When the wheels come off…

Date: 27th February 2015
Track: Teamsport Gosport
My PB at this track (before this session): 29.956s
Best lap time this session: 30.599s

As my wife was out for the evening for her leaving party, I thought what better time to do a spot of karting. Speaking to the guys at the front desk, they expected me to top the timing boards on the night, but I wasn’t too sure.

I was first out of the pits in the first session and after a spot of warming my kart up (it hadn’t been used in the previous session, so felt very slippery at first) I started accelerating over the bridge to get up to full speed before the start-finish line. As I prepared to turn into the first corner, I saw a kart coming head-on at me! It turns out that when the other driver came out of the pits, she had turned left instead of carrying straight on.

The track seemed very busy; a number of yellow flags were shown throughout the three sessions, which does nothing for consistency and there was a LOT of overtaking to be done each lap, also compromising my lap times. My fastest lap in the first session was a disappointing 32.5s, but I did top the timesheet. In hindsight, that wasn’t the worst time that I could have pulled out – 11th place had a best lap of 51s.

I had a good chat with the duty manager at the track between the first two sessions and chatted about the upcoming karting with my colleagues at work. There will be 12 karts on track that day and there were lots of concerns that the track will be too busy for proper racing. But the manager wasn’t concerned (as I am a member and I wouldn’t organise it with people who will be crashing all the while) and actually was looking forward to it!

The second session started with me leaving the pits in kart 7, but finishing in kart 11! I wasn’t particularly happy with the response of the kart after the first corner; I tried to turn into the hairpin under the bridge, and had to turn the steering wheel over 90 degrees to get any sort of movement (normally, just a twitch of the steering can start the kart turning in to that corner). I thought that I would just have to drive through the “problem”, so I continued to struggle around the track with lap times ranging from the low 32s to very slow 38 second laps (where I literally had to wrestle the kart around the corners). I persevered until the end of lap 7.

Coming down from the bridge, I heard a clunk and then massive vibrations started to go through the kart. I slowed down and looked at the wheels, but everything looked fine. It was only when I sped up that I noticed that the front right wheel wasn’t going round and round, but wobbling side to side! I drove as carefully as I could back around to the pits to park that kart and get into another. It was almost a seamless change (hats off to the marshals tonight), but this was a true spare; the engine was only started when I pulled into the pit lane, so it being cold was an understatement. Anyway, I warmed this kart up the best I could with the limited time remaining and amazingly, set the fastest lap of the session again (a 31.3).

I had a bit of a chat with lots of different people in the break between session two and three and also had a bit of time to myself. I felt very relaxed having topped the leaderboard in the first two races and set out to have some fun in the final session. It started off quite messy and stop-start with the interruptions of yellow and red flags, but I totally blitzed it. Overtaking isn’t easy at the Gosport track, but I was finding new ways to pass at every corner (my favourite manoeuvre was going around the outside of the wide hairpin under the bridge in order to pass another driver). I managed to post the fastest lap of the evening in this race, a 30.5s lap.

I really enjoyed the evening and I will remember it as the night of many firsts; the first time I have encountered someone driving the wrong way on the track, the first time I have had a kart malfunction, the first time I have overtaken so many people (and not get overtaken on the track myself) and the first time I have topped the timing sheets three times in a row.

On another note, I hope that I can grab someone with a camera to do some photography during my upcoming practice sessions (for the blog) and also the unofficial company karting event that I have organised on the 14th March.

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