Our 2015 shakedown

Although we made an early start to the year in a borrowed kart, it was really good to get Junior out in his own kart at the weekend for a shakedown ahead of the opening round of the club championship next week. Having had the chassis stripped right down for a respray (that I susbsequently deferred in favour of touch-up), it’s always a welcome relief to see the thing remain in one piece! I had spent a good chunk of the Saturday trying to get my action camera optimally fitted. The Sony HDR-AS30V has so far seemed like a very nice piece of kit but it is woefully let down by Sony’s lack of mount options: No tilt mount was available at release date and when they did attempt to correct that omission, they produced a tilt mount that lacked full 180 degree movement, opting for one that rotates in 30 degree increments (which sucked on the nassau) 🙁 So I had bought some M3 bolts and rubber spacers in a bid to make something that at least worked for me.

It was a wonderfully sunny day considering the time of year. The track was already dry and grippy at 10am even if there were patches of frost remaining on the kerbs. Our first mission was to run in the practice motor. On the recommendation from my builder, we shortened the run-in time compared to the process we undertook for our race engine; Opting to spend a 10-minute session at 11,000rpm, 10-minutes at 13,000rpm and then a final 5-minutes at 15,000rpm. Running in after a full chassis strip was a good thing since the kart wouldn’t be worked too hard and I could check over all of the nuts and bolts whilst the engine was cooling down. After that we got on with our goal for the day: Improving Junior’s lines.

We’d talked about this. I don’t ever criticise Junior’s driving but there was a point a few weeks back where I told him that he needed to up his game if he wanted to compete this year. I’d be perfectly happy to carry on as we were if he was going to be happy finishing towards the back of the pack but, even allowing for some incompetence on my part, there were huge savings to be found in his driving. He didn’t like it at the time but I pay a lot of money in support of his enjoyment of this sport so, from time to time, I say my piece and expect him to listen to it! We walked the track first thing and agreed that we’d work on getting The Dell sorted. It is an important corner at Llandow, especially for Junior as he tends to lose time in Sector 1 so is often under pressure here as they enter the main passing zone.

Things went pretty well for us, lap-wise. Although the track was disappointingly busy so there were two groups of owner/drivers (2-strokes and 4-strokes) in addition to the odd arrive/drive session, which meant that we only got in 61 laps, Junior worked really well to the extent that he lapped within a tenth of his personal best time. The camera worked really well, the mount didn’t snap (for now) and the Alfano continues to impress me. Video footage of one of his sessions can be found on YouTube although I still haven’t mastered the quality loss that YouTube’s encoding process seems to inflict and I have no idea why I am the only one who can view the video at 1080p 60fps :S

Sony video footageWe had a couple of mishaps: one of Junior’s friends wanted to try our kart as he had some issues with his own but he only got in two laps before the chain snapped. Not really sure what caused it – I’d never had a chain snap until we got a shunt towards the end of last season, when we lost our reliable Panther chain but this EZ chain lacked the longevity (and just as I was singing the virtues of our switch to Silkolene chain lube after two years tolerating the mess caused by my purchase of a job lot of tins of Rock!). I hadn’t realised that the Alfano wasn’t switched on so we don’t have any data to suggest whether or not the engine revs went through the roof. Following this our day ended prematurely when, in plunging temperatures, Junior lost it on the out lap and snapped the bumper bolt. This did annoy me, probably more than it should have, especially since I had put the tyres up for a test without forewarning him!

Cost of day: Practice fee £40, bridge toll £6, fuel £10, petrol £10, new chain £20

Total spent this year: £757

Race 14: A first podium!!!

I know that putting the plaque/sticker onto 30-odd trophies must get dull very quickly but they could have put ours on straight!

I know that putting the plaque/sticker onto 30-odd trophies must get dull very quickly but they could have put ours on straight!

