Shenington S1 – that’s more like it !

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After a long summer break post the Buckmore S1 meeting, finally the next round was upon us. We did actually do a couple of club meetings at Dunkerswell and Shenington in between, both of which went pretty well so, we were feeling a bit more positive but nevertheless, I certainly felt a little nervous to be returning to the S1 bandwagon after our Buckmore experience.

trackplan

Saturday was pretty wet right the way through the day and initially we weren’t that quick during the practice sessions. However, come qualifying we seemed to suddenly find some pace. An initial stall of the engine as Alex left the grid gave me cause for concern but, it restarted (must remember to bleed air out of the system next time I take the carb off!) and off he went, right at the back with lots of space but also no-one to give him a tow.

I wandered over to the S1 ‘office’ to look at the times and initially couldn’t see Alex on the screen at all. I dared to move my eyes further up the listing to discover he had already put in a blinding 2nd lap which, by the end of qualifying earned him a brilliant 6th place, his best yet this season. It was also great to see our friend Ian Sisson had stuck his kart on pole!

sheny-s1-2So to heat 1 and a mediocre start meant we were back to 8th place by the end of Café corner and a further slip back to 10th which Alex then pulled back to finish 8th with the likes of Abbi, Bradley and Joe up ahead of him and his mate Ian who knocked it out of the park, finishing in 1st.

Heat 2 and probably Alex’s best race all year. A great start meant he slotted straight into 5th and just a lap later at Stratford (first hairpin) he followed No.9 down the inside to overtake No.6 (Bradley) and in to 4th place which he then held for the remainder of the race. A superb race which, combined with the 1st heat’s results and the relative positions of others, particularly the usual front runners, meant Alex qualifying a fantastic 4th for the Pre-final! I guess our friends Matthew, Sam and my dad coming along has a good effect 🙂 Oh, and Ian held on to 1st place again !

sheny-pre-final-position

So to Sunday and, somewhat sadly for us it was dry, meaning the Talko guys would likely be back up to their usual front running form. Nevertheless, starting in 4th would mean we had out best chance all season to stay with the front runners and see just what sort of pace we could manage. sheny-s1-4Of course having been wet all day Saturday, unlike all previous meetings where we do Quali on brand new slicks, this time we would be doing the pre-final on them. Alex’s ability to switch them on fast would be important and a good test.

The Pre-final start was a mess, not because of Alex but because it was plainly a false start with 1st, 3rd and 5th place drivers crossing the line before the 2nd place driver (and Alex just behind him). But, as has happened before at Sheny, it wasn’t called in by the marshalls and the race continued. Fortunately Alex had stayed really close to the 2nd place driver and only lost two places by the time they got through café corner, tucking in to 6th place behind Abbi. On the exit of Stratford both Abbi and Alex passed two drivers, moving Alex up to 4th place. Next lap he looses one place to No.9 but then on the next lap, on the exit of Stratford, follows him through on the inside to pass No.6 before the Bruno chicane. So now in 4th again and holding his own nicely! A fantastic run in and exit from Wilkins enables him to get a run on No.9 and pass him on the inside of Park Bend. Now up to 3rd, behind Abbi again and gaining on her and the O plate (Adam).

sheny-s1-5Both Abbi and Alex close fast on the inside, coming down the inside of Adam on the approach to Stratford. Abbi manages to clear Adam taking the usual line but Alex has to turn in sharply which kills his speed and causes him to bog down. Others take advantage of this and move past, pushing Alex back to 8th. Bummer but not a disaster as Alex is still with the front pack, pulling away and the rest of the race to make up places.

Sadly however this wasn’t to be. A few laps later, up at the front of the pack there is an ‘incident’ with one of the other drivers being pushed off the circuit just after Bruno. The rest of the pack drive past but as Alex is about to pass, the other driver re-joined the track and clipped Alex’s back wheel, spinning him through 90 degrees. The only safe thing he can do is watch the other drivers drive past. Nightmare!  As a result the best Alex could do would be to come in 20th.

As you can imagine we were both gutted as this was a very unfair reflection of Alex’s weekend. Still we had a few hours to compose ourselves before the final. Due to an exclusion in the pre-final and some penalties, Alex would be starting in 18th. He would be in good company – Ian had also rather cruely had his pre-final spoilt with his engine cutting out on lap 1 meaning he was starting just in front from 17th.

So to the final and Alex got a cracking startup, moving quickly to 11th by end of lap 1 and 8th by lap 7 which he then held for 4 more laps. BUT, I knew there was something not quite right. sheny-s1-3Whenever he came out of Bruno he was lacking acceleration – others would pull away in front whereas, when others were chasing him they would manage to stick with him. I knew it wasn’t the lines as he hadn’t had this problem in the pre-final. He held other drivers off well but eventually a few managed to slip past meaning he finally finished in 11th place. When he came in he said it wasn’t sounding right at the end of the straights either and, one glance at the Carb told me what was wrong – the fuelling wasn’t right. Somehow it had got moved since the last race and I hadn’t checked it before he went out. Another lesson learnt!

sheny-s1

Regardless of the final result, this was without doubt the best ever race weekend we have ever had, period. Alex showed he could keep up with the best in both wet and dry and ultimately scored his best points towards the championship. Sadly it is now almost impossible for us to get into the top 10 and get a seed for next yr, entirely as a result of the two meetings with exclusions. You just can’t afford to have more than 1 bad round. But, he’s found ever increasing form and without doubt has potential for a cracking one next year…..and hopefully the final round at PFI !

