Max Symonds, Oulton Park, 10/06/2016

By:Max Symonds MotorCycle Direct Posted: June 21st, 2016

After the overheating problems we suffered during the round at Donington Park to say I was keen to get back out on track was an understatement!

Built into 320 acres of Cheshire countryside Oulton Park's combination of stunning scenery and impressive track design makes it a favorite of fans and racers alike. The track is characterized by an unmatched combination of fast following and tight twisty corners along with rapidly chaining gradients and impressive woodland sections. Given the demanding nature of the track a good result never comes easy, that being said, I've had some of my best memories here. Back in 2009 I got my first ever podium in the Junior 125 class after an intense battle that led me to go so much quicker that I ran out of fuel as I crossed the line!

As there was only one race day at this meeting I was keen to get as much track time as possible on the Friday test day to make sure the bike was perfectly set-up from the moment the lights went out. Mother Nature however seemed to have different plans with heavy rain and boiling hot sunshine characterising the day.

I was first out at 9am and almost immediately DISASTER STRUCK with the same overheating problems from the last round returning despite the team's best effort to solve the problem. The next hour or so was a manic affair where another rider lent us his larger radiator which the team then had to work to make it fit on to our bike. Unfortunately, this meant we missed the next session. With the bike quickly sorted following that I was back out on track for the next go. This time under blazing sunshine, I was able get in some good laps and really start to push the bike and test the set-up. However when the new radiator was fitted one of the water pipes was left loose and halfway through the session came off covering my foot in very hot water. Not good!

The afternoon sessions were set to be much better, with everything on the bike triple checked, I was about to get back out on track when the heavens opened and a thunderstorm covered the circuit - give me a break! Despite the weather we carried on with the wet tires and set-up and got some valuable wet testing. The final session of the day was by far the best, with the rain exchanged for sun and the track pretty dry I was able to get out there a go flat out for a whole session with no interruptions and really enjoy getting the bike sliding and moving around, across the undulating turns and rises of Oulton Park.

Come race day the wacky weather stepped up another gear with consistent light rain and sunshine meaning it was raining with almost no water on the track, which caused havoc in both qualifying sessions. The 600cc class was red flagged after just 3 laps due to crashes but by this point I was already in 3rd position and was happy to come away with a front row start for the final. The Open class qualifying session didn't pan out as well as I got caught out by the changing weather conditions and was held up in the last few minutes whilst others put in quick laps leaving me a distant 14th.

With the sun prevailing over the lunch break the two races looked set to be fully dry. But, as you can probably guess by now, it didn't last. As we lined up on the grid for the 600cc the track was still dry but there were black clouds looming and after getting a blinding start and taking the lead into turn one, I didn't make it half a lap before the rain came and the race was stopped.

We were back out on track shortly after but the set-up we had was too hard for the conditions and as a result I struggled for feeling in the early laps dropping me off the front group. This being said I managed to salvage 5th place which was not so bad considering several others crashed out in the treacherous conditions.

We made several adjustments to the bike before the Open final and as soon as I got back out on track I could feel the improvements. I got another amazing start going from 14th to 3rd! From here I had several battles with other riders even managing to make an overtake round the outside at one point. With the rain getting worse riders started falling including the leader and a rider directly in front of me, which was a pretty close call. I came across the line and took the finish flag in 4th place which, although was a little disappointing given my pace in the dry conditions, it was good to get two solid finishes when so many others crashed out.

Overall it was a pretty hectic couple of days and to come away with two fairly strong results was good. But, being a racer I'm never fully happy unless I beat everyone!

Roll on Castle Coombe (2nd & 3rd July).