Reigning BRSCC Avon Tyres Northern Formula Ford 1600 Pre90 champion Jaap Blijleven made his championship return at Oulton Park on Saturday, taking a brace of second-place finishes in class.
Blijleven, who drives a Reynard 89FF run by students from the University of Central Lancashire (UNCLAN), was making his first FF1600 appearance of 2018.
“I got a shoulder operation, so I was out for fourth months,” Blijleven explained to FF1600website.
“So this is my first time [on track] since the Walter Hayes last year.
“No [problems with the shoulder], nothing. For driving, there is no limitation whatsoever. So no excuses!”
The airline pilot dominated the Pre90 class in the Northern championship last year, and ruled out a switch to Post89 for this season before injuring his shoulder.
In the wet morning qualifying session at Oulton Park, Blijleven impressively took pole in the Pre90 class and was third quickest overall amongst the 25-car entry, only 0.046s in arrears of Post89 front-row man David McArthur’s Van Diemen.
Closest class rival Jack Wolfenden, also in a Reynard FF88, was some four seconds adrift.
“It was wet, like for everybody, but the conditions treated me well,” Bliijleven said about qualifying.
“I tried to stay on the track and didn’t want to be too aggressive, and apparently it worked.”
Asked about his surprise to get Pre90 class pole position, and his gap to Wolfenden, Blijleven added: “In a way, yeah [I am surprised]. And especially with the gap to Jack.
“Jack was going to be the quickest, but fortunately I think he had some problems with his handling, so the gap to second place is really big.”
Blijleven lost out to Wolfenden off the line in the wet first race and, despite being on the same pace, couldn’t find a way back through and missed out on Pre90 victory and the overall podium by a mere 0.171s.
“I want to be third overall and first [in class],” he said after race one.
“But Jack had a better start, and I expected that. I was right behind him, but being behind a car and overtaking are two different things. Unfortunately the race was cut short (due to a two-car incident at Deer Leap).”
Despite a ten-second false start penalty for Wolfenden in the dry second encounter, Blijleven and Post89 class runner Nigel Dolan (Van Diemen JL12) were embroiled in a scrap for fourth, allowing Wolfenden to build up the ten second buffer he needed to hold onto Pre90 victory.
Despite the potential disappointment in both races, it was a fantastic return for Blijleven who, at 56 years old, is one of the strongest of the ‘gentlemen’ drivers on the grid.