#BRKC2016 – Saturday (Rounds one and two)

Date: 16th January 2016
Track: Formula Fast, Milton Keynes
My PB at this track (before this session): GP circuit 33.052s, BRKC2016 alternative layout 35.276s
Best lap time this session: GP circuit 32.558s, BRKC2016 alternative layout 34.569s

And it’s go, go, go!

The BRKC has started with a bang and my schedule meant that I opened this year’s account with the “Heat of Death”; I predicted an 8th place finish for myself, but obviously as a racer, you are always pushing for more.

One driver from our heat didn’t make it to the grid, which meant that we started the heat with nine drivers – however, this didn’t change my predicted finishing position.

I am aware that I have issues with the hot lap qualifying; I am consistent with my laptimes, but I can’t seem to pull one rapid lap out of the bag when I am under pressure to do so. As expected, I started at the back of the grid for this heat, but with a reasonably quick time.

The failure in qualifying meant that I had it all to do in the race and pit stop tactics would be key. I spent a lot of time talking to my wife over dinner last night and she gave me her opinion on the tactics I should use. I disagreed with her at the time, but in the end, I did exactly as she had suggested; pit early and race hard for the remaining time, safe in the knowledge that the pit stop was in the bag.

After I had pitted (I was very pleased with the stop elements), I felt isolated on the track – I was about ten seconds behind 8th place, and about twenty seconds in front of the leaders (i.e. before they would be coming around to lap me.

Eventually, as others pitted around me, the 7th and 8th place battle came into view; as Mike Smith came out of the pits, we were side-by-side, but unfortunately, I had to hold back to get on the racing line. A couple of mistakes by myself later, and the two drivers in front of me were pulling away.

But wait, I was in 8th place? I looked at the screen over the track on three separate occasions, hardly believing my eyes. The man behind me, was the former FIA Formula A champion and I would need to hold him off for the next seven or eight minutes. I put everything I had into the last part of the race, knowing that not only did I have Colin breathing down my neck, but the leaders were catching us both.

I was worried that when the leader came around and I was shown the blue flag, Colin might also sneak up the inside, losing me that place. As it happened, I let the leader pull alongside me on the back straight and I slipped in right behind him after the wide hairpin, sealing off the gap. Three more corners and the race was over – I had earned three points (almost as many as I won throughout all of the 2015 BRKC!) and the adrenalin was still pumping as I made my way off the track.

At 6:30pm, I took to the alternative layout, in a buoyant mood after my earlier race, and aiming for my predicted position of 7th (if not a little higher). Qualifying was amazing for me; I was totally relaxed and just took each corner as it came, which resulted in my best ever BRKC qualifying position of 6th on the grid.

I wanted to firstly maintain my position, but also to push on and possibly move into 5th place after the start. I achieved my first point and due to a few early pit stops, found myself in 3rd place for a couple of laps. I was tempted to stay out as long as possible, but I wanted to block any different strategies from the other drivers, so I pitted from third.

My pit stop wasn’t the cleanest; I was quite happy with the pit entry, but the adrenalin worked against me at the exit as I started to move too early, forcing me to stop the kart again to prevent a penalty. I estimate that this stuttering stop cost me about three seconds, and possibly cost me rejoining the track in fifth place.

However, despite a tiny bit of pressure throughout the rest of the race from Melany, I managed to maintain my position to the chequered flag, meaning that I exceeded my prediction.

After two races of BRKC 2016, I have twice as many points as I managed to collect throughout the whole of BRKC 2015! I am currently sitting in 65th position overall, and in a good position to achieve my target of being in the top half.

Tomorrow, I am racing at 8am (round three) and 3:30pm (round four), and remember that you can follow all of the action tomorrow live on Livestream (http://livestream.com/accounts/16838646/events/4696618?t=1452941905), Twitter (#BRKC2016 and @britishkart) and all the live timings at http://ffkbanbury.clubspeedtiming.com/sp_center/livescore.aspx

#BRKC2016 – Friday Practice

Date: 15th January 2016
Track: Formula Fast, Milton Keynes
My PB at this track (before this session): GP circuit 33.527s, BRKC2016 alternative layout 35.916s
Best lap time this session: GP circuit 33.052s, BRKC2016 alternative layout 35.276s

After a lovely, relaxing holiday with my wife and family in a treehouse (with hot tub!) in the Forest of Dean; a million miles away from the hustle and bustle of the kart track, I returned to Formula Fast in Milton Keynes for the official BRKC 2016 practice session.

