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Steel makes a strong start at Oulton Park

Held at Oulton Park in Cheshire on a scorching Bank Holiday Monday, Mark Steel enjoyed mixed fortunes at the opening round of the Volkswagen Racing Cup.

Monday saw the Pall-Ex Director of Sales and Marketing head out on track for qualifying at 8:30 am, which would be the start of a busy schedule, as a weekend’s timetable was condensed into just one day.



Qualifying was only the second time Mark had been able to get behind the wheel of his new Golf MK7, one week after testing at Donington Park.


The slick tyres and considerable power increase from last year’s VAG Trophy car left less room for error and the Pall-Ex man had to take care in the opening laps.


As Mark got to grips with the car, and the Cheshire circuit, he began to put together competitive lap times, eventually qualifying a very respectable 14th.


Reflecting on the session, Mark said; “It was exciting to be able to get back out on track and see what sort of times I could achieve.


“The warm track temperature made it easier to get heat into my tyres, and these full slicks have got so much more grip than the tyres I was on last year and that really gave me the confidence to push as the session went on,” he added.


Given more time, I could have climbed further up the timing sheet. I know my confidence and trust in the car and my own abilities will grow more and more throughout today.”


Race One saw the cars line up on the grid at 13:00 pm.


Mark, starting from 14th, made a great start, claiming two places before arriving at turn one.


From here, he fought hard during the 20-minute race as he swapped places with drivers around him almost every lap, making it up to ninth place at one point.


As the race entered the final lap, Mark battled with a struggling Rob Allum but lost power due to low fuel turning an almost certain 10th into a 12th by only 0.145 seconds to Mark Smith in his Scirocco.


Following Race One, Mark reflected; “I had a great start and made up a couple of places on lap one. I was feeling good and enjoyed the battles I had with the guys around me.


“There is certainly pace in the car, thanks to the great set up from all the team at SlideSports.”

Race Two lined up on the grid in the late afternoon sunshine and Mark started where he had finished in Race One, 12th position.


Once again, he made a great start, gaining one place down into turn one, but seemed to struggle on the exit, leaving him further down the field.


A big collision with the barriers on the exit of turn three for former BTCC racer Brett Smith, saw the race neutralised by the safety car, before being stopped on the grid.


A few minutes later, once the damaged vehicle had been recovered, the race restarted with just 10 minutes to go.


Mark was able to maintain his position into turn one and looked settled.


However a three-car incident, once again on the exit of turn three, left Mark with nowhere to go, and a push from behind forced the Staples liveried Golf hurtling over the uneven grass.


Unfortunately, this excursion took a toll on the car as well as Mark’s lap time.


The severe bumps combined with the stiff racing chassis and suspension meant that the gearbox and engine mounts bore the brunt of the force and were severely damaged, forcing Mark to retire from the race.


Looking back at Race Two, the Pall-Ex man explained his frustrations; “We had a great car all weekend and to see it end with retirement is really tough. The boys up-front were battling and taking each other off the track and that could have been an opportunity for us to score some serious points today.”


Looking forward to the rest of the season, Mark said: “My confidence will continue to develop, as will my race-craft. I have a to say a huge thank you to all the sponsors and the Slides Sports team, who have helped get me to the grid this season. It really wouldn’t have happened without them, so thank you!”


Up Next...


Mark will be in action at Snetterton, Norfolk, on 18th-19th May, when the Volkswagen Racing Cup once again supports the British GT championship.


He will be aiming to improve on his performance at Oulton Park and make progress in the championship.


You can watch the races live on the Volkswagen Racing Cup YouTube channel.

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