A Sad Farewell to Llandow Kart Club

We’d not attended the final months of the 2016 season at LKC; Our championship was aspirations were finished and, after the TKM Festival, our season ended in October with the Britain’s Finest event at Whilton Mill. LKC were already struggling and their season also came to a premature end through lack of entries. Although the end of season AGM brought about a new committee and (finally) Alpha Timing, the writing was very much on the wall: It would take some turnaround to attract the 50 entries needed to see the club break even. The season would begin with a new slot for the Celtic Challenge, a non-championship event which would then lead into the championship proper. That was the theory at least and, on the back of another disappointing entry, the committee announced last week that LKC would cease to hold meetings after the Celtic. Perhaps holding onto that bombshell for a couple of weeks may have brought a few more to the Celtic, maybe it wouldn’t have made any difference to a club that just seems to have struggled to hold onto drivers from South Wales. The current and previous committees couldn’t really be faulted for trying things to attract people: hosting Super One, offering prizes, reduced entry, free entry, even the amazing (if I say so myself) four heats and a final made no difference to the stagnant entry numbers.

We had practiced on the Saturday and, despite a first session last-lap crash as Junior seemed intent on breaking the lap record, we looked very quick early-on. But we needed a set of inters for the raceday and spent the rest of the day trying to make slicks work! Fortunately we had a nice, dry garage spot and some friends to scrap on track. It was a decent day in weather that could have been a lot worse. Sunday felt very sombre. To stop and look around the place; The familiar faces of the officials, staff and hardcore members stirred what has easily been our best memories of junior karting. It really did feel very sad. Don’t get me wrong; I wasn’t reaching for the Kleenex but I knew even before we’d raced that I’ll really miss Llandow Kart Club.

There were 20 or so entries merged into three libre classes: cadets, junior and senior two-strokes. As you can imagine, the racecard threatened to turn into quite a rush so there were 5-minute intervals between races (and, event then, it was still a rush!). This was our first TKM Extreme race meeting and our first chance to see how the engines had fared after being converted to Extreme. Conditions in Heat #1 weren’t ideal. Neither was my setup: Having had so much time to prepare in the morning, I noticed on the dummy grid that I had negated to change the rear width from the very narrow setting we were using on slicks, in the wet, on the Saturday! How long have I been doing this!?! The three entrants in our class meant the grid positions would be straight-forward! It was a strong line-up too with our fastest rivals from juniors in 2016. On top of that, they had both switched to TaG for 2017. Today would be *very* interesting…

Junior started on pole but it was clear that we were holding the others up and they three of them were strung out by the finish with us at the back. Heat #2 was better but Junior ended up scrapping his principle rival from last season and they allowed the leader to clear off. Heat #3 was pretty much a case of deja-vu. Pleasingly there was no contact between them (historically, there has been!) and they seemed to enjoy the tussle even if they were missing the point somewhat. I’m sure the leader appreciated the license to bugger off into the distance!

We started in P3 for the final and, finally, conditions were good enough for slicks. We were on our Whilton tyres from October and our rivals on nice, slippery fresh rubber. We would need to make hay while the sun shined. I really am gutted about what happened next: Junior went up the inside as they entered Surtees on the opening lap and the leader tried to hold it around the outside, as had been done on numerous occasions through the day. This time they touched and our rival span. In the final TKM race at Llandow Kart Club and against friends we’d been racing for several years, this was the absolute last thing I wanted to see. The incident seemed pretty innocuous; Things had clearly become tight but I devastated one of them span. Junior was looking pretty quick and he drove away from his remaining rival but there was no celebration. Junior didn’t feel as if he’d done much wrong and, whilst this was clearly going to The Office, I wouldn’t be: the not-so-little-bloke turned 18 on Thursday so I left him to it! Junior kept the race after his rival said he’d leant on Junior a little and not left him enough room. It was a surprising and impressive display of honesty when we were more less over a barrel (the marshal report had us making a ‘late move’ and taking the leader out which was never the case) but I guess their friendship shone through the disappointment. It wiped all the gloss off of the win though: There were no fist pumps, high-fives, not even a smile from Junior. Even now it feels like a loss and, to be honest, I’d have preferred it that way if it meant we could have been treated to a three-way duel for nine minutes plus one lap.

