The countdown to Super One

The goal was a simple one: “Prepare the kart for the Super One weekend. You’ve got all day”. Is it just me or does kart prep always take longer than you think? Stripping and cleaning the kart was easy enough and revealed a loose brake pedal bolt in the process! Trimming the previous owner’s custom carbon/kevlar floor tray (one of the few original parts from our retirement package that is left on the kart) so that the front of the floor tray sits on top and not benath the chassis tabs (something I’d been meaning to do since we got the new chassis) took several hours of messing about with me mostly trying not to trim too much off. It wasn’t easily sanded down funnily enough. Even then I ended up enlarging the tray bolt holes slightly because I’d had enough! The new disc carrier was put on the wrong way around but not spotted until after I’d locktite-ed the grub screws :S Welcome to my world. At least this was the time to be wasting time rather than a race day. Almost everything had been cleaned, lubed, bled and fastened. I called it a day at tea time although there were still a few things left to do. I would like to get the engines checked over to ensure the head volumes are good just to be on the safe side (in the hope that we might do well enough to be spending some time in the scrutineering bay this weekend). We’ve normally got a fair bit of leeway so I wouldn’t envisage any problems but now isn’t the time to leave anything to chance!

 

More marshalling!

Junior wants to pursue a career in motorsports engineering and decided a few months back that he would try his hand at marshalling as a means of getting a bit more experience in the industry. Of course, tracks are very keen for volunteers especially if they help lower the average age a little 😉 In this case though it would have been better if Junior had been that tiny bit older as, since he was under-18, his parent or guardian would have to be on site for the whole day!?! Getting up at 6:45am on a non-karting Sunday wasn’t quite what I had in mind for the Bank Holiday weekend and the prospect of killing 10 hours at Castle Combe wasn’t exactly mouth-watering, Holy Trinity or not!

Is it ok if I just leave my car here?

Is it ok if I just leave my car here?

Fortunately, the Marshal Secretary offered me the chance to tag along with Junior on his taster day. On the one hand, I didn’t want to be seen to be cramping Junior’s style, so to speak, but it was a much more tempting proposition than just wandering around the site for a day!

I guess that I’d never really thought about it but race meeting really is just a big kart meeting: from signing-on to scrutineering and driver’s briefing. The naughty boys were in the Clerk’s Office and they even had their AMB transponders (no Alpha Timing though). We suffered a bit from not having taken any orange bibs (much to Junior’s chagrin since he had wanted to take some but I’d insisted they’d be provided if necessary) but we still got to grid cars, wave flags and hold up safety car and last lap boards and spend plenty of time talking to the other marshals and officials. The racing was obviously much more varied than a kart meeting. Junior is definitely up for the next one. I’m inclined to join him, even if only until he reaches 18 and I can spend my Sunday morning lying in like the next man! 🙂

Look: There's a lad in a Tony T-shirt holding up a saftey car board!

Look: There’s a lad in a Tony T-shirt holding up a safety car board!

The thing about wet practice…

We were, we weren’t, we were, we weren’t… practice at Llandow on Saturday was in the balance up until late Friday evening: We had to bed in and test the new pads and disc before Our Big Super One Weekend in two weeks time. Whilst we could do that in the wet Junior wouldn’t really get the chance to get a proper feel for them. On top of that, I’d bought a used caliper support bracket that had been heli-coiled and wouldn’t fit flush with the thread in my bearing hanger! Drilling out the hanger thread at 10pm instead of being packed and sat on the sofa with my cocoa wasn’t really what I had in mind but no matter… the kart was eventually completed, the forecast wasn’t too bad (in the morning at least) so we would practice 🙂

We arrived early and were able to secure our regular garage space (even though we only pay for its rental at club race weekends) – thanks to the kindly bunch at South Wales Karting Centre 🙂 The track was wet but it didn’t really matter for our bedding-in laps. Having been putting off the purchase of any new wets for several months pending Super One (when we would have no choice but to purchase new tyres), our best wets were now well past their best. The rain was intermittent and the track varied from fairly wet to approaching slicks. Despite having raced there for 18 months, Junior hasn’t really had that much wet time; he was slower than he would have liked in the wetter conditions but that’s the thing about wet practice: Sure you can go out and hone your skills on tyres that aren’t up to the job but it doesn’t really do anything for your ability to find the limit come race day. We’re keeping our fingers crossed that Super One see’s the track basked in glorious sunshine when it visits next month. Junior’s pace in drying conditions is much stronger; we’ve a nice setup for those just-about-inters conditions and he was enjoying trying to stay clear of his mate on an Extreme as the clouds gathered again mid-afternoon. With the Heavens open once again and our tyres nicely on their way to becoming slicks, we called it a day. Although we still hadn’t really got as much brake testing done as we would have liked, the brake did look very strong. We won’t really find out more until Super One practice!

