One step forward. Two steps back.

Sunday. Six days until the Festival. A chance to make the kart shiny and set it up for an unquestionably sunny weekend in Cambridgeshire. I splashed on some Factor 50 and got to work. And very quickly there was this…

Perhaps you could just kick me in the balls one more time?

Oh karting, perhaps you could just kick me square in the nuts one more time?

There is no such thing as a good crack but this was particularly unsatisfactory. I’d go as far to say that we probably wouldn’t have gotten through Friday practice before this sheared. OTK place a sleeve inside the tube rails to provide additional support beneath the engine mount. Unfortunately the sleeve ended just short of the side pod weld and the crack occurred immediately after the sleeve. Hey, OTK: How about another two inches of sleeve for those of us who prefer our chassis to last a season or two?

countdown

This just about sums it up…

To say I’m a tad brassed off would be an understatement! With the underweight exclusion dashing our Welsh championship hopes (did I mention that already?), engine repairs, more engine repairs and now our five month old chassis that’s seen very little use relatively speaking getting cracked!?!

I’m a nice, amiable bloke, I put quite a lot into karting and I think the community is a better place for my being here. One day karting is going to give me a break…

A cheeky Llando(w)s

Do you see what I’ve done with the title? Clever, huh?

It seems like we’ve been on the back foot a fair bit this year and, just a week ahead of the Festival, now seemed no different: problems with both engines at Kimbolton last month meant that they’d both had work done on them. Even after a bucket test(?) to identify any potential air leak, nothing had been found to explain the race engine looking badly lean after Junior’s off in one of the heats. Luckily the head needed nothing more than a slight rethread to cure the minimal damage caused by the spark plug getting stuck. The #2 engine had had new piston rings fitted in a bid to resolve the lack of compression. And then we’d buggered off on hols, the #1 priority as per Mrs Karting Dad’s control of the family budget!

V__0AD7I’d collected the repaired engines before we went away and, on the evening of our return to the country, spent the evening ensuring they were both fine, spark-wise before a weekend visit to Llandow. Having had such an awful weekend at Kimbolton from a performance point of view (two DNS’s and a DNF!), I couldn’t leave anything to chance. We’d had spark issues with the race motor but now there was no spark on the practice engine!?! After swapping over everything from spark plugs, to HT leads and coils, there was either a wiring issue or a stator/rotar problem. Back to the engine builders. A voltmeter check and some wiring work later (not to mention an hour’s labour), we were back on track (although not in the literal sense).

To Llandow! The track was running an IKR meeting and had Saturday afternoon dedicated to practice. Perfect for a spot of engine testing. The plan was: Run in the new rings on the practice motor, ensuring the compression problem was resolved. Bolt on the race motor. Do two laps and check the spark plug looks healthy. Do five more before removing the head to ensure the piston looked good. Run one further session to be certain. Bolt the practice motor back on. Do a bit of carb testing.

Everything went really well. We’d done everything that we needed to within 3 hours and we spent the rest of the afternoon dabbling with carbs and playing with restrictors (Junior has lost a stone since getting sick last month!!!). That was until we suffered *another* sheared side pod bar; in exactly the same spot as we did last time out. Now there’s a head scratcher for you! Since this was already our spare bar and the other was away getting fixed, our game was over. It wasn’t the end of the world since there was only an hour left and it wasn’t as if Junior needed the practice.

 

 

WHAT IS GOING ON???

Saturday was an early start. The plan was to arrive at HKRC by 9am, put in the fuel, bolt on the Alfano and be ready in plenty of time to make the first session. The kart had been set up for dry weather (the prep work had been done the previous weekend) but the wet journey to the track from the Birmingham area told me that we’d be on the back foot for much of the morning as we switched to a wet setup as time permitted :/ Worse, with a good set of wets and some inters, I’d opted to leave another decent set of wets at home; I‘d never gone through three sets of wet tyres before and had no intention of doing so here for what really was just a practice weekend for us. Of course that hadn’t really accounted for what we would be doing for tyres on the Saturday… 😮

