Ending the season on a high

With the member/guest half-priced offer and a bit of a push on Facebook courtesy of yours truly 😉 the Celtic Challenge had grown into something that promised to be quite special: the biggest JTKM grid of the year, the visit of a few of next year’s Super One entrants looking for some early practice, cash prizes and the biggest trophies I’ve ever seen at a club meeting made this something we were all looking forward to.

For us, Saturday was carb test day. We ran a new carb every session, making sure that they worked properly following rebuild (or not in the case of one). Our pace was a bit mixed but perhaps that was to be expected given our carb swapping activities. Our strongest carb that had gone down in June was still our strongest carb (here’s a free tip for you: when your best carb goes down, don’t leave it in your carb box for five months before realising that was your race carb sat there!) :/ We left knowing that we had fresh (in a one- heat-old-fresh kind of way) rubber and our race engine to bolt on. We just needed the forecast overnight rain to disperse quickly. Oops…

We were up at 5:30 on Sunday and en-route an hour later. The West Country was dry, as was Wales east of Cardiff. The closer we got to Llandow, the worse the weather looked. We wouldn’t be seeing many dry races today 🙁

Qualifying was poor: Junior quickly found himself isolated and it was obvious that we wouldn’t be troubling the front rows, qualifying 7th of 13, just under half a second behind the pole sitter. Before the first heat we had some setup assitance from our friendly Welsh Champion who had just moved up to Extreme and was demanding to know why Junior had only qualified in 7th (cheers, Ryan!). I heeded the advice and made the changes since our default wet setup was looking average. We didn’t help ourselves though as Junior bogged massively at the start, losing three places and leaving himself a mountain to climb. He made up some nice places and would start the Pre-Final in 6th.

We were on the receiving end of more friendly tips ahead of the Pre-Final, this time courtesy of the driver coach we had used at the start of the year and with whom we had run at the Festival (thanks, Tim!). Our wet setup was improving slowly 😉 The Pre-Final was eventful mostly for the fact that it was the worst TKM start I had ever seen. The pole-sitter was running a TAG engine and Plan A was clearly to bog down the direct drive runners. You couldn’t really blame them, I’d have been doing exactly the same thing in their shoes, but I’ve never seen the grid approach so slowly. Junior looked in trouble and was pushed by the lad behind to keep him going. The leader then took an early run out of Raymonds causing an aborted start. This restart was even worse… the field were going so slowly that three karts stalled coming up the straight before the pack turns for the start line, two got pushing assistance from those behind (that won’t happen when the new bumpers are introduced!) and one simply stopped at Raymonds. You had dads complaining to the officials and there was disgruntlement aplenty on track as the race was red-flagged and the pack stopped (on an upward slope – just a little something to cheer the direct drive pushers!) before being sent to parc-ferme. As the dad that stands at the final corner for push start duties, I see the pole man try to run a slowly as he dare on the formation lap to cause the man in second to bog down but, when they are all direct drive runners, there’s a common theme and nobody wants to go too slowly. A TAG runner on pole is in a powerful position, with the potential to put the direct drive karts in a spot of bother as were were seeing here. It will be interesting to see how officials at different tracks view this. Fortunately for us, the Clerk called everyone in and stipulated that the starts could not be too slow. With everyone now on the same page, the start went well generally speaking although not for us: 6th is a dog of a starting position and we slipped to 7th. As Junior got himself up into 5th, I was starting to look towards the final: 3rd row on the favoured line, a 5th-placed finish could really put us in the mix for the podium positions. It didn’t quite go to plan. Instead of pulling away from his pursuers, Junior didn’t seem able to shake them off. He lost and then regained 5th as they set off on the final lap but, when the karts came back into my view, Junior was 6th. The lad that had pipped us, punched the air as he took the flag: I was pleased for him; he’s a really nice lad who had travelled a long way but I just wished it hadn’t been us! We were also a full second off of the leader’s pace although, admittedly, she was 0.6s clear of the field!!!