And that was that. Junior is the TKM Extreme Celtic Champion for what it’s worth although, with no further club events, the ‘CC’ plate will never be carried in race action. I really do hope that, against all odds, the club can rise again from the ashes at some point in the future. Maybe the MSA and ABKC can learn something from club’s demise about their inward focus on their own big clubs and national championships. I shan’t hold my breath…

You never know how much you will miss something until it’s gone…

RIP Llandow Kart Club 🙁

A cheeky Llando(w)s

Do you see what I’ve done with the title? Clever, huh?

It seems like we’ve been on the back foot a fair bit this year and, just a week ahead of the Festival, now seemed no different: problems with both engines at Kimbolton last month meant that they’d both had work done on them. Even after a bucket test(?) to identify any potential air leak, nothing had been found to explain the race engine looking badly lean after Junior’s off in one of the heats. Luckily the head needed nothing more than a slight rethread to cure the minimal damage caused by the spark plug getting stuck. The #2 engine had had new piston rings fitted in a bid to resolve the lack of compression. And then we’d buggered off on hols, the #1 priority as per Mrs Karting Dad’s control of the family budget!

V__0AD7I’d collected the repaired engines before we went away and, on the evening of our return to the country, spent the evening ensuring they were both fine, spark-wise before a weekend visit to Llandow. Having had such an awful weekend at Kimbolton from a performance point of view (two DNS’s and a DNF!), I couldn’t leave anything to chance. We’d had spark issues with the race motor but now there was no spark on the practice engine!?! After swapping over everything from spark plugs, to HT leads and coils, there was either a wiring issue or a stator/rotar problem. Back to the engine builders. A voltmeter check and some wiring work later (not to mention an hour’s labour), we were back on track (although not in the literal sense).

To Llandow! The track was running an IKR meeting and had Saturday afternoon dedicated to practice. Perfect for a spot of engine testing. The plan was: Run in the new rings on the practice motor, ensuring the compression problem was resolved. Bolt on the race motor. Do two laps and check the spark plug looks healthy. Do five more before removing the head to ensure the piston looked good. Run one further session to be certain. Bolt the practice motor back on. Do a bit of carb testing.

Everything went really well. We’d done everything that we needed to within 3 hours and we spent the rest of the afternoon dabbling with carbs and playing with restrictors (Junior has lost a stone since getting sick last month!!!). That was until we suffered *another* sheared side pod bar; in exactly the same spot as we did last time out. Now there’s a head scratcher for you! Since this was already our spare bar and the other was away getting fixed, our game was over. It wasn’t the end of the world since there was only an hour left and it wasn’t as if Junior needed the practice.

 

 

Super One learnings

Super One is impeccably organised

I guess it should come as no surprise for the pinnacle of karting in the UK but I was thoroughly impressed with the way the event was run. I felt very welcome as a guest; there was no clique factor or being officious for the sake of it. Officiating standards were generally very good, helped by the Clerk retaining GoPro cameras after each race so that any incident could be reviewed swiftly. There was some contact that went unreported but they were on top of most of the big incidents and there were plenty of contact warning flags.

Privateers

The grey area on this one is huge but there is no getting away from it: Some of the privateer entries are a joke. I do feel for organisers on this one: If someone enters as a privateer, how do they challenge them? You have drivers carrying the team decals that run themselves, drivers without team decals in the awning; Are they just renting a roof over their heads? What if you just get the odd bit of ad-hoc team support? Or someone who has been a team driver all season then does one round on his own? A real privateer is a dad/lad combo, the bloke running out the back of his own van, doing his own thing but how do you ensure that you hand the privateer prizes to these people and not the driver who’s enjoying the paid support who is just looking to bag another trophy? Some of my closest friends run team decals but would legitimately consider themselves privateers. The appearance of team decals doesn’t help the impression. If you are in, you are in. If you are out, you should probably consider replacing the decals if only for appearance’s sake.

