New track. New techniques. New track records.

Date: 27th March 2015
Track: Teamsport Southampton (Eastleigh)
My PB at this track (before this session): N/A
Best lap time this session: 25.698s

Remember Nick Bennetts? You probably don’t, but to remind you, he was my good friend and colleague who unfortunately had to pull out of the event I organised a few weeks ago through injury.

Well this week, we organised an outing to a track that was new to me, but one that he had been to a couple of times before. Also, Nick had bought himself some new overalls and a new lid, but hadn’t yet worn them in anger. We met up a few miles away from the track and had a catch-up and a bite to eat before making it to the venue.

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As I had explained before, Nick has a wealth of motorsport experience from years ago, so I expected him to be tough competition this time out. We arrived nearly an hour early for the session, so spent a long time chatting and watching the previous groups take their turn on the track (having no experience of this track, I was trying to watch every single driver to look at possible lines through the main corners).

Session one was very interesting for me trying to feel out the track and the karts, whilst trying to race Nick (and ensure he didn’t finish in front of me). My first reaction was that the track was VERY slippery and that there was a camber into the large tightening hairpin after the flyover, that made braking (without going sideways round the corner) particularly difficult. Nick found this corner difficult too and caused the two yellow flags in this session by crashing out. I was very happy to finish this session in third place with a best time of 26.027s. Nick finished seventh out of the eight drivers with a 27.442s.

In the interval, Nick and I compared notes from the first session whilst watching the other group crash, smash and bash their way through the next 15 minutes. One thing I have to give credit to the team at Eastleigh was their stamping down on the obvious dangerous driving and the black flags that were shown to the drivers were clearly deserved in my opinion. It’s always nice to see that the marshals are taking steps to prevent these drivers from ruining a fun night out, because so often I have seen marshals turning a blind eye at dangerous behaviour at other tracks.

We got ready for the second session, which I suffered a transponder failure, so approximately 10 of my lap times weren’t recorded. It was relatively uneventful, I was putting in very consistent laps (of the 16 laps that were recorded, my fastest lap was 26.203s, but my average was 26.244s giving an example of my consistency in this session). Nick was satisfied that he didn’t get overtaken in this session and finished with a far faster time of 26.444s.

Nick was worried at the start of the night that he wouldn’t manage to compete in the last of the three sessions as he hasn’t raced in karts for nearly a year. But whilst he complained about his grip in his hands going, he was ready to race again a few minutes later. Before the final session, he needed to “empty the ballast tank” so left me to kit up in the pits. A minute later he stood by me and explained that he went to the toilet, but couldn’t find the urinals… he’d only gone into the ladies by accident! He said he knew that this was going on the blog, so it shouldn’t come as a surprise that it’s here!

I was slightly irritated by the transponder failure in session two as I enjoy analysing my lap times and tracking my improvement and consistency. I was going to leave everything out on the track. I went for it from the start, but a couple of yellow lights and slower drivers didn’t help me. I set a 25.698s on lap 12, but by lap 15, I was stuck in traffic for the rest of the race (my weight acting as the equaliser between myself and the driver who was probably half of my size). Every lap I would close up on the drivers in front, but then lose momentum on the short incline for the flyover. This led me to become frustrated and try some manoeuvres that were 50:50 at best. Nick finished with a time of 26.539s in this session, but I think the amount of karting took its toll as can be seen in the photograph he posted to Twitter this morning!

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I left my first evening karting at Eastleigh feeling pleased with the progress I made in a short period of time. I’m booked in again at Eastleigh after work on Tuesday for a “freebie” so I will see how I progress next week.

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