Here it is!!!
Totally unexpected and a fantastic end to a rollercoaster of a weekend…
The practice Saturday started off *really* badly: I spent the first 30 minutes getting people moved from my new pit space and then, when we were finally heading to the grid for the first session, we made it 15 yards down the road to the pit lane when we lost a circlip from the front trolley wheel and quickly had to catch the kart! Junior then came in reporting no brakes and no power out of the corners – just what every mechanic wants to hear :S Arghhhh – not on a race weekend!!! Luckily, there was a one-stop fix to both of these problems: TIGHTEN THE BLEEDING GRUB SCREWS PROPERLY. The axle had moved yet again. No such thing as once bitten twice shy in this household :/ I have now learnt my lesson and accepted that my axles won’t last as long when the screws are digging right in to them but that’s just one of those things.
After that, we looked really good – Junior was first out and had a fair lead over the likely pacesetters. Although they caught him by the end of the session, he wasn’t being totally mullered as has often been the case. The next session was also very encouraging as we were only four tenths or so off the pace but, as the afternoon went on, we lost something and were falling off of the leaders and running just behind the other novice. The turnaround was troubling but, in hindsight, it was something I should have seen as we continued to slip that little bit further back. It was on my mind the whole way home and I had a chat about it with a number of other racers and Dads – I think I was just moving in the wrong direction setup-wise as the track quickly cooled.
Race day and once again I was awake at 4am for my 6am start :/ I had set the kart up at the end of the practice day and it was still covered and ready to tow back down to Dorset so we left on schedule for a change. We made it to Clay in record time as the roads were so quiet. It seemed like the A37 has been doing a fairly decent job of culling badgers recently too 🙁 On to the main event…
Unexpectedly, we were the only entrants not to be running on new tyres! The fact that the debutant novice (and our good friends) had fresh rubber provoked Junior into a renewed appeal to be able to run on his new slicks but we have several ‘nearly new’ sets left still which I think are too good to only use on practice days. We did have our CNC barrelled engine on for race day though – Junior had felt it was better in the three sessions we did on it last week and, although his times had been no different, he felt that the track was slower by the time I had managed to switch the engines over. We were about to find out whether Santa had thought Junior had been good or really good when he sourced the engine at Christmas!!! My daughter sometimes reads this, so I have to keep this going 😉 The three lap warm-up seemed ok – we did a spot of sparring with one of the quick boys and weren’t disgraced although we were the slowest of the six runners (the Alpha Timing System really is very good, by the way). Junior was moaning that he wanted to go up a sprocket as we had been a fraction quicker on the practice day with it. I was reluctant as the weather was beautifully sunny and the forecast was very good. In the end I relented. Or at least I did to the extent I removed two sprocket carrier bolts whilst Junior was looking, pretended to be busy for a couple of minutes and then told him it was done 😉
Heat 1: Started really well, Junior quickly got up to 4th and, although the front three had pulled away, had dropped 5th and 6th when he had a heavy crash coming out of the top bend; he lost the back end which caught the tyres which spun him hard back into them right in front of the pit lane audience. He was out of the kart quickly and his kart lifted into the pits. My first reaction was “Holy sh*t” (I can over-react at times), the second “That could be expensive”. I deserted my pusher spot at The Hairpin and legged it over to him (not sure if that’s permitted but…) – he was shaken and had hurt both his arms but he was more upset at having just gifted away the points for a fourth place finish. Luckily we had only bent a track rod. My spares same to the rescue once again and I borrowed some lasers to ensure that we were straight (hopefully I can do this on my own next time – thanks, Sam!). On a positive note, we were relatively competitive for the first time *ever* and Junior really liked the kart with the ‘bigger’ sprocket 😉 One look at his Mychron told me he didn’t need and wasn’t getting the bigger sprocket!
Heat 2: Junior started last of six and was up to fifth when he had to run wide to avoid an accident into The Hairpin, losing the place he had gained but gaining two more as the other karts rejoined. This was one of more disappointing moments of the weekend for me as this was my corner for pushing and I had been so absorbed in what Junior was doing, I neglected my responsibilities as a pusher – it was only when the other Dads ran over that I remembered why I was out on track… Sorry to a certain racer if you are reading this 🙁 We finished third and were only two tenths off of the pace!
Heat 3: We got up to 4th early on but struggled to shake off fifth and sixth. Having finally managed a small gap, we actually caught third. Unfortunately, we couldn’t get past and were caught by the others but held on for fourth.
Final: We started fifth of six because, although we tied for fourth, the result in the first heat is used to decide grid positions (did anybody else know that?). We started well, moved up to fourth and built a healthy enough gap over fifth. The three pacesetters were starting to hamper their pace quite badly as they duked it out up front and Junior was visibly catching them for a few laps.That was until he got a bit over-excited! Some of his lines became very erratic and any chance of glory (which I am sure he believed was a possibility!) soon evaporated. That was not the end of the drama though: one of the front runners seized an engine promoting us to third but, as the clock ran down (it was a ten minute plus one lap final), we were being caught by fourth. I was flicking my attention between the clock (it read 55s) and Junior when something happened at the back and our exhaust was suddenly dragging along the ground under the bumper. I was absolutely devastated – this was sure to end our race!?! Umm, well he was going round again with 22s remaining, which still meant this was the penultimate lap – the marshals by now were looking very interested – the kart was obviously very noisey but still no black/orange flag. Junior passed my post and looked up at me as if to ask “What do I do?” I just urged him to carry on! We were onto the final lap and the question now was whether we could hold onto third – fourth seemed to have overcome his hesitancy that our exhaust may fall off at any minute and was right behind us. I think a tenth separated the two as they crossed the line with Junior just about holding on 🙂
Although there were only two podium spots for the six runners, Junior won Best Junior Novice which was a fantastic achievement. His lap had clearly come on massively over the weekend – thanks, I am sure, in part to my track walk with him on the race morning 😉 The CNC-barrelled engine was also clearly much more to Junior’s liking than our non-barrelled engine, the two things combined (his improved lines and the engine, not my track walk!) to him making up six or seven tenths since our last race in December. We aren’t on the pace yet but, on this evidence, we are close enough now to be in the mix (wet weather excluded!!!).
So a great start to our championship although we won’t be defending the trophy next month as we are now off of novice plates.
Cost of day: £30 petrol, £7 fuel for the kart, £35 practice fee, £39 race entry fee
Items purchased since last post: replacement bolts – £1!
Total spent this year: £916
Year 1 spend: £4,594