I managed to squeeze two and a half sessions in throughout the day; one and a half on the normal GP circuit (the half was due to an admin error which was rectified quickly and professionally) and a session on the alternative layout.

The half session was a little bit chaotic; I had arrived earlier than my reserved practice session, so I volunteered to swap my session on the alternative layout with an earlier session on the normal layout. However, the swap didn’t go smoothly and resulted in me making a dash downstairs to get in a kart halfway through the final race in that session.
Once in the kart, I found my feet fairly quickly, trying out my planned techniques for the new laser activated pit stop and I finished the ‘sprint’ with a 33.551s – very close to my PB set in November (unfortunately, due to the rush, there is no on-board footage of this session).

After a brief track change, I was back out again (in the session that I had originally reserved) on the alternative layout. I was nervous for this session, because the alternative layouts have not been kind to me in the past. I tried to follow some advice that I had been given by my colleague at work with respect to the second layout; “drive around the hairpins, don’t skid around them”.

I needn’t have worried so much; I finished the session with a new PB of 35.276s and by finishing 5th in this session, I feel much more confident of scoring good points in rounds two and four of the championship.

My first outing on the alternative layout is tomorrow at 18:30, where I will be supported by a couple of friends at the track – hopefully I can put on a good performance with a little added pressure trackside.

I took the opportunity to sign up for one last normal layout practice session in the evening and, after a brief period of respite at the hotel, I headed back to the track for the last time before the the green lights shine for the BRKC proper. I was really switched on and prepared for the session; I was already 1.5s faster than last year’s best time in the morning, but I wanted more – I was aiming for a sub-33s lap in this session.

I was left on my own for a long period of time in this session, where my lap times were consistent, but not a blistering pace. It was only when I had made a pit stop and another driver had also stopped, that I had someone to chase and my lap times tumbled.

Whilst I may not have achieved my sub-33 second lap, a 33.052s PB sets me up beautifully for my first race tomorrow at 1pm – it has been labelled as a heat of death (and a must-watch), but where will I manage to finish?

Remember that you can follow all of the action of the BRKC2016 weekend live on YouTube (youtube.com/britishchampionship), Twitter (#BRKC2016 and @britishkart) and all the live timings at http://ffkbanbury.clubspeedtiming.com/sp_center/livescore.aspx.

EDIT: BRKC2016 will be streamed on Livestream http://livestream.com/accounts/16838646/events/4696618?t=1452941905

#BRKC2016 Championship Preview and Heat Draw Review

With less than one week to go until the green lights come on at the British Rental Kart Championship, what better way to start the countdown than with a preview of the championship weekend and a review of last night’s heat draw.

For those of you that aren’t aware, the British Rental Kart Championship is a weekend-long event that acts as a qualifier to the Kart World Championship. Many of Europe’s best kart drivers compete at this championship, at a venue that prides itself on kart maintenance and equality, making it one of the highest levels of competition in indoor karting.

100 drivers (a BRKC record) will line up on the morning of Saturday 16th, and by Sunday evening, one driver will be able to take the top step of the podium with the knowledge that he/she has beaten the rest to grab the £1000 top prize.
But to be crowned champion, they will have to navigate four tricky heats (each with single flying lap qualifying followed immediately by a race of 20 minutes including a compulsory pit stop), a semi-final (following the same format as the heats) and the grand final (individual qualifying in the same kart followed by a 30 minute race with two mandatory pit stops).

The entire event will be broadcast live, with full commentary and driver interviews, so if you can’t be there, you can still experience the speed and atmosphere of the championship from your armchair at home.

