The last post?

It’s been a long time since my last post. Although Junior and I continue into the uncharted territory that is senior racing, our journey through junior karting has come to an end and it feels like the right time to bring a close to the chronicle of our trackside adventures. Junior is now 18 so not really Junior any more and I’ve been doing this for four years; I’d even go as far as to call myself competent!

What started out as a bunch of experiences and costs to help noobs better understand what they’d be letting themselves in for when they entered the sport evolved beyond the costings and ultimately became a diary of our time in junior karting. Hopefully it will still be useful to those starting out (you really need to look at the earlier posts) and I hope to bring the guides up to date at some point. The blog reached way more people than I could ever have imagined: over 28,000 genuine hits from around the world and a year-long stint writing for Karting Magazine  – mostly thanks to The Kart Bandit who stumbled across my adventures and took it to the masses.

I was largely anonymous outside of the local TKM scene when this happened…

…And world domination followed. Almost.

Of course whilst I hope the blog retains its usefulness to karting dads (or maybe just the ability to entertain!), the most important thing for me personally will be to reflect back upon everything we did in junior karting. It’s been a mad, mad four years. Karting takes no prisoners, you have to be totally committed to it if you don’t want to get found out at the track. And even then we got found out more than I would have liked! I am very proud of my driver and they way he dealt with the setbacks we suffered. He always believed, *mostly* remained upbeat and just enjoyed driving his kart as quickly as he could. I seemed to be the one who suffered on those disappointing journeys home. We won’t dwell on the one that got away, it will always haunt me 🙁 I would be lying if I said I wouldn’t change a thing; We’d have a room stacked full of trophies if I had my way but the positives go far beyond pieces of shiny plastic: He always was my best mate but watching my son grow as a racer and a person has been an honour and a thrill. My advice to karting dads is to cherish the times you spend together at the track. Never, ever shout at your driver. Don’t criticise them publicy even when you feel they may have been in the wrong. Don’t wave frantically at them as if they driving too slowly for you: WTF are you thinking!?! Do you seriously think they aren’t trying to drive fast??? Encourage, encourage, encourage. Although there was that one time at the Festival… 😉

So this is it! My final piece of advice is for those moving from Junior TKM to TKM Extreme: Paddock gossip says you must run unrestricted in TKM Extreme, piling on as much lead as it takes to make the weight. There may well be some tracks where this is the case (I fear Kimbolton) but we’ve raced at Llandow (the most technical track in the country), Buckmore Park (*the* best track in the country) and Clay Pigeon (the best facilities in the country) and we’ve done just fine for pace. Test for yourself before you take out a loan to buy all of that lead!

I’ll still be posting on Facebook if you want to keep in touch. Thanks for keeping me company over the years. I hope it helped you – the therapy was certainly great for me! 😉

In case you wondered, that’s Junior in the header pic – getting passed by everyone in his TKM taster session in 2012!

Then… Our first track day as an owner/driver in the racing green colours that we inherited and that we’ll always carry!

Now… We lead in TKM Extreme! (Only the helmet remains from Day 1!) :/

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.

 

 

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 🙂

Can you spare any change for the swear box?

Given that Junior had unwrapped the new frame on Wednesday evening, it had been a mad rush to get the kart built for the Llandow race weekend. I’d stripped the kart the previous weekend under the cover story that I was embarrassed to look at the old chassis and that I was going to respray it. Junior’s response was to ask if I was going to do it properly this time!?! That’s my boy…

To give me extra time and space (half a cramped garage doesn’t really work that well), I’d even been given permission to use the dining room 😀 so I worked a couple of long evenings and did what I could until I had to take the kart outside before it became too wide to easily leave the house!

I actually got permission to build the kart indoors - I shit you not!

I actually got permission to build the kart indoors – I kid you not!

A late decision to patch the kart seat and drill fresh holes meant we weren’t ready to head for the track until lunchtime but we managed to be late enough to miss the Bristol Rovers v Newport *and* Wales v Italy traffic 🙂

Haven't gone topless in a while...

Haven’t gone topless in a while…

I was pretty confident in my work but history has shown that a newly built kart will lose at least one bolt on its installation lap and so it proved this time (side pod bolt) but Junior came in smiling and exclaimed it was easily the best kart he had ever driven!!! I didn’t tell him that it was easily the most expensive he had ever driven also… The rest of the day went really well, we made a few tweaks and tested used vs new rubber for the race day but Junior looked much more comfortable at the wheel, as if he was having to fight less to get the kart to hit the apexes. It was a good day 🙂

