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.
I 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.
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.
Taking 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.
Poor 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!
After 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.
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.
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.
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.
Alex’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.
Lap 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!
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 !