So, race weekend three for MD Nick Jones and race partner Scott Malvern over the late May Bank Holiday weekend at the picturesque Oulton Park circuit in Cheshire and a very good crowd over the two days peaking at 25,000 on the Bank Holiday race day.
A slightly different format this weekend with two one hour “sprint” races, with each driver taking a turn at starting one of the races.
The official practice sessions held in beautiful sunshine on Saturday morning were very encouraging with Scott topping the GT4 time sheets during his spell. Nick was showing a good turn of speed as well when a small mistake at the challenging Cascades corner forced him onto the grass and causing damage to the front end of the car.
With little more than two hours to fix the car between the end of the session and the qualifying session that afternoon the team were really up against it to get the car back out on track and Nick was strapped into the car with it literally still being rebuilt, before being was sent out for his qualifying session. Unfortunately, just one lap into his session a red flag incident brought a halt to proceedings but Nick had already had to return to the pits with a holed radiator spewing water.
Disappointingly, there was no opportunity for Nick to set a qualifying time but the car was at least fitted with a new radiator in time for Scott to take to the track for his ten minute qualifying session immediately after.
Despite no real set up checks on the car being made and the handling being less than perfect Scott qualified on the front row of the GT4 grid in 2nd place.
With Sunday off, Nick returned home to Wales to get in some pedal powered training on his race bike, returning fit for Monday’s two races, greeted by beautiful warm sunshine and a very large crowd of enthusiastic race fans!
Race one on Monday morning would see Nick & Scott starting right at the back of the 31 car grid but Nick made a good start, making up places, despite being frustrated by a lengthy safety car period. In his twenty five minute stint, Nick maintained an excellent pace to hand over to Scott a highly respectable 9th in class.
Scott with the bit between his teeth didn’t waste any time in pushing on and was soon up to fifth place and closing on the scrap for third between the two identical Ginetta G55’s of Jordan Stilip and Nathan Freke. Scott commented afterwards: “I could see the 2nd place man just ahead of them and I knew I had the pace to catch him if I could just past these two.”
Unfortunately, Oulton Park is a notoriously difficult circuit to overtake on and Freke used all his experience and some good, old-fashioned and highly dubious blocking tactics to fend the faster car of Scott off. Frustratingly Scott couldn’t find a way through past the slower car and had to settle for 5th but proved his pace by recording the fastest lap of the weekend for a GT4 car.
For race two, Scott started and by the first corner he had grabbed the lead of the GT4 class and was gradually edging away from the rest of the field. With a comfortable gap built up after twenty minutes of the race all was looking good when all of a sudden smoke started to billow from the underside of the car. Scott had no option but to very frustratingly return the car to the pits and the seemingly unlucky garage “13” for attention on what turned out to be a failure of the power steering system.
The team was able to fix the problem and send Nick out for the rest of his stint, albeit five laps adrift. With a stranded car on the circuit the race was brought to an end five minutes early with Nick classified as the tenth placed GT4. Some consolation was that Scott had recorded the fastest lap of the race again and his efforts for the weekend in taking the fastest overall GT4 lap were rewarded with the presentation of the Sunoco fastest lap trophy. The entire team also received a trophy for the Team of the Weekend Award for their hard work and effort in producing a fast car that, had luck not deserted them, could have resulted in their first podium finishes of the season.
Attention now turns to the Silverstone 500km race in two weekend time!