Season 2 | Round 3 | Oulton Park
Hello friends and welcome back to Pineapple Racing Club’s GT World Challenge Fall Season.
After a short break, we’re right back into the action with a special 2.4 hour event at Oulton Park.
This week’s event may be the most physically and mentally demanding event of the season, as drivers will need to keep their concentration for the full 2.4hours whilst battling against the narrow and extremely bumpy circuit.
Before qualifying starts, let’s take a look at the Championship standings after the first 2 rounds:
Overall, Banana leads the points standings with 40 points, just 4 points ahead of rival Charlie Kent. Heesch is not far behind in 3rd position overall.
The battle for Silver Class is a close one, as Daniels leads the group with 43 points. In joint-2nd place is Bowler and Beentjes, both with 33 points. Chmura and Bartocci are separated by just 1 point. The silver class seems to be fairly well matched thus far.
The AM class standings aren’t quite as close so far, with a smaller grid and a few drivers missing these early races, but there’s still a long way to go before the season closes out. Cockell currently leads the class, but Williams is in for an opportunity to eliminate the points differential if he can just finish today’s race.
Finally, the Team Championship may see some position changes, as BSKIT Motorsports currently lead the charts, but with both Kent and Dominiak unable to attend the race, the door is wide open for Dapper Customs DBE Motorsports to top the charts and for S4L Motorsports to gain some ground too.
Qualifying started, and with almost no risk of rain, drivers hit the dry circuit, pushing hard against the unforgiving bumps to qualify in a high position. The narrow and bumpy surface to Oulton park makes overtaking difficult, so qualifying well is important early on.
Langaard was the first driver to set a quick time, topping the leaderboard with a high 1.39.
An incredible qualifying performance came from Silver driver Jackson, who drove his Aston Martin like he stole it, stealing pole position from Langaard in the process.
As the session timer ticked down, Banana was able to extract more pace from his Bentley to claim the top spot from Jackson.
Fellow teammate Brown also improved toward the end of the session, climbing into 4th position.
Beentjes qualified well, 2nd in class, and in 5th position overall. Bowler and Bartocci rounded off the Silver Class in 8th and 9th respectively.
Banana led the drivers on the sighting lap, and as they lined up side by side, 5 green lights signalled the race start.
Jackson did not have a great jump off the line, and was quickly under attack by Langaard in 3rd position. Jackson tried to hold on around the outside of turn 1, but was pushed wide, allowing Beentjes to pass, moving up into 3rd position.
Brown was off to a similar start, as he was under attack from Beentjes and tried to hold the outside line. As he ran out of track, he was behind Jackson as they both rejoined the circuit, but not before Valtonen was also able to overtake both drivers.
Brown’s poor start quickly got a lot worse, as his car snapped through the high speed Island Bend, pushing his Bentley far out into the grass. Fortunately, Brown was able to keep himself out of the wall, but did drop to last position.
Bartocci also had some issues at Island Bend, reacting to the sliding Bentley, Bartocci applied the brakes mid corner and was punished with a half spin. Luckily, Bartocci held the brakes and other drivers were able to avoid his spinning Ferrari. Suffering only flat-spotted tyres, Bartocci was able to continue his race now behind Chmura and Ishibara.
The remainder of the first lap was without incident, as drivers settled down for the long, bumpy race ahead.
Early on, Heesch found himself hot on the heels of Bowler, who was also chasing down Jackson. They raced closely, and it wasn’t until 5 laps that Heesch was finally in a position to attempt an overtake. Heesch took the inside line into Turn 1, alongside Bowler, and as both drivers turned in, Heesch’s McLaren was pushed out wide by the apex kerb into the rear quarter of Bowler. Bowler was pitched into a spin, losing his position to Heesch and Valtonen.
As the race continued onto Lap 7, a tight train was forming in the silver class, as Winegarden led Chmura and Brown around the circuit. Brown had just about caught up as he recovered from his poor start. Testament to the difficulty of overtaking here, it took several laps for any position changes to occur, which came as Brown took advantage of Chmura and Bowler fighting side by side to slip past both drivers in short succession.
Chmura fought back hard, regaining his lost position, but was unable to hold back the charging Bentley for long.
