IKR Parents Race!!!

It had been a while since our TKM Dads Day Out, where a few of us Dads took the junior karts and engines out for a first run in a two stroke kart, and I was contemplating arranging another when an opportunity to do something a little more extreme came up – a dedicated parents class at the opening round of the Clay Pigeon Winter IKR Series!!! It seemed like a good idea at the time, we mustered six entries and endured a 300-post Facebook thread as we debated weights (none), tyres (any, change whenever you like), engines (any junior class engine) and race types (MSA-style three heats and a final as opposed to the IKR-style qualifying, heat, pre-final and final) and exchanged a lot of banter. It seemed like a really good idea at the time and promised to be a lot of fun!

As the event got closer, I was a little nervous having only driven the kart for 100 laps or so in June (when I was hesitant to try to overtake anybody in case I took them out) and now facing the prospect of actually racing one of these things, even if it was in the friendliest of grids! I was reasonably quick last time – a 37.4s lap was pretty pleasing so I was hoping to push on in spite of the cooler conditions. I had sorted out Junior’s practice tyres and numbered them from one to six and then mounted sets five and six! This would be an opportunity to clear the garage of a couple of sets of slicks if nothing else. Having not really had the chance to do anything on Junior’s kart since Llandow the previous weekend, I had taken up the kind offer of loaning a rolling chassis on the basis that I wouldn’t have a chance to build up my spare chassis and it saved me messing around with Junior’s kart. The trouble was that this meant finding space for another kart in the garage and so I left it until the final evening to collect the kart and add our engine, exhaust and bodywork. Talk about ball-ache!!! Let’s just say that I hadn’t really anticipated all of the little things that were different and, with scrutineering early the next morning, I could really have done with an earlier night :/

This was my first experience of IKR and, as we were competing in a guest class with no championship, maybe things were even more relaxed for us than it was for the other competititors but the contrast between IKR and MSA was huge: the number of people working from trailers as opposed to from awnings was much greater (so we were right at home) and you could tell that this was a much less serious affair; from the types of karts, the age range of the drivers (young and old) and the intensity of the scrutineering process (more of a safety check). There were some things that were along the same lines though – Alpha Timing, race commentary and social media updates were all in attendance.

The day basically ran along the lines of practice in the morning, a break and drivers briefing at lunchtime and then the serious stuff began. It was a really good format and offered plenty of track time for our ยฃ40; the morning was a bit iffy from a personal performance perspective – I was putting in 38/39s laps and had no grip whatsoever! As per last time, I never really felt in total control of the kart at any point but it was good to be on-track amongst friends. One of the beauties of IKR is that we could pretty much set our own rules and, although the club had provisionally assigned us an IKR race format, we decided to go with the MSA setup so that we could mix the grid up with random draws for three heats before the final. The races went really well although our starts were a little hit and miss – I think only heat one saw us start as a compact grid you would expect to see normally, after that reliability became an issue for some! I dipped into the 37s in heat one (where I was going nicely in second place until I was helped into a spin by a ‘friend’!!!) but my times went backwards from there – obviously it had to be the tyres ๐Ÿ˜‰ and I was never on the pace of the front two (a TKM Dad and Rotax Mum). Easily the highlight of the day was my restarting myself after spinning into Billies; I had lost a lap waiting to be started when I was spun in the first heat and, keen not to lose so much ground in heat three, I saw a gap in the traffic and took my chance… I picked up the back end and ran for a few paces, dropped the kart down and was amazed to hear the engine fire up! I quickly jumped in, got my foot on the gas and IT ONLY BLOODY PICKED UP!!! I even got a round of applause from the Juniors (who we had taken as our pit assistants and signed on as our push starters) ๐Ÿ˜€

It was a great day; the weather held off, it was nice not to be constantly tweaking the kart setup to try to find those elusive tenths (it would have been pointless since most of those tenths were sat in the seat!) and just enjoy the banter. I was really impressed with the event as a whole. I think IKR suffers from a lack of serious competition at the front currently, at least at Clay which is in its infancy, but I would consider it for Junior if things progressed and I am a huge fan of the tyre rule enforced at Clay (the TKM class run on Maxxis SLC tyres at ยฃ70/set and which must be used for three meetings). I won’t be rushing to jump back into a two stroke (if truth be told, I’d be more tempted by Prokarts) but it is something I am sure we’ll do again at some point. Congrats to the runaway winners, thanks to everybody who loaned me stuff – a kart, a racesuit, to the Krispy Kreme Donut Man (the strawberries & kreme donut was something else) and also to Mr South West IKR for shoehorning us into the day’s programme ๐Ÿ™‚

Karting Dad leads from pole!!! ๐Ÿ˜€

Race 14: A first podium!!!

