Thursday 6th August
With Google Maps telling the team that it would take a mere four hours to make it down to our ‘away day’ at Oulton Park Race Circuit, no one would have guessed that it would be more like seven to get to the paddock well after the sun had gone down on a beautiful English summer’s evening.
With a mentally scarring tyre blowout and catastrophic engine failure inflicted on the our innocent mechanic Craig, DSR had to pull together as team to help the traumatised Mr Taylor along the road to where he was finally presented with a soothing beer to calm his troubled mind. Some say to this day he still wakes up in the middle of the night hearing David in his head – “you had one job Craig”.
Practice – Friday 7th August
A bright and early start was needed to kick of the practice day, with Jonny Dreelan experiencing Oulton for the first time and Dan Dreelan and Des Wheatley relishing the opportunity to race somewhere other than the soggy Knockhill circuit.
Oly Mortimer was also officially added to the driver line-up for DSR, adding some serious talent to the already experienced drivers for the team. A multi race and championship winning driver, Oliver would prove his worth almost immediately at the weekend.
The sessions were thirty minutes long, a gruelling test for the Minis on a fast track that was heavy on the tyres and the brakes in comparison to Knockhill. The day was going smoothly for the team until Jonny Dreelan’s car began to sound rather sick, resulting in an overheat and a large fist-sized hole in the left hand side and underside of the car’s sump. The professionalism of our mechanics was then shown through a complete drivetrain change in just over two hours, with David, Martin and Craig pulling out all the stops to get Jonny’s car running for the following day’s racing.
Qualifying and Raceday – Saturday 8th August
With all the Minis running smoothly for qualifying, it was time to take part in the Mini Festival, a celebration of the World’s most popular small car with countless examples parking up on the day, ranging from original BMC cars to the new GP models. Many races were to take place throughout the day including two for the Celtic Speed Minis, but first on DSR’s plate was qualifying.
Oliver Mortimer would immediately show his class behind the wheel, taking pole position in a time of 2:05.159, a full four-tenths of a second faster than Kenny Thirlwall in second. Des and Dan followed that up with 7th and 11th respectively and Jonny brought up the rear with a 2:12.537 clocking.
Oli drove under enormous pressure from the other title contenders and he defended bravely right to the end of the first race after lunch, surviving brief moments of contact from both Kenny Thirlwall and Lewis Carter.
Dan also drove beautifully around the top half of the circuit, negotiating the tricky chicane well and under-breaking many of his midfield rivals to take an extremely impressive 6th place, his highest finish in the championship thus far.
Des Wheatley unfortunately was involved in some heavy collisions throughout the race and lacked some expected tyre grip on the first lap, resulting in an 11th place finish after a promising qualifying session.
Jonny Dreelan capitalised on many of the cars infront leaving the track limits on the first lap and held off the frustrated drivers for a 13th place finish, also a personal best for the youngest member of DSR.
With the first silverware for the team under our belts, it was time for some much needed rest for the cars and drivers in preparation for the second race of the weekend.
Race 2 would prove to be a massively mixed bag for the team, with an eventful race that kept the spectators on their toes from the first lap to the last. An unseen first lap incident at the top of the track culminated in four cars not making it back into view on the back straight, including both Des and Dan.
Ian Munro in car number 23 lost control after touching the grass, causing Wheatley to take evasive action resulting in a large collision that left Des’ Mini with heavy damage to the front end as well as causing Dan’s car to overheat from a probable hose disconnection.
Up at the front of the field, Mortimer fought extremely hard with some brave driving to take a commendable third place finish behind championship leader Thirlwall. Jonny also took advantage of the first lap accident to take his first ever top 10 in his rookie season, finishing in 9th place overall and third place in the newcomers rankings. Some impressive defensive driving was needed from the younger Dreelan but he managed to hold of the competition to take away many positives from the eventful weekend at Oulton.
Despite the catastrophic damage to Des’ car, David Sleigh Racing were in good spirits after the final race of the weekend and it proved to be a great event for team bonding, with night after night of playful banter and socialising in the paddock which brought everyone in the team closer together.
I for one hope that more of these ‘away days’ can be organised in future, as a day at Knockhill doesn’t quite compare with the atmosphere that was present down at Oulton due to some great driving, fantastic catering and wonderful people.
A big thank you must go to the pit crew support who travelled down with the rest of the team to make sure the event ran as smoothly as possible. Buttering a truly outstanding 36 rolls and making a scarcely believable 15 cups of tea, it should be said that the team couldn’t run without the hard work and talent of the girls that keep DSR on an even keel. Mechanic Craig was as appreciative of the girls’ efforts as ever, reminding the rest of the team how much he valued their effort on a frequent basis.
A special nod must go to the youngest member of the team, Erin Burnside, for cleaning out the mould-infested oven within the truck prior to the weekend’s racing.
A quick turnaround for the team will be needed for this weekend back at Knockhill and we are all hoping that Des’ car can get back in shape for the practice session on Saturday and hopefully another successful weekend for us all at David Sleigh Racing.