We fudged our way through a wet Saturday morning on tyres that had 1mm of tread on at the start of the day! I hadn’t really heeded my own lesson about only gaining from wet practice if you are actually on wet tyres that allow you to push and find the limits. We were off the pace but that was just one of those things. I managed to smash the knuckles of both hands into the rear sprocket whilst removing the front sprocket. That bled more than I expected! The afternoon brightened up and we were much more at home with a familiar setup on a decent set of slicks and a chance to reacquaint ourselves with the track as we’d found it at last year’s Festival. It felt like we hadn’t learnt much from the morning session but Junior was looking much more racey in the afternoon. The only negative was that we didn’t get the final session (either I miscalculated or the club cut a session, I think the latter) and that meant that we hadn’t got to run the race engine. How costly that would prove!

With strong winds forecast, we setup the tents between a couple of caravans and I put the car in front of both tents to offer further shelter. It did the job and, with the humid conditions, things were fairly cosy. At least as much as they could be sleeping on a 1” camping mattress! And then the winds came: It sounded as if we were sleeping next to tallest trees in the world! Being soft, southern indoor types it was pretty hard to sleep. Junior repeated his getting-out-to-sleep-in-the-car antics and then spent 20 mins chucking things around in the car to make space for himself. He was back in tent within 3 hours! It was only at around 5am that I seemed to get any real sleep and then it was soon time to get up 🙁

The forecast was again mixed (we had the British GP weather). The track had been dampened by early morning rain but it was slicks for the warm-up. Our tyres had been used at the Welsh Champs but were in reasonable shape (for Llandow tyres) because of the wet Sunday. Junior had been off of school since Wednesday with a stomach problem (relax, it wasn’t contagious). We’d only made the decision to go ahead with the weekend on the Friday night. Although he’d been fine on Saturday, he was poorly again on Sunday! Five minutes before we were due to head out for warm-up, he was sat in the awning with a sick bag. I convinced him to head out, get at least one lap in to ensure that all was well and we’d see how things went after that. The kart started slowly but thereafter Junior’s pace was respectable: around half a second off but, having been slow away, he’d had nobody to follow. The kart cut out as he entered the pits, blocking the entrance gate. I assumed it had just dropped revs and not been able to pick up. Alarm bells should have been ringing!

Junior continued to feel bad and looked even worse ahead of qualifying. Wretching in the holding area isn’t a good look and I sent him back to the awning until it was almost time to race. When he returned, he looked absolutely dreadful! Hopefully racing would take his mind off of things!!! The dummy grid for qualifying was the usual political game of bagging a spot amongst the pace. We were very nicely placed with the quick TAGs although we obviously have a bit of a starting deficit with a DD engine. The gate raised, the engine fired and I turned to put the start bar away… only to see Junior spluttering around Stow. I had  left my official HKRC pusher’s hi-vis vest in the awning so I couldn’t go out to help him. Others tried valiantly but it was pretty evident that he wasn’t going anywhere. He watched qualifying from the marshal post and I was unable to get the kart until after the next session (trolley park jam) 🙁 We still had to weigh (if ever there was a time to come in underweight, this was it) and, to top off a fantastic session, I got another exhaust burn as I stopped to look over my shoulder as Junior continued to walk the front of the kart towards me. I swear that I’ll have no freckles on my left arm by the time I quit this sport!

We got the kart back to the awning and tested the carb: it was popping but losing pressure quite quickly (my carbs are cleaned post race and tested during race weekend preparation). We replaced the carb and started the engine on the stand (in the designated starting area – we’re good like that). Missing qualifying wasn’t as bad as it could have been however since the finishing position for Heat #1 would determine our start position for the pre-final. There was still much to play for… provided my driver was well enough!

