TKM Dads Day Out :D

When I bought Junior’s kart, I would never have thought it would be 16 months before I got to drive it! The trouble is that, once you get into Dad/Lad karting, there are just too many other things that you can do with your time and money to help get Junior on the pace. To ensure that we finally addressed this, this day was pencilled in months ago as a number of Dads (and Mum!) had expressed a desire to join the fun.

Getting the kart ready had been a mad rush the night before – putting Junior’s old bodywork on as well as an old axle, sprocket, sprocket carrier and chain and fitting a seat I had borrowed in a bid not to crush my rib cage. That got finished at around 10:30. Then I had to change some tyres! So much for enjoying the World Cup opener :/ Getting to the track took almost twice as long as it did on Sunday  but the weather was glorious – easily the warmest I have experienced at Clay this year. With an Easykart race weekend at the track, I was a little concerned that the track might be busy but I needn’t have worried – with no skiving cadets, it was OPEN TRACK!!! 😀 I had no intentions of messing around with setups – just add fuel, set tyre pressures and drive.

The day didn’t get off to the best of starts – we lost a couple of drivers enroute who broke down, another Dad who had starting problems and another with airbox issues but we soon settled in. Not owning a racesuit, I used one of the circuit’s rental suits – I picked a nice looking one but only later found it had the name ‘AMY’  embroidered on it!!! The first session was good – although I did not once feel in total control of the kart, I was quick enough – a 37.7s wasn’t bad (I just wanted to get below 40s!) although it was a little hairy at times and I backed off when I thought I was pushing a little bit too keenly and was at risk of binning it. My tyre pressures were way to high though and I think I left most of the tread they had left on the track in the opening session.

As the day went on, I shave off 3/10ths and even more rubber – the tyres were shot by the day’s end. I only went off [properly] once, when my rear wheel touched the grass and I very quickly found myself facing backwards. I got a little bit smoother through the day although I will never be ‘Jenson-smooth’ and started to get The Hairpin and Horseshoe somewhere near right by the end. My ribs weren’t bad once I broke Junior’s rib protector and made do without it. Unfortunately for Junior, I *could* lock the brakes and make them squeal nicely into the fastest corners – so he’s going to have me back on his case on that one next month! The day ended with a fuel tank flapping around between my legs!?! I don’t forget to tie Junior’s tank to the chassis except when he isn’t driving it seems. There was still time for a go in another Dad’s TaG-engined JTKM which was a bit of an eye-opener – boy, does that thing pick up from the corners! I only did a few laps in it a) because I didn’t want to risk damaging it and b) there was a huge vibration on the left-hand side that was a bit off-putting! (we think he might have damaged it in an off earlier).

All-in-all it was a really enjoyable day – I’ve never bought so many drinks from the shop and I’ll never again complain about losing a minute from the races on a race weekend! I am not sure it is something I’d want to do every week but I’ll definitely be back at some point 🙂

Race 8: Can’t cope with too many more of these!

It would be fair to say I am still feeling pretty low about our race weekend. It’s a different kind of low to bad ‘day in the office’ feeling when you encounter problem after problem – the kart ran very well but we can’t keep getting caught up in situations; whether through our own fault or not and then having to defend ourselves in front of the stewards. It would be fair to say that I am already not looking forward to next month!

Saturday was a decent day; we ran well enough and Junior was enjoying ‘racing’ with his mates as they would revise the order in which they hit the track and then go for it. The play was a little rough at times but they would still come off the track smiling and, to be honest, hard racing experience is what we need. Unfortunately, in the final session of the day, we suffered a fair amount of damage when Junior found himself taken off-track by one of two karts in front of him that had come into contact in The Hairpin. We jumped the back wheel of the other kart and hit the tyre wall quite hard. The rear bumper-bolt had snapped, the seat cracked and the side pod bar, steering column and track rod were all bent. The icing on the cake was my best exhaust burn to date (rushing to get the kart out of danger whilst pushing by the bumper mount on the rear of the chassis is not recommended). Not really what you want when you are planning to get off the track a couple of laps early to join the scutineer queue and then get off home! With the help of a couple of the other Dads (and my ever decreasing stash of spares), we had everything done in a couple of hours and I was home by 9pm. I then had to visit A&E to get the burn sorted – it had blistered nicely and 111 were adamant it needed seeing :/