I know that putting the plaque/sticker onto 30-odd trophies must get dull very quickly but they could have put ours on straight!

I know that putting the plaque/sticker onto 30-odd trophies must get dull very quickly but they could have put ours on straight!

Ok, so it wasn’t the most glorious of podium finishes: adrift of the front two and only claiming third following an unfortunate mechanical flag for the driver who was holding us off fairly comfortably but we aren’t fussy! Junior got a great start from fifth to keep out those on the even numbered side of the grid as they looked to stop the odd-numbered train steaming through. His starts have really improved over the past few months and gaining places has become quite common but this was the most impressive start I have seen him make so far – there really was only three kart lengths separating the first, third and fifth placed starters in the final. He was never going to deny the S1 driver that was behind him for very long though – Junior’s pace was good considering it was only his third race at Llandow but we had been at least half a second off the real pace for most of the weekend. Llandow is a pretty tough track to master and, although I was hoping that we might be a couple of tenths closer than last time, our tyres (on their third race day) definitely had their best days behind them and I hadn’t changed the kart setup to accommodate the track which was a fair bit quicker than I had expected (the rain that had been passing over us for most of the day only finally arrived after racing had finished). As soon as the race was over, my focus switched to hoping/praying that we made it through scrutineering, having never gone through anything more than a brief carb measurement check before – our weight was perfect, only 300g over minimum weight and then it was onto the the engine check. Although I had had the engines confirmed legal only the previous week, it was still one of those moments where you just hope there is nothing wrong and, happily, that was the case!

The rest of the weekend had been somewhat uneventful, barring a major mechanic’s faux pas – we’d spent the Saturday on the practice engine and switched to the race engine for the final session of the day. Surprisingly we were three tenths slower and I’d spent most the journey home pondering which engine we should start with for the race day; had the track slowed that much? Had the bigger bore that was enforced upon us at the last rebuild affected the performance of the race engine? We decided to go with the practice motor for race day and were at the track nice an early on the Sunday morning to get the kart ready. I put the engine on and was just boasting to one of the other dads how nice a feeling it is when you get your engine mount bolts in the right place first time (if there is a secret in doing this consistently, please let me know!) as Junior was filling out the scrutineering form. As I went to confirm the engine number (the engine is still relatively new to me and has a two-digit combination of numbers that I keep getting muddled), I realised that I had put the race engine on. I couldn’t understand how this could be – the last engine we used on the Saturday still had the Mychron rev wire attached. It was then that I realised we had spent most of Saturday putting unwanted hours on the race engine!!! That also explained why we were three tenths off in the last session :S Our race engine lives in a certain box and, when then engines had had their cranks aligned, they must have gone back in the wrong boxes.

As for the heats, we were drawn 2-6-6 for the second successive month, which Junior really was unhappy about. I had emailed the club after last month’s meeting to express my dissatisfaction about a) having received the unfavoured even-numbered draw in all three heats (everyone should get at least one odd-numbered start) and b) receiving the same grid position for two of the three heats (a new experience for us at the time). The club assured us that the draws were random and I have no qualms about that but the process for doing so is clearly pretty poor, doing only the minimal to keep the drivers grid draws adding up to roughly the same whilst taking little else into consideration (our 2-6-6 draw being vastly inferior to the 7-3-3 of another driver, for example – especially once you consider their placings after the first bend). The club use the MyLaps timing system, a poor substitute for Alpha Timing in my opinion but it does its primary job (timing) and is probably a fair bit cheaper at a time when the clubs entry numbers are worryingly low (42 this month!). MyLaps does not have the grid draw functionality and the club are using something called Super Sports, which I know nothing about! I’ve been in touch with the club again since and I might even try to write something that might be able to do a better job but I was also at pains to point out that, whilst this could be improved, we’ve really enjoyed every other aspect of racing at the club since we came for the first time in August.

Back to the racing, Junior started on the outside in heat one and losing only one place around the first hairpin was a minor success in itself! We lost a couple more places over the course of the race to the quicker drivers but held onto fifth which was a decent result. Heat two was a low point, Junior had a driver all over him although we clearly had the legs on them in the straight. As he disappeared out of my view (somehow my ‘pushers’ย  bib was a different number to last time but was still assigned the post in the furthest corner of the track!), I heard a thump and the commentator announced excitedly “And he’s gone off, that was a huge impact”, there were an anxious few moments before Junior came back into view – his rival’s brake disc had snapped and he had hit the back of Junior before ploughing into the tyres. A few laps later our chain snapped – our very first chain snap and very likely a result of the incident a few laps earlier. Heat three saw us continue to trail the pace by half a second. We gained a place to finish fifth again and match our fastest time of the day. The day was nothing more than ok until the final and I really wonder whether a set of Maxxis slicks are good for racing anywhere more than twice – I had hoped it might just have been Clay, although the first race on these tyres at Clay had taken a surprising amount of tread from them. I still hope we can do three races on a set at Llandow alone.

