Oulton Park Circuit
Team ES Racing experienced a frustrating weekend at Oulton Park as the Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship headed north.
A weekend that showed promise ended with two non-finishes and a non-start due to accident damage.
Saturday would be a trying time for the team, after completing practice Chris James was confident of a good performance, but unfortunately it would end with James describing the day as "Annoying, frustrating and disappointing.”
“We had a couple of setup issues” explained James. “In free practice we were running on a race setup. In the first session we scrubbed tyres like we always do and in the second we went on to carry over tyres from Donington just to get a feel for things. So I was confident we were going to have a good time in qualifying."
This wasn’t to be after setup changes left the Chevrolet Lacetti handling badly. "We changed the setup and it was horrible. We were lucky with the red flag in qualifying as a bolt had sheared off the exhaust. We came in and repaired it but the session wasn't resumed."
"We were hoping for a lot better and I really thought we could break in to the top 16. So to be down in 23rd after running in 21st in free practice on old tyres was disappointing."
As race day dawned gone was the sunshine of the previous days replaced with rain, leaving the team with the tough decision of what tyres to start on.
“I didn't get a brilliant start, at that point you’re starting uphill and you're on the biting point. On the top of the hill it was slippery and I went out on full wets, but I was pleased with the progress and we made our way up to 14th position. The tyres were going off by the end of the race; they were getting far too hot and turning to jelly.”
Aside from the weather and tyres James was caught up in drama on the first lap, “We had unavoidable contact on the first lap with Tony Hughes when I got a nudge in my side, I don't know who it was from but then that pushed me in to the Toyota's back rear quarter which spun him around right in front of me. That caused some damage to the front of the car which didn't help.”
“Towards the end I was under no pressure to be overtaken and I don't think I could have caught the car in front but it was frustrating that the fuel problem developed and put us out of the race.”
Despite the weather looking like it would clear up before the second race, the rain closed in again for the start. “Race 2 we started in 20th position and we had a better start, making up a few places. I was really pleased at passing Tom Onslow-Cole before the safety car. We went with a great choice of tyres with slicks on the front and wets on the rear. It was getting wetter and wetter and the slicks were becoming useless but it would have got us to the end.”
A safety car period would close the field up and present James with the opportunity to build on his pace. “After the safety car I got a great restart and dropped Tom Onlsow-Cole by 6-8 car lengths. I knew there were only 2 laps to go and the weather was getting progressively worse so I said to myself 'alright, I'll brake 10 yards earlier and nurse the car home' but we had a mechanical lock up going in to Old Hall bend.”
“In what was probably only 1-2 seconds seemed like a lifetime, everything goes in slow motion. I remember dabbing the brakes, trying to change gear and trying everything to get it stopped but it just wasn't having it. So I went straight on in to the wall head-on at 80mph, I remember thinking 'Christ this is going to hurt'.”
The damage caused by the accident would ultimately put James out of the race but not before he would try to get back on track. “I was surprised I got the car restarted after the impact and I could have limped around to finish the race, but the radiator was broken in the accident so we had to cut everything after nearly making a whole lap.”
“The damage from the accident was so bad - the chassis leg was bent the steering rack was bent, the wishbone was bent, the bonnet, wing and bumper all wrecked so it was just too much damage of which I was massively gutted. The team put in a fantastic effort to try to fix the car but there just wasn't enough time so that was the end of the weekend which was so frustrating.”
James was left ruing what could have been after not finishing two races and failing to start the third. He reflected, “Mat Jackson and Lea Wood won most improved driver as they both made up 14 places over the weekend. If I’d have finished in the 2 races I would have made up 15 places.”
“I was delighted with my pace, I like the wet, and it was my first ever wet race in a touring car.” ended James.
-source: team es racing