As ever, a big thanks to Tim Wilson Motorsport for all their support and guidance – makes the whole thing so much more enjoyable.

 

 

 

Buckmore Park, a mixed bag

Welcome to BuckmoreIt’s a whole 6 weeks since the Buckmore Park Super One meeting and the fact that I’ve only just got to write about it is down to 1) a crazy work schedule with a new role and 2) a few less savoury moments at the meeting which led to me rather enjoying totally switching off from the sport for a good amount of time! (I haven’t touched the kart since we left the circuit)

But now time to drag my memory back to what happened at Buckmore, a circuit Alex and I rate as one of our favourites.

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Buckmore track layout

The Saturday started dry for our practices during which Alex was putting in times that were 9th and 10th fastest out of a grid of 18. Timed Quali has always been a challenge with the front runners finding some tremendous pace on new tyres and Buckmore was to be no different. We were pretty happy with qualifying 11th but the time difference was once again amazing with us being a whole 7/10s off Abbi’s time at the front. Having said that, if we ignore Abbi for the moment the next fastest driver was 2/10s slower so, we were at our fairly familiar position of being approx. 5/10s off pole. We still need to work on getting the best from new tyres!

Next up, still on the Saturday we got to the two heats and the heavens opened, worse for Heat 2 than Heat 1!

Buckmore before heat 2

Heat 1 and by the end of Lap 1 we had moved from 11th down to 15th, a position that continued until Lap 5 where Alex started to pull himself back up the rankings, eventually landing himself in 12th. Sadly the Heat wasn’t without controversy as, on the last but one tight corner (Garda), Alex went for a move down the inside, thought better of it and backed out but the lad he was looking to overtake lost the back of his kart and went off the circuit. No issue was reported by the marshals’ and reviewing the video footage it didn’t look like Alex made any contact but, the parent/son decided to take to Facebook and have a bit of a rant. We did offer the video footage to be reviewed but this invitation wasn’t accepted. Pity this couldn’t have just been handled over a beer and a “sorry” from either party or an agreement that it was six of one, half a dozen of the other.

buckmore s1 Saturday Heat 2

Heat 2 was even heavier rain, as can be seen in the photo. As the circuit climbs up towards the start/finish line (Herbert Rise), there was a river flowing back down the circuit making incredibly challenging conditions. Through this Alex looked like a driver transformed! Starting again in 11th, by lap 5 he was in 9th and by lap 6 he was up in 6th which he held for two laps before disaster struck, going round corner 3 he went very slightly wide, put his back left wheel on the white line, lost grip and span through 180 degrees. All he could do was wait for the pack he had worked so hard to overtake catch and drive past before he could safely proceed. Gutted! So it was that he ended back in 14th but, as we looked over the results it became clear that he had actually been the fastest driver out there of anyone. Alex had gone from being almost a second off the fastest driver in Heat 1 with a time of 54.25 to the fastest driver in Heat 2 with a time of 53.52 on the last lap.

Heat 2 best lap time 2

His last two laps after spinning were both in the 53 second range, times that only two other drivers were able to deliver. Can’t say I want him to spin but, if that’s what it takes to get him fired up….;)  We just need to have him doing those same times for all the laps.

So whilst we ended Saturday with disappointed at the championship points delivered so far, we were actually on quite a high with such great wet driving and times to match the very best.

Buckmore Sat night - a bit wet

Sunday started with a damp track for practice and with this, the less enjoyable aspects of the meeting continued. Despite very clear guidance during the drivers briefing that under no circumstances were Dad’s or drivers to take matters into their own hands, come the end of the practice another dad decided to come over and give us a lecture on driving standards and how certain moves by Alex were becoming a bit of a habit. Once again there had been no reports made by any of the marshal’s out on the circuit and, with the incident taking place right at the far end where there is no line of sight for observers, it seemed pretty clear that this dad had decided to take their driver’s word and assumed it was the full facts. I decided just to let it go but, as pointed out by the Clerk later in the meeting, this was not the correct course of action.

Buckmore on SundayFor the Pre-final Alex was starting in 13th. He had a great start but into corner 4 (Hairpin 2) he got wacked from behind, spinning him through 180 and putting him back into last place. By lap 5 he had dragged himself back into 15th and he was clearly driving hard to make up places, frustrated by what had happened. However into corner 3 (Hairpin 1) on lap 7 he went for a move down the inside which, by his own admission he knew straight away wasn’t going to work. However he had committed and had no way of backing out, hitting the side of the kart in front as they turned into the corner, spinning them around and puncturing one of Alex’s front tyres as well.

