Caterham 270R Oulton Park Race weekend

Oulton Park from what I have heard features on most drivers top tracks in the UK list and for good reason. It’s an absolute gem of a place. Proper old school track which is a good mix of elevation changes, high and low speed corners with not always much run off. Due to the technical nature it really separates the drivers with technical ability from those that rely of the tow of the car in front to keep up.

After the mixed results at Croft and Silverstone I went into Oulton Park with a very simple game plan. Don’t crash or have my car fail on me! Which meant don’t take unnecessary risks and good points is better than no points.

Turned out the weekend would go better than I had hoped for.

Quali – P1

Quali was the start of a surprising weekend result wise. The usual suspects formed part of a quali team to try and get some fast laps in. However due to the large difference in speeds between drivers it was difficult to get a clear lap in. I did what I thought was an ok lap and was a little surprised when I heard the time the fastest driver set. Even more shocked to find out that it was me that set it!

Caterham 270R 2019 Oulton Park

Obviously in motorsport the one universal truth is the circuit timing is always correct. While my vbox onboard based on GPS could have suffered a ‘blip’ and be wrong. In any case I would have started on the first couple of rows and it probably had little impact on the race result. I did find it slightly amusing as I was saying I couldn’t possibly of done that lap everyone was telling me to shut up and take it anyway!

Race 1 – P2

Starting in pole I nearly made a complete arse of myself when I moved my left foot when the light turned red instead of went out. Luckily I stopped myself with only a gentle rock forward and didn’t trigger a false start. However as I backed off the light changed and I bodged it with too much wheelspin and settled into 2nd place. Over the first few laps Dan F and I started to pull a slight lead on the front group.

Caterham 270R 2019 Oulton Park

Typically I was trying to hard and a couple of mistakes saw me back in 4th. Shortly after the safety car was deployed for a large chunk of the race after a 4 car accident. All the drivers were unhurt which is always the primary concern on your mind after seeing the damaged cars.

Caterham 270R 2019 Oulton Park

On the restart Dan F pulled a bit of a lead and James M managed to jump Justin while I stayed in 4th place. After a couple of laps it looked like Dan F had pulled a gap that no one would close and I was able to pull a double overtake into 2nd place. From that point forward it looked like the battle for second would be between James M, Justin H & Dan H and me. We would go on swapping positions multiple times a lap. All of a sudden Dan F was back in our sights and I was shocked to see his wheel make a bid for freedom and go bouncing across the track.

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As it was near the end of the race they red flagged it. Due to the count back under red flag rules it meant that Dan F kept the win. While I secured 2nd place which was a great result for me and was happy to be on the podium again. Twice in a year makes it my best season so far!

Podium

  • P1: Dan French
  • P2: Matt Sheppard
  • P3: Justin Heap

 

Race 2 – P2

In the build up to the race the front group agreed we should try and be ‘sensible’ for the first part of the race and try and pull a gap on the rest of the pack. From a spectator point of view I’m sure it makes the racing look less exciting. However from a drivers point of view it’s a great strategy plan. If you can split the field instead of a 7 car fight for a podium you can turn it into a 4 or maybe even 3 car fight which guarantees a good result.

Caterham 270R 2019 Oulton Park

I managed to bodge the start again but held onto second place and just sat in the middle of a 4 car train behind Dan F while ahead of James M and Justin H. For 2/3rd of the race we just held positions earning a 6 second lead over 5th place. It was fun but tense as the anticipation of someone breaking the truce built as the end of the race got ever closer. When you are behind someone and clearly have more speed because of the tow effect it takes a lot of patience and restraint to back off and coast behind a car in a race!

Caterham 270R 2019 Oulton Park

James M was the first to make a move when I messed up the first chicane and got a poor exit. Decide it was better to back off and wave him through that cost us both time and allow Dan F to pull away (sorry Dan!). After picking the wrong person to follow a few corners later Justin H managed to get past Dan F and I.

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At this point I was back in 4th place but happy to watch the 3 cars in front of me race extremely hard on the assumption that within a couple of laps someone was bound to mess up. Sure enough Justin H out braked himself handing me 3rd place back. While all this fighting had been going on we had been lapping 3 second a lap slower than before. Leading to me having to go on the defensive against Greg. The fact we had lost 6 seconds in 2 laps to the people behind is a case in point about why working together is a good idea early in a race to increase your chance of a good result.