This year, there are a few rule changes, most notably the new laser activated pit stop system – FLAPS (as a laser engineer, I am particularly excited about this!). To remove the human judgement element of the mandatory pit stop from previous years, a simple laser system has been implemented at the entrance and exit of the pit lane, where the beam must be blocked by the kart for a given amount of time before you are allowed to move off. There are a few different methods of performing the pit stop element during the races; I have been discussing a couple of these methods and have my plan A and B ready for the Friday practice session.

Unlike last year, when I was very inexperienced and went into the championship on the back of an illness (I’m not using the illness as an excuse, I was thoroughly outclassed and would have been either way!), I have been racing for the past year with a clear goal; to go to the BRKC this year and perform better than I did in my debut in 2015. My preparations have gone well; I’ve lost about 35lbs in weight from last year (1st 9lbs since October), bringing me under the 90kg minimum weight for the first time in years, I’m generally fitter than I was and have been very competitive in my kart races around the country against both lighter and more experienced drivers.

 

 

Last night (8th January) the draw for the heats of the BRKC was streamed live from Formula Fast in Milton Keynes, and I watched with baited breath on YouTube alongside a considerable number of competitors. Despite the difficulties with the new automatic heat spreadsheet throughout the evening, there really was an air of excitement from the drivers. Unfortunately, due to the length of the draw and one of the stoppages, I missed my name being drawn (I picked up the stream after three more names after mine had been pulled out of the bag).

Eventually, the draw was completed (see the image below for the complete draw) so I then knew who I would be racing next Saturday and Sunday in the first four rounds of heats.

FullDraw2016

Round one [13:00 Saturday 16th]:

R1H10I’ve got quite a wait from Friday practice to kick my championship off with a bang, and what a line up in this heat!

Ed White (3rd place last year overall, but won every race leading into the grand final), Ramon Pineiro (multiple Spanish rental kart champion), Corne Snoep (masses of experience in the kart world championship amongst others), Lewis Manley (3rd place overall in BRKC 2014, and at his home track where he holds the lap record) and Colin Brown (Formula A World Champion) are formidable competitors and it will very exciting to be racing against these drivers.

I would love to break into the top 5, but I think this is going to be near enough impossible with the standard of drivers there.

Predicted heat winner: Ed White

My predicted finishing position in this heat: 8th

Round two [18:30 Saturday 16th]:

R2H9After my first round race, I have another long wait until my second heat, this time on the alternative layout.
I meet up again with Tyler Mays after our round one heat, but the one name that really stands out for me in this heat is Matt Bartsch, who won three out of four heats last year and finished 7th overall.

From the November practice session, the alternative layout doesn’t suit my driving style, but if I’m to achieve my target of getting in top 50, I will have to make as many points as possible on the second and fourth rounds – there are no easy points to be had in the BRKC.

Predicted heat winner: Matt Bartsch

My predicted finishing position in this heat: 7th

Round three [8:00 Sunday 17th]:

R3H6Back to the traditional circuit layout, provisionally first thing on the Sunday morning, I will be racing David Longman for the second time this championship and meeting Anwar Beroual Smith, as I did last year in the heats.

From the line-up, I think there will be a fight (figuratively not literally) between Anwar and Annelien at the front; I feel that qualifying and track position will play a big part in deciding that place.

As this is the last round on the standard layout, I will be pushing hard for every point here, but I predict there being lots of mini-battles throughout the field from 4th to 10th place and this is where a well-timed pit stop can pay dividends.

Predicted heat winner: Annelien Boutens

My predicted finishing position in this heat: 7th

Round four [15:30 Sunday 17th]:

R4H9The last chance to stake a claim for a semi-final place on the alternative layout and, with only one more heat after this before the semi-finals, things will begin to look clearer for many drivers knowing what finishing result they need to make an impression on the leaderboard.
My BRKC heats will be bookended by racing Lewis Manley again, who I think will be the one to beat in this race.

A lot of new names (to me anyway) in this heat, but I do get to race Alex Vangeen competitively for the for the third time in the past two BRKCs (I was also alongside him for my two practice sessions last year); hopefully it will be closer than the last time, where I remember waving him through to put a lap me on quite a few occasions.

