Race 12: Feeling a bit flat

It’s definitely a bad sign when you get up on a race morning and it’s still dark! Having opted to skip the shortened practice day, I had had the luxury of spending an unexpectedly large chunk of Saturday preparing the kart. There was still a small question mark over the axle following our last test day and, in the end, I decided to revert to our backup axle. Of course there was the usual last minute changing of the tyres too – I left it late to decide upon which rims to use and *really* struggled with getting new front slicks on with my girly office finger muscles 🙁

We arrived at the track at 8am and was relieved to find nobody else occupying our space 😉 It was one of those perfect prep mornings where we found ourselves scrutineered, signed on and waiting for an acceptable time to start the engine on the trolley (just to make sure all is well) an hour ahead of the first race. Things had gone a little too well obviously as our three lap warm-up was curtailed after I spotted the engine side of Junior’s bumper dragging along the track. After snapping two bumpers in testing, I’d reverted to slacking the bumper bolts a little to allow some movement on contact and, although the nylocs were threadlocked, I already had some doubts over the quality of the threadlock adhesive! It made a pleasant change for junior to a) see my signalling to him and b) actually take any notice of it! My £11 and one month old bumper bolt was no more…

With the bumper fixed tight, we started in 5th for Heat 1. We seemed to get another good start, making up at least one place but then something happened, the pack shuffled and we got spat out in last place! From there on, it was pretty unexciting for us as we were at the back of a couple karts that were held up and drifting further away from the leaders. Junior didn’t put in a bad time – a 35.9s was a decent start for the first race of the day and we weren’t last (although only because of a DNF) but we still had the age old problem of not really ever being close enough to threaten a pass.

Heat 2 was always going to be the highlight of the day (and our best chance of not finishing last) as we started on pole. For the first time, we managed to lead out of the first corner and even lead the whole of the first lap! 😀 We had a quick kart behind us though and, when he made a move into The Hairpin, we were pushed wide, giving up second in the process. Lunging into The Hairpin is becoming a particular beef of mine – this move was cleaner than a lot of moves I see there but maybe Junior needs to be less compliant in getting out of the way – get his elbows out a bit more and earn a reputation as someone who won’t just get out of the way. As I have said before, the officials can penalise under reg C2.3.3 “Gained an unfair advantage – The hearing has determined that you have gained an advantage over another driver(s) by the manner of your driving. You may not have actually made contact, but your position on the track may have unfairly impeded the other driver(s)”. The way I see it, if you muller the apex with half of your kart off-track and with no chance of actually getting around the corner unless the kart ahead takes avoiding action, you deserve this one thrown at you. I’ve not seen this rule used in a no-contact incident and, to be honest, I cannot see anything changing in that respect. We got passed for third a few laps later but finished fourth with relative ease, mostly thanks to the rest of the field being held up. We did set a new PB in the proces, however 😀 It also confirmed Junior’s preference for his CRK steering wheel.

I put the newly run-in race engine on for Heat 3, not that I suspected there was any problem with the other engine but I just wanted to compare the two and this was the first real chance for us to do so. We started last but only made up one place and finished 5th after another DNF. Frustratingly, Junior said he could feel no difference between the engines. AT ALL!!! :/ I also screwed up in not attaching the Mychron rev wire to the coil lead and it dropped off somewhere on track. Would you believe that AiM charge £18 for a replacement?!? It’s just a piece of wire! Another Dad gave me some wire to create a replacement but it meant I had no data to compare the rev ranges of the engines. We were 0.03s slower than in Heat 2 and that wasn’t enough to tempt me to switch the engines back!

There had been what seemed like ten red flags during the day, mostly involving the cadets from what I saw. One driver actually suffered some fairly serious injuries and you obviously cannot afford to take chances with the kids. That said, you do wonder sometimes if kids are told to stay in their karts so that they can take their previous lap position on the restart. Evidence of this was a Dad shouting at his kid to stay in the kart earlier in the season! I think there comes a point when you have to say enough is enough; two red flags and that should be that – end the race under yellow flags. No overtaking and no manipulation of the result because Little Timmy span out and wishes he could rewind one lap. The races were running very late but, to the club’s credit, they skipped lunch and honoured their commitment to 6 minute heats and a 10 minute final 🙂

