Competitive finally!!! Crashing back to earth literally…

After another early start we arrived at the track at around 7:45 and the brief was to get the race engine on, get through scrutineering and then worry about how the Hell I was going to manage push-starting with my bad back! I had had the the loan of a push-start bar at Saturday practice but I had no idea how it would work on a race day as there aren’t normally any ‘spare’ TKM dads about. Having applied four lots of sun cream and still caught the sun the day before, I was glad we stayed behind after racing on Saturday to get the awning up, slotting into one of the many gaps that appeared when the bambino dads left for the day taking everything with them.

I had the offer of help from the dad and/or mechanic of one of Junior’s friends (thanks, Team Johns!) so, number by half a tube of Deep Heat, push-starting turned out to be ok. With his newly adjusted brakes Junior was under instruction to just make sure he got a good feel for them. He didn’t look particularly quick but came in beaming like I had never seen after a session (it was a unique sight given his normal attitude towards his kart):  he had lapped within a tenth of his PB without really pushing and loved the feel for the brakes 🙂

The club had changed the start line for this meeting, starting and finishing on the finish line instead of starting on Hangar Straight and taking Raymonds as the first corner. I had some reservations about this but the change went really well, the drivers seemed to sort themselves out nicely and I saw no contact going into The Hook. We started 9th for Heat #1, made a reasonable start but got caught up with one of the Super One boys who was practising ahead of their series opener at the track next month; he made a move up the inside going into The Hook, there was a bit of a squeeze exiting the right-handed kink on the exit and they were side-by-side before their wheels got locked together and both karts went off. Junior caught and passed the last-placed kart but finished adrift. Positively though, the kart felt excellent and we were closer to the pace than we would normally be. Junior set a new PB of 45.4s 😀

We made very little change to the setup for Heat #2. Junior started 7th and found himself on the back of the front pack of six drivers. Amazingly, he wasn’t getting dropped and was even being held up by one of the quicker drivers! Although he observed the ‘follow me, let’s catch the leaders’ gesture for a few laps, he soon felt the need to make a move. It took a couple of laps to make the move stick as he kept losing out to the cutback and, when he did finally pass, the leaders had flown. He finished 5th and set another new PB of 45.2s. Overnight, Junior had gone from lapping at 45.8s on the Saturday to 45.4s in the warm-up and now 45.2s! Needless to say I was very thankful to the dad who had sorted his brakes – those 3/10ths he had promised were beginning to look like a conservative estimate!!! I cannot tell you how great it was to see him competing in the pack. We were still a couple of tenths off of the leader’s pace but that was irrelevant; we were properly competing for the first time *ever*, not because we were defending or scraping a result because of DNFs. This appeared as though it could be our true pace! I could have kissed the dad who had helped us there and then. But I didn’t… 😉

Heat #3 saw us start in third. Junior made a good start, holding off some early moves from the visiting Super One driver and tailing second. He was able to follow second through as he passed the leader at Chandlers and the next few laps were the highlight of my time as a karting dad so far: Junior and the leader were lapping within the same tenth of one another and, as third and fourth tangled, they pulled a little clear at the front. I’ll forever remember the commentator’s words as Junior set a new fastest lap of 44.929! A sub-45s lap?!? A few of the others had done this at previous rounds and I remember them being really chuffed but Junior to join the club so suddenly… initially I thought the commentator had gotten the wrong driver but, as Junior continued his pursuit of the leader, a grin spread across my face – a *really* big grin. There probably four laps remaining before things started to go wrong; third and fourth caught us and we got pushed aside entering Surtees, as third went for a gap that was always going to be closed. Junior controlled the kart but lost ground and the place and was now under threat from fourth; the driver we had tangled with in Heat #1 and who had proven to be pretty aggressive throughout the day. We survived one more lap and then, as Junior saw it, we just got wiped out entering Raymonds. He didn’t see the other kart at all but said he felt his rear wheel get whacked as he was on the entry apex. The other kart kicked up and span over Junior, hitting the engine, Junior and the steering wheel on the way over. I quickly ran up from the viewing area (with my bad back I had committed the cardinal sin of being a direct drive dad that wasn’t signed on as a pusher) as the race was stopped and the ambulance came out. The paramedics had Junior’s helmet supported (a technique I learnt at the marshal training day!) but, thankfully, the kart had missed his head with his shoulder taking most of the impact. They wanted him x-rayed and so our day was done. I picked up the broken parts of the engine (I had always wondered what it took to snap an engine fin) and, because we finished third after the count back, went through scrutineering (who proceeded to record everything that had broken!). I spoke to the Clerk after who reported it a ‘racing incident’. Hmmm… there had been a lot of those through the day; lot’s more than you would normally see at Llandow. I’ve some things to say on this but we’ll leave it for another time.