Nice tread!

Nice tread!

You don’t always need to stand on the top step to be a winner

So, for the first time, Junior took the chequered flag… and was excluded shortly after! Although adamant that he was alongside his rival as he made a pass at Chandlers before the two came together, his rival and, more importantly, the marshal report said otherwise. Unusually for me, I could have no opinion: standing at Raymonds affords a view of only half of the track (hence nobody else wants to cover that corner!). The Clerk read out the report first (they really should hear from both parties before reading the report), our rival said their bit and then chirped in a few wisecracks as Junior put up his defence. The marshal was summoned who reiterated his write-up (I’m not sure what else he would do) and we were hung, drawn and quartered. More disappointingly, we rushed to review the footage within the 30-minute window (should really have learned how to pair the phone with the camera *before* we had an urgent need) only to find that the battery given up for the day almost as soon as I had switched it on for the final 🙁 I’m not sure why that was so important to us, I would never put any money down to launch an appeal anyway (appeals are for the ‘haves’, not the ‘have nots’). Junior still feels hard done by but, in all honesty, I’m really not that bothered. The truth is that he was a winner in my eyes long before the incident that ended what was an engaging tussle. To have driven so well all weekend, to the extent that he totally offset any new tyre advantage on race day was a fantastic achievement. I’d only ever seen it done once before and by a driver far more accomplished than us. We should have been three seconds behind in every race so it was hard to be anything other than delighted with the pace that Junior had shown. If anything, not having the camera footage did us a favour: Had it shown Junior to be the guilty party, it may have knocked his confidence. Had it shown Junior to have been robbed a maiden win by an inaccurate marshal report, I’d have likely gone off on a rant that would still be going on now and very likely would only serve to haunt me later! As it is, he’s itching for the next round and a chance to show his pace on fresh rubber 🙂

Practice Saturday was really only about two things: bedding in new brakes and testing new rims. Unfortunately we did neither: I realised only on the Friday evening that I lacked the caliper support bracket to accommodate the different sized disc and the ‘pristine’ rims that I had bought off of ‘that auction site’ turned out to have been used for two years and were cracked and/or bent! :/ As a result, we decided not to set an alarm, get up whenever and then head to the track when we were good and ready. We were still on-track by noon and, pleasingly, on the pace instantly, even on our ‘travel tyres’ (our best tyres stay indoors but the kart needs to sit on something when in storage; these are known as the travel tyres!). We were quicker again on the practice tyres, affording us the rare luxury of spending the afternoon testing. Whilst things went really well for us, the only negative thing to happen was the loss of one of the entries as one of our friends had their sole engine seize in the final session of the day, the second time in a matter of months by all accounts 🙁 It was that awkward moment when you want to help but, with only two engines ourselves and being this close to the Super One round, I couldn’t risk anything happening to the #2 engine as much as I would love to offered it to them.

We were in a good place for race day. Even with losing one entrant, we still had a very respectable grid of eight. Junior TKM at Llandow is hanging in there and still the biggest grid at the club. We didn’t have the best grid positions: 5,2,5,2 in our *four* heats 😉 but Junior’s starts were very good and we found ourselves in a familiar pattern: we’d get to the front and then get passed at some point by our rival for the day. Not being on fresh rubber once again, it was something that I had expected. Our goal was to be within 0.3s per lap and, to that end, Junior was massively exceeding my expectations. There was no harm in defeat and he was showing a consistency I’d only ever seen glimpses of before. Junior started in #P2 for the final, lost a place at the start (as you do) but soon got the place back and was tucked in behind the leader for half of the race before two karts left my sight going down the hill into Chandlers and only one came back into sight at The Dell. I cannot say anything about the contact although I wear my rose-tinted spectacles just like any other karting dad. I will say one thing though: I’ll never again be the push starter at Raymonds. I’m going to stand at The Hook so that I can watch the race (and have an opinion) like everyone else! I do regret the lack of race observers at the club this year. Any kind of officiating is difficult but marshals are there to ensure the safety of drivers in their section, reporting incidents isn’t their primary task (ok, so I really said two things!). No matter, what’s done is done. Junior took the chequered flag and, having spent far too long trying to review the on-board footage, we packed up and were the last to leave the track.

