Mini Festival, Oulton Park, 19 August 2017

This year’s Mini Festival of Oulton Park was a strange one. I don’t want to link it to the weather (even though it is – a little), but it never did settle down. We’ve had rain, wind and sunshine in any combination. A lot of umbrellas did not survive the day.
It was very good to see how many people braved the weather, though, as even at the end of the day it was still quite busy.

During the very first race of the day a four car crash happened which took quite some time to clear up. One of the new Minis (or Binis as they are also known) went off track just after Knickerbrook, went partly onto the grass and lost it. It had been raining before, but the track had dried enough. However, the grass was still quite wet, which is very likely what caused the loss of control of the car. The car bounced against the tyre wall, right back onto the track where it was collected by a few oncoming cars. The result was a mess which also required the assistance of two ambulances.
Unfortunately I did not hear anything while there or could find anything online about how the two drivers who were taken away in said ambulances are doing now. I’ll go with ‘no news is good news’ and hope for the best.
The additional result of this was that all the races afterwards were affected. Most were shortened.


Great teamwork from everyone at the track to deal with the aftermath of a crash during the first race.
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I have to say I was very impressed with the teamwork of everyone involved.
The marshals immediately made their way to the area and started directing the oncoming race cars to ensure the recovery trucks and medical car could get through. The course maintenance team arrived on the scene and just started fixing the barrier, no prompt required. And afterwards, as you can see above, everyone worked together to get the cars on the trucks and out of the way.
It is very common to hear the commentators thank the marshals during race day, but this really drove the point home.

The day remained strange throughout with many races ending with a red flag or interrupted by a safety car period.


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It’s easy to mark the day as a loss, no fun or even a waste of time. But that wouldn’t be true.
The racing I have seen was, as always, brilliant. Whether the cars were classic or new Minis, the racing was usually close. Each driver out there seemed motivated to make the most of it. Of course that at times results in going off track or worse, but that’s part of the entertainment (as long as no one gets hurt).

In addition the club parking has expanded. The club area is quite large, but there was also a parking area for Minis whose owners are not a member of a club. At the end of the day all of the Minis were allowed to go onto the track for the parade. That was a large number of cars!


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Overall I have to say the day was quite well organised. The way things were amended and picked up after the first crash of the day was quite impressive. Apart from the weather being the main cause of further issues, we had races to watch all day long.
The off track activities seem to be expanding as well. It’s not my cup of tea, but if it is yours, it could be a good additional reason to go next year.

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British GT, Oulton Park, 17 April 2017

After three days at Silverstone I decided another day trackside wouldn’t hurt and I travelled to Oulton Park for British GT’s race day.
British GT has some very nice supporting races, my favourite being the Ginettas. Call it luck if you will, it was raining. Somehow these cars just seem to enjoy a wet track. The action doesn’t stop at all. They’re all racing as if their lives depend on it (the drivers, of course, not the cars).


The Ginetta G40 of Jose Antonio Ledesma during the Ginetta GT5 Challenge
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Another support race is BRDC British F3 Championship which is also always good to see. With fewer cars on the track it seems a bit less tight, but the racing is equally passionate.

I always enjoy seeing the Volkswagens race. This year they were joined by two Audi TTs which makes a nice change too.
Quite frankly, there is so much going on on track it would take too long to write about every race in the action filled day. So let’s move on to British GT. After all, that was the reason I went.


There is some incredibly close racing in British GT.
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Last year Jonny Adam became the first driver to win back-to-back championships in British GT. At the start of the 2017 season he had WEC duties for Aston Martin Racing at Silverstone, which meant he missed the qualifying session for British GT. As a result of that TF Sport had to start from the back of the grid in their class – the 11th position overall. Sounds like the ingredients of something very exciting to me…
Together with teammate Derek Johnston Jonny managed to grab a podium spot in both races on Monday. Some start of the season!

This year will very much be about Jonny. As said, he’s racing in WEC and British GT, but he is also joining Oman Racing again in Blancpain GT Endurance Cup. I follow all three series, so I will be seeing quite a lot of Mr Adam, I reckon.