Ok, so it wasn’t the most glorious of podium finishes: adrift of the front two and only claiming third following an unfortunate mechanical flag for the driver who was holding us off fairly comfortably but we aren’t fussy! Junior got a great start from fifth to keep out those on the even numbered side of the grid as they looked to stop the odd-numbered train steaming through. His starts have really improved over the past few months and gaining places has become quite common but this was the most impressive start I have seen him make so far – there really was only three kart lengths separating the first, third and fifth placed starters in the final. He was never going to deny the S1 driver that was behind him for very long though – Junior’s pace was good considering it was only his third race at Llandow but we had been at least half a second off the real pace for most of the weekend. Llandow is a pretty tough track to master and, although I was hoping that we might be a couple of tenths closer than last time, our tyres (on their third race day) definitely had their best days behind them and I hadn’t changed the kart setup to accommodate the track which was a fair bit quicker than I had expected (the rain that had been passing over us for most of the day only finally arrived after racing had finished). As soon as the race was over, my focus switched to hoping/praying that we made it through scrutineering, having never gone through anything more than a brief carb measurement check before – our weight was perfect, only 300g over minimum weight and then it was onto the the engine check. Although I had had the engines confirmed legal only the previous week, it was still one of those moments where you just hope there is nothing wrong and, happily, that was the case!

The rest of the weekend had been somewhat uneventful, barring a major mechanic’s faux pas – we’d spent the Saturday on the practice engine and switched to the race engine for the final session of the day. Surprisingly we were three tenths slower and I’d spent most the journey home pondering which engine we should start with for the race day; had the track slowed that much? Had the bigger bore that was enforced upon us at the last rebuild affected the performance of the race engine? We decided to go with the practice motor for race day and were at the track nice an early on the Sunday morning to get the kart ready. I put the engine on and was just boasting to one of the other dads how nice a feeling it is when you get your engine mount bolts in the right place first time (if there is a secret in doing this consistently, please let me know!) as Junior was filling out the scrutineering form. As I went to confirm the engine number (the engine is still relatively new to me and has a two-digit combination of numbers that I keep getting muddled), I realised that I had put the race engine on. I couldn’t understand how this could be – the last engine we used on the Saturday still had the Mychron rev wire attached. It was then that I realised we had spent most of Saturday putting unwanted hours on the race engine!!! That also explained why we were three tenths off in the last session :S Our race engine lives in a certain box and, when then engines had had their cranks aligned, they must have gone back in the wrong boxes.

As for the heats, we were drawn 2-6-6 for the second successive month, which Junior really was unhappy about. I had emailed the club after last month’s meeting to express my dissatisfaction about a) having received the unfavoured even-numbered draw in all three heats (everyone should get at least one odd-numbered start) and b) receiving the same grid position for two of the three heats (a new experience for us at the time). The club assured us that the draws were random and I have no qualms about that but the process for doing so is clearly pretty poor, doing only the minimal to keep the drivers grid draws adding up to roughly the same whilst taking little else into consideration (our 2-6-6 draw being vastly inferior to the 7-3-3 of another driver, for example – especially once you consider their placings after the first bend). The club use the MyLaps timing system, a poor substitute for Alpha Timing in my opinion but it does its primary job (timing) and is probably a fair bit cheaper at a time when the clubs entry numbers are worryingly low (42 this month!). MyLaps does not have the grid draw functionality and the club are using something called Super Sports, which I know nothing about! I’ve been in touch with the club again since and I might even try to write something that might be able to do a better job but I was also at pains to point out that, whilst this could be improved, we’ve really enjoyed every other aspect of racing at the club since we came for the first time in August.

Back to the racing, Junior started on the outside in heat one and losing only one place around the first hairpin was a minor success in itself! We lost a couple more places over the course of the race to the quicker drivers but held onto fifth which was a decent result. Heat two was a low point, Junior had a driver all over him although we clearly had the legs on them in the straight. As he disappeared out of my view (somehow my ‘pushers’  bib was a different number to last time but was still assigned the post in the furthest corner of the track!), I heard a thump and the commentator announced excitedly “And he’s gone off, that was a huge impact”, there were an anxious few moments before Junior came back into view – his rival’s brake disc had snapped and he had hit the back of Junior before ploughing into the tyres. A few laps later our chain snapped – our very first chain snap and very likely a result of the incident a few laps earlier. Heat three saw us continue to trail the pace by half a second. We gained a place to finish fifth again and match our fastest time of the day. The day was nothing more than ok until the final and I really wonder whether a set of Maxxis slicks are good for racing anywhere more than twice – I had hoped it might just have been Clay, although the first race on these tyres at Clay had taken a surprising amount of tread from them. I still hope we can do three races on a set at Llandow alone.

So a second trophy for the Junior’s shelf (no signs of needing a cabinet just yet!).

Cost of weekend: £95 race entry and practice, £24 petrol, £10 fuel, £13 bridge toll, £160 new slicks (for next month), seat strut and new chain

Spent since last post: £170 crank alignment, a new seal and a sprocket

Total spent this year: £4,130 :S