Christmas Karting 2015 is go!!!

Christmas Karting has become something of an annual fixture; when mums and dads attempt (and fail miserably) to put their kids in their place, the dads get all competitive with one another and the kids just jaunt around like they own the place. From 12 drivers in 2013 and 36 in 2014, we’ve now expanded to 48 drivers for this year (14 parents, 9 senior drivers, 12 junior drivers and 13 family/friends). That’s A, B, C and D finals!!! It’s a lot of ball-ache to set up, mostly down to having to collect money from everyone but the end result is worth it. Last year we smashed the TeamSport Bristol leaderboard and the locals still haven’t beaten any of the top seven times we set last year 😉

Think you're quick around TeamSport Bristol?

Think you’re quick around TeamSport Bristol?

Only 82 days to go… 😀

Christmas Karting 2014

After the success of last year’s Christmas Karting, we had planned to make the parents versus juniors contest an annual thing. Teamsport Bristol hadn’t really done their bit by not running a family and friends event for members this year but they offered us something much more tempting: Our own race event! Things snowballed from there really: Ten drivers in 2013 became thirty seven in 2014!!! We had drivers from TKM and Rotax, Clay and Llandow, even a Super One driver 🙂 Ok, having to collect all of the deposits and balances was a royal pain in the arse but it was building up to be something special.

So eleven juniors, five seniors, fourteen parents, four siblings and three mates descended onto Teamsport for a night which promised much. We had drawn three groups and each would have 10 mins practice, 2×10 minute heats and a 15 minute semi-final before the groups came together for 15 minute A, B and C Finals. Not bad for £35, huh? 🙂

The track was a lot quicker than it was when Junior and I were regulars, so much so that I bettered my PB in the practice (without getting too big headed I wasn’t a slouch before!). I was quietly confident that the track record (set only the night before by one of the staff) was in danger 😀

The races themselves were pretty rough, three abreast coming down the ramp never ends nicely! The two heats were run youngest > oldest and then oldest > youngest. Heat 1 for me wasn’t good; spun on the first lap and again a few laps later, I struck it lucky when half the field piled up underneath the bridge leaving a little under a kart’s width that pushed my way through, at walking pace under the yellow flags of course 😉 and came away with a decent 4th place. Heat 2 definitely wasn’t one for the purist, I got to the front and defended for ten laps with a queue of juniors behind me. It was enough to put me alongside Junior on the front row for our semi-final 😀 I had a decent kart in the semi and Junior was definitely struggling with this – I tailed him around as we pulled clear although I turned down the couple of half chances that came my way as I knew that Junior would just as soon bin us both than see me past him and my eyes were set on the A Final! After Junior almost got taken out lapping a back marker who definitely wasn’t going to get out of the way, I bided my time and brought it home in second.

I qualified in fifth for the A Final, courtesy of being slower in the semi than the other two semi final runner ups but was the lead adult and right in the junior mix. I got a decent start but juniors these days don’t really have much respect!!! I was being nudged all over the place so reverted to defensive mode to at least let Junior clear off to fight for the win. Once one barged me out of the way, a few more followed suit and I was in seventh before getting spun around. Things got worse as I then made a move on someone who just seemed to understeer into the tyres and took me with him. Still, I think I put up a reasonable fight even if I finished a lap down. Junior finished runner-up to the lightest of the drivers who won all his races on the night. Collectively we destroyed the fastest lap leaderboard too, with seven drivers bettering the former record. It was a lot of fun and only another eleven months until our next visit 😉

Dad drives Clay!!!

They say that you should not judge a man until you’ve walked a mile in their shoes. Today I walked the mile although it would be more appropriate to consider me wearing their slippers – today was the day I got to race at Clay. Ok, so it was only a corporate thing in the Raceway’s arrive & drive karts but I learnt to appreciate what Junior does *so* much more – to drive Clay lap, after lap on the edge, not wanting to enter Billies too hot, taking enough kerb in The Esses, exiting fast but not too wide, getting The Hairpin spot-on, not losing too much momentum through The Horseshoe and nailing the Top Bend. To feel how rough some of the kerbing is on the exit of the corners I have been telling him to hit for the past year. And I was driving a much slower kart doing 44s laps!

