Racing against stiff competition (and the clock!)

Date: 9th June 2015
Track: Teamsport Southampton (Eastleigh)
My PB at this track (before this session): 25.270s
Best lap time this session: 26.304s

A special offer and the chance to race exclusively against other members was the driving force for me to go karting on Tuesday evening this week.

I realised why, when my colleague and I go karting of an evening, we set off from work at half four on the dot and get there with plenty of time. This time, I had to run a quick errand on my way, so it meant that I was a little later on the road to the track – BIG MISTAKE! It took me nearly an hour to travel 2 miles, and meant that I arrived just 2 minutes before the session started (in my work clothes and sweating profusely!).

I did steal a moment to myself to get changed and prepare for the session as two other drivers were also delayed on the roads.

There were five of us who had signed up for this hour-long exclusive qualifying session; I had raced against all of them in the past and it hadn’t been overly successful, but this time I was relishing the chance to race them all again.

When we started the session, I had planned to take it easy for the first 10 minutes or so, just to warm the kart and settle into the evening of karting ahead – I didn’t think that I could go flat out for an hour straight! (As it happens, it turned out that we weren’t doing one hour straight racing, but splitting it up into 15 minute sessions, with different karts each time, as usual).

I don’t usually blame the kart for any failings on track, but this kart in particular had NO grip at all (later confirmed by a fellow member who drove the same kart later on in the evening). I was about a second off the pace throughout and finished with a very disappointing lap time of 27.774s.

We were surprised at seeing the chequered flag after 15 minutes when we all thought that we were getting an hour of continuous racing. We discussed this amongst ourselves and then the staff member at the front desk in our break between the sessions.

I had a completely different perspective in the second session (along with a different kart, thank God!); I could go out hard from the very start and not worry about it being more of an endurance event. I did exactly that and it paid dividends. Whereas in the past, I have fallen off the back of this pack of drivers, I was mixing it up with them, whilst giving them room to overtake if they wanted (the whole point of this was to set qualifying lap times for the KartChamps competition, so I wasn’t going to hold anyone up if they were behind me). I finished with a much improved lap time of 26.449s and even managed to finish 4th.

At the end of this session, I was quite pleased with my performance, but knew that there was much more to be done in order to set a competitive time for KartChamps.

The third session was fairly uneventful for all of us. I couldn’t improve on my lap time from the second session, and finished with a best of 26.698s. I think that in the back of our minds was the fact that we would get the opportunity to race against another group straight after this one (I know that it was in my mind during the session).

With 9 drivers on track in our final session, there was going to be a lot of overtaking opportunities, traffic and possibly red and yellow flags with addition of the inexperienced drivers. We all loved the challenge of racing one another on track – motorsport is best when it is about racing others at 100%, not racing the clock. Surprisingly, I set my fastest lap of the evening in this race, despite having to deal with all of the added traffic; I set a 26.304s, in 5th place, just three-thousandths of a second away from 4th place and just over half a second away from 1st place.

All-in-all, it was a very productive evening and very satisfying experience; my best performances seem to come from those events where I am racing more experienced or drivers in a lighter weight class.

Other important news for the blog… I have now taken receipt of my Garmin Virb helmet camera, so there will be raw footage, screenshots and, possibly, some interesting overlays and analysis – lots for you guys to look forward to!

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