The pre-final had badly hampered our chances of a good result in the final: a 5th-placed almost guarantees you’ll take The Hook in 4th, putting you right in the race. Sixth is a totally different affair: you’ll very likely exit The Hook in 7th at best and, even if you make it into 5th, the front four will  have cleared off, as they had been doing all day. Tyre choice had become the critical factor: the track was still damp, we’d switched to inters for the pre-final but Junior didn’t have the grip he wanted. The track was continuing to dry although the clouds were getting lower once again and rain looked a distinct possibility. Time for some more help! This time from my pit buddy who had given us a roof for the day (I’m as endebted as ever, Mr B!): we talked tyres for a long time but, even after that, we reached the dummy grid not really knowing which way to go. We a couple of minutes left before race time, I made something of a left-field proposal to Junior and we made some quick changes. It wasn’t really like we had much to lose and, having seen the size of the trophies, Junior really wanted one!!!

As expected, Junior slipped to P7 from the start. He was 6th by lap #3 and 5th by lap #5. He then made a mistake challenging for 4th and it looked like our game was over as 3rd and 4th pulled a 2-second gap on us. Losing that place in the Pre-Final was going to prove costly. Or so I thought! Junior was looking so much quicker than at any other time during the day. The gap was closing but it looked as if the chequered flag would come too soon. Junior entered the final lap a couple of kart lengths adrift but made a nice move into The Hook. The other lad wasn’t going to give this one up though and the two squeezed through The Hook side-by-side and disappeared from my view. You know those moments when your lad disappears from view and you just have to wait for what seems like an eternity before he comes back into view, a bit like that moment in Apollo 13 where Mission Control wait for radio contact after re-entry without quite the same level of drama or peril? It was just like that 😉 The karts were still side-by-side when they came back into view! I’m not sure how they got around The Dell together but Junior had the inside line as they ran up Hangar Straight for the final corner. “Go on, son: just hang him out here”. Would Junior cutely run him wide to prevent the cut-back? Oh yes!!! Junior hung on by half a kart length; it was one of those dad-silenty-fist-pumps-to-himself moments 🙂 We haven’t had too many of those. In fact this was probably only the third after our maiden 3rd place as a novice when Junior completed the last four laps with his exhaust hanging off and our maiden heat win at Llandow in September. Junior was really pleased, he even wanted to give me a hug! To give him his due credit, I think it was the best he’s ever raced. It was so nice to see him racing hard, racing cleanly and coming out on top (I say ‘see’ but, since I was stood on Raymonds, I missed most of the lap). He earned lots of plaudits too from those who had watched from the viewing balcony. I’d really loved to have seen it first hand!

And that was that: the end of our MSA season at Llandow. My thanks should go out to the club who put on a really enjoyable event and whose offers attracted TKM drivers from far and wide 🙂 and especially to those who, over the course of the day, helped me to dial-in what was in hindsight a pretty poor wet setup. I’m not surprised that Junior struggled in the morning! Never mind the driver, *I* lacked wet setup experience and this was probably the most important learning we’ll take from the weekend. With the fastest three drivers all moving to Super One and Extreme, the future for the TKM grid at the track is uncertain 🙁 With said driver’s dads being my closest chums at the track, it seemed like the end of an era too. It was really nice to spend the weekend amongst almost all of my karting friends (there were quite a few old faces from Clay racing in Extreme or Senior Rotax). Where we go from here is uncertain: Junior is 16 and could go to Extreme but, after Bambinos and Formula Blues, lead weight is my next pet hate!!! I only learnt recently that he’d like to do Super One although there are several reasons why this isn’t going to happen; cost and equipment being the main ones although I think he’s proabably a little inexperienced also: he’s very keen but he’s set the bar quite high with racing against very quick friends who started long before he did. We’ll contest the Clay Pigeon IKR Winter Series to give him build on his racecraft and assess the state of the Junior TKM grids in the vicinity. Luckily for us, we aren’t likely to come across the Celtic Challenge winner too often in 2016 😉

Cost of race day: Practice fee £40, Entry fee £27 :), petrol (car) £10, fuel (kart) £12, bridge toll £13

Total spent this year: £5,036 < Holy sh*t, our most expensive year to date!!!

