Motorcycle Track Guides

Motorcycle Track Guide: Oulton Park

Three-time British Superbike champ Niall Mackenzie's guide to one of the UK's most challenging race tracks, Oulton Park

With 130mph tree-lined avenues, a heavily banked hairpin and a start finish straight that is actually one long corner, Oulton Park is as special as they come. There’s nothing more spectacular than standing by the exit of Deers Leap when thirty Superbikes appear from nowhere thundering round on their first lap then quickly disappearing again round Old Hall. A short walk will then take you to my favourite spectating point, Cascades. Here you can see bikes and riders decking out everything close up before heading down to Island corner. Then a few seconds later coming back over Hilltop when their rear wheels will be in the air as they brake into the Hislops Chicane.

I’m proud to say, like most circuits in the UK I’ve won 250cc and Superbike races at Oulton Park. I have great memories of swapping paint while battling with Walker, Reynolds and Hislop in the late nineties and not so good memories of falling off a lot when it rained. As with many of the tracks Troy Bayliss visited for the first time, I found he used the weirdest, scariest lines but needless to say they worked. One amusing incident was when I crashed leading the final 250 race of the season momentarily handing the British Championship to my main rival (and flawed genius) Alan Carter. Fortunately I was so far in front he didn’t see. So I hid the bike behind some bales and he crashed on the next lap gifting the Championship back to me. Result!

But less about me and more about riding one of, if not the, most challenging track in Britain. There is no such thing as a straightforward turn here, but don’t be put off. It’s a tricky place to get right but when you begin to get the hang of things, it gets better and better. Here we go...

Sector One: Start/Finish to Island Bend

Sector One: Start/Finish to Island Bend

You’ll be in 5th gear and bending left as you cross the start/ finish before changing back two gears and braking along the bumpy strip on the entry to Old Hall. The bumps are fine as you’re completely upright at this point. But let the brakes off quite early as you should carry good speed through here using a wide approach so that you can see the kerb and your exit point on the straight run out down The Avenue.

You’ll change up to 4th before the track turns downhill to the right on the approach to Cascades. Just past the apex you’ll have to shift back to 3rd and ease on the brakes as you pick the bike up from right to left. Peel into Cascades in the middle of the track then gradually pull back to the left kerb as you rail round this awesome left-hander. As the track flattens out you’ll be heading to the very outside edge of the track and you want to be hard on the gas along Lakeside.

Sector Two: Island to Hislops

Sector Two: Island to Hislops

On the fast approach to Island Bend (normally 4th gear) the surface also undulates so it is quite tricky to find a good braking marker or peeling off point. I use the link road on the right as a reference point and turn in left as I’m getting close. You should change back to 3rd here which will help pull you in to the apex but catch the throttle on the way in and have gentle squeeze of power before braking for the Shell Oils Hairpin. I enter this one in the middle of the track while braking hard and changing back to 2nd gear. There are two options at this corner.  If you are feeling brave there’s a narrow but smooth section of track on the very inside that allows you to build high corner and exit speed but because it’s so tight there’s a high risk of your knee digging into the grass and giving you the groin stretch from hell. Option two is bumpier but involves running deeper into the banking and squaring off your run out.

Either way, this is a fun corner like no other in the UK. Be careful not to run out of tarmac on the exit as the track flattens out suddenly making it easy to clip the grass with one or both wheels. I love the next fast right round to the Brittens Chicane where you use all of 2nd and 3rd clipping the right-hand apex before changing direction and shifting quickly back to 2nd gear. Although this is a left-hander it’s best to stay hanging off the right side of the bike and just dip it to the left then your body position will be perfect for flicking through the next right. Being at maximum angle and in a low gear you’re now in serious highside territory so always pick the bike up before getting hard on the gas for the left-hand uphill exit. A fast in/slow mid-corner/fast out plan is by far the best for the Brittens Chicane.

Sector Three: Hislop to Druids

Sector Three: Hislop to Druids

The left flick of Hislops should be taken slowly in 2nd so you can get back to the left for a clean run through what was the original and amazing Knickerbrook corner. Shortshifting from 2nd to 3rd gear between this left/right section works as you’ll see the track opens out just past the right apex. I use all the track on my exit and some paint (if it’s dry) to ensure maximum speed as I swing left up Clay Hill clipping the left apex at the top. I’ll roll the throttle back just on the crest to settle the front then roll it on again as I continue round to Druids. This section is 5th gear and super fast so building speed up over lots of laps is crucial if you want to see the day out. As I rush past the final left kerb I am closing the throttle then shifting back to 3rd gear for the double apex Druids corner. A real test.

Sector Four: Druids to Start/Finish

Sector Four: Druids to Start/Finish

The ideal line through Druids is to be slightly wide at the first apex, drift back to the middle of the track then brush past the last apex and hard on the throttle over the rise. A rippled track surface as you enter means unless your front suspension is spot-on there’s a good chance you’ll suffer from chatter or juddering through the handlebars. There is a simple remedy however and that is to stay tighter at the first apex as here the track is perfectly smooth. You might lose a second in time but it’s safer and you won’t have to pay for any suspension gurus to sort your front forks out.

Heading out of Druids you should be using around ¾ of the track over the crest and all the way to the paint as it flattens out. Pulling yourself over the front, pushing on the outside footpeg while rolling back the throttle works for me here but it really just depends on how your gearing handling or bottle is on the day. Its time for more undulations as you head down to Lodge Corner in 4th and it’s hard braking as you move to the left and shift back to 2nd gear.

Lodge has a kind of crown mid-corner so you must be off the brakes but not trying to build too much corner speed or your front wheel will tuck in. I like to coast past the apex then get hard on the throttle using 2/3 of the track before muscling myself left onto the Start/Finish.

Unlike Cadwell Park, Oulton Park won’t bite you on the bum unexpectedly – providing you don’t rush things. Of all the tracks in Britain this one really does reward patience. Unless you’re Troy Bayliss this track will take time to perfect but once you get up to speed every lap will be better than the last. Unfortunately they don’t make ’em like this anymore!

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