It’s unusually soon for me to be writing up our race weekend hours after getting home but I’m still peeved and I’m hoping to type away my frustrations. I’m not intending to rant but let’s see where it goes…
Saturday started badly; Junior’s first session looked pretty good but he was complaining that the kart wasn’t picking up quite as it should. I changed the carb over to one I had tested the night before and which I again tested before putting it on the kart. Of course, you know what it coming next: the kart wouldn’t start. It was as if we had no spark – we did but the kart clearly had no intention of going anywhere. With the kart safely off track behind the marshal post on the start line, I quickly ran back to base and picked up the necessary bits to switch the carb over. We got it going again… just in time for the in-lap!!!
Apart from our loaned GoPro defaulting to video burst and my not noticing until the final session and then us breaking down because a carb bolt came loose(!), the rest of the day went as well as we could have hoped given that we were again using our Festival tyres. The mass setup change that we had made for the August final but never gotten a chance to put to use worked well and made up for the complete lack of grip we were getting from the tyres. Junior looked to be driving fairly well and a 45.5s lap was decent all things considering.
Race day brought a welcome return to fresh rubber, a first since the Welsh Champs!?! Budgets, huh? Scrutineering was unusually rough! It started with some concern about our rose joints, progressed to exposed threads on the seat bolts (I’d removed a kilo and need to weigh after the warm-up to know whether we needed it back on), touched on my camera mount (there was some concern I may be planning on using the camera) and then to the seat where we were informed that the seat had to be level with the chassis?!? I questioned this but another scrutineer confirmed the same belief. Umm…I’m really not sure about that! There is obviously no sense in upsetting the scrutineers so I nodded in confusion and we moved onto the amount plastic left on the brake disc protector!!! My kart isn’t that bad (honest) although I’d sooner have thorough scrutineers than slack ones! Feeling somewhat bruised, I noted all of the bits I’d soon need to attend to and wished them all the best 🙂
Junior strangely decided he’d come in after two of his three warm-up laps. I don’t know if this was because he’d made a mistake (since the drivers come in after being shown the last lap board on a practice day rather than complete the lap and then come in) or intentionally. He claimed the latter.
Heat #1. What can I say? 😀 😀 😀 We started third, behind a fairly new driver making his first appearance at Llandow. A pole on his first race? I guess a 100% pole/heats record is not to be scoffed at, especially compared with our 0/33 – the grid generating system at Llandow really does suck! I could understand it if the grid numbers were in the thirties but in an average grid of eight? :S I digress… Junior has become proficient at his starts and managed to split the front row starters, jumping into the lead at the first corner. He gained a 10m lead, gradually lost it, saw himself passed into Raymonds on two occasions to different drivers but cut back immediately both times and then pulled a small gap that he held until the last couple of laps as second, third and fourth fought it out. He had to defend the final corner but, unlike as the Welsh Champs, did a decent job of it despite bogging a little and took the win. I’ve never seen a heat win celebrated before but Junior gave it some fist pumps as he crossed the line, bless him (keeping one hand on the wheel of course!). I had to laugh 🙂
Scrutineering was a minor drama: having weighed in at 135.8kgs post warm-up and finished Heat #1 with more fuel, the scales varied between 136.2 and 134.7kg! The scrutineer let us go with the scales reading 135.1kg. I’ve never trusted the scales at Llandow but it was clear we’d have to bolt on another kilo.
Our Alfano was playing up (although I since heard that others had issues so maybe there was a problem at the track) so we had no timing. The results were printed only just before the second heat and I was surprised to see us 0.4s off the pace. We’d been running the practice motor to see how it compared to the race engine post-rebuild. We’d have to get through Heat#2 and consider putting the race motor on. We started third, got passed soon into the race and then again mid-way through. Junior sought to get the cutback from Raymonds and the two karts appeared to enter The Hook together, Junior on the inside of the right-handed first section but soon-to-be on the outside of The Hook proper. There was contact and the other kart spun onto the grass, rejoined the track backwards and clipped Junior. Junior carried on to finish third and the other kart retired with a bent bumper. Shortly after we were summoned to the office. It gets a bit random from here on. Junior and the other driver had their views, neither of which matched the report from the marshal’s post. The Probationary Clerk discounted the marshal report and decided to exclude Junior because, in his opinion, he’d had the chance to avoid causing the accident (since he was not in front) and the other driver had to retire from the race. I’m still bothered by this. It has nothing to do with the other driver: the kids will race, sometimes they’ll come together and sometimes one or other will feel aggrieved. Sometimes there will be fault and a driver punished, sometimes wrongly so. Everyone will inevitably have differing views, especially where contact ends one driver’s race and, having had a distant view of the incident, my opinion was based completely on what I’d heard from others. Although you take it on the chin and move on, I was left with a sour taste in my mouth: the original report was discounted (should that have been the end of it?), the driver views conflicted (although perhaps Junior exposed himself by committing the cardinal sin of saying his bumper was only alongside the front wheel of the other kart when he and others had originally told me they were side by side) and the severity of the penalty issued was determined by the other kart not being able to continue rather than the standard of driving (which sounds a bit wrong but I’ve no idea whether or not there is any guidance on this).
I spoke to several people afterwards who had seen the incident – they were all surprised he’d been excluded. You see some poorly executed moves that rightly get punished but I’m not convinced this was one of them. The incident itself sounded very similar to the one we had in July when Junior was in the other driver’s position, the other kart had spun, retired and the same official (who had witnessed the incident on that occassion) deemed it a racing incident. An exclusion for side-by-side racing seemed very harsh and it’s a shame that Junior will now receive penalty points on his license for it. Junior was livid. I was just disappointed. I didn’t feel that the incident was as clear cut as it was made out but there we go. I certainly appreciate how hard it is to make an accurate assessment in the heat of the moment. Kicker #1 was our chances of challenging for third in the championship suffered a massive blow. Kicker #2 was that, having spent an age in the office, the chance to the change our engine was gone.
Heat #3 was interesting. Junior moved from sixth to fourth and there followed some pretty close racing between Junior and his Clerk’s Office cohort. Junior made what can only be described as an accidental pass into Raymonds as he took avoiding action only to be retaken at Chandlers and eventually finished fourth.
All of this excitement resulted in us starting fourth; *the* worst place to start on the grid if you are among the top five. Fourth inevitably became fifth despite a little attempt at a cheeky around the outside of The Hook attempt which the inside row were having none of! We briefly raced for third but just dropped away. It was almost as disappointing as the exclusion as I really can’t explain it. We’d cleaned the carb and switched to the race engine. Although our best was only 0.13s off of the quickest, we really lost pace in the second half of the race. Tyre pressures? I still need to check the data. It has me scratching my head for now.
So that was our weekend. A first ever heat win. A first ever exclusion. A disappointingly uncompetitive final. Junior is still learning racecraft but I wonder if he would benefit from tucking in after being passed and at least gauging for a corner or two whether his passer might help tow himforwards. There is a time to fight but it isn’t necessarily all of the time. I’m not going to criticise him for it; he’s just going to have to find that happy medium. Onwards and upwards?
Cost of race weekend: Practice fee £35, entry fee £55, petrol (car) £15, fuel (kart) £8, bridge fee £13
Costs since last post: Oil £20, new trailer cover/cargo net £25, new slicks £148
Total spent this year: £4,163