We had a choice: leave everything at the track and go to the local hospital, pack up and go to the local hospital (leaving the kart on the trailer in the hospital car park) or go home, unload the trailer and then head to hospital. Junior had limited movement in his shoulder at that point but I chose the latter – at least I could safely leave everything at home before heading to A&E. Whilst I was relieved that Junior was ok, Junior was gutted that he’d miss the final especially after having finally found some astonishing pace. I felt bad at having doubted Junior. There have been lots of thoughts about the future in my mind during our struggles but to think that we might have sold up and moved on had we not almost stumbled into the fact that his brakes weren’t good enough when, overnight and after a 5-minute adjustment, he had found 9/10ths of a second (I initially typed ‘we found’ but he derserves all the credit here). Of course, we had the race engine on and better tyres than we had used the day before but regardless – we had found so much pace and I was so glad that it wasn’t the driver that was the problem, as it had seemed for so long. I was pleased too that although our chassis is six years old, Junior had proven his equipment is good enough to compete.

So that was that! We packed up in record time. Junior had plenty of visitors whilst he was sat waiting for me to get a move on – partly because of his injury, partly because of his pace! The other party involved in the accident wasn’t one of them though, they just got sorted for the final! Maybe it was one of those awkward decisions whether or not to say something after an incident between drivers, maybe that’s the difference between those who compete for fun and those that *have* to win. We watched the live timing of the final in the car enroute to A&E – it wasn’t the result we would have wished for but that’s the way it goes sometimes. Two hours later we had left hospital with no broken bones confirmed – just an difficult conversation with Junior’s rowing coach that he would not now be available for the eight at a big competition this weekend.

I usually tend to keep things largely anonymous (although you don’t have to work in Cyber Security to figure out the names of most of the people discussed in the blog!) but I have to thank Lou and Ryan Edwards of RED Motorsport for spotting the issue and sorting the brakes out for us. Who knows how quick we’ll be when we return in June (given the predicted influx of Super One drivers for the next round, driving standards that were certainly more aggressive than are the norm at Llandow and Junior sitting his GCSEs, we’ll be skipping May regardless of whether or not Junior is fit to race) but it really does feel that we have just made a massive leap forward. It is unfortunate that I could have sorted this out months ago had I known better but, in my defence, a good few people much more experienced than I had looked at them! Maybe all of that time driving with sub-optimal brakes will now be an advantage 😉 We may not find ourselves competing at the very front of the pack but all we have ever wanted is for Junior to be able to race with his mates and it looks like we might be there at last. I’ll be found crying into a beer somewhere if proves not the case…


My new favourite number: 44.929 😀

Cost of weekend: £100 practice/ race entry, £13 petrol, £12 fuel, £13 bridge fees, £20 new chain

Total spent this year: £1,961

The mechanically inept noob!

Saturday was a bad one, even by my own standards. We arrived to find that almost all of the perimeter pit spaces had gone, it was nigh on impossible to get the awning pegs into the ground where we had chosen to set up camp, we aborted and moved to the very far corner of the track only to find that the pathetic velcro straps on the sides of our awning were no match for the wind and ended up ditching the awning and slotting the car/trailer in somewhere a little more desirable!

Despite this, we were still ready for the day’s first JTKM session but, when Junior was sat in his kart on the dummy grid, I noticed that there was a lot more travel in the steering column than I was comfortable with. It looked as if the steering column bearing (which wasn’t that old) had worn. Caught between the desire to at least get a few test laps in and removing the kart from the dummy grid, I opted for the former (I’m not sure I would in future) with a warning to Junior to take it easy and come straight in if he had any concerns. He duly drove straight back into the pits, throwing his gloves into the seat and going off on one: the steering column wasn’t the issue, the fuel tank lid was leaking. This isn’t the first time we’ve experienced this – why is it so hard to make a fuel cap that fits correctly??? After finishing his little strop, I sent Junior off to get some hand towels from the toilets so that we could get back out for a few minutes. In my rush to get Junior started, I just grabbed the back end, started running and immediately felt something go in my back. I dropped the kart way too soon and had to carry on pushing until he got going but I was in agony! I like to think of myself as being pretty fit – push starting has certainly never been a problem but sometimes these things just happen I guess. It was one of those back injuries that catches your breath. Not good at the start of a race weekend 🙁

