Chloe Hewitt Mini Challenge Oulton Park

Chloe Hewitt (Photo by Marc Waller)

Chloe Hewitt (Photo by Marc Waller)Thursday night we left for Oulton Park, unfortunately the lorry didn’t have an MOT so therefore we took both the Land Rover full to the brim of fuel, wheels and food.

However due to the lack of space and Mum not wanting to drive four and a half hours, I also was to make the drive in my yellow peril. We had driven around three and a half hours before we hit road troubles on the M6. Sending us the long way around. The diversion took us another three hours, so we didn’t reach the race track until two o’clock on Friday morning, we were then up again at half six to get ready for testing all day Friday.

This weekend held huge changes, we visited Oulton Park for the first time, we joined the race team RTS, we didn’t have our mechanic Dale joining us. But the main change was the weather conditions. We tested all day Friday for the first time in constant heavy rain, the issue occurred when the Open class cars were sent out on a controlled tyre which, is a near slick, when everyone else on track were on full wets, therefore due to having to learn the track and adapt to the changing conditions lap after lap, we didn’t show a lot of pace. For the final session of the day the track dried out rather quickly. I came into the first corner on the last lap of the session; on the wrong line transferring between the wetter and the dry line. The mistake that I made sent me off towards the inside of the corner however; I over corrected myself and ended up with a heavy impact into the armco on the outside of the corner. After assessing the damage, myself, I then made the decision to drive the car back to the pit lane following the flatbed truck, as the damage looked to be mainly cosmetic. As I wouldn’t have another chance to drive the car until qualifying on Saturday morning, I wanted to drive the car to see if there was any damage to the steering or any noises that had appeared.

The team worked for hours stitching the front bumper back together on the near side with cable ties, then covering the damaged area with black tape. The morning brought the daylight with it, allowing Marcus (the sticker guy) to get to work with the white tape, as he tried to match the zebra print that was originally there. Allowing nobody to notice the difference.

The rain started again during the night and didn’t let up. I have never seen it so bad. Therefore, meaning that qualifying wasn’t just wet, it was near on a river. I couldn’t work out where everyone else’s grip was coming from, as I wasn’t going slow but was a lot further behind on pace. I felt very unsettled as I was locking front wheels when braking and wheel spinning when the turbo was kicking in, on acceleration. I was really trying but just wasn’t on terms with anyone.

After the accident at Brands Hatch the start procedure was reverted back to having a ten second gap between the back of the open class and the start of the cooper class. However, I qualified near the back of my grid so was unable to see the five second board. I was then not ready when the lights came on for the start of the race. I got a bad start but the car in front of me had an even worse start as I had to make a dart to the inside of the almost stationary car. I had the last car on the open class grid come along side me before the first corner followed by the car that hadn’t got off the line. Showing me that I need to trust the car and the tyres more, on the first lap. However due to one of the cooper S class cars losing it on the way out of the first corner and hitting the lead open class car. There was a huge pile up, that I was fortunately able to avoid only by taking action on the grass, on the outside of the corner, still in fear after my accident there the day before, fortunately I saw the accident so far back that I had time to slow the car down a reasonable amount before doing so, also avoiding running in the back of the car in front of me. By the second corner the race had been red flagged therefore, everybody had backed off, they sent us back to the grid to be re gridded. However out of the first fifteen cars only seven retuned to the grid. After a few minutes sat on the grid they called the race, as the clean-up time was taking so long, there would be no time left in the schedule for racing.

There was then a huge rush, to get my team mate Richards car, back to the grid for the rerun of race one. I vaguely remember having to jump around in the back of his car with three others to try and straighten it enough to go back out again.

Race one rerun. The race started; I got away better than the last start. As due to missing cars, I was able to see the start line marshal therefore, was ready for the start. The race got underway and due to this being the first time having driven this circuit in the dry I was very tentative on the opening lap losing touch with the cars in front. However, due to a heavy vibration on the front near corner and the steering wheel pointing 45 degrees to the left, I was forced to pit on the fourth lap of the race. I thought that the wheel had come loose and was close to coming off therefore, for safety reason I felt that the best thing to do was pit. Although, the lads quickly jacked the car up made sure everything was tight still and sent me out to join the race alongside another open class car that had also pitted at the same time. After having to pit and then latching on to the back of the other car, I was able to set my quickest lap of the race at a 2:09 and was therefore, by far the quickest time I had set over the weekend. Even after stopping in the pits I finished 5th in class and was drawn on reverse grid pole for the final race of the day. If it was to run anyway (due to timing issues).

Chloe Hewitt (Photo by Marc Waller) Chloe Hewitt (Photo by Marc Waller)




The final race did in fact run but due to the amount of accidents and clean up time, the race was cut down from twenty minutes to twelve minutes therefore giving us a five lap race rather than a seven lap race. The marshals waved me up to the grid slot. The green flag lap started, as the temperature had dropped off I had to get a lot more heat into the tyres so that I should be able to trust them, as I am still finding the boundary on the opening lap. I came up through the dip before parking in my grid slot on the grid at the head of the open class. The five second board. The lights. Go! I got my best get away so far, I caught the back of the Cooper S grid and got slightly held up, before having the chance to dart to the inside of the circuit I has two cars come down the inside of me before the first corner. Again I just need the confidence on cold tyres. I had one other come past me on the run through Cascades. I was on a mission I wasn’t going to let anyone else through. On the second lap however, there was a safety car due to one of the coopers going off into the gravel at Cascades. Bunching the field up. Safety car in. we’re off again. The more experienced drivers pulled away from me and other novices at the back of the field, the I found my stride. I pulled a gap on them; each lap the gap stretched. I took two seconds off of my fastest lap from the previous race. Therefore, when I pulled in everyone cheered as I approached the fence in the parc ferme area. A good race for RTS, Richard 2nd and me 4th in open class in the final race and Sam the final team member 3rd in the cooper class.

So overall not a bad weekend. Everyone learnt a lot, I know by far I learnt the most on and off track. It was amazing to meet and see some of the people that have started to follow me already, in my short racing career.

Let’s get ready for Cadwell, on the 3rd of September!

Check out the Oulton Park coverage on Motors TV over the course of this week. By Chloe Hewitt

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