A happy return to CPKC

http://thesandarenaballerina.com/wp-json/wp/v2/media/2922 Racing at Clay Pigeon Kart Club’s feature round, the annual Cancer Research weekend, hadn’t previously been a consideration for our season-ending schedule. Having initially ignored the appeals of one of their more enthusiastic members, who had taken it upon himself to drum up the TKM support (which, from my efforts at Llandow, I could empathise with!), it became a lot more appealing as I thought about the amount of time between our last race (the TKM Festival in August) and our next (the TKM Britain’s Finest event at the end of this month). Ten weeks without any seat time wouldn’t put us in the best position to compete at Whilton Mill. With Junior never having raced there, I know that we aren’t likely to compete at the sharp end anyway but you don’t want to be too rusty from a race perspective. Junior was keen so we decided to put in a late entry. In contrast to the Extreme grid, which had attracted some Super One entries, the Junior grid was fairly small comprising mostly of the newer Llandow drivers and a couple of other guest entrants, one of whom had earned a top ten finish at the Festival so I was hopeful that we wouldn’t have it all our own way. We’d also be holding back on our race engine (with 9.5 hours on it and destined for the race day at Whilton before being converted to Extreme) and tyres (our prize slicks from the Festival are also reserved for Whilton). This meant that we’d be taking a punt on the tyres we had used at the Festival and, based on our experiences at Llandow last year, could prove a serious disadvantage. It didn’t really matter though; This was all about keeping Junior race-fit and helping our old club to support a great cause. It was almost exactly three years to the day since making our race debut here and two years since we had left the club for the final time, our spirits crushed once again.

stigtomta träffa tjejer We arrived at the track nice and early to find TKM Corner was a bit of a ghost town! What had once been the life and soul of the paddock was largely empty; The area surrounding the new reception/café/viewing area was now the place to be. That was fine, this was about old times so we pitched up and peered into the fog across the track. Some things never change! By the time the first session arrived, the mist had gone. From the minute he hit the track Junior appeared to be on it!

Welcome back!

Welcome back!

The day went perfectly. The JTKM drivers had been grouped with Mini Max/ Formula Blue and Junior appeared to be the fastest in his group even without our race setup. Perfectly that is right up until the final session of the day when the practice engine seized entering Billies. With us nursing our race engine to Whilton, this was absolutely the last thing we needed to happen. Junior knew this and was leant against the tyres with his head in his hands. I feared the worst but hoped that he had just spun out and was disappointed in himself. That wasn’t the case unfortunately and we wheeled the kart back to the paddock. As soon as I saw the dry spark plug, I knew what I would find when I removed the head and barrel: The piston head was bone dry and the ring clearly pinched at the rear. The barrel was scored but only lightly. The piston had an inch shaving on the rear where it had clearly hit the barrel. Our day was done and, almost certainly, our weekend too. I had paid the race entry fee at the start of the day against my better judgement and it looked like we’d be writing that off. I daren’t risk the race engine in such a small race, so close to rebuild time and with Whilton only weeks away.

We had some very generous offers of engine loans but I didn’t feel comfortable accepting them: If you aren’t prepared to risk your own engine, you cannot really take someone else’s! We began to pack up and then one of the dads offered to take an engine to Whilton for us just in case anything happened to our remaining engine. With the race engine having had a bottom end build a few hours ago, I was happy to give it a go knowing that we had a backup plan in case the worst happened at Whilton; It isn’t as if seizing engines is common for us (he said touching lots of wood) and we were here to race after all!

We arrived at Clay on race day to see the track basking in glorious sunshine, something of a contrast to the practice day. Our GoPro failed scrutineering for the first time ever: The scrutineer didn’t like the tether being drilled through the case and wanted me to knock the metal bar out of the hinge and run the tether cable through there. Forget that! We just took it off instead. Ahead of the warm-up, one of our rivals pointed out to Junior that used slicks would cost us around 0.3s around Clay. We knew that, the question was whether we’d be competitive… not only on used slicks but Festival-used slicks. Our experiences last year had suggested this would be a factor. We’d soon find out.

What is this?

What is this?