Back at the front of the pack, Langaard was able to maintain pace with Banana and Jackson was maintaining his 4th position despite a feisty McLaren of Heesch filling his mirrors.
Lap 11 saw the first pit stop of the silver drivers, as Bowler pulled out of his battle for 10th and served his first mandatory pit stop of the race. More bad luck struck the BSKIT Motorworks driver, however as cold tyres caused the driver to light up the rear tyres on the final corner of his outlap, resulting in wall contact. The damage must have been okay as the driver elected to stay out on track for the remainder of his stint.
On the next lap, Langaard had gained some ground on Banana as they passed some blue flagged cars, but his luck also took a turn for the worst as he also had some stability issues through Island Bend, resulting in a harsh shunt with the barrier. Langaard was forced to return to the pits for repairs, but opted not to serve one of his mandatory pit stops of the race. A mistake that would cost him an extra pitstop later in the race.
The damage to Langaard’s race took some pressure off Banana and brought Beentjes into 2nd place, ahead of Jackson in 3rd and still ahead of Heesch.
As Langaard made an attempt to climb back through the field, he made an inpatient dive up the inside line of Ishibara into the hairpin, resulting in contact. The contact did not drop Ishibara any positions from his 9th place, but the stewards will certainly be awarding a penalty of some kind for Langaard for the avoidable contact.
More drama unfolded for the hopeful front runners, this time for Beentjes, who, after running in 2nd place, dipped a couple of wheels onto the grass as he overtook the blue-flagged car of Williams. The loss of grip from the grass caused Beentjes to spin straight into the path of Williams. Beentjes returned to the pits, presumably to repair his car, as Williams was able to continue.
Beentjes later retired from the race, as he had a big impact crash into the barriers around Cascades curve, sustaining significant damage.
As the first hour mark passed, the pit stop shook up the order as some drivers pitted early, whilst others stayed out longer to extend their first stint. Banana was able to hold the race lead, whilst Bartocci and Chmura were bumped into the podium spots as Jackson and Heesch pitted for fresh rubber.
As the race continued, there was less on track battling as drivers had built up more breathing room around their rivals.
Into the 2nd half of the race, Brown was still struggling to carry a consistent pace, still struggling with stability issues under heavy braking. The lack of confidence was evident, as he was lapped by fellow Dapper Customs DBE Motorsports driver twice, running in 10th place overall.
By now, driver concentration was beginning to be tested, as the race continued far beyond the length of the sprint races run in this series. Jackson was one driver to fall foul to the demanding circuit, as he hit a bump on the inside of Island Bend, pushing the car out wide. His Aston was captured by the grass and dragged further off track. Desperately trying to slow the car, Jackson applied his brakes, but still careened into the barriers.
Jackson sustained big damage and had to limp back to the pits for repairs. The damage dropped him from 2nd to 8th, but he wasn’t finished there. Jackson fought back through the remainder of the race.
As the race approached its final stages, Langaard had been able to recover from his crash, climbing back into 2nd position, ahead of Valtonen.
A battle was forming between silver driver Bartocci and Pro driver Heesch, as Bartocci had slowly reeled in Heesch, and was itching for a way past.
Heesch defended his position well, but was showing signs of stress and fatigue as he ran onto the grass a few times, both on corner exits and straights. Bartocci made a move on the inside line of Lodge corner which unfortunately resulted in contact as Bartocci struggled to slow his car, hitting the side of the McLaren.
The stewards will likely review this incident too and Bartocci may be awarded a time penalty. Bartocci stayed ahead of Heesch after the contact, so would need to put some distance between him and Heesch to secure the position.
As the heated exchange took place between these two drivers, Banana decided his race had been too event free and wanted to change it as they came into the last laps. Banana ran deep into Island Bend and got caught by the grass. He tried to keep his car away from the walls, but was unsuccessful.
Banana had managed to scrub most of his speed, suffering only minor damage, and was able to continue without the need for repairs. On the penultimate lap, the fuel warning light drew his attention and without enough fuel to make it to the end of the race, Banana was forced to make a third visit to his pit crew for a splash and dash to make it to the end of the race.
Banana crossed the finish line in 1st position, with Langaard taking 2nd place. Valtonen claimed 3rd position for VK Simsports.