Not much sleep and a record journey time to Clay later (I had left the kart at the track), we were back at the track. It was very nice to find myself having to apply sun cream at 8am and we were ready in plenty of time. For the first time, Junior had fresh rubber on his kart – that’s right WE WERE USING NEW TYRES!!! 🙂 I’ll temper that now by saying that, although the tyres had never been used, they were made in 2012 and part of the retirement package that we had bought 16 months ago! We were about to find out if they were still good…

Heat one was excellent – Junior started fourth but gained an early place and was putting second under a fair amount of pressure for a time. Unfortunately, a failed passing attempt cost him and put him in the clutches of the fourth placed driver. He was passed and then got caught out on the last lap, leaving the door open at pretty much the last passing opportunity of the lap 🙁 Fifth place was a bit of a shame but we’d competed much more closely than we had ever done previously 🙂

It went south from there – we were summoned to the clerk’s office after finishing 5th in heat two; Junior was at the back of a group of four karts, the others were three-wide going into The Horseshoe. Three became two as one backed out but that caught Junior out and he punted them quite hard. He didn’t gain a place but it was duly noted. He hit the same kart again a few laps later as they fell over a Formula Blue that was wandering around in front (as Junior Formula Blues seem to have a habit of doing). The clerk told us that all contact was being called in and he just wanted to know what happened. Junior gave his version of events and, as the other driver didn’t appear, that was that.

Heat three still makes me mad now – we started on pole, got overtaken into the first corner but were holding second for several laps as the leader cleared off. Third place dived up the inside into The Esses, forcing Junior wide. Two abreast in The Esses (which is basically an elongated chicane) is not a great thing and, being on the wrong side, Junior had lost a fair bit of speed. He arrived at the second apex at much the same time as the fourth placed driver, who hit Junior’s back wheel and went off quite hard. Fortunately he wasn’t injured and his kart took no damage. I was stood on the marshalling post for The Hairpin, as was the Race Observer and I could he see him make some notes. A few laps later I asked how he saw it, he showed me what he had written which was along the lines of “Junior hit the other kart, the other kart lost places, Junior to receive a warning”. He asked me which was my driver, I pointed Junior out and he said “Oh!”. I didn’t say anything else. The fun wasn’t quite over – there was still time for Junior to close the door on somebody who was trying to follow another driver up Junior’s inside. I didn’t see that as Junior’s fault as at no point was he even remotely alongside Junior! But I digress… it was some time after the race that I saw the driver (from the first incident!) and his Dad in the clerk’s office so the call was inevitable. Let’s look at the incident (I don’t believe that these points are disputed – although I obviously wear slightly tinted spectacles, no matter how hard I try):

  • We had just lost second and been forced wide
  • We were still on the track
  • We were still in third place
  • Fourth place hit the the rear wheel of Junior’s kart
  • The Race Observer was stood next to me, some 50 yards away (where you can’t see the middle part of The Esses, just the hill), and said he didn’t have a great view

And yet, despite all of this, we were defending a charge of causing the accident!!! WHAT ON EARTH??? I was livid! I still am livid! I’m not wanting to criticise any individual but, if you cannot see properly, how can you make a judgement? It simply was not possible! I wasn’t blaming the other driver – it was a racing incident every day and twice on Fridays!!! Getting the drivers in to discuss the incident was the right thing to do but I was amazed that we were in the dock. How could we have caused the accident just by driving around the corner? What was Junior supposed to do? I am still confused by what happened next – the kids seemed to be talking about different incidents(!) but the other driver’s testimony exonerated Junior. The Steward told us that we should be thankful he had(?!?) which just wound me up even more. Had the decision gone against us, my £110 would have be down in a nano-second! I have to admit that I didn’t handle it very well (in terms of just standing around looking ready to explode and not having a word with the other Dad!) but it was my first such experience and one I have learnt from – I will definitely speak to the other Dad before and after we go in to any future hearing (is that the right word?) to ensure off-track relations are maintained 🙂

