Saturday was a bad one, even by my own standards. We arrived to find that almost all of the perimeter pit spaces had gone, it was nigh on impossible to get the awning pegs into the ground where we had chosen to set up camp, we aborted and moved to the very far corner of the track only to find that the pathetic velcro straps on the sides of our awning were no match for the wind and ended up ditching the awning and slotting the car/trailer in somewhere a little more desirable!
Despite this, we were still ready for the day’s first JTKM session but, when Junior was sat in his kart on the dummy grid, I noticed that there was a lot more travel in the steering column than I was comfortable with. It looked as if the steering column bearing (which wasn’t that old) had worn. Caught between the desire to at least get a few test laps in and removing the kart from the dummy grid, I opted for the former (I’m not sure I would in future) with a warning to Junior to take it easy and come straight in if he had any concerns. He duly drove straight back into the pits, throwing his gloves into the seat and going off on one: the steering column wasn’t the issue, the fuel tank lid was leaking. This isn’t the first time we’ve experienced this – why is it so hard to make a fuel cap that fits correctly??? After finishing his little strop, I sent Junior off to get some hand towels from the toilets so that we could get back out for a few minutes. In my rush to get Junior started, I just grabbed the back end, started running and immediately felt something go in my back. I dropped the kart way too soon and had to carry on pushing until he got going but I was in agony! I like to think of myself as being pretty fit – push starting has certainly never been a problem but sometimes these things just happen I guess. It was one of those back injuries that catches your breath. Not good at the start of a race weekend 🙁
The rest of the day was about trying to cope with the pain whilst keeping Junior out on track. Engine mount bolts were the biggest challenge given my restricted mobility. I was able to borrow a push-start bar from one of the other dads; I’d never before used one but I quickly became a big fan! Our pace was disappointingly as has long been the norm: we were around 7/10ths off the pace. We tried a few things like altering the front width and bleeding the brakes which Junior felt made a little difference. I was talking to one of my good friends and, at one point, questioned whether perhaps Junior wasn’t up to this type of karting – we hadn’t progressed at all from the summer of last year; Clay had been replaced by Llandow and, although we had the novelty of a new track, we were now back to familiar struggles. Junior had never shown any sign of unhappiness and, as long as he is still enjoying it, we would of course continue but in the back of my mind still lingered thoughts of IKR and Prokarts 🙁
Although we weren’t where we wanted to be, at least we had run fairly smoothly. Until the final session at least. Junior came in after one lap complaining that ‘something happened’. He couldn’t explain what. We’d just replaced a carb but it didn’t tie in with anything he was trying to describe. Although I’ve said before how you should always listen to your driver, I sent him back out to get more information. This time he came straight back complaining of a loud noise from the engine. I removed the chain guard and couldn’t believe what I was seeing: the chain was as tight as you can imagine, with no flex whatsoever. A couple of friendly dads passed and I asked if they’d ever seen a chain go so tight before. It was then that I noticed that the engine had lifted off of the mount in one corner, skewing the chain enough to cause the problem. I removed the engine and was working with one of the dads to remove the snapped engine mount bolts (it turned out that three had snapped). At this point the other dad was playing with the brake pedal and commented that our brakes were rubbish (these weren’t his actual words!), calling his lad over to have a look. I was focused on checking the engine for significant damage but was more than happy for them to adjust the brakes since Junior has long complained about them. The engine was going to need to visit my builder to have the bolts drilled out and the casing rethreaded (timely since the race engine was going to be off for rebuilding after the Sunday) and, once that was dealt with, the dad showed me how much more release there was in the brake pedal, claiming there were 3/10ths of a second in the improved brake performance. To be honest, I took this with a pinch of salt at the time. He was also less than complimentary about my mechanic skills: a ‘mechanically inept noob’ I think was the description although I don’t know where he would have gotten that from 😉 To be fair, I had had the brakes looked over by a number of people much more qualified than myself. No matter, they definitely felt better and we’d see how they fared on race day…