Sixth, fourth and fifth placed finishes weren’t enough to stop us starting last of seven for the final 🙁 One of our opponents had seemed to be struggling for pace but he was starting directly in front of us. The mission was simple: pass him as quickly as possible and try to hang on to the pack. I’d given us a little more straight line speed to try to give us a better chance down the straight and into Billies. Our start was predictable – we failed to clear fifth, who quickly became sixth and got stuck for a couple of laps and were adrift by the time Junior made the pass. With the pack racing amongst themselves there was still hope and it briefly appeared that we might get back in touch with the pack. It never happened, even when the leader went off and rejoined ahead of us and giving us the opportunity to try to tag along as he caught the pack towards the end of the race. An incident on the final corner saw us gain another place – 5th wasn’t a bad result but we were a couple of seconds adrift, never really in touch and a little disappointed. In hindsight I think that this was a fairly accurate representation of where we are right now – a few tenths off the pace and lacking in the consistency that would keep us in touch. Perhaps it’s unreasonable to expect more given the amount of time we spend on track.

We race at Llandow Kart club this weekend, hoping to begin bridging the gap that seems to exist between the first four and everybody else. It’s going to be a long weekend as I fly in from the US on the Saturday morning but hopefully our performance will be good and the day will be a good one.

Cost of raceday: £50 entry fee, £12 petrol, £7 fuel

Total spent this year: £3,573

When is a race day too short?

It’s going to be a busy day at Clay this weekend as there are four guest classes at the track – Junior Blue, Formula Blue, World Formula and RAFMSA will all be sharing the Dorset countryside with us. And that sets of my track time alarm!!! As my Facebook friends, or at least those that are still following my whining ways, will confirm I do go on a bit (which would be ok were the Club Competition Secretary not on there as well!). So, although I’ve said this elsewhere, I want to reiterate my appreciation of the job performed by the CompSec and I am sorry for any social media ear-bashing that you get from me on behalf of the club (even though it isn’t aimed at you)!

I do seem to be alone in being hung up on track time. For Junior, a race is too short if he is doing well and too long if things aren’t going quite so well. We’ve had a few too many long races at Clay recently :/ Other drivers don’t seem to mind and the Dads are happy that a shorter race day will mean lower costs, with less tyre wear, less fuel, less potential for damage but at what point do the races become too short to warrant the £150-odd cost of a race day? We moved from A&D karting initially because the value for money of owner driving was greater – £72 for 24 mins track time in the Castle Combe Club Championship whereas we were spending around £120 for 90 mins or more when we started doing practice days and in a much quicker kart. Obviously those costs spiral when you start racing. I’ve always been keener on longer races as we need the race experience and Junior typically wants to drive as much as he can. With the race days at Clay having gone from 8 min +1 lap heats and a 12 min + lap final earlier in the year to a 6 min +1 heats and 9? min + 1 final last month, I feared the worst but the club has managed to preserve 6 min +1 lap heats and a 10 min +1 lap final. I’m not sure how the officials and track staff will view the 15 minute lunch break!

The even bigger bee in my bonnet for this round was the potential for the club to decide to once again start the (slower) Junior Blues ahead of the (faster) JTKMs in a combined grid. They did this in March which had disastrous results for us as we were involved in an incident which saw us off at the fastest corner and then our kart was hit whilst I  attempted to remove it from danger (as the little darlings seemed to be unaware as to what exactly a yellow flag meant). I still begrudge the £72 it cost me to replace the two-race old axle (no, I haven’t done enough karting yet to shrug this kind of outlay off!) but it could have been a lot worse (for me physically, had I not dropped the kart and jumped out of the way) and I’ll always be suspicious that my subsequent comments online (you can do the detective work yourselves) were the cause of our black flag the following month. So my Facebook wall wasn’t quite the happy place I would normally expect it to be of late and I held off from entering until the grid issue was confirmed – we’ll have our own grid and won’t have to contend with slower karts in another class starting in front of us just because they have a ‘big race’, taking defensive lines against faster karts that they aren’t even competing with, or running them wide, or trying to run me down!

Onwards and upwards anyway 😉 I am quite looking forward to this Sunday and it’s a shame that a shortened practice (more Formula Blue inconvenience 😛 ) mean that it is not really worth our while in running on the Saturday. We won’t get to run the final check to ensure the axle is good after our issues as our last practice day but Saturday will be a relaxed day spent getting the kart setup. After our dire weekend last month, we’ll be on new (as in 2014 new) rubber for the first time on the new (as in 2010 new-to-us) chassis and I am really keen to see how we go. Of course, four 7th place finishes wouldn’t be conducive to a happy trip home.