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Crossing the line the order would be James M, Dan F, Matt S, Greg M all within 1 second.

However this race would be just as controversial as quali and race 1. James M had managed to hit 3 track limit sensors and picked up a 5 second penalty dropping him to 5th. Promoting the rest of us up the grid. Really put a dampener on the result as James had really earned that win in a tough race. Racing really is a cruel sport most of the time. Still a 2nd place means it was my best race weekend ever.

Podium

  • P1: Dan French
  • P2: Matt Sheppard
  • P3: Greg Monks

Final thoughts

Oulton for me was my best ever race weekend results with pole in quali and 2nd place trophies in both races. Finishing both races with a strong result was just what I needed after failing to finish the second race at the Silverstone and Croft rounds. Even better is the car had no damage which makes my bank balance even happier.

Caterham 270R 2019 Oulton Park

The 2019 270R championship is shaping up to be a year to remember. So far no driver has had a clear run of great results. I’m sure that will continue as several drivers have been plagued with bad luck this season James M, Tom A & Oil P have taken bad luck to a new level. Graham M, Toby C have both suffered from tracks they didn’t know as well as others. Those are just 5 of several people who I expect to start taking podiums which will prevent any of the podium finishers so far running away with the championship.

Next round is at Snetterton on Saturday 29th June.

Photos from Jon @ Snappy Racers.

Caterham 270R Croft Race weekend

After the highs of winning my first race at Silverstone I had high hopes going into Croft. Along with the hope of actually staying out of trouble and finishing both races.

Croft is one of the few circuits in the UK that I’ve not done much track time on apart from a track day back in my Academy year. It used to be known for the bumps and the high tyre wear. However the whole track had recently been resurfaced with silky smooth tarmac dropping the lap times by several seconds.

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The track was a lot of fun to drive and a proper old school track with a mix of technical sections with very little runoff rewarding the smooth and the brave. After the tow fest at Silverstone it was great to be back on a narrower track where technical ability was more useful than just getting a tow off the car in front.

Quali – P9

Like Silverstone a few of us had a plan to work together in quali. It worked pretty well at Silverstone and we were all hopefully we could repeat the success. The problem with these plans are they generally never workout for everyone involved and this time around it was my turn to be the unlucky one. Every time I was on a flying lap I ended up aborting it due to someone getting in my way. Worked well for Dan who got pole, Graham got 6th. While I was stuck back in 9th. Not an ideal place to start but I knew my race pace would be good.

Race 1 – P4

My 9th place start on the 5th row of the grid did come with one advantage. Odd numbers on this track start on the right hand side. Giving me the inside for the first two corners. Generally a far safer place to be than the outside. Looking at those ahead of me there was a real risk that the front group would get away and I needed to clear a group of cars before the pack split. If I was to have any chance of getting into a podium slot.

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After an ok start I was P7 by the second corner and my plan to sit on the inside had paid off. Midway through the second lap Neil spun gifting me P6 for a brief second before I had to slam on the brake to avoid Chris who was avoiding Neil. In the confusion Toby managed to sneak by leaving me still in 7th. A couple of laps later I had possibly my luckiest lap ever. Sneaked past Chris before the chicane, Graham overcooked it through the esses & Toby missed a gear. Within a minute on track I had got from 7th to 4th!
At this point I had time to workout where the lead pack had gone. Turns out my fear had been realised. The front 3 had pulled out an 8 second lead. However with 24 minutes left in the race it was a long way to go and if the front group started fighting I could be back in the fight.

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After a lap I had pulled a gap on everyone behind me and knew there was no need to drive defensively and could concentrate on closing the gap. The next 20 minutes were pretty uneventful as I lapped the track on my own but could see I was closing in on the 3 cars fighting for the lead. Annoyingly at some point they must have seen the yellow spec getting larger since they stopped fighting as much making my job harder. Just when I was about to catch them up Justin spun in front of me. Which was great as it gifted me 3rd but not so helpful as I had to go around him on the grass and lost track of the two Dan’s battling at the front.

