Oulton Park Report – 23rd July

The leading drivers in the Moose Trophy were delighted with their spoils

A DAY OF PACKED GRIDS AND CLOSE RACING!

It was a day of packed grids and close racing when the BRSCC’s North Western Centre took charge at Oulton Park on 23rd July. Two fabulous Super Classic Formula Ford 1600 races for the Moose Trophy were a highlight of the day. There were also no less than 6 races for Mazda MX5s and a couple more for the drivers from the Nankang Tyre BMW Compact Cup.

Despite a busy schedule with many vehicle recoveries and tyre wall rebuilds between sessions, the meeting finished on time. The BRSCC would like to thank all marshals and officials for their assistance – we hope you enjoyed the racing! We had great feedback from Formula Ford driver, Jordan Harrison, who said, “I thought the event was first class. If the Moose Trophy is on again at Oulton next year, we’ll definitely be back!”

MOOSE TROPHY: GLORY FOR GRANT

Callum Grant (43) was a popular winner of the Moose Trophy. Photo: PS Images

A large grid of Super Classic Formula Ford 1600s (Pre-’99 cars) were invited to Oulton Park to compete for the Moose Trophy in a 2 race “winner takes all” contest.

After a couple of free practice sessions at the start of the day, a heavy rain shower made qualifying “interesting” to say the least. At the end, Chris Hodgen topped the timesheets in his late ‘80s Van Diemen but his second quickest time was brought into play when Race Control received news that he had straight-lined one of the chicanes on his fastest lap. This put him down to fifth and meant Simon Hadfield would start from pole in his Lotus 51 from Samuel Harrison (the wet masked the lack of power that the engine of his Elden Mk10 was generating).

On the second row were Callum Grant (Merlyn Mk20A) who missed the best of the conditions as he was one of the last to go out for qualifying thus had lots of traffic to deal with and Jordan Harrison (Lola T540E) who was sliding around on used tyres as he originally intended to treat this meeting as a test session to try out some changes he had made to his car – but then he realised how competitive he was!

As he had been running so well this season, John Murphy was disappointed to be starting from the back of the grid. During the second free practice session, he had noticed that his oil pressure was lower than usual and back in the paddock he discovered his oil pump had started to disintegrate. He was all set to head home but Seamus Wild offered him the pump from his power unit because he wouldn’t be taking part in either of the races after another car locked up under braking early in qualifying and was launched over the top of his. Fortunately, Murphy had done enough laps in free practice to be able to take part in the races despite missing qualifying.

The track was dry when part 1 of the Moose Trophy got under way and in no time, the second row starters were leading the way with J. Harrison muscling to the front ahead of Grant. Soon J. Harrison was struggling as his old rear tyres had finally given up the ghost. To compound matters, he missed a gear exiting Druids on lap 2 so he waved Grant through into Lodge. Towards the end of the contest J. Harrison’s tyres began to come back to life and he gained on the leader but had to settle for second. The podium was completed by Hodgen while fourth was Rick Morris (Royale RP29), a 75-year-old who was winning FF1600 titles more than 4 decades ago.

With one eye on his oil pressure gauge, Murphy had worked his way steadily up the order and took eighth at Lodge from Andrew Schofield (Reynard FF89) on the last lap but ran wide and handed the place back again.

Just before part 2 began, the weather again threw a curve ball as another heavy rain shower arrived at the circuit. The entire field were on a dry set up with no opportunity to make changes so it was no surprise that there was an incident on the opening lap.

The wet had once again allowed Samuel Harrison to show his pace rather than be hampered by a lack of BHP and he had gained a few places by the time the field reached Hislops but then he was hit in the rear and spun off, getting collected by Hodgen in the process. Further back, John Roberts also got into trouble at the same section of track in his Merlyn Mk11A. With both cars stranded, the Safety Car was scrambled.

When racing resumed, Grant was leading the way but as J. Harrison had fitted new tyres, he had more speed and after a few laps he took advantage of a mistake that Grant made coming out of Hislops which allowed him to carry more momentum through Druids and move ahead as Grant defended at Lodge. Grant fought back immediately and repassed at Island with the outside line putting him on the inside at Shell. J. Harrison then picked up damage to his car – possibly due to hitting a kerb – and dropped to third behind Morris.

