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

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