The rest of the day was about trying to cope with the pain whilst keeping Junior out on track. Engine mount bolts were the biggest challenge given my restricted mobility. I was able to borrow a push-start bar from one of the other dads; I’d never before used one but I quickly became a big fan! Our pace was disappointingly as has long been the norm: we were around 7/10ths off the pace. We tried a few things like altering the front width and bleeding the brakes which Junior felt made a little difference. I was talking to one of my good friends and, at one point, questioned whether perhaps Junior wasn’t up to this type of karting – we hadn’t progressed at all from the summer of last year; Clay had been replaced by Llandow and, although we had the novelty of a new track, we were now back to familiar struggles. Junior had never shown any sign of unhappiness and, as long as he is still enjoying it, we would of course continue but in the back of my mind still lingered thoughts of IKR and Prokarts 🙁

Although we weren’t where we wanted to be, at least we had run fairly smoothly. Until the final session at least. Junior came in after one lap complaining that ‘something happened’. He couldn’t explain what. We’d just replaced a carb but it didn’t tie in with anything he was trying to describe. Although I’ve said before how you should always listen to your driver, I sent him back out to get more information. This time he came straight back complaining of a loud noise from the engine. I removed the chain guard and couldn’t believe what I was seeing: the chain was as tight as you can imagine, with no flex whatsoever. A couple of friendly dads passed and I asked if they’d ever seen a chain go so tight before. It was then that I noticed that the engine had lifted off of the mount in one corner, skewing the chain enough to cause the problem. I removed the engine and was working with one of the dads to remove the snapped engine mount bolts (it turned out that three had snapped). At this point the other dad was playing with the brake pedal and commented that our brakes were rubbish (these weren’t his actual words!), calling his lad over to have a look. I was focused on checking the engine for significant damage but was more than happy for them to adjust the brakes since Junior has long complained about them. The engine was going to need to visit my builder to have the bolts drilled out and the casing rethreaded (timely since the race engine was going to be off for rebuilding after the Sunday) and, once that was dealt with, the dad showed me how much more release there was in the brake pedal, claiming there were 3/10ths of a second in the improved brake performance. To be honest, I took this with a pinch of salt at the time. He was also less than complimentary about my mechanic skills: a ‘mechanically inept noob’ I think was the description although I don’t know where he would have gotten that from 😉 To be fair, I had had the brakes looked over by a number of people much more qualified than myself. No matter, they definitely felt better and we’d see how they fared on race day…


A variation on a theme 😉


Testing at Llandow: Junior’s new favourite track?

I had been trying to arrange some time to visit Nigel in the shop at Llandow so, even before our troubles last weekend, we were going to be testing there this weekend. Lucas had driven there once before – last May ahead of his ARKS test and, at that time, hadn’t really enjoyed the track; he was very inexperienced and it is a much harder track to drive well compared to Clay so I was interested to see how he fared now being considerably more ‘competent’! It was also the race weekend for Llandow Kart Club so it would give us a good measure of his pace on an unfamiliar track.

Having arrived a little late, we amassed a mighty two laps before lunchtime – missing the first session and then Junior stopping on track in the second. He said that he had just lost power and my first instinct was to check the carb. It was then that I noticed the fuel hose looked empty (a good reason why you should replace old, brown hose) and, when I blew some more fuel through, found it sprinkling out of a hole where the hose had been dragging on the track! :S The fuel hose was tied in place after that!

I had made some changes to the brakes; Junior reported my first change to have made them worse but the next tweak seemed to make the better and Junior actually said he had LOCKED HIS BRAKES!!! 🙂 The day went pretty well thereafter. We only managed four and a bit sessions because of the number of Bambinos taking part in the Llandow leg of the Bambino Kart Club Tour. I hadn’t actually realised there was such a thing at that age but it looked pretty cool – the kids do time trials rather than actually race. Anyway… we were continually changing the setup throughout the afternoon and knocked 1.3s off of our best lap to finish around 0.4s off of the pace. It was clear that Junior was something of a rolling road block at times but he was able to get a bit racey towards the end. Driver feedback was at a premium – Junior had a tendency to wander off to spend time with the other juniors, which was great for him, but it meant there was nobody to do the fuel, lift the trailer lid, help test the brakes etc and I even experienced a karting first: loneliness!!! Ok, it wasn’t as bad as that – the other Dads (whom I had got know from the last couple of rounds at Clay) are very nice but you don’t like to hang around whilst they are making setup changes on a race weekend. It’s just one of those things particular to race weekend – you are busy and aren’t too keen on giving anything away – I am the same at Clay. For the first time, I found myself phoning the wife just for a chat during a karting day!!!

