#BRKC2015 – What an event!

Here is the long awaited and eagerly anticipated review of my weekend at the British Rental Kart Championship in Milton Keynes.

As readers of my blog and my friends will know, this was my first competitive championship. I didn’t expect to do particularly well in it, but it was an immense challenge for me to even compete against some the best kart drivers in Europe that I couldn’t pass up, even at my early stage in my “career”. I relished the opportunity to test myself, but I became very nervous on the Friday before the designated practice rounds and even more so during the session.

The first thing I realised is that is the gulf in class between the competitors at the BRKC and at my local track is HUGE. The karts were superb (I honestly never drove a bad kart all weekend) and the circuit was very enjoyable but unforgiving; the slightest mistake on the brakes, missing the apex, or not carrying enough speed through a corner was punished. I tried to feel my way around the track on the first practice session; find a reference point for braking into each corner, where to position my kart and what kind of traction I could get on the exit of the corner. Well, that went out of the window after a couple of laps! I just couldn’t find anything to help me and my head was just full of the feeling that I had launched myself in at the deep end and was about to drown.
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I had calmed down (slightly) before the second session, but I was still struggling to come up with anything close to what I thought was respectable (my fastest out of both sessions was 36.085s, when the leaders were setting lap times in the 33’s).

I didn’t have a sleepless night, but I did have a very nervous morning with my stomach doing somersaults before the 7:30am driver briefing. I had read the rules many times before the event, but now it seemed like an encyclopedia of information was being pushed into it.

My first race was at 9am, so I had the chance to watch the first two heats before I had to take the hot seat. I’m not too proud to say that I was overwhelmed at the quality of drivers out there and I was worried that I was going to compromise their races by making a mistake. Which I did.
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I was trying to push for my fastest laptime in the first qualifying session and I had one of the predicted front runners, Remigiusz Drzazga, behind me. Well, I pushed too hard and slid around the hairpin at the end of the back straight, compromising my lap and, unfortunately, also slowing the driver behind me. I was gutted and I couldn’t stop apologising to the driver I had. Fortunately, Remigiusz is a true gent and accepted my apology (as best you can in two karts and with all the noise on the circuit!) and tried to calm me down a little. It did work a little and set the tone for the championship for me; all of the drivers were ultra-competitive, but the majority were also incredibly kind, sporting and supportive towards me during the competition.

I qualified tenth, at the back of the field, with a time of 36.244s. In the race, I just couldn’t keep up with the other drivers. I couldn’t seem to get the whole lap together; I would make a mistake at one turn and this would slow me around the next two corners, the next lap I would nail the problem corner but then mess up the rest of the lap. I also made my first ever “pit stop” in this race, which also showed my nerves. I swung into the pits and stopped in the first box. Only just. My front wheels were just inside the box, but I worried that they weren’t, so pulled forward a little bit more, stopped again and was waved on my way to the second box. No such mistakes in the second box and I raced to the chequered flag.
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I was faster than before, my fastest lap during the race was 35.290s, a significant improvement on my practice sessions. Just when I felt that I was getting to know the track, it changed! One of the features of this year’s championship was that for rounds two and four, the circuit was modified and no driver had ever experienced the new track before their first lap in qualifying.

My second race was at 3pm on the Saturday – 5.5 hours to recover from the first race and boy did I need it! Having taken part in longer sessions than here in the past, I thought a 20 minute race would be a breeze, but I felt that there was an increase in the physical nature of the karting here. My arms ached and my lower back was strained.

I really liked the new circuit; I like to think of myself as a technical driver (I’ve since reconsidered this statement!). Down on the track, however, it was different story. During qualifying, I forgot what track I was racing on, so like a couple of other drivers, I missed my turn-in point on the back hairpin. I ended qualifying with a 38.249s lap; almost three seconds off the pole sitter.
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I performed better in the race, but was nowhere near anyone in front and there seemed to be a steady stream of people coming around to lap me during the race (I was lapped twice by the lead group). Thanks to early pitstops by Arnaud Tinet and Marques Riddell, I spent the best part of ten laps in eighth place before I pitted! The other positive from this race was my pitstop; it was well-timed, clean and probably the best pit stop I performed all weekend! My fastest lap from this race was 36.491s, a massive improvement on my qualifying lap in this session, but a long way off the others.
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I was one of the lucky/unlucky ones who had three heats on the Saturday. My final heat was at 8pm, but I felt physically and mentally exhausted at this point. I can’t remember a great deal about the third heat, I was in auto-pilot mode, just trying to get around the track 35 times without crashing into the barriers or anyone else! Surprisingly (to me at least), I set my fastest lap of the weekend in this race, a 35.015s lap.