Predicted heat winner: Lewis Manley

My predicted finishing position in this heat: 6th

If I were asked to give some tips for the debutants (having been one myself last year), they would be to:

  1. enjoy the weekend – there’s a lot of things going on throughout the weekend and time can seem to pass by really fast, but try to take a moment to take it in and leave with some good memories
  2. compete hard (without expectations or preconceived ideas)
  3. talk to other people/drivers around the venue – they won’t bite and you might end up getting some hints and tips that you can take forward in your racing careers.

Leaving the blog post and predictions aside for a moment, I’m looking forward to just racing throughout this weekend – this is my chance to see the progress I have made in the past year and see if I can mix it with the big guys.

Never think that success is down to your own performance alone

Date: 31st December 2015
Track: Teamsport Southampton (Eastleigh)
My PB at this track (before this session): 23.732s
Best lap time this session: 24.812s

After the previous night’s racing, I decided to have a “warm down” and introduce my friend Mike to the sport that I love and put so much of my spare time into.

After chatting with Mike on the way to the track, it turned out that this was his first time karting in a very long time, but I had a sneaky suspicion that he was going to be pretty good on track, so I was keeping one eye out for him when we were racing.

We arrived very early for our session (I was allowing for traffic that simply wasn’t there!), but this gave Mike the opportunity to take a look at the track and ask for a couple of little pieces of advice from me before we went to our safety briefing.

As always in these open sessions, there was a wide range of abilities; from those who had never stepped foot in a kart before to those who regularly kart. The challenge for me was to weave through the traffic and be as competitive as I could be (without bumping anyone!).

There was a lot of traffic on the track, and unfortunately, there were a few stoppages and yellow flags throughout the first session. I felt like I was doing a good job to get around the other drivers cleanly, even if some of my moves had an air of cockiness about them. One thing that I was very proud of was squeezing through the tiniest gap following a spin by one of the drivers (at ~12:41 in the video below).

I managed a 25.405s lap in this session, about half a second in front of the nearest competitor. Mike finished eight-tenths of a second off my pace, with a 26.212s lap, which is no mean feat considering that it was his first time around the Eastleigh track.

I set Mike a challenge for the second session; to go sub 26s, and he set me a target in return – to put in the fastest lap of the day (at this point in the afternoon it currently stood at 25.003s). Normally a sub 25s lap would be easy for me, but there was a lot of traffic and lines that I would usually take weren’t always there!

If the first session was me having fun (and showboating to an extent), the second was me pushing hard; I wanted that best lap of the day and I was determined to catch up with Mike again (who beneath his laid back exterior, was a force to be reckoned with when he stepped into the kart).

All of the drivers improved massively in the second session; Mike took almost two tenths of a second off his PB in this session, but just missed out on the sub 26s lap. Although the quality of the competition might not have been as strong as the previous night, I was pleased that I managed to get the fastest lap of the day with a 24.812s lap.

After the event, one of the drivers in the session messaged me and began to follow me on my Facebook page – It was great to be able to communicate with a fellow driver and it was a boost to my confidence to be told that he learnt a lot from watching and racing me (he also managed to cut over a second off his PB between the two sessions!).

The countdown to the BRKC continues…

Calm down, don’t give up and fight back!

Date: 30th December 2015
Track: Teamsport Southampton (Eastleigh)
My PB at this track (before this session): 23.732s
Best lap time this session: 24.043s

After the Christmas excesses (and a small gain of just over a kilogram in weight), it was great to be back at the track for a competitive race with the other members. This was another race in the F1 format; although there was another change to the format – this time the pit stop element was removed. I was disappointed at this because the GRID F1 format is the closest to BRKC race format, and whilst this was a stand-alone race, I was hoping to practice some new tactics regarding the timings of my stops.

My aim for the knockout qualifying sessions, although it was very ambitious, was to get into the final session. I did feel relaxed in the kart at the start of the first qualifying session (despite me not knowing exactly what was going on with the grid start!).