In contrast to our last visit, Junior really enjoyed the track and, predictably, he wanted to come back and race on the Sunday (today), offering to fund his own entry which would have been fine had I not used said money to pay for this additional test day 😉 Having had to fund six car tyres, a service and a cam belt change in the past week, bonus kart funds were pretty thin on the ground!

So where we race next month will entirely be down to Junior. There are pro’s and con’s to both Clay and Llandow: I didn’t enjoy the last race day at Clay whatsoever, from heat one through to the final – it was the polar opposite of the March round and I felt a little let down by the officials. Then again, there is a really strong TKM community at Clay, Junior is keen to contest the entire championship, they sell ice cream and they have a tarmac road that leads all the way to the grid! Llandow, on the other hand, has an awful gravel car park that really does test your bolts on both kart and trolley. I honestly think you would need to budget to replace your trolley each year if you raced at Llandow regularly! Junior really enjoyed the variety that the track offered, however, and although he would definitely be the slowest driver there, that is not something that has ever really phased him. It would be something a leap into the deep end, as the next club round is also the Welsh Open but we’ll see what he wants to do.

Cost of day: £18 petrol, £6 bridge toll, £6 fuel for the kart, £40 practice fee

Total spent this year: £1,562

Practice 16: No more practising

Things have changed. I know that it is too early to be saying this aloud but it really does feel like, in being so close to the pace last weekend, we’ve reached a milestone. We aren’t on the pace – that is the ultimate goal – but to have taken such a big step forward was hugely positive. I will be gutted if we don’t confirm this in the next round of the TKM Junior Championship at Clay (although all bets are off if it is wet!). My mentality has also shifted – we aren’t practising any more. We have always had to think twice about attending both days of the race weekends as we still needed the track time but now we will just be doing the race weekends.

It was Junior’s birthday recently and wanted to take his kart out so we were back at Clay for the fourth consecutive weekend! This time though we weren’t practising – we were TESTING!!! 🙂 I’d arranged to rent a Kelgate brake system from a friend in a bid to improve Junior’s braking into corners as he’d been losing a good couple of kart lengths into corners at the race weekend. To be honest, I wasn’t really in the mood for it – the 6am starts had taken their toll but the timing was right and it was his weekend after all. I didn’t set the alarm and we left when we were ready but still found ourselves at Clay by 9:10am. My mood was definitely much more relaxed – I just told him to go out and give the Kelgate a go.

Junior spun on his first corner of course! “Sorry” he said laughing as he was sat off-track just past The Kink – “I was just trying them out!”. During the morning he was getting on fine with them but I didn’t sense that he was driving any differently to how he drives with the OTK brakes. I wanted him to start pushing them to see if they made a difference – could he brake later? could he actually lock the brakes up now? I hassled him into pushing harder otherwise the day was going to pretty pointless (bar a couple of setup learnings). From there on things got a bit hairy – Junior was snaking a lot into Billies and The Hairpin and spun a few times. As the afternoon progressed, it was clear he wasn’t really enjoying himself although I couldn’t fault his perseverance. He found that, although there was much more range to the pedal, the effects were limited until a certain point, then the kart stopped hard. It was an interesting experiment although, in reality, he was never going to get it in one practice day and we weren’t ever likely to swap brake systems mid-season. We’ll focus on getting the most out the OTK brakes for now. At least the kart ran smoothly and we eeked a few final laps out of a set of slicks that settling into their new home at recycling centre by the time you read this.