If things had gone pear-shaped from a tyre perspective at this point, I had a brilliant headline already planned: “What goes on at Kimbolton, stays at Kimbolton”. It wasn’t obvious over the three lap warm-up but Junior was adamant that we’d need to drop a tooth before the first race. There is a small difference between our race and practice engines and, since we hadn’t intended to use the race engine at all over the weekend, we hadn’t done any test sessions on it. Heat #1 would set the tone for the day: We’d either be on the pace or not. Starting on pole was a good thing since it would allow us to properly gauge our pace. Junior got a good start and soon eased clear, helped by our main challengers having a really entertaining tussle for the last half of the race, and we won by a little over 5s. Our tyres were clearly good enough and it would be interesting to see how we fared starting in less optimal grid positions in the following heats. As we were in parc ferme one of my friends, a Tal-Ko henchman no-less 😉 , thought he would point out that it would be my fault if Junior lost today! I’m not one to count my chickens (and, if you’ve read my blog, you’ll understand why) but I could see his point: There was a chance that the biggest risk to our chances would be me (or a mechanical failure, which is still my fault!).

Heat #2 was better still: Starting in 4th, Junior found an inside line through Billies and emerged in the lead. You don’t see that very often! The race proceeded to play out just like the first heat; Junior pulled a 5s lead as his two rivals again duked it out and he had eased things down as he approached the finish. Heat #3 would be the biggest challenge. Starting 7th, Junior just had to make sure he didn’t get caught up in anything and we’d assess the scale of our task once we had the leader in our sights. Again, he got another great start and was second entering The Esses. He whiffed at a couple of moves before taking the lead on lap three, pulled clear and managed the gap to second to take the win.

So far, so good. We would start on pole for the final and everything was looking rosy. Why then was I feeling so much pressure!?! I had checked and double-checked everything, checked the side pod bars, bumper bolts, even inspected the exhaust brackets for cracks! The final looked as if it was ours to lose. Lunch was quite late and our final was at the tail end of the card by which time, the temperature had dropped significantly. The first time that Junior ever had a pole at Clay, he completely messed up the start: Carrying far too much speed in his excitement, running wide and dropping to last. I wouldn’t blame excitement this time (and he blamed my bleeding of his brakes giving him more stopping power than he had expected) but the result was the same: He locked up and had to save the back end. Fortunately it had a knock-on effect on almost everybody else as their corners were compromised and he managed to deny second a passing move on the entrance to The Esses. Once clear, Junior was under instruction to again manage the gap and avoid the bolt-snapping potential of the rumble strip exiting The Esses. He did enough to win by a little under 5s 🙂

So that was that! It wasn’t as close as we thought/I hoped it might have been and, although they went off a little at the end, the tyres held up well all things considering. The trophies for the event were pretty impressive: We’ve never been given a solid wooden storage box for a trophy before and Junior was now the custodian of a second large, perpetual trophy 😀

A trophy that comes with it's own cupboard!

A trophy that comes with it’s own cupboard!

My lasting memory of this weekend will be watching Junior absolutely nail Billies time and time again. This won’t sound impressive to you but I spent countless hours stood in the centre of the track watching Junior taking this corner thousands of times over a year and a half; Entering The Kink too early, running too far across the track, not able to get back to take the right line and having to get on the brakes all too early. He had always been a sitting duck. In the time that we had been away we’d finally stumbled into the brake issue that had hindered Junior for * Chalinze so* long and it should be no surprise that Junior has improved in his time away from Clay. His woes, our woes, at the track had been in-grained into my mind ever since and, watching him now, really hit home how significantly he has improved (or how poor we had been!).

There was a stark contrast between the atmosphere in the car on the way home this time and those journeys home in 2014. We’d contested the Cancer Research weekend back then and been awful. It would have been amazing to have had the 2014 grid here: Many of them have moved onwards and upwards and I’d love to have seen how we fared against them. With the Extreme races having been the highlights on the on-track action all through the day, we’ll definitely return for the event in 2017.

Our race debut at CPKC, three years ago!

Our race debut at CPKC, three years ago almost to the day. Can anyone spot the noob?

Three years on and he's starting to look the part!

