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Oulton Park: Round 1!

It’s actually snowing, and not just slightly, big chunky flakes are falling from the sky. 

Not what anyone wants to see on the morning of race day, especially not when this is your first race in a GT5 car and an hour or so from now you’ll be trying to nail a lap time in qualifying. So that’s a 20 minute session, with a few red flags thrown in, and I’ve barely driven the car in the wet before… keep telling yourself it will be fine.

Maybe that’s why Ginetta’s popular GT5 series has the word ‘Challenge’ in the title, but even for someone who’s no stranger to the deep end, things were looking a bit tricky.

I arrived at Richardson Racing’s truck just after 7am, with the opening round falling over Easter weekend we had a slightly disjointed program that had us testing on Thursday & Friday, then F3 over the weekend before we returned on Monday. With so much compressed into one day, including the opening round of the British GT Championship we’re supporting, it was going to be non stop. We were out at 8:55, with it being so cold I lost sensation in my toes & fingers while sat waiting in the car for qualifying to start. I was building my speed, and after a few laps I was realising that there was more grip than I first thought (despite wipers on full speed), but we were red flagged about 5 laps in. Eventually we were back out for 2 final laps and that was qualifying.

I’d gone well in testing, setting the fastest time in the Am class during session 3 (ahead of some Pro’s too), but this was on bone dry track. Every time I get behind the wheel I’m finding more time & technique, working with my coach Sam has really accelerated my progress in the car, which has taken a fair bit of adapting to. In some ways there’s more to think about than in the Norma, the lack of downforce means that car feels very loose and moves a lot in the fast corners, getting comfortable with this has often meant pushing through my comfort zone. There’s no paddle shift easier, although the box’ is sequential, meaning that you need to synchronise your down shifts with a good stomp on the gas to rev match and feather slightly climbing up through the gears. A lot of mileage in the car means that these have all become second nature, which is good as it means I can focus on driving.

Here’s a clear lap from testing at Oulton Park yesterday – Monday looking VERY wet for races 1, 2 & 3… ????☔️ #NGK #gocharlie #weareginetta

Posted by Charlie Martin on Friday, March 30, 2018

 

Nonetheless, I started race 1 (of 3) in 27th on row 14th of the grid, not ideal but at least I wasn’t right at the back. I got away cleanly at the start and made a good run up to Old Hall corner, before moving my way through the pack. Visibility was still an issue on the first lap, but I was making good progress and had climbed 4 positions (3rd in Am class).

Sadly a late lunge from Brett Ward in the No. 10 car pushed me onto the grass and I span onto the other side of the track. I quickly rejoined but we were on the last lap and everyone had come past, so I brought the car home (intact) in last place, only to be told I’d missed out on the podium!

RACE NO.1 – WHAT HAPPENED??? ????????‍♀️

Posted by Charlie Martin on Monday, April 2, 2018

 

Brett came over and apologized, in fairness it wasn’t an outrageous move… but I was gutted to learn I’d lost out on 3rd place in my first race in the Ginetta.

There had been a few hold ups with the weather and the organisers were keen to make up for lost time, so race 2 came round very quickly. This time I had the bit between my teeth – no one was coming past. While still wet, it had stopped raining and there was a line appearing, making it easier to get away quickly. No sooner had I rolled into position on row 14 of the grid (again), the lights went on then out and we were off.

It caught a fair few people off guard and I got away well, making up a few places straight away. I was really on a charge, pushing harder now there was more grip and driving with a bit more commitment, I overtook a few more cars and by the final lap I’d made up 11 places to put 17th overall. I was close behind James Townsend (also in Am class) in the no. 11 car, whilst also fending off Matt Maxted, up ahead I could see the lime green strip on the back of Richard Evan’s car that denotes the Am class drivers. At this point I was really struggling to see due to the mud that had sprayed all over my screen, and with no rain coming down it was literally like peering through frosted class, but I sure I was in 3rd place and kept my foot down. Two more laps they called a red flag, and that was it – race over.

I drove into the pits, almost certain I was on the podium, but I needed to hear it from someone before I could be celebrate.

2018-04-02 16.21.36-1Sam came over and confirmed it with a big hug – P3! To get a result like this at my first race of the season is such an amazing feeling!

Race 3 was cancelled meaning we’ll have 4 races at Rockingham for round 2. As I write this it’s only a week away, and one thing’s for sure – I’ll be pushing hard to get back on the podium :D

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