Disaster at Llandow

The weekend had been non-stop: an early start at Clay for IKR coupled with the need to dry the kart along with all of my tools and spares that had gotten soaked when the awning gave up meant there wasn’t time to do much other than a quick shower before getting everything ready for Llandow. Having a one-point lead in the battle for second spot in the championship, the conditions really went against us in so far as we’d been doing quite nicely with a very settled setup for approaching six months. At least we had the luxury of fresh rubber (back-to back days, no less!).

We arrived to a depressingly deserted paddock and, with more rain forecast, got a similarly depressing answer when I enquired about a potential space in one of the garages 🙁 Considering the options, we decided upon a tiny spot which had protection from the wind on the two most important sides although it meant working in the mud for the day. I’d changed little from the Clay setup in anticipation of further rain but, although the track was wet, there hadn’t been any further rain since the early hours. For the warm-up, we faced a choice: scrub in the slicks in what could best be described as sub-optimal conditions or find the grip on the inters. We were alone in opting for the former much to the amusement of some of the others but I felt we’d benefit by having the slicks scrubbed in if and when we came to bolting them on. Junior lapped at his own pace and kept it on the grey stuff although reported that he didn’t think that the carb was picking up as it should. This was where not having taken part in Saturday practice was coming to bear; it was the carb that we’d ran on all day at Clay and that I had cleaned and tested the evening before. No matter, I bolted on the race carb that I’d also tested the previous evening.

Disaster struck in Heat #1. Junior started his formation lap but, as the grid slowed coming out of The Dell, I could see Junior struggling to keep the engine running. I ran from Raymonds to join the dad and the marshal that were trying to get him going: it was clear the kart wasn’t going to restart even though Junior was desperate for me to keep trying to get the engine started. Although I was gutted for him, I didn’t expect the outburst that I received as I pushed the kart up the straight: it was embarrassing both from the perspective of other dads hearing him talk to me like that and to see him losing the plot completely. We had had a DNS on two occasions before: once when I had put a carb gasket on upside down back (!) in our time at Clay and more recently when a stalled kart in front of him at the dummy grid exit gate forced him to stop and his kart just never restarted; each time he’d been frustrated and I absolutely understand it but I’d never seen anything like this. We had a few quiet words back at the car to ensure that this never happened again. For me, our karting career is not about winning: we absolutely seek to be competitive but I put in all of my spare time and money into something that we both have to enjoy. If he ever stopped enjoying it, we’d retire in an instant but it’s something I do for the enjoyment of us both and, at that point, I wasn’t having much fun. It got worse…

The carb wasn’t holding any pressure whatsoever. We swapped it over, bolted on the race engine (given the drying conditions) and spent a good amount of time in the starting area making sure that the carb and engine were revving as best they could. Junior started on pole and we agreed that he just had to go out there, race, enjoy it and see how things panned out. As he approached me at the final corner of the formation lap he was shaking his head and holding the airbox. I knew in an instant what was wrong. Although I didn’t blame myself for the carb going down there was only one person responsible for this: the jubilee clip around the airbox hadn’t been tightened. Every mechanic will make a mistake from time-to-time but why now??? This might well have been a new low. Junior started and quickly dropped through the field; he was driving one-handed and holding the airbox in place until he reached the hairpin where he had to use both hands on the wheel and would then need to find and re-attach the airbox and carry on. He was in a tussle for last place, lapping 0.8s off the pace when he got the mechanical with three or four laps remaining. What could I do other than apologise? Just when we had needed to be at the very top of our game, a mechanical and then a mechanic problem had sunk our challenge for second place. After our discussion following Heat #1, Junior was understanding: we win or lose as a team. Luckily he was still feeling bad about the outburst earlier!

