Oulton Park - Round 2, 2016
Oulton Park - Round 2, 2016
It's always much more difficult writing about race weekends when it's been a tough one, but I'll do my best to bring out some positivity! We had the second round of the British Superbikes at Oulton Park over the weekend. Oulton is a track I really enjoy. It's extremely technical with plenty of undulations and makes for great fun when you get the track flowing. We had a good test there a week ago, even with a small crash at the end of the day, it was good to know I was pushing and we came away with some good information and good lap times.
Saturday was our first day of practice for the race weekend, with it being run over a holiday weekend, so the main race day was on Monday instead of the usual Sunday. The first session was wet, so we got some good testing in the wet and found some good direction that we wanted to try for session two. It turned out to just be patchy for session two, with parts of the track being dry and parts still being wet. This always makes it a bit of a gamble with tires, sometimes you can pick the right ones, sometimes you don't, and sometimes you pick the right tires but because it's so patchy, it's easy to get caught out and crash. Our tire choice wasn't ideal, but this made for good testing, so we know if the conditions are like that again, we have a better idea of what to run. It was a shame it wasn't full wets, so we could try out our changes to our wet set up. Back when I was racing in Australia we used Dunlop wets, and I got along with them really well. The Pirelli wets have a different feel to them and I have had a lot of trouble getting them to work for me. Over the last two years I would have been last or very close to last if the sessions were wet. So I wasn't expecting to be setting the world on fire in damp conditions, which it was looking like it would be for the remainder of the weekend.
We had one qualifying session and a sprint race on Sunday. Qualifying was wet so we dialled in a different feeling to the bike to see how I found that. I qualified 21st for the first race. For me this was a good improvement, I was around some good company, as I'm not the only one who struggles in the wet, and there were a few guys in front, who have better wet pace than they do dry, so it always throws a few different names in the mix. The race on Saturday afternoon was also a good learning experience. I finished the race in 18th, battling in a group for 14th. So it was good to feel that we made some more progress in the wet, and we can only improve from there!
Monday we had the 16 lap feature race. It was looking like it was going to be dry, and I knew we had a good dry setting, so I was really looking forward to the race. I had to start from 21st, from my lap time in the race on Sunday. The track was still slightly patchy, where it had been raining earlier in the day, but it was declared a dry race and we all went out with dry tires. I got a good start and made up some positions in turn 1. I got ran wide on the exit, and it was damp on the edge of the track, so I had to roll off on the exit of the turn. I lost a lot of time through this section and that first turn incident stuffed me up to move forward as much as we could have. I was ready to put my head down and start making some more passes, then the safety car came out on lap 2. We cannot pass under the safety car, so I had to wait two laps before any improvement could be made. Once it went in I started picking some riders off. By the time I got to the front of my group, the next group had cleared off. I could see that the group in front weren't going much quicker than me, and looking back at the lap times, my pace would have seen me dicing with the group for 8th. I got my self up to 13th on lap 10, and knew we had six laps left. I felt I had the pace to pick up a few more spots. Unfortunately, the next thing I knew was I was cranked into a turn and it started raining heavy. I'd already committed to the turn and started cracking the throttle, and with the damp track, I crashed, high siding me hard. It turns out that they had decided to red flag the race because of the rain, just before I crashed, so I was still declared in the results! Unfortunately they take the results from a lap before the red flag, and I was in 15th. This isn't a great result, as I know we had the pace to run in a battle for 8th, but after such a patchy weekend, and bad grid positions, we made improvements in both races, in both wet and dry conditions. I have to take these as positives because there has been plenty of riders having up and down weekends. When the conditions are like they have been at the first two rounds it always makes for difficult racing, and sometimes it goes your way and sometimes it doesn't! I know I can get in to the top 10 consistently when things start going our way. I'll be looking at what I need to work on to make this happen, and give it everything to make the improvements for the next rounds!
Thank you to my team at CPE Motosport for their hard work, my sponsors, my family and all my supporters who follow and support my racing. Cheers! Levi #57
Photo Credit: Walker Sport Pics