At this point, I just wanted to pack up and go home. Resigned to one more race, all I wanted Junior to do was drive behind everybody else and keep his nose clean in the final. And then it rained. Junior has no wet experience for six months! He started fifth of seven – an achievement in itself but the day continued to worsen as Junior outbraked himself in to Billies and pushed the third-placed kart wide then, on the run down to The Hairpin, he went flying down the inside as he saw his chance (to do what exactly, you could well ask!). You could hear he was going much too fast, it was just so lucky he went sailing down the inside and off-track backwards without skittling a few karts out with him. Junior berated himself as he went past me and I just smiled – he was learning the hard way. Encouragingly, his laps were ok – much closer to the pace than when we had last raced in the wet and another fifth placed finish was good for us.

It was still a long drive home and I had a few things to say to Junior about the state of his bumper. He thinks I am cross about it being a new bumper with hitherto new decals and that’s fine – but it is not the case at all. I am determined that he won’t be the one who is seen to be a bit of a wildcard, the ‘bumper boy’. I would walk away long before that happens. He knows that he needs to learn to better read the situation when braking with karts in front of him to avoid any more punts. It is hard learning to race once you have the pace, which he certainly now has, but he has got to step it up now. Racing incidents happen but your bumper doesn’t lie.

Next month is massive for us – I want no more bumper contact (although I know these things happen from time-to-time and there might be little you can do about it on occasion). If someone hits our back end, that’s just one of those things – so long as we are not at fault or accused of being so. I also need more time to gauge the consistency of the officials; following my criticism of them not doing anything, I still think we were hard done by with the black flag last month, the two this month would be understandable if all contact is being reviewed but the tone of the second and the fact that not all contact is being reviewed (and I am not even talking about the starts where the pole-sitter lifts before he reaches the acceleration zone – sometimes twice – and causes chaos behind him) makes me wonder. How things pan out next month will tell me a lot…

Cost of day: £28 petrol, £13 fuel, £35 practice fee, £50 race fee

Total spent this year: £1,926

Testing at Clay: didn’t we do this last year???

Do you ever get those kart days when you just wish you hadn’t bothered? Friday was one of those. It was my fault too for cockily commenting to Junior when we arrived as to how much nicer it was now that we turned up and just drove rather than had all of the problems that we used to experience. Let’s start with the positives: we tested various setup combinations, it didn’t rain, we were pretty quick in the morning. And now the negatives: it didn’t rain enough to get any wet practice, Junior came in first session because the accelerator stuck open *and* he had no brakes (what the !?!), then there was the hissing, then Junior hurt himself driving around The Horseshoe, then hurt himself some more as we grabbed the kart as it fell off the trolley (trolley arm not done up), then he completed a full session when I noticed we had only one K-nut remaining, we got slower throughout a day which we rounded off by aborting the final session as the kart was making a ‘clanking’ noise (engine mount bolts loose, engine moved back to the stop, loose chain making noise).

As you can see, it was pretty much mostly my fault – I’ve not made stupid mistakes like this for a long time. Perhaps it was the kick up the arse I needed. When you still get chuffed that you changed a set of tyres without problem, you are still a noob! In addition to generally having a poor day, I also need to replace a Douglas M-Series Vented rim now that one of mine has worn thread holes 🙁

Cost of day: £15 petrol, £7 fuel, £35 practice fee

Costs since last post: £25 carb rebuilds, £4 nuts/bolts/washers

Total spent this year: £1,800