The awning conundrum (Part 2)

So a little under a year on, we’re back to this again. It seems crazy to think that we’ve managed almost four years without an awning of our own. The way we roll (Clio + camping trailer) just makes getting one to the track something of a challenge. A standard 3m awning would fit in neither car, nor trailer so we’ve been pretty much dependent upon friends for much of the close to four seasons that we’ve spent in karting (although in our early months we just went without and got soaked if it rained!).The 50% stake in a 6x3m awning was great while it lasted (with the co-owner or another friend kindly transporting it around!). It was at this stage last year that somebody pointed me in the direction of some companies that made compact versions of their heavy duty gazebos, the only option if you are as restricted for space as we are. In the end we went for the cheaper option of renting a garage spot for the season at LKC. It simply was the best: Plenty of space, shelves, a place to store the trailer overnight – even heating; I’d definitely recommend it to those racing at Llandow 🙂 The trouble is that we’ve not raced there since July (our championship aspirations were finished courtesy of a couple of exclusions). Focus shifted to the TKM Festival and we were back to friends putting us up in their awnings. This obviously works when you are at the same tracks (and your friends are extremely generous and accommodating) but that looks unlikely for 2017 (the same track bit – not the generous friends!), as does the potential for an Extreme grid at Llandow. It’s time to bite the bullet. This time I mean it 😉 So, once we’ve done our final Junior TKM event at Whilton Mill, had the engines converted to Extreme and contested our first senior race at the Celtic Challenge, it will be time to save for a compact awning. My friends will be delighted!

It goes without saying that I am indebted to all of those who have helped us out during this time, either letting us share their awnings or storing our kart overnight in their team awnings ; You know who you are 😀

Return to Clay Pigeon!

The weekend was going to be quite novel: an IKR/MSA double-header that would see us take in Clay Pigeon IKR on the Saturday and the Llandow MSA season finale on the Sunday. It had seemed like a good idea at the time but a couple of things had changed since I had signed us up for IKR and bought the IKR harder tyre. Firstly, the junior driver current sat in second place in the Llandow championship had moved up to Extreme meaning that our battle for the third place had just become a battle for the runner-up spot. Secondly, having raced in only on wet heat at Llandow in twelve months, the forecast for the weekend was miserable and there was a real chance that our decision to skip Saturday practice in favour of a trip to Clay could impede our championship aspirations.

It felt really good to be driving down to Clay Pigeon. Even though it seemed as though the A37 had become sponsored by John Deere since our last visit 53 weeks earlier, it felt like we were going home in some respects. We would also be back racing with the dad/lad we started with on Day 1 and with whom we’d bought the shared awning. My aims in racing in the IKR series were to; 1. Keep racing through the winter when we’d normally take a break, 2. To get more race experience (cheaply), 3. To get some experience in less grippy conditions (the hard tyre would see to that), 4. We’d very likely get some wet weather racing experience. The weather was typically Clay-like: very wet and very windy. Because I considered the Extreme grid to be a) larger and b) more competitive, I had entered Junior into the Extreme class where he would be permitted to run his junior engine at the junior weight. The plan had been to practice on worn slicks, switch to the Sava for final practice and then see how we fared. This went out the window straight away since it was pretty clear we’d be on wets all day although I was surprised to learn that we’d only get one practice session before jumping straight into our three heats and final; my immediate thought was “That’s not very IKR!!!”.

The view from the 'TKM Corner Memorial Stand'

The view from the newly erected ‘TKM Corner Memorial Stand’ (which provides little respite from horizontal rain)

Practice went well; Junior looked reasonably quick and didn’t go off. This was just as well since push-start assistance is not permitted in the senior class although it was nice that we could still sign on and watch from the centre of the track. The grids were a little smaller than normal with several of the regulars missing what was the opening round of the four-month Winter series. Heat #1 saw us start last of six. Junior start well, rising to third on lap one but took a lap or so to pass second by which time the leader, who was clearly pretty tidy in the wet, had scooted. We finished three seconds off the leader and nine seconds clear of the field. Heat #2 saw us start on pole. Junior pulled a two-second gap as the winner of Heat #1 worked his way up to second and then, as he chased Junior down, it was just a matter of whether Junior could hold on as his lead was whittled down. He did but only with a couple of laps defending!

Heat #3 saw the demise of our awning: as we were sat on the dummy grid with the previous class on their final lap, the awning gave into the elements. We had taken the sides down already in the hope that this might ease the strain but to no avail. I couldn’t do much owing to the need to start Junior. He lined up in 4th with this chief rival starting in 7th. Junior lead by lap two but again found himself being chased down. We’d chatted about what Junior should be doing here: he was clearly second fastest but, if he was passed then he should look to just tuck in and see where he was losing out, using this as a lesson in how to drive Clay in the wet. Of course he didn’t listen: he was passed with a couple of laps to go, looked to attack at every corner thereafter and ended up taking himself and the leader out when he got caught out going in to Billies. I don’t mind Junior making mistakes but taking somebody else out really brasses me off! Although the leader restarted to finish 6th, Junior was out. The other guy wasn’t too pleased but, having watched the on-board video, it was just one of those things: definitely a clumsy move as he seemed to think about the dive up the inside then try and abort too late and his bumper tagged the leader’s rear end as he turned into the corner. We were here to learn racecraft and I just hope it was an incident he learns from.

Our awning was a write-off and we took it apart for ease of disposal. Fortunately, we had only the final remaining as the boot of a Clio provided little shelter when mixing fuel! Good job the track track had reduced the practice time, eh? 😉 Junior had qualified in third. He was second at the end of lap one but never threatened the leader and was passed by another driver on some weird 90s-looking engine that went like stink a straight line, finishing third on track and second of the championship contenders. There was some minor dispute over Junior’s eligibility to contest the Extreme class as his junior weight but this was rejected and Junior was pleased to pick up a runner-up trophy.

All-in-all it was a good day and definitely £40 well spent: Junior’s performance on-track had been very encouraging and, although he still had a tendency to attempt to get the power down too soon, he was really consistent. The grid had been small but, importantly, there was some good competition with the promise of more to come next month. The loss of the awning was a blow and I’ll have to look at the options for buying my own compact awning now at a time when I was hoping to channel some funds towards a new chassis. I felt most of all for our friends who I had persuaded to compete with us, not only had they lost the awning that we shared but endured a miserable time on track. Here’s hoping for a dry December round…

RIP Our Awning 2013-2015

RIP Our Awning
2013-2015

Cost of race day: Entry fee £40, series registration £10, Sava tyre for series £100, petrol (car) £10, fuel (kart) £9

Costs since last post: New chain £18, brake bleed tool £38, tyre tongs £55

Total spent this year: £4,615