It’s definitely a bad sign when you get up on a race morning and it’s still dark! Having opted to skip the shortened practice day, I had had the luxury of spending an unexpectedly large chunk of Saturday preparing the kart. There was still a small question mark over the axle following our last test day and, in the end, I decided to revert to our backup axle. Of course there was the usual last minute changing of the tyres too – I left it late to decide upon which rims to use and *really* struggled with getting new front slicks on with my girly office finger muscles 🙁
We arrived at the track at 8am and was relieved to find nobody else occupying our space 😉 It was one of those perfect prep mornings where we found ourselves scrutineered, signed on and waiting for an acceptable time to start the engine on the trolley (just to make sure all is well) an hour ahead of the first race. Things had gone a little too well obviously as our three lap warm-up was curtailed after I spotted the engine side of Junior’s bumper dragging along the track. After snapping two bumpers in testing, I’d reverted to slacking the bumper bolts a little to allow some movement on contact and, although the nylocs were threadlocked, I already had some doubts over the quality of the threadlock adhesive! It made a pleasant change for junior to a) see my signalling to him and b) actually take any notice of it! My £11 and one month old bumper bolt was no more…
With the bumper fixed tight, we started in 5th for Heat 1. We seemed to get another good start, making up at least one place but then something happened, the pack shuffled and we got spat out in last place! From there on, it was pretty unexciting for us as we were at the back of a couple karts that were held up and drifting further away from the leaders. Junior didn’t put in a bad time – a 35.9s was a decent start for the first race of the day and we weren’t last (although only because of a DNF) but we still had the age old problem of not really ever being close enough to threaten a pass.
Heat 2 was always going to be the highlight of the day (and our best chance of not finishing last) as we started on pole. For the first time, we managed to lead out of the first corner and even lead the whole of the first lap! 😀 We had a quick kart behind us though and, when he made a move into The Hairpin, we were pushed wide, giving up second in the process. Lunging into The Hairpin is becoming a particular beef of mine – this move was cleaner than a lot of moves I see there but maybe Junior needs to be less compliant in getting out of the way – get his elbows out a bit more and earn a reputation as someone who won’t just get out of the way. As I have said before, the officials can penalise under reg C2.3.3 “Gained an unfair advantage – The hearing has determined that you have gained an advantage over another driver(s) by the manner of your driving. You may not have actually made contact, but your position on the track may have unfairly impeded the other driver(s)”. The way I see it, if you muller the apex with half of your kart off-track and with no chance of actually getting around the corner unless the kart ahead takes avoiding action, you deserve this one thrown at you. I’ve not seen this rule used in a no-contact incident and, to be honest, I cannot see anything changing in that respect. We got passed for third a few laps later but finished fourth with relative ease, mostly thanks to the rest of the field being held up. We did set a new PB in the proces, however 😀 It also confirmed Junior’s preference for his CRK steering wheel.
I put the newly run-in race engine on for Heat 3, not that I suspected there was any problem with the other engine but I just wanted to compare the two and this was the first real chance for us to do so. We started last but only made up one place and finished 5th after another DNF. Frustratingly, Junior said he could feel no difference between the engines. AT ALL!!! :/ I also screwed up in not attaching the Mychron rev wire to the coil lead and it dropped off somewhere on track. Would you believe that AiM charge £18 for a replacement?!? It’s just a piece of wire! Another Dad gave me some wire to create a replacement but it meant I had no data to compare the rev ranges of the engines. We were 0.03s slower than in Heat 2 and that wasn’t enough to tempt me to switch the engines back!
There had been what seemed like ten red flags during the day, mostly involving the cadets from what I saw. One driver actually suffered some fairly serious injuries and you obviously cannot afford to take chances with the kids. That said, you do wonder sometimes if kids are told to stay in their karts so that they can take their previous lap position on the restart. Evidence of this was a Dad shouting at his kid to stay in the kart earlier in the season! I think there comes a point when you have to say enough is enough; two red flags and that should be that – end the race under yellow flags. No overtaking and no manipulation of the result because Little Timmy span out and wishes he could rewind one lap. The races were running very late but, to the club’s credit, they skipped lunch and honoured their commitment to 6 minute heats and a 10 minute final 🙂
Sixth, fourth and fifth placed finishes weren’t enough to stop us starting last of seven for the final 🙁 One of our opponents had seemed to be struggling for pace but he was starting directly in front of us. The mission was simple: pass him as quickly as possible and try to hang on to the pack. I’d given us a little more straight line speed to try to give us a better chance down the straight and into Billies. Our start was predictable – we failed to clear fifth, who quickly became sixth and got stuck for a couple of laps and were adrift by the time Junior made the pass. With the pack racing amongst themselves there was still hope and it briefly appeared that we might get back in touch with the pack. It never happened, even when the leader went off and rejoined ahead of us and giving us the opportunity to try to tag along as he caught the pack towards the end of the race. An incident on the final corner saw us gain another place – 5th wasn’t a bad result but we were a couple of seconds adrift, never really in touch and a little disappointed. In hindsight I think that this was a fairly accurate representation of where we are right now – a few tenths off the pace and lacking in the consistency that would keep us in touch. Perhaps it’s unreasonable to expect more given the amount of time we spend on track.
We race at Llandow Kart club this weekend, hoping to begin bridging the gap that seems to exist between the first four and everybody else. It’s going to be a long weekend as I fly in from the US on the Saturday morning but hopefully our performance will be good and the day will be a good one.
Cost of raceday: £50 entry fee, £12 petrol, £7 fuel
Total spent this year: £3,573