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’  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: £95 race entry and practice, £24 petrol, £10 fuel, £13 bridge toll, £160 new slicks (for next month), seat strut and new chain

Spent since last post: £170 crank alignment, a new seal and a sprocket

Total spent this year: £4,130 :S

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