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OULTON PARK (27/07/99)

Long drive up north the evening before to arrive at Chapel Cottage B&B at 11.30pm (comes highly recomended ~ 10 mins from circuit and excellent landlady). Next morning, very bright and clear and looks to be another blue-sky sunny day.
My first proper full track day in the elise and I was extremely excited. First session though I really was all over the place. We were running the full Oulton circuit and with 6 bends, 2 chicanes and a hairpin I did not have a clue where I was going despite initial circuit familiarisation in the club Ford Mondeo.

This was going to be interesting... how long would it take me to learn my way around and start getting into a decent rhythm ? Truth is, only on the 3rd session did I start to generate some sort of flow.

full circuit:  2.769 miles 
fosters circuit:  1.66 miles 


full circuit record:  01.24.68

At the time of writing, my memory of Oulton is not crystal clear but what I do remember is that my driving and grip on the car and the circuit improved progressivley throughout the entire day. I was very awake from the word go with bags of concentration, weather was the very best it gets in England and there was only one mishap at the very end of the proceedings by a race-prepared 911 at Cascades.

I remember my first impressions included the problem of entry speeds particularly Old Hall. The car had only covered some 5000 miles and I quickly learnt to guage my speed into corners by following other elises. Mostly though I was concerned with developing good correct lines and keeping the car nice and stable at all times. Lap times are not really my thing (not yet in any case) and this was especially true for my first true track outing in the 111s.

A big mixed bag of cars were there. A lot of race prepared cars, caterhams, a few old 911's, a skyline, an NSX, a couple of Cosworths and Mazda MX5's, one Griffith but most of all elises - around 10 in total. Fastest car on the day would probably be a toss up between a 90's style race-prepared Golf and a crazy and extemely loud Triumph TR6. 


The pit straight at Oulton is actually quite short and preceeded by an uphill section off the back of Lodge which is a pretty slow affair. During the day, top speed here was probably very close to 100mph before braking for Old Hall. I found by stages that I was able to leave the braking later and later for this first bend. The car felt supremely secure with the anchors very firm to the floor and this was one of the high points of the track for me purely in terms of visceral sensations.
I never really focused that much on Old Hall, I know that my entry speed rose gradually through the day but like most of the bends here I just tried to get the line right, get squarely on the apex and keep the throttle smooth and progressive. The approach is half blind thanks to the crest there and a couple of times this bend caught me out and I failed to turn in enough toward the apex leaving me dismally adrift for the ever-so-slight right hander Dentons, and subsequent turn-in to Cascades. So good job really that I wasn't aiming for big corner speeds ! 

From what I had learnt about the elise from the OLC day at Abingdon airfield, very slow in/fast out was definitely the way to begin.


Cascades proved pretty tricky at first. I found that it was a corner that needs plenty of visual anticipation. It's long and downhill, the position of the true apex is somewhat vague for a novice and its entry is immediately after the quick but tiny right hander Dentons (I think thats what its called) which is also crested. Because you need to do all your braking and then turn in very quickly after Dentons its important that you don't make a mess of it (and likewise don't make a mess of Old Hall). I found the 3 bends associated together so its important to get the placement inch perfect for Dentons so the car ends up straight for braking (if you intend to) and turn-in into Cascades. Incidentally, I found later on that accelerating out of Old Hall in 3rd there is if anything only need for the tiniest tap on the brakes for Dentons but once up to speed its flat out.


Accelerating smoothly through Cascades in 3rd then up into 4th was leaving me at maybe 90mph on the straight. The Island Bend is not one you want to get wrong or be too cocky with. A dab on the brakes and very gentle, progressive turn in so that the front grips was the method I used. All day I took this at around 80mph, easily comfortable for an elise.
The Island is fast. When I return to Oulton I have no doubt that I can put another 10-15mph there. There's plenty of width as well so if the understeer does begin you'll have time and space to back off gently and sort it all out. You straighten quicker than the turning in and once thats done, keep your eye on your braking spot for the hairpin -apart from perhaps the chicane before Clay Hill, you'll have to shed the most speed here compared to anywhere on the track. 

