Practice 10: a damp start but a brighter outlook?

This was the (hopefully) first of back-to-back Saturdays at Clay in a bid to get us on the grid for October. It was also the first time we were going on a race weekend so I knew it would be very busy and that we’d get less track time although, on the plus side, we’d also get to see exactly how far off we were compared to the prospective competition. Unusually we were out the door by 7:40 and, even more astoundingly, didn’t get stuck behind a tractor or a lorry for the entire journey! 🙂

We were at the track over an hour before it opened and it was really nice to be able take some time in getting set up, fixing the satellite position for the MyTach GPS (I wanted to have another go at capturing some GPS data) and chatting to some of our fellow karters  (note to self: you need to get here early more often). I am ashamed to say it was during this time that I [properly] swore at Junior for the first time! 🙁 He wanted to help get the kart ready but, at the moment, I really need to make sure it is all done properly (as properly as I can do it at least) and so whilst I was checking the carb, the throttle, the bolts etc I said he could put the fuel in. The problem is that our Mr Funnel (great device but it automatically wastes the last bit of fuel no matter whether it is polluted or not!) doesn’t sit nicely in between the tank and the steering wheel and he was struggling a little so I told him I would pour if he held the funnel in place. So some time passes and the fuel is flowing nicely until, all of a sudden, it is going everywhere – the kart, the tyres, me and the floor! “What the **** are you doing!?!” was the automated response that came out as I looked up to see him picking at something on his hand!!! Junior went off and shut himself in the car. Not wanting to start the day on the wrong foot I apologised after cleaning up (another note to self: don’t do that again, at least not while he’s still a kid!).

Back to kart-related matters… the groups size for juniors was around 25 karts as Junior TKM, JuniorMax and MiniMax were combined. Junior tends to warm his tyres up over the first three laps and this time was no different although, in a 10-minute session, it only leaves you 9 laps to get your head down. The sun was shining but the track had puddles in places from the overnight rain: Junior didn’t look particularly quick and came back with a best lap of 38.8s. Two things that I find hard to do are assess the speed of the track and interpret what the tyres are telling me after a session. I figured it was early and we’d see how the next couple of sessions went. We did capture a full set of GPS data on the MyTach for the first time but I’ll write about that once I have had a chance to play with the software. The second session was brief – after starting him, I decided to watch Junior from the pit wall rather than my usual spot on-track. Now if you are a karting Dad you’ll know the feeling when you cannot see your lad on track – your eyes scout back looking at the kart/overall/helmet combinations but Junior was nowhere to be seen – somebody had spun in The Esses and Junior’s avoidance route sent him into the plastic barrier. The kart was ok and I pushed it across the grass to get it back on track (not the easiest of things with a direct drive) and sent him on his way but he immediately pulled into the pits complaining of something dragging on the side. I checked everything but found nothing – I can only assume the crash had heightened his sensitivity to things and it was the loose side pod (which we run quite loose) that had concerned him.

Things picked up once one of the other racer’s stopped by for a chat and pointed out that my tyres were seriously over inflated at 16psi (thanks, Sam); I had been starting them off at 10 or 11psi in the warmer weather but it was a cooler start and the track was damp in places so I had started at 16. Taking them down to 11psi instantly shaved a second off of our lap times! We then had a heavy but brief shower which had me scratching my head – the sun was shining approaching our session although no significant dry line had yet appeared. It looked too dry for wets though and I wasn’t keen to put on and then ruin my new set. The cadets immediately before us were on wets but I opted for slicks (as I think did the entire junior grid), opting just to move the rear hubs in fully in case the back got a bit more lively. Junior did really well: there was definitely less of a gap between him and the rest on the damp track and I am hoping that he proves to be pretty good in the wet, where his arrive/drive experience of karts with less grip may prove useful. During the afternoon Junior’s lap times were into the low 37s – he was still just under 2 seconds off the pace but he was enjoying it and showing glimpses of improving his lines. The kart was running fine and the only interruption we suffered was when the exhaust flex split, we lost an exhaust spring and the exhaust found itself more wriggle room (cue loud noise and an early end to the session). That aside the afternoon was largely uneventful; I reacquainted myself with wheel spacers as a means of saving time measuring the rear width (once you note how wide the rear is with the hubs pushed right in you can then just add the width of the spacers). The only other thing of interest to happen was my getting recognised by someone who had read my blog and recognised the kart (I think this was the same person who also got stung on the mouth by a wasp – I hope that healed ok!).

We came to the final session of the day and, as if by magic, Junior is suddenly hitting apexes and using more of the track!!! It was amazing (relatively speaking): an entry into and out of The Esses that you would expect to see somebody else do, exiting wide out of The Hairpin with wheels on the concrete kerbs followed up with… an appalling line through The Hairpin (the first corner Junior seemed to crack!). I had to laugh but those corners were no fluke – Junior’s lines throughout that session were significantly better 🙂

We packed up and headed home. I was very happy – the last session had turned what would otherwise have been an ok day into what may prove to have been a day where we took a big step forward. It soured a little after that: when your dry kart is uncovered and on top of a trailer the last thing you want to meet when heading home is heavy rain (we’ve tried covering it, the cover gets wrecked). Unfortunately, the whole of Somerset seemed to be cover by the most gloomy of grey clouds and there was no end to the rain for a decent chunk of our route home. Instead of sitting on the sofa with a beer in one hand and my feet on the sofa, I spent Saturday evening taking the kart apart spraying GT85 everywhere. Don’t you just love it?

The key now is how Junior starts next time: if he can start where he left off I am hoping the improved lines will lead to reduced lap times although, knowing Junior, it really is more hope than expectation – he likes to do things his own way!

Cost of day: £12 petrol, £7 fuel for the kart, £35 practice fee

Total spent so far: £3,199

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