The day couldn’t really get much worse although we tried our best. Heat #3 was the cutover to slicks. Or was it? Why is it always the JTKM grid that seem to face that crucial decision first? Every other race before us had seen the grids on wets. There hadn’t been any rain all morning but it looked pretty bleak. The forecast was for more rain to come. It was too close to call so I left it to Junior. It wasn’t as though it would cost us the championship anyway! We bolted on the ‘very used’ inters as every other drive bar one went for slicks. And then it rained!!! But not for long enough and the sky was suddenly looking brighter as the drivers went out on track. Junior started in third and used his grip to make into The Hook in first. He quickly had a 2-second lead but that soon began to deteriorate and our misery was complete as we found ourselves adrift by the end of the race. To add insult to injury, it rained as we pushed the kart back to the paddock. Shit happens, huh?

There was no chance of making the wrong tyre choice for the final which would see us start in an impressive last place! Junior would have to make speedy headway if he was going to challenge for the podium but the pack quickly stretches as the rear of the field try to sort themselves out through The Hook at the start, even when the field is fairly small as it was here. Junior was 4th after the first lap but the front three were clear and Junior was making little impression. To his credit he plugged away and caught the third-placed driver late on as he dropped away from the front two. It was a minor consolation for such a bad day in the office.

We just about managed to get packed up before the inevitable rain arrived. The McDonalds tasted ever more dour than usual and it was nice to get home, pack up, shower and crack open a beer. With our participation in the Clay IKR winter series, we wouldn’t be taking December off as we had done last year. As I would really have like to have done at that moment…!

Cost of race day: Entry fee £55, Maxxis slicks £147, petrol (car) £10, fuel (kart) £9, bridge toll £6

Costs since last post: Front sprocket £13

Total spent this year: £4,855 < I think we could be heading for a new annual record!!! 🙁

Buy cheap, buy twice

I’m the sort of bloke who likes to do things his own way. I’m do look for different/better/cheaper ways of doing things. Sometimes I am very happy with the outcomes: the FP7 bodywork, custom decals, changing to an Alfano ADM. S but sometimes these things don’t pay off, action cameras would be a good example. Having tried an ActionPro back in 2013 that just wasn’t up to the shake-athon that is karting (the waterproof case broke, as did its replacement), I had bought a Sony for Christmas. I had high hopes for this but it, too, failed to cope with the demands of karting. Whilst the picture quality with the image stablisation was comparable to that of a GoPro, it appeared to suffer from an issue whereby the vibration was moving the battery sufficiently to power off the unit! My success rate in actually recording a session was around 20%. Then there was the problem that camera lacked a fully functional tile mount and I had to bodge a solution myself. It was a good job that I have GPS on the Alfano too, as the Sony’s… well, let’s just say you wouldn’t have recognised Llandow! The Sony went (quite literally) on eBay recently; when an item goes after 45 minutes you know it was probably underpriced! I have an option of a 4k GoPro loan whenever I need it so we’ll see how that goes.

Another purchase that didn’t pay off was a recent purchase of a box of Walbro carb kits from the US. $4.99 a piece was a great price. Too great in fact as the kits were non-Walbro. So much for the Walbro logo on the image!!! Another heading-straight-to-resale purchase :/

Switching topics completely, I was miffed to find Junior’s steering wheel turned out to be bent and in need of replacement. Luckily one came up on UK Karting and, on the day I was going to contact the seller to haggle a price, it was relisted with a £50 reduction 😀

Deja vu? I had expected the last one to last a little longer if I am honest :(

Deja vu? I had expected the last one to last a little longer if I am honest 🙁

Spent since last post: New OTK steering wheel £90

Total spent this year: £2,168

An early start to 2015

Although our kart was stripped in preparation for having the chassis powder coated, I took up the offer of a rolling chassis loan and we headed to Llandow for our first practice of the year. We had a few things on the agenda: make sure the Alfano ADM data logger (an eBay Christmas purchase) worked, test the case of carbs (another eBay purchase) that I had bought and sent straight off for cleaning and rebuilding and also to try out my own Christmas presents: a Sony AS30 Actioncam and a digital tyre pressure gauge.