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With 2 laps to go I knew all I needed to do was keep it on the track and I would bag a podium. First rule of racing never say that to yourself it’s inviting trouble. As I found when I came out of the hairpin backwards… moron.
By the time I was pointing the right way and missed a gear I was back in 4th. Since it was the last lap I decide that 9th-4th would do and it wasn’t worth trying to kamikazes
Justin on the last lap and settled for 4th.

Congratulations to the front 3.

  • P1: Dan Halstead
  • P2: Dan French
  • P3: Justin Heap

Race 2 – DNF

So every time I step foot in a race car on track and in all the preparation on the car. There are all sort of possible outcomes I consider. No matter how many permutations of results I could have thought of what happened in race 2 was not in the script.. any script.

Due to my 4th place finish in race one I was on the outside into the first corner and lost out to Toby initially. Managing to get the place back a few corner later. The first 9 minutes were very uneventful for Dan F and I watching the Justin & Dan H show scrapping over the lead. As normal this gets a bit frustrating when you are at the back of the lead 4. Since I could see we had dropped 5th place and beyond. If the front 4 just drove the fastest line for 10 minutes we could have a gap that wasn’t closable. Ensuring that of the 4 people 3 would get a podium and we could fight that out later. When the lead 2 fight it just allows everyone to catchup making a 4 way fight for a podium an 8 way or something worse. Maybe I’m just thinking too tactical for sprint racing!

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Anyway while I was thinking this the lead 2 trip over each other leading to Dan F to get along side Justin, I briefly considered making it a three wide run through the esses, then decided coasting behind and overtaking once the other 2 were no longer on the track was a better plan. Which worked and I got past Dan F into 3rd. Didn’t last since I had a problem getting a gear on the main straight and Dan F got past me.

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What happened next was just not what I ever expected in a million years. Going through the chicane, which had tyre stacks each side and from a driver eye height is taken blind and flat out. I went from 3rd to 4th and the car just revved with no drive. I reached down to make sure it was in 4th and the gear stick wasn’t where my hand expected… What the hell where is it? Oh it’s in my lap.. WTF? In the little under 2 seconds between when I attempted to change gear and later found the gear stick it was long enough for an unsighted Tom A & James M to pile in the back on me ending all 3 of our races.

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Feel so bad for ending Tom and James races and if that gearstick had snapped at any other point on the track we would have probably been fine. Also still annoyed that a stupid snapped gear stick happened in the first place. There are so many parts on the car you replace in case it breaks. The gear stick wasn’t even on my radar as something that needed to regularly be replaced!

Congratulations to the front 3.

  • P1: Dan Halstead
  • P2: Dan French
  • P3: Neil Fraser

Final thoughts

Any sport has it highs and lows and elements of luck. Having had mostly no accidents (except Combe) for 2 years. While within a month this year had 2 big ones in the first 2 race weekend I’m hoping for some better race results next time.
One interesting thing with our Championship is you are allow to drop your worse 2 scores. After drop scores I’m joined 3rd with Dan F on points. However I have a win so I think that might mean I get the 3rd. Just need to finish every race well for the rest of the year. Humm interesting challenge.

Next round is at Oulton Park on Saturday 1st June.

Photos from Jon @ Snappy Racers.

Caterham 270R Silverstone National Race weekend

After the winter break the Caterham 270R Championship kicked off in spectacular style on the Silverstone National circuit. The two 270R races were more akin to Nascar racing as the entire field lapped as one group. Never knew you could get 6 Caterham’s wide on a track!

It’s taken me a few days to get my head around it all but I finally lived a childhood dream and won a motor race. That feeling of crossing the line first was amazing especially against such a strong field of drivers all in identical cars.

Quali – P4

The weekend got off to a pretty good start where I managed to bag 4th place on the grid. Only 0.1 seconds off pole. Odds were that the race would be a tow fest and track position early on wouldn’t mean much. That being said I went into the race happy that I would be near the sharp end of the grid and might be part of any break away which might happen.

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Race 1 – P1

Got a good start off the line and slotted into 3rd place. Had a simple plan of stay in the lead few cars and if possible either form a breakaway on my own or with anyone else if I could. Dan French and I nearly did it a couple of times but it was impossible to pull away from the pack. The tow effect at Silverstone is frankly ridiculous. A gap which would see you clear on most tracks made no difference at Silverstone.


