Another one bites the dust

Edit: Thought I posted this weeks ago but found it sitting in the ‘drafts’ folder so, rather than letting it go to waste, here’s the round-up of our final MSA race and the end of the road for Buckmore Park Kart Club… 🙁

The news that Buckmore Park Kart Club was to close to enable the circuit to focus on the more profitable corporate karting meant that our retirement from MSA racing was short-lived. Four months to be exact. What the legend himself, John Surtees (RIP), would make of the decision is something that I guess those behind it might choose not to dwell on. A circuit of that magnitude being condemned to a lifetime of corporate karting is a sad thought indeed. Although we had only visited the track once, back in April, it proved an instant hit with Junior and, with sufficient interest shown from others in the class, our entry was quickly submitted.

Being likely our last chance to drive the circuit, we made a long weekend of it and were one of only four karts taking part in Friday practice. The conditions were unique to us: although dry all day, the low temperatures meant the track never dried. We were on our ‘very-inter’ intermediate tyres – that I had bought from a certain JTKM champion some 18 months earlier 😉 – and, with the track alternating between cadets and us every 15 mins, there was an awful lot of track time. Our tyres were done long before we packed it in for the day and, as we started to pack up, the track turned on the lights so, of course, we *had* to go out again!

Last session of the day, track to ourselves 🙂

Friday night was spent at the Premier Inn with the best of our besties. This would probably be the last time we would spend a weekend with them. I’ve said before how much more I personally get from a race weekend spent in the company of my very good friends. The kids and the dads get on so well. I think it is the single thing I’ll miss most about MSA racing. The cooked breakfast was very welcome on a frosty Saturday morning too… 😉

Breakfast was about as good as Saturday got. We got to the track and, as I went to put on the engine, I saw that our weekend was a good as over…

Well this is a game changer!

Nobody at the track had welding gear. The maintenance staff for the corporate karts weren’t in until later in the afternoon and I was looking at a 6-hour round trip if I wanted to pick up our old chassis from home. One of the TKM dads came over to offer his advice: it was going to need a MIG weld and my best bet would be to get it to a garage. I spent over an hour on the phone trying to find a garage services company who a) offered a MIG welding service and b) had their technician working on a Saturday morning. Eventually I found my saviour: Lewis and his team at Lordswood Motorist Centre. Although they were closing at noon, they could do it as soon as I could get the frame there (it turns out Lewis is an ex-kart and car racer so sympathetic to my cause!). My homeboys had already stripped the engine area and Lewis was only 10 mins from Buckmore Park. I was saved 😀

You couldn’t make this s**t up!

The crack was away from the engine mount area so I had the mechanic sleeve the frame just to make sure it made it through the weekend. It really was a huge crack – I’d never seen anything like it before. I was back at the track by 12:15 and on-track by 1:00pm! 😀 The rest of the day was really about enjoying driving the track on Friday’s tyres as I didn’t want to commit our fresher wets. Junior wasn’t totally enamoured with being off the pace but I wasn’t overly bothered.

Not exactly a looker, huh? But it was all about getting over the line on Sunday afternoon…

A meal at a local pub, a couple of hours spent playing Exploding Kittens and a decent night’s kip later (*so* glad I wasn’t sleeping in the car), it was race day. Buckmore Park runs qualifying and, given the quality of our tyres on the Saturday, we weren’t really sure where we would slot in. With the track slippery but not wet, we kept the powder dry on our best wets and ran our best inters. Top six would be great but it was better than that! The experience of the Friday conditions really played to our advantage and Junior bagged P4 in amongst the Super One boys 🙂

Race #1 went ok; we were passed by someone who would be challenging for the top spot and a little remote of fourth but it a good enough result. The pre-final was disastrous: although the plan had been to switch to our best wets, the track continued to dry (albeit slowly). There wasn’t really any evidence to support putting on better wets, particularly with a very wet final forecast. Of course, once we were committed to our setup, in came the rain. It was a steady drizzle that, by the time the race begun, had accumulated enough moisture on track to mean that our setup was utterly inappropriate for the conditions. Junior dropped like a stone and had to fight to hold onto to ninth place. He was not at all happy. To be honest, it wouldn’t have been a Karting Dad weekend without something like this p*ssing on our fireworks (even after the chassis snap!).

Paul Babington’s photos are awesome!

Starting P9 for the final meant the podium was as good as out of reach. We setup to make early passes and we’d see where we got! As it turned out, the setup was very, very good. Junior made early passes; his kart clearly handling better than those around  him and, were it not for losing some time fighting for some mid-pack places, he might have challenged for the podium places. As it was, he managed to catch and pass his good friend for fourth near the end and so the race, our season, our MSA career and our last race at Buckmore finished on a high. It was the first time we’d finished every race since our seasonal opener in March!!!

It was pretty miserable by the time we got out for the final…

Packing up in the rain and the cold was no fun but at least it was dry enough when we got home to dry the kart, engines and carbs and to start airing the awning sides. And that was that. I should add a big thank-you to Sheila, Martin and the staff at Buckmore Park Kart Club, as well as the excellent work of Paul Babington Photography, whose amazing photos meant we always spent that little bit more on our visits – we’ll always have fond memories of BPKC 🙂



Return to Clay Pigeon!

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

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

The view from the 'TKM Corner Memorial Stand'

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

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

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

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

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

RIP Our Awning 2013-2015

RIP Our Awning

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

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

Total spent this year: £4,615