Have fun if you are racing this weekend 😀 If you see what appears to be a ginger rocket in the southern skies at around 7:30am, you’ll know I’ve arrived to find someone in my pit space 😡

Spent since last post: New carb popoff tester, £32; lots of TKM carb gaskets, £25; a 35ft roll of exhaust wrap (still haven’t found one with any longevity and if you want to try some of this titanium stuff, come and see me in the pits!), £35.

Total spent this year: £3,749

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


Race 10: our worst performance since our Novice days :(

The August round of the Clay Pigeon Kart Club Championship was a weekend to forget. It started ok – we put 15 minutes on the race engine but spent the remainder of the day chasing 0.8s. Ok, we were on some fairly old tyres but there wasn’t much fun to be had. Sunday promised to be better – the forecast was for heavy rain, which was just as well as we were looking to stretch a set of Maxxis slicks three race days!

Sunday morning was very wet. Wet that was until just before we joined the dummy grid for our 3-lap warm up. We ran in the wets but the track was already starting to dry. Worst still, we were on second race – there would be no time to change from the *very* wet setup I have concocted. Given that we were probably four teeth higher than most others on the grid, we fared as expected and were almost a second off of the pace. The day progressed but the same could not be said for our performance; we put in the same lap times on three different sized sprockets (ranging from 77 to 82!) and had our first ever ‘DNS‘ in Heat #3 – I had cleaned the carb and then put the gasket on upside down. Unfortunately, the carb managed to prime on the stand but it doesn’t tend to start very well when not drawing fuel and I gave up as I pushed him around The Kink. Driver wasn’t please at all. I told him a carb gasket had torn… 😉

To give Junior his dues, his approach to the final was fairly lighthearted and positive – he drove around at the back whilst attempting to control the oversteer and looked like he was having fun. I thought his driving in to the pits on his final lap prior to taking the chequered flag was him proving a point but it seems that either he got it wrong or they showed him the Last Lap sign prematurely as he was so far behind! With hindsight, I guess the tyres just don’t last three races at Clay. I really wish Tal-Ko would reverse their decision to produce softer tyres – the fact that the Clay IKR series uses the SLC and mandates that they be used for three races is a big attraction for 2015. I bought a new set of slicks from the shop just to cheer Junior up 🙂

Cost of weekend:£35 practice fee, £50 race entry, £24 petrol, £7 fuel
Cost of accessories: sprocket protectors: £18, fuel hose: £1, new slicks: £150

Total spent this year: £3,260

Race 9: The good, the bad and the ugly

The past week has been a mad rush – Junior had a work experience placement at Codemasters so this meant getting as much of the kart preparation as possible done last weekend. We travelled up to Warwickshire on Monday, I dropped him off and then went to collect my new engine and also drop our race engine off for a rebuild. Whilst doing this, it was pointed out to me that the barrel on the race engine had a scratch between the inlet ports that it was feared could be a crack!!! Having to fund the new engine and a rebuild in the same month, I’d have been screwed had it needed a new barrel. Fortunately it this was not the case although I’ve yet to get it back.

Anyway I stayed away with Junior during the week and only on Friday did I decide we would do both days of the Clay Pigeon Kart Club Charity Race Weekend, as opposed to just the standard club raceday on the Sunday. Friday night was a late one and I think I got the tyres changed at around 11:30pm and then set the alarm for 6:00am :/

The Bad

Saturday was definitely the bad day – it started off with my pit neighbours encroaching into our spaces to the extent that we couldn’t get our 6x3m awning up. So, whilst they enjoyed lunch in the shade, my ginger ass was melting in the sun – cheers for that! 😛

The club used a GP format for the Saturday, with practice, qualifying, one heat, a pre-final and a final. Qualifying went badly: Junior lost his transponder on lap #2. Fortunately, it didn’t hit anybody (but only just). Then I upset the scrutineer who, when checking the kart over, started marking up the carb and asked if this was the engine I would be racing on. I replied that I’d be changing that carb (it was the first time we had used it and Junior hadn’t looked particularly quick), at which point he told me to get my kart out of the way and muttered something which I assumed meant he wanted to see the carb I would be using. I came back and fitted the replacement carb!!! Doh! He wasn’t happy at all. It was an honest mistake – we’d only been scrutineered once before (last year when we finished third of three at the Turkey Trot). At this point he wanted to speak to the Chief Scrutineer? (this may not have been her title) and, after ignoring me whilst he scrutineered the entire senior grid that had now come in, I went and checked with her myself. Obviously I realised immediately what I had done wrong (as in not touching the kart whilst it is in scrutineering) and I was fortunate that the Chief Scrutineer only wanted both carbs checked and told me not to do it again! :/