I managed to get into the second knockout stage fairly easily, putting in a 24.619s lap, but for some reason, I felt that I had tensed up a little bit in the next round and things didn’t feel the same with the kart, leading to my big mistake a few laps in. I never quite recovered from this, leaving me with the seventh fastest time (24.986s) and out of qualifying.

Something that I did prefer from this event were the kart changes between qualifying and the first two races and then a further change before the final sprint race; although it may not have worked out perfectly for me, I prefer not sticking with the same karts all the way through the evening as it leads to a more even playing field (nobody gets a good kart all evening, and conversely, nobody is stuck with a slow kart throughout the event).

In the first race, I managed to stay out of a lot of the trouble at the start by staying to the outside of the first corner and did my best to still defend from others trying to get up the inside of me.

In terms of positions, not much happened for me during the race; I went from 8th, to 6th and finally slipped back to 7th. I almost grabbed 6th place back right at the end as Ian was caught behind a back marker and, as I saw the finish line, I lunged up the outside and was fractions of a second from regaining that position. I finished with a 24.443s best lap and a better average than Ian (who pipped me to the chequered flag), so I was very pleased with my performance so far in the evening.

We were straight back out for the second race, and with a reverse grid from qualifying, this put me towards the front of the pack. However, that didn’t last long.

The start was an absolute disaster; I found myself sandwiched in all directions and just being taken for a ride around the first corner and then again at the hairpin at foot of the bridge; I fell from fourth to eleventh in the space of two corners and I was not happy.

However, unlike other occasions, I regrouped and set out to regain some of the places I had lost with a sense of determination that I hadn’t really experienced in my racing to date. From 11th position, I managed to move up into 9th within the next lap, then into 7th and by lap 6, I was into 5th place.

Unfortunately, due to a nasty incident at the pit entrance (requiring the barrier to be rebuilt), the race was red flagged and my momentum was halted.

After the stoppage, I realised that breaking into the top four was going to be an enormous task, and not losing my 5th place from a new member, Ricky, was going to be tough too! I could feel the pressure coming from behind – I tried to drive defensively to protect my position but still try to make an impact on the lead that Ian had made over me in fourth. Amy said after the event that the fight between myself and Ricky was intense; he was breathing down my neck lap after lap and I was pulling some great defensive lines to give me a break for a lap or two.

All of the time, we were closing on Ian, giving me a chance to take 4th place right at the end, but Ian’s experience paid off, offering me no chances to put in the overtake which would have capped off my comeback in this race. I finished with a best lap of 24.043s in this race, closing in on a sub 24s lap yet again.

If the second race was all about making my way through the pack, so was the third race – but only this time it was in reverse. We started in the same order that we had finished the second race, so for the first time, I was starting close to Ian and should have had the opportunity to have a full race to overtake him on this track. As it happened, I only needed the first corner to pull the overtake that I had been waiting for all evening; I got a great start and, as I stayed on the inside at the hairpin, I managed to move myself into 4th position.

However, one lap later, I made a slight mistake and the kart slipped away from underneath me; a gentle tap from Ian (I know that this wasn’t intentional) and I had lost two places. After the next corner, I had lost a further two places. Languishing down in 8th place, I did manage to make it back into 7th which I managed to hold on to for four laps whilst challenging for 6th place.

Unfortunately, I had no defence (and no grip) this time with the kart I was given, and became a sitting duck for the drivers behind me. Once I had fallen into ninth place, and Robin started to pull away from me, that was my race over, so I started to experiment and generally have fun. My quickest lap time in this sprint race was 24.217s; whilst racing, I didn’t even believe that I had put in a 25s lap!

At the trophy presentation, it was announced that I had finished in joint seventh place out of twelve after the three races – I thought how different it could have been if I had been competitive in the third race (mathematically, there was a real possibility of me finishing 5th/6th overall).

I was really pleased with how the evening had gone, especially my performance in the second race and it confirmed to me that racing is made up of three things; natural ability, good practice and a decisive mind.