So a second trophy for the Junior’s shelf (no signs of needing a cabinet just yet!).

Cost of weekend: ยฃ95 race entry and practice, ยฃ24 petrol, ยฃ10 fuel, ยฃ13 bridge toll, ยฃ160 new slicks (for next month), seat strut and new chain

Spent since last post: ยฃ170 crank alignment, a new seal and a sprocket

Total spent this year: ยฃ4,130 :S

Things that break when you want it least…

You gave yourself that afternoon to prepare the kart (in daylight) for the weekend. You did something else first that took an hour and you have a parent’s evening at 6pm but it’s ok: all you need to do is change the axle, clean a few things up and put on the engine, carb and exhaust. You’re tightening the brake caliper bolt. You go to give it one final turn and then ‘CLUNK’ – the brake caliper bolt shears midway between the bearing hanger and caliper!!! Cue repeated heavy swearing…

Luckily I managed to drill out the bolt and reassemble the kart, rush my tea and get Junior to school! I’m still not fully comfortable with the disassembly of the brake system and am yet to ‘fly solo’ when it comes to bleeding the brakes but this will change tomorrow since it’s my only free time before the weekend – just one of those things that I have to learn to become competent at.

Other semi-interesting things that have cost me money this week: I stopped by the local engine builder to confirm that the engines were legal following the illegal engine modification scandal. I was pretty certain they were good – the previous owner is easily the most knowledgeable person I’ve met in TKM (I guess when you are spending Super One money, you have to be!) and had assured me that there was nothing to worry about but it was one of those things that you just have to have done so that you know without the slightest element of doubt that your engine is legal. Both engines were legal. Unfortunately both had crank alignment issues – we almost certainly damaged the newly built race engine when we ran it in with what I suspect to have been a bad hanger/bearing combo. It’s been a tight month karting budget-wise and I could definitely have done without any engine bills ๐Ÿ™

Spending raceday at home?!?

It was a bit of an odd day today; I had some things to do on the kart in preparation for the October round at Llandow next weekend and obviously the F1 was also on but there was a definite feeling that we should have been somewhere else today. Twelve months on from our first race weekend and this was the first time we hadn’t raced at Clay. I had still spent the night before changing tyres (although this time I was actually doing it the week before, rather than the normal night before a race weekend!) and today I was just attending to some bits and pieces on the kart: the carbon fibre floor tray is back on (we are now overweight for the gold restrictor) and I replaced the hub and steering column bearings (the former had been mentioned by the scrutineer last time). Junior was on his computer but I noticed he had the live timing on next to him for the entire day – if I had taken him down to watch, he’d have gotten bored in minutes but he could watch some statistics changing every 15 seconds or so?!?

It seems we missed quite an eventful day with things getting tense championship-wise as we approach the end of the season but we’re looking forward to next weekend and we hope to continue to find another tenth or two in our bid to keep up with the front runners.

And I’ve just noticed that I need to catch up on my costs for Year 2!!!


IKR Parent’s Race at Clay

Who’d have thought we’d be racing IKR so soon!?! Ok, so it isn’t quite as it seems but Junior and I will be in attendance at the next Clay Pigeon IKR round in a few week’s time although, this time, the roles will be reversed: I’ll be driving and Junior will be pushing (and he’s already trying to weasel out of it). The Clay IKR boys have been trying a few different things to drum up interest with their fixed, harder tyre that has to last three races – I am a big fan of that particular initiative although IKR has yet to really touch the junior classes in the south west, but the Parent’s Race was definitely an eye catcher particularly since I’d been looking to arrange another TKM Parent’s Day in any case. So I’ve mustered up a few of the Clay dads and a mum/bandit (who has raced this season) for our own, one-off IKR class to include practice, three heats and a final (and all for ยฃ40). It being IKR, we get to write the rules so, to mix the grid up a little, we’ll be running MSA-style heats (where the grid order is drawn randomly and you’ll start on the various rows over the three heats) and accumulating points ahead of a more traditional final. It should be great fun – I know that I’ve a few tenths to find on at least one parent, based on our times at our first TKM Dad’s Day Out but I’ll also be competing against two others who have current or past race experience :S I really cannot wait! I’ll also be taking the opportunity to test Junior’s engines back-to-back (weather permitting) so I can see for myself if there is any difference (since he cannot). Of course, the race engine will be going back in it’s box for the final! ๐Ÿ˜‰

Feel free to join us ๐Ÿ˜€