Race 4: another forward step

This weekend was our final outing of the year – at the Clay Pigeon Kart Club Turkey Trot. A weekend of 6am starts for one final time this year! You know how I hate it when the kart gets soaked enroute? Let’s just say you wouldn’t know I had cleaned it the week before from the dirt it was covered in by the time I arrived at a sunny Clay.

Saturday was a really good day – we had a mixture of damp and dry tracks so a bit more much needed wet practice but, as the track got grippier in the afternoon, we looked pretty decent (especially after moving up to the gold restrictor – Junior could really feel the difference in bottom-end power). When the track was at it’s quickest, we were just over 0.5s off the pace but it was the first time Junior had been overtaken by one of the quicker drivers and then stuck with them rather than watching him sail away – he even looked like he was going to have a go back!!! 🙂 We’ve had a few false dawns so I didn’t get too excited – race day often reveals the starker truth. The kart got soaked again on the way home which meant I spent the evening drying it 🙁

I really didn’t want to hear the alarm ring but I kicked myself out of bed at the usual time. We had our clearest ever run to Clay – a grand total of 2 cars were in front of us during the entire journey. And it didn’t rain 🙂

The warm-up was good – the track was easily too wet for slicks even though there had been no rain for some time. If it’s going to be slippy, I would much rather there wasn’t a dry line so that the tyre choice is easy. For us, with used wets, we don’t have the risk of writing off a £160 set tyres so the borderline calls can sometimes play in our favour. It was only a warm-up though. Heat 1 was ok too; disappointingly there were only three of us racing – two of this season’s front runners and Junior! We were continually losing ground but only finished 15s and 10s behind over the 12 laps. Heat 2 was probably the one that was a little disappointing although it was probably my fault –  we were losing over a second a lap pretty much the whole way through although Junior’s race wasn’t helped by his fuel tank bolt falling off and then him completing the final laps holding the tank between his knees!!! I normally wrap velcro around the tank to stop if moving but, for some reason, the velcro had spent the weekend in the boot. I think the biggest problem though was me running a much higher pressure than was called for – the tyres had gained 3.5-4PSI during the race and you could see that we weren’t using as much of the tyre as we should have been. Tyre pressures are the hardest thing for me to gauge – especially in the cold/damp conditions. One to put down to experience…

The track was now dry so we switched to a full dry setup and I thought I would move down a couple of teeth just to experiment – we were going to finish last anyway so I wanted to see if Junior felt a difference. Then it rained! Although the track did dry by the time of the final, I didn’t have time to replace the sprocket so we had a lower gearing on a damp track, slicks on a wet setup. My reasoning was it wasn’t dry enough for a full dry setup but slicks were essential so I did what I thought was right. It didn’t turn out too badly though – we lost under a second a lap, so although we were 19s and two thirds of a lap adrift at the end of the 20-lap race, it represented a decent step forward over the weekend, especially compared with our last race. We’d learned a bit more about setups (with a lot of thanks to my rival TKM Dads, who took pity on me on probably shared a lot more information than they would normally!), Junior had been able to improve his lines a little, the Alpha Timing system’s lap stats were very useful and we’d had an enjoyable weekend.

So our season is over. The engine is in for a rebuild. The kart will be completely stripped as soon as I get a chance and we’ll take 6 weeks off. Unless I get the chance of a drive with a few of the other TKM Dads early in the New Year… 🙂

Cost of weekend: £24 petrol, £13 fuel for the kart, £35 practice fee, £49 race fee

Total spent so far: £4,376

Practice 7: Engine run-in and new fastest lap (not at the same time, of course…)

Today was our eagerly awaited practice day at Clay: having weighted the kart at Junior’s race weight and added the black restrictor (which is actually silver but, hey – it was a 99p eBay purchase and I took a punt, then subsequently discovered it wasn’t MSA legal having lost it’s anodised colouring!), I was really keen to see how Junior managed having picked up some good pace when unweighted last time. I awoke early as I seem to on every kart day – 4:55am this time, brain fully switched on running over the things I needed to remember to take and then all of the things to remember when we got to the track. Up at 6:10, out the door by 7:45 (just in case we hit Glastonbury traffic) and at the track at 9:15 – in plenty of time to get things sorted 🙂

Before we could really get going, our first business was to run-in the engine. This was our first session as a licensed driver 🙂 but Junior was driving up to 8,000rpm (or dangerously slow as it seemed) and there were a couple of close calls in our ten minutes on track. Afterwards one of the stewards suggested we continue running-in the engine with the cadets, which I was more than happy to do. This worked in the second session,when he moved up to 11,000rpm (and I bravely ignored a broken toe to resume bump starting duties ;)), but not in the third session where we were getting up to 15,000rpm and he got told off for racing cadets (and breaking my 40s lap rule!). Our job was done at that point though and, although he was still on a ‘not above 15k’ brief when back out with the adults, we could focus on the more intriguing part of the day.

It didn’t start too well – for the first time in our ownership the kart didn’t start and I was shattered, having ran myself into the ground well past The Kink! I am not sure Junior fully knows what he needs to when we are starting although, if I am honest, I probably didn’t fully understand either. It had just worked nicely previously. With some tips from friendly Dads (don’t pump the pedal, wait for the engine to spark then slowly and gradually accelerate), we got out again for three laps before the end of the session but, most importantly, it started fine.

After that things went just about as well as we could have hoped – the kart ran, we had no mechanical problems *at all* 🙂 (although Junior did spin into the tyres exiting the Top Bend), he was happy with the kart and preferred the handling with the extra weight on board (the back end seemed much less inclined to hop out as he accelerated out of the corner) and he knocked 0.7s off his previous best and recorded a 36.21. He was a little disappointed not to break the 36.0s mark although my biggest concern was the kart’s weight – Junior stood no chance of lifting the kart off the floor and I was reliant upon friendly faces to help me get the kart back onto the trolley. I don’t really want to keep putting on others so I might need to look at the self-loading trolley options. Chances are though, he’ll start growing by the time I finally get something sorted! All-in-all, it was a really good day; I think Junior is quick enough to race now (without being lapped!) although we have a lot on next month and I have promised him we’ll go to Dunkeswell for a practice day. August’s race meeting at Clay is the target 🙂

Cost of day: £12 petrol, £10 petrol for 7l super unleaded for the kart (session was free as we had a credit note after our accident).

Purchases since my last post: used set of slicks from the forums: £30

Total spent so far: £2,977

Farewell first set of nearly-new slicks!

They have been on the kart since we bought it and subsequently done 408 laps (or 241 miles!) but the time has come to bid farewell to our first set of nearly new slicks. Ironically Junior set his PB around Clay in his final session using them but there is no time for sentiment 😉 I have replaced them with another set of nearly new slicks that I bought for £30 from one of the forums 🙂 Removing the tyres from their rims was a smoother process than putting the new ones on – especially the rears. I think I could claim credit for maybe 1.75 of the 4 tyres so definitely more practice required. Not sure my office fingers are up to the job!

Whilst I was doing ‘kart stuff’, I completed the addition of the weight to the seat so we are almost good to go on Saturday (I have some good friends offering to help me with the push starting if the toe is problematic). I am really looking forward to seeing how Junior fares in the kart at his racing weight. Not so much looking forward to lifting the kart onto the trolley with him – he really struggled before we added 7kg…