Cost of day: £30 petrol, £7 fuel for the kart, £35 practice fee

Total spent this year: £988

Practice 11: best laps and breakages

The second of back-to-back Saturdays. Once again I found myself awake in the early hours, brain totally engaged thinking about the day. Having found the benefits of an early arrival (i.e. plenty of time to get ready for the first session without rushing) to my liking last week, we arrived an hour before the track opened. Unlike last week however, I hadn’t really been able to do as much of the preparation at home the night before owing to the poor weather (the garage has insufficient space to actually work in it and the lighting is awful) so the tyres (a fairly decent ‘new’ used set bought from the forums some time ago) hadn’t been inflated, I hadn’t gotten the new carb gaskets fitted, nor check everything over properly after I had stripped the back end down to dry it last week. The preparation hour was a bit of a rush; I put the new 3l fuel tank on, corrected the kind of mistakes you make when working in the dark (i.e. a front wheel with three wheel nuts but only two bolts used!) and got everything set. We were on the grid when the cadets came off at 10:10.

Our first problem of the day: the kart wouldn’t fire. I gave it a couple of aborted push start attempts but there wasn’t even the hint of it starting. I took it back to the pits and checked the ignition box wire connectors were ok and then checked the spark plug and found that we were not getting a spark. I whipped out the new plug that I had bought in the week for just this purpose and things looked more promising. Hastily, I tossed the old plug in the bin and we went for another attempt at getting on track. Once again the kart is showing no signs of starting so back to the pits again – it seemed the sparking was intermittent. I had used my only spare HT lead at a recent practice at Dunks. Good job that Clay has a shop… only the shop didn’t have one! Fortunately, I was able to borrow one (from my good friend also known as KartingDad’s Karting Dad!), swap the lead over and get the kart starting reliably on the stand and running fine (shame about the plug I threw in the bin full of wasps but never mind).

Junior was on the grid for the start of the second session but only managed three laps before coming in to complain about his brakes. I could see that one pad was rubbing the disc engine-side and there was quite a gap brake-side but assumed, as he had been running ok, that it I could just adjust it at the end of the session. He did another 15 laps but with a slow best time of 39.3s and still complaining about the brake. Back in the pits, I was surprised to see the brake-side pad was rubbing the disc and the gap was now engine-side. If you are thinking “grub screws”, you would be correct: the grub screws had abandoned ship! Pleasingly, I figured that one out straight away too. Disappointingly, this was a mechanic error – I wasn’t overly tightening the grub screws knowing grub screw damage can severely weaken an axle. I have to admit that I hadn’t checked the grub screws at the start of the day so it could well have been that I hadn’t tightened them enough (even for my liking) after refitting the axle. Everything else was still aligned and looking good so it was just the grub screws required – you’d think these would be in stock wouldn’t you? As far as shop stock went, today wasn’t my lucky day so they gave me the only one they had. Having lost a couple at home recently, I only had one spare and my Karting Dad had one also. Cue wandering around the pits trying to buy spares! I managed to get some but it wrote off the remainder of the morning with only 18 laps under our belt and a best (and faulty brake affected) time of 39.1s.

The third session was more like it: 23 laps with a best of 36.6 and lots of time still evident in Junior’s lines. The fourth was better again: running with the camera on-board for first time of the day, Junior managed a 36.5s before the camera mount snapped :S See if you can spot the moment in my YouTube video. I am not convinced this punt on the camera is working – the camera itself is fine but the case and mounts haven’t looked up to the massive vibration that karting poses. For this session we were also running with the MyTach GPS watch. I’ve still not really read up on this but the watch gives you top speed readings and we were looking to test sprocket sizes. Running a 78 sprocket (what we had always run at Clay although I know the quicker guys run a fair bit smaller), we did a fastest lap of 36.57 with a top speed of 64.6mph (ironically analysis at home showed this was not on the fastest lap, which included a top speed of 60.8mph). With our problems seemingly behind us, we switched to a 76 sprocket and ran the GPS again. This time Junior put in a 36.42, the top speed on that lap was 63.8mph and his maximum speed during the session was 64.7mph. Not much in it, I am sure you will agree – I put this down to inconsistency, particularly out of the Top Bend but there was some interesting data in there: he was 3mph quicker down the straight into The Hairpin on the smaller sprocket.

