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!
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…
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 😀
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.
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!).
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!!!
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 🙂