We got a bit of a surprise when we turned up and the circuit was locked but we were still on track for the day’s first session a little after 10:30. It was a beautifully sunny winter’s day but there was a bitter wind and I opted to don the waterproofs to keep warm. We had a few early hiccups: Junior complained the seat was too small and that he was unable to turn the wheel! This was the seat that was two sizes bigger than his seat and that I had used for the IKR Parent’s Race but, once we had moved the steering column forward, he was happy. Thankfully the Alfano system worked perfectly so we could actually see what we were doing on track! We were with another JTKM and, despite the presence of a couple of Honda cadets, it was nice that the circuit maintained an open pit lane as it meant that we could pretty much come and go as we pleased, only having to make way for a handful of arrive/drive sessions. The cadets weren’t a problem either and Junior gave them plenty of space when he caught them.

The day went reasonably well; although I’m not sure that Junior is really consistent enough to get reliable data on the carbs (having said that, he did manage to post consecutive identical laps and follow them up with another 3/100ths slower!), he found one that he thinks that he had a preference for – it was the first time we’ve used an 820 although I wasn’t telling him the series as we tested them (I’ve not yet had a chance to look at the data from a carb perspective). He was getting much needed track experience and was trying some different lines in various parts of the track. On the downside, I didn’t really give the digital tyre gauge a proper test (I need to read the manual again! :S) and the Sony camera didn’t really do itself justice owing to a lack of mounting options – the flat mount that we had to use was too flat for the FP7 nassau and I think just moved to one side (the curved mount curved the wrong way to be of any use), it really needed screwing to the nassau. The footage was underwhelming too but this might be down to my laptop’s ability to playback 1080p @60fps. The Alfano data was, once I managed to install the software on Windows 8 and to get it talking to my laptop bluetooth, really impressive – after getting home, I was entertaining myself watching Junior’s laps racing themselves into the early hours.

Alfano's VisualData analysis software

Alfano’s VisualData analysis software

You can click the above pic to open a larger version. Clockwise from top-left is the RPM range histogram; lap deltas (entering the final hairpin both yellow and blue laps are ahead of his red lap, which was our fastest on the day – Junior’s blue lap loses 3.35m here!); the RPM (top) and speed (bottom) line graph; sectors table; track map showing acceleration/decceleration. As you can see, there is a gold mine of data in there! 😀

On the flip side, check out the Llandow track map according the Sony camera GPS:

This isn't actually the shape of the Llandow track :S

This isn’t actually the shape of the Llandow track :S

Cost of day: £35 practice fee, £6 bridge toll, £16 petrol, £6 fuel, £9 chain lube

Costs since last post: £70 carb cleaning and rebuilds, £30 cost of new OTK steering wheel after selling the F1 wheel

Total spent this year: £172

Push starting a TKM Direct Drive engine

It was really nice to see some noob JTKMs practising at Clay on Friday who were either first or second time out but, in the damp conditions, spinning was inevitable and I found myself becoming the Push Start Guardian for the morning. I didn’t mind, it’s a JTKM Dad rite of passage 😉 Each time I helped a Dad get their lad going, I’d look around to see him on the floor as his lad drove off(!) so here are my tips on how to start and direct drive engine without tasting the tarmac…

Firstly, it’s documented in way more detail than I will offer on Karting1.co.uk in their post ‘How to Bump Start a Kart‘. I’ll just summarise the basics and the golden rule:

In your pit bay, you need to properly prime the carb. To do so:

  1. Disconnect the short piece of fuel hose from the small overflow tank
  2. Disconnect the long piece of fuel hose from the carb
  3. Blow into the short hose until fuel runs out of the long hose (that is connected to the fuel tank but no longer connected to the carb)
  4. Reconnect the long hose to the carb
  5. Remove your spark plug (but leave it in the spark plug cap and sat on top of the engine to avoid any potential for electrical damage)
  6. Remove your airbox
  7. Cover the carb with your hand and rock the engine-side rear wheel back and forth to draw fuel into the carb until you feel the fuel on the hand covering the carb
  8. Your preparation work is done – you’ve done your bit to ensure that there is minimal air in the system. Optionally, you are ready to fire up the engine with a handheld starter if you seek additional piece of mind. Obviously, you want to replace the spark plug before doing so (and you will find that you will leave it out and you will look daft when you try starting your driver – it’s just one of those noob things!).