I had planned to have a nice relaxing morning on the Sunday, perhaps a lie-in and maybe even pancakes and sausages for breakfast as my final heat on the Sunday wasn’t until 2pm. That didn’t happen, as I was too excited (despite me hurting and being as stiff as a board!). I believe that I was up at 6.30am and was up and about having a shower, getting ready for the day ahead, watching TV in our room (surprisingly enjoying the engineering side of the programme “Edwardian Farm”, which we watched back-to-back in order to stay in the room and relax a little bit more!). Anyway, I was ready for the off at 11am, so we stopped briefly at McDonalds before heading to the track.

I don’t know what had happened to me mentally, but I was raring to go for this final heat. I was facing Ruben Boutens, the reigning BRKC champion (who later went on to retain his crown) and I was so motivated to at least compete with him even from the back of the field. It was also my last chance to compete on this stage, so I laid everything out on the line. My driving may not have pretty, but I was determined not to lose contact with the other drivers as early on as I had in the previous heats. Yet again, on the technical course, I qualified tenth (with a time of 37.257s), but when the race started I was all over the back of the ninth place driver, Paul Hedger (for the third time this weekend) and then, due to an early pitstop by Liam Brierley, I found myself battling for 8th position!
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I might have misjudged the timing of my pitstop in this race, because I felt compelled to pit early to follow Liam’s pit stop. This didn’t quite work out for me as I slipped back into tenth and Paul pitted a lap later to cover off my stop. I did close the gap slightly to Paul during the early pit stops, but I couldn’t keep my early pressure up, when I turned my head to see Ruben closing in on me and it was only lap 11! On lap 12, it was all over in a blink of an eye. I moved to the outside to let Ruben past and put a lap on me.

I thought this was going to be a great opportunity to close back in on ninth place by following Ruben as close as possible and trying to use his lines through the corners. It did work to a point… I set my fastest lap on this course during the first lap of this “following” technique (a 35.731s lap). Alas, whilst I managed to keep him in sight for five laps, this tactic wasn’t going to make up for the massive difference in class and Boutens disappeared out of sight until he pitted. I had another couple of good laps after he passed me again on his out-lap but it wasn’t enough.

Ruben was running away with the race win, so much so that I feared that the only other action I would see was him lapping me for a second time! I was determined not to let this happen after my colleague had tweeted me with a target: Not to be lapped twice in this race. I looked over my shoulder with about four minutes of the race to go and he was within touching distance. It sounds pathetic, but I was not going to be lapped again if I could help it (obviously I wasn’t going to block him if he made it close enough though!). The clock ticked down, to what I thought was about two and a half laps left and Ruben was on the back straight bearing down on me. I managed to complete that lap, but I wasn’t sure if I could hold him off on this lap. I looked straight forward and drove my heart out. As I came around the final hairpin, I saw the marshal come out with the chequered flag. It wasn’t for me (I had another lap to complete to see it) but I loved seeing it wave for Ruben behind me. I really enjoyed the next two laps; it was probably the most minor victory ever, but it was a victory for me. I held myself back from punching the air but I was definitely smiling under my helmet.
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I want to close this post and the BRKC weekend by saying that whilst it was tremendously tough and I was out of my depth this year, I didn’t finish last, I wasn’t the slowest and I WILL be back next year, I WILL be slimmer, fitter and more experienced and I WILL be competing for the bigger points.

To all of the drivers this weekend, thank you. It would have been quite easy to ignore me, to ridicule my poor performances (some of you probably did!) and to write me off as just another amateur, but all I experienced from the guys I chatted to and raced with over the weekend was encouragement and advice. P.S. Thanks to Slawek Piskorz and Matt Curtis for some of the photos on this post!

Mr. Philpot, Mr. Stanley and Mr. Fox, thank you for an amazing event; the organisation was fantastic, the karts were superb and the staff at Formula Fast were exemplary

Mr. Philpot, one last thing… put me down for BRKC 2016!

