2018 TCR UK Series: Oulton Park – Preview

by James Bowers
TCRUK-CastleCombe-TCRUK

Based in Cheshire, Oulton Park is one of the UK’s more iconic race circuits. Featuring plenty of elevation changes and some rather picturesque woodland scenery as a backdrop, the circuit provides a welcome challenge for competitors.

This weekend, the TCR UK Series will be on track albeit for one day only, as qualifying and both races will all take place on Saturday 4th August. This tight schedule will undoubtedly put extra pressure on teams to find the right set-up for their cars as quickly as possible, while damage is something that entrants will want to avoid more so than ever due to the inherent constraints on repair time. It’ll certainly introduce a new dynamic to how teams operate this time out.

The Points Situation

Heading into this fifth round of the season, Dan Lloyd leads the championship standings by a huge gap of 82 points from Team Pyro’s Ollie Taylor in second place. You would have to say that at the moment, it does indeed look like a bit of a one-horse race for the championship honours, however I’m sure Ollie Taylor would beg to differ. Last time out at Castle Combe, Taylor became the first driver to beat Lloyd on circuit as he took his first win in the TCR UK Series. As the season has gone by, Taylor has gradually got closer to matching the pace of Lloyd, though there’s still a long way to go for the Honda driver.

That said, if Lloyd suffers a particularly unlucky weekend and Taylor can capitalise on that during the races, all of a sudden the points gap would be severely reduced. So, don’t call it off just yet. There is still very much a battle going on for the title, though time is indeed running out.

The Star Guest

An announcement which certainly caught the attention of touring car fans yesterday was the fact that Ashley Sutton will make his TCR debut. With Finlay Crocker unable to compete at Oulton Park due to business commitments, the reigning BTCC champion has been invited to get a taste for TCR behind the wheel of the Verizon Connect-sponsored Honda. The deal has therefore reunited him with Team Pyro, the outfit that helped him to championship glory in the Renault Clio Cup three years ago.

While Sutton’s presence makes for good PR for the entire TCR UK Series, the benefit for Team Pyro is also clearly evident. Not only will this increase the amount of coverage for sponsors such as Verizon Connect, it will also arm Ollie Taylor with perhaps one of the most capable team-mates in the touring car business. In regard to the championship standings, Sutton could well take a large number of points away from Lloyd; he certainly has the ability to win both races, and could become a useful position-swapping ally at the front of the pack for Ollie Taylor.

For now, Sutton’s appearance in a TCR car is merely a one-off opportunity, however both he and his BTCC crew, Team BMR, have expressed an interest in competing with TCR machinery themselves in the future. Watch this space.

A new face & a few missing ones

As already touched upon, Finlay Crocker’s business commitments have unfortunately sidelined him this time around at Oulton Park, paving the way for Ashley Sutton’s appearance. However, the Scotsman is not the only series regular to be absent this weekend.

To the disappointment of many, Howard Fuller and the Sean Walkinshaw Racing team have been unable to put together the budget to continue their 2018 campaign in the TCR UK Series. Having raced with a strikingly-liveried black and chrome blue Honda Civic, Fuller proved himself to be a strong competitor at this level of motorsport as he claimed a step on the podium during the races at Brands Hatch. Sadly, further appearances for him and the team look increasingly unlikely this year. We hope to see Fuller and the SWR crew back on track in 2019!

Additionally, Darelle Wilson has also stepped back from competition for this Oulton Park event. Rather than financial difficulties coming into play, mechanical ones have sidelined the bright green Melliosport Vauxhall Astra TCR. It’s no secret that the team have been unhappy with the car’s performance for quite some time now, and as of yet have not been able to identify the source of the issue.

An accident during qualifying at Castle Combe meant that Wilson was unable to really get a feel for the adjustments made by Kissling Motorsport, the Astra’s manufacturer, as the team had to withdraw from both races that weekend. As such, Wilson & the Melliosport crew will continue to develop and test the Astra with the hope of being back on the grid for the penultimate round of the championship at Croft.

On the plus side, the TCR UK Series does however welcome a new driver to the grid this time out. Tim Docker, who has been competing in the Britcar Endurance Series so far this year, will drive a Volkswagen Golf GTI TCR for Maximum Motorsport (who expand to a three-car entry as a result).

Schedule & Coverage:

As touched upon earlier, qualifying and both races all take place on Saturday 4th August after the test session on Friday. The schedule looks like this:

  • Qualifying: 11:00 BST
  • Race One: 13:55 BST
  • Race Two: 16:25 BST

All three sessions will be live-streamed over at the TCR UK Series YouTube channel, plus, we’ll have reports of all the action right here on TheCheckeredFlag.co.uk.

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