Last year myself and my good friend Roger went 50/50 on buying a slightly used Max5 race car. Over the last 6 months and with the assistance of the boys at Skuzzle Motorsport we’ve done one trackday in it and spent a fair bit of time hitting it with a hammer getting it ready for racing. Rounds 1 and 2 of Max5 were coming up so I put my name down and we got busy getting ready.
The weekend started on the Friday with a 320 mile trip to pick up a trailer we were borrowing, collect the car and then get it all the way up to the circuit. The traffic was grim but after 8.5 hours we made it just as the light was fading. With the car dropped off it was time to retire to the hotel for a steak and beer, race prep of the highest order.
Saturday dawned and brought with it a stomach full of butterflies and not much sleep. Nerves are not something I deal with overly well but the excitement of taking my first start kept me focused. Arriving at the circuit it was a flurry of activity as sign on, scrutineering, drivers briefing and the qualification session were all to be done and dusted by 9:30. Luckily both Roger and Skuzzle’s Nick have plenty of Max5 Racing experience behind them and got me where I needed to be with all the right paperwork. After that it was off to the assembly area to wait to be released for qualification.
I’ve done over 100 laps of Oulton Park…………………………….on my Playstation. Rolling out of the pit lane and turning into Cascades for the first time it didn’t feel as familiar as I had hoped. However, after a couple of laps I felt comfortable I at least knew which way to go and started to focus on my lines and setting some lap times.
I’d had a pep talk from Nick, find someone and follow them. If they’re slower build a gap by lifting off and then push like crazy to catch up. Advice taken on board I did exactly this and pushed as hard as I dared with my mind on making sure I kept the car on the black stuff and didn’t bin it before I even got to the first race. I wanted to put the car top 3 in the class but with my realistic head on I knew middle of the pack would be a good result. In the end I managed 5th in Class and 22nd over all. I was pretty happy with that.
We now had a few hours to kill before Race 1 so it was off to the cafe for a full english breakfast and a strong coffee.
The nerves were now completely gone, lets do this! The green flag out lap was steady and I pulled up in my grid spot, crikey everyone’s a lot closer together than it looks when you’re watching it from the sidelines! Suddenly I spot the 5 sec board and realise I’m still sat in neutral, smashing it into first and bringing up the clutch with the car on the handbrake I wait for the red lights to come on and then go off. It happens in what seems like a blink of an eye and boom we’re off! Bloody hell, I’ve got a good start! I managed to leap a few cars into Old Hall and then all hell breaks loose with a spinner. I then had to go wide round Cascades and got bogged down in the pack and fair few streamed past me. Next it was down into Island Hairpin which was already shrouded in tyre smoke by the time I got there. Wary of Paul Raddison on my inside in his brand new MK4 I took a wide line and thought I got a good run out but again I dropped back a fair bit. At this point I realised I’d stopped breathing and reminded myself that this was an important function of a working human being. From there on I tried my best to hold a reasonable pace and keep in touch with the main pack but it was a struggle.
Sadly a few laps later Finley in car 100 misjudged his braking point and locked up coming into Island Hairpin hitting me up the rear and causing me to spin off. We both got back on and he let me back past only for me to throw it off coming out of Lodge Corner not long afterwards. I blame my slightly jangled nerves from my first ever racing contact.
After all this I thought I was plumb last and with Adrian Baker’s MK3 in sight I steeled myself that I was damn well not finishing last. I keep pushing and after a few laps managed to pass him. It’s tough because even though Adrian was clearly struggling with the car and circuit the MK3s just have so much straight line pull it’s very had to pass even if you’re much quicker through the corners. Hats off Adrian, he gave me a load of space when I went for it.
And that was it, a few laps later and being lapped by the leaders I took the flag of my first Max5 race. Sweaty and utterly exhilarated but slightly disappointed I dropped it at Lodge. Still, I had brought the car home with only a little battle damage and I wasn’t last. It turned out I had actually finished 21st and beaten two other MK1 cars.
Race 2 starting positions were from the results of Race 1. I therefore lined up 21st and waited for the lights. This time my start was OK rather than awesome and Adrian in the MK3 pulled alongside and then past me. Damn! This meant that for the next few laps I fought to get past him while I watched the main MK1 pack scamper up the road. By the time I had cleared him it was all too late and I found myself circulating for most of the race with a clear view infront and behind as if I had the circuit to myself. I found this very hard as I couldn’t keep any tabs on my pace without anyone around me. Eventually I lapped one of the tail ender MK1s and then i was lapped by the leading MK3s, shortly followed by going through the flag. A reasonably uneventful Race 2 and quite an anti climax after Race 1 although I enjoyed my laps as Oulton is a brilliant undulating circuit. I finished 23rd and looking at the stats my lap times had improved over Race 1 however the others in my class had improved more.
I’m not fast enough, I need to brake later and have more faith in the car. Looking back I think I was losing out most in the faster corners where I just don’t feel as comfortable with the car being loose and slidy. I also think my lines were not that great and consistency was missing. These things I hope will come with time, Rome wasn’t built in a day! Regardless I had a brilliant weekend with all the gang and teammate Andrew Bayliss scored a 3rd place in class podium in Race 2. Quite an achievement as the top 3 from Race 1 were very quick and experienced.
Massive thanks to all the Max5, BARC and MSV staff and Marshalls for running the meet and huge thanks to my friends for keeping me sane and topped up on coffee. Next for me will likely be rounds 9 and 10 at Oulton Park but Roger might be taking the wheel at Croft for rounds 3 and 4.
The video below is the highlights from both my races.