Sunday promised much. Again we had four heats and a final. We had fresh rubber and a new kart and, given the club’s struggles, a grid of seven was very pleasing. For the second month running the karting gods had given us a decent grid draw and heat #1 saw us start in third with the quickest karts in front of us. The odd-numbered half of the grid made their usual better start so Junior got into second but then inexplicably went for a pass on the leader into The Hook. The leader flashed across the front of him and Junior clipped him and span. I don’t know what he was thinking!?! It took some time for his pushers to right him and he ultimately finished well adrift. Luckily for him it happened on the first lap as I had eight minutes to swear at him under my breath before he came in, thereby adhering to my promise never to criticise his driving. He knew he’d screwed up so it wasn’t like it would have achieved anything. Amusingly, one of the pushers/dads had knocked his bumper in on one side when they tried to right him and bumped a kerb so he unclipped the bumper clamp and reseated the bumper before sending Junior on his way… in front of the clerk, bless him! I didn’t see the official result to know if we’d gotten a penalty but what’s another 10s when you are 30s behind?

Pac Man on the data logger!?!

Pac Man on a data logger!?!

Heats 2,3 and 4 were notable for one thing: we took the lead in each race, we were caught and passed by the same driver each time and each time we caught back up and but could not make the move (or, when we did, it did not stick). We made the obvious tweaks between each heat and, by heat 4, didn’t fall away at all but Junior never looked like getting past the winner. We were clearly bang on the pace and possibly a fraction quicker but not in those early laps when we lost out most of all. We decided to gamble on a couple of bigger changes for the final but that is where the day took a big turn for the worse: when the karts came back into view on lap one, Junior wasn’t among them. One of the dads signalled to me that he was off so I ‘abandoned post’ and ran over to find out what had happened. Junior came stomping up the paddock waving his arms like Mr Tickle and I assumed he’d been punted off. It turned out that the fuel tank cap had come off and, despite it being one of the few things that my driver does between races, it was evidently my fault. Worse, he’d bailed out in a stupid place and left the kart for others to clear up. Worse still my new frame was hoisted up onto some tyres!!! And, to cap it all off, everyone assumed I was a numpty for not putting the cap on!!!!!! I wasn’t at all happy. Over the close season, I had promised myself that the days of things coming off were over: my friends can keep their kids on track for a weekend with no dramas and, after our dramas at the final club round last year, I was going to make damned sure we’d be in that boat in 2016. This stung and I wasn’t in the mood to have it pinned on me. I accept that people make mistakes and, since I’d only realised on Thursday that my old fuel tank wasn’t compatible with the new frame, I’d borrowed one from a friend. There’s a chance it was one of those tanks whose lids tighten and then, if you tighten them too far, lose the thread and loosen right off. Of course, I’m well aware of the viewpoint that the mechanic ultimately responsible for absolutely everything…

There wasn’t too much said after that. The car journey was quiet until we were about 5 minutes from home when I said my piece! It is done now. We’ve hopefully both learnt something. We’d otherwise had a good weekend and the kart felt great. We’ll move on so long as nobody mentions fuel caps anytime soon… 😉

Getting back to this karting malarkey

It wasn’t originally intended but I’ve quite enjoyed five weeks off from karting. Junior should have contested the third round of the Clay Pigeon IKR Winter Series: the kart was ready, his entry was in and then…Junior got a bit too big for his boots and I scratched his entry!?! As soon as uttered the words “And you *won’t* be racing this weekend”, I instantly regretted it. It was a Homer “Doh!” moment as I realised what I had said and cursed myself for not taking his PS4 away for a month! He was sitting in second place in the championship and a good result might have put him in with a chance of taking the title to the final round but there we go. With the title gone and the final round clashing with the Llandow MSA practice Saturday, our IKR season will come to a premature end and those Sava harder tyres that I so wanted to try will either be sold having only been used in one heat over the two rounds that we contested (20 laps old, yours for £70!) or saved for next winter. Before you get the wrong idea, I should add that I cannot remember the last time I felt the need to punish Junior: he is a *very* good lad, certainly the most conscientious I’ve ever met but parents must set their own tolerance levels and I guess mine are pretty low! I still reckon I’m a great dad 😉 Moving on…

Considering we’ve not seen any track action, 2016 is already off to a very expensive start: Both our motors have had rebuilds; the race engine rebuild was scheduled, the practice motor rebuild wasn’t. We’ll probably need a new set of slicks to start the season too :/

The kart finally got some attention at the weekend. With the chassis now turning 7 years old :/ it isn’t looking its best (never spray a kart and not give a coat of lacquer!). We’ll start the season on it and see what we can do with a view to getting something newer. It’s all set for a half-term outing when we’ll run in the engines and set ourselves up for Round #1 at Llandow.

Total spent this year: TBC.

Our 3-year anniversary!