I’d make entrants declare their status at sign-on, something like “I declare myself to be running as a privateer. I am not running in a team awning, have employed no support service, nor will I be in receipt of any ad-hoc support from a race team.” It’s either that or stop awarding a privateer prize IMO.

The only time that I felt ripped off was…

When I had to pay £7.50 to buy a bracket to fit the transponder that I had rented!!! I know it was only £7.50 but it should be included in the £10 rental.

The only time I was cross was…

When the juniors were made to carry/push/shunt their karts through scrutineering for weighing after qualifying. JTKM drivers should not be treated the same as everyone else: A Direct Drive engine doesn’t work like other karts. Some of these kids are 13 and expected to be able to lift their karts from the end of the queue in parc ferme through the weighing area and out the other side and then somebody moans that they’ve left their karts in the way! It’s great if you have the technique right but, if not, you’re going to be putting a big hole in the nosecone in the not-too-distant future. Parents should always be permitted into parc ferme to help move the karts, putting them on the trolley if necessary. It’s just common sense…

A 20 minute tyre window is not long enough for some

20 minutes to remove old tyres and fit a new set of slicks would be a bit of a rush for me at any time but, as a guest, I had a set of wets to fit also!!! Fortunately, tyre fitting was open throughout the practice Friday so I was able to work at my own pace 😉

I really miss Henry Beaudette’s commentary

When we arrived at Llandow in 2014, the first thing that struck me was how awesome Henry’s commentary was. Not only hearing him commentate on Junior’s race but also to keep abreast of what was going on out on track whilst I was working on the kart. Race weekends have been poorer for his absence since he left ‘home’ a year ago to work on bigger and better things. The club’s loss has been a gain for the bigger national karting events. Can we book him for The Festival? 🙂

Super One cadet racing is so entertaining

Even as a race observer at the final corner when the S1 circus visited last year, it was hard not to get dragged into the rollercoaster that was the cadet races. I made sure I took a little time out from the mechanic duties to catch the finals this year. *Way* too much money being spent there though…

I’ve grown to tolerate Bambinos

But only since they afforded me extra time to work on the kart!

TKM is definitely the people’s class

TKM is grass roots karting in a nutshell. At the driver line-up, you could spot the TKM drivers a mile off: they were ones where standard retail suits and plain white helmets were prevalent! It is great to see healthy grids at Super One (the impact on the club scene is another matter). I did wonder whether they might get treated like the paupers when it comes to paddock spots but, having only been to one round, I couldn’t possibly comment any further! 😉

No Friday practice for TKM makes a club weekend essential

I had this debate with dads who were telling me at the start of the year how cheap it would be to do the series. What, you mean you won’t be attending a practice round??? It just isn’t possible to do the Super One weekend only. Not without being in the position where you are still learning the track on the Sunday.

Junior TKM lacks a little strength in depth this year

I mean no disrespect to anyone but you could probably pick the race winner from one in four or five drivers this year. The lead still changes hands a fair bit but the front group seem to have that bit in hand over the rest of the field. It is something of an evolutionary time for the class having lost so many drivers to X30 in 2014 and then to Extreme at the end of last year. The grid number is healthy and this year’s rookies will undoubtedly be all the better for their debut season.

