It was a extremely quick turnaround for the team from the last Club Enduro Round with only a handful of working days before we headed to Oulton Park for Round 2 with a 8 Car Team this time. Although we had a fantastic result at round 1 of the championship there was plenty of preparation on all the cars for Round 2. Testing was sessioned on Friday before qualifying and the 2 hour race on Saturday. Most drivers only managed to get a handful of laps due to the constant red flags, however setups we’re refined throughout the day and everyone went into Friday Evening confident of their cars performance.
Our Team was formed with:
Swift/Baker – TCR
Wallis/Wallis – TCR
James – EP3 Endurance
Freeman/Munday – K24 Civic
Handley – Golf MK7 GTI
Beech/Grice – Golf MK6 GTI
Cuniffe – K24 Civic
Baylie – K20 Civic
Qualifying was certainly a difficult one to say the least with rain imminent we got our cars close to the front of the que in assembly as we knew the first few laps were most likely going to be the ones that counted. After 10 minutes and the chance for only 2 flying laps Yellow Flags came out around the circuit due to a broken down car in a dangerous position. In this period where most took the opportunity to change drivers if in a two car team, the heavens opened and it was clear that these early laps would set the grid for the race. Most the team had managed to get atleast one flying lap even if they were hampered by traffic in some cases.
Class A would see the Swift/Baker TCR line up Pole by just a tenth ahead of the BCSC Lotus, the Wallis brother were fortunate to line up P5 after a lap riddled with traffic as their only flying one, Martin James would line up P8 in Class A in our Civic after having not driven the car for nearly two years and with 0 testing he was still finding his feet as the heavens unfortunately opened. Class B would see the Beech/Grice Golf take a well deserved P2 less than a tenth off P1 in Class B, the K24 Civic of Freeman/Munday would line up P4 in Class after not managing to really string a significant lap together. The same can be said for Luke Handley who lined up P5 in Class B and the Scotting/Cuniffe K24 Civic would line up P10 in Class B again after being out of the car for a while with no testing on the Friday due to other commitments. Andy Baylie flying the flag for Area Motorsport in Class C lined up P2, a great starting position on a track we all knew heavily favoured RWD lighter cars which make up the majority of Class C.
A quick turnaround this time with only 3 hours between the end of qualifying and the start of the race, cars reprepped, full of fuel and ready to take on the 2 hour Club Enduro Race around the challenging Oulton Park Circuit.
As the lights went out the Swift driven TCR was pushed back to 2nd due to the straightline speed of the 3rd place E46 M3, the pair along with the Lotus of Alan Henderson and the Wallis brothers in their TCR quickly started to pull a small gap of around 4 seconds in the opening stages of the race. The 4 would maintain position for the opening 15 minutes of the race. Martin James had got off to a great start in his Class A Civic quickly moving through cars ahead and up into P6 before chasing after P5 another TCR car on the Grid.
In Class B it was Gillispie in the ML Motorsport 135I that took an early lead with Grice in the Golf Mk6 GTI, Chris Freeman in the K24 Civic and Luke Handley in the Golf MK7 GTI all following close behind rounding out the Top 5 Positions. Steve Cuniffe rapidly moved forward in his K24 Civic after qualifying well down the order passing 10 cars over the first 15 minutes of the race to move himself up into the Top 8 in Class B. Class B was set to be a race long battle with our 3 cars up front pushing hard in the Top 5 with another two Class B competitors all dicing for position and trading lap times in the early stages.
In Class C Andy Baylie would enter into what would be a race long battle with a hoard of MX5’s holding his ground in the first 15 minutes, showing even though it being a track much more suited to his competition that he could maintain pace and the promise of a good result was certainly there.
Around 20 minutes into the race after the hectic start that always occurs with a grid this size had settled down their was a incident that caused a red flag, unfortunately involving our Class A Civic and another Competitor. Although the damage to our Civic wasn’t to severe (Front right suspension and bodywork), the other car that it came into contact with ended up on its roof and for safety the red flag came out and the race was stopped.
After some confusion on what may occur from here forward the teams were informed it would be a re-grid from the previous lap and a 90 minute race. No one had made their mandatory stop throughout the grid so when the race resumed, it would be like a re-run of the start, all be it with some of our team in better positions than they were at the start of the 2 hours.