Unfortunately the driver concerned was the same driver who’s dad had ‘paid us a visit’ during the practice. Once again the dad decided to let his thoughts be known to me on the grandstand and I suggested he take it up with the Clerk, as is the correct procedure. The incident had already been called in by the Marshals and so we were called to the Clerk and received an exclusion. Whilst a tough decision, rules are rules and we had made a mistake and of course, apologies to the other driver concerned for potentially costing them some points.

Now I can’t say I enjoy visiting the Clerk and certainly not receiving an exclusion as this has far reaching consequences in respect of the championship. Even if you come last in a race you still get Championship points – 45 in a Pre-Final or Final, 17 in a Heat. If you get excluded you get 0 points for that particular race so, in effect we lost a minimum of 45 points. As a result we have moved from a very healthy 10th in the Championship two rounds ago to somewhere around 15th now, once we remove our one allowed ‘drop round’ (least good score round).

However, the one thing I am very proud of is the way Alex puts his hand up and admits his mistake. Its something we have both always said we would do and believe we stand by and demonstrate. Through karting my aim is for Alex to learn life skills and have a good time, period. Putting your hand up, admitting fault, learning through mistakes, correcting and moving on are, in my opinion, some of the most valuable skills to be learnt.

So back to the racing and the Final. As a result of the exclusion we started at the very back (18th) but Alex worked hard throughout the race, keeping it squeaky clean and making fantastic progress to end the race in 11th place and right on the back of the main pack (watch the TV coverage here, starting 1:22 and you can see him joining the fight near the end – yes he is in the race even if he isn’t listed on the grid at the start – look out for the dark red helmet). A few more laps would have been great having caught the pack but, no matter, this was really great driving and shows Alex can get the bit between his teeth and come from behind.

So what was so unsavoury? Well aside from the Facebook posts (yes, there were more of them after Sunday), I had to witness certain parents stirring up gossip about us around the paddock on Sunday after our incident in the Pre-final. Apart from not really wanting to be around that sort of nonsense, I find it rather sad the example that is set by some parents to their kids. We all have our moments of getting a bit overly competitive but, I just question what we are all wanting to demonstrate to our kids and what lessons we want them to learn with us through this great fun sport. Is it winning at any cost, spreading rumours, bullying or even living our lives through our kids or; is it about how to still have fun through adversity, being gracious in defeat, recognising and admitting weakness to then be able to address them etc. We won’t always achieve the latter but that’s certainly the ones I think we should aim for.

Thanks again to great team TWM, Tim, Will and all the other drivers who make it good company and make me want to keep coming 🙂

Buckmore Park S1 on Sunday

 

It never rains but it pours!

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Llandow S1 - welcomeWe went to the Llandow S1 round last weekend full of confidence. Whilst we had been a little slower than we’d wanted at the practice club round last month, we had since discovered why and had it fixed (engine was significantly down on power and in need of a rebuild) and meanwhile Alex had really got to grips with the track and the critical lines needed to be at the front. Sadly, our confidence was to quickly dissipate to be replaced with something a little closer to despair.

Llandow S1 - waiting to get on the gridSaturday starts off with two practice sessions. At the previous S1 round we’d had problems near the end of the meeting accelerating the kart off the grid and onto the track which we never got to the bottom of. Well it chose to bite us in the arse again! While everyone zoomed onto the track Alex was left struggling to get the kart to move. We changed the Carb after the first practice to find it was even worse with us between 0.8 and 1sec off the front! So now we were out of time – it was time for Qualifying and we didn’t know where the problem was.

Out of desperation we changed everything else it might be – on went the other engine and on went a 3rd Carb. Fingers crossed as we set down on the grid for Quali and thankfully, all was well. Yep we were 7/10s off the front but this still earned us 12th place which was just fine after the morning issues.

Llandow S1

Unfortunately however our difficulties had only just started. Into Heat 1 and Alex was driving ok, bouncing up to 10th then slipping back but holding his 12th spot. However lap 3 he got a great run out of ‘The Dell’, closing really fast on the kart in front which duly went defensive, and this is where it gets a bit controversial. Can you go defensive and then change line again other than on the 1st and last laps? Certainly at the previous round the drivers had received a little lecture on the subject which suggests otherwise. Well, I’ll let you watch the video and decide if that’s what happened.

Recounting the incident, Alex said that having seen the other driver go defensive, Alex was about to abandon a move down the inside on the approach to the corner but the other driver then pulled to the outside and braked almost immediately, way earlier than he expected (or would do himself). This caught him out and he clipped their back right corner.

There’s no denying we did catch the other driver from behind so were fully expecting some sort of penalty. However we were also expecting that the defensive move would be taken into account as it was partially to blame. Erm, nope, we were excluded from the entire heat. This may not sound like that big a deal but, receiving no points for that heat (even last place gets 18 points) meant hurting not only our starting position for the finals but also our championship standing. Not good. Come the end of Saturday, with a 13th in Heat 2 we ended up starting 20th, right at the back, for the Pre-final the next day.

