I used to spend a lot of time at Oulton Park when I was a teenager. I’d be wide awake for an excited early start on a Saturday morning, flask of coffee and cheese butties prepared and packed and then off to my friends house just around the corner from home for the drive there with him and his Dad. We’d often sit on the outside of Old Hall corner to watch the racing, and during lunch we’d wander around the paddock to marvel at the race cars and dream about having enough pocket money to buy something from the book shop.
Since the early 1990s I have sadly only managed to make it there six or seven times, the last back in 2007. Where does the time go? When I got myself organised enough to go recently for the first event of the year I was relieved to find that although things have changed a lot the old atmosphere is still there. People in the paddock are as approachable as ever, the view overlooking Cascades is still as good and the racing just as entertaining as it was. I didn’t spot any of the Donut vans dotted around that always used to be there though, we’d always buy a cheap bag of them right at the end of the day as they were selling them off and enjoy a sugar rush all the way home.
The Masters Historic Racing series is dedicated to keeping alive the racing from a different, older era to that of my teenage years though. No Formula First or Renault 5 challenge, no Sierra Cosworths or BMW M3s, it’s all about racing from the 50s, 60s and 70s. Five races with busy grids made for a thoroughly entertaining day, lots of close action and a fascinating variety of really interesting cars to watch.
The action is close and exciting from the start.The sight of a Ford GT40 howling along the pit straight is quite breathtaking, and the spine-tingling wail of not one but two Porsche 911 RSRs together climbing up along Clay Hill towards the bridge will live with me for a long time.
I was pleased to see several Chevrons, the B8 has always been a favourite racer of mine, and I’d never seen the Huffaker Genie Mk10 before in the Knickerbrook Trophy For World Sportscar Masters race. The red and white Capri in the Clay Hill Trophy For The 1970s Celebration Race looked stunning and went very well indeed, and the Morgan V8 was a real highlight.
The best race for me was The Avenue Trophy For Pre-1966 Touring Cars though, real of-the-era battles between the tiny Mini Coopers and big Mustangs and Falcon. A Mk1 Lotus Cortina lifting the inside front wheel under cornering is such an iconic image and I was thrilled to see it for real time and time again in front of me.
My favourite race car of the day had to be the Zakspeed 1975 Mk2 Escort of Mark Wright. It looked absolutely fabulous, I spent ages poring over it in the pits.
It’s not just the track and race cars that hold interest though, like most events there is always something good in the car park. The immaculate white Escort XR3i really did stop me for a second and take me back to standing in pretty much the same spot as a 15 year old boy. A slightly gnarly Ferrari Dino lurked under the trees near Lodge Corner looking fantastic, and it’s not every day you see a bright yellow Saab Sonnett just parked up in the sunshine!
Seeing a Gilbern in the wild is an usual event, so it was a real treat to see three of them parked up together.
This Porsche 911 was the finest sight of the day for me, simply perfect in such a wonderful colour!
My full gallery of photographs from The Masters Historic Festival 2011 at Oulton Park is here, 130 in all for you to have a look through.
This was the first time that the series has visited Oulton Park and I’m eagerly awaiting a return in 2012. Next up for me could be some Sprinting action in a few weeks, if I make it then words and pics will be published here shortly after!