubles allowed Malcolm Johnson to snatch fourth in his Elan. It was an impressive drive from the former Lotus Europa runner on the debut of his newly-built S2. Malcolm had understandably taken it steady in qualifying but increased his pace in the second half of the race and was less than a second shy of a podium finish.

The Lotus Cortina's slipped back in the race, the Shovlin's aid not helped by Julian’s off at Island costing around 20s early on. But father Paddy drove well to pass McGurk as the laps wound down and clinch the duo’s class-winning sixth overall. McGurk remained seventh even after the imposition of a 31.9s penalty for a short pitstop. Class M honours went to the Colmans, after Beresford was another to penalised for a short stop.

Conditions were still greasy for the powerful cars that comprised the Liqui Moly Slicks and Verum Builders Open series. The track was probably just dry enough for slick tyres, but only if it was possible to get them up to temperature. With only a narrow dry line, and a busy track, most opted for treaded rubber.


It still wasn’t easy though, as Mark Lee demonstrated, with an unfortunate off at Old Hall. It ended his Ginetta’s day despite the best efforts of Les Wilson and crew in the paddock.

Kevin Clarke snatched pole position in the dying moments with a terrific lap in the mean-looking Matty Evans BMW 1M Coupe at the scene of his nasty accident a year or two ago. He pipped Niall Bradley’s BMW M3 E46 by two tenths. Third fastest was the mighty Chevrolet LS7-engined Solution F ‘Volvo S60’ silhouette of Nigel Mustill, Nigel then choosing to leave driving duties in the race to pro partner Craig Dolby after feeling under the weather.


The Porsche 911 GT3 Cup car of David Harrison and Jonathan Packer sat atop the times for most of the session but ultimately had to settle for fourth ahead of two more BMW M3s: Nathan Wells’s straight-six engined E46 GTR and the E36 Evo of Mark Smith and son Arran Moulton-Smith.


Leading Verum Builders Open Series qualifier was David Harvey (Lotus 340R), ahead of Nigel Ainge’s Honda Integra Type R where regular driver Danny Cassar was being joined by Adam Brown. The pair were also due to contest the WOSP New Millennium race, but engine problems struck in the qualifying session for that and sidelined the car. Cassar instead joined Garry Barlow in his similar car for that later race.

A fine start by Harrison catapulted the Team Tasman Porsche into the lead, while Dolby got boxed in on the inside. But Harrison’s advantage was short-lived as he ran wide at Cacades, over the grass and through the gravel. That put Clarke back in front but Dolby quickly powered past, in the Wessex Vehicle Services S60 and began clearing off into the distance.


Sadly, the race only got as far as the third lap before red flags appeared. The Open Series M3 of Matthew Sanders had been delayed by loose bodywork and, as the pack came to lap him, Wells’ Woodrow Motorsport-run GTR tangled with Sanders exiting Old Hall. Wells apologised in person for his mistake.


Following the clear-up, the race was restarted over a reduced 25-minute distance, with no specific pit window – something that would turn out to have a significant impact on the result.

Dolby was in a league of his own on pace, three times breaking in to the 1m40s and recording a 96mph lap. He made light of having to stop for an extra 35s (a 20s winner’s penalty added to a 15s handicap for the car’s performance), emerging in a net fifth position but passing all four of those in front within a lap!


Dolby held a 4s lead over Moulton-Smith (who had passed Clarke) at the start of what was set to be the final lap. But with Matt Jackson’s Ford Fiesta in the gravel at Druids, another red flag was called and the result taken back a lap.

A slightly bemused Dominic Malone found himself declared the Liqui Moly Slicks winner, ahead of Dolby and Smith/Moulton-Smith. Malone had elected to leave his pitstop late and so effectively won the race while in the pits. Clark, Bradley and the Ferrari 458 Challenge of John Saunders completed the top six after Packer lost ground emulating team-mate Harrison at Cascades.


Verum Builders Open Series victory went to ebullient Aussie Dave Griffin in his E90 M3, well clear of Harvey’s Lotus and the E46 of Jonathan Strickland.

In contrast to the CSCC’s 40-minute pitstop races, the Morgan Challenge crews contested their usual format of two 20-minute sprints.


Shane Kelly’s modern CX Plus 4, run by Wolverhampton University students, secured pole position from the striking classic +8 of Andrew Thompson, with John Emberson (+4 Babydoll) and Alexander Lees (+8) next up.


Thompson used his power advantage to jump straight into a clear lead at the start of the first race but Kelly began striking back, only for trouble to hit. A split-rim failure cut the CX’s tyre and set him over the Hislops escape road before a couple of pit visits. So Thompson remained unchallenged en route to a commanding victory, while Lees got the better of Emberson for second.

