The opening weekend of the 2017 GRDC+ got underway at Oulton Park where the morning dew was sitting firmly on the 2.69-mile Cheshire circuit.
As the opening 2017 qualifying session went green, a strong field of twenty-two cars took to the track. It wasn’t long before Michael Crees (in his first ever season in a Ginetta after recently stepping up from karting) set the early pace. This was much to experienced Ginetta driver Phil Ingram’s disappointment, who spent the session playing catch up in 2nd place.
Richard Tetlow and Jack Oliphant were continually swapping positions during the 15-minuite session but it was eventually Tetlow who came out on top and qualified in third for the opening race of the season but it was all eyes on Crees and Ingram who, currently sitting in first and second were exchanging purple sector times. Ingram managed to close the gap on Crees to only 0.040s but with one lap remaining but Crees secured his opening Pole Position for the season with a 2:16.950 on the continually drying circuit.
Michael Crees on his first ever pole position said “My first ever race weekend and I’m completely new, I’ve never been in a race car but these conditions really suit me coming from Karting. I’m hoping the weather will stay the same a little but but my pace was there in testing yesterday so I’m just going to take it as it comes”
Phil Ingram: “The conditions were getting quicker and quicker during the session but I knew it would be the quickest at the end so it was all about being on the track at the right place at the right time at the end of the session and I think Michael (Crees) managed to get that lap in!”
As the grid assembled for race one, the sun finally broke through and as the lights went out it was J. Oliphant who made an impressive start as he propelled alongside Ingram and Crees, but it was Ingram who came out in the lead as the pack emerged from Old Hall Corner with J. Oliphant sitting on his tail demoting Crees to fourth.
As the pack appeared on to the start-finish line for the first time it was Ingram who had a dominant lead of three seconds, but a pack battle was starting to form behind him with J. Oliphant, Tetlow and Crees continually exchanging places whilst Rob Keogh, who had qualified in 14th was clawing back position after position and after only three laps was back in the top ten.
With Ingram now nearly six seconds ahead and dominating the race, it was J. Oliphant, Tetlow and Crees who were stealing all the attention as the trio continued to battle for second position, and with only one lap remaining, it was Crees who made a bold move around the outside of outside of Tetlow and J. Oliphant. As the trio went three abreast in to Old Hall Corner it was Crees who sent himself out wide allowing J. Oliphant and Tetlow to complete the lap and secure their first podiums of 2017. The top ten was rounded out by Cress, Keogh, McGarty, P. Oliphant, Wager, Holloway and Linn.
Phil Ingram: “That was good! It was all on the start really, I just had a bit of a better reaction time not as thought it was particular brilliant but I just managed to get he car going. I gave it quite a lot on the first few laps just to get the heat in to the tyres and it that was it really and just enjoyed myself!”
Jack Olipahnt: “It was hard! Coming in to the last corner I thought Id give Richard something to think about but he missed a gear. It was hard and clean racing and that’s what we come for! Its hard to overtake around here so hopefully I get a good start for the nest race”
Richard Tetlow: “I thought I had 2nd in the bad but I missed a gear on the last bend but that’s racing but I’m looking forward to race number two!”
As the lights went out it was Ingram once again who lead the pack in the T1 with Crees behind him after a great start passing J. Oliphant off the line. Ingram had a firm hold on the start of the race, but it was Crees who fancied upsetting this. Crees continued to pile the pressure on Ingram. With the pair now squabbling for first, it allowed for Tetlow and Keogh to continue to close the gap.
Roy Perkins made a fantastic overtake on Guy Redwood as the duo appeared over the start finish straight whilst John Wall, Ellory Flemming and Cundy were all making solid progress throughout the field and made a multitude of overtakes.
But the attention was on the top four. Keogh was holding fourth and was closing in on J. Oliphant every turn. With the front four swapping positions just as much as the fastest lap was being claimed the race win at this stage could be anyone’s but in the dying stages of the race it was Ingram who managed to hold to lead followed over the line by Crees and Tetlow who rounded out the podium. The top ten was completed by Keogh, J. Olipahnt, P. Oliphant, Mcgarty, Wager, Holloway and Fleming.
With the sun now beaming down, it was Wager who lined up on pole following the reverse grid draw. McGarty made a sensational start off the line but as the pack entered Old Hall Corner, Tetlow ran wide demoting him to 13th.
With McGarty now leading the race, a five-way battle had formed behind, but as the pack appeared from Clay Hill, Mcgarty lost the lead and dropped back to seventh, allowing Wager to inherit the lead but it was only moments later that J. Oliphant was out front.
With the lead still constantly exchanging hands it all came down to the final lap. Crees made a bold move in an attempt to sweep through and it paid off, but ultimately it was Keogh and J.Olipant who joined Crees on the final podium of the day.
Tetlow was fighting his was back up to running order after and managed to secure sixth as the chequered flag fell but taking the fastest lap of the race in doing so. The top ten was rounded out by Ingram, Wager, Tetlow, Holloway, Fleming, Mcgarty and P. Oliphant.
Crees: “Great race. I got a good start but I managed to stay out of trouble but I got a run on a couple of them out of Cascades and that was it really but it was all fair. I was just in a rhythm but I could see them all battling behind and knew I just had to stay out of trouble!”
Keogh: “Racing of two halves! I out braked myself about 3 times but I was so worried about me going off and taking me with them but I was the widest Ginetta in Cheshire!”
Jack Oliphant: “I was slow, went backwards missed the gears but Rob Keogh is impossible to pass but it was good fun but it was stressful”
The next rounds of the Ginetta GRDC+ takes place at Rockingham on the 27th – 28th May at Snetterton.