Three years on and we’re starting to look the part. I think the helmet, hubs and stubs are all that remain! Fantastic pic courtesy of Steve Wood Kart Photography

A rare weekend away

We almost never do away weekends. As I’ve said before, this is almost entirely down to the way we roll: Clio, camping trailer, no awning… it’s ok, I don’t need your sympathy 😉 But this month is different. Our goals for Llandow are done: Super One and the Welsh Championships saw Junior make giant strides towards becoming a more accomplished driver even if both were disappointing to varying degrees. 2016 was always going to be a case of seeing where we were in the club championships once we had gotten this far. I had hoped we’d have been a little bit higher than fourth at this point but two exclusions have proven very costly. Add that to an expensive June and we really needed to look at the finances and consider how best to spend them from here on. Our only remaining goal is the TKM Festival (nothing too lofty, we’re hoping to make the top ten) and it made sense to take in a practice round at Kimbolton in the hope that we can make up some of the ground we’d obviously be conceding to the local drivers next month. Having had the luxury of three sets of new tyres last month, it’s been a bit of a scramble to source some intermediate tyres. I had several sets of just-about-legal inters that have all been worn out in recent months and I would hate to have to ruin our wets because of a light shower at an inappropriate moment!

So armed with a couple of sets of newly purchased intermediates and a borrowed a tent we’ll head off early tomorrow. I’ve only just realised that our route would normally take us past Silverstone and, on a British Grand Prix weekend. One would definitely consider that to be sub-optimal! We’ll be taking the route through the Midlands instead and hoping the forecast for the journey continues to improve. I’m not against a few sessions on track (in fact, I would quite like to get a few under a belt ahead of the Festival) but a straightforward journey to Kimbolton would be the best start to the weekend.

You don’t always need to stand on the top step to be a winner

So, for the first time, Junior took the chequered flag… and was excluded shortly after! Although adamant that he was alongside his rival as he made a pass at Chandlers before the two came together, his rival and, more importantly, the marshal report said otherwise. Unusually for me, I could have no opinion: standing at Raymonds affords a view of only half of the track (hence nobody else wants to cover that corner!). The Clerk read out the report first (they really should hear from both parties before reading the report), our rival said their bit and then chirped in a few wisecracks as Junior put up his defence. The marshal was summoned who reiterated his write-up (I’m not sure what else he would do) and we were hung, drawn and quartered. More disappointingly, we rushed to review the footage within the 30-minute window (should really have learned how to pair the phone with the camera *before* we had an urgent need) only to find that the battery given up for the day almost as soon as I had switched it on for the final 🙁 I’m not sure why that was so important to us, I would never put any money down to launch an appeal anyway (appeals are for the ‘haves’, not the ‘have nots’). Junior still feels hard done by but, in all honesty, I’m really not that bothered. The truth is that he was a winner in my eyes long before the incident that ended what was an engaging tussle. To have driven so well all weekend, to the extent that he totally offset any new tyre advantage on race day was a fantastic achievement. I’d only ever seen it done once before and by a driver far more accomplished than us. We should have been three seconds behind in every race so it was hard to be anything other than delighted with the pace that Junior had shown. If anything, not having the camera footage did us a favour: Had it shown Junior to be the guilty party, it may have knocked his confidence. Had it shown Junior to have been robbed a maiden win by an inaccurate marshal report, I’d have likely gone off on a rant that would still be going on now and very likely would only serve to haunt me later! As it is, he’s itching for the next round and a chance to show his pace on fresh rubber 🙂

Practice Saturday was really only about two things: bedding in new brakes and testing new rims. Unfortunately we did neither: I realised only on the Friday evening that I lacked the caliper support bracket to accommodate the different sized disc and the ‘pristine’ rims that I had bought off of ‘that auction site’ turned out to have been used for two years and were cracked and/or bent! :/ As a result, we decided not to set an alarm, get up whenever and then head to the track when we were good and ready. We were still on-track by noon and, pleasingly, on the pace instantly, even on our ‘travel tyres’ (our best tyres stay indoors but the kart needs to sit on something when in storage; these are known as the travel tyres!). We were quicker again on the practice tyres, affording us the rare luxury of spending the afternoon testing. Whilst things went really well for us, the only negative thing to happen was the loss of one of the entries as one of our friends had their sole engine seize in the final session of the day, the second time in a matter of months by all accounts 🙁 It was that awkward moment when you want to help but, with only two engines ourselves and being this close to the Super One round, I couldn’t risk anything happening to the #2 engine as much as I would love to offered it to them.