There are some things that seem to run in the family – it wouldn’t have been a Team Karting Dad effort without the now customary black flag! It was an honest mistake – I was trying to pass another karting dad, we were side-by-side around The Kink, some mutual squeezing going on and I was focused on the amount of space he was leaving me (or not) to claim the entry into Billies. Made the pass, looked up and saw two karts facing the wrong way before The Esses and got a black flag for not spotting the yellow being waved on the kink. The drive-through proved a costly 28s delay too as we (my randomly drawn partner and I) lost by 5s 🙁

Anyway, it is fair to say I have learnt to appreciate even more what it takes to try to lap consistently, inches off of the floor in a bloody fast kart. I am tentatively looking forward to the Junior TKM Dads day (Dads drive JTKMs!) that we have lined up for next month – then I’ll be able to say I really have walked the mile in his shoes 😮

One year on…

This weekend just gone was one year since I naively took my first steps into 2-stroke karting. I had been talking to the Clay Pigeon Kart Club folk about getting Junior down to try out a 2-stroke kart. In my mind, it was nothing more than a chance for Junior to drive a fast kart after his Arrive/Drive exploits. It was a fun day, even if Junior was *ultra* slow – that’s him in the site banner photo – I always thought it made it look like he was ducking inside some seniors but the reality couldn’t be further from the truth! I had absolutely no intention of buying anything.

Twelve months and £4,255 later…

Practice 5: a mixed day at Llandow

Having already had one practice day this month (although whether you can describe 12 laps as a practice day is questionable!) and an ARKS test booked for Friday I hadn’t really budgeted on another day out this month but there were quite a few reasons for us to make sure all was well with the kart ahead of the test: we hadn’t fired up the engine since the accident which had damaged the spark plug and cable, we had adjusted the front tracking, replaced the steering wheel and bled/adjusted the brakes. I needed to know that a) the kart worked and b) Junior was happy. Finding somewhere to test was a little difficult – Clay had Elite Karting on, Dunkeswell had their race weekend and Llandow had very patchy availability all over the weekend because of their arrive/drive commitments. It was a pleasant surprise when I called them on Saturday to find they were completely free on Bank Holiday Monday. Game on.

There were three Dad/lad combos heading over and we arrived to find some nice sunshine. The kart was soon set up and ready to start on the trolley when something unusual happened: it did not start! Fuel was being sucked into the carb ok but replacing the spark plug made not difference and it didn’t look like replacing the carb was going to  either but it did eventually fire up. Not sure why this was but, once going, everything seemed well – we had missed the first session but were set or the second session. It turned out we were sharing the entire day with arrive/drive karts which was a little bit annoying when we were hoping for an open track day.

The first couple of sessions were frustrating – Junior came in after five laps of the opening session reporting the brake pedal felt too stiff and that the back end felt loose and then after two laps of the next session reporting there was a hissing from the carb/engine area and the engine feeling ‘spluttery’. I don’t mind this having him come in if he has any concerns as we’d previously found that when Junior was reporting something, he turned out to be correct. The brake had been stiffened so this was to be expected. There was signs of oil escaping around the exhaust flex which was the only thing that might have explained the hissing. Everything else looked and another Dad gave the kart a thorough checking over. At this point I semi-joked to his son that he might like to take the kart out and see if there was anything amiss. Five laps later we were back in business: our test driver jumped out, Junior jumped in and instantly seemed much happier. Never underestimate the importance of a driver having trust and confidence in his kart!!!

