Sunday 6 November 2016

Rally Cars & Fireworks

This year for November 5th I thought I'd do something a little different. Oulton Park circuit were holding the Neil Howard Stage Rally event with an evening bonfire and firework display. Rally cars and fireworks, what's not to like? Tickets were just £15 which seemed like good value for a full day.

Oulton is about an hour's drive from home, and although our route was somewhat complicated by the construction of the impressive Mersey Gateway bridge, we arrived around 10am. After a quick breakfast at Chequers restaurant we had a wander around the open paddock and past the auto solo area (where passengers were being entertained).

There were a wide variety of rally cars competing, ranging from modern Fiestas and Imprezas, to older Mk1 Escorts, Lotus Sunbeams, Darrian kit cars, an Astra VXR, Citroen C2 with Honda Type-R engine, and yes a Mk1 MX-5. It's always nice to get up close to the cars in the garages and see them being worked on.
As part of the day I'd booked a ride in one of the GT86 rally experience cars. I'd like to do the full driving experience at some point, but for £20 today I was able to get an idea of what the car could do in the hands of professional driver.

These cars are factory prepared with a seam welded bodyshell and full rollcage. Inside the cabin the carpets have been removed and necessary safety equipment like the TRS harnesses, Corbeau seats, fire extinguisher, and battery isolator switch have been installed. Speedline alloy wheels, a large rear spoiler, mud flaps, and a livery reminiscent of the iconic Castrol sponsorship finishes off the exterior.

I was driven for 3 hot laps around the undulating tarmac stage with the driver expertly drifting the car around the bends and generally making it all look very easy. It was great fun and really showed what a capable car the GT86 is. I wasn't allowed to film from inside so just managed to grab a few exterior snaps. There is some video footage from outside which I hope to upload soon.
After touring the paddock and being flung around in the Toyota, it was time to do some actual spectating. The rally stages themselves were using various sections of the Oulton Park circuit as well as parts of the infield to give a mix of tarmac and grassy mud surface, and even a water splash. We headed across the Pirelli bridge and down Clay Hill towards Knickerbrook.

Here the rally special stage split into two routes depending on which lap the cars were on. There was a wooden board in the middle of the road indicating which route to take on which lap but one of the cars smashed into it going three abreast down the hill leaving wooden debris across the track.
The rally events were on all day right up until light began to the fade. Once they had finished (I have no idea who actually won) and the track cleared there was a stunt driving display from Paul Swift. We didn't get to see much of this as it was dark by then so it was a bit of an odd time for a display.

Anyway, we made our way over to the bonfire area and watched as it was lit and the firework display began. This went on for over 20 mins so I only recorded a small sample just to give an idea. It was a nice end to a very long and cold day which was worth waiting for.