Race 9: The good, the bad and the ugly

The past week has been a mad rush – Junior had a work experience placement at Codemasters so this meant getting as much of the kart preparation as possible done last weekend. We travelled up to Warwickshire on Monday, I dropped him off and then went to collect my new engine and also drop our race engine off for a rebuild. Whilst doing this, it was pointed out to me that the barrel on the race engine had a scratch between the inlet ports that it was feared could be a crack!!! Having to fund the new engine and a rebuild in the same month, I’d have been screwed had it needed a new barrel. Fortunately it this was not the case although I’ve yet to get it back.

Anyway I stayed away with Junior during the week and only on Friday did I decide we would do both days of the Clay Pigeon Kart Club Charity Race Weekend, as opposed to just the standard club raceday on the Sunday. Friday night was a late one and I think I got the tyres changed at around 11:30pm and then set the alarm for 6:00am :/

The Bad

Saturday was definitely the bad day – it started off with my pit neighbours encroaching into our spaces to the extent that we couldn’t get our 6x3m awning up. So, whilst they enjoyed lunch in the shade, my ginger ass was melting in the sun – cheers for that! 😛

The club used a GP format for the Saturday, with practice, qualifying, one heat, a pre-final and a final. Qualifying went badly: Junior lost his transponder on lap #2. Fortunately, it didn’t hit anybody (but only just). Then I upset the scrutineer who, when checking the kart over, started marking up the carb and asked if this was the engine I would be racing on. I replied that I’d be changing that carb (it was the first time we had used it and Junior hadn’t looked particularly quick), at which point he told me to get my kart out of the way and muttered something which I assumed meant he wanted to see the carb I would be using. I came back and fitted the replacement carb!!! Doh! He wasn’t happy at all. It was an honest mistake – we’d only been scrutineered once before (last year when we finished third of three at the Turkey Trot). At this point he wanted to speak to the Chief Scrutineer? (this may not have been her title) and, after ignoring me whilst he scrutineered the entire senior grid that had now come in, I went and checked with her myself. Obviously I realised immediately what I had done wrong (as in not touching the kart whilst it is in scrutineering) and I was fortunate that the Chief Scrutineer only wanted both carbs checked and told me not to do it again! :/

Worse, was the fact that we had no pace whatsoever – we were just being driven past for fun. Junior was complaining the engine was not picking up out of the corners and blaming the new engine. I thought it was a grip problem and did what I could to lose some. In the heat, we were last of the finishers, six tenths off of the pace. The pre-final was slightly more interesting as Junior nudged his friend (with whom we share an awning but also have what would sometimes be described as a little more than a friendly rivalry), gained a spot but then spent the rest of the race waving his arm at every nudge he received until he lost the place a few laps from the end. He was very angry but not as angry as me – how he could be so upset at being on the receiving end when he had gained a place from dishing it out? I was properly annoyed! We had a few words in the car (the words were mostly flowing in his direction). We finished sixth in the final although I have no recollection of it whatsoever. On a slightly positive note, we had lapped within a tenth of our fastest time at Clay but it was scant consolation given how far we were off of the pace.

The good

The drive to the track on Sunday was a long one. Not the time spent driving back down to Dorset but just the knowing that there really wasn’t much cause for optimism. We would be on slightly newer used tyres but, if the track conditions were the same, it was going to be another bleak day. I had a single setup change that I wanted to make (that  was inspired by a chat in the Gents with the MSA Steward after racing on Saturday!). Other than that, I was hoping there had been significant overnight rain to freshen things up.

The rain had been minimal but it was notably cooler. We got the kart setup and crossed our fingers. Junior noticed the difference instantly – he was still well off of the pace but the three lap warm-up has never been about pace for Junior, it’s all about making sure the kart is working (I think this is a leftover from the days when it often wasn’t). Although we finished last of the finishers in Heat 1, as Junior gradually dropped back from a good start, he did set a new personal best – breaking 36 seconds for the first time 😀

Heat 2 was a shame – Junior made another good start but got clipped and spun around in The Esses and then shunted into the tyres. He picked up a few places after an incident took out a couple of karts and another was excluded. We were a little slower but Junior assured me he was taking it a little easier – and, of course, I believed him 😉 Heat 3 was a decent result for us as, although we dropped from 2nd to 5th, Junior was clear of the back half of the grid and set another PB.