At this point we were doing well – Junior was seeing out entire sessions and going quite nicely, hitting 47.61s in consecutive sessions (bear in mind his kart is not weighted currently). And then it rained. We stayed on the slicks at first: Junior was briefed to go out, be careful and just enjoy driving his kart. He looked quite at home in the damp, his pace was good and he span just the once at Raymonds as he pushed it a little too hard. We then switched to wets as the rain continued. He still looked pretty good but then we started losing kart parts on track again just when I thought we had seen the back of those (with the resolution of the engine mount problems) – this time it was the exhaust end can and silencer. I had noticed that we were down to two end cap screws at the weekend but had no spare screws and had forgotten all about it. A bunch of us set about locating the missing pieces. I was glad it was very quiet by this point as wandering around a track looking for your kart parts isn’t the best of feelings. As the shop had no screws, we tried using a rivet gun to fix the cap to the exhaust – that lasted another 5 laps before one of the boys noticed the end cap was missing again although the silencer was still present. I sent Junior to the pits and went hunting for the end cap again. At this point it was getting late and still raining so we decided on one more session. This time the end cap was fixed with some screws (that had been fitted inside one of the Dad’s vans!), covered with a metal tie, the some exhaust flex held in place with some plastic ties. It did the job and we ran for a good while before Junior came in with numb hands (he had been getting pretty ragged by this point too – not sure what had happened to the control he had shown earlier).

There were some notable positives though: Junior went quite nicely on the dry track – you could see him start to attack some of the corners and he was posting some reasonable times. He was also pretty good when the track got wet – initially when out on slicks as the track started to get wet and again when we went to full wets. His performance was tempered a little by his final session, where he didn’t seem to be able to adjust his pace and was clearly going too fast into the corner, ruining both his lines and his momentum (as he fought to keep the back end in place). I couldn’t really complain – having not had any wet practice since we bought the kart (when Junior was very, very slow), it was valuable experience ahead of his ARKS test.

Having approached the day hoping for an entire day’s smooth running and a little bit of wet time (be careful what you wish for), things didn’t exactly pan out as hoped but they say “There’s no such thing as bad track time”. Llandow was quite a different track from Clay and Dunks – it seemed more technical in terms of mastering the entry speeds to get the right lines and exit speeds and showed that Junior still has much to learn. The toilet facilities were pretty poor (soap and hand drier, anyone?) and, since I am moaning, I could have done without the torrential rain on the way home and the subsequent clean-up job once we got back (I just wanted a hot bath) but there we go. Oh… and the rain got inside all three layers of the visor protector and they had to be removed 🙁 I think this will be our dry visor from now on.

Fingers crossed for Friday…

Cost of day: £10 petrol, £7 petrol for 5l super unleaded for the kart, £40 track fee

Total spent so far: £2,575

I love karting (again)

Setting a PB lap time should be a good thing, right? Not if your son, his mate and his Dad all set better PBs than yours and especially if there is 0.8s difference between the quickest and you! It took some time to get over this devastating December evening – had I received £1 every time I said I was gutted, we could have afforded a 2012 Tonykart 😉 Anyway, tonight was our first time back on track at TeamSport Bristol – initially it was just going to be a Dad’s thing but the kids funded their own places. The track was in decent shape and it was a really enjoyable evening – four different karts, none of which were ideally suited to my driving style but had great fun attacking the track and outscored Junior 3-1 in setting the fastest lap of the sessions 🙂 🙂 🙂 Ok, so I am 0.5s off the very quickest blokes there but it was nice to be back on top in the family/friends battle and set a new PB too (only marred by my second ever black flag – I thought it was harsh but I was getting a little ‘bumpy’!). The Heikki helmet just brings a continual smile to my face! If only I could break the 35.0s barrier 🙁

The Three Big Questions #1: Will my son enjoy karting?

So your son (or daughter for that matter) has done the arrive/drive thing and you’re thinking about buying your own kart? Before taking the plunge and sinking not an insignificant amount of money into karting you need to be absolutely certain that this is the right thing for you both. To this end there are three questions to which you need to be able to answer ‘YES’. The first:

Will my son enjoy karting?

Assuming you’ve some arrive/drive experience (if not then look for something like Teamsport’s excellent Half-Term Karting events – I can’t recommend these highly enough as a first place to kart) then you really need to get yourself to a track and watch a race or practice day. There is a *huge* difference in performance so it’s a good place to gauge not only what you both think of the speed difference but also what else goes on in the background (more on this later). If you like what you see then contact the local karting club to see if they stage open days where potential new members can try out the different classes of kart. This really is the best way to determine whether or not your son is going to enjoy karting. Our first time was a bit of a mixed bag (early spin = loss of confidence) so we rented a kart from a friend and did a practice day a few weeks later: he was a rolling road block at times but absolutely loved it and didn’t take anybody else out.

Question 1 = answered 🙂