We were in a good place for race day. Even with losing one entrant, we still had a very respectable grid of eight. Junior TKM at Llandow is hanging in there and still the biggest grid at the club. We didn’t have the best grid positions: 5,2,5,2 in our *four* heats 😉 but Junior’s starts were very good and we found ourselves in a familiar pattern: we’d get to the front and then get passed at some point by our rival for the day. Not being on fresh rubber once again, it was something that I had expected. Our goal was to be within 0.3s per lap and, to that end, Junior was massively exceeding my expectations. There was no harm in defeat and he was showing a consistency I’d only ever seen glimpses of before. Junior started in #P2 for the final, lost a place at the start (as you do) but soon got the place back and was tucked in behind the leader for half of the race before two karts left my sight going down the hill into Chandlers and only one came back into sight at The Dell. I cannot say anything about the contact although I wear my rose-tinted spectacles just like any other karting dad. I will say one thing though: I’ll never again be the push starter at Raymonds. I’m going to stand at The Hook so that I can watch the race (and have an opinion) like everyone else! I do regret the lack of race observers at the club this year. Any kind of officiating is difficult but marshals are there to ensure the safety of drivers in their section, reporting incidents isn’t their primary task (ok, so I really said two things!). No matter, what’s done is done. Junior took the chequered flag and, having spent far too long trying to review the on-board footage, we packed up and were the last to leave the track.

It was hard to be too disappointed considering the pace we had shown, it so nearly could have been the perfect preparation for next month and what will be our biggest month in karting. Roll on Super One.

 

 

 

Tyres

Today we should have been enjoying a day at the track, amongst friends, in the sunshine. Instead I was freezing my tits off in the rain/sleet/snow/sunshine (delete as applicable depending upon which part of the day your are talking about) at Whipsnade Zoo having agreed to take the female side of the family some months earlier. And here I was thinking it was Spring; I’ve never spent so much time inside a butterfly house! When the sun did finally come, it was actually very nice! Here is the only picture of elephants you’ll ever seen in a karting blog…

Never seen a bunch of elephants taken for a walk through the zoo before!

Never seen a bunch of elephants taken for a walk through the zoo before!

With this being the only round that the Super One drivers can make (the S1 schedule doesn’t seem to have been that kind to the club), the entry numbers for Junior TKM *and* Extreme are bigger than I’ve ever seen them at Llandow. Tomorrow should see some great racing and it would be good if we were going full of confidence but we already know that it is unlikely we’ll be able to mount much of a challenge: it’s used tyres month 🙁 In fact, we aren’t even on last month’s tyres which, although they didn’t contest the final, suffered a lot of wear. We have some tyres that did a couple of heats at Llandow in December and then a few sessions at PFI that look much healthier; we’ll just have to make the most of them. I can’t and won’t buy new tyres every month.

I know that there are tracks where tyres do last but I’m still pointing the finger at the softer Maxxis tyre that Tal-Ko introduced in response to driver demand back in 2012. Hmmmm…. I wonder how many of those drivers are now racing in X30!?! Obviously chosing Llandow for a home track doesn’t help matters: it is easily the most abrasive track we’ve raced at but it is what it is and we’ll just have to make the most of it. We’ll consider tomorrow our attempt to hide our S1 pace. Or something 😉

Fingers crossed 😀

Facebook power!

Other than being a fanboy, I’ve not actually done much in support of the TKM class but the Facebook group for drivers/dads/mechanics has taken off *way* better than I could possibly have hoped. It was never about numbers although 450+ in four months is good going; it’s about the breadth of people getting involved: from Super One to IKR to…even Tal-Ko (albeit indirectly). It is clear that the TKM community is very passionate about their class. Of course I beat the harder tyre drum from time-to-time but the most satisfying thread so far was seeing Tal-Ko ask drivers what changes they would want to see in order to boost the Super One entry numbers. It even looks as though it may have made a difference 🙂

I still think there is much to be done in support of the lower echelons and it remains to be seen whether Tal-Ko can come up with a reason for drivers to contest some of the ailing club championships (hint: costs). Now back to the tyres…

Setting the bar too high?

Saturday started horribly. Having discovered, when repairing the seat last weekend, that the chassis had snapped (seat tab snapped off), I’d spent most of the week working to move everything to our spare chassis. It was another 2009 EVR but had a slightly bent yoke. I’d had it jig-checked and the chassis was straight even though it was not possible to straighten the yoke entirely. It was clearly sub-optimal but, with only 5 days to go before we would be racing, it was going to have to do and we’d just have to see how we fared.