The Academy Motorsport Aston Martin lost its bonnet very early on in the race, but they – seemingly quite happily – carried on without it.
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To be honest, there are other Aston Martins in British GT, so I have more than just one reason to go. One of the main attractions I find the sheer variety of cars. The Bentleys are always a joy to watch and even more so to hear. I might not be a fan of Mercedes, but on track they look pretty awesome. The McLarens always look good and you can’t go wrong with Lamborghinis in race attire.
Oh, let’s not forget that British GT also has its fair share of Ginettas.

All these different cars with their different specifications in two different classes make for a spectacular and unpredictable race. Even without the Aston Martins I would probably follow this series anyway. Additional incentive not required…

Mini Festival 2016 at Oulton Park

In its third year the Mini Festival has already become a constant feature in my household. There are two very simple reasons for this:
1. it’s great fun and the day is filled with Minis;
2. the quality of the event is constant.
My best friend and I both prefer the classic Minis over the much bigger variety of BMW persuasion (known as ‘maxi Minis’ or ‘Binis’), so we were a bit sad to see the pre-1966 Mini race organised during the 2014 edition scrapped both last year and this year. Thankfully there are plenty of classic Minis left (Mini Se7en and Mini Miglia races). And, it has to be said, the drivers of the newer Minis do put on one hell of a show!


The Mini Challenge – Cooper S, Cooper, Open is about to start.
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The action on track started at 08:30 with qualifying sessions for all the races that day, so if you get there early there is already plenty to see. This year it seems there was even more off-track action (YoungDrive! sessions, drift shows and music), just in case you don’t feel like watching Minis all day long. However, that is not my thing, so I stayed trackside most of the time.

This year there was a supporting race: Maximumgroup.net VAG Trophy. That translates to a lot of Volkswagens and one Seat racing for 20 minutes twice a day. I have seen this group race before at Donington Park and thoroughly enjoyed it. This time they didn’t disappoint either. Even though I’m not a fan of Golfs, Polos and Sciroccos, they look very good on track.
A few cars passed my viewing point with inexplicable and identical (!) damage to the left front. From the commentary I could not make out what had happened, but it’s certainly surprising to see three cars with similar damage and no cars with any sign of damage that may have caused it. Perhaps they all hit the same spot on track and the commentators didn’t deem it worthy to mention?


Three cars came by looking something like this – cause apparently unknown.
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One race (Mini Challenge – Cooper S, Cooper, Open 180) was abandoned after a crash right after the start. Initially the grid was set up again, but the recovery of the cars involved took so long it was decided to not restart the race.
Both races for newer Minis were quite close anyway. One car ended up pretending to be a lawnmower and drove around with quite some grass in its grill. Others had clearly been fighting a little too tightly; dents and missing parts were not an uncommon sight.
During one race in the afternoon we saw two Minis try to take the same corner at the same time. Thankfully they both managed to stay on track, but I can imagine there were words…

As always our main objective was to see the classic Minis race. With four races in total we certainly got what we asked for!
Racing was incredibly diverse. We saw very close racing, as always, but also a 28 second lead by Shayne Deegan in the Mini Miglia race in the afternoon. There was smoke (looked like an engine blew), there were crashes, off track moments, slipping and sliding, drifting and even bits falling of cars.


Racing was incredibly close all day long.
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Throughout the day the weather never made up its mind. We had rain, sun, wind and clouds and it was alternating all day. I don’t know if this contributed to the eventful day. I say eventful because there were quite a few safety car moments, as mentioned we had an abandoned race and of course there were ‘moments’ due to cars being out on slicks while it was raining. It must not have been easy for the drivers and I have to say kudos to them for sticking it out and continuing. I was certainly happy to brave the weather and not leave until the very end. It was well worth it…again.
Can’t wait for next year!

British GT, Oulton Park, 28 & 30 May 2016

British GT landed at Oulton Park during the very sunny bank holiday in May. I have already written a post about the Aston Martin GT Challenge which took place on Saturday. Monday saw the main event: two races for British GT.


British GT action during practice 1 on Saturday
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Saturday saw practice for British GT and quite a few supporting races.
It also saw a horrible crash during the BRDC British F3 race, which ended the race early (red flag). I was later told it had made the news, as some of my colleagues who do not like motorsports asked me about it. Thankfully the driver was checked and found absolutely fine. He was happily racing on the Monday.