The TAG and Direct Drive engines are very close (if your DD is strong enough)

I’ve said plenty on this before but the fact is that we were pretty close to the country’s best JTKM drivers and very likely the best engines that money can (or perhaps even couldn’t) buy. I believe our engine to be strong but it certainly wouldn’t be the best around. I think there are several reasons why DD might be falling behind: The outlawing of those ‘golden’ motors that were legitimately within fiche but fell foul of the updated regulations after the engine scandal effectively removed those select few DD engines that had been held in such esteem. The best of the rest are slowly being Extremed as their owners move up. The pool of the smaller bottom end DD engines gets smaller each year and I’ve never seen a new DD engine (DD owners tend to be buying second-hand although I’d love to compare one with out engines). I do believe that the variance in DD engines is wider than the variance between TAG engines (age alone would one reason for this). You definitely need a strong engine to *compete* on a DD at this level.

I’m glad we didn’t move to Extreme

Staying in JTKM in Junior’s 17th year has proved a wise move and our final year in juniors has been an enjoyable one thus far. I look at my friends whose lads have moved up and it seems like a struggle at times. The racing is definitely much harder, especially in the pack. I think that Lady Luck plays a big part is navigating the weekend without incident. I think we’d have struggled in Extreme. And I’d be gutted if our race engine didn’t Extreme well!

Alan Turney lurks in the TKM Owners Group

I met Alan Turney for the first time and he was very pleased with the way in which the TKM Owners Group has evolved. You could argue that’s obvious, since a successful class bosts profits but I felt it went further than that. More interesting was that he actively follows the group. Anyone spot the lurker? 😉

You need to try a Super One round

I was really nervous ahead of the weekend but it was a really enjoyable experience. Of course it helps that Junior did so well and I think he it really helped him take his driving up the next level (actually I think it forced him to!). If you are half-decent at your club and Super One pay a visit, I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend it 🙂

Stepping up to Super One

Saturday had been a positive day: we’d narrowly missed out on our target of qualifying in the top 5 and, despite a horrible draw bias against the even-numbered side of the grid, had done really well to finish 4th and 6th in the heats. The heats are one thing though; the real work was to come and we’d need some luck in running to be in with a shout at a podium place in the final.

Practice went badly: 14th fastest and Junior complaining of brake issues. The brakes did look a little suspect and I bled them again but that wasn’t the end of the problems: As I stood in the queue for the tyre bay ahead of the pre-final I noticed that both track rods were loose. I had lasered the front end the previous evening but had clearly only tightened the nuts by hand!!! :S  I had to rush the kart back to our awning where a couple of the Extreme dads were on hand to help me get the lasers back on and get the kart front straightened up. That was a close one, especially since I was desperate not to be responsible for any failings this weekend!

The pre-final was critical: do well and we’d be in with a shout at the final. Fare badly and our weekend would effectively end here. We’d managed to find ourselves in 6th place once more: a single point behind two other drivers tied in fourth 🙁 It was unlikely that we’d be able to get third good start from the ‘bad side’. And so it proved. Junior had the worst start I’d seen him make in a long time: bogging down badly and losing three places as the leaders scooted off. We gained a couple of places back before dropping away and having to desperately hang on for a 9th place finish. It could have been worse: tenth and an even-numbered draw would have ended any hopes we were clinging onto.

Junior hadn’t really been happy with anything about the kart and we made some extensive changes for the final. After what seemed like an eternity on a hot dummy grid we took the karts onto the starting grid (on track) from where they would start their formation lap. This in itself was novel to us and really made the event feel that bit more special than your average club meeting (perhaps something to consider for the Welsh Champs, LKC?). We didn’t really have any game plan but Junior *had* to start well. And start well he did: we made up a couple of spots off of the line and then fifth and sixth proved that two around The Hook very rarely works and came together. Junior passed sixth and had a fantastic run at fifth, who was bogging down, as he recovered from the contact. I’ll always wonder how we might have fared had we made the pass stick (I was keen to see if we could have lived with the pace of the leaders having spent the weekend just that bit too far back). It wasn’t to be: we got a nudge and were soon doing a spot of grass karting. All credit to Junior, he followed the off-road mantra to ‘keep it lit’ and re-joined in tenth place. I had abandoned my pushing post at Raymonds for the final (yes I know I said I would never be the push-start guy at this post but the fact is it needs somebody as had been proven on the Saturday) and was stood with the spectators, only metres from the action. My heart was sinking fast. It was to sink further: the three karts in front of us came together again in The Hook on lap #2: It was a big incident. Junior dived right but the karts slid slowly into his path, one hooked up on top of another and, as he struggled to get the engine to pick up, the entire field sailed by 🙁 I was crushed. You never, ever want to see a red flag because of a driver injury but the subsequent flag did us the biggest of favours. There was quite a delay whilst the paramedics attended to the injured party (who I hope makes a speedy recovery btw) before we were informed that the race was being moved to the final race of the day. So much for that roast dinner!