Worse, was the fact that we had no pace whatsoever – we were just being driven past for fun. Junior was complaining the engine was not picking up out of the corners and blaming the new engine. I thought it was a grip problem and did what I could to lose some. In the heat, we were last of the finishers, six tenths off of the pace. The pre-final was slightly more interesting as Junior nudged his friend (with whom we share an awning but also have what would sometimes be described as a little more than a friendly rivalry), gained a spot but then spent the rest of the race waving his arm at every nudge he received until he lost the place a few laps from the end. He was very angry but not as angry as me – how he could be so upset at being on the receiving end when he had gained a place from dishing it out? I was properly annoyed! We had a few words in the car (the words were mostly flowing in his direction). We finished sixth in the final although I have no recollection of it whatsoever. On a slightly positive note, we had lapped within a tenth of our fastest time at Clay but it was scant consolation given how far we were off of the pace.

The good

The drive to the track on Sunday was a long one. Not the time spent driving back down to Dorset but just the knowing that there really wasn’t much cause for optimism. We would be on slightly newer used tyres but, if the track conditions were the same, it was going to be another bleak day. I had a single setup change that I wanted to make (that  was inspired by a chat in the Gents with the MSA Steward after racing on Saturday!). Other than that, I was hoping there had been significant overnight rain to freshen things up.

The rain had been minimal but it was notably cooler. We got the kart setup and crossed our fingers. Junior noticed the difference instantly – he was still well off of the pace but the three lap warm-up has never been about pace for Junior, it’s all about making sure the kart is working (I think this is a leftover from the days when it often wasn’t). Although we finished last of the finishers in Heat 1, as Junior gradually dropped back from a good start, he did set a new personal best – breaking 36 seconds for the first time 😀

Heat 2 was a shame – Junior made another good start but got clipped and spun around in The Esses and then shunted into the tyres. He picked up a few places after an incident took out a couple of karts and another was excluded. We were a little slower but Junior assured me he was taking it a little easier – and, of course, I believed him 😉 Heat 3 was a decent result for us as, although we dropped from 2nd to 5th, Junior was clear of the back half of the grid and set another PB.

The ugly

Sunday had been a decent day for us up until this point. Junior started 7th out of 10 and all I wanted him to do was to keep his nose clean from the start and enjoy the race. He made up a place at the start when kart ran off at The Esses, another couple when a couple of the front runners fell over each other and was then in a fight over 5th place with his friend and awning companion. These are the moments I enjoy the least as I am basically waiting for one to take the other out. Junior got a run up the inside into The Esses and his friend maintained the outside line. At this point it was going to take some very good driving for there not to be contact. Junior was ahead and on the racing line but needed to leave enough space around the inside of The Esses exit to avoid contact. He didn’t. His back wheel hit the front wheel of his friend’s kart and, although they both carried on, his friend lost time in the incident. It was one of those scenarios where I know Junior would have tried exactly the same thing had the boot been on the other foot and would have complained just as bitterly when he lost out.

But this wasn’t the ugly part!!! It turned out after the race that Junior had been the one who got caught out as the pack entered The Esses and shunted the kart in front off of the track. A first corner (or second in this case) at-fault incident was exactly what I was hoping to avoid. Fortunately, it hadn’t been reported – although there had been a fair amount of contact during the day which included us losing out so, had we been called into the Clerk’s office, I’d have been a tad upset! We clearly still have a thing or two to learn about close racing, however…

Back to the positives: we set another PB and, unusually, the JTKM final was early in the running order which meant we were home for Sunday roast (via McDonalds for a shake) by 6:30 – round about the same time we had left the previous month!

Cost of weekend: £100 race entry, £24 petrol, £7 fuel

Total spent this year: £2,452

TKM Dads Day Out :D

When I bought Junior’s kart, I would never have thought it would be 16 months before I got to drive it! The trouble is that, once you get into Dad/Lad karting, there are just too many other things that you can do with your time and money to help get Junior on the pace. To ensure that we finally addressed this, this day was pencilled in months ago as a number of Dads (and Mum!) had expressed a desire to join the fun.

