Like me, my best friend loves cars, and she has two firm favourites: the McLaren F1 and the classic Mini. So when I heard about the Mini Festival 2014 at Oulton Park I booked tickets for both of us. It was what I had hoped for and more.
Obviously there were also new Minis (or maxi Minis as we call them). I am going to leave them out of this post for the simple reason that I’m a Mini purist. These things are not Minis – they are too big, they are BMWs. Having said that, a race is a race and it was good fun to see them go!
We got to Oulton Park at a reasonable time. Even though parking had been open since 7 AM, it was very quiet when we got there close to 8:30. We spent the morning on the grand stand at Lodge Corner. That gave us a great view of a long straight, one corner and the track towards the pits including the grid.
My favourites were the Minis that were built before 1966. They were as close to original as they could be. The number 11 car really jumped out, I’ve never seen a Mini like that before!
While watching qualification for the pre 1966 Minis we ended up wondering how the number 76 could go so fast. We soon learned that Darren Turner was driving it. For me, that is very special. I have loved Aston Martin for almost as long as I can remember and since Aston Martin Racing returned to Le Mans I have been following their progress. Darren Turner is one of the three drivers for the #97 Aston at Le Mans, so seeing him race is a big thing for me. Apparently he hadn’t raced a Mini since 2011, but it seemed to me he didn’t need reminding how to do that. He took pole position without any problems.
I also saw the first race for the pre-1966 Minis which Darren won, seemingly effortless. He ended up winning the second race as well (as I expected, of course).
Another famous driver was in the number 38 car: Brian Johnson. He didn’t manage to get on the podium, but he was always in the first half of the group. Not too bad at all!
Last, but not at all least, I have to mention car number 23. Unfortunately the programme did not state what type of Mini this was, but I believe the driver is called Rupert Deeth. This car was firmly last in his race, but the entertainment value was unbelievably high.
Where some of the cars up front just seemed to cruise around the track, this man threw his Mini into the corner as if his life depended on it. And please don’t take this as a joke, I really enjoyed the skill. He approached the corner from all the way on the left (right on the photo), would go in rather far and then turn the wheel and pull that Mini through with screeching tyres. It was awesome to watch and the applause he got at the end was very well deserved.
After lunch we had a look around the club car park where we saw even more lovely classic Minis, some more original than others, but all in brilliant shape.
It turned out this is the first time the Mini Festival is organised at Oulton Park and I think they did a great job. The people were very nice and helpful, the circuit is very nice, there’s ample parking (even if you arrive late, by the looks of things) and it’s quite easy to find. It would seem I might go to the another Mini Festival in the future.
On a more personal note: I am proud to say that the photo of Darren Turner (above) has been used (with my permission, of course) for this press release on his website.