OULTON PARK RACE REPORT
Max returns to form at Oulton Park
Max Bladon got his MINI CHALLENGE JCW Championship campaign back on track with two strong performances on home turf at Oulton Park last weekend.
Max showed strong pace and impeccable racecraft all weekend to come away with a hard-earned podium finish, but it could have been so much more had it not been for a controversial penalty in his first race.
Prior to the Oulton Park double-header, Max had endured a terrible run of luck, with two mechanical failures in the last two race weekends costing him dear in the championship. He went to his local circuit seventh in the points, but has now climbed to fifth ahead of the season finale at Donington Park next month.
Max again starred in qualifying, which was held on a wet-but-drying circuit. The session began with Max on full-wet tyres, but a late swap to dry-weather slick Dunlops meant a mad late dash to get pole.
“Qualifying was hard work,” said Max. “The track was drying all the time and I actually thought I’d left it too late to swap to slicks because I got one lap to warm them and one to nail the time. I was holding on to the car at every corner, but it was a great lap.”
Max went fastest, but would start third after a grid penalty picked up in the previous race at Brands Hatch. Regardless, Max made a great start on the damp-but-drying track to run second into turn one.
Despite the tricky conditions, Max had chosen to run slick tyres, regardless of the threat of rain in the air. All looked good until Max and promoted pole-man Charlie Butler-Henderson made contact at turn three, edging Max down to fourth.
Regardless, Max soldiered on, and picked up third when Butler-Henderon retired with steering damage. He then passed Rob Smith for second before attacking race leader Henry Neal. A safety car called for a multi-car crash at Knickerbrook allowed Brett Smith to close in and, on the restart Max dropped to third, but looked to have secured a first podium of the weekend.
But the stewards added 10 seconds to his race time, deeming his wheels were over the line of his grid slot at the start. That dropped Max to ninth.
“I was gutted after race one as it was a really good contest, and to have a podium taken away for something so small is really gutting,” he said. “I don’t necessarily agree with the decision and the penalty was made even more harsh by the safety car bunching everybody up. But it is what it is and I have to accept it and move on.”
Max was fired up for race two and, starting ninth, put in a shining performance to eventually secure that top-three slot.
Max got a great start to climb five places into fourth after the first lap, just before the safety car made another appearance to recover a car in the gravel at Druids. On the restart Max managed to sneak past new champion Brett Smith to snatch third late on.
“Race two was a tricky one as the safety car didn’t leave us many racing laps so I had to take every chance that came my way,” said Max. “I’m really happy to finally get on the podium again. It’s proven to others that I’m still here and fighting in this championship and it’s also proven to me that I can still run at the front. After so much bad luck in recent rounds you begin to doubt yourself a bit, but this goes a long way to firing me up ahead of the season finale at Donington.”
Max is now fifth in the points, 48 behind rival Reece Barr in the Rookie Championship, but with over 100 still on offer.
“The Rookie title isn’t out of the question, so I’ll head to Donington aiming to get another win before the year is out,” said Max. “I know I can win again, and if the results go my way, things can turn around very quickly in this championship.”