Arriving at the track with a newly rebuilt chassis, the first thing you (or more accurately, I) want to do is just complete the first session without issue. The reality was far from this and we broke down at the third corner: Junior complained that the steering felt too free, the accelerator pedal was either on or off and then the kart just stopped. Not too bad then! :S First things first; the axle moved and the piston was still going up and down! 🙂 Our engine issue was down to a snapped wire on the spade connector on the PVL. The problem was that neither I, nor the shop had a replacement connector. One of the other dads had one that was a little larger but, by the time I had messed about trying to fit it with a borrowed crimping tool, we’d missed the second session entirely (the crimping tool wasn’t the best but neither was my mechanical tekkers). I could have just put the race engine on but this needed fixing and I did not want to put time on the race engine unnecessarily. With some spare time in hand before the third session, I looked at Junior’s other complaints. The accelerator pedal was a weird one: the pedal appeared to have plenty of range and it isn’t like one can really tighten the pedal bolt to provide additional tension – you tighten it as best you can without restricting its ability to close. The new seat position (I’d refitted the seat to accommodate Junior’s growth since the seat was fitted in December) may have meant that the position felt unusual but he was just going to have to get used to this. Junior also didn’t like the slack feel in his steering wheel and wanted to give it a weightier feel. You don’t want the wheel rotation to feel obstructed but I wasn’t really sure how it should have felt. I conducted a quick test of steering wheels in the immediate vicinity: one felt exactly like ours but the other definitely had some resistance. Renewing the rose joints on one track rod helped as did tightening the steering column bolt a fraction. This was as good as it was going to get anyway so Junior was just going to have to get used to it.

The rest of the day turned out to be the complete opposite of our initial woes and we went really well: again practising on our Festival tyres from Kimbolton, we were pretty much as quick as we could have hoped and lapping the 45.5’s. We switched to an older practice set that featured a front-left that had come with retirement package we’d bought at the start of 2013, had been sat in a garage cupboard ever since and which we dated to 2011!!! We shaved off a couple of tenths and we ran pretty well for the remainder of the afternoon, with Junior enjoying some close racing with one his friends in one session (he actually claimed it was the most fun he’d had karting, I don’t think he realised that this was how it should be all of the time but we’d always been a little off the pace!). We also managed to actually do some testing (as opposed to trying to find solutions to problems) and it was pleasing that the race engine was a little quicker than the recently rebuilt practice motor.

So onto the race Sunday and you’d never guess what: having completed a Karting Magazine article (we’ll discuss whether or not I am still contributing to the mag at some later date) earlier in the week in which I discussed/moaned about our lack of pole positions, JUNIOR ACTUALLY GOT HIS FIRST POLE AT LLANDOW!!! Having not started in pole position anywhere for over a year this would be something of a novel experience. It didn’t really go to plan though: an early mistake on cold tyres meant he ran wide and conceded the lead. After that it was clear that our pace wasn’t good enough. We slipped to fourth and stayed there. With the runner-up equalling the four year old lap record, we were a huge 0.5s off of the pace 🙁  The track was clearly lightening quick and our first-heat setup was a little too conservative. On top of that we were in a minority of drivers on used slicks; fresh rubber each month has become the norm at Llandow this year much to Junior’s chagrin. I’ve always insisted that we would use tyres for two races no matter what, I can’t and won’t use a set of slicks for one race day on principle alone. Our experience has been that the new tyres start with a distinct advantage but, by the afternoon, the gap narrows and Junior had even been quickest on used slicks in the July round.