Now, only 16 days remain until the BRKC…

I never raced for fun, although it was fun to race

Date: 21st December 2015
Track: Teamsport Southampton (Eastleigh)
My PB at this track (before this session): 23.732s
Best lap time this session: 24.189s

With a little over 24 days until the start of BRKC 2016 and a few trips to tracks further afield, I fancied a bit of fun at my home track in Eastleigh.

I was feeling quite relaxed after work, but once I had got to the track, I was raring to go. There were 6 people in my session (well in the first session anyway), of which I believe all but one of them were members.

Writing this in retrospect, there were only two parts that stood out for me; a long stoppage, which I believe was due to an injury to one of the drivers and the tremendously long battle with the young driver in front.

I truly enjoyed the battle with the young driver – It made me think about every corner and every possible move that I could make and lines I would need to take into and out of the many twists and turns.

I have to say that, although I didn’t manage to get the better than him on the track (i.e. I didn’t get the opportunity to overtake him), I did succeed in getting the fastest lap of the session and topping the leaderboard.

Due to the injury to one of the other drivers, our second session contained only four drivers. However, I was very excited and expectant of another great battle with the young driver, but I was slightly disappointed that a few silly mistakes from the younger driver allowed me to pass him easily at various points on the circuit – the cool, calm driver who had the ability to drive on the racing line at all times in the first session seemed to have been replaced by a driver who got flustered when being followed by others.

I finished top of the heap in terms of lap times in this session (with my 24.189s lap), but I did learn something about myself during this evening’s karting; I enjoy it more and feel more engaged when I am racing someone, whether that be chasing or trying to pull away from them after an overtake. This epiphany, will most likely change my tactics during the pit stop elements of the BRKC (compared with last year) and my next race; the F1 event on this very track.

Determination that just won’t quit, that’s what it takes

On the 6th December, I took part in the Johnny Herbert Karting Challenge to raise money for KartForce, but of course, this plays a part of my preparations for the BRKC and also trying things that I’ve not done before in motorsport. Racing against ex-F1, touring car and professional drivers head-to-head, I hoped would only enhance my skills on the track.

I was placed in a team of six (the team was named by the organiser as the “Speedy Sailors”). None of us had never met before, so we had no idea of each others experience, style or anything else about each other! In order to get to Capital Karts in London, the venue for the JHKC, I had to set off at 5.30am to travel the 120 miles from my home to the track – so a very early start for me. As I posted on my Facebook page at the time, motorsport isn’t always the glamorous lifestyle that a lot of people imagine it to be; sitting in your car in the rain, staring at a brick wall at the venue, eating two Slimming World cereal bars with no phone battery left because you used it as a GPS on the trip up.

I was one of the first arrivals at the track and, as such, none of my new teammates had signed in at that time. I went into the venue and got changed into my racing attire (including my new gaskinracing.com visor decal!), but from that point onwards, the day passed by very quickly; I found a teammate, and we went on the track walk together (along with some of his friends who were excellent at giving advice). Then it was the driver briefing, followed by official photographs and the demonstration of the crazy kart (I have to say they look fantastic fun but I don’t think my wife would have been happy with me buying one and sticking it in the boot on the way home!).

Now time for the racing! With five members of our team present for qualifying, we each set ourselves about 10 minutes on track, including driver changes, for us to get used to the circuit and to try and set our best time to cement our grid position in the race starting just a few minutes later.

One of our drivers, Jamie Chadwick, was a revelation; she was absolutely fantastic and whilst going out first, managed to set the best time of the session. Taking nothing away from any of the rest of the team (I thought we had a brilliant team given our experience), but Jamie was the stand-out driver against some really tough competition.

It was only whilst I was talking team tactics in the pit lane that I realised how inspiring the KartForce drivers were. I don’t want to dwell on their disabilities, because when it came to the racing, they were anything but. I cannot imagine how I would be able to continue racing if I had experienced some of the injuries that these drivers had suffered. It just highlighted to me how important the KartForce charity is and all of the behind the scenes work that they must do.

