Practice 4: Holy S#!t (our first accident)

I had a feeling last night – one of those feelings; that I woke up with again this morning. There was never any chance of me calling the practice day off – if you are going to have those feelings then you need to find another hobby! I just shrugged it off as a stupid thought and got ready. Whereas my first couple of practice day mornings were stressful, outside-of-the-comfort-zone affairs (both from the point of view of towing and running the kart on my own), I am quite excited to be going karting nowadays even if I’m not the one doing all the fun stuff. Giving myself an hour was pushing it though and we arrived later than I had hoped, at around 9:45.  Clay was Clay – cloudy and windy with rain never looking too far away. Things were going ok – bolts checked, tyres pressures set, chain lubed [I realise now that I omitted to check the jet settings!] until, when I thought I’d take up some of the slack on the throttle cable, I noticed that the throttle valve wasn’t closing fully and wasn’t closing very quickly at all. It didn’t look like anything I had done in loosening the cable clamps and I couldn’t figure it out. I had to resort to the going to see Mike at the shop; I don’t really like looking like a noob but I have found the service to be excellent – you might pay a little extra for the convenience of having it there trackside but I’ve nothing but praise for Mike and his team. It turned out my cable had rusted inside the sheath (lesson #1 for the day – after a wet session, the cable needs to be cleaned/dried). I parted with £1.50 and had the part fitted 🙂 It turns out I had spare cables (I tend to learn what spares I got with the package as I find out I need them) and changing the cable wasn’t any great issue  but I didn’t know that at the time!

We missed the first 20-minute session but were set for the next one. I was unable to start the engine on the trolley as it looks like I have killed my remote starter battery but again the engine started perfectly in the pit lane and off went Junior. He seems to have developed a routine where the first lap is very slow – I think experience has taught him to take it easy and see if anything falls off! A couple of the corners were a tiny bit damp but his lap times were tumbling when it happened… one of the adult rotax drivers had been on Junior’s tail for a lap or so when, going into The Hairpin, it looked like Junior left the door open, the other driver seemed to go, then stop, then realised he was being let through. Unfortunately Junior decided he had waited long enough and turned in, they banged sides but instead of bouncing off the track together, the rotax flipped up over Junior’s rear wheel and both kart and driver continued up over Junior’s back/shoulder and helmet and down over the front of the kart. It looked bad and Junior was sat pretty still in his kart and the other driver and I legged it over. Neck ok? Check. Back ok? Check. Head ok? Check. At this point the only injury seemed to be his hand, which he couldn’t feel but he could wiggle his fingers somewhat. We walked him off to the reception to get some ‘treatment’ whilst a couple of drivers retrieved his kart (thanks, Gents!). I knew he was ok as he first asked whether the 37.6s lap he’d just done was his best lap at Clay (sorry, mate – that was 37.5s) and then told me the how the kart was broke. The ‘treatment’ as it turned out was some cold spray!!!

Our kart seemed to come off worse – bent bumper, damaged spark plug cable, broken spark plug cap and badly bent steering wheel. Junior’s suit had marks up the back, his neck support was split and his helmet had some fortuitously light marking – presumably from either the tyre or floor tray of the rotax. At this point it wasn’t clear whether we’d be heading back out so I gave Junior something to ease the pain (his iPhone) whilst I bought a replacement spark plug cap and started repairs. The steering wheel was a challenge – it resembles something like it’s original shape after some bending and a few smacks with a hammer but I think it’s probably beyond full repair. The rear bumper bolt was bent at 30 degrees and stuck fast. An hour or so later and Junior still wasn’t able to clench his hand so it was game over after only 12 laps! The staff at Clay were sympathetic enough to offer us a full credit note which was good of them. So, as the sun looked set for the afternoon, we left for home.

The bumper bolt took me another hour to remove at home! On the plus side, I got to clean more of the back end that had been less accessible with the bumper on. The bumper itself looks in need of a vice (which I don’t have) so I put on the spare. Yet again, I came to appreciate the completeness of my spares set as I had little hope of finding a bumper bolt – there were 3 or 4 in there 🙂

A steering wheel replacement looks costly – I’ll have to look into the options here. Most of the marks came off Junior’s helmet with a damp cloth and there is no sign of damage, which was a relief. We don’t seem to be having much luck at the moment!

Cost of day: £12 petrol, £7.50 petrol for 5l super unleaded for the kart, £5 parts (throttle cable, spark plug cap)

Total spent so far: £2,372

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