Keen to put what could be considered a mixed weekend last time out in Brands Hatch for the highly successful rookie behind him, Reece Barr returned Oulton Park where he started his 2017 campaign for the penultimate weekend of this fantastic debut season for the Donegal man.
With visits to the podium limited to just picking up the top rookie award in Brands Hatch, Barr was keen to make it back onto the overall podium. Indeed his pre-event testing pace proved that wasn’t going to be a challenge too far, once again right with the main players at the head of the field. A compact single day of competition was in store on Saturday at the Cheshire circuit, which was now heavily soaked following an overnight downpour of rain.
First on circuit to get the day’s events underway, Barr immediately topped the times and remained there for the majority of the session. Having pre-agreed a strategy of moving to slicks as late into the session as possible, everything was going to plan until half way through his first slick-shod flying lap, the session was halted to aid the recovery of another car in the barriers and was eventually finished early. With others having changed over to slicks slightly earlier, Reece was now set to start the first of two races from the inside of row five.
Knowing that his starts were one of his strong points, Barr was confident that he could quickly move forward as the lights went out, and that is exactly what he did on a now fully dry circuit. Starting lap four, the Sili Sunglasses driver was already up to fourth and rapidly closing in on the podium battle in front. Just two laps later he was about to be handed a trump card in the form of a Safety car to aid a recovery on circuit, but crucially bunch up the field and grant Barr a perfect chance to challenge for a podium. When the race finally resumed on lap nine, Barr set about looking for an opportunity to move into third, however the race was halted prematurely just a lap later with a red flag and the result was declared after 10 laps. When post race penalties were issued, Reece was promoted to third, setting him up nicely for the second and final race of the weekend.
Starting from the outside of the front row with a renewed confidence thanks to his race one pace, the circuit would once again present some difficult conditions after another shower of heavy rain had come across the Oulton Park circuit just an hour before the race. While many pondered the best way to go with tyre choice, for Barr it was easy, he was taking the gamble on slicks and hoping the track would come to him.
As the race got underway it was clear he had opted for the prime option, with those around him on a mixed tyre choice quickly falling back. With the short Oulton Park Fosters circuit notoriously difficult to pass around, Reece remained second and with the main passing location at the first corner still quite wet, he was struggling to find a suitable opportunity to challenge for the lead. After just two racing laps, the field was neutralised with a Safety car that would run right through to lap seven. When racing finally got back underway, Barr was keeping his Rookie Championship aspirations firmly at the forefront of his mind with main rival Max Bladon right behind him in third. Now opting to secure a points advantage over his rival rather than going for the glory of an overall win, Reece safeguarded his position to the chequered flag, taking a fine second overall and top rookie honours once more.
Reece Barr – #88 ExcelR8 Motorsport Mini JCW:
“After Brands I was keen to have a good weekend here at Oulton Park and that’s just what we did. Two podiums and a really good haul of points puts me second overall in the main championship and top of the Rookie championship. The car was great all weekend and the team were fantastic at dealing with the changing conditions in pretty much every session. Now we just need to go to Donington Park for the final round to close off what has been a great year and hopefully come away from there with the Rookie title!”
Donington Park GP Circuit, Derby, UK – Saturday 23rd & Sunday 24th September 2017.