Useful links

As I have had various requests from work colleagues and friends to give out the links for the coverage of the BRKC weekend, here they are for Android, iOS and various other web addresses that could be useful:

Livestream app (Android): https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.livestream.livestream&hl=en

Livestream app (iOS): https://itunes.apple.com/gb/app/livestream/id493086499?mt=8

Livestream website (Official BRKC account): http://new.livestream.com/accounts/6733014/brkc

Brett Gaskin Racing Facebook Page (which will also be streaming my heats live): http://www.facebook.com/brettgaskinracing

BRKC website: http://www.brkc.net

The BRKC 2015 draw – ONE WEEK TO GO!

Last night was the live draw for the heats of the BRKC. After a few technical difficulties (and counting difficulties!), we finally found out who we would be facing in the four heats to qualify for the semi-finals and finals.

It was a strange feeling watching and waiting for your name to be pulled out of the trophy; there were nerves, people you wanted to be drawn with, people you definitely didn’t and a lot of first-timers, like myself, who are unknown quantities. For those who watch the FA Cup draw on TV, imagine the nervousness and anticipation that you feel when your team is pulled out and multiply that by 100.

All in all, I think I’ve been given a fair chance with the draw; obviously there wasn’t going to be an easy heat throughout the 36 races in the first four rounds, but there were some “death heats” that will clearly be brilliant to watch but ridiculously tough to compete in.

Below, I have given a summary of the heats that I am participating in with the , with a brief overview and my “one to watch” out of the other drivers.

ROUND 1 (SATURDAY 17th JANUARY 2015) – 09:00:00
Heat 3: Sam Spinnael, Mark Whitelegge, Remigiusz Drzazga, David Birrell, Brett Gaskin, Paul Hedger, Xavier Andrew, Alex Vangeen, Michael Woods, Alexandru Damian

An early race to get me up to speed (quickly!) in the championship. Glad that I can get myself into the swing of things without a lot of waiting around and I will also get the opportunity to watch the first heat to pick up some last-minute tips!

One to watch: Alex Vangeen – Apparently “Mr 3rd place”, but a driver I have a lot of respect for and someone who can challenge for the overall win this year in my opinion.

ROUND 2 (SATURDAY 17th JANUARY 2015) – 15:00:00
Heat 4: Brett Gaskin, Marques Riddell, Jack Woodfield, Paul Hedger, Michael Coppin, Michael Moore, Slawek Piskorsz, Arnaud Tinet, Tim Andrew, Anwar Beroual Smith

Nice break between my first and second heats… Enough time for a light lunch. Maybe a nap? Of course not. The nerves will be building as soon as I finish the first one! In terms of form, this heat will be one of my toughest; Slawek Piskorsz, Arnaud Tinet and Anwar Beroual Smith will all be hugely competitive in this one.

One to watch: Anwar Beroual Smith – Multiple champion (by his own admission on the BRKC page!) and 6th place last year in the BRKC.

ROUND 3 (SATURDAY 17th JANUARY 2015) – 20:00:00
Heat 3: Oliver Bayani, Alex Vangeen, Harry Neale, James Shrimpton, Kyle Power, Gregory Laporte, Mark Whitelegge, Michael Weddell, Robin Kassam, Brett Gaskin

My third heat on the Saturday and the second time that I will be facing Whitelegge and Vangeen. Looking at the previous experience of the other drivers in this heat, there is last years’ 10th place finisher in the BRKC, Michael Weddell, in this heat along with a former world champion. Not knowing much about the other drivers in this field means that I will be watching them in their first two heats because I’m not up to speed on their experience and form at this point in time.

One to watch: Gregory Laporte – Former world champion and winner of various championships around the world. Formidable.

ROUND 4 (SUNDAY 18th JANUARY 2015) – 14:00:00
Heat 6: Will Buxton, Kristian Jennings, Andrew Duff, Ruben Boutens, Lee Jones, Paul Hedger, Nathan Bull, Brett Gaskin, Daniel Truman, Liam Brierley

If I end up needing to win in the final race to get into the semi-finals, I will have to beat the best to be the best. The one driver that I was hoping to avoid through the heats (but also secretly wanting the challenge to race him) was Ruben Boutens. It’s also the third time that I will be facing Paul Hedger this year! But don’t think that this is going to be a “one-man heat”, anyone could cause an upset on Sunday afternoon (I think that fellow blogger, Andrew Duff, could tear up the form book here!).