Junior looked a little perkier for Heat #1. The start was a real dog’s dinner: Starting on the back row, the driver in front bogged down even before they reached Kimbolton Corner and his kart never picked up, yet the race started with Junior crossing the line well adrift of the field! Earth to Starter!?! Hello??? We crossed the line after lap #1 still last and 6s behind the leader. Junior drove really well from there on in, cutting through the field and was running in 10th when he came together with another kart entering Dan Wheldon Corner: With Junior on the inside and on the apex, their front wheel touched our pod and rear wheel, flipped our kart up over their Nassau and dumped us off in the long grass. Do you have any idea how long it takes to retrieve a kart from Wheldon? It’s a good job I’m still young and fit 😉

The real problems began when we returned to the pits: The spark plug was stuck in the head, with only ~10 degrees rotation either way. We removed the head and the piston was bone dry. Our fuel was freshly mixed before that heat and definitely had oil. The carb was used yesterday and correctly set. I really had no idea why the engine was looking so lean. I couldn’t risk the race engine, it was going to need to see a builder for a check-up. The practice motor had snapped the finger guard on the Saturday so, to hasten things, we took the finger guard and coil from the race motor and bolted everything on. With the regular spark plug stuck in the other head, I pulled out a spare from the toolbox. Was this one any good??? There wouldn’t be time to test so I borrowed one from a friend that had been used the day before. On top of that, it had starting to rain heavily and the kart was in full dry trim. Things were a bit rushed as you might imagine.

We opted for inters, some of the field went for slicks. We would have been proven correct if only the kart had started. It was blatantly obvious that there was no spark. Junior’s kart was dragged off of Stow once more. Junior flapped his arms around as they gallery looked on. This was a long way to come to have more DNS’s than we’d expect in an entire season.

Back to the awning: There was indeed no spark. We put in another plug to no avail. The wiring looked good, the spade connectors were well seated but what about… the coil? To save time when swapping the finger guard, we’d brought the coil across from the race motor. I wonder if…? We put the practice motor’s original coil back on: The spark returned! The engine fired first time in the start area. With just the final remaining, I crossed everything that the bloody thing started and we actually took part in a race. Even the Chairman (with whom I’d had enough chances to become acquainted with whilst stood at the grid gate with my trolley, waiting for various races to end so that I could fetch our kart) was wishing us well! On the dummy grid, I reflected on our day thus far; it felt like amateur hour, the kind of day you might expect when your lad is running novice plates – definitely not the kind of day to be habitually fetching your kart from Stow Corner in front of all of the dads on the viewing platform! The only positive was that Junior was feeling much better and this wasn’t the Festival..

The kart fired quickly but *again* struggled to pick up. I had noticed that the practice motor appeared to be lacking compression when I happened to kick it along the dummy grid on the Saturday. It was already going to be heading to the engine builder for investigation. I held my breath, ready to quit the sport immediately if this went tits up! Junior pinched the pipe to clear the fuel build up and finally headed off down towards the Bus Stop 😀 The race itself went really well: Starting 19th, Junior got an amazing run around the outside of Stow as the inside runners concertinaed up and he had gained seven places by the end of the first lap. He continued to pick off the mid-field with some nice moves. I was a little disappointed that he got himself into a real scrap for 8th that went to and fro for 11 laps; every time he passed, he’d start looking over his shoulder compromising his lap times. We need to work on that but, on the whole, you couldn’t help but be pleased with a 6th place finish (unfortunately we lost the front two at the final corner).

So our day was done. Packing up took some time and we were reliant on friends to help us get the camping stuff back home (camping gear always packs much smaller on the outward journey than it does on the homeward one!). We’d had a lot of setbacks. To be fair (to myself!) the engine problem wasn’t immediately obvious and it was only by freak chance that we’d moved what appeared to be a problem coil to the second engine when we swapped them over. I’d found a new way to injure myself (along with an old way) and Junior hadn’t felt that great at times but it was still a more positive weekend than not, especially with his pace only being pretty good on only our second visit to the track. We would definitely hope to improve further at the Festival.

I need to say a special thanks to several sets of friends who provided us with a roof, refreshments, company, support during our Sunday woes and even a free set of inters. TKM really does have the best community in karting by some distance 🙂

 

On the back foot already?