The track then seemed to cool a little and I think my not increasing the tyre pressures a fraction may have cost us a few tenths as we drifted in the 36.6/36.7s laps before we encountered our biggest problem of the day: Junior had been holding up a couple of RotaxMax’s for a few laps and ran wide at The Horseshoe, matey decided to stick his nose up on the outside and, as Junior moved wider to get a line for the bend, they hit – flicking our back end up and causing Junior to run onto the grass. He rejoined the track and ran for another 8 laps. I was very surprised when he came in and I took the chainguard off – the chain looked blackened and dry (it had been freshly lubed) and was missing a few chunks, then I noticed the teeth on the rear sprocket (a brand, spanking new one that day) were wrecked which lead me to a front sprocket with some nice sharp spurs! At this point I needed KartingDad’s Karting Dad (again) as I had no idea how to remove a front sprocket and have learnt I need to buy some new tools :S With hindsight, either of two changes I made during the day may have contributed to this: I removed the sprocket protectors after deciding to use 6 sprocket bolts instead of three (it looked like the front sprocket alignment was a little uneven as the rear sprocket was rotated so I add the extra bolts in case this was the cause and the protectors have three warped holes that no longer easily facilitate the extra bolts) and the chain was running a little looser than I normally have it (on advice!). We went back to the 78 sprocket (now my smallest), a 110  chain (also now my smallest) and fitted a spare front sprocket (thanks again, spares :)).

The track was quieter now and Junior spent the last couple of sessions racing his friends. His lines through the afternoon had really come on – a screech and a lift entering Billies always looks good, taking The Esses with a decent amount of kerb was becoming more of the norm and, although his exit from The Hairpin was still a little tight and he had acquired a new, slower line through The Horseshoe, he was carrying [a little] more speed into and out of the Top Bend. New PB!!! 36.11 🙂 Racing was obviously paying off. For the final session of the day, he spent a few laps following the South West Junior TKM champion 😉 until said champion decided he had enough and wanted to put Junior in his place. Junior didn’t mind though, he was chuffed to bits with another new PB – 36.06s.

So we got off to the worst possible start, endured a pretty expensive day, breakage wise but ended up clocking 166 laps and Junior making further progress.He is definitely quick enough to race. I have no lofty goals/dreams about exactly how competitive he will be, it would be nice to be close enough to the pack to race someone but I doubt that will be the case initially. Whether I am ready to race is another question. I am still making mistakes but I think that is just human nature – I’ll make more than most mechanics, I just need to make sure I learn from them! The troubleshooting is a worry as, if things go wrong, there is no second engine to pull out the trailer, nor is there likely to be for some time. We’re just going to have to see how we get on 🙂

Cost of day: £12 petrol, £7 fuel for the kart, £35 practice fee, £5 grub screws

Cost of replacement stuff: £10 ‘new’ chainguard from eBay, £100 new spark plug cap/spark plug/HT lead/6 grub screws/10-tooth front sprocket/Talon size 76 rear sprocket/Panther (I know I could have spent less but I am keen to see if it is stronger and longer lasting) 108 link chain (from Kart Parts UK/Spellfame)

Total spent so far: £3,396

I plan to limit outgoings to race weekends and associated running costs/repairs only for the remainder of the year so kick me if you see me post about new bits and pieces!

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

Replacing the brake fluid

This weekend was one of those where my plans to make the most of some kart-free time didn’t quite pan out as expected. I made it to Sunday afternoon before a friend (who is quickly becoming KartingDad’s Dad!) offered to help me replace the brake fluid with friend. The brake fluid levels were getting a little low and the fluid itself was looking pretty dirty. My lad hadn’t expressed any issues with the brakes but it was something I wanted to sort out as well as get some exposure to the last part of the kart that I had yet to experience maintenance on.

The first issue was what brake fluid did I need? There is a fair amount of conflicting advice to be found on the web. I went with the recommendation of Dot 5, which was not what was being used in my brake system. This Kosmic Setup Guide from Australian outfit Remo Racing has some useful information on the type of brake fluid (it’s also a pretty decent tuning guide for novices) for which type of OTK brake: typically it would appear most recent (post-2006) OTK kart will use the BS6 brake caliper which requires Dot 5 brake fluid. I placed my order for EBC brake fluid (cheaper than OTK or Putoline) as well as a couple of brake caliper seals and four master cylinder seals.

I had intended to try to document this process but it would be fair to say this wasn’t the most straightforward of maintenance procedures! Cleaning out the old brake fluid from the system was simple enough, as was replacing the seals but I wouldn’t like to have had to re-assemble the system and bleed the new fluid through on my own. It’s definitely something I’d need some baby sitting on next time as well although I don’t expect to have to do this again anytime soon. The brake certainly seems nice and hard but I’ll ensure Junior takes his opening laps fairly gently next time out!

Cost of parts: £26 (2x  brake caliper seals £3.71ea, 4x master cylinder seals £2.64ea, EBC Dot 5  silicone brake fluid £8.28)

Total spent so far: £2,468