Now push is going to come to shove, quite literally so with the kart on the grid…

  1. Get the driver to lean forward (it helps lessen the mass you’ll be lifting)
  2. Hold the rear bumper in the right hand (which will be doing most of the lifting)
  3. Hold the back of the seat with the left hand (which won’t be doing much lifting)
  4. Lift the kart – you don’t need to lift very high, in fact the lower the better
  5. GOLDEN RULE: LOOK UP, NEVER LOOK DOWN!!!
  6. Run as fast as you can for 5-10 yards
  7. Drop the kart down
  8. Keep pushing until it picks up. Driver will need to feather the throttle pedal until the engine starts to pick before accelerating away.

An engine with a properly primed carb should not require ‘choking‘ but an unwilling engine can be helped by the driver placing their hand over the airbox trumpet momentarily to increase the fuel to air ratio. Do this too much and you will flood the engine!

There is one other tip that I found helped us greatly (when we bought the kart it took a long run to get going and, after this tweak, it took a matter of yards). It’s a little more technical so please seek expert advice if you are unsure!

You can help yourself by ensuring that your carb butterfly is slightly open so that, when you hold it up to the light, you can just see daylight around the outside of the butterfly. This is the butterfly:

TKM_Carb

It is adjusted by the idle adjust screw as illustrated on p27 of Tal-Ko’s BT82 Parts and Drawings Guide. It’s worth emphasising that inappropriate changes to carbs can be seriously damaging to your wealth! Again, if in any doubt, please ask a more experienced TKM mechanic.

Hope this helps!

Race 3: um… a trifle disappointing if I’m honest!

Remind me to write these posts up a bit sooner!  We had our third race last weekend; as we had had to test the Saturday before to ensure our motor was ok, we missed the practice day and just attended the race day. I was very keen to see how we fared in the dry conditions – we hadn’t really had a chance to gauge our dry pace on a race day and Junior had looked pretty good in difficult conditions the week before. Although we are all at sea in the wet, I was optimistic that we may be in sight of land on a dry track.

As usual, we set off later than I had hoped but still got to Clay quicker than we ever had before :O so were track-side at 8:15am and scrutineered by 8:30. Interestingly, we got our first scrutineer comment: he thought our brakes were a little iffy! That was a surprise as we’ve never had any issues and Junior has been really happy with them of late (I’ve checked them since and they feel ok!). Race mornings are always a little misleading – you think you have plenty of time before the warm-up until you realise that the sign-on and briefing take a good chunk of time. We were looking good until I found I couldn’t prime the carb – this was a new one! It was good last week but it just wasn’t allowing any fuel through. Annoyingly, I had taken our bad carb in for rebuild during the week and had completely forgotten to pick it up!!! I put on our second carb (which had been our best one until our problems at Dunkeswell), primed it with no issues and it started fine.

