After a six week break after the third weekend of the year at Thruxton the British Touring Car Championship burst back into life with the series’ annual visit to Cheshire. After a frustrating end in changing weather conditions last time out Aron Smith will be hoping for drier conditions at Oulton Park. The championship rookie describes his way around a flying lap of the sweeps of the venue Island Circuit.
Oulton Park has to be one of the best circuits to drive, as once you're comfortable throughout the track the times come very naturally. It's one of those circuits where you really get to drive the car and there's literally nothing better than stringing a good lap together.
The first corner, Old Hall, is always a bit daunting to begin with. I find it's all about the entry speed and getting to the apex. Once you've bundled the car at the apex it calms down before you let it use every inch of the track on the exit down to Cascades.
The braking zone for cascades has a tendency to unsettle most cars – there's a nasty bump right when you have all the weight over the nose, which lifts the rear. Being a little more gentle on the turn in can be the trick to get around this, although the inside kerb can be a bit rough so you need to try not to run over too much of it.
Next up is Island Bend, which is just a case of who can brake the latest. When no-one is behind you it can help to square off the corner but in a race situation this normally isn't possible as there is always someone waiting to make a super lunge! Overtaking manoeuvres hardly ever pay off and generally result in bent steering, though, so discretion is sometimes the best approach.
After negotiating Island Bend it's along Hilltop towards Knickerbrook and Hizzy's, but before you even enter the chicane you're already thinking about your exit up Clay Hill and into Druids. A lot of people over drive the left hander through this section, which never seems to work and really hurts you up the hill. Being smooth with the steering lock is crucial because you need to be able to get a good drive out; in my opinion most drivers overlook the importance of this section in putting a quick lap together.
Then it's up Clay Hill and into Druids, which is essentially a case of holding on tight and being ready for the bumps! It's a notoriously quick corner and the barriers are close to the exit. There's a few different lines through here, some double apex it and some take it in one go. It's hard to say which is best because it's all down to the balance of the car but regardless of which line you use, getting to the second half of the apex kerb is important.
When you've made it through Druids in one piece there's only one corner, Lodge, left to complete the track. Lodge is another place where it's important not to attack the corner too much and let the car be free around it. Traction is normally the issue here so being patient on the throttle and not too rough on the apex kerb is crucial for a good lap.
Although there's been a six week break since Thruxton, I tested at Oulton Park with the team a couple of weeks ago. It was great to shake down the car and I can't wait to get back there, especially as I've been busy with university exams recently. I'm ready to go racing again now and hopefully Redstone Racing can extend our lead in the Independents' Championship!