MINI CHALLENGE Cooper/S/Open Oulton Park Rounds 12-13
Round: 12 Laps: 11 Weather: Cloudy, damp-drying
The second attempt at a first race at Oulton Park was ironically a race of firsts – with Carlito Miracco taking his maiden MINI CHALLENGE victory in the Cooper S category and Scotsman Kyle Reid ending Cooper Class dominator Max Bladon’s perfect winning streak with his maiden victory also.
The first attempt at getting a race underway lasted just one corner when a multi-car tangle accounted for several cars and quickly summoned the red flags, forcing the race to be rescheduled for later in the day.
When the grid finally did line up again it was on a damp but drying track, and had Miracco on pole after he nailed the wet qualifying session to go 1.6seconds faster than anyone.
When the lights went out Miracco got the best start to head the returning Scott Jeffs, who missed the last round at Brands Hatch due to his studies, into Old Hall. Miracco set about extending his advantage, until a big slide set him back. “I was running wet tyres at the rear and slicks at the front and it was drying out, so it probably wasn’t the best decision I’ve made in my life,” he explained.
Jeffs reeled Miracco in and the two rubbed into the Hislops Chicane, which briefly allowed Jeffs ahead before Miracco re-passed him toward the end of the lap. Miracco slithered off again late in the race at Hislops, but held on to take the win.
“The final laps were so tough as the rear was all over the place as the track dried,” said Miracco. “It feels so good to get my first win, but man that was hard work. Hopefully I can follow it up with a second later today.”
Jeffs was well-clear of the fight for third, which was turned on its head by a late off. Rob Austin had held the place almost all race after seeing off the challenge of Scot Adam, until he made a mistake at Hislops and hit the barriers hard, handing Adam the place.
Simon Clark snuck past Keith Issatt on the last lap to snatch away fourth place, and with it the laurels in the Open 180 category. Richard Mills completed the podium ahead of the Cooper Class fight, which was a thriller.
Simon Walton grabbed pole with a last-gasp lap, but couldn’t pull away as the impressive Reid stuck to his bumper, with Josh Gollin and Bladon in close attendance.
Bladon managed to squeeze into second and went for the lead at the chicane when he and Walton went for the same apex and rubbed. It sent Walton into a slide and delayed Bladon, opening the door for both Reid and Gollin to slip through. Gollin spent the next few laps latched to Reid’s bumper, and at times pushing his Coastal team-mate down the pit straight. Those two then rubbed at Cascades, with Gollin skipping off the track and dropping back to sixth.
Reid held the lead, but now had Bladon and Walton all over him, until Walton had his own excursion at Cascades, hit a bump in the grass and split his radiator, spelling retirement for the pole-sitter.
Bladon kept the pressure on Reid and attacked on the run to the line, but couldn’t find a way past Reid, who was driving the widest Cooper in Cheshire.
“I’ve only done a few races this year so to win this weekend is awesome,” said Reid. “The race was really hard work as none of us got any breathing rook but it was about taking your chances. Max pushed hard at the end and I was just hanging on to it.”
Bladon, who had gone 11 races unbeaten up until this event, said: “I’m disappointed to lose the record, but in truth that’s not my main focus as I’m more concerned with the title, and second place is a good step toward that.”
Brad Hutchison held on to third place ahead of Gollin, but more drama was to come after the race when the stewards excluded Gollin for not running a working transponder in his car. That elevated Sam Weller to fourth ahead of Martin Poole and Marco Haig.
Round: 13 Laps: 5 Weather: Cloudy, damp-drying
Race two was short but sweet due to timetable constraints, but handed Scot Adam a Cooper S victory and Martin Poole a maiden Cooper success.
Due to the delay in running race one, it was touch-and-go as to whether meeting organisers MSVR could find a slot to run a second event. They worked wonders to find 12 minutes at the end of the day to get the grid out, but the race was effectively reduced to a two-lap sprint when three cars hit trouble on the opening lap and summoned the safety car.
Tim Porter started on pole but lost out to Adam into Old Hall before the safety car came out for three laps to neutralise the race. The restart left just two laps to run. Adam controlled it well to run out into a lead, as Miracco displaced Porter from second into Old Hall.
Miracco pushed hard to reel in Adam, but couldn’t get a move done in the few minutes that remained.
“I think the safety car saved me in truth,” said Adam. “I got in front but was pretty knackered as it’s been a long day, but to cap it with a win gives me a solid weekend. I think either Carlito or Scott [Jeffs] would have gotten through to come after me eventually so the safety car definitely helped.”
Miracco was pleased with second ahead of Jeffs and Porter. Jonathan Davis took his breakthrough Open 180 victory in fourth place after seeing off the challenge of Richard Mills and Simon Clark. Chloe Hewitt was fourth ahead of Laura Davis and Keith Issatt.
Poole captured his first Cooper win in dominant style, even though it was a shortened outing. Poole started on pole and had to only defend for two corners before the safety car neutralised the race.
On the restart Poole stood firm with Bladon on his tail to notch his first win. “I just tried to keep it simple and not over-drive the car or make any mistakes as I could see Max behind me all the time,” said Poole. “I feel this win is long overdue and it feels great to have finally got it.”
Sam Weller grabbed third place ahead of Kyle Reid and the recovering Josh Gollin. Marco Haig finished his weekend with a sixth place ahead of Michael Bamber and Owen Walton.