The restart would be as fast and frantic as the first with the majority of the team holding station in their positions before the red flag came out previously. Battles up and down the grid we’re constant with traffic playing a big part on this notoriously difficult to pass circuit. Around 20 minutes into the race their was a Safety car due to a broken down Class A M3 and the pitlane traffic jam ensued shortly after. It was quite important to take this stop for the majority of the team as at Safety Car pace only one lap would be lost instead of 2. The whole team was within their pit window in terms of being able to fill Fuel to take them to the end so the team set to work in ensuring all the stops went smoothly, all the tanks were full and we got our cars back out into position behind the Safety Car Train. The Wallis brothers decided to stay out in their TCR Car in the hope that fortune may favour them later on in the race with another Safety Car, either way, at this moment they would take the lead of the race in Class A and Overall.
As the Safety Car came in and the race resumed the Wallis TCR shot off into the distance taking a early 5-6 second lead over the other cars that hadn’t yet stopped. Baker in the Area TCR quickly seized what would become P1 after the stops at the restart with a move into turn 1 past the E46 M3 that had lead the race up to that point. In Class B it would be the Beech/Grice driven Golf MK6 GTI that would lead the other Area Motorsport team Class B cars of Luke Handley’s MK7 GTI and the Freeman/Munday K24 Civic. With the Gillispie 135I not taking it’s stop under the Safety Car the Team and all 3 drivers knew they were battling it out for the potential Class B Victory, not to mention a potential 1,2,3 finish for Area Motorsport in B.
Andy Baylie in his Class C also gained in the stops moving into P2 in Class C and entered into another race long battle with the Sheard Auto’s MX5s. Whilst lapping consistently and quickly Andy held pace with the MX5’s and made his way through the traffic in quick succession looking good for a Top 3 finish in Class.
For all the Team the next 60 minutes of the race would be fast paced and frenetic with the Class B Battle Raging on for who would be top dog not only in the Race, but in the Team too. In Class A although Baker had the lead in the Area TCR he was being pushed hard constantly by the Lotus of Alan Henderson. Andy Baylie would hold station in P2 throughout this period. Around 15 minutes from the end is where it got interesting. Coming into this weekend both our TCR cars had to switch tyre sizes due to lack of stock anywhere in the UK and what seemed the world for what we usually run due to COVID. The Wallis brothers had took their mandatory stop in this 60 minute period and the team found many ballons on the insides of the right front tyre side wall, they would re-enter the race after their stop in P5 where they would remain to the end.
With Baker reporting a vibration for the last 30-40 minutes of this period the worry was high that a puncture could be imminent on our lead class A Car. As the discussion began on the Team Radio about it, it was clear that Baker was struggling and eventually was passed by the Lotus in P2 that he’d kept at bay for the previous hour and 10 minutes of the race with just 15 minutes remaining. with a healthy margin to P3 Baker backed the pace right off and brought the car home P2 to the relief of the team.
Class B was really the one to watch for this 60 minute period and right up until the flag. With both Golfs and the Munday driven K24 Civic all seperated by less than 2 seconds, and in P1,P2 and P3 it was a inter-team battle for Class B Honours. For the majority although all running in close proximity the positions didn’t change until a rare mistake by Handley dropped him behind the Munday K24 Civic and that’s where they would stay till the end of the Race. This would be the teams first 1,2,3 in Club Enduro. P1 taken by the fantastically driven Golf MK6 GTI of Beech and Grice, a great come back for them after overheating issues plagued their Round 1 at Silverstone. P2 was taken by the Freeman/Munday K24 Civic, another great drive by them, barely putting a foot wrong aside from a small spin which dropped them off the back of P1 and cemented their P2 Finish. Luke Handley in his Mk7 Golf GTI would round out the Top 3 in Class B and bring home more valuable championship points. The Cuniffe and Scotting driven K24 Civic came home P9 in Class B, but more importantly for them, it was their first finish in Club Enduro after they’d tried with various other teams in previous years in different machinery.
Andy Baylie in his Class C civic put on a fantastic display in these closing stages of the race to cement a P2 finish, something he thought would be extremely difficult at this circuit and he was certainly made to work for throughout the race.
That’s our round 2 round up of Club Enduro 2020. It was another great weekend for the Team, we leave Oulton Park with the Class A Championship Lead, Class B Joint Championship Lead, Class C Championship Lead and Overall Championship Lead a Great Achievement as we bare down on the half way point of the season in this Championship with over 50 Entrants to date.