Round 5 – Oulton Park: Restart Racing Celebrates Significant Progress at Oulton Park

Jun 25, 2024News, Race Reports

Restart Racing made solid progress in their campaign in the British Touring Car Championship with a memorable performance at Oulton Park, securing top 10 finishes for the first time and both cars seeing the chequered flag in all three races for the first time this season.

Competing in round five of the BTCC under the summer sun at Oulton Park in Chester, Restart Racing tackled the weekend with smart tyre choices across three challenging races. This event marked the team’s first BTCC visit to Oulton Park, revisiting the circuit where they made their motorsport debut in the TCRUK series in 2022.

The weekend was given extra ‘spice’ with a mix of hard and soft tyres being used on race day, to jumble up the order. Both drivers were left disappointed after qualifying, Chris Smiley, starting from 16th, and Scott Sumpton, from 19th.

Smiley enjoyed his best weekend of the season with three points finishes (13th, 8th & 9th). Photograph: JEP

Race 1 kicked off with Smiley making an early gain due to Colin Turkington’s BMW stalling on the grid and Ronan Pearson’s Hyundai slow off the line, which pushed him up a spot. Meanwhile, Sumpton found himself in strife after a small off onto the grass, forced him into the pits due to rising water temperatures from grass caught in his radiator, resulting in him dropping to the back of the field and ultimately finishing in 19th. Smiley, after overtaking Sam Osbourne, battled to keep his position, managing to stay ahead despite intense pressure. By the final laps, he was one of the fastest on the hard tyres, although a late pass by the recovering Pearson nudged him down to finish 14th, later adjusted to 13th due to a penalty for Dan Rowbottom.

Race 2 saw both drivers start solidly, with Smiley narrowly avoiding a spin at turn one, which allowed him to move up to 12th. He then continued his ascent, overtaking Aiden Moffat and Daryl DeLeon to break into the top 10. His progress didn’t stop there as he passed Dan Rowbottom and Rob Huff using the hybrid boost to climb to 7th before being passed by the recovering Colin Turkington, finishing the race in 8th and claiming the best result of the team so far this season. Sumpton also made gains, moving up from 19th to finish 14th, securing points after reigning champion Ash Sutton pitted with damage and then on the final lap, passing Sutton’s team-mate Sam Osborne into turn 1 to secure two valuable points.

In Race 3, Smiley maintained his top 10 form, starting strong and managing to fend off challenges from behind to remain in the top 10. But, after Ash Sutton retired with accident damage, Smiley was elevated to 9th in the final race of the day. Sumpton had a more challenging race, managing an off-track excursion but still showing improvement in pace over the course of the race and narrowly missed out on a second points finish of the day after finishing in 16th.

It was a challenging weekend for Sumpton but he still earned a points finish (19th, 14th & 16th). Photograph: JEP

Team Comments:
Chris Smiley shared his reflections on the weekend: “Yeah, I think it was a positive weekend here at Oulton Park. Qualifying yesterday let us down. We clearly qualified out of position; we should have been on the fringes of the top 10, if not in it. In race 1 this morning, we made good progress on the hard tyre, starting 16th and finishing 13th, putting us on the fringe of the top 10.

“In race 2, we got a good start and made our way up. If it hadn’t been for the little incident at the start, I think we could have potentially been in the top 5. We lost 2 or 3 places at turn 1 due to a bit of a melee with a few other cars, and I had to take evasive action across the grass.

“Race 3 was another solid result with P9. Our pace really improved this weekend, and I’m really pleased for the team. I’m very thankful to Pete for all his help, and to Ben, my engineer, for all his hard work this weekend. A big thanks to Matt Neal for all the tips; his invaluable wealth of knowledge is greatly appreciated.

“I’m looking forward to a few weeks off and then coming back at Croft to continue where we left off.”

Scott Sumpton was in a reflective mood: “It’s been a very difficult day here at Oulton Park, not how I wanted it to go. Although we got P14 in race 2, it was a really tricky race weekend. We went on the hards for race 1 just to get them out of the way, so we didn’t get a good result in that one.

“In race 2 and race 3, I made mistakes by myself. Running a little bit wide at the end of the complex before going up the hill, I ended up on the grass and then in the gravel. Not ideal.

“However, we keep our heads high. I’m looking forward to the nice five-week break, or however long it is. This break will be a great opportunity to reset. I’m planning to come back strong at Croft, making sure to get in a few laps on the simulator and prepare to smash it at Croft. It’s going to go well.”

Team Principal Insights:
Ben Taylor summarised the weekend with a forward-looking perspective: “Our weekend at Oulton Park was a mix of challenges and successes. Despite a disappointing qualifying session, the team made significant progress in the races, with strong performances and improved pace. We’re proud of the efforts put in by the entire team, particularly the hard work and dedication shown by the guys and girls that have really unlocked the pace in the Cupra this weekend. We look forward to building on this momentum and returning even stronger at Croft.”

The 2024 Kwik Fit British Touring Car Championship action will resume at Croft Circuit on July 27-28.


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