Heat #2 was marginally better: we started eighth but made up some nice places to finish fourth again, 7s in arrears and 0.3s off of the pace. Heat #3 was more of the same: fourth, 6s back, 0.3s off the pace and someone else equalled the lap record! This time it was our resident Super One driver who was on USED tyres! Fair play to you, Sir…

I had noticed that our tyres were taking too long to come in. In part this may have been because we were fighting through the pack but the Alfano wasn’t lying; it looked like we needed to raise the tyre pressures. The problem was that the final would be two minutes longer and the sun was now shining. Too high or too low? I settled on a compromise and brought them up 0.5psi. We had qualified in… surprise, surprise: fourth! The sh*ttiest place on the grid bar for those with any desire to get a podium place. Since Llandow Kart Club had moved the start line, the even-numbered side of grid has become a real graveyard; if you aren’t in second (where at least you are in control of your own destiny), then you are pretty much screwed. And screwed we mostly certainly were: pole, third and fifth took the first three places into The Hook, things got messy and Junior dropped to seventh! He made up a couple of places but was adrift of fourth until they binned it into the tyres on the exit of The Dell. This brought out the battenburg flag. It was the right call (quite refreshing to see it instead of a red flag) but Junior had never experienced one in a race before and I wondered what he would do. My money was on him holding his ground whist everybody else caught him! Wrong: everybody backed up as if there was a virtual saftey car!?! What the… ??? :S Still, at least they would have to exclude everyone except the front man if they were going to act upon this breach of protocol 😉 So… a chance to fight for third. Or not as it proved; Junior was half asleep at the restart and was quickly dropped by the front three. He complained that the tyres and brakes had just gone off and he had nothing to fight with. The winner broke the lap record with a 44.715!!!

Junior was peeved that our second month on the tyres had coincided with the track being ultra-quick, pretty much denying him of any chance of fighting for the win or setting a PB. I could sympathise as we’d been the fastest driver at the track in a three month spell during the summer although we hadn’t really looked at the races in the two months since then. It was nice that the club had a fourth placed trophy (although it meant that we had to stay for the outcome of an appeal before the presentation). We were just going to have to take the positives. I think the problem is that we’ve tasted some small amount of success in the past six months and have raced at or near the very front, even if only inconsistently, so the bar has now been set quite high. We’d have been delighted with fourth at the start of the year especially considering the level of the quickest drivers. We were on an unknown chassis, on used tyres and we just don’t have the seat time of those against whom we are measuring ourselves. Lack of seat time, tyres, six year-old chassis, possible engine rebores… At a time when there are so many questions surrounding where and in what class we compete in 2016, it really struck home that most of our woes our budgetary. I know that this would hamper us if we were to contest a regional championship next year as we would like to ideally. My preference would always be to choose MSA over IKR and I am sure that Junior would consider IKR a step down and would want to continue racing his friends but IKR really does call out to me. At least he’ll have his fresh slicks next month!

Cost of race weekend: Practice fee £35, entry fee £55, petrol (car) £15, fuel (kart) £8, bridge fee £13

Costs since last post: Chassis weld £10

Total spent this year: £4,335

Decision time!

Racing twice a month was never going to be sustainable despite us having done so for the past two months. Our participation in the August round at Llandow Kart Club was never really intended but the great time that we had, Junior’s enjoyment of the track and little things like the novel addition of the reverse grid Bonus Race meant that we were going to have to make a decision sooner or later. Clay Pigeon Kart Club offering a shortened practice Saturday for their September round, together with my work commitments preventing us from making the Llandow practice Saturday meant we could again race twice but the time when we would have to choose was always going to arrive. It’s all down to money, effectively; there is no way that our budget stretches to a new set of slicks every month, which racing twice a month would demand (at least when one of those tracks is Clay). Hey, Tal-Ko – bring back harder tyres and our budget might stretch that bit further!!!

The decision was entirely Junior’s. Yes, he’s in the Clay championship and has all of his friends there but, as enthusiastic as he is about karting (and he really is one of those who would enjoy two hours driving around in circles in the rain), the contrast between the atmosphere in the car on the way home after the Clay round a few weeks back (where he had beaten his PB but we’d only ever been hanging on to other’s coattails) and the journey back from Llandow the very next week (where, to be honest, it was pretty much the same thing except we were in only our second race there and were making really good progress) was massive. I think that, with the new slicks at Clay this month, we both expected a little better but that, following on from a disappointing month in August kind of opened the door to us trying something else. There is definitely no point is spending the amount of money that we were/are without Junior getting a decent amount of enjoyment out of it.