I sent Junior our for his warm-up and took my marshalling position (I can’t stand watching from the pit lane so sign up as a pusher and stand on the designated marshal post). It immediately obvious that something wasn’t right: we were properly slow, as in two thirds of a lap after three laps slow. Junior came in and said he just had no pick-up from 10,000rpm. I didn’t need to hear this – a return of the revs issue and around 45 minutes to solve the problem wasn’t good. I got the non-priming carb out, replaced the gaskets, sprayed the gauze filters and put it on the kart. To my huge relief, it primed perfectly 🙂 To the races…

The kart started perfectly and Junior’s start was good; there was a coming together going into Billies that Junior had to dodge and he was in touch exiting the Hairpin but, between The Horshoe and the Top Bend, we seemed to have lost a fair amount of time. This set the scene for the day – I watched Junior gradually losing ground and finish 18s behind over 9 laps. I was a bit deflated at this – I was really hoping we’d be 1.2-1.5s off. Although my experience with getting this tyre pressures right in sub-optimal conditions is limited, I was pretty certain we were in the right ball park. We just seemed to lose so much ground in certain parts of the track, I couldn’t help but feel we just weren’t getting the lines and braking right. Junior complained of oversteer so I brought the rear width in by 20mm.

Heat 2 saw Junior get a ‘great’ start (he didn’t look last as he crossed the line!) and us narrow the gap between our fastest laps and those of the leaders (from 1.95s to 1.65s) and we finished 16s off the lead. That was encouraging – Junior felt the rear width change had made a good difference although, disappointingly, everybody else finished 😉

I decided to do a little testing – I took a tooth off the rear sprocket even though the Mychron suggested it wasn’t necessary to see if Junior felt a difference in either his exit or top speeds. He didn’t and posted an almost identical fastest lap. He did however get to have a race with one of his friends who had left the track in questionable circumstances and rejoined as Junior was passing. He was pleased to defend his 7th place 🙂

The final was notable only for the people leaving the track when trying to heat their tyres up!!!. Unfortunately Junior got collected and ended up down the bank on the exit of Billies. Not sure what the marshalling regulations say but I sprinted across the track to get him back but, with three karts off track, I figured we had to do whatever necessary to get the karts back on track. Unfortunately for me he was down a slope and, rather than turn the kart around and drag it back up, I was initially trying to push him up the hill with the back end lifted (also know as ploughing!!!). Another Dad helped carry his kart onto the track and he got going in time to join the second formation lap but his tyres were caked in mud :S At this point the karts had slowed ahead of the start and it meant Junior driving around with little chance of cleaning his tyres. He lost a lot of ground on lap one – almost certainly because of the mud – and was 22s adrift after the 11 laps. He set his best time of the day (37.52s) but was still 1.6s off the pace.

So we’d had a decent day running-wise, Junior had had another great time but the day, for me, was a bit of a disappointment. We were 1.5s off our best lap, although that was obviously in much warmer conditions, the leaders were probably 0.7s off their quicker times. We were again running on used tyres (they had probably done 50 laps) so that might account for a few tenths but I think there is still a lot of time to be found in our lines – it’s hard to gauge when you are viewing from a fixed point on the track; whether Junior had gone from taking too much speed into his corners to killing too much speed, I don’t know. I feel the need to get down to a non-race weekend practice session again so that we can get a decent amount of track time to try to figure things out. I realise that things will improve over time and with experience but, if I can accelerate that process, then I am all for it.

Cost of day: £12 petrol, £6 fuel for the kart, £23 race fee

Total spent so far: £4,181

Back from hols and ready to push on!

After aborting a planned practice at Dunkeswell at 6am on the day owing to a worsened weather forecast (should have gone), I’ve done nothing karting-related in the past couple of weeks. I enjoyed a week in the sun and the kart had remained untouched until this week when I decided to test my carbs with my ‘new’ popoff tester. I discovered that the carb on the kart was doing a poor job of holding pressure (popping at 11psi and slowly sinking to around 3psi) and that the carb we had run on for most of the year until I ruined the fuel inlet screen was a much healthier looking carb once I had replaced said ruined screen (popping at 10psi and holding at 6psi). I am wondering if this could have been a factor in our poor showing last time out given not a lot else had changed on the kart. Anyway…

I think I needed the time off to be honest and I plan to have a bit of a push to see if we can find some consistent speed with a view to the October round of the Clay Pigeon Kart Club  championship 🙂 We’ll hopefully be attending on consecutive weekends and, if we can get back to a point where we are around a second off the pace, then we’ll go for it next month.