Getting the kart ready had been a mad rush the night before – putting Junior’s old bodywork on as well as an old axle, sprocket, sprocket carrier and chain and fitting a seat I had borrowed in a bid not to crush my rib cage. That got finished at around 10:30. Then I had to change some tyres! So much for enjoying the World Cup opener :/ Getting to the track took almost twice as long as it did on Sunday  but the weather was glorious – easily the warmest I have experienced at Clay this year. With an Easykart race weekend at the track, I was a little concerned that the track might be busy but I needn’t have worried – with no skiving cadets, it was OPEN TRACK!!! 😀 I had no intentions of messing around with setups – just add fuel, set tyre pressures and drive.

The day didn’t get off to the best of starts – we lost a couple of drivers enroute who broke down, another Dad who had starting problems and another with airbox issues but we soon settled in. Not owning a racesuit, I used one of the circuit’s rental suits – I picked a nice looking one but only later found it had the name ‘AMY’  embroidered on it!!! The first session was good – although I did not once feel in total control of the kart, I was quick enough – a 37.7s wasn’t bad (I just wanted to get below 40s!) although it was a little hairy at times and I backed off when I thought I was pushing a little bit too keenly and was at risk of binning it. My tyre pressures were way to high though and I think I left most of the tread they had left on the track in the opening session.

As the day went on, I shave off 3/10ths and even more rubber – the tyres were shot by the day’s end. I only went off [properly] once, when my rear wheel touched the grass and I very quickly found myself facing backwards. I got a little bit smoother through the day although I will never be ‘Jenson-smooth’ and started to get The Hairpin and Horseshoe somewhere near right by the end. My ribs weren’t bad once I broke Junior’s rib protector and made do without it. Unfortunately for Junior, I *could* lock the brakes and make them squeal nicely into the fastest corners – so he’s going to have me back on his case on that one next month! The day ended with a fuel tank flapping around between my legs!?! I don’t forget to tie Junior’s tank to the chassis except when he isn’t driving it seems. There was still time for a go in another Dad’s TaG-engined JTKM which was a bit of an eye-opener – boy, does that thing pick up from the corners! I only did a few laps in it a) because I didn’t want to risk damaging it and b) there was a huge vibration on the left-hand side that was a bit off-putting! (we think he might have damaged it in an off earlier).

All-in-all it was a really enjoyable day – I’ve never bought so many drinks from the shop and I’ll never again complain about losing a minute from the races on a race weekend! I am not sure it is something I’d want to do every week but I’ll definitely be back at some point 🙂

Race 8: Can’t cope with too many more of these!

It would be fair to say I am still feeling pretty low about our race weekend. It’s a different kind of low to bad ‘day in the office’ feeling when you encounter problem after problem – the kart ran very well but we can’t keep getting caught up in situations; whether through our own fault or not and then having to defend ourselves in front of the stewards. It would be fair to say that I am already not looking forward to next month!

Saturday was a decent day; we ran well enough and Junior was enjoying ‘racing’ with his mates as they would revise the order in which they hit the track and then go for it. The play was a little rough at times but they would still come off the track smiling and, to be honest, hard racing experience is what we need. Unfortunately, in the final session of the day, we suffered a fair amount of damage when Junior found himself taken off-track by one of two karts in front of him that had come into contact in The Hairpin. We jumped the back wheel of the other kart and hit the tyre wall quite hard. The rear bumper-bolt had snapped, the seat cracked and the side pod bar, steering column and track rod were all bent. The icing on the cake was my best exhaust burn to date (rushing to get the kart out of danger whilst pushing by the bumper mount on the rear of the chassis is not recommended). Not really what you want when you are planning to get off the track a couple of laps early to join the scutineer queue and then get off home! With the help of a couple of the other Dads (and my ever decreasing stash of spares), we had everything done in a couple of hours and I was home by 9pm. I then had to visit A&E to get the burn sorted – it had blistered nicely and 111 were adamant it needed seeing :/

Not much sleep and a record journey time to Clay later (I had left the kart at the track), we were back at the track. It was very nice to find myself having to apply sun cream at 8am and we were ready in plenty of time. For the first time, Junior had fresh rubber on his kart – that’s right WE WERE USING NEW TYRES!!! 🙂 I’ll temper that now by saying that, although the tyres had never been used, they were made in 2012 and part of the retirement package that we had bought 16 months ago! We were about to find out if they were still good…