I have never seen Junior so relieved. What had been a nightmare start to our biggest race would quickly become a memory: The race was being restarted in full and we’d take to the grid in 9th  place once again. I spent 90 minutes pouring over the kart making sure all was well, took in the Extreme final (some dodgy stuff going on in that one!) and got ourselves set once again.

Unfortunately, the lad who’d been injured was unable to make the grid. The bad fortune continued since that moved us up to 8th and back onto the bad side of the grid. To cap it all off, the drier starting directly in front of us had an absolute stinker of a start, bogging massively and forcing Junior, who was now tucked right up behind him, to sit and wait whilst those behind flashed by. We crossed the line in 10th (the lad who started behind us crossed the line in 7th!!!) but that was the end of the bad news. What followed was undoubtedly the best driving performance I had ever seen from Junior. He’s never lacked in determination and it wasn’t his smoothest performance, as he had clearly decided to give it all he had, but he showed a clinical edge that I had not seen before. You could almost see that the penny had dropped: That, at this level, you can’t just be fast and expect drivers on your pace to give up their places, you have to *take* their places from them. He passed karts in six of the next seven laps before finding the gap to fifth that bit too much (although he arguably could have gone for it at the final corner!). It was a fantastic drive and he was chuffed to bits with the result. I was thrilled to see him step his game up to a level where he could compete with national drivers. You could argue he should be able to do just that at his home track but he was taking on the best and most experienced JTKM drivers in the country, on the best kit in the country. I’ll rue not getting the chance to see if he could have held onto the leader’s coat-tails at any point of the weekend but the simple fact is that we’re not really at that level as a package to be taking on the big teams.

There were a few little bonuses yet to come: Junior got the best privateer trophy (after some question of the fifth placed finisher’s presence in a team awning!) and I was generously given a free set of tyres from Alan Turney for my efforts with the TKM Facebook Group 😀 😀 😀 In our most expensive month ever in karting, faced with a £200 engine bill and another new set of slicks needed for Welsh Championships, this was very welcome 🙂

Rest assured, dearest readers: I’ve not been bought off, however! 😉

S1_trophy

Yay!

An impressive Super One debut! :D

Now I should point out that I am very aware that the finals are still to come but what can I say about today but… take a bow, son! Junior was a little annoyed to have lost out on 5th position in qualifying on the final lap, condemning us to the dreaded even-side-of-the-grid start but he’s driven beautifully in the day’s two heats: 4th place in Heat #1, only 0.7s adrift was the highlight. It could have been better still: We were running in 4th in Heat #2 before Junior was passed by two karts in one move at Raymonds. It could also have gone tits up! We were punted on the final lap; luckily the other lad fared worse and we escaped without losing position.

Of course tomorrow is when it counts and I’ve seen enough over the day to be very aware that it only takes a split second to end your dream weekend. We’ve been a little unlucky to find ourselves in 6th place again for the pre-final; I’m not sure we can expect to see a third good start from a woeful grid position but we’re in the mix and there is still a chance of that dream podium finish 🙂

Time for an early night!

