After years of attempting to shoe horn the Oulton Park Gold Cup into my schedule, the 2016 rendition would be my first visit to the Cheshire circuit’s finest historic event. And what a day and year to pick; glorious August Bank Holiday Monday sunshine the perfect conditions to take in 13 (yes thirteen) largely HSCC organised races. And as a paying spectator on this occasion, £24 represented great value for money with a vast array of car and period military displays nicely complimenting the jam packed circuit schedule.
Whilst the F2 and F5000 cars in the Derek Bell trophy as well as a fine mix of 20th century touring cars were the big draws for me personally, the Gold Cup itself would be awarded to the aggregate winner of two 20 minute races for the HGPCA Pre-66 Grand Prix cars. And after strong drive in race 1, Peter Horsmann in his Lotus 18/21, carried a 13 second lead into leg 2 of the event which would take place on Monday lunchtime.
Any thought of another Horsmann whitewash in race 2 however was quickly dismissed when Rod Jolley in his Cooper T45 made the better start and leapt into an early lead. And whilst few anticipated the class 7b machine keeping the more advanced Lotus behind for long, Jolley put up a great fight; twice holding top spot before Horsmann made the decisive move on lap 6 to take his Lotus 18/21 to victory by a mere 1.1 seconds and claim the infamous Golden trophy. Sensational racing!
As always the Historic Formula Fords provided great entertainment in their 2 twenty minute races. After an opening lap collision in race 1 brought out the red flag it would be Sam Mitchell who claimed victory in the shortened race. Lying third entering lap 7, the Cheltenham man was in the right place at the right time to take advantage of a final lap incident between race leading duo Benn Simms and Callum Grant.
The day would vastly improve for Simms however. After claiming second in the Rear Engined Formula Junior event, the Jomo JMR 7 pilot would go one better in the second Historic Formula Ford race. Lying at the back of a lead group of six in the early stages, the Leicestershire man would take an excellent victory; capitalising on the mechanical woes of others whilst throwing in some fantastic overtaking manoeuvres.
The Historic Touring Cars never fail to catch my eye and whilst Warren Briggs in his Ford Mustang was able to take a couple of dominant victories the battle behind was far less clear cut. 16 year old James Clarke was in many ways the star of the day; consistently the quickest Lotus Cortina pilot, the youngster went on to claim a well deserved second overall in race 2. It is a rarity for such a young driver to feature in this series; 3rd placed John Avill best summing it up by claiming all his grandchildren were older than the man standing on the second step of the podium!
The largely 1990’s built machines in the Super Touring Car challenge were in fact the only field of cars that I was fortunate enough to witness racing in period; the very technologically advanced machines bringing back great childhood memories from the spectator bankings of both Donington and Silverstone.
After recording an impressive 7 second race 1 victory, Stewart Whyte was again in a class of his own in Monday’s second race of the weekend. Not even John Cleland, again re-united with in the Vectra he once professionally campaigned, could stay on terms with his fellow Scotsman; the Honda Accord pilot going on to record another dominant victory.
In fact double wins were the theme of the weekend as Andrew Park claimed two impressive Formula Ford 2000 victories whilst Mark Dwyer, in his F2 March 742 twice got the better of the F5000 runners in the Derek Bell Trophy. Meanwhile Andrew Hibberd and Mark Woodhouse would claim double glory in the respective Formula Junior front engined and rear engined events.
Further 20 minute races for the Classic Racing Cars and Classic Clubman machines would round off the days entertainment where John Murphy proved just too strong for Julian Stokes and Mark Charteris was yet again the pick of the Classic Clubman runners; the reigning champion building a winning margin of over 38 seconds by the the time the chequered flag was waved!
In all there was little not to like about our relatively short Bank Holiday Monday trip across the A50. The Cheshire circuit has long been a personal favourite and seeing some of the best machinery of yesteryear grace the undulating asphalt was a sight to behold. Viewing is second to none at Oulton, partly as a result of being able to get close to the action without having ones view obstructed by thick catch fencing. I will make every effort to return in 2017.
All images © Paul Commons (Paul Commons Motorsport Photography)