Practice 8: a step backwards :(

Just when it looked like our issues were behind us too! I blame Junior – he was the one who commented on how we had run trouble-free last time as we were enroute to Dunkeswell. We left at 7:20am; 20 minutes later than I was hoping and got to the track just before practice started at 9:00am. It took a while to get our ‘new’ awning up, on which I had gone ‘halves‘ with another Dad and which we were using for the first time. Once the awning was up, tyre pressures set (annoyingly, I had forgotten to do over-inflate the tyres the night before), fuel added, carb primed and the kart started on the trolley I had missed not only the first session but there wasn’t enough of the second session left to make it worthwhile going out.

As it happened, I wish we had: we lasted only one lap of the third session as Junior came in reporting that the engine wouldn’t rev over 8,000rpm. What do I do about that? I’ve learnt a lot in five months of ownership but troubleshooting is an area where I really need to improve. I started the kart again on the trolley and it seemed ok but I wasn’t keen on trying to rev it excessively to see whether it would get into the upper range. Changing the carb seemed like a reasonable option and that appeared to do the trick as we ran for the whole of the next session – our only real track time (a whopping 10 minutes) in the first three hours! Things then took another turn for the worse as Junior crashed in the next session, running wide as he accelerated out of a corner, hitting the plastic barriers and putting a nice bend into a track rod. My spares package saved me once again 🙂 I had what I needed to fix the kart although during the repair a helping Dad noticed we had a fuel leak. I had semi-noted this earlier but put it down to fuel being spilt when it was being poured into the tank without checking it out properly. Note to self: investigate everything unusual – you’ve done this before!!! The fuel was leaking from a hairline crack in the tank which appeared to have been caused by my previously refitting the tank without a spacer between chassis and tank and then over tightening the tank fixing bolt. Without a replacement, I ran the fuel below the fixing bolt to minimise any spillage – I did have a spare fuel tank at home but hadn’t envisaged any scenarios where I would need it trackside!

It was 2:00pm by the time we were back on track. With only 23 laps in the bag we then managed to string back-to-back sessions together although our day ended at around 3:30 when Junior lost power and pulled off the track (at the far end of the track too!). The carb wasn’t holding fuel – you could see it was just running back into the tank. My good buddy/advisor and fellow Karting Dad tested the carb with a pop-off tester – it didn’t look great. My other carb (replaced in the morning) had a loose spring although that might have been a result of my botched attempt at checking it out earlier in the day. With some tweaking, we got one decent carb together but the engine still would not start on the trolley and we concluded that we were losing pressure because of the crack in the tank. And with that, our day was done 🙁

There were a few positives: I took the camera and got some decent pictures of Junior and some of the other lads who ran with us (I was one of four Dad/lad JTKM combos who had headed down for the day), we ran the Action Pro for a few sessions (although suffered from some pretty bad vibration on the nassau) and I also started to make session notes so that I could gauge the effect of any setup changes (I was experimenting with different exhaust flex lengths). They were mostly outweighed by the negatives though: only 55 laps done, 0.8s slower than our only other visit to the track, a fuel issue to take home to troubleshoot and the realisation that we definitely aren’t ready to race at Clay next month. I was also bothered by my reliance on others to help me get to the bottom of the problems which, I felt on at least one session, meant their lads were sitting out as they tried to help (if you read this – sorry, mate!).

I need to work on my understanding of the carb and engine workings. I know you only really learn when you encounter a problem but I really want reduce my dependency on others generosity in helping. Mechanically inept? That is pretty much still the case – I’ve a still long way to go!

Cost of day: £18 petrol, £7 fuel for the kart (still plenty left from last time), £40 practice fee

Bits and pieces bought since last update: hose clips for exhaust end can: £2.50, 4mm self tapping screws for end can: £5, file for getting rid of deposits on axle (especially around my sprocket carrier!): £6, half-share of 6m x 3m awning: £30

Total spent so far (ouch – we’ve just passed £3k): £3,086