The Rookie Diaries Part 5: Awesome Oulton

In Features, The Rookie Diaries

By Formula Prostocks 2016 rookie Gareth Sutton

Once I’d got over the Baptism of fire that was Donington Park, and after a few calls to Keith I was ready for Oulton. I’d been there previously, I think about a year ago but that time with friends.

Looking back now, the times I’ve ridden with no pressure have been the most pleasant. This would be the mindset to keep this weekend if I wanted to enjoy it, and more importantly feel at ease with my surroundings.

The odd thing about Oulton is it can’t run a Sunday race. This weekend would consist of an ACU test day on the Friday and two races on the Saturday. We travelled up on the Friday afternoon and got settled in to our hotel, this one would be one day event for me so let’s make it count.

Keith had got himself set up in a garage on the Friday and had kept us a space so when we arrived bright and early Saturday, we slotted straight in.

Gareth was keen to make amends after a tough previous round at Donington…

Because of the lost opportunity at Donington, Keith convinced me to buy a spare set of wheels, specifically for wets. He was going to bring some along but had forgotten the pair he had in mind. All he had in the van were a mismatched set with an odd Maxxis rain tyre on the rear and a used dry on the front.

Never mind, I’d thought but when I bumped into one of the lads I did my ACU test with, he mentioned his mate had some Metzeler front wets for sale. I managed to buy these at a very reasonable cost and got the guys at Dennis Trollope to change it over for me, replacing Keith’s front dry with one of the pair I bought. At least now if it did rain, I wouldn’t be caught out and as a thank you to Keith, I’d let him keep that wet tyre.

As normal the first practice ran well and I actually enjoyed the four laps we had. The circuit was coming back to me and there would be a good mix of bikes and riders in the Formula Prostocks championship that day.

There was Chris on his Moto Guzzi in FP2 with Andrew on his GSXR and Andreas riding his FZ750 in FP1. For us in FP3 we had a good bunch out, Donald had returned along with John Potton and the boys from Performance Bikes had finally turned up on the bike we were expecting to see at Brands! This left Will and me to battle it out again in our own orange bib competition.

All lined up on the grid for race one and as predicted, the front runners disappeared in to the near distance leaving myself, Will and Chris to have our own little orange bib race. For the first three laps I just got the feel for it but managed to pass Chris out of Britten’s and began to chase Will down.

I kept close to him through Hislop’s and up Clay Hill but didn’t have enough to pass him into Druids. Around Lodge we were neck and neck but under the start finish gantry I was ahead and managed to out-brake him into Old Hall and clear off down the Avenue in pursuit of the last F400’s.

I never did manage to catch them but held off Will and Chris to come home in fourth. This was the cheer I was looking for after Donington and would do very nicely.

I arrived back in the pits and was immediately greeted by Nigel who looked so pleased for my achievements but did say was no need to wave at fellow competitors as I passed them. I was only being polite. I thought it would be a nice gesture?

For race two the skies clouded so with this in mind I fitted the wheels I borrowed from Keith. He didn’t want to sell the mismatched set he had, but for now I might as well use them. I wasn’t sure about the 10-year-old Maxxis on the rear but the front Metzeler looked nearly new so was quite confidence inspiring, even though I had never ridden on rain tyres before.

As we were called to the paddock, the race was announced as Wet. This means rain lights on and unless you’re a little daft, rain tyres.

He found he’d come a long way since his first tentative wobble out in the damp at Cadwell…

 

As the start lights went out, the pack left in a haze of spray. Rain tyres were new to me so chose not to give chase to Will who by now was just a red rain light in the distance. Ahead of me was Chris on the Moto Guzzi, Andreas on the FZ750 and a few F400s and an odd GP45.

By lap two I’d passed Chris and began to hunt down the GP45, with him out of the way I could see Andreas and slipped by on the way into Shell Oil. To be fair though, they were both on Avon classic racing tyres and not as good as proper wets in the rain, or so I’m told.

I had a pair of F400’s in my sights now and was drawing them in but by the time I’d caught them the chequered flag was out. One more lap and I’d have had them both…or crashed as Donald did on lap four chasing Chris Newbigging. I’ll never know.

On the way back to the garages all the Marshals were clapping us in and it really did show me how much fun and what a pleasant environment club racing can be. What a total contrast to Donington and with circuits like this to race on, I couldn’t wait for the next.

Nigel was again happy to see me do well and congratulated me on my performance. Not finishing last for two races in a row was quite pleasing and the second hand wet tyres I’d used were brilliant, so good that I convinced Keith to sell me the wheels exactly as they are and gave him my spare wet front tyre to sweeten the deal. At least now if it does rain, I’m prepared.

What a brilliant weekend and enjoyed by all and hopefully would set the tone for the rest of the season.

Formula Prostocks had chosen to do a Croft meeting next with Derby Phoenix but with a five hour drive and another full weekend away from home, I was not convinced it would be worth the journey. I’d use this opportunity to prepare for Anglesey, another favourite of mine.

*Main image: Gareth Sutton

Action images: Abby and Ian Photography

Missed the rest of our Rookie Diaries series? Catch up by clicking the links below

Part 1: Why I chose racing over trackdays

Part 2: The road to Brands Hatch

Part 3: Contemplating Cadwell

Part 4: Daunting Donington

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