Going to PFI :)

Who am I trying to kid? Although Junior didn’t have any karting-related items from us in his Christmas stocking, I’d arranged something pretty special for his Nan to give him: a practice day at PFI running with TWMotorsport in one of their Tony Kart Vipers πŸ™‚ He’s very much looking forward to this, as it’s a track he has always wanted to drive but has always been that bit too far away for a day trip. I am too although for slightly different reasons: I don’t have to tow the trailer 140 miles each-way and I’ve informed my wife that I’m taking the Sportage instead of the Clio πŸ˜‰ It will also be very interesting to see how Junior finds the handling of the Viper compared with his EVR.

There’s a bit of uncertainty regarding the TVKC membership requirements: the track told me you had to be a member (the prospect of a Β£60 outlay on top of the practice fee has always put me off visiting previously but I’d thought we’d bite the bullet if we had to) but other drivers have said they paid a Β£10 day membership fee. I guess we’ll just have to wait and see! The timing isn’t great also: we’ve our annual Christmas Karting the night before and Teamsport don’t have a great record for finishing promptly. Hopefully we are finished promptly and Junior won’t be too sore for my putting him in his indoor karting place πŸ˜‰ Wish me luck!

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 πŸ˜‰

Think you're quick around TeamSport Bristol?

Think you’re quick around TeamSport Bristol?

Only 82 days to go… πŸ˜€

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 πŸ™‚ 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 Β£35, huh? πŸ™‚

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 πŸ˜€

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 πŸ˜‰ 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 πŸ˜€ 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 πŸ˜‰

Practice 6: ARKS test

Thursday night was a bit of a rush, it being the first dry evening since the kart got soaked on Monday – I had dried the kart as best I could (given the constraints of working on a kart sat on a camping trailer inside a single garage) but there was still a fair amount of moisture around the engine mount so I chose to remove it and make sure everything was clean and dry. Not the best time for a first solo removal of the engine and exhaust perhaps but it needed doing. I also had to reset the front width after widening it at Llandow and I got as much ready for the day as possible: changed the sprocket, mixed some new fuel and slightly overinflated the tyres so that I could tweak them in the morning.

We got to Clay Pigeon Raceway about 20 mins before the track opened, signed in and were told to have a few runs and the ARKS examiner would come and get us when the time was right. I had been a bit worried on the drive down about the possibility of a repeat of the starting difficulty we had last time so I was relieved when it started first time. I ran my normal wheel, hub and chassis bolt checks and, unusually, we were out for the first session πŸ™‚ We had a stuttering start though – Junior came in eight laps reporting the back end felt loose. I wondered if this was a tyre pressure issue so I dropped them down a notch. Second time out he complained it felt even worse! With his hesitancy from Llandow in mind, I assured him that nothing was loose so there was no safety issue and sent him back out to give the tyres a good warm up and see if the handling improved. I widened the back end by 5mm on each side when he came back and, from then on, he was happy with the handling and was soon pushing it. It was only during the fourth session that I realised the ARKS instructor was marshalling so that he could watch Junior, who by this time had beaten his previously best lap time from our February session. The instructor was more than happy with his speed and it was at that point I stupidly commented on it being nice to have the kart running without issue. No more than two minutes later, the kart is parked up on the exit of Billies and Junior is inspecting the back end. I made for the trolley park.

This was an interesting one: not only had the chain had come off but the sprocket was hanging on by a single bolt and one part of the sprocket protector was sitting on the axle, next to the chain. I had lost two of the three bolts from the sprocket carrier although one was bent and wedged in the back of composite chainguard. There were no nuts, including those that separated the sprocket from the sprocket protector (on which the fixing holes were now very worn to the point of being largely useless). I had lost parts on track yet again… πŸ™ This was and still is something that I am desperate to see the end of – this particular problem was a new occurence and I can only assume that the nuts on the outside of the plastic sprocket protector had come loose. Just like the exhaust screws, it seems that once one goes it’s only a matter of time and the sprocket nuts were not nylocs, nor was I checking them between sessions. I removed all the relevant parts – there was composite chainguard ‘dust’ all over the engine, chain and chassis. The chainguard itself was cut up and the sprocket had worn on side of the teeth. I disposed of the sprocket, patched up the back of the chainguard with tank tape, bought six new sprocket carrier bolts (we – and every other kart I have ever looked at – had only three bolts in place before now) and cleaned everything up. We missed two sessions but at least it gave us some time to have some lunch.

As we were ready to head out again, Junior was called for his ARKS driving results and theory test – the only comment was that he needed to use the kerbs in the Esses and he got all his questions right in the test, meaning he passed his test πŸ™‚

We made the most of the remaining four sessions, running until we were kicked off at 5pm. Junior had some fun racing with a couple of his friends he knew from Teamsport Bristol – one a Senior Max, the other in a Mini Max which made for a surprisingly entertaining spectacle and he was chuffed to post a new fastest lap of 36.92s, especially as his tyres were probably making a farewell appearance (they were used when we got the kart and he’s since done over 400 laps on them!). All in all, a good day – ARKS test passed, 157 laps ‘bum-in-seat’ time and a new fastest lap, only tainted by the sprocket bolt problem although I am now running six bolts (three of the holes on the sprocket and sprocket protectors are now badly worn) and checking them after each session (they do need tightening up every time, even with nylocs – I wonder if it is the plastic sprocket protector that doesn’t really allow for a firm tightening of the nuts).

Cost of day: Β£12 petrol, Β£7 petrol for 5l super unleaded for the kart, Β£85 ARKS test fee (including track practice), Β£1.50 for 6 sprocket carrier bolts

Total spent so far: Β£2,680

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 Β£1 every time I said I was gutted, we could have afforded a 2012 Tonykart πŸ˜‰ 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 πŸ™‚ πŸ™‚ πŸ™‚ 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 πŸ™

Some well earned self indulgence

This evening, I’ll be back in the driving seat for the first time this year as I’m off to Teamsport Bristol with another noob karting Dad πŸ™‚ What was once a monthly outing has had to take a back seat of late, in fact I’ve not been since Junior was quicker than me for the first time at the back end of last year. I’m really hoping to put that disappointment behind me – it took some time getting over πŸ˜‰ It also means I get to wear my birthday present from last year – in my opinion, it’s the best present ever! What do you reckon?


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 kartingΒ 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 likeΒ Teamsport’s excellent Half-Term KartingΒ 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 πŸ™‚