Ameya Vaidyanathan crashed on Saturday, but escaped without as much as a bruise.
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This weekend was the first time I had a seat on the Knickerbrook grand stand. I get the idea most crashes happen in that corner, because I have seen quite a few cars go off. I have mentioned it before: I’d rather see close racing than a crash. Thankfully no one was hurt and there was plenty of close racing.

The supporting races are great fun to watch. The variety of series and cars makes it all a wonderful spectacle. I should also mention that the commentators at Oulton Park seemed to be having quite a good time. I won’t repeat what one of them said about Rollo Tomasi, but it certainly made a lot of people laugh.


Some cars lost bits around the track (not always due to a crash or collision). This McLaren 570S GT4 was no exception; its nose is held together with large quantaties of tape.
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Seeing nine Aston Martins in one series (British GT) is a real treat and I enjoyed every second of it. One of them unfortunately never finished the race.
Jonny Adam and Derek Johnston did not get the win they were hoping for, but definitely not for lack of trying!
There were plenty of overtakes (or at least attempts to overtake) to enjoy and, of course, the cars themselves are a joy to watch. Lamborghinis and McLarens always look good out on track, the Aston Martins are bonus for a fan like me and the lone Bentley (which did very well, I might add) is an absolute joy to see and hear.

British GT is top entertainment and I will be going to the next race at Silverstone next week. Expect more photos and another post…or two.

Aston Martin GT Challenge, Oulton Park

My fascination for anything Aston Martin is by now well documented. Not so well documented is the fact I have been a member of AMOC (Aston Martin Owners Club) for a few years. You don’t have to own an Aston Martin to join the club and the members are extremely welcoming to anyone. All you need is the passion and I have it in abundance.
AMOC also organises races. The only AMOC race I had been to was in June 2008 during the weekend long celebrations of DB4’s 50th anniversary.
Seeing another AMOC race was therefore long overdue.


The start of the Aston Martin GT Challenge/Intermarque race.
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Due to the large number of Aston Martins on the British GT grid this year (nine!) I had already decided to go to a few races of that series. Having AMOC provide one of the support races a few times was a bonus I couldn’t resist.
Oulton Park is a track I am already familiar with and I like it a lot.
This weekend is a little bit strange, because the action is on Saturday and Monday, which leaves me today (the Sunday) to process the events of yesterday.

As always the day started with a stroll through the paddock. Very soon I had found the Aston Martins which would take part in the Aston Martin GT Challenge. This is an intermarque race, so out of 18 cars only 5 are Astons. It has to be said that this race is in fact two races: a GT Challenge and an Intermarque Championship.
The Intermarque Championship has been running since the early 1970s, so it is by now quite well established.


A favourite of mine when growing up: the Triumph TR7 V8.
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I have watched both qualifying and the race and thoroughly enjoyed the on track action. There were some close battles which almost make your heart stop; especially when it involves a classic car.
One of my all time favourite Aston Martins is the DB4. This race saw a beautiful Aston Martin DB4 Lightweight (1959) take on much newer cars and sometimes it was a little too close for comfort. Thankfully it came out unharmed.


The 1959 Aston Martin DB4 LightWeight driven by Martin Melling.
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In a few weeks time this circus moves to Silverstone. I have tickets for that weekend as well. I reckon that will be yet another very enjoyable race to watch!

Mini Festival 2015 at Oulton Park

Last year saw the first Mini Festival at Oulton Park and I had so much fun I decided to go again this year even before leaving the premises. I was not disappointed.

Being a real morning person I managed to arrive quite early again, with some time to spare before the first qualification started. My best friend and I made it to our grand stand (Old Hall Corner this time) where we enjoyed a lot of fun, sun and – most importantly – Minis. This year there was no race for the pre-1966 Minis, but there were plenty of other classic Minis left to admire.
We watched the qualifying sessions for Mini Miglia, Celtic Speed Scottish Mini Cooper Cup, Power Maxed Mini Challenge – F56/JCW and Mini Se7en. One thing was clear, they all wanted to win and gave it their all. Some classic Minis seemed to come through the corner practically sideways and a few were so enthusiastic they had to take to the grass just after the corner exit.

