Three Restoracing rounds were never going to be enough. I knew that when it started, but that didn't mean the prospect of never driving the Premier Panel Skills Boxster after Oulton was any less galling. It had been a faultless little race car, and the events enormous fun, so I was in no mind to give it up. Still, some racing is better than no racing, and Oulton Park went about as well as could be expected.
The plan? The plan was, with team owner Ian watching on for the first time and his family in attendance, to keep the car in one piece. Honest. But with racing driver hat on, the plan was a podium. We'd had one at each of the two previous rounds I'd driven in, and thought it seemed a realistic aim given Oulton is a more challenging track than either Donington or Brands. And every other team had tested during the week. And because driving a Ka in the rain there might
As it happened, qualifying went really well. Only three of the eight laps were under two minutes, but a 1:58.5 was sufficient for a front row start, Will in the Pink Pig just pipping me to pole by two tenths. Ben in the ballasted Bournemouth car was another two tenths behind me, promising an interesting race. Especially so given I'd had a fright at Druids on my final lap, and continued the tradition of the poor Boxster visiting the gravel at every event...
Certainly race one was interesting, but for all the wrong reasons. Rain was promised, though nobody seemed to know quite how much was coming - or when. As it happened, the deluge - and I really do mean deluge - arrived in the assembly area, steaming windscreens, tensing nerves and puckering... well, you can guess. Wet tyres are available in Restoracing, but nobody had fitted them. So it was Pirelli Trofeo Rs for everyone, then...
The race was our first rolling start because of the conditions. I wasn't told that that (again, honest), so when Will in the Pink Pig disappeared on a green flag lap I figured he was just testing the limits on a final warm up. Only when Ben came past did the penny drop - what a plonker. It meant that by the time lap one was done, I was 8.5 seconds off the lead and three seconds away from the second place I'd started in. There was then a lot of pressure then from Josh Morris in the Bolton car, who would have got past had 'my' Boxster not been slipping and sliding all over. They can't overtake if you're sideways across the whole circuit, as Murray Walker once didn't say.
Josh then disappeared, another spinner in the pack. By this point the rain had stopped and the track was drying a bit, but that simply meant changing conditions every lap. And it was quite scary, to be frank. The gap to Will (once Ben was past him) did get down to five seconds at one point, but the two of them sped up and it didn't seem sensible to try and follow. Not that I'd have been able to, in all honesty. Third was ours, thanks goodness, the podium had been secured, and a sit down with a cup of tea could be had. I've never been so intimidated driving a car, and hopefully never will be. Stupid mid-engined Porsches...
Thankfully, that was the last of the rain, and race two was entirely dry. Or rather, entirely dry apart from the oil spilt in the race before us at Old Hall, exactly where you'd like to brake. Still, as it transpired, it was a fantastic race, a fitting finale to an all too brief Restoracing experience.
A poor start (from the lights this time) dropped the #35 car to fourth from a third place grid slot, Porsche Centre Wilmslow's Alistair Nelson getting off the line much better. Having snuck past on the way out of Knickerbrook, though, I could concentrate on chasing the top two.
Oulton Park is a wonderful circuit, one every petrolhead should tick off: fast and flowing, and just brilliant when you get it even a bit right. I was only ever happy with my run out of Lodge a couple of times, and Druids was a menace all day (you knew some excuses were coming), but by lap four the hippy Boxster and I were already faster than qualifying; lap four was quicker again. By lap five half a chance was there to get past the Pink Pig into Old Hall, as we'd crossed the line just a tenth and a half apart. But it seemed too risky, especially with two podiums on the cards for the first time, and I thought better of it.
And that was the last of Will. Something must have clicked then and he just disappeared in hot pursuit of Ben - I couldn't keep up. On lap seven he was nine tenths faster, then the same on lap nine, and fully 1.3 seconds on lap 10. I'd like to blame it on carrying a bit of ballast that the Pink Pig doesn't have, but quite frankly the pace was blistering - even in equal cars he'd have streaked off.
Will's pace was such that he caught Ben, and put in the most outrageous pass around the outside into the Hislops' chicane - it was a joy to watch, even from a vantage point further back than I would have liked. Still, third place was a result, especially given the PPS car hadn't had a pair of podiums in one race day since the competition started.
But it wasn't done just yet. The Bournemouth and Wolverhampton cars came together into Cascades, punting the latter off and slowing the former down significantly. On the last lap. I followed Ben looking for an opportunity to poach a win, but that was never going to happen. We crossed the line second, two tenths behind first; the result went to the stewards because of Ben and Will's altercation, but it stood as it was deemed to be a racing incident.
And that was pretty much that. Two podiums in one round, a car in one piece, a team owner happy and another incredibly memorable day - I was ecstatic. To think Premier Panel Skills went into this year as the only team not affiliated with an OPC, that we went into every round without testing and the car has had nothing more than oil changes and fuel top ups, yet we've left with four podiums from six races, is a tremendous result. I won't gush too much further here, only to say that a great bunch of guys have built and maintained a superb race car. There's more to follow on this championship in a separate story tomorrow, but basically there's going to be chance for public entry into the competition in 2020 - and potentially an arrive-and-drive
For anybody keen to take the next step from track days and sprints into racing, to experience the thrill of competition in flat-six, manual Porsches that make you feel like an absolute superstar, it can't be recommended highly enough. I'm doing everything possible to join you on that grid.
(Apologies for camera location in the video!)
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