Oulton Park race track - The formula for success
The peace of the Cheshire countryside is broken by the roar of engines at the North West's only motor racing circuit, as Paul Mackenzie reports
The Cheshire countryside is a place of quiet beauty with gently rolling hills, ancient woodlands and quaint calm villages. But for more than 50 years the tranquillity has been shattered in one of those beautiful villages by the roar of powerful engines.And this month about 40,000 people will head for Little Budworth to watch the thunderous culmination of the British Superbikes season.
The Oulton Park race track which cars and bikes have roared around since the early 1950s follows the contours of the countryside on the fringe of the village and through the grounds of Oulton Hall.
Once the site of a Tudor house which burned down, the hall was re-built in the early 18th century and was surrounded by formal gardens and farmland. The hall was destroyed by fire in the 1920s and its grounds were used as an army staging camp during World War Two. General Patton was based there in the run up to the Normandy landings and his PT instructor, world heavyweight boxing champion Joe Louis, held exhibition bouts in the parkland.
These days there's even more power on show at Oulton Park, with some of the biggest events in British motorsport. The circuit is now owned by Motor Sport Vision, whose chief executive is Jonathan Palmer, a qualified doctor who raced in 87 Formula One grand prix.
He said: 'Before I moved to Formula One I raced in Formula Three so although we only took over Oulton Park five years ago, I have known the track for years.
'I won the Formula Three championship there in1981 and I broke my arm at Lodge Corner in 1978. I was on a practice lap in the rain and braked too late and smashed into a wall but despite that I have some very fond memories of Oulton Park.
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'The track flows through wonderful scenery and its natural topography gives it a very challenging layout, with hills, blind brows and difficult corners. It presents an enormous challenge for a driver - from a driver's point of view it's a classic. And spectators have great views, too.'
Although Oulton Park doesn't have a licence for international events - Grand Prix and the like - it does attract large crowds for its calendar of races which include Formula Three, touring cars, superbikes and vintage cars.
And Jonathan, whose company also operates Brands Hatch and three other circuits around the country, added: 'We have a big loyal following for races at Oulton Park and some people have been attending races at Oulton Park since it opened in 1953.
'We hold big national events like a round of the British Touring Car championships and two rounds of the British Superbike Championships. The final round will be held at Oulton Park on October 10 and 11 and that will be a great weekend. There will be three races over the weekend and there should be a crowd of between 30,000 and 40,000 and there's always a great atmosphere.
'It's a very traditional and very successful circuit and I don't envisage much will change in the future. Oulton Park is a real jewel in our crown and every time I go there I really enjoy my visit.'
For tickets or more information about Oulton Park, including their driving experience days, visit www.motorsportvision.co.uk