Heat one was excellent – Junior started fourth but gained an early place and was putting second under a fair amount of pressure for a time. Unfortunately, a failed passing attempt cost him and put him in the clutches of the fourth placed driver. He was passed and then got caught out on the last lap, leaving the door open at pretty much the last passing opportunity of the lap 🙁 Fifth place was a bit of a shame but we’d competed much more closely than we had ever done previously 🙂

It went south from there – we were summoned to the clerk’s office after finishing 5th in heat two; Junior was at the back of a group of four karts, the others were three-wide going into The Horseshoe. Three became two as one backed out but that caught Junior out and he punted them quite hard. He didn’t gain a place but it was duly noted. He hit the same kart again a few laps later as they fell over a Formula Blue that was wandering around in front (as Junior Formula Blues seem to have a habit of doing). The clerk told us that all contact was being called in and he just wanted to know what happened. Junior gave his version of events and, as the other driver didn’t appear, that was that.

Heat three still makes me mad now – we started on pole, got overtaken into the first corner but were holding second for several laps as the leader cleared off. Third place dived up the inside into The Esses, forcing Junior wide. Two abreast in The Esses (which is basically an elongated chicane) is not a great thing and, being on the wrong side, Junior had lost a fair bit of speed. He arrived at the second apex at much the same time as the fourth placed driver, who hit Junior’s back wheel and went off quite hard. Fortunately he wasn’t injured and his kart took no damage. I was stood on the marshalling post for The Hairpin, as was the Race Observer and I could he see him make some notes. A few laps later I asked how he saw it, he showed me what he had written which was along the lines of “Junior hit the other kart, the other kart lost places, Junior to receive a warning”. He asked me which was my driver, I pointed Junior out and he said “Oh!”. I didn’t say anything else. The fun wasn’t quite over – there was still time for Junior to close the door on somebody who was trying to follow another driver up Junior’s inside. I didn’t see that as Junior’s fault as at no point was he even remotely alongside Junior! But I digress… it was some time after the race that I saw the driver (from the first incident!) and his Dad in the clerk’s office so the call was inevitable. Let’s look at the incident (I don’t believe that these points are disputed – although I obviously wear slightly tinted spectacles, no matter how hard I try):

  • We had just lost second and been forced wide
  • We were still on the track
  • We were still in third place
  • Fourth place hit the the rear wheel of Junior’s kart
  • The Race Observer was stood next to me, some 50 yards away (where you can’t see the middle part of The Esses, just the hill), and said he didn’t have a great view

And yet, despite all of this, we were defending a charge of causing the accident!!! WHAT ON EARTH??? I was livid! I still am livid! I’m not wanting to criticise any individual but, if you cannot see properly, how can you make a judgement? It simply was not possible! I wasn’t blaming the other driver – it was a racing incident every day and twice on Fridays!!! Getting the drivers in to discuss the incident was the right thing to do but I was amazed that we were in the dock. How could we have caused the accident just by driving around the corner? What was Junior supposed to do? I am still confused by what happened next – the kids seemed to be talking about different incidents(!) but the other driver’s testimony exonerated Junior. The Steward told us that we should be thankful he had(?!?) which just wound me up even more. Had the decision gone against us, my £110 would have be down in a nano-second! I have to admit that I didn’t handle it very well (in terms of just standing around looking ready to explode and not having a word with the other Dad!) but it was my first such experience and one I have learnt from – I will definitely speak to the other Dad before and after we go in to any future hearing (is that the right word?) to ensure off-track relations are maintained 🙂

At this point, I just wanted to pack up and go home. Resigned to one more race, all I wanted Junior to do was drive behind everybody else and keep his nose clean in the final. And then it rained. Junior has no wet experience for six months! He started fifth of seven – an achievement in itself but the day continued to worsen as Junior outbraked himself in to Billies and pushed the third-placed kart wide then, on the run down to The Hairpin, he went flying down the inside as he saw his chance (to do what exactly, you could well ask!). You could hear he was going much too fast, it was just so lucky he went sailing down the inside and off-track backwards without skittling a few karts out with him. Junior berated himself as he went past me and I just smiled – he was learning the hard way. Encouragingly, his laps were ok – much closer to the pace than when we had last raced in the wet and another fifth placed finish was good for us.