Bartocci took the Silver Class victory, in a solid 4th position overall, however overshadowed by Jackson’s 2nd place in class, due to his strong performance early on, and his heartbreak at his crash. Bowler brought his car home to 3rd in class.
AM driver Williams was able to finish out his race, which means he goes into round 4 of the season tied for the AM Championship with Cockell.
As the drivers relaxed in the pits, I caught up with a couple of drivers of the race.
Banana: Goswick, I'm pleased I caught you before you disappear. I wanted to talk to our resident Racer and Steward. How are you finding the season so far?
Goswick: The season is going really well overall and I'm enjoying how competitive things are throughout the field. I've made some silly mistakes and have been unprepared coming into some races but I'm looking to turn that around in the upcoming races.
Banana: How do you find the time to participate in these events as well as Stewarding afterwards?
Goswick: Usually after a race I'll go right to the steward's booth to review all of the incidents from the race while they're still fresh. It's a matter of making time really, although after today’s race, I’m already feeling properly thrashed. That made it difficult to do a steward session right after the race.
Banana: We've had some new systems put in place to help capture incidents. How are these affecting the Stewards?
Goswick: The new systems have already been very useful. Each time a yellow flag is brought out, no matter the severity, it creates a report in a spreadsheet with the involved cars and roughly what time in the race the yellow occured. This streamlines things as well as reducing the chances of missing an incident.
Banana: Great stuff. Keep up the hard work.
Banana: Jackson, I think we have to talk about that qualifying lap. What was going through your mind as you realised you just put your car on a provisional pole?
Jackson: Well needless to say I was surprised! I had been hearing whispers of times that people had been getting in the discord channels, and I knew I was competitive but I didn’t realize exactly how competitive. I recruited Dave Brown to give me a hand setting the dampers properly. Immediately after doing that I was in to the mid 1:34.s
During qualifying I only ended up doing a few laps. I was very lucky in the sense that for once I actually managed to string all of my best sectors together, and I was absolutely ecstatic that I had been able to make it into the 1:33s.
Banana: It’s fantastic to see the results of your hard work. How were the nerves at the race start?
Jackson: I don’t think I was any more nervous at the race start that I normally am. Maybe even a bit less. Starting at the front I think you run a little less risk of getting caught up in any incidents. Although I did end up off track at T1. I was trying to leave space, but it turns out I didn’t need to leave as much space as I did and I probably could have held on to 2nd for a good chunk of the race.
Banana: You were running exceptionally well amongst the pro drivers throughout the race, and then we saw you limping back to the pits for repairs. Can you tell us about the incident?
Jackson: Oulton park is pretty treacherous but the Aston doesn’t seem to mind the bumps too much, especially after getting the setup right. Maybe it was from all the practice, or maybe I was just in the zone. I didn’t feel fatigued until the end of the race really. But a slight lapse in focus caused me to touch the grass on the outside just before the hairpin. It pulled me clean off the track, and at the speed I was carrying through that corner there was no hope for me to get the car slowed down on time. I went head on into the barrier at the hairpin and got a meatball flag. I limped back to the pits with my wheel at a 90 degree angle and sat there for over a minute.
Banana: Oh no! That very same corner took me by surprise, too! Regardless of that lapse of concentration, you ran a great race and it was a solid finish overall. Congratulations.
Following the end of the event, all participating drivers were invited to vote for a ‘Driver of the Day’. An award for a strong performance during the race, or great sportsmanship to others on circuit.
The votes were in, and although it was a close, D. Jackson was awarded Driver of The Day! For his incredible qualifying performance, and a great attitude for the whole race, even when things did not go to plan.
Congratulations, Jackson! When told of the news, Jackson responded: “I’m honoured to have been voted driver of the day. It means a lot to me because it means the people who I’m competing with are taking notice of the amount of work that I’m putting in to get faster. I’ll certainly be pouring myself a drink in celebration.”
Thank you to those that continue to support our races and our recaps, and thank you for your patience as this installment was published. No promises, but I promise to be better. Maybe. Join us very soon for a dark and potentially wet 1-hour sprint race at Brands Hatch. Deja vu, anyone?