Llandow S1 (3)Pre-final on Sunday and Alex was absolutely on fire! A best lap of 45.24 put him as having the 6th fastest lap and climbing from 20th up to 12th place. Simply the best driving i’ve seen from him, possibly ever, which made what happened next all the harder. Heading over to collect him from Parc Ferme with a spring in my step, I could see he wasn’t happy. His front bumper had become dislodged which meant yet another penalty. Nope, it really wasn’t going to be our weekend!

So to the Final and courtesy of the penalty we were once again at the back, this time 19th. Llandow S1 - waiting on grid for the final Alex had a couple of hours to gather himself after the pre-final frustration and I was so proud of how he managed to set it aside, compose himself and deliver another great drive. He clambered his way up to 13th and put in another fast time, 45.27, within 100ths sec of all but the front 2 drivers.

 

So, a tough weekend with few points, impacting our Championship standing but some real positives as well with some great driving in the two finals and quick times. We were also really pleased that both the driver we caught the back of in Heat 1 (who went spinning off into the tyres) and also Ian Sissons who had a nasty accident in the Final were both ok.

Thanks Tim and all the rest of the TWM team for the support and good company. Buckmore next and hoping for a better time of it.

 

 

 

Wales, we salute you!

GYG, what a circuit and Wales, what a welcome!

Twice in two weeks we made our way up to North Wales to be met with warm sunny weather on both occasions. After round 1 of Super 1 in Cumbria being sunny we couldn’t believe our luck again.

GYG CircuitI think it’s safe to say that GYG now features as Alex’s favourite track, despite a few challenges over the two weekends (more on these later). A beautiful combination of fast straights, up and downhill sections, and intricate tight corners provides a truly demanding circuit for the drivers.

Practice Weekend

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The first of the two weekends was testing and coaching. Day 1 was all about getting familiar with the circuit and lines. GoPro camera attached to the front allowed Will (our team coach) to give Alex some great instruction such that, by end of day 1 he was looking pretty good and quick, particularly on the tricky downhill section which, if you get it right, sets you up for a fast sector 1 all the way up the hill. Yes, the hill. Wow is that critical to a quick time and as we discovered, getting a tow from another kart can be worth a lot of time!

This is a video of Alex chasing a certain Talko driver

Day 2 we had Will out on the circuit with Alex, the plan being to simulate racing and focus on race craft. Well it was all going well until early afternoon when our engine unceremoniously disintegrated inside.

IMG_0656Taking it apart revealed a well and truly broken piston the reason for which is unknown. This engine was already the less powerful of the two for some unknown reason. Just 2 weeks previous I’d had the two engine back to back on BRTs engine Dyno which showed it was as much as 1hp down which, to put in perspective, is 1/14th of its power (ie quite a lot!). So it was due for a rebuild anyway but we’d hoped to keep using it for all the practice weekend and not clock up the hours on our good engine (itself getting quite high on hours as well). Never mind, the decision was made for us and so, on went the good engine for the last two practice sessions.

Sadly this wasn’t the end of our woes. At the next session, possibly due to the air temp being quite a bit higher, Alex was struggled to get the kart moving out of the dummy grid and out onto the circuit. At GYG you exit the dummy grid straight onto the fastest corner of the circuit. Entering the circuit the start finish straight was clear and I could see another driver, Daniel, just coming through the last few corners. Safe at the time, Alex moved onto the circuit but then the kart just wouldn’t accelerate up the hill. It was beginning to pick up but, unbeknown to Alex, Daniel was now approaching the first corner and Alex was right on the racing line.

GYG From the clubhouse and corner 1Poor Daniel came round the corner at around 65mph and just had no where to go. Alex was right on the racing line. Daniel did a pretty amazing job to avoid a complete head-on but nevertheless, slammed into Alex’s back right corner, ending up with his kart slung over Alex’s steering wheel and Nassar. We came off better than Daniel with a very bent bumper and slightly bent chassis. Daniels kart on the other hand didn’t look good and Daniel also had a big lump on his hand.

Suffice to say we were very relieved to see Daniel all ok by the following race weekend with nothing broken. Nightmare for his dad to try and get his chassis sorted in just 5 days. Sorry guys and glad you were ok.

We did manage to get our kart fixed up in time for the next and last session which saw Alex putting in times within 1/10 of his best so, clearly our slightly bent chassis wasn’t causing any major problems which was a good thing because I wasn’t going to have time to get it straightened before the race weekend!

Race Weekend

GYG Awning 2After an eventful trip back up to North Wales with a trailer tyre that decided to shed some of its rubber, we finally arrived late Friday to a packed paddock and very pleased that the team (TWMotorsport) had decided to leave their nice new awning up from the previous weekend otherwise would have been up in the field miles away! Lots of drivers at this round under the TWM awning and as usual a nice friendly welcome from everyone.

