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For the 6th round of the Championship, I headed back to the North and Oulton Park for the second Mini Festival of the year!
Oulton Park is a circuit I love so I was really happy to get back there after a hard few meetings at Brands Hatch and I needed to get some good championship points to try and end the season on a high! This time though it was a different circuit layout to the start of the year, running the fosters layout, but it still leaves some great racing and viewing for the crowds to enjoy in sunny Cheshire! Going into qualifying though (and very uncharacteristically of Cheshire) there was a small downpour of rain just before we were meant to start. The circuit was drying fast however which made the tyre choices for teams and drivers very difficult as it wasn’t completely dry all over the circuit. I decided to go with a split choice of wet tyres on the rear and slicks on the front of the car. All this does is make the car handle a little better in damp conditions. This decision was the correct thing to do at the start of the session as the car felt comfortable and fast which showed on the live timing throughout the session. After about 10 minutes though it was clear the track was drying up very quickly and slicks all round would be quicker. So with 6 minutes to go, I pitted for slicks and this decision proved to be key, as on my last flying lap I managed to put in a time quick enough for pole position! This was amazing and just what we needed especially after a bad few rounds at Brands Hatch!
Unfortunately due to a penalty from Brands Hatch I was carrying a 2 place grid penalty, so I would in fact be starting in 3rd position on the grid but this was still not a bad place to be, as I would be fighting at the sharp end of the grid! At the start of the race, I got a great initial launch off the line and I was instantly in 2nd position and pushing for the lead. Coming into the first hairpin though, I got a firm hit from behind and was quickly shovelled back into 4th. It didn’t take me long to get back into 2nd though and I was soon chasing down the leader. On lap 5 a safety car was called out due to Charlie Butler-Henderson putting it in the gravel at druids corner. On the restart, I unfortunately dropped down into 3rd behind Brett Smith but it was a close battle for the lead and as it started to rain, this forced Brett into a mistake and I nipped back into 2nd on the road. The race was then ended short due to a red flag from a massive multi car crash going up Clay Hill, with 4 cars having to retire from the rest of the weekend. After the race though I found out that I had actually received a 10-second penalty from the stewards who deemed my wheels to be over the line of my grid slot at the start of the race. This penalty actually dropped me back down to 9th. I was gutted with the decision as I felt I gained no real advantage from the situation and the penalty was made particularly harsh due to the safety car being called out a few laps previous to the finish of the race.
So for race 2, I would now be starting in 9th and I was keen to climb up the order to have a good result to try and end the weekend on a high. On the start, I got another great launch off the line and got into 5th position before the first corner. Then I managed to grab another position coming down the hill from some contact from other cars in front. I was keen to get on the podium and I felt the car had the pace to do so. After the race started to settle down I was chasing down David Grady for third position. A few laps later I was on his tail and pushing for the overtake. Unfortunately, the safety car was called out when I went for an overtake. The safety car was then out for 5 laps while another mini was getting pulled out of a barrier on the exit of druids. As soon as the safety car got called in I knew I didn’t have much time before the race would be over so I had to really pressurise Grady into a mistake or find a gap for me to send it up the inside of him. Fortunately, with one lap to go, he left the door open on the inside of the last corner and I took my chance and got into third! I then brought the car home in a solid third position from 9th on the grid.
I would like to thank everyone again who made it possible and I’m excited to go to Donnington for the final round of the season!
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