RETURN OF THE CHAMPIONS AT OULTON OPENER
Mark Robinson showed his title-winning pace with victory in both XR Challenge races – Photo: Rachel Bourne
The paddock was littered with former champions from many BRSCC categories when the club began its 2017 season at Oulton Park on Saturday, 25th March when the North Western Centre took charge.
This was particularly the case in the Electrovape XR Challenge where no less than 5 former title winners took part in qualifying. Of these, 4-time champion Mark Robinson was the quickest, taking pole by an impressive 1.13 seconds. The XR2 man converted this into victory during the opening encounter from Michael Blackburn (XR3i) and the Fiesta of Neil Waterworth.
As was the case in all the day’s events, the second grid was determined by the results of the first race. Robinson was concerned that Blackburn was going to take the lead immediately following the start on the run down to Old Hall and moved left to defend his position. This gave Waterworth, who was returning to the XR Challenge having won it way back in 2001, the opportunity to sneak up the inside of the pair of them to take the lead into the first corner.
At the start of lap 3 Robinson moved ahead down the pit straight. Waterworth was determined not to let him get away but he clipped one of the tyre barriers that delimit Hislops chicane. Such was the impact that the car was launched on to two wheels and nearly rolled. The incident broke something on the steering system forcing a him to be a pit-lane retirement. Robinson continued to take the honours while 2002 title winner Blackburn finished as runner-up for a second time ahead of reigning champion Greg Speight.
At the start of the 50th anniversary season of the Formula Ford 1600 category, those in the Avon Tyres Northern Post89 Championship laid on a fantastic display. Frustratingly for Tom McArthur in his Van Diemen LA10, he was challenging the leader of the first race, Josh Smith, when the failure of a minor component forced him to retire. Tom Bradshaw, who was making a one-off appearance in a JL16 model Van Diemen, took up the challenge but the youngster Smith who was driving a Firman RF16 had the ability to keep the experienced Bradshaw at bay.
Luke Williams could have been in contention for the victory but his Firman RF16 stuttered away from the line after he accidentally switched off his ignition and everyone streamed past him. He recovered to take fifth and from that position on grid 2 he had the pace to take the win from Smith and Bradshaw. His race-winning move on the latter was rather spectacular. After Bradshaw ran wide at Hislops, Williams had greater momentum up Clay Hill and overtook round the outside at Druids.
Dutch airline pilot, Jaap Blijleven (Reynard FF88) was unbeatable in the Avon Tyres Northern Pre90 Formula Ford 1600 events. After some ferocious dicing, Chris Stones and Nathan Parton took turns at finishing second and third in their Van Diemen RF88 and RF89 models respectively.
There was an unusual situation when the drivers lined-up for the second Alfa Romeo contest of the day when the front row consisted of a pair of Fiat Puntos. Earlier, the fastest Alfas had been the 147 models of Roger McMahon and Graham Seagar. The latter had been enroute to winning race 1 when he suffered wheelstud failure. This put him out for the day. McMahon took the spoils but low oil pressure meant he also was absent when the Italian cars returned to the track.
This enabled the Puntos, which were permitted to join the championship for the first time this season, to lead the way. The two hatches were driven by brothers, Chris and Simon McFie. The former went home with the laurels as Simon encountered problems with his rear suspension. These saw him spin off at Cascades before he retired in the pit-lane.
Following some significant rule changes, the Toyo Tires Porsche competitors put on a very spectacular high speed display. The Boxster cars are now allowed to use front splitters and dramatically large rear wings. Although Adam Southgate was the early leader of the first event, Ed Hayes was soon ahead. Southgate then ran wide exiting Cascades leaving Hayes clear to occupy the top step of both podiums.
For the 924 Class of the Porsche series there has been an upgrade in the specification of the tyres. The 2016 Boxster champion, Richard Stryrin, made a one-off appearance in these older cars. He had a superb first race with Pip Hammond in which they were frequently wheel to wheel until Hammond lost control and left the tarmac at Old Hall. Starting from the back of the pack for race 2, Hammond worked his way up into the runner-up position for his class but was 9 seconds adrift of Styrin when the race was red flagged due to an incident at Hislops.
The officials and marshals ran the meeting with their usual efficiency and we are delighted that they were able to undertake their tasks in a warm and sunny weather.
You can view the full results at OULTON PARK RESULTS