GYG Awning

After a couple of practices on the Saturday, on went the new race slicks and it was time for Timed Qualifying. Somehow the front runners are able to immediately find time in the brand new slicks and where we were 0.2 – 0.4 secs adrift in practice, suddenly we were 0.8 secs off ! Its not all in the tyres however as getting a good tow makes a big difference and we didn’t get one for the whole session; We went out right at the front, expecting to be overtaken by the fastest drivers and to then follow in their tow, thereby getting a better time. Unfortunately it didn’t quite work out that way and only right near the end did Abbi Pulling catch and pass us and at the very same moment, Alex spun off and was out for the rest of the session. Alex was adamant he’d just pushed to hard but actually it was the Engineer’s error (yes, me). One of the two bolts holding the brake caliper in place had completely come out so the brake was dragging and snatching. So, sadly this meant we qualified back in 14th.

S1 gyg part 2 2789

So, to heat 1 and some great driving and lap times to match the best. Whilst we only managed to get up to 12th, Alex was having a superb battle with Lydia Burney (Kart 16) and put in a time bettered only by two other drivers.

Heat 2 and we didn’t make quite such good progress, advancing a couple of places in the first few laps but then dropping back a couple to end in the same position, 14th. Times were still reasonable but, position is everything, not lap times ! The upshot of this meant we qualified a rather surprising 11th for the pre-final on Sunday.

Intermediate Classification

Sunday, the Pre-final and one of our best races to date although, as witnesses by Tim and Will, it took a year or more off my life! Starting in 11th Alex got a great start and got himself up to 9th within the first two laps and was in and staying with the leading pack that was pulling away nicely. He lost one place but stayed right with them and so it continued for 6 laps by which time they had pulled out a lead of around 1.5 secs from the next group of karts behind.

CircuitAlex’s goal was to finish in the top 10 so, we were sitting pretty. However one of the other drivers in the pack was having problems and slipping slowly backwards till on lap 6 he was right in front of Alex. So began an incredibly frustrating 10 laps during which Alex just couldn’t find a way past him. Alex was quicker but the other driver just wasn’t giving any quarter and meantime the pack behind were catching up and by Lap 13, they were right up with us.

S1 GYGLap 17 Alex lost another place and my heart sank for him but then, with only two corners to go on the last lap, the two drivers in front came together and Alex slipped through to finish 9th. With two penalties applied to drivers in front he ended up qualifying an amazing 7th!!  Yes, some luck was on our side but Alex had also had great pace, particularly early on before getting stuck, with times to match the very front runners and the 2nd fastest sector 1 time (just 2/100s off the best). So I sort of felt it was a deserved result although, we do need to find ways past drivers and not get bogged down behind them.

So to the Final. Delighted with starting 7th, Alex was looking forward to staying right up front and getting some good TV coverage 🙂 Of course nothing is ever straight forward in racing is it!

For the first time all weekend we just couldn’t get him started on the Grid. We got there eventually but he now had to fly round to catch up the others on the warm up lap and get back into position. He didn’t quite make it and so then did another warm up lap. Now this was a mixed blessing. On the one hand it meant he could regain his proper starting position. However, two warm up laps and a particularly slow second one and, as the all arrive at the start line and hit the accelerator…Alex doesn’t accelerate! His engine just bogs down and doesn’t pull away which is gutting. With the first long straight being on a hill its critical to get a good start and so, by the 3rd corner he has already dropped back 4 places to 11th and continues to slip back as far as 14th. So much for the TV Coverage although, as he commented at the end, maybe the bogging down might just get him some extra coverage……not a good reason to bog down!

S1 GYG 2

Lap 11 and so begins the come back. Gradually over the remaining laps he pulls himself back up to 10th, looses a place back down to 11th but, with a penalty applied to one of the other drivers, he finally finishes in 10th which, given the terrible start isn’t too bad and is far better than we imagined we would be doing in our first season in Super One!

So overall a good weekend for us. Some good pace and at times up there with the front runners. We just need to nail those starts and make sure we can get the kart started on the grid and, all will be good 🙂 Alex currently stands at 10th in the Championship.

Thanks to Tim (TWMotorsport), Will Van E for the support and coaching, Chris Walker (Kartpix.net) and Max Tadd (MDTPhotography) for photos. Finally congratulations to ‘Nutty‘ for winning 3rd place in the Extremes. Nice one !

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Not all engines are made equal

After a bit of a struggle at Llandow two weeks ago I thought it would be good to get the engine checked and make sure it’s performing as expected. Well quite simply, it isn’t, which is a mixed blessing. On the one hand it helps explain our Llandow woes but on the other hand, this engine was new only last year, was recently rebuilt and has just 4 hours use, and yet is down by some 0.9hp on our other engine. To put that in perspective that represents 5% less power which is quite a lot! If that were equated to lap times (which it can’t but let’s just go with it for the moment), that would mean a lap time approx. 2 seconds slower which is massive! I’ve been told that in reality it probably means a lap time nearer 0.5sec slower which is still very significant.