It was supposed to be fairly straightforward: a lunchtime trip to see JC at Revolution and get the head volumes checked on both motors (to ensure there would be no surprises if did well enough to get scrutineered at the weekend). The practice motor was borderline and needed a thorough cleaning to get the head volume to a safe reading. The race motor was fine as far as the head volume was concerned but there was no longer any end play in the crank shaft. We opened up the crank halves; the pin had moved a fraction and the bearings weren’t spinning very freely at all. It wasn’t the news I really wanted to hear this close to the weekend. The race motor has been sat around since the last club round: I had had the head and barrel off for a visual inspection post-race but not noticed the lack of end play. Another learning for next time…

Fortunately, JC was able to sort everything out for me today and I collected the engines from him this evening but, with this and the weather, I’m a little behind where I would like to be if we are setting off for the track on Friday. Tomorrow evening will be a busy one :/

A mixed weekend at Llandow

It isn’t often that I wonder whether or not to take the kart to the track but Saturday was one of those days; the entry numbers were small and the chance to save a few quid for the Festival was tempting. I put the question to Junior and we decided to go to get some race practice in with one of our friends. As it turned out, I really wish that we hadn’t bothered.

The plan for the first practice session was to bed in a set of brake pads ahead of the  Festival, only the kart had other ideas and it was clear that it wasn’t going anywhere even though Junior insisted upon my pushing him halfway down the straight! The carb that had been duly tested before I put it on the kart on Friday was no longer holding any pressure. With the carb replaced we got the pads bedded in during our second session before disaster struck in the third when we had our first ever engine seize. It happened on the outlap and, from watching the on-board footage, the engine makes an unsual whirring sound exiting MacWhirters before seizing on entry to Chandlers. You know something bad has happened when your driver comes running across the track to tell you about it. We recovered the kart (why does it always stop in the opposite corner of the track?) and assessed the damage: the crank pin had snapped, the piston had hit the head and caused some minor marking on the head although the barrel was undamaged. Happening weeks before what is already an expensive Festival weekend, this was definitely not what the doctor ordered.

I’d never had an engine seize before and was unsure what to do next: the spark plug looked lean but could this have been as a result of the seize rather than the cause. We’d not deviated from our standard carb settings and the carb was popping off ok both before and after the seize. I decided to replace it anyway but what about the fuel? I know for sure that I’d just mixed it and it was freshly purchased only the night before. I’d continue with it.

So on went the race engine. Junior did a couple of laps of the next session but came in after three laps: the pipe had come off of the fuel overflow bottle. A simple fix, only then the kart did not want to restart on the dummy grid. It was starting to look like amateur day at the track 🙁 The carb was fine, we had a spark and the fuel was flowing as you would expect. The engine started with no problems on the stand and we finally got our heads down and set about finding some missing tenths. I don’t think we got closer than three tenths off of the pace but our front tyres had little tread depth indicator remaining by the end so we put it down to tyres.

We were at the track early on Sunday and, if I’m honest, was surprised to see how few people had stayed over. The car park was almost empty. After the early season entry numbers had been boosted by Super One drivers practising and, once the Super One tour had been and gone, the TKM Southern Championships had rolled into town, this was the first month for club drivers alone. Of course it was also the first weekend of the school holidays so that will certainly have taken its toll but the entry numbers were in the mid-thirties, the lowest we’d seen in our year at the track. The JTKM grid was six, probably the minimum you’d want to see but it represented a good chance for us to scoop our biggest points haul, possibly even a trophy! If this were a horse race we’d have started second favourite and a top two finish was our aim for the day.

The first heat marked another low point for the weekend. Junior started in fifth and was stuck in fourth when he was caught by the sole Junior Rotax entrant that was running off the back of the JTKM grid. Normally the Rotax drivers clear off into the distance but the classes were very evenly matched in these track conditions; the Rotax was quick enough to make the lunge into the hairpin off the straight but then held up the TKMs through the rest of the lap. He was certainly having an impact on the TKM race and Junior lost out more than most as he was pushed wide and lost a place to another TKM. He soon made up the place but then fifth challenged again, attempting a move around the outside of The Hook. The karts locked wheels and flipped Junior’s back end around and into the other driver. The race was red flagged and there was a lengthy delay as the driver was treated on track. You don’t want to see any driver getting hurt racing, especially in an incident involving your own lad. The nature of the injury was very similar to the one that junior suffered in April and I know that one of my issues at that time was that neither dad nor lad had come over to wish Junior well as we were packing up to head to the hospital. In this case the driver and his dad were in the ambulance until another came to take him to hospital. You always wonder whether or not to say anything and I feel that you should even if, as in this case, I didn’t know the other dad particularly well. The chance never arose but we wish the driver a speedy recovery.