Three years ago today, at a wet Clay Pigeon Raceway (some things never change), we rented a 2-stroke kart for the day. This was to see a) if Junior definitely enjoyed it and b) if I could manage push starting a direct drive engine. Junior was very slow and our host advised that it might be better to stay in arrive/drive karting for another year! £14,513 later… there are times I wish I had heeded that advice!!!

Wot no karting Christmas?!?

Well… not exactly! The kart remains untouched since Clay IKR; I remove the fuel, engine, chain after the finals so that they are properly stored, allowing me to clean the chassis at my leisure (instead of when I get home). This means that my leisure time is mostly kart-free right now. Our annual trip to Teamsport Bristol needed a little attention for the group draws (how does 45 drivers and A, B, C and D finals sound?) and I just spent a couple of hours Photoshop’ing the TKM Owners Group‘s Facebook cover photo (not a bad job, if I say so myself):

It's a TKM Christmas!

It’s a TKM Christmas!

Junior’s last three years of Christmas presents (and birthday presents for that matter) have all been kart-related: the kart in 2012, the race engine in 2013 and his (now fairly snug-fitting) racesuit in 2014. We only really need two things now: a new chassis and an awning, neither or which we currently have the funds for (that and the fact that a recent Viper is as rare as rocking horse sh*t these days – I think might have shot myself in the foot a little there in promoting TKM!). On the plus side, it’s allowed me to get back to buying Junior surprise presents, which I’ve missed recently and at which I’m pretty damn good at (better than I am at being a race mechanic, certainly!) :/ I’m sure there will be a little karting treat in there somewhere too 😉

So that might be it for 2015. Have a great Christmas and I’ll let you know how I get on with kicking Junior’s ass at Christmas Karting!

Spent since last post: Nowt 😀

Total spent this year: £5,117 😮

 

Is it just me or do these things happen to everyone?

One week to go before our next race weekend and I had a seat repair to make (amongst other things) after the visiting scrutineers went to town on the kart last month. To be fair, most of the comments were valid: the seat was looking a little thin and I hadn’t noticed that the brake disc protector was almost down to the metal fixing bracket. I’m still certain that there is no requirement to have your seat fitted no lower than the underside of the chassis (and I’ll fight that battle if and when the time comes) but it was time to fix the seat.

I’d never used a fibreglass repair kit before. I wasn’t particularly looking forward to it either but needs must. I got a unwelcome surprise when I removed the seat and on the chassis seat tabs snapped of in my hand. The week before a race weekend is no time to be needing a weld. I looked at tab for a few minutes wondering “WTF?!?” My plans were derailed and the week ahead instantly became a busy one. This is why the most competent mechanics are stripping their kart after each race. But not me, huh?

I’d have to deal with the chassis later. With the appropriate precautions, the fibreglass repair was ok. I probably didn’t apply quite enough of the adhesive based on the glass shards sticking out here and there but it was good enough.With family chauffeuring duties, it was all I could do on Saturday. Sunday was pretty busy too; there would be no time to get the chassis fixed and prepare the kart for Llandow next weekend. I was going to have to revert to the old chassis. Things were going ok until I realised that we hadn’t used the larger seat in the old chassis and the gap between the seat mount bars was about 20mm narrower. This was another first for me: how the hell do you open that up without damaging the chassis. A quick phone call to my trusted advisor addressed that although I think we’re still 5mm or so shy. I decided to postpone the seat fitting and focused on getting the rest of the kart sorted.

With the kart barely fitting in the half of our garage that we cleared to squeeze it into back on Day 1, I work on the kart out on the drive. That’s great in the daylight but dusk brings a few challenges (I had the kart I was stripping on the drive and the kart I was building in the garage) and had to call it a day at 9pm. There is still a lot of work to do and, worst case scenario, we’ll have to miss the practice Saturday if I am not able to complete the rebuild. The moral of the story is: prepare your kart more than one week ahead. Or get an outside light fitted in your drive!

These working comditions would be described as sub-optimal!

These working comditions would be best described as sub-optimal!

Costs since last post: Fibre glass repair kit: £16, fresh bolts £20 (including expensive bumper bolts!)

Total spent this year: £4,199

Filler

The August round at Llandow seems like a lifetime ago. Then again, so does the last time that I touched the kart (other than to shift it to allow me to paint the garage door!). The break has been good – I know that I spent two weeks on a beach but, sandwiched between race weekends and immediately before the Festival, the soothing effects were quickly lost!

My sole karting exertion has been to take over the administration of Llandow Kart Club’s Facebook page as the competition secretary recognised what a great job I’d done here and with the Formula TKM Owners Group 😉 Not being on the committee it’s a challenge to find newsworthy items in a bid to better engage with members/potential new members outside of the standard “Get your entries in” post. We’ll see if I can turn this thing around…

Oh, and we have fresh rubber for this month 😀 😀 😀