So begins the process of working out what is wrong and I just hope it isn’t a case that it is just a duffer. Clearly not all TKM engines are made quite as equally as I had thought/been led to believe 😦  Thanks Adrian at BRT for uncovering the issue on his dyno – one of the most trustworthy people in karting!

Llandow – pre S1 club round

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I’d heard people saying that Llandow is a driver’s circuit which I took as meaning ‘drivers really like it’. After our weekend I would have a slightly different description along the lines of “a circuit that punishes the slightest mistake and requires drivers to be millimetre perfect, every single lap or you can kiss a good result goodbye”……or something like that 🙂

Llandow circuit

As you may have gathered, it was a tough-ish trip to Llandow last weekend however, on the positives first, it was glorious weather all weekend, so much so my scalp was nicely burned by the time we were heading home and, there was a nice sized grid of Junior TKMs to play with.

We started out on the Saturday practice with some very old worn tyres which deteriorated quickly during the day. I hadn’t appreciated just how abrasive the track is at Llandow and by mid afternoon the kart was getting really wayward, making it difficult to determine if Alex was getting to grips with the track or not.

Llandow Club meetingHaving said that, he was definitely getting better at ‘The Dell’ (see picture of the circuit above). Early on we were just being passed further down the Hanger straight as if we were standing still but by the end of Saturday we seemed to be getting more speed out of The Dell which partially addressed this. The other really difficult corner seems to be the Hook and getting the right line so that the exit is clean and fast is difficult.

Cardiff BaySo by the end of Sat, with newer tyres now fitted we were definitely doing better but still a way off other drivers, some of whom we consider to be reasonable targets 🙂 We retreated to the really nice Cardiff bay area for Pizza and our overnight accommodation at Cowbridge Cabins (if you want cheap and nice I can recommend).

 

Llandow club meeting startSo to Sunday and our first ever race at Llandow. Heat 1 we start in second which sounds good but, as we discovered the inside line (even numbers) is a real pig at the start as the karts just bog down badly as you come round the final corner before the start/finish line.

 

Amazingly on this heat Alex did manage to slip into 3rd position which was superb and then as the heat progressed we gradually got overtaken by faster drivers, still loosing a lot of ground on the back straight to end up 8th, about 7/10s off the front runners but at least down into the 45secs lap times.

Heat 2 we started in 14th but, courtesy of the inside line again we were back in 18th by the first corner. From then on Alex struggled to find pace, languishing in the 46sec laptimes and just managing to retrieve his position + 1, finishing in 13th. Not too bad given the appauling start but, laptimes weren’t good.

Heat 3 and we are starting in 10th…..yes, once again on the inside <sigh>. Sure enough another poor start for everyone on that side sees us slip back only to recover a little to 13th but, even worse laptimes although everyone was slower so we were again 6/10s off the front.

EVER3578So to the final and we start in 12th (yes, I wont say it again………actually yes I will…..the flippin inside again !!!) and the story is pretty much the same as with the heats – all the inside liners drop back lots at the start and then claw back up again. In fact without doubt it was a false start with the first two rows on the outside crossing the start line before No.2 had crossed the line but, hey ho. We did take a punt on a rather radical gearing change which saw us never once being overtaken on the back straight which was good. It was also fun to watch Alex battling with Scott and Lydia for most of the race (reckon the three of you would have been quicker if you’d worked together mind!). Final position 12th and again 7/10s off the front runners.Llandow pre S1 club round 2016

Compared to how close we were at Rowrah this was disappointing but, it was similar at the Rowrah club round so hopefully the S1 meeting will be a little better. Its clear that following faster drivers helps the lap times significantly as does getting stuck behind slower drivers destroy them. Getting past slower drivers fast and then moving ahead to catch the next pack is so important and something we need to work on. As for that inside line……

 

 

 

 

 

Starting out at Daytona Sandown Park

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Apart from a short try in a Bambino kart at Buckmore Park, Alex’s first experience of petrol karts was at Daytona Sandown Park in summer 2011. Daytona run a superb race school which in turn qualifies the driver to race in their Inkart championship. The race school was 2.5 days and a simply brilliant introduction into karting.

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The Sandown Park track is incredibly flexible enabling them to reconfigure the track into at least 6 different layouts, all of which can also be run in reverse. This makes for a really interesting Kart Championship, all run out of the one venue (ie no need to travel round the country to different circuits).

 

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Also the staff were (and still are when we visit) really friendly. In fact the huge attraction of Sandown was its friendly social atmosphere with lots of time for parents to chill out and chat whilst their kids also had a great time with one another. Great if you aren’t interested in the mechanical side of karting! Its fair to say that we made some great friends which continue to this day.

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So what about the karting? Well its fair to say it was mixed. Whilst the speeds aren’t as fast as our own Honda Cadet and now TKM karts, the competition is just as challenging. During our time at Daytona we had some good close tussles with various other drivers, including one of Alex’s now best friends, Luke who was a hard determined racer who never gave any quarter (no, I won’t you let forget that side by side moment through the chicane Luke :)).

