It’s been a miserable year. After Llandow we went through the season without once finishing all three heats and the final. The ‘combative’ racing style (read: I just wish that sometimes he could give up the corner!) Junior had shown in JTKM wasn’t working in Extreme. His was always a battle for the apex and, once he was there, he believed that he had to be afforded room. But, where that might previously have got that in JTKM, he was now being shown short shrift. I’d always been a little worried about Extreme; it looked a lot rougher from what I saw of it from the sidelines in 2016 and the amount of contact only seemed to increase in 2017. A friend had pointed out to me in our final JTKM race that this would be an issue in Extreme… his words haunted me for most of the season!
There were highlights: Buckmore Park, where we showed fantastic pace, was simply awesome and our new favourite track. We threatened at the Super One practice round at Clay before things went south and also looked strong contenders to land the Festival Cup. With the Super One scheduling killing off the chances of grids at the South West Champs at Dunkeswell and the Cancer Research Meeting at Clay Pigeon our season came to a typically premature at the TKM Festival. Having set out with only one goal: to keep our noses clean and finish all the races, it was a meeting that changed everything. Caught up in somebody else’s accident in Heat #1. Barely getting the kart fixed in time (we’ll ignore the extent of the damage!) for a subdued second heat. Condemned to the Festival Cup after getting punted off at Turn #2 in Heat #3… it truly was our all-time low. And, if you’ve read this blog, you’ll know that is saying something!
But suddenly Junior earned the chance to salvage something from the weekend, driving his b******s off to climb from 18th to 3rd in the Festival Cup pre-final and we started on the front row of the televised final (pole-sitter had a mechanical). I would have put money on us clinching back-to-back Festival Cups and yet, five seconds into the final, we were out. Out of the Festival. Out of goodwill. Out of MSA racing. You can see what is very likely to be our final MSA race on the TDI Media coverage. I haven’t watched more than the first 90 seconds of it and didn’t see any of the remaining finals such was our haste to get away from the track. “When the fun stops, stop” is the message on all the gambling sites these days. We’d had such little fun over the course of the year that it was time for us to stop.
I didn’t touch the kart for two months. It was surprising really… with karting having dominated my life for four years, my enthusiasm for the sport had totally vanished. So what has changed? Well dragging myself to Clay Pigeon for a practice with some of our closest friends was a good start. Playing with the non-MSA Rotax drivers can be a bit heart-in-mouth at times but Junior enjoyed himself. Whilst we never left Kimbolton thinking that was our last time in the kart, something had to change; enjoyment had to come first so we’ve decided to move to non-MSA racing. The National Kart Cup was an option last year but the timing wasn’t right and I had to give the Southern Tour a chance. That failed mostly because of clashes with the Super One schedule; planned rounds at Forest, Dunks and Clay all went the way of the dodo as, quite literally, did Llandow Kart Club. 2018 will be all about rediscovering the fun element of karting. With Clay Pigeon’s IKR series at its heart, there is much that appeals about NKC: it shares much of how I think a budget class should operate and mandates a single set of harder-compound slicks to last all six rounds. If we can make do with a single set of wets, our tyre budget for the season will be £260!!! With Glan-Y-Gors, Whilton Mill and Rowrah all featuring in the new and improved NKC for 2018, I think it will appeal to the more casual MSA racer and I find myself really looking forward to the series (although I have to be honest, the chances of us going to Rowrah are slim to zero – I’m just not up for 6-hour drives to a track, no matter how impressive the track looks!) . There are negatives: it’s likely we’ll be leaving all of our friends behind, I don’t really know how competitive the series will be and it’s taken on a little bit of a northern focus (I’d be perfectly happy never to venture north of Birmingham for karting!) but this is the right option for us at the right time. I firmly believe the series will go from strength to strength. As far as TKM goes, I don’t think it will be too many seasons before non-MSA racing is the major player after Super One and, perhaps, Shenington/Kimbolton (unless of course, the MSA/ABKC make a grab for IKR grids at some point).
So why have I dusted off the blog? Where the original intention was to help noobs find their way in the sport, the blog as I see it will have a new purpose: to document our switch from MSA to non-MSA racing – what’s good, what’s not-so-good, the costs/savings, the competition and, most importantly, the fun (hopefully). If you really want to share the experience, you can register at https://kartcup.co.uk 😀