And for me, this was one, if not the highlight of Oulton - braking for the hairpin. The tarmac below here is superb and the elise feels super stable under braking. You're starting from maybe 90mph so you really can push the limits of the brakes. I found myself leaving it all later and later through the day and whilst I lost round most of the corners to other elise owners, I was comfortably making up time here and also braking before Knickerbrook.

I found the hairpin quite natural and it has a lovely uphill rise. If my memory serves me correct, it is also well banked so your outward g's are opposed a little making for a stable and urgent acceleration out of the bend and onto the straight.

As I remember, the track curves right and  taking the hairpin in 2nd, a change is due  before this right-hander. I found this one a little threatening - you are going pretty fast and you have to negotiate a gear when the car isn't straight and the short braking distance for the 1st chicane is looming very close after the bend. I got caught out here a few times, braking too late and turning into Foulstons all wrong. There's obviously a change down for this chicane so there's a lot to fit in a very small space of time. Get it right though and its very rewarding - nice and wide through Foulstons with a little bit of rumble strip. 

The next straight is for me, the most satisfying spell of acceleration at Oulton. It feels a long distance and its from 2nd and through 3rd, uphill then downhill. Again, the braking for the Knickerbrook chicane is another high point - plenty of stability and good run-off ahead so you feel confident experimenting. Lots of overtaking here where slower cars won't like the climb and will brake way too early.

As for the actual chicanes, well I don't think they are my strongest point. I just tried to keep them smooth and use all of the space there. I certainly lost time from those in front of me through these 2 - but Knickerbrook was definitely the more difficult for me. Also, as tuition pointed out for me, I was dangerously loosening the throttle round these chicanes and not keeping the power steady and of course, losing a lot of time.


Full on in 2nd out of the chicane and uphill heading for the "O" of "Yokohama" that's written on the bridge. You are veering to the right of the track here though ready for the entry to the fastest (I think) corner at Oulton. Thing is, I don't know what its name is ?

You don't brake here, its flat out and for me it was a real test of nerves. I can't remember what sort of speed I was doing but its not that gradual so it definitely feels faster than the Island. It was a rather worrying bend when the instructor took drove me to try my car out as well ! I guess he gave me the confidence to take it flat out.

Druids is a double apex bend with the 2nd being the true one. So ignore the first and turn in later.
Again, I don't think I ever watched my speeds here so there's not much to tell. Only that my fellow elise driver Stefan nearly came a cropper here but saved the day with a touch of opposite lock.

Lodge is reputedly the trickiest of them all at Oulton. Its quite bumpy here at the approach but thats no problem for the elise and all feels very composed. I remember just doing lots of braking from maybe 90mph or so and going in pretty slow, clipping the apex then releasing the lock so the car goes well wide, down into the undulation then screaming for 3rd on the way up into the pit straight. The track dips down considerably on exit then rises up and curves left a little onto the straight. Its rare spots like this that make we wish for a good few extra horses in the 111s - progress seems a touch strianed in comparison to other faster cars.


For my first proper elise track day I was rather ecstatic. Corner speed was certainly not the highlight of the day but I had managed to develop a nice smooth method around Oulton. Later on, tuition from one of the instructors had allowed me to improve upon my lines and keep the car more on the boil. I also managed to pass quite a few cars on the day as well - fresh into the elise it was good to know that I wasn't the slowest ever to grace a UK circuit.
I went away from Oulton feeling extremely satisfied and very excited about future events in the 111s. Oulton is an absolutely incredible circuit with a fantastic range of bends - both fast and slow, long and tight, several striaghts and chicanes/hairpins. Also, its peaks and troughs really enhance the whole experience ten-fold. Looking back it was a fabulous track to first take the elise to and I am really looking forward to returning in 2000.

Above all, I shall remember the circuit for its braking. No doubt next time I will be bolder and more adept at taking an elise round bends quickly but for now, the feeling of potent, gut-churning deceleration stays with me.

One thing that did strike me almost immediately was the limitations posed by the standard seats nad suspension of the elise. The roll round corners and the "roll" of your own body on track really does remind you just how road-biased the elise is. These will have to be near-future upgardes.


this is not intended as a circuit guide, the views expressed here are not those of a "professional racing-driver" and others may well disagree


The Jackals Racetrack 1998 Richard Morris