Chilling at Super One

I had booked today off to prep the kart for the weekend. My plans had evolved to heading to the track in the afternoon to get our tyres fitted and then, with the tempting offer of some awning space, I departed at 8am to arrive with my chums (mostly to ensure they bagged themselves a spot large enough for me to park in also!). As it turned out I passed them as they were getting their McDonalds breakfast. I arrived at the track to be greeted by the man at the gate. Imagine seeing some bloke on his own in a Clio (Junior was at home revising) towing a kart on a camping trailer: I am 99% certain he was all set to turn me around and tell me that the track was closed for practice!!! I wanted to bag enough space for three awnings and blurted out that I needed 9m of awning space. I think he took this more literally than I had intended and sent me into the premium spots where there was still space for a team – result! Looking a bit conspicuous opposite the AIM ‘tent’ 😉 I did go back and confirm my intentions but we were cleared for paddock parking 🙂

Unsurprisingly, the sight in the paddock was a stark contrast to the view at a club meeting and I was instantly struck by how similar all of the cadet mechanics looked (are they clones?). It felt like there was a lot of money being spent ans I didn’t see anyone else arriving with their kart on a camping trailer 😉 It was great to have the Llandow dads from last year back together: The banter started pretty much as soon as we parked up. I didn’t really have a lot to do in terms of preparation: I’d deferred removing numerous sets of tyres from rims since I was going to be staying until 6pm, when the tyre fitting window opened, and I had planned to just check the carbs and head out to get the control fuel. Fortunately the organisers allowed the tyres to be fitted throughout the day. Not only did it mean no hanging around into the evening but I didn’t have to fit two sets of tyres in 20 minutes (I would have failed!). With the tyres sorted, the sponsors stickers attached, the control fuel purchased and another handful of Factor 60 applied, it was time to sit and chill out. It was a nice feeling to be able to get the kart ready in your own time with no pressure to get out on track. Although the TKM classes do not practice on a Friday, I think you’d have to arrive the day before the race; Rocking up and having to do everything in the morning would be a tad mental for my liking.  I was even able to leave early enough to be home for tea with the family (despite every car in South Wales seemingly headed eastbound on the M4 at the same time as me).

It will be an early start tomorrow since I want to be at the track at 7am to be ready in plenty of the for the morning activities. Since I’ve been awake by 3am for the past two nights, getting up shouldn’t be too difficult. Wish me luck!

 

On the back foot already?

It was supposed to be fairly straightforward: a lunchtime trip to see JC at Revolution and get the head volumes checked on both motors (to ensure there would be no surprises if did well enough to get scrutineered at the weekend). The practice motor was borderline and needed a thorough cleaning to get the head volume to a safe reading. The race motor was fine as far as the head volume was concerned but there was no longer any end play in the crank shaft. We opened up the crank halves; the pin had moved a fraction and the bearings weren’t spinning very freely at all. It wasn’t the news I really wanted to hear this close to the weekend. The race motor has been sat around since the last club round: I had had the head and barrel off for a visual inspection post-race but not noticed the lack of end play. Another learning for next time…

Fortunately, JC was able to sort everything out for me today and I collected the engines from him this evening but, with this and the weather, I’m a little behind where I would like to be if we are setting off for the track on Friday. Tomorrow evening will be a busy one :/