I requested to go towards the end of the qualifying session, in order to try and optimise the kart temperature and the spacing out on track. Clear air was at a premium; whilst this is a really long circuit (the longest in the UK) with 24 karts on track, the action was chaotic.

I don’t think I performed too badly, as you can see the footage below, I was frustrated by one of the slower drivers in front of me, but that’s always going to happen this kind of the event.

After qualifying, we finished in tenth, which we all thought was punching above our weight, especially as a couple of all-pro teams qualified lower down the order. We realised that qualifying was only one good lap and we would have to complete 3 hours worth of these lap times to compete with the leaders, but we were positive and hoping for a podium position (maybe that was a little bit optimistic given the competition we were up against).

After a short break, Jamie made her way to the grid where there was the slight delay caused by Johnny Herbert himself being accosted by a fan and signing autographs. The start wasn’t too bad for our team; Jamie managed to make her way up into 7th before dropping down the order after a coming together with Johnny at the end of her stint.

I had asked to go in second after Jamie, just so I could get my first stint out of the way quickly and hopefully build on the work she had done, meaning I could then really help the team with the pit board, the timings and the order in which the drivers were going to race.

When Jamie came in, I jumped into the seat and raring to go, I left the pits without adjusting the pedal heights. There’s quite a big height difference between myself and Jamie and maybe this was not thought out as well as it could have been. I raced for a few laps with the pedals on their closest position, before doing a change out on track (by slipping my feet underneath the adjustable pedals – don’t try this at home!). Once I found my flow, I was quite happy, but yet again I seemed to attract the slower drivers in front of me on a circuit that seemed to be very difficult to overtake on.

I found this very frustrating; I tried to make some clean manoeuvres but everytime I tried to make the move the door was shut. In making these attempts, I was being overtaken by some of the faster drivers behind (some for position, but most already putting a lap on our team).

When I did eventually manage to get past the other driver, it wasn’t as clean as I had hoped. I was furious after the incident, thinking that the other driver had cut across me and deliberately steered into me, but now looking at the video I’ll admit that it was a bit of a lunge on my part. After a few laps of clear air and much faster lap times, I saw our pit board being held out for a scheduled driver change and one lap later that was my first stint over.

I quickly grabbed some lunch and a drink of water before heading straight back out to the pit lane and saw that we had fallen from our starting position of 10th, to 15th place, but we were still feeling positive that we could finish in the top half of the field.

The next few drivers made no impact on 14th place and eventually we slipped down into 17th place at the halfway stage before it was my turn to jump in again for my second stint.

Our driver change wasn’t slow, but the other team pitting at the same time were quicker. Our pit lane position was directly in front of the exit and so I just stuck my foot down and went, despite the kart to the left of me being slightly in front at that point (I wasn’t going to lose another position at that stop!). I was determined to push to the limit on my final stint, and I was feeling pretty smooth, until I came across some more traffic which held me up. I had also noticed that the drivers around me were getting slightly rougher and that moves that wouldn’t have been attempted in the first half of the race were being forced through in the second – I felt a fair few of these, but there was nothing too violent whilst I was on track (as time went on and the race went into the final hour more of the 50/50 and in some cases 25/75 moves were being attempted).

I finished my stint and the next part was actually what I found the hardest; not being in control of the team’s finishing position and just watching the other team members go out on track, nervously waiting and watching the timings board to see whether we were going to lose any other positions or even gain some!

One lap from the end there was one final twist. Carl was bringing our kart home and was doing an excellent job of holding everyone up! The drivers were forming a train behind him as he went into the first corner of the final lap. Past the hairpin at the pit exit, he still had 6 drivers behind him, but as he ran slightly wide on the exit, he left a gap for one of the drivers to squeeze alongside and attempt to complete the move at the next corner. This manoeuvre opened the door others to go through the same gap, but two corners later at full throttle, Carl was trying to maintain his line, but he got squeezed against, and then up the barriers, and for a moment our hearts were in our mouths when all 4 wheels came off the ground and the kart was launched into the air. Fortunately, nobody was injured and it did create a great talking point at the end of the race.

