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Racers spend Easter weekend at the park… Oulton Park!
Racers spend Easter weekend at the park… Oulton Park!

A number of local racers made the lengthy road trip up north to Oulton for round one of the British GT championship, ready to kick start their respective seasons.British GT - Oulton - Jack Mitchell

Throughout the pre-season, the entries for British GT championship had kept growing and growing, with the addition of new machines and new drivers, all of which looked promising for the season ahead – a season which started with a bang!

Local team, Motorbase locked down the first pole position of 2015 with the number six Aston Martin, driven by Liam Griffin. Motorbase/Oman racing managing to squeeze all three of their Aston Martin GT3 machines in to the top 15 starting spots. They were denied the chance of being part of an all Aston front row as 2013 champions, Beechdean AMR lost out on the second starting spot to the FF Corse Ferrari of Adam Carroll and Chatham born, Gary Eastwood.

Eastwood would start the number 18 Ferrari in the hope of setting up pro-racer Carroll for the run home. Eastwood managed to hold position and keep the pressure on Griffin’s Aston for the first third of the race, but just as the pair started the gap the chasing pack, GT4 (and some ailing GT3) traffic played its part, quickly bunching the top eight – but this was to only last a couple of laps.

The lead train was to self-destruct from third on back, resulting in a length safety car period, which in turn left teams to stop during the race neutralisation. Eastwood’s hard work was to pay off as the FF Corse crew got Carroll out in front of the Motorbase Aston, but with the confined Oulton pitlane, the Ferrari was deemed to have impeded the Aston’s pit exit, which caused the position switch – this was to come back and bite them.

On the restart, Carroll managed to pull away from the field and brought home the win for the only Ferrari team on the grid, followed by the pole sitting Motorbase Aston – which led all three of team’s Astons home in the top ten, of which BTCC star Mat Jackson piloted the second, to fourth.

Eastwood and Carroll celebrated their victory on the podium, but shortly after had the win stripped from them as the race officials penalised them for the controversial pit exit – Resulting in the top 2 positions being swapped – handing the victory to Liam Griffin and Rory Butcher for Motorbase.British GT - Oulton Park 1 - Jack Mitchell

FF Corse managed to secure another second place starting position for race two but they were to lose out due to the 15 second success penalty (as result of the race 1 finish) sending them back in the pack post-pitstop cycle.

Eastwood at the wheel for the final stint, would bring it back to a solid sixth place finish. Motorbase experienced mixed fortunes as their number six Aston would duke it out for a podium finish, just losing out on third position by just tenths of a second at the flag to the reigning champions, Ecurie Ecosse. Their number 4 car would claim yet another top ten finish for the team, but meanwhile, the third team car would score a DNF with only fifteen minutes remaining.

Leaving Oulton Park, Motorbase lead both the overall and team’s championship – Round two takes place at Rockingham on the 2nd/3rd of May.

For this season, British GT has paired with the increasingly popular Formula 4, giving the young aspiring racers a chance to regularly showcase their skill in front the packed crowds.

Tom Jackson returns to the series for the second year to build on his experience and challenge for the championship – From the first lap of practice, Tom showed solid, consistent form clocking the third fastest combined practice time and going on to secure a fourth place starting spot for race one. The Oulton crowd were treated to three Formula 4 races throughout the Easter weekend, all of which Jackson ran up front demonstrating his championship intention. With two fourth places and a fifth on the scorecard, he may have to wait until Rockingham to get his first silverware of the year, but the impressive consistency leaves him sitting a solid third in the championship.

With the crowd favourite, VW racing cup back for yet another year on the BGT support package – and like Ferrari is to F1 – Team HARD is back as well. This year, armed with their huge eight car effort. As you could imagine with such a number of cars, the team experienced the highs and lows of a weekends racing – scoring numerous top ten finishes with their mix of drivers.

Of which, local racers Simon Rudd and Laura Tillett starred. Simon is back with the team for a second year and is looking to work on the experience gained from 2014, whereas Laura is beginning her first year racing with a roof over her head – as you could imagine, coming from the world of Karting and single seaters, the transitions to a front wheel drive VW is a huge step.British GT - Oulton Park 3- Jack Mitchell

Race one saw Tillett line up a solid 20th, with Rudd up in 12th amongst the 29 car grid. Rudd ran a solid race, backing up his qualifying effort and taking home a 12th place finish to get his season starts, whereas Tillett had a far more intense encounter and she got stuck in to a battle involving 14th on back. While keeping her cool in the heat of battle, she kept it on the road and learnt more on the tin-top racing craft, securing a 19th place finish. Meanwhile, Howard Fuller flew the Team HARD flag up front, clinching a 3rd finish.

With a day’s ‘rest’ on Sunday, race two for the VW kicked off Monday mornings proceeding with Team HARD hoping to continue its fortunes. Race two grid set from the Saturday’s proceedings, Rudd started 12th but due to a first lap shuffle found himself way out of position, quickly resulting in his demise on lap 2, turn 2, when contact left him beached in the gravel trap and out of the race.

With one man’s misfortune, comes another (Wo)man’s fortune in this case, as Tillett benefited from the busy opening laps claiming a 16th place finish. Once again, Fuller clinched his and Team HARD’s second trophy of the weekend. With the track rods straightened and the bumpers patched, Rudd made the grid for the final race with his eyes set on bringing home the car and clinching some solid points to make up for the prior DNF – And with the help of a few mid race retirements and Simon managing to keep his own nose clean, he ended his weekend with a 16th place finish with some valuable points toward his championship hopes. While Rudd was looking to just get the car home, Laura Tillett was looking to further improve and climb her way up the order – and as she spent the much of the racing weekend – battling it out in the thick of the action on her way to a best 13th place finish.

As for Howard Fuller, yet again, he thought his way to another podium spot – this time a close runner up. A weekend in which he and Team HARD really made their championship intentions clear.

British F3 may have met its demise this year, but F3 cup made an appearance at Oulton on the Monday, with the rapid, Aaron Steele in attendance. As expected, Steele set the bench mark in qualifying sticking himself on pole for their pair of races, of which, he claimed two runner up finishes. Not bad for a day’s work for the youngster from Kent.