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Rob Oldland - Race Experience

Before this year I had never driven Donington Park. I had visited once before for the 60th anniversary, and during the weekend celebrations I watched the Caterham’s racing. At that time I had no idea that a few years later I would be on the grid!

A little less than two weeks before the race, Garry, Derek and I attended the Lotus Seven Club track day. The idea was that this would serve as a refresher ahead of the double header race weekend. With the exception of the first session, it was a wet day. The wet is something I have had to learn to deal with and even started to enjoy! My little 125bhp car was able to keep up with the R500s and 620s over the course of a lap due to the speed I have learnt to carry through the corners in the wet, of course the more powerful cars were able to pull away on the straights!

On the 16th October we returned for testing ahead of racing the following two days. Again, it was raining. However, by Friday lunchtime the rain cleared for the rest of the weekend. During the dry afternoon sessions I was able to really work on bring down my lap times. Donny is a wonderful flowing circuit. Travelling down through the Craner Curves at full chat is such an experience and you really feel the G-force as you make the final turn towards Old Hairpin. Along with Paddock Hill at Brands Hatch, this is one of my favourite sections of track I have driven so far.

While I was racing both Saturday and Sunday, Saturday was the final race of the Academy Championship with Sunday being just for fun (more about that later). During qualifying I achieved my best ever lap time, so was disappointed to find I qualified down in 16th place. This was partly due to me lapping on my own during the session and not benefiting from a tow. My bad, qualification is something I will work on next year! Anyway, I felt as though I had good race pace and headed to the grid feeling confident. I made an ok start, where I passed some cars and others passed me, but heading into the first corner I held back as the car in front of me left the circuit, this allow a couple of cars past me putting me back down to 17th place. I had it all to do! I grafted away throughout the next laps until an accident at Robert’s chicane (which I narrowly avoided) brought out the chequered flag early. I finished in 11th place. When the championship table was released I was disappointed to find out I had dropped down the table from 8th place to 13th overall, this was due to being able to drop your lowest score. I had finished every race will the following positions, 10th, 10th, 8th, 11th, 13th, 11th.

As mentioned, while the championship had concluded on Saturday, we raced again on Sunday in the final race of the season, the Autumn Trophy. In this race, both of the Academy grids have the opportunity for the first and last time of the year to race together in a massive 40 car grid. In this race which was ‘just for fun’ there were many incidents and some significant damage for some drivers. I was keen to keep it fun, but have a good race, and that I did. I started 35th but brought my car home in 27th place. Now I could announce that I had driven a whole season without any damage whatsoever! Perhaps I hadn’t tried hard enough?! Regardless, I had achieved what I had set out to do, to complete a season of motorsport on a budget.

Both of my Donington races are available from my YouTube channel and make for an exciting watch. Also I have put together a season summary which I would encourage you to grab a cup of coffee and enjoy, but be warned it does get emotional!

Thank you for taking the time to read this series of articles and watching my YouTube channel. If you have not done so already, please can you subscribe as I’m working hard to reach 1,000 subscribers (580 as I write this article). On the channel I include lots of Seven related content aside from racing including my popular ‘how to’ videos. Finally, I would like to thank everyone for their support and kind comments throughout 2020.

Best wishes for 2021 and I hope to see you at the circuit or an event, Rob.



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