It was still a long drive home and I had a few things to say to Junior about the state of his bumper. He thinks I am cross about it being a new bumper with hitherto new decals and that’s fine – but it is not the case at all. I am determined that he won’t be the one who is seen to be a bit of a wildcard, the ‘bumper boy’. I would walk away long before that happens. He knows that he needs to learn to better read the situation when braking with karts in front of him to avoid any more punts. It is hard learning to race once you have the pace, which he certainly now has, but he has got to step it up now. Racing incidents happen but your bumper doesn’t lie.

Next month is massive for us – I want no more bumper contact (although I know these things happen from time-to-time and there might be little you can do about it on occasion). If someone hits our back end, that’s just one of those things – so long as we are not at fault or accused of being so. I also need more time to gauge the consistency of the officials; following my criticism of them not doing anything, I still think we were hard done by with the black flag last month, the two this month would be understandable if all contact is being reviewed but the tone of the second and the fact that not all contact is being reviewed (and I am not even talking about the starts where the pole-sitter lifts before he reaches the acceleration zone – sometimes twice – and causes chaos behind him) makes me wonder. How things pan out next month will tell me a lot…

Cost of day: £28 petrol, £13 fuel, £35 practice fee, £50 race fee

Total spent this year: £1,926

Testing at Clay: didn’t we do this last year???

Do you ever get those kart days when you just wish you hadn’t bothered? Friday was one of those. It was my fault too for cockily commenting to Junior when we arrived as to how much nicer it was now that we turned up and just drove rather than had all of the problems that we used to experience. Let’s start with the positives: we tested various setup combinations, it didn’t rain, we were pretty quick in the morning. And now the negatives: it didn’t rain enough to get any wet practice, Junior came in first session because the accelerator stuck open *and* he had no brakes (what the !?!), then there was the hissing, then Junior hurt himself driving around The Horseshoe, then hurt himself some more as we grabbed the kart as it fell off the trolley (trolley arm not done up), then he completed a full session when I noticed we had only one K-nut remaining, we got slower throughout a day which we rounded off by aborting the final session as the kart was making a ‘clanking’ noise (engine mount bolts loose, engine moved back to the stop, loose chain making noise).

As you can see, it was pretty much mostly my fault – I’ve not made stupid mistakes like this for a long time. Perhaps it was the kick up the arse I needed. When you still get chuffed that you changed a set of tyres without problem, you are still a noob! In addition to generally having a poor day, I also need to replace a Douglas M-Series Vented rim now that one of mine has worn thread holes 🙁

Cost of day: £15 petrol, £7 fuel, £35 practice fee

Costs since last post: £25 carb rebuilds, £4 nuts/bolts/washers

Total spent this year: £1,800

Dad drives Clay!!!

They say that you should not judge a man until you’ve walked a mile in their shoes. Today I walked the mile although it would be more appropriate to consider me wearing their slippers – today was the day I got to race at Clay. Ok, so it was only a corporate thing in the Raceway’s arrive & drive karts but I learnt to appreciate what Junior does *so* much more – to drive Clay lap, after lap on the edge, not wanting to enter Billies too hot, taking enough kerb in The Esses, exiting fast but not too wide, getting The Hairpin spot-on, not losing too much momentum through The Horseshoe and nailing the Top Bend. To feel how rough some of the kerbing is on the exit of the corners I have been telling him to hit for the past year. And I was driving a much slower kart doing 44s laps!

There are some things that seem to run in the family – it wouldn’t have been a Team Karting Dad effort without the now customary black flag! It was an honest mistake – I was trying to pass another karting dad, we were side-by-side around The Kink, some mutual squeezing going on and I was focused on the amount of space he was leaving me (or not) to claim the entry into Billies. Made the pass, looked up and saw two karts facing the wrong way before The Esses and got a black flag for not spotting the yellow being waved on the kink. The drive-through proved a costly 28s delay too as we (my randomly drawn partner and I) lost by 5s 🙁

Anyway, it is fair to say I have learnt to appreciate even more what it takes to try to lap consistently, inches off of the floor in a bloody fast kart. I am tentatively looking forward to the Junior TKM Dads day (Dads drive JTKMs!) that we have lined up for next month – then I’ll be able to say I really have walked the mile in his shoes 😮