One to watch: Ruben Boutens – Reigning BRKC Champion. Need I say more?!


All other heats and drivers can be found on the BRKC website, www.brkc.net.

I’m off karting again tonight for the last time before practice on Friday in Milton Keynes!

Excited much? I am.

Getting excited!

With only 10 days to go until #BRKC2015, things are getting exciting and plans are falling into place for the Championship!

If you want to experience the BRKC (and my first competitive championship), you will need to follow me on Twitter, on Facebook and here, on this blog, where you will be able to read my thoughts in the lead up to the events and my views of how things have gone afterwards.

You’ll probably want to look at www.brkc.net, the official website of the BRKC, where you will find all the information, rules and facts about the Championship alongside other driver blogs.

Finally, you will definitely want to sign up (for free) to www.livestream.com (Official BRKC account: http://new.livestream.com/accounts/6733014). It is here that you will be able to watch TV coverage of the event with multiple cameras/angles, expert commentary and all of the live action wherever you are in the world! The coverage starts this Friday (9th January) for the heat draws to find out who I will be challenging to get through to the semi-finals and final!
The heats, semi-finals and final will also be shown LIVE on this channel on the 17th and 18th of January from 7:30am each morning (put it in your diaries now!).

Alternatively, you can come to Milton Keynes for the weekend of the 16th-18th January to cheer me on in person (remember to bring banners and vuvuzelas if they are still around now!).

I can’t wait!

Pre-race press conference

With 65 days until the BRKC, I want to ask YOU what content you would like to see on here!

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Do you want to see videos, photographs or tables of results? Would you like to conduct an interview with me? Would you like an audio commentary of my fastest lap in practice? Or how I have cut 20% off my lap times over the past 6 months?

Comment below, or catch me on Twitter, and I will try to include your suggestions in the upcoming posts.

A quick update on my “Future races?” blog post: one of my former colleagues (who is a natural around a kart track) has stepped up to be a teammate. However, I think that to have a fighting chance, we need a team of four, so there is still chance to contact me and get registered.

Future races?

Hi guys, no racing for me again this weekend (shame!) but I’m all booked up for the next couple of weekends!

Whilst I’m really looking forward to the BRKC (only 68 days to go!), I am already looking at entering some other races next year.

My sister-in-law(-in-law) sent me a link recently to a charity team endurance race, called “Karting For Heroes” (link: http://www.kartingforheroes.com/).

This blog post is somewhat of a plea for two teammates, who can be experienced or inexperienced, but are willing to have fun and raise money for a very worthwhile cause. If you are interested in having a go, meeting new people and generally having a laugh, message me or leave a comment below.

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Also, if any of you hear of other rental kart races, please do give me a heads up and message me through the blog or leave a comment on any post!

“Oh, suits me sir!”

Days until the BRKC: 74

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No results to feedback this week, as I had a weekend without karting.

But still some great news; I now have my very own racing suit! It fits like a glove and whilst I haven’t tried it out in anger yet, it feels amazing in comparison to the rental ones I have been wearing week in and week out.

I doubt that any difference will be made to my PBs in wearing this suit, but with this suit, my white helmet, and my karting gloves, my kit is almost complete and I look that little bit more professional when I’m in the kart.

Hopefully, there will be a karting times update by next week, but life is getting quite busy with a variety of different events and social visits in the lead up to Christmas.

With regards to the BRKC, today I confirmed my practice session on the Friday… I will be practicing in the third session that runs from 4pm to 7pm. Closer to the time, I will link to the live “TV” coverage of the weekend, so you guys can shout and support me wherever you may be!

P.S. Anyone who gets the comedy reference in the title earns a gold star! 😉

All paid up and ready to go.

Here’s just a quick post to say that, with 79 days until the BRKC, I have paid my entry fee, the hotel is booked and I am all set for the race weekend!

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As a side note, I am thinking of asking for sponsorship as a way to fund my “kit” i.e. custom helmet, racing suit, gloves, boots etc. and of course entry fees for championships. I am looking into “Kickstarter” generally, but will have to investigate the tax implications first!