I’m not quite sure where the Speedy Sailors ended, but in all fairness it doesn’t really matter; it was a fantastic experience and I think everyone really enjoyed the opportunity to race, no matter what their abilities. Despite only meeting at 10 o’clock in the morning, by the end of the race, it was like we had known each other for longer and had a great camaraderie within our team.

Surprisingly, I think the thing that will stick with me most from the event is not racing the professionals, but being motivated by the KartForce drivers and their achievements in the face of adversity.

Below, is the commentary of the whole event (200 minutes long!) if you would like to listen to it, and relive the event!

https://www.spreaker.com/embed/player/standard?episode_id=7308360&autoplay=false

Featured image taken by Helen Hooker and more from the event can be found at: http://www.photoblog.com/girafferacing/2015/12/06/the-johnny-herbert-karting-challenge.html.

There’s no such thing as good luck. It’s good preparation and hard work.

Date: 29th November 2015
Track: Formula Fast, Milton Keynes
My PB at this track (before this session): GP circuit 35.015s, BRKC2015 alternative layout 35.731s
Best lap time this session: GP circuit 33.527s, BRKC2016 alternative layout 35.916s

Battling through the gale force winds, torrential rain and dreadful traffic, I arrived in Milton Keynes 20 minutes before my scheduled arrival time at the track (after a two and a half hour drive from the south coast) and, after a quick dash inside, I prepared myself for the only time I’m going to get the chance to race at this location before the BRKC2016 weekend.

Before I get onto the racing, one of the best things to come out of this weekend is that I’m finally under the 90kg weight limit (when fully kitted up) and, therefore, I need to have weight added to my kart. This is a tremendous achievement for me as last year during the BRKC, I was racing at close to 100kg (if not over) without any ‘added’ weight.

It is always a delight to be a part of the BRKC events; I chatted to some drivers I knew from the last championship and a couple of new drivers entering for the first time this year. All of the drivers have the same passion for karting, and racing in general, and it really does make for a friendly atmosphere track side.

So now on to the evening’s events… I had booked in for two sessions; the first session was on the standard GP circuit, whilst the second was on another alternative layout that will be used in the championship in January. This time, however, we had the opportunity to practice on the alternative layout (and not have the track changes sprung upon us with less than 30 minutes notice as in last year’s championship).

The GP circuit was familiar to all of the drivers in my session, whether it was for the championship last year or other events at the track. For me, it was just a case of getting back into it from last year and obviously trying to better my attempts. It was nice to be racing the clock rather than racing other drivers straight away and the calibre of the field seemed to be right up there with some of my heats last year.

At first, I found it difficult to pick up my lines but slowly I made improvements and tried some new braking points and cornering techniques, eventually hooking up a lap with a time of 33.386s. Whilst this lap time isn’t going to blow the top drivers away, I am really pleased to be 1.7s faster now, within 20 minutes of karting, compared to the three days during the BRKC earlier this year. I would also love to know how much of this improvement is down to my weight loss and how much is an increase in my ability, but I guess I will never know.

Nobody quite knew what to expect during the short break in between sessions as the track was reconfigured. Once the alterations had been made, I was dreading it; the track looked to be very technical – one missed braking point and your lap time would be ruined.

I will be honest here, but I really struggled with this layout, so will have to do some analysis where I was going wrong and how to correct it (I think it’s pretty obvious where my mistakes were, how to correct them could be a different issue though!). Looking on the bright side, I now have a benchmark though – 35.916s to beat on January 15th – 17th!

I do disagree with some of the comments about the new layout, however. Whilst I agree that it is technical, I don’t believe that there will be any more overtaking without major errors in judgement by the other drivers; there is clearly a defensive line that can be taken through the modified section of the track that could be successful.

Two days on from the practice session, I am still feeling the effects of the drive up to Milton Keynes and the karting whilst I was there… I did forget about the physicality of the kart/track combination here. Now that I’ve lost a considerable amount of weight, I have another goal; to try to improve my core muscles to survive the intense BRKC 2016 weekend in January.

I can’t wait!