It was hard to be too disappointed considering the pace we had shown, it so nearly could have been the perfect preparation for next month and what will be our biggest month in karting. Roll on Super One.

 

 

 

KD’s Bristol Karting Directory :)

I’ve always found it very strange that the closest track for kart owners in the Bristol area is Clay Pigeon Raceway, some 50 miles away. Stranger still, Bristol really is something of a karting hub if you know where to look! I would heartily recommend the following should you be based in the area and in need of something…

TWMotorsport: TWMotorsport are a kart team run by Tim Wilson, a bloke universally liked… somewhat like me but without my spiteful streak! 😉 TWM specialise in the TKM classes and offer kart hire, driver coaching, awning space and kart storage/preparation. I first used Tim at the start of last year, at a time when we had fallen into a familiar rut and were looking for inspiration. I employed Tim for a day’s 1:1 driver tuition. I hadn’t met him until that point and I chose him because Junior didn’t know Tim (in the hope he might listen a bit more!). Tim identified some places where Junior was braking earlier than he should, a few lines that he wasn’t really nailing and the day gave Junior a bit of confidence that he was missing at the time. We ran with the team again at the TKM Festival (the atmosphere in the TWM awning on the Saturday night is like no other at the track, I guarantee it!) where the team picked up the ‘O’ plate in TKM Extreme and again when we rented a Viper from Tim for a day at PFI in December.

Hobzie Motorsport: Hobzie is another local kart team, run by James Hobbs, but their focus is on the Rotax and X30 classes.Hobzie runs some very successful drivers including, until recently, the current British X30 champion. Although Hobzie isn’t really a TKM man, he is an ex-TKM racer and seems to have access to pretty much every spare OTK part or perishable item you could possibly need (which is very useful when you realise on the Friday before the race weekend that you are out of bumper bolts, grub screws, carb gaskets etc).

Revolution Racing Engines: Based next door to Hobzie, Revolution Racing Engines is run by John Crookes, an engine builder who services pretty much any class of engine: TKM, Rotax, F100 and beyond. I’ve used John for both full rebuilds and for smaller pieces of work like crank alignments, snapped engine bolts and worn threads on mounts. He’s always been happy to help and his rates are very reasonable.

Brightweld: Based next door to Revolution (you can see why this is such useful set of industrial units!), Brightweld are my go-to folks for welding services: you don’t need me to tell you how handy they can be! I’ve had chassis, seat stays and side pod bars welded very reasonably and very tidily.

Not exactly in Bristol but not too far away…

Attaq Motorsport: Attaq are a race team, run by Max Tyler, who specialise in kart hire and tuition. Attaq run a successful ‘Step Up To 2-Stroke’ experience which offers arrive/drive racers the chance to try their hand in a proper kart 😉 I can recommend this since we rented from Max to do just that before buying our first kart! Attaq also cater for cadet drivers (Under-12s) which is something I’m not certain the other teams mentioned do.

Racewear.co.uk: This is another of Max’s businesses, supplying all types of racewear. Worth checking out their prices when you are looking around and supporting a local business if you can 🙂

The calm before the storm

It seems like an eternity since I did anything remotely karting related to the extent that some of my fellow karting dads have been phoning to check I’m ok! 😉 The break has been nice but I’ve not saved any money: we’ve been investing ahead of the summer events that we have lined up. On a positive note, it mean that Junior has new brakes and new rims. On the downside, he’ll be on used slicks for a second straight month when we return to Llandow this weekend since a) the Super One guest entry needs to be submitted and paid for and b) I’d already spent the kart budget left for this month anyway! With the new brakes on top of the recent chassis purchase, it does mean that Junior will have an almost completely new kart under him for the first time so, hopefully, he should find it to his satisfaction! With the club round clashing with GYG Super One it could be a quiet round but, since it will be our last visit to the track before the Llandow Super One round, we are keen to try a few things, continue building on getting Junior familiar with the Viper and really nail that setup for the first of the year’s big races 🙂