Tom Onlsow-Cole Race Report from BTCC Round 4 at Oulton Park
So Tom, How did you feel before the race?
We knew before we got there that Oulton Park was going to be more demanding on the car. The very nature of Thruxton is that if you can get the car into corner and hang on, you can usually get out of it! Oulton is much more chassis dependent and far more technical. Handling is everything here, and we know at low and medium speeds, our car isn’t there yet. When we need mechanical grip from tyre and chassis, we’ve still got development to do, so our realistic aims here were to get inside the top ten.
Free practice and qually were to be a discovery session, really. I don’t like going out on a ‘sticker set’ of tyres, so I used most of FP1 to hone and heat cycle the tyres to try and get a bit more life, and used FP2 to try and dial the chassis in a bit. For the very first time I was having to deal with oversteer.. and not the nice kind, either! It was all rather unproductive, meaning some very big moments and quite possible the biggest ‘saves’ I have ever had to do! It was great fun, and I suppose I can always take up a career in FWD drifting! (laughs)
Qually felt positive and we were initially just outside the top ten, not as far back as I thought it could be! I also managed to find a second from test to qually, which was pretty gratifying. A set of new tyres all round also made things feel much better. Really here, the rear end was proving to be the limiting factor, but I stayed with it and got the top ten spot I wanted. Thruxton was an anomaly really, and the car is back to its rightful place on the development schedule. It’s still only a few months old, after all. I’m just a small part of this machine.. I am only the minute hand on the clock face, and there are many other important factors dictating just how fast we can go. I was using every tool in my driver’s tool box, but top ten was as quick as I can get it on this track at the moment.
Race 1 saw me climb a few places and for a time, I was looking quite racy behind Matt Neal at the start. I was nursing the car as much as I could, but it was still using its tyres very quickly. Halfway through the race, my pace dropped off as the tyres died. I put my elbows out as much as I could and made the CC very wide. I had a pretty decent queue behind me at one point, but it all came to blows at Druids when Collard got alongside and I got a wheel on the grass. An inadvertent tap from Rob finished me off, and I was away! I managed to keep it out of the wall thankfully, and nurse it back for a 15th.
Race 2 saw me get forward to 11th and just miss out on the reverse grid! We ran the soft tyre this time, which not many other teams did.. and it was starting to work for us. This one was quite a lot quieter, so I could just keep my head down really and look after the tyres. Stayed in 11th for the rest of the race, and was happy with that. The soft tyres were still working towards the end, which was encouraging..
Race 3 was a bit of a crash-fest all round!.. and I got a few tags and scrapes along the way. I managed to get up to 6th, but took an almighty battering on the way up! I had to really defend here, and the poor old Passat was getting many war wounds. Dropping to 7th, I could feel damage and vibration at the rear, which led to a few more huge moments. Ultimately it turned out to be a puncture. So that was the end of the meeting for me!
So it was high and lows this time out. Great to see advances in set-up, particularly with the softer tyre and we’ve got a whole new heap of data to take forward to Croft. There’s a bit of bodywork to do in a relatively short time, but we’re feeling good! See you there!
Catch Tom and the team at Croft on the 22nd and 23rd June.