This wasn’t really ever intended to be a race weekend – I had planned to bring Junior to Llandow during the holidays for a change of scenery and a bit of fun but, when I had mentioned this to one of the Welsh dads at Clay the previous weekend, he had suggested coming along to the club practice day instead. This was very tempting as it provided a great opportunity to gauge our pace (a nice quiet practice day can be useful but you never really how good your times were if you’ve no peers to compare them with) but we had so much to do to get the kart ready. We managed it so off we set to Wales…
Another nice early start but it at least ensured that we were ready for the first session (unlike the last time we came on a club practice day). The day went better than expected – with his newly built kart, Junior didn’t stop on track and only came in early the one time when he found himself sitting on one of the seat stay bolts! Our pace was fairly good also, knocking a couple of tenths off of the time we set on our last visit although we still found ourselves 0.6s off of the pace at times. It was also a good opportunity also to test the new chassis with the more rigid floor tray and new seat position; you would have thought Junior might have noticed some difference, right? :S How about when the torsion bar was removed? [Tumbleweed…]. We did have to bring the back end in when running without the bar but his times were only 0.06s apart and, if we were to race the following day (it was a possibility I stupidly mentioned to Junior earlier in the week), we’d be running without the bar anyway!
In the end, an offer from one of the Clay dads (for whom this was their ‘home’ track) to store our kart overnight and then to let us share their awning on the race day (rain was forecast) clinched it. We’d start at the back but it would be good to see how we fared on a track that Junior was starting to like a lot.
Having had our rain dances ignored last at Clay last weekend, we were really hoping for a dry day on an unfamiliar track. We had driven in the wet at Llandow but not for over 12 months, long before Junior was racing – or even experienced! You know how things go though… we looked a fair bit off the pace in the warm-up as Junior found himself having to learn the wet line PDQ! Although the track was drying, it didn’t do so anywhere near as quickly as Clay 🙁
Now I’m the type of bloke who likes to take up a pushing post on track but that is mostly to get a good viewing point. Llandow have an unusual system whereby the pushers draw a ball from a tin to select their posts. I was the only person who stayed on after the drivers briefing to sign in and yet the scrutineer in charge of post allocation almost seemed to be considering making me draw a ball :S In the end, he decided I could take my pick – I asked which post was in the middle and he told me it was Post 2. I was little peeved when I got to Post 2 to be told that it was actually Post 1 and that Post 2 was in the far corner of the track! Not only was I going to have a pretty poor view but I was going to doing a bit of running today – at least I was going to see Junior in corners that I had not previously observed from.
Heat #1 was still wet but Junior coped really well – the pack split into two groups and he was dicing with a couple of others for the lead of the second group. The order chopped and changed with Junior not quite managing to make it stick until, when it looked like he’d pulled it off, he left the door open for a late move into Chandlers and ended up on the grass. The following lap another kart spun into the same corner and Junior spun whilst taking evasive action. We had a bit of a race – me pushing against the fast approaching novice!!! – but there was only ever going to be one winner there! It was a good start to our day though and it was pleasing to see us ‘racing’, which was something we’d not really done at Clay for a while.
Heat #2 wasn’t exactly memorable – we were 5th quickest and finished a little adrift of the front group, who were all pretty much on the pace. Still, it was nice to see Junior overtaking and he even seemed to be able to outbrake people on occassion :-O
Heat #3 was the highlight, Junior managed to jump from 7th to 3rd after the first corner and had put a bit of a gap on those behind, as a couple of the front runners were held up a little. Unfortunately, they weren’t for long and we soon found ourselves back in 5th which became 4th following a mechanical flag and 3rd after an exclusion. We dipped under 46s for the first time 😀 although we were a little lucky not to see a mechanical ourselves as our exhaust bracket extension bar had snapped but the exhaust had only sunk a few inches and was propped up on the bracket bar itself.
We started a satisfying 5th for the final. The leaders soon put a gap on us but we were comfortably holding position until Junior got his exit from The Dell badly wrong and ploughed into the tyres. It was a big accident as they are looking to get up to top speed as quickly as possible – I could only see the top half of him from my post but it seems he hit his head on his steering wheel before it whiplashed backwards and hit some tyres. Cue red flag and ambulance trip back to the pits. Junior was stiff and shaken but his hand seemed to be the most painful part – I think he hit it with his helmet. His kart didn’t fare too well though: he had pushed the nassau bracket bolt up through the nassau, bent the steering column and track rod, snapped the brake pedal bolt and had also managed to punch the steering wheel bolt right through the steering boss. He was ok though – that was the main thing.
Llandow have a novel and pretty cool twist that they offer at the end of a race day – an extra race, run in the reverse final positions that costs £5 and each class races for a voucher at the shop. We (I say we but I had borrowed the money!) had already paid our entry and Junior would now start on poll courtesy of not finishing the final. I had already discounted our chances of taking part but our awning hosts suggested it could be done as their kart was already sorted and I did have most of the spare bits. Junior was open to the idea so we got started. I’ve never had four people working on my kart before but it came to typify the kind of relationship between Dads/mechanics at club meetings – the kart was ready to roll inside 15 minutes (thanks, Gents!) 🙂 I was glad I had packed the old wheel and boss – I hadn’t expected to be using it again quite so soon! The race itself was poor – we lost the lead quickly and retired on lap #2 with a snapped exhaust manifold (it had clearly been damaged in Heat #3, so it seems unlikely we’d have finished the final anyway). Interestingly, Junior’s only real feedback on our changes came after this race when he said he preferred the F1 wheel to the OTK!
Junior was very sore and his hand wasn’t to good but it had been a really positive weekend – we’d tested the new chassis, got more experience of a track that was really growing fond of and we’d spent the day racing in the pack. *Huge* thanks to our awning hosts (you know who you are!) – for kindly sharing your awning space, giving us track advice, your company and for the bacon sandwiches! 😉 We had a great time and it’s given us a lot to consider before we choose where to race next month.
Cost of weekend:£40 practice fee, £55 race entry, £24 petrol, £13 bridge tolls, £9 fuel
Cost of new parts: steering column, £42; bumper bolts, £21
Spent since last post: new seat, £40
Total spent this year: £3,504