From ninth on the second grid, the Safety Car period limited the amount of time Murphy had to make further progress after his dramas earlier in the day. Sixth was the best he could do behind Simon Hadfield who was fifth behind his son, James’ Hawke DL2B.

Hodgen lost his nose-cone in the first lap collision and made a quick pit-stop. He came back out and finished twelfth.

So, a delighted Grant added his name to the Moose Trophy roll of honour and was jointly voted Formula Ford Driver of the Day alongside his father, Nigel.

MAZDAS: CONTRASTING FORTUNES FOR “HIS KNIBBS”

Michael Knibbs had contrasting fortunes in the 4 races he competed in. Photo: PS Images

When the drivers came under Starter’s Orders for the first time in the Mazda MX5 SuperCup they had a damp track to deal with. In the early stages, James Cossins coped best with the conditions and had a 1.5 secs advantage over Michael Knibbs but as the tarmac dried the gap reduced and in the closing laps they began to swap the lead.

Onlookers were denied a thrilling climax when Cossins suddenly slowed on the last lap due to a lack of fuel getting into his engine, limping home in seventh and allowing Knibbs to win his first race of 4 that he was taking part in during the meeting. Will Blackwell-Chambers and Patrick Fletcher battled for what turned out to be the runner-up position with the former coming out on top.

In the later SuperCup encounter Blackwell-Chambers and Fletcher fought for the win until the latter hit car trouble in the closing stages and limped to the pits to retire. Colin Bysouth drove a storming race from eleventh on the grid to cross the line a whisker behind Blackwell-Chambers with Knibbs and Cossins completing a tightly bunched top 4.

So, Knibbs twice finished on the podium with his Mk3 in the SuperCup events but when he switched to a Mk1 version of Mazda’s iconic sportscar for the MX5 Championship he was not so fortunate. While he finished second on the road behind Steve Foden in the opening race both received 5 secs penalties for track limit infringements. This meant Fraser Fenwick was awarded the spoils with Foden dropping to the runner-up position. Such was the competitiveness of this encounter, 5 secs dropped Knibbs to fifth in the final classification behind Jason Greatrex and Adam Craig.

Worse was to follow for Knibbs in the final MX5 Championship outing when he applied the brakes too late to avoid crashing into the side of Fenwick at the Shell hairpin during the opening lap. Both limped back to the pits where Knibbs’ car was deemed too badly damaged to continue. Fenwick, however, just needed a front wing pulling away from his tyre and was able to re-join. Fortunately for him, the Safety Car had been scrambled due to four or five midfield cars tripping over each other at Cascades with one of them needing to be retrieved from the gravel trap on the edge of the track so he was able to catch up with the back of the pack.

Once racing resumed, Fenwick put in a storming drive to work his way up the order to finish sixth, little more than a tenth from taking fifth. Up front, Foden kept his car within the confines of the track this time to win by an impressive 13 secs margin ahead of Thomas Langford and Courtney Milnes.

There were also a couple of 15 minute sprints for the MX5 Clubman Championship. It was quite wet for the first of these and Neil Chisnall appeared to be the only competitor with webbed feet! He came through from twelfth on the grid to take a dominant victory 18 secs in front of Harry Storer and Jack Warry, with Declan McDonnell fourth. In the dry race 2, things were much closer with McDonnell, Jon Pethick and Warry taking the flag within 3-quarters of a second of each other. Fourth and fifth were Storer and Chisnall.

BMW’S: A DOUBLE DOUBLE FOR THE DOBLES

Mikey Doble won twice in the Nankang Tyres BMW Compact Cup. So did his father, Mike, in the Master’s Class. Photo: PS Images

Whether the track was wet or not, it didn’t matter to Mikey Doble who won both rounds of the Nankang Tyres BMW Compact Cup. He came home 11 secs ahead of Lee Dendy-Sadler in the damp opener but in the dry later in the day the runner-up on that occasion, Ian Howes, was much closer. In the first race, Doble’s father – Mike – was third overall and won the Master’s Class, a category he also took later in the day when he was fourth with Matt Flowers completing the overall podium.

Dave Williams

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