With Kelly mired in 15th on the grid for the rematch, Thompson looked set for a comfortable race. But Kelly was on a mission. He charged to fifth on the first lap then set a series of fastest laps as he picked off those in front and closed on Thompson.


Thompson responded with a fastest lap of his own, and the gap then stabilised at around 5s as the GBS Sportscars ‘Route 66’ car secured a double and Lees completed the podium.



The largest entry of the day came in the Adams & Page Swinging Sixties Group 1 series, for smaller cars. A terrific 37 cars started the race after a 38th – Mark Lister’s Austin-Healey Sprite Mk3 – overheated in qualifying.

It was James Hughes who set the pace in his Frogeye Sprite to annexe pole position, almost half a second clear of the Matthew Howell Mini. Sam Polley (Mini Marcos) and Connor Kay (MG Midget) made up row two, with the Shovlin's Cortina and Ian Staines (Midget) completing the top six in qualifying.


Howell got the jump at the start before a multi-car tangle exiting Old Hall brought the race under caution. John Faux, starting Ian Burgin’s Mk1 Sprite, appeared to get onto the grass and turn around, with the Sprites of Richard Perry and Tim Cairns also picking up race-ending damage.


Upon the resumption, Hughes needed only a lap and a half to get in front, passing Howell at the Shell Oils hairpin before eking out a lead over the Mini and Polley. Behind, Julian Shovlin tussled with Staines, Kay and Chris Watkinson. The latter qualified only 11th having cut his session short after over-revving when the car slipped out of gear.

Polley, with 20s of winner’s penalties to serve, was first of the leaders to pit, shortly before another safety car was called. Most of the other frontrunners pitted immediately but Howell and Watkinson dropped out of contention by circulating at reduced speed for another lap.


Polley was able to negate much of his time-loss as he caught the snake behind the safety car. When the race restarted, he ran fifth behind Hughes, Kay, Paddy Shovlin and Staines. As Kay struggled with a lack of brakes and Shovlin also faded, Polley followed in Staines’s wake up to third, and then got inside at Old Hall to take second.


But Hughes already led by 6s, and almost doubled that over the remaining 10 minutes to clinch his first winner’s trophy in his sophomore season. Arguably, it was overdue, having ‘won’ the first three segments of the Anglesey 24-hour race, only to retire in the fourth and final part. Polley and Staines completed the podium, with Kay holding on to fourth.

Fifth was the Charles Tippet/Claire Norman BMW 2002 Ti. After taking over from her father, Claire drove a stirring stint which earned herself the commentators’ 'Adams & Page Driver of the Day' award. Having passed Lawrence Claridge’s Ford Anglia – which he eventually parked up after it lost its alternator, ripping off the water pump in the process and sending temperatures rocketing – she closed in on Tom Pead’s similar BMW for the lead in class. Both dispatched an increasingly loose Shovlin Cortina, before Norman’s pressure told on Pead. He suffered a big tank-slapper exiting Cascades and lost fifth to Norman and sixth to Shovlin.

Watkinson and Howell recovered to eighth and ninth, while Simon Benoy’s Hillman Imp completed the top 10. After the retirements of Cairns and Nick Edmond’s eye-catching Alfa Romeo Junior Zagato, David Cornwallis (BMW 1600 Ti) was the sole Class D runner left circulating, and he duly claimed class honours.

A number of Open and Slicks series runners doubled-up for another thrash in the WOSP New Millennium race. As ever, the field largely comprised powerful BMW machinery, and it was Sanders and Layton who qualified on pole, ahead of Niall Bradley, Wells and Smith.

The race, reduced to 35 minutes, turned out to be perhaps the quietest of the day. Keen to make up for the early exit from the Open Series race, Layton converted pole position into the race lead and, aside from a couple of laps in the pitstop phase, the Suits Me Ltd M3 was never headed. It was close, however, when Smith exited the pits. His Amspeed E36 M3 Evo came out almost alongside Layton and kept up the pressure for the rest of the race.


Layton held on by 0.6s, while Bradley was nearly 15s further back in third. Griffin’s West Suffolk Racing-prepared car was fourth, ahead of Adrian Bradley and Warren Tattersall’s class-winning Cupra Leon TCR.

Wells was again a non-finisher, this time because of an issue with his GTR’s throttle position sensor, while Malone did not take the start after pulling up on the green-flag lap. Two-time 2023 race winner Michael Vitulli was another in the wars. He ran third early on before picking up front-end damage that caused leaks from his E46’s radiator and oil lines and led to him touring in to retire.

On his first outing in the series, Paul Cook took Class M2 honours in his M3 E46, while Class A went to the M3 E92 of Mark Wyatt and Russell Humphrey.


Race reports written by Mark Paulson


The final events on the CSCC calendar are Daytona in early November, Dinner and Awards night on 18th November and Sebring at the end of November.

 


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Eddy Smith
Eddy Smith
11. Juni

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