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One interesting aspect of racing at Daytona is the use of slicks regardless of conditions. I think it was Jenson Button’s dad who reportedly made his son race on slicks in the wet and I guess if it worked for him, no harm done! Certainly it made for some great races where conditions were chopping and changing, teaching them the importance of reading the track conditions, finding the drying line etc.

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So why did we move on ? A number of reasons. Firstly we became tired of karts being a little inconsistent at times. At each race meeting by the end of the first heat it would be clear which kart was a ‘duffer’ and from then on my heart would sink if Alex was placed in it for one of his races.

DSC_0795The staff would do their best to work around this but still it would happen and this feeling of the outcome being out of our hands was frustrating. For some, the many merits of Sandown outweighted this happening on occasions but for us, with me being mechanically minded, we wanted to be more in control of our own destiny.

DSC00179Also as already stated, I’ve always been quite mechanically minded, spending much of my 20s rebuilding engines, gearboxes etc So the idea of working on and maintaining our own kart was quite appealing.

Finally in the Cadet and Junior classes there was no equalisation of weight. This meant that when Alex was one of the younger, lighter drivers in cadets, he was competitive but, as he became one of the heavier ones it became harder and harder to do well, at least in the dry.

So it was that in late 2012 we went to see a race meeting at Camberley Kart Club and bought Alex’s his first own Honda Cadet kart for Christmas. Alex also passed his MSA ARKS test in 2012 meaning he could start racing his own kart in MSA race meetings.

We actually carried on racing at Sandown for about half of 2013 because we so enjoyed being with our Daytona friends, whilst also starting to race in Honda Cadets at other circuits. The weight issue though became more and more of a problem so that, in late 2013 we finally stopped attending Daytona. It was actually a really difficult decision because it was such fun, at least most of the time!

We still go to Daytona for the occasional special race meeting, catch up with our Daytona mates and look back with fond memories.  More recently Daytona have been running a DMax Championship using 2 stroke engines, karts weights levelled for all drivers and visiting different circuits around the country. Some of our karting friends, now 14 and therefore eligible, are participating in this championship and, if we hadn’t gone and bought our own kart, we would probably be joining this as it combines the best of both worlds……unless of course you want to roll your sleeves up and get your hands dirty, like us 🙂

Super One first round – Rowrah

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Rowrah, what an amazing track for our first round in Super One, not to mention fantastic weather all weekend which was unexpected given its location up in Cumbria. Its been a long time since I last visited the Lakes (probably 25+ years) and I’d forgotten just what a beautiful place it is.

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We actually popped up for the Rowrah club round in Feb to get a feel for the track which was definitely a good idea and something we will try and do with all the Super One circuits going forward. Being in TKM we only have the Saturday and Sunday on track whereas other classes also have Friday to practice. Despite this we decided to arrive on the Friday so we could find a good spot in the paddock and also give ourselves plenty of time to familiarise with the whole Super One timetable, not to mention get the kart prepped ! Arriving at 11am Tim (TWMotorsport), with whom we are racing this year, was already set up and ready for us which made a big difference. Somehow then from arrival time all the way through to 7.30pm I didn’t stop. Having unloaded we had to get registered, get Alex’s picture/video taken for the TV coverage, get badges sewn onto his race suit, collect race tyres, fit to rims and check them back in for secure keeping, get the kart through scrutineering oh, and replace the brake disk carrier which was causing the brakes to stick. So pleased we arrived in good time on Friday!

Saturday’s timetable was pretty full on. Arrive 7am, unpack, check out tyres I fitted on Friday to make sure they haven’t leaked overnight and then check back in, drivers briefing, and go over the kart again. Then short practice sessions at 10am, 11am and then into timed qualifying.

Alex Rowrah S1 race 2016 (3)

For the qualifying (quali), heats and finals we have to be up at ‘parc ferme’ 20mins before we are due on track, during which we ‘check-out’ our race tyres, get them fitted to the kart and then onto the grid.

So why this whole ‘check-out’ and ‘check-in’ tyres? Its to ensure that all the drivers get tyres as closely matched as possible. Everyone gets new tyres for the race weekend which they then have to use for the qualification, heats and finals. To ensure they aren’t tampered with in between races they have to be ‘checked-in’ with officials, to then be collected for the next race.

Back to quali, this was really challenging. Everyone is out on brand new tyres which are slippery as anything for several laps. However with only 6 mins and laptimes of 48-49secs, there is really only 6-7 laps to set a fastest time. We struggled. In practice we’d been quite a bit slower than others and it was similar in the quali. 1.2 sec best lap time off the leaders and qualifying 15th out of 19.