The incident put a dampener on the rest of the day for me. Back on track, the grid was down to five and our fourth place finish in Heat #1 had put us on the back foot. We had successive second-placed starts to come (we weren’t able to secure what would have been a first pole position draw at Llandow in a field of five license holders and one novice driver so I’m not banking on us ever getting one!) which is a very poor place to start and, indeed, Heat #1 had seen all of the odd-numbered drivers take the first three places into the The Hook. We got dropped to the back after contact in The Hook on the first lap of Heat #2 but Junior drove really well to recover on take second. In Heat #3, Junior had a great start – almost too good as he was too close to the leader to tuck in and third managed to get enough of his kart up the inside that Junior had to give up the place but again drove well, secured second and, for the first time of the day, set the fastest lap.

Junior was tied for second on points and, luckily for us, lost out on second owing to an inferior Heat #1 finish 🙂 He started third for the final, secured second in the first corner and made up 10m or so on the leader to be in his tow after three laps. Having been widely slated for battling too early last month, he was happy to tuck in and pull clear. Things looked promising but it wasn’t to be. Junior had a poor lap in which he lost a good 20m and then found himself losing more ground with each lap. Whether he was trying too hard to make up that ground or whether his tyres, which had done the two days of the Welsh Champs, were just going off I couldn’t say. Possibly it was a combination of the two. We finished three seconds adrift although again set the fastest lap and had at least kept the leader (who won every race) honest for a bit.

Our best-ever podium finish is not something to be scoffed at even with the depleted grid. We’ll take that and the positives from some more strong pace and hope to add a little more consistency next month. For now, I’ve an engine repair to address before the Festival.

Cost of race weekend: Entry fee £100, petrol (car) £12, fuel (kart) £8

Total spent this year: £2,690

31 days after last touching the kart…

Having mulled over the prospect of submitting a late entry for Junior, my wife soon knocked that idea on the head. It wasn’t the fact that Junior had an exam the next day; he’d done five hours of English Literature preparation at school on Saturday, it was more the small issue that I was going to Wembley to watch my team play in the Football Conference playoff final!

With us planning to run our race in at Llandow next week, I really had to get out and attend to the kart which had been untouched since I removed the engine/chain/fuel after April race day. This ‘karting holiday’ was pretty much the longest I’d had since we started. First things first, the steering wheel is bent 🙁 Being a chip on the shoulder type of person doesn’t really help although I do hope that I will stop resenting those that cause my wallet pain at some point 😉 The steering column had already been straightened previously was bent fairly high up the column so I decided to just bin that. The front end is mostly back together now although I might try giving the bumper a little TLC with some decal colour insulation tape in a bid to restore the bumpers appearance, at least from distance 😉

I'm sure there's a kart under there...

I’m sure there’s a kart under there…

In other news, I’ve bought a push start bar! I like to think of myself as a pretty fit bloke but I am getting on a bit  and my back (injured on the practice Saturday last month) is still causing me some issues. The bar came up at a really good price and, with one eye on the next practice day and another on Junior getting heavier and running in seniors in the future, I took the plunge. I plan to use it a my primary means of push starting. No sense making my back work unnnecessarily!

My wasted rebuild

After our chain snapping woes at our practice day, I hastily got the engine head off to see what was going on. Data analysis showed that the engine had hit 21,306rpm!!! 🙁

Sh*t! :(

The top piston ring was stuck firmly in place and all evidence suggested that the piston had hit the head. RIP my three-day old piston.The crank was also out of alignment. If there was any positive to be taken from this, the head at least looked ok. I had it collected by a friendly engine builder for a new piston and repair.

Things got worse when I was informed that my lovely new crank was slightly twisted although Tal-Ko assured me that this could be straightened and I didn’t pass up on the opportunity to save £166!

Having run a single Panther chain for the biggest part of 2014, I was fed up with my ‘cheaper’ chains snapping so ordered another trusty Panther and Talon sprocket – I am pretty keen to avoid any future chain woes and will be running my engine stop bolt a lot closer to the engine in future.