You don’t always need to stand on the top step to be a winner

So, for the first time, Junior took the chequered flag… and was excluded shortly after! Although adamant that he was alongside his rival as he made a pass at Chandlers before the two came together, his rival and, more importantly, the marshal report said otherwise. Unusually for me, I could have no opinion: standing at Raymonds affords a view of only half of the track (hence nobody else wants to cover that corner!). The Clerk read out the report first (they really should hear from both parties before reading the report), our rival said their bit and then chirped in a few wisecracks as Junior put up his defence. The marshal was summoned who reiterated his write-up (I’m not sure what else he would do) and we were hung, drawn and quartered. More disappointingly, we rushed to review the footage within the 30-minute window (should really have learned how to pair the phone with the camera *before* we had an urgent need) only to find that the battery given up for the day almost as soon as I had switched it on for the final 🙁 I’m not sure why that was so important to us, I would never put any money down to launch an appeal anyway (appeals are for the ‘haves’, not the ‘have nots’). Junior still feels hard done by but, in all honesty, I’m really not that bothered. The truth is that he was a winner in my eyes long before the incident that ended what was an engaging tussle. To have driven so well all weekend, to the extent that he totally offset any new tyre advantage on race day was a fantastic achievement. I’d only ever seen it done once before and by a driver far more accomplished than us. We should have been three seconds behind in every race so it was hard to be anything other than delighted with the pace that Junior had shown. If anything, not having the camera footage did us a favour: Had it shown Junior to be the guilty party, it may have knocked his confidence. Had it shown Junior to have been robbed a maiden win by an inaccurate marshal report, I’d have likely gone off on a rant that would still be going on now and very likely would only serve to haunt me later! As it is, he’s itching for the next round and a chance to show his pace on fresh rubber 🙂

Practice Saturday was really only about two things: bedding in new brakes and testing new rims. Unfortunately we did neither: I realised only on the Friday evening that I lacked the caliper support bracket to accommodate the different sized disc and the ‘pristine’ rims that I had bought off of ‘that auction site’ turned out to have been used for two years and were cracked and/or bent! :/ As a result, we decided not to set an alarm, get up whenever and then head to the track when we were good and ready. We were still on-track by noon and, pleasingly, on the pace instantly, even on our ‘travel tyres’ (our best tyres stay indoors but the kart needs to sit on something when in storage; these are known as the travel tyres!). We were quicker again on the practice tyres, affording us the rare luxury of spending the afternoon testing. Whilst things went really well for us, the only negative thing to happen was the loss of one of the entries as one of our friends had their sole engine seize in the final session of the day, the second time in a matter of months by all accounts 🙁 It was that awkward moment when you want to help but, with only two engines ourselves and being this close to the Super One round, I couldn’t risk anything happening to the #2 engine as much as I would love to offered it to them.

We were in a good place for race day. Even with losing one entrant, we still had a very respectable grid of eight. Junior TKM at Llandow is hanging in there and still the biggest grid at the club. We didn’t have the best grid positions: 5,2,5,2 in our *four* heats 😉 but Junior’s starts were very good and we found ourselves in a familiar pattern: we’d get to the front and then get passed at some point by our rival for the day. Not being on fresh rubber once again, it was something that I had expected. Our goal was to be within 0.3s per lap and, to that end, Junior was massively exceeding my expectations. There was no harm in defeat and he was showing a consistency I’d only ever seen glimpses of before. Junior started in #P2 for the final, lost a place at the start (as you do) but soon got the place back and was tucked in behind the leader for half of the race before two karts left my sight going down the hill into Chandlers and only one came back into sight at The Dell. I cannot say anything about the contact although I wear my rose-tinted spectacles just like any other karting dad. I will say one thing though: I’ll never again be the push starter at Raymonds. I’m going to stand at The Hook so that I can watch the race (and have an opinion) like everyone else! I do regret the lack of race observers at the club this year. Any kind of officiating is difficult but marshals are there to ensure the safety of drivers in their section, reporting incidents isn’t their primary task (ok, so I really said two things!). No matter, what’s done is done. Junior took the chequered flag and, having spent far too long trying to review the on-board footage, we packed up and were the last to leave the track.

It was hard to be too disappointed considering the pace we had shown, it so nearly could have been the perfect preparation for next month and what will be our biggest month in karting. Roll on Super One.

 

 

 

Can you spare any change for the swear box?

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

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

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

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

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

Haven't gone topless in a while...

Haven’t gone topless in a while…

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

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

Pac Man on the data logger!?!

Pac Man on a data logger!?!

