Tony Gilham
Team Hard

Oulton Park Weekend

Oulton Park Weekend

After a 5 week break since we last raced at a very wet Thruxton, it was time to load up the truck for the 200 mile journey north to Cheshire’s Oulton Park. The break didn’t seem like 5 weeks as it flew by as there were a lot of things going on.

On the 8th May, we moved into new Team HARD premises dedicated solely to our racing activities. Two weeks later we were at Brands Hatch where our 3 Golfs were in the VW Racing Cup which was a support race for the DTM.

Earlier this month, it was the birthdays of both my mother-in-law to be and my fiancée, Sammi. On top of that, we had to prepare for rounds 10, 11 & 12 of the Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship.

Thursday 7th June
Equipment loaded on the truck, a few last checks on the car and all ready to go.
The plan was for us to do another of our videos for this round, but this time starting at the garage and making it a road trip experience. However, Anthony Quintin of Q Films had a change to his schedule which meant he couldn’t be with us until Sunday morning, so the road trip film will be saved for another day.

At 21:30, three of the team left Dartford and arrived at Oulton Park during the early hours of Friday morning. Whilst Dave & Ryan took to the beds, Andy built himself a ‘camp’ in the back and slept with the race car.

Friday 8th June
Chris made the 200 mile journey up from Southampton to join the other lads in setting up as did Rhys who joined us for the first time this season and all in torrential rain. By the time they had finished, they were soaked. They headed off to the hotel to have a nice hot shower, some hot food and a few beers. More of the team arrived at the hotel in Crewe around 9pm after battling the rain and high winds. After checking in, it was time to chill in the bar.

Saturday 9th June
Everyone was up early and ready to leave the hotel by 7am. We got to the track at 7:30am and began preparations for the weekend ahead. The mechanics/Engineers worked on the car whilst others set up the team catering area, office and equipment.
At 9am Gary and I went to the TOCA coach for the Drivers and Team Managers briefing and sign-on.

Free Practice 1 was at 9:35. The track was wet and this was our shakedown following the car rebuild. The car felt good at first, but as the session went on, it became apparent that something wasn’t right. As such, we could only manage 11 laps and a fastest time of 1:41.626 which left us in 20th place in the session. Leaking shock absorbers were the issue which we hoped to be able to repair in time for the next session.

Free practice 2 was at 12:30. We went out on full slicks on to a drying track. The changes made to the car between sessions, highlighted the suspension fault as the modifications made to dilute this problem didn’t work. Therefore, I went into the afternoon’s qualifying session at 14:50 knowing that we had issues and just trying to do the best we could. My time of 1:28.521 was only good enough for 17th place on the grid for race 1 tomorrow.
In order to get the fault repaired, someone had to go on a 5 hour road trip to Gloucester. Scott from Autotech volunteered and headed off around 4pm.
At around 5:00pm, we started heading back to our hotel. Some of the team went to their rooms for a nap & freshen up before dinner, whilst others relaxed in the bar.
After dinner, about 12 of the team & guests went out on the town to Nantwich, whilst the rest, me included, went to bed. Although the early night was somewhat delayed due to the live episode of TOWIE taking place featuring Sammi and our third Grid girl, Lucie.

Sunday 10th June
Race day. A few of the boys were again up early and headed off to the circuit at 7am in order to get the new shocks on the car.Soon after, team member Kevin Doody arrived, having driven up the previous day and staying close by the circuit. For once, I had a bit of a lay in and headed off about an hour later. It was dry, the sun looked like it was going to shine and the crowds were arriving at the gates in force. We were all looking forward to the day, especially as we appeared to be in a better place than we were yesterday. On top of that, we had more people arriving as some of our sponsors and their guests were due to spend the day with us. Anthony arrived quite early too and readied himself for all of the dancers that wanted to be part of our new video!
Pit lane walkabout was at 10:35 and the hot weather had brought in the crowd. We noticed that it seemed more busy than usual and initially put it down to the weather, but with a little music in the background and a few people dancing, it became apparent that there was a lot of interest in participating in our next music video. This appeared to set the trend for the rest of the day as we were inundated with would be dancers at the rear of our garage.
At 10 past 12 the Pit lane opened for round 10 and race 1 on the day. Starting 17th on the grid, I managed to make my way up through the field before a hole in my radiator on lap 5 brought my race to an end.

The boys then had to work against the clock in order to get the car ready for race 2. With a little help from Team Dynamics, the final screw was tightened with 90 seconds to go before the car was pushed out of the garage.

Race 2 was delayed by a few minutes from its intended start time at 14:34. Starting from the back of the grid, I started to make my way through the field, although I did radio in to say that I had some handling problems as I was finding it difficult to corner. However, we managed to bring the car home safely in 11th position, so were optimistic for the final race of the day.

Due to an incident in an earlier support race, race 3 was delayed by some 20 minutes or so. Again, we had a good start and managed to get up to 8th before being hit a few times which not only damaged the side and rear wheel, but relegated me a place. This in turn caused more handling issues which I relayed back to the team who said I should just bring the car home as there was about a 5 second gap between me and the car in 11th place.

So, all in all, we collected more points, but felt disappointed by the weekend’s events, but as they say, that’s racing!
Preparations are already under way for Croft, so hopefully, we’ll have better luck next time.

On Monday, the team received the news that Kevin had become a grandad again, so congratulations to all.

Many thanks to Lauren From Lens Vanity Photography for the pictures.

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Tony Gilham

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