Cost of engine repair: £180

Costs since last post: New brake pads, £25; 2x Shell M Oil, £20;Dot 5 Brake Fluid, £10; Gaffer tape, £5; Insulation tape, £2; cable ties, £2; Chain and sprocket bundle, £50

Total spent this year: £1,496

End of year 2 accounts

I remember when I posted my first year accounts, a friend told me I’d spend £4,000 in year two. I didn’t believe him: this year would just be racing costs since we already had everything else that we would need so this year *had* to be cheaper, right?

Year two’s magic number is £4,683 😮 On the back of a year one spend £4,594, that day one prediction of £4,600 per year is looking scarily good! Before you ask me for the lottery numbers this week, I’ll admit that that figure included the cost of buying the kart so I am definitely overspending, especially when you consider that £1,131 went on non-essential items. This is the full breakdown:

Running costs – £2,853:

  • Licenses/memberships – £94
  • Practice fees (12 sessions) – £470
  • Race fees (13 race days) – £664
  • Wet tyres (one unused, three used – all from forums) – £165
  • Slicks(two sets) – £300
  • Engine/carb rebuilds – £608
  • Petrol (for the car) – £353
  • Fuel (for the kart) – £141
  • Bridge tolls – £38

Perishables – £246

  • Bolts – £31
  • Brake fluid/seals – £25
  • Sprocket carrier/protector (eBay) – £33
  • Chains (2) – £34
  • Exhaust flex/wrap – £47
  • Fuel hose – £7
  • Seat – £40
  • Carb gaskets – £25

Repairs – £453:

  • Axles (2) – £144
  • Weld – £10
  • Exhaust bracket – £20
  • Exhaust cradle – £12
  • Steering column – £42
  • Bumper bolts – £21
  • Engine (crank alignment) – £170
  • Jig check – £34

Non-essentials – £1,131

  • Engine mount – £30
  • Additional wet rims – £50
  • Mag rims – £100
  • Decals – £120
  • Bodywork – £119
  • Hotel – £130
  • Engine upgrade – £425
  • 2010 chassis – £25
  • Bearing hangers – £30
  • Additional carbs – £70
  • Carb tester – £32

The running costs for next year will be interesting since we will be buying more new tyres although that may be offset by less track time as Junior enters the run-up to his exams. As for the non-essentials, some of the luxuries were birthday presents etc and the engine upgrade was effectively trading in our old cast barrelled engine nearing rebuild time for a CNC barrelled engine with 90 minutes on but that is still a fair amount of money that could possibly have either been saved or invested in track time. Talking of which, how much time did we get? Unfortunately I seem to have lost the data from June and July but, minus one practice day and three race days, the count was 1,048 laps around Clay and 590 laps around Llandow.

See you in year three? 😀

Things that break when you want it least…

You gave yourself that afternoon to prepare the kart (in daylight) for the weekend. You did something else first that took an hour and you have a parent’s evening at 6pm but it’s ok: all you need to do is change the axle, clean a few things up and put on the engine, carb and exhaust. You’re tightening the brake caliper bolt. You go to give it one final turn and then ‘CLUNK’ – the brake caliper bolt shears midway between the bearing hanger and caliper!!! Cue repeated heavy swearing…

Luckily I managed to drill out the bolt and reassemble the kart, rush my tea and get Junior to school! I’m still not fully comfortable with the disassembly of the brake system and am yet to ‘fly solo’ when it comes to bleeding the brakes but this will change tomorrow since it’s my only free time before the weekend – just one of those things that I have to learn to become competent at.

