After some research and discussions with other Track Day regulars I decided to take on the Oulton Park Circuit at Tarporley. Oulton Park is the UK’s second longest circuit, after Silverstone and has the steepest banked corner in the UK, the Shell Oils at 11 degrees. The circuit's natural undulations and blind crests make this a most challenging circuit.
The track is difficult to learn and early on it was pretty damp making Druids Corner and Lodge Corner pretty tricky. After a couple of sessions I met my instructor for 20 minutes tuition. I had not grasped the race lines for a couple of corners, with Druids being my most frustrating corner. On the first tuition lap we approached Druids and I was told to brake in 4th gear for the corner. I thought I was going too fast to make the corner and decided to bail out thus going straight off the track and just missing the gravel trap. The second time around I took Druids with a lot more precaution and once I understood the line there was no turning back.
The track dried by late morning and the grip really improved. My Lotus Exige LF1 was amazing around the track and held its own against a lot of the cars present. During the day I had two official minor ‘offs’ and a couple of close calls. I used Sport mode for the morning and the first part of the afternoon before finally changing to Race mode.
The circuit is definitely worth a visit, however my main complaint was with the fuel situation. There was a pump on site but it was only open 3 times during the day. This meant that I had to drive a couple of miles down the road to the local Shell garage to get fuel. My day was cut short at 4:30pm as I had no fuel and it would take 20 – 30 minutes to fill up.
A lap of the circuit went like this:
Onto the start / finish straight in 4th gear and braking and dropping down to 3rd as I approached the medium speed Old Hall Corner. The turn in point is just past the curb on the left hand side. The track then drops down The Avenue straight changing into 4th gear and blending the throttle through the kink of Dentons and then braking and getting into 3rd gear down towards Cascades. The turn-in point being at the start of the escape road, with the apex being a long way around the corner.
The speed builds up down the Lakeside straight getting into 4th gear before pressing on the brakes and starting to turn in at the start of the exit road and entering the Island Bend. I tried not to let the car run out too far on the exit, as there is not a great deal of space to get back to the left for Shell Oils. As I approached Shell Oils I would brake hard and drop down to 3rd gear. The Shells Oil corner is a hairpin with an extreme camber, which means I could carry a good amount of speed in and hold the car down at the low apex before aiming out of the corner. There is a slight right kink in the road just before the Britten's Chicane that means you approach from the left and hold to the right after the apex to give you an easy approach to the chicane. To be quick through here I used a lot of the kerb on the left so that I could open the second part of the chicane and then used a small amount of the kerb on the left on the exit. The run up and over Hilltop allows for an upshift to 4th gear and the fast approach to the Hislops chicane where I found braking and downshifting to 3rd at the 100 meter board being ideal, with a later turn-in to make the first part tight but opening up the second part of the chicane. I sometimes had to dab the brake pedal or modulate the throttle just before Knickerbrook and exiting out to the left.
As I headed up Clay Hill I would change up to 4th gear and move gently over to the left as I approached the bridge and then gently over to the right-hand side of the track. I then turned-in to the left hand kink keeping away from the kerb and keeping to the left, braking in a straight line for Druids. The turn point is pretty much the middle of the track ignoring the first apex and aiming solely for the second one. From the second apex, I let the car run out to the left and then under the Warwick Bridge. The run down to the final corner of the lap is very undulating and I would brake and down-shift to 3rd gear and turn-in very late for Lodge Corner. Once I had turned the car in I would be careful on the throttle running out to the left of the track as the track dips down before suddenly rising for the final corner of Deer Leep, which is taken without lifting off in 4th gear.Read more