So Llandow it is, for what I would expect to be the rest of the season at least. Junior is really enjoying the track – I guess it is a case of ‘a change is as good as a rest‘. You could argue that we should persist at Clay and keep trying to improve. It’s a valid point and one I considered but this is just a hobby for us – we aren’t on the road to F1 and the fun element is essential. There are some down sides to moving – the TKM community is a lot smaller as there is no senior grid, which is a shame, as I really enjoy the social scene! That said, there are still one or two from Clay that we know quite well and Junior seems to make friends fairly easily. The JTKM grid is, like Clay, just about enough with a grid of 7 or 8 regulars. The club itself does appear to be in a much more precarious position in terms of entry numbers but hopefully they will find a way to boost the numbers to something approaching sustainable. The biggest downside may prove to be abandoning my share of our 6x3m awning – I could still bring it but I don’t have any room in the Clio or the trailer and I can’t see myself buying a smaller one this side of Christmas (or do I mean, I can’t see my wife authorising a spend on one?). But no matter – we’ll make the most of whatever conditions we find ourselves in! Next weekend will seem a bit odd as I twiddle my thumbs and watch my friends on AlphaTiming but I’m looking forward to our October round…

Race 10: our worst performance since our Novice days :(

The August round of the Clay Pigeon Kart Club Championship was a weekend to forget. It started ok – we put 15 minutes on the race engine but spent the remainder of the day chasing 0.8s. Ok, we were on some fairly old tyres but there wasn’t much fun to be had. Sunday promised to be better – the forecast was for heavy rain, which was just as well as we were looking to stretch a set of Maxxis slicks three race days!

Sunday morning was very wet. Wet that was until just before we joined the dummy grid for our 3-lap warm up. We ran in the wets but the track was already starting to dry. Worst still, we were on second race – there would be no time to change from the *very* wet setup I have concocted. Given that we were probably four teeth higher than most others on the grid, we fared as expected and were almost a second off of the pace. The day progressed but the same could not be said for our performance; we put in the same lap times on three different sized sprockets (ranging from 77 to 82!) and had our first ever ‘DNS‘ in Heat #3 – I had cleaned the carb and then put the gasket on upside down. Unfortunately, the carb managed to prime on the stand but it doesn’t tend to start very well when not drawing fuel and I gave up as I pushed him around The Kink. Driver wasn’t please at all. I told him a carb gasket had torn… 😉

To give Junior his dues, his approach to the final was fairly lighthearted and positive – he drove around at the back whilst attempting to control the oversteer and looked like he was having fun. I thought his driving in to the pits on his final lap prior to taking the chequered flag was him proving a point but it seems that either he got it wrong or they showed him the Last Lap sign prematurely as he was so far behind! With hindsight, I guess the tyres just don’t last three races at Clay. I really wish Tal-Ko would reverse their decision to produce softer tyres – the fact that the Clay IKR series uses the SLC and mandates that they be used for three races is a big attraction for 2015. I bought a new set of slicks from the shop just to cheer Junior up 🙂

Cost of weekend:£35 practice fee, £50 race entry, £24 petrol, £7 fuel
Cost of accessories: sprocket protectors: £18, fuel hose: £1, new slicks: £150

Total spent this year: £3,260

An expensive month – and we’ll not even be hitting the track!

This month is proving to be one of those where the costs keep mounting. I have decided that I’ll buy new tyres from now on – I still have several sets of used slicks that we will race on although the two sets of used wets we bought in the summer have obviously degraded a fair bit and I wanted to get hold of a new set to give us something more suitable for a very wet track. I picked up an unused set of wets from one of the forums for £120. I also bought some brake fluid and replacement seals ahead of my bi-annual bleeding of the brakes and a new sprocket carrier from eBay in a bid to finally rid my chain of that tense spot (the reality is that it could still turn out to be the axle, which I’ll replace when funds improve, and I’ve probably stretched my nice Panther chain by now anyway).

Still to be funded are the engine rebuild, the MSA licenses (don’t start me on the rip-off PG license again – I will email my feelings on this to the MSA when I get a chance!), the club membership and track loyalty card.

Total spent this year: £160 (unused wets – £120, brake fluid/replacement seals – £25, sprocket carrier – £15)

Total spent so far: £5,424

 

Surprise, surprise!

Eight tyres in an hour – sometimes I impress even myself! My fingers and quad muscles ache (the latter from shoving my knee into the tyre when putting on the new tyre) but that was an outstanding success 🙂  If Junior shows the kind of improvement on Sunday that I showed today, I can cancel the turkey order (the winner of each final this weekend bags a turkey!) 😉