Heats then started in earnest, one at 14:20 and the next at 16:55. One thing I’ll say for Super One is they are excellent at keeping to time which makes it so much easier to know where you need to be and when (why can’t more clubs do this?!).  Heat 1 and we were still off the pace albeit less – 0.8sec of the leaders. For heat 2 I changed the gearing and, low and behold we have a much better session, finishing with a best lap time just 0.4sec off the leaders, 14th and a quicker best lap time than 4 people ahead of us.

So we qualify 16th for Final 1 and day 1 is finished. Prepping the kart ready for day 2 we finally head for our hotel at 7.30pm. Its been a very long day!

Day 2 (Sunday) is a little less stressful, at least in terms of the timetable. A short practice is followed by Final 1 at 12:20 in which Alex is on fire! Starting from 16th he slips to 19th on lap 1 but then proceeds to overtake, overtake and overtake; finishing in 10th, a best lap time of just 0.2secs off the leaders and quicker than 4 drivers in front of him!

This puts Alex in a start position of 10th for Final 2 and a whole 3 hours to relax before the start. Lap 1 is definitely our Achilles heel at the moment as he dropped down to 16th place. Once again however he lifts himself, clawing his way back up to 12th, slipping a couple of places and then regaining another to end in 13th, again 0.2secs off the front and quicker than 6 people in front of him.

Alex Rowrah S1 race 2016

All in all a really good start to our Super One adventure, surrounded by a great team and coaches (thanks Tim, Will and rest of team: TWMotorsport), good lap times showing real potential and some areas to work on (lap 1 in particular).

…and so began the long 7 hour journey home 🙂

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Super One – really ?!!

I’d always laughed at the idea of doing Super One for a whole host of reasons, cost being the main one but also the time commitment and frankly ability. If I look back at 2015 we had taken a really laid back approach to karting, only competing in 6 race meetings, a few practices and 1:1 coaching sessions. It had been a really enjoyable year with a ‘take it or leave it’ approach that had been refreshing and good for our father/son relationship. Costs had been low, commitment minimal but of course, with so little track time in our new Junior TKM class, we hadn’t exactly been winning races! Meanwhile a good friend of ours had been doing Super One that year in Cadets and so we heard all about the big teams, big bucks, big pressure and the very large numbers of practices and races required to be competitive.

So with all this in mind why on earth have we chosen to do Super One this year !!

It started with our joining in the last round of the 2015 TKM Southern Championship at Buckmore Park where we found ourselves up against the likes of Abbi Pulling, Sam Fowler, Ross Deal and Bradley White, all strong Super One drivers. In the latter heats and final we found ourselves surprisingly close to their pace (in the final Alex had a best laptime just 0.24sec off Abbi).

However, it was really Abbi and her dad repeatedly telling us we had the pace and really should do Super One that made us, for the first time just begin to consider it. The other person I’m happy to blame is Tim Wilson (TWMotorsport). We were under Tim’s awning at Buckmore and it was the combination of Tim and coach Will Van-E‘s input that saw Alex make such a huge improvement over the weekend. They were also of the view that Super One would be a good move as, apart from anything else, it would put him amongst faster drivers that would in turn really bring him on.

Of course pace isn’t everything. Aside from costs (back to that in a minute) I wasn’t sure if Alex or I really would want to have the pressure of S1 with all the race dates, practices, travel etc. I’d made plenty of mechanical errors over the last few years from tiredness, not being on the ball and this certainly played on my mind.

Without doubt the changes to TKM in Super One helped with the decision. Whilst other classes have a Friday practice requiring drivers to travel up on the Thursday, TKM in Super One had this removed from all but the last round making the whole thing far more realistic for us. Alex would only need a few days off school over the course of the year (for the further away tracks) and I wouldn’t need to take too many days holiday just for karting. The other big one was the compulsory reuse of the previous round’s race tyres as the next round’s practice ones. I’d heard about the number of new tyres being used in some other classes over the course of each round and, well, this just wasn’t an option for us. Finally some generous contributions from grandparents made the whole thing just about affordable.

So the final question was whether Alex really wanted to do it. I left this with him for a few months to mull over and in the end he decided, yes 🙂

Ok, costs are manageable, Alex wants to do Super One and we ought to be competitive. For me its a chance to create some great memories that we will both treasure. As with the previous year, we will try and remember why we are doing this – to enjoy ourselves whatever the outcome.

 

Introduction

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It was back in 2010 that I first had the idea that Alex (my son) might enjoy karting as he’d always been into cars and I was convinced he’d take to it. So it was after a trip to Buckmore Park and a go in their Bambino karts that, in 2011, aged 9, Alex joined Daytona Sandown Park Race school and now, here we are in our first season of Super One! (more on that in another post).

So why this blog ? Two fold really. We’ve learned so much over the last 6 years that we thought we’d share some of this with anyone out there who might find it useful/interesting. Maybe your thinking about this karting lark and whether its for you and if that’s the case, maybe some of what we’ve learned (and continue to learn) and share will help you make your decisions. Secondly, we want to keep a record of our adventures in Super One and share these with our friends and family. So, hope you enjoy our ramblings 🙂