Other semi-interesting things that have cost me money this week: I stopped by the local engine builder to confirm that the engines were legal following the illegal engine modification scandal. I was pretty certain they were good – the previous owner is easily the most knowledgeable person I’ve met in TKM (I guess when you are spending Super One money, you have to be!) and had assured me that there was nothing to worry about but it was one of those things that you just have to have done so that you know without the slightest element of doubt that your engine is legal. Both engines were legal. Unfortunately both had crank alignment issues – we almost certainly damaged the newly built race engine when we ran it in with what I suspect to have been a bad hanger/bearing combo. It’s been a tight month karting budget-wise and I could definitely have done without any engine bills 🙁

Running in @Clay: featuring Mr Erratic Rotax

Having had the race engine back for a couple of months and still finished running it in, we headed off to Clay on Friday for a host of reasons; primarily to get the engine run in but also to compare the engines, work on lines and test some theories regarding grip (or the lack of it at the last race day). It was nice not to be rushing around madly as we do on a race weekend and the journey down wasn’t too bad for a week day. Unfortunately, the forecast had worsened through the week and it seemed we wouldn’t get the perfect weather for getting through the list of things to do. On top of that, there were a couple of four stroke events on over the weekend so the track was much busier than I had been hoping.

The first few sessions went well enough as we worked through the mid-range of the engine revs but then we hit a snag – anything over 13.5k revs seemed to start some kind of noise that I couldn’t explain even if I thought I knew what Junior was talking about! He was sure that it was an engine problem, which is the one problem area that fills me with dread 😮 I spoke with a few people – my engine builder and the guy I bought the engine from both of whom suggested it was four-stroking. It didn’t seem like it was four stroking but I tweaked the jet settings a touch and we tried again – the problem got worse the more revs Junior gave it. I changed the carb in case it had gone bad (and in the process discovered that my carb popoff tester was faulty and I had very likely been getting my carbs rebuilt unnecessarily!) but still we had the same problem. I was about to give up and fit the other engine so that we could at least get something out of the day but it was then that my own ‘karting dad’ (figuratively speaking) asked if my axle was bent – now this struck a chord!!! We had crashed at Llandow last time out but had competed in a race after the crash without any such problem (even if we only managed 2 laps before our exhaust manifold snapped) but it wasn’t the axle I suspected, rather a bearing hanger I had bought used and fitted the night before. When attempting to refit the axle after fitting the hanger, the axle was a good few inches away from aligning with the bearing hanger on the brake side. It turned out that the bearings seemed to have suffered some damage and were out of alignment. I had removed them at home, knocked them straight and refitted the axle – seemingly without issue. I was desperate to give the engine another chance so replaced both the bearing hanger and the axle just to ensure we could prove that the engine was/was not to blame. Luckily, the problem disappeared 😀 I am still not 100% sure that it was the bearings in the hanger but the axle looks good and I’ve refitted for our next outing.

After that our day was a bit hit and miss. The rain came and went and, although Junior seemed to be enjoying the conditions following a confidence boosting wet heat at Llandow, it meant we didn’t get the consistent weather that we needed to be able to back-to-back the engines. Nor work on lines. Nor test grip theories. We also broke both our bumpers – one when a prokart ran into the back of us into The Hairpin and another time courtesy of a bloke in a Rotax who was clearly very quick but was driving  erratically and making moves as though his life depended on every corner – bear in mind that this was just a practice day! If you had asked ten bystanders to point out which of the 30 karts on track looked most like the driver was under the influence of something, I guarantee everyone would have picked the same bloke!!! I am normally a fan of having large, mixed grids but seeing this bloke push us wide and then punt a prokart into the very next corner made me go and request the sessions were divided. It didn’t rid us of Mr Erratic Rotax but it did give us enough space we could steer well clear of him. Although you will inevitably see contact in karting, I don’t normally expect it at practice days!!!

In the end, we had achieved the main goal of running in the engine. Both of my bumpers have been snapped but at least my emergency bumper retention system (some rubber hose and hose clips) proved their worth.

I’m not sure where we’ll be headed next – Junior wants to do the next round at Clay but it’s looking like a very busy weekend with three additional classes taking part and that sets off my ‘track time alert’!!! It’s likely we’ll race unless there is a chance of a repeat of the ‘slower karts starting in front of the faster karts‘ fiasco we saw earlier in the year (the last time that there was a big Formula Blue event at the track). That lead to us/me getting into all sorts of bother – I won’t be doing that again…

Cost of practice:£35 practice fee, £12 petrol, £6 fuel
Spent since last post: used bearing hangers, £30, two used carbs £70

Total spent this year: £3,657