It’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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
For 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 🙂