We stayed at Old Hall Corner for almost the entire morning. The Mini Miglia race was the first race of the day.
Last year I mentioned one car being decidedly last in the pack, but clearly being driven as if the man’s life depended on it. We had another one this year: #53 driven by Niven Burge (according to the programme; the car states Nath Burge). I have to admit that I have the utmost respect for backmarkers. It must be so easy to just give up and cruise around the track. This did not happen. This Mini came around the corner with some speed and sometimes screeching tyres. There does not seem to be any less enthusiasm at the back of the pack as there is at the front. It’s not only admirable, it’s also good fun to watch.

Mini Festival 2015, Oulton Park
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Even though we are not at all fond of the new Minis the qualifying sessions were quite something to watch. Because the Old Hall Corner is the first corner after the start/finish line, you get to see the scramble of the start (and the mess that sometimes comes with it). During qualifying racing was also quite close at times. During the Mini Miglia race the cars at the front were so close that for a few laps we held our breath every time they passed, just hoping no one would get hurt.
You’ll be happy to hear no one did get hurt…not in that corner at least.

The sound of the new Minis is very different from the classic Minis. They all seem to have the same sound and you can barely hear them change gears, whereas the classic Minis seem to ‘bwaaaaarp’ their way around the track. The new Minis also seem slower. I can’t figure out why that is. Their engines are quite a bit stronger than those of the classic Minis, but I found the new ones much easier to photograph despite the expected higher speed. Maybe it has to do with their size.
Nevertheless, the new Minis had some incredibly close and exciting racing going on and I enjoyed watching them very much.

Mini Festival 2015, Oulton Park
The first Power Maxed Mini Challenge race had to be restarted after a, by the sound of it rather large, pile up. One of the cars involved was #778, driven by Chris James.
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Around lunch time we decided to have a look around as there’s always some off-track entertainment. There was, of course, club parking with many beautifully kept classic Minis on display. There was a small trade village, where I got my hands on a 1:43 model of the #97 Aston Martin (Le Mans 2012 edition). Due to the amount of on-track excitement I had to give the stunt show a miss.
There were lots of things to do for children (bouncy castle, anyone?) and even live music inside the restaurant.
The restaurant deserves a mention, by the way. I’ve been to quite a few events of all types (not just race or car related) and often food and drink is overpriced and of medium to poor quality. Like last year I found the food at Chequers Restaurant very reasonably priced and of good quality. If you’re at the same location for several hours (we stayed at Oulton Park for 7 hours!) this matters. It’s very nice to be able to escape the activities a bit and enjoy a break and nice atmosphere.

Back to the action: the off-track entertainment I enjoyed most was the rally demonstration. Three classic Minis made their way around a track, throwing up dust (and grass at times) and with their tyres screaming for mercy (but they got none).

Mini Festival 2015, Oulton Park
The Mini rally demonstration.
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In the afternoon we watched the Power Maxed Mini Challenge and Mini Se7en races. We found a different spot (Clay Hill, if anyone wants to look it up) where we could sit in the grass. This was much closer to the track than the grandstand, so we had a completely different view.
One thing I did notice: no matter where you were, you could hear the cars go around wherever they were on track.
Additionally I have to say the commentators did a good job. Most of the time I had a good idea what was going on and they definitely kept everyone updated on the front runners.

After 7 hours we were both sufficiently sun burnt, so we called it quits. There were 2.5 more hours of fun to be had if you were up for it.
I think I can safely say we are very likely going again next year. It’s too much fun not to…

Mini Festival 2015, Oulton Park
The first Dunlop Mini Se7ens race, #7 driven by Julian Proctor.
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Mini Festival 2014 at Oulton Park

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!

Mini Festival at Oulton Park
Adrian Norman is only just ahead of Gideon Cresswell.
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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!

Mini Festival at Oulton Park
Riley Elf from 1965, driven by Phil Anning
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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).

Mini Festival at Oulton Park
Darren Turner in the 1965 Mini Cooper S
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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!

Mini Festival at Oulton Park
Brian Johnson in the 1965 Austin Cooper S
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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.

Mini Festival at Oulton Park
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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.