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

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

Tyres. Again…

I’d mostly finished writing this and only realised that I hadn’t actually posted it when somebody messaged me to tell me that they hoped I hadn’t stopped writing the blog! My apologies folks, especially since we are closer to the next race weekend than the last one but here it is…

It was the start of a new era. All of our closest chums had gone: to Super One and to TKM Extreme 🙁 The loss of the twin-sized awning that I shared with another Dad at Clay Pigeon IKR in November left me with two choices: a heavy duty, compact awning with a £500 price tag or the rental of a garage space at Llandow for a more modest £160. Awning pros: I can use it anywhere, anytime. Awning cons: I’d need a compact awning that aren’t quite as strong as the heavier awnings that carry a 5-year warranty and it would leave me needing to find space in an already packed camping trailer or Clio. Garage pros: Warm. Dry. Sheltered. Enough said!

Our friends have gone :(

Our friends have gone 🙁

It started raining as soon as we hit Cardiff and didn’t stop until we passed Cardiff again on the way home! We arrived to find our spot for the season and then unpacked as quickly as possible. Following our incomplete mission to run-in the practice motor earlier in the week, the first half of the day wasn’t a lot of fun for Junior: not only was it cold, wet and windy but he was having to potter around for the first four sessions at limited power. On a positive note it was the perfect opportunity for him to explore different areas of a very, very wet track to find what grip he could. I didn’t really help him that he was running with our worst inters (he didn’t complain so I didn’t make a big deal of it!) but I was preserving the better sets, particularly as our hitherto new wets had seen duty a couple of times in December. The track itself was very quiet; entries at the club were the lowest I had ever seen, despite the club offering four heats and a final on the Sunday!!! The grid would be a small one but we’d see a hell of a lot more track time than some clubs I could mention… Junior enjoyed himself anyway. An open track on a practice Saturday was a unique experience and we were one of handful of drivers remaining on the track when the weather made a further turn for the worse and we called it a day. Drying the kart was a lengthy process :/

Inters?

Inters?

Race Sunday. The track was still wet and it didn’t look like the new slicks I had bought would be seeing any action. This would be our first races with the new MSA ‘droopy bumper’ fittings in place. With there being no problem with the driving standards at Llandow, I was already not a fan. Since the regulations weren’t kicking in until the March round this was just a testing opportunity to see how we got on with them. The karting gods had been kind to Junior and, starting 5th, 3rd, 1st and 3rd, he had a very kind grid draw. Did I already mention that there were FOUR HEATS? 😉

It wasn’t long before we were back into familiar territory however: with the two quickest drivers from last year having moved to Extreme, we should really have been contesting the win. Our performance on track indicated that was unlikely. Starting 5th, Junior quickly moved up to 3rd position and held 2nd for exactly one corner but we were 0.7s off the pace of the comfortable winner who was on fresh wets. In heat #2 our fate was pretty much confirmed. Junior started on pole but, with both his main rivals now on new tyres, dropped to third within two laps and was 9s adrift by the end of the race. He just didn’t have the grip that he needed and there was very little that I could do about it (I did try!). Significantly, despite no contact in either race (no – I didn’t just take his word for it, yes – I did check the GoPro) his bumper had ‘drooped’ in both heats. I thought I had made an even better job of tightening the clamps after the first heat but clearly not enough. It didn’t help that the brackets did not properly fit our kart so the bumper was only fully seated in half of each bracket. I cursed the ABKC and MSA (again) and, as the new brackets were not mandatory at this round, I took them off: I just didn’t need the distraction.

Heat #3 was a minor highlight. Junior won but only because his rivals failed to complete the race. Heat #4 saw us finish third again and you don’t need me to tell you where we finished the final!

Our day was done. The four heats was nice, would have been better still if we were on the pace. Junior picked up another trophy which was about the only consolation for an otherwise disappointing day. We’d clearly be needing new wets for the next round and some investigation into improving the bumper bracket fitting.

Costs: I need to find some receipts and quickly get this counter running before it’s too late!