The ugly

Sunday had been a decent day for us up until this point. Junior started 7th out of 10 and all I wanted him to do was to keep his nose clean from the start and enjoy the race. He made up a place at the start when kart ran off at The Esses, another couple when a couple of the front runners fell over each other and was then in a fight over 5th place with his friend and awning companion. These are the moments I enjoy the least as I am basically waiting for one to take the other out. Junior got a run up the inside into The Esses and his friend maintained the outside line. At this point it was going to take some very good driving for there not to be contact. Junior was ahead and on the racing line but needed to leave enough space around the inside of The Esses exit to avoid contact. He didn’t. His back wheel hit the front wheel of his friend’s kart and, although they both carried on, his friend lost time in the incident. It was one of those scenarios where I know Junior would have tried exactly the same thing had the boot been on the other foot and would have complained just as bitterly when he lost out.

But this wasn’t the ugly part!!! It turned out after the race that Junior had been the one who got caught out as the pack entered The Esses and shunted the kart in front off of the track. A first corner (or second in this case) at-fault incident was exactly what I was hoping to avoid. Fortunately, it hadn’t been reported – although there had been a fair amount of contact during the day which included us losing out so, had we been called into the Clerk’s office, I’d have been a tad upset! We clearly still have a thing or two to learn about close racing, however…

Back to the positives: we set another PB and, unusually, the JTKM final was early in the running order which meant we were home for Sunday roast (via McDonalds for a shake) by 6:30 – round about the same time we had left the previous month!

Cost of weekend: £100 race entry, £24 petrol, £7 fuel

Total spent this year: £2,452

Out with the old, in with the new [engine]….

With our practice engine on it’s final bore and approaching eight hours, I’d been contemplating putting it up for sell and putting the funds and the saved rebuild money towards another engine. I had come across an engine for sale that was a Super 1 practice engine, had a CNC barrel with a small crank case (paddock-talk would suggest that this is the preference as the newer crank cases are slightly bigger and, therefore, heavier) and had only 90 minutes on it. I pondered this for a few weeks and decided to go for it, adding some extra funds from kart bits that I had bought with the retirement package but never used to relieve some of the ‘peer pressure’ from my nearest and dearest!

So goodbye Engine #3553 – we have still never bettered the 36.01s lap that we set on you last September and hello to Engine #43xx (I cannot remember the number). We look forward to racing on you soon, since the race engine in also in for it’s rebuild :S

Cost of engine and carb: £600
Funds from spares sales: £175 (engine), £20 (old side pods), £10 (old bars)

Total spent this year: £2,321

Time to start thinking about karting again

It’s been three weeks or so since I took Junior’s kart out and in that time I have done… absolutely nothing to do with karting! Sure; Junior’s kart needed re-assembling after I replaced large chunks of it a) to fit me and b) in case I broke stuff but I hadn’t really felt the inclination to put it back together again. The break has been good but it was time to address my lack of attention as we race again next weekend and I won’t have any free time next week. So the kart looks shiny and new again. Or as shiny and new as it can look after the contact we had last month!

Although I have spent no time on it, I could soon be spending a fair amount of money! Both the race and practice engines are coming up for rebuild 🙁 and with a few non-karting expenses to balance, I’m under a bit of pressure budget-wise. I have been considering for some time what to do with our practice engine: it’s on a 51.4mm piston and the options were obviously to just continue with it, rebuild it in a couple of hours’ time and, if/when the time came for a new bore, make the Extreme/new barrel/sell it decision at that point or to sell it now and use the funds from the sell, together with the saved rebuild money to buy another engine. I’ve decided to do the latter and have sourced a CNC-barrelled engine with 90 mins running time that I should pick up next week. That still leaves the race engine also coming up for rebuild and I might just have to retire that one for a month or two. The imminent costs have also spurred me into action to sell some of the stuff that came with the retirement package that I have no need for, so if you are after some tidy OTK M3 side pods/bars or some MXP rims, there are some an auction site near you 😉

Underneath there is a racing machine, honest!

Underneath there is a racing machine, honest!