After some solid results at Thruxton 3 weeks before , Oulton Park and it’s inaugural Mini Festival was eagerly anticipated , even if the whole event, taking place on one day, was generally perceived as a hectic schedule.
Some maintenance work was carried out between rounds, namely new Pistons and Seals in the front Brake Calipers, plus new Mini Sport Superfins and Shoes to the rear.
Having arrived and prepped the night before it certainly took the strain away from the tight timetable, which was probably just as well…
Qualifying started well , and having driven this circuit before , albeit in the shorter version with a sick clutch, the corners soon came back to me from memory. BUT after one lap the clutch started to slip , a little unusual to suddenly happen… and nothing more in the way of problems for two more laps as the problem disappeared only to be replaced by a clutch pedal issue, which meant less and less travel and feel . By lap 4 I had lost the clutch altogether and decided all I could do was park up. So I limped around the back half of the track in 4 th gear to the pit lane . I was a bit miffed to have the problem , but to be held in the pits and not allowed to make my way to the paddock was even more frustrating , especially in full kit in 30 degree + cockpit temperature!
All things considered I should have been pleased with qualifying 9th for both races and having completed 4 laps, I didn’t need to start at the back of the grid.
The clutch housing was removed , slave cylinder line bled through, release bearing and arm checked, then all reassembled . The only problem we could find was a loose locknut on the free play adjuster assembly, all the problems looked to have been caused by the clutch adjuster winding itself in! Simple fix but so annoying.
So for the first race , starting 9th and on the inside row was not such a bad thing. A reasonably average start saw me drop to 10th , only to regain 9th midway through the first corner and I was pushing on. By the third corner I was taking another spot and gaining on 7th. Another lap in and I was sixth and inherited 5th through a retirement in front. I was finding the car flowing nicely and my confidence was soon returning, realising what the car is capable of. I was rapidly hauling in 4th spot but running out of laps, but isn’t that the story of any race, never enough laps!
5th was a good solid finish again and more vital points in the bag .
The second race soon came around, having only a 3 hour gap between the races.
The usual nut and bolt checks, re-fuel, tyre pressure checks etc were completed in no time at all and I even had time for lunch which is something I never normally do!
I managed a slightly better start this time but still lost a place, and recovered it by the end of the first corner. I kept pushing ….. Another place by the third corner and another within 50 yards, something felt great, maybe the penny has dropped!
I was pushing hard now as around the back section of Oulton I was visibly so much quicker and taking huge chunks of time out of the cars in front. Within another 2 laps I was upto 3rd , my highest running position to date. I could see a gap opening up behind me and I was starting to catch 2nd place. 2 more laps and I was overtaking the current Mini 7 champion and claiming 2nd place as my own. I couldn’t believe what was happening, but had to stay focused.
The car felt superb, I felt superb and was pushing all the while, another lap and who knows what could have happend. BUT I was overjoyed with a 2 nd place finish, my highest ever result and first podium.
The champagne tasted so sweet after all the efforts of so many and to finally step into the platform was a fantastic feeling, even more so when starting. 9th on the grid. I even got a mention in Autosport.
A few people need some thankyou’s at this point …
Selby race engines for a great product in “old faithfull” my spare engine!
All the team members in A L Motorsport for your help and precious time spared
And of course to my sponsors for all your support, knowledge and dedication that help someone like me progress and improve:
City Plumbing Supplies
C G Clutch
And of course , my main sponsors Mini Sport!
Images courtesy of Matthew Barrington Photography