Oulton Park, a success for our racing driver Matt!
Our aspiring racing driver Matt is almost at the end of his second season of the BRSCC Mazda MX-5 Championship. As he approached the weekend’s racing at Oulton Park he wanted to improve on the last few weekends at Snetterton, Anglesey and Cadwell Park. As a racing driver, Matt was aware of his own faults on the track. He knew where he needed to improve. A test day at Oulton earlier in the year had given him an idea of the pace he could achieve if he set his mind to it.
Confidence is key for a racing driver
On Friday Matt had a good test day. He spent time studying the Vbox data to get to grips with the places he could find time. He was focused on getting some good laps under his belt. He was fast and kept up with the likes of John Langridge which gave him confidence for the qualifying sessions. The first qualifying on Saturday was spent on the pit wall with the team from AB Motorsport. From there Matt could see what times that the other drivers were securing and therefore what he had to do when he got out on the track.
Understanding the pace that was needed seemed to be a great tactic for Matt as he qualified in the best position he had ever made, ending in third. His time of 2:05:053 gave him the boost he needed to take this pace into the races the next day.
Oulton Park demands a lot from a racing driver
Unlike most of the tracks in the Mazda MX-5 Championship, Oulton Park is challenging due to the qualifying and racing taking place over just one day due to noise regulations. This is a lot to ask of a driver and their team. Matt knew that despite running multiple cars, AB Motorsport were there to help him see this weekend through.
For race one Matt started on the third row of the grid. Knowing from his qualifying success that he had the skills to hold this position was a great help to his confidence. His start wasn’t as good as he’d hoped as the green flag lap was the out lap from the pits, which isn’t what he was expecting so he wasn’t 100% ready. He persisted and the second stage of the launch was good enough but he’d been so focused on the start that he left a gap for Will Blackwell Chambers to come down the inside. He followed behind fellow AB Motorsport racing driver Matt Luff for the next lap and half.
Watch this dangerous slide on YouTube
Matt was very lucky to avoid having an accident later in the first race! It lost him a few positions but thankfully didn’t end as badly as he had thought. Following a slide which Matt had previously controlled in testing the car got loose in the rear. It gained more angle as it continued to slide over the crest at the end of the long double apex of Druids corner. The crest was all it needed to lighten up the rear of the car further and next thing Matt knew he was fully broadside heading down the track.
Thankfully his quick thinking avoided a collision and you can see how he righted himself from the grass in this video (from 3:50) via YouTube. He now had work to do to climb back up the positions and was pleased to make it back to seventh by the end of race one.
Top ten finish in race two
Matt started the second race in seventh and was confident he could keep up his pace and avoid any further hair-raising moments. With some wheelspin at the start, it wasn’t his best time off the line, but he only dropped to eighth position when Ollie Allwood passed him into Lodge corner. The leading train were bumper to bumper for the next few laps from first to eighth which took the most intense consistency to uphold. It also meant that any mistake would be very costly. Matt had seen that in the higher positions in a race the racing driver ahead of him was a lot better at defence than the drivers further down the pack. He, unfortunately, dropped another position and finished the second race in ninth.
Race three – the best of the season
Having been racing all day it was good that there was a gap between the second and third race of the day. This allowed Matt to think about improvements. Matt was told to stick to his own race and let others fall off – great advice from Jack Sycamore of AB Motorsport. A racing driver is more likely to commit risky manoeuvres in the last race of the weekend so Matt had to bear this in mind and focus on the task at hand.
Off to a great start, Matt latched onto the back of Jack Brewer and settled in for the last race. The front train was bumper to bumper much like the second race of the day. Matt gained positions as other drivers came off the track or had contact with another car. He had a gap that he needed to close between Tolley in front and Greatrex behind. As he attempted to close this gap on Tolley he dipped a wheel on the outside of Knickerbrook. This lost him a position to Greatrex who had been following closely behind.
Racing driver Matt finishes in sixth
A lap later in the Cascades section, Matt was able to pass them both to get behind Adam Bessell. Matt then tried to follow Bessell and Langridge down the inside of Old Hall. He was close to taking a position for a second but Ollie’s experience allowed him to take the outside line. This meant he came out on top as he had the inside line for Cascades, where Greatrex now got through again past Matt.
Towards the end of the third race Matt just focused on putting his head down and gaining time. The second to last lap saw Greatrex make a mistake exiting the Brittens chicane. Matt took advantage, gaining a position. As it was lightly raining and almost the end of the weekend, Matt aimed for consistency. He was thrilled to finish in sixth position!
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