Over the 30min race the lead pack change order ever corner. One lap I would be leading. Next down in sixth, couple of corners later back in the lead. Having ended up second onto the final lap I knew it would be all to play for. Out of the last corner Justin, James and I were side by side and it came down to a race to the line. One that I would win by 0.01 seconds. Which as 100mph is very little indeed!

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P1: Matt Sheppard
P2: Justin Heap
P3: James Murphy

Race 2 – P22 (Crash)

For the first time ever I started on pole for a Sunday race having won the Saturday race. Not that starting near the front makes any difference at this track but it was a nice feeling to lead the pack around to take the start. I fell into old habits and got a poor start but hung out with the lead few cars to start with. Not sure why, maybe I wasn’t totally paying attention but I found myself down in 18th after 20mins which woke me up to do something about it and 5mins later I was back in the lead. One of the great things about Silverstone is when everyone is in a pack you can find ways back into the fight. All was going well as I led onto the last lap and was confident of ending up in the top 5, possibly with a podium.

However it was not meant to be as one of the drivers made a last second move into a gap that wasn’t really there and took several front running cars out of the race, including me. The car wasn’t too badly damaged and I was able to get across line in a distance 22nd. Did consider parking it and not bothering to finish the race but decided that if the car would move it was worth salvaging any points I could. As they might be needed later in the year.

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P1: Justin Heap
P2: Dan Halstead
P3: Neil Fraser

Final thoughts.

After a couple of years of almost winning it’s amazing to finally have nailed it and won a race. Hopefully it’s the first of many. Race two was a big disappointment result wise but had the pace to run at the front which is a good sign.

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Next round is 4/5th May up north at Croft.

Photos from Jon @ Snappy Racers.

2019 Caterham Motorsport 270R Calendar

It’s that time of year again. After what feels like a very long winter break it’s time to dust off the racing kit and go racing again.

This year I’ll be continuing up the Caterham Motorsport ladder and taking part in the Caterham 270R championship. What is 270R you may wonder. Basically a slightly racier version of the Roadsport car I drove last year. More about that in another post.

Like last year there will be 14 races spread over 7 race weekends. Super excited about this year since the circuit list is pretty epic.

  • Silverstone National 6th/7th April
  • Croft 4th/5th May
  • Oulton Park 1st June
  • Snetterton 29th/30th June
  • Spa Francorchamps 20th/21st July (Supporting British GT)
  • Donington Park 17/18th August
  • Brands Hatch 28th/29th September

To be honest I don’t know which race to be most excited about:

  • Silverstone National is probably the one I’m least looking forward to as it’s just going to be a towfest where we pile in 4/5 wide into every corner.
  • Croft is a fun little track and could go well.
  • Oulton Park is a really great technical track which I love.
  • Snetterton I really enjoy and some of my best races have been there.
  • Spa is a legendary track and racing here supporting the British GT is going to be the highlight of the year regardless of result.
  • Donington I got podium last time here so hope to repeat that.
  • Brands Hatch is another great track and was unlucky the last 2 years so hopefully this year I nail it.

With such an epic track list, of which 4 we have never raced at. I’m really interested to see how the season develops. Last years Roadsport was super close and exciting.

This year it’s the same group but with some new and old hands that are quick joining the fray. Murphy and French have a championship a piece. Macdonald, Halstead, Allen, Clowes & Mccall have wins behind them. Pratt, Sheppard & Fraser have had podiums but never the victory. Morgan who won academy is back after a year out. Heap, Moore (Academy green & white champions) & Monks (Academy white 2nd) have taken the leap from Academy to 270R missing Roadsport. Palmer is staying in 270R having skipped Roadsport last year and will be interesting to see how he fairs back in with us again.
We have a few non Caterham racers joining us. One of which has years of karting experience so in all likelihood will be fast.
By my maths that gives us 9 previous race winners and 16 drivers who fancy getting a win.

If that is not enough there are at least 5 other drivers who will be close behind and if they adapt well to the new cars could leap frog some of us.

With that lot one thing is for sure. We will not be short of on track action and any race will be an exciting one to watch!