Simplify, then add lightness

Date: 12th November 2015
Track: Teamsport Southampton (Eastleigh)
My PB at this track (before this session): 24.407s
Best lap time this session: 23.732s

My return to the track after a couple of weeks, was also the return of the GRID F1 format with a slight format change. On this occasion, whilst there was still the F1 style qualifying, the two 20-minute races had been changed to three races (two 15-minute races followed by a 10-minute “decider”).

As always in the members races, the karts were drawn out randomly for the evening; I was allotted kart 20 and was raring to go when I got down into the pits. After the disaster last month, my aim for the qualifying session was simple; to get into the second session.

I got into the kart and things just felt right; (as a side note, since the last F1 race, I have lost another 4kg in weight in my attempts to trim down before the BRKC) I didn’t know whether it was psychological, but the kart appeared to accelerate better, I could brake later into corners and carry more speed around the hairpins. I managed to beat my all-time PB in Q1, with a 24.274s lap, finishing 7th (which was just enough to get into Q2). Looking at the times now, fifth, sixth and seventh positions were separated by 0.06s, so it was all to play for in Q2.

Unfortunately, I didn’t manage to maintain the rhythm in the shorter second qualifying session, managing to put in a 24.292s lap, which was still better than my original PB before this evening, but about a quarter of a second from the top four, leaving me with a grid position of 7th for the first race. I was very pleased with my performance, but I was disappointed with the outbursts and bad sportsmanship of some other members after qualifying (and it continued throughout the evening and beyond) – I may moan about the karts that are clearly off the pace, but I see it as a risk when you take part in rental karting; the peformance of the kart isn’t 100% down to you.

The first race started with the usual melee at the first corner; I tried to cut in in front of the driver to my left, but she wasn’t yielding. Only one person really lost out here as I managed to drive around her spin on the inside and I quickly got into my rhythm. As always, the pit stop is both technical and tactical; you must not lose too much time in the pit stop phase, but you have to calculate where you are going to come out of the pits. I have to say that I think I timed it perfectly in this race; after being lapped by the leader and following him for a few laps (trying to stay as close to him as possible), I pitted aggressively and managed to get out in clear air ahead of the battle for 7th. Not to cut this race review short, but sixth place was where I stayed for the rest of the race, despite me closing slightly on the 5th place driver, Whilst the rest of the race wasn’t necessarily packed with action, I did manage to set a sub-24s lap (23.975s on lap 31 of 37), which I was over the moon with – I’m sure that if I hadn’t lost the amount of weight that I have so far, that would have been unachievable.

After more kart complaints (and kart swapping by some drivers), we started the second race with a reverse grid from qualifying. There was a little bit of a rolling start and moving from grid positions from some drivers before the start, but once we started, I couldn’t prevent losing a place after the jostling at the first corner. I was then handed the place back after a premature pit stop from the driver in front and then I made a move on track into fourth position on lap two. After some further pit stops in front, I found myself in the lead for nine laps, but having not pitted, I was aware that I needed to put lap after lap of qualifying pace to try to push my advantage to a point where I could pit and come out in clear air. My pit stop wasn’t the cleanest; I came in to the pit lane too hot, bashed into the barrier and then lost momentum before my stop. I did, however, come back out onto track in fourth place and even managed to grab third a couple of laps later. However, the slide down through the positions inevitably happened; third to fifth in the space of one lap and one more position lost about six laps after that. This initiated quite a battle between myself and an old hand at the track (that I raced a few times at Gosport). It was such a tight competition; I knew if I made even the slightest mistake, Ian would take the position off me. Both myself and Ian have a mutual respect for each other and the others on track (which some drivers don’t!)- if we can’t get past cleanly, then we will back off and try to launch another attack later. We both really enjoyed the contest, this time I came out on top and managed to defend my sixth place resolutely and in doing so, set my all-time PB of 23.732s. One other statistic that I am really proud of, is that I finished less than 15 seconds behind the leader – the closest I have ever finished in a members event.

We headed out for the deciding race (I don’t actually know how the grid positions were decided for this race), but despite the race being significantly shorter, the mandatory pit stop was still a requirement. We did have a long stoppage during this race; one of the karts suffered a mechanical failure and therefore needed to be changed. I tried to pit as soon as I could after this stoppage, hoping that this might give me a little edge on the other drivers. Both myself and Ian battled again during this race, but unfortunately for me, Ian managed to just squeeze past me this time, pushing me down to 7th position. I did set a fastest lap of 23.885s in this race, so whilst it was slightly slower than the last race, it was a sub 24-second lap all the same.

After the points were added together from the three rounds, my finishing position was given as 7th overall, just two points behind 6th place. I was immensely proud of my performance and with a little over two months before the BRKC, I feel that I am bang on track with my preparations this year.

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