#BRKC2017 Preview – Round Four (Heat One)

slide4My final heat is, on paper, the hardest of them all.

Back on the standard circuit (just two hours after I finish my third round race), I meet Mathias Grooten and Annelien Boutens for the second time this championship.

I will also be racing Matt Bartsch, fourth place overall in the championship last year, and Sebastian Raikkonen for the second time in two years but I had very different fortunes with both of these drivers last year… Arnaud Tinet also returns to BRKC; I last raced him in round two in 2015 and I’m hoping, with my added experience, I may be able to challenge him for position this time around.

Writing this, I am having difficulty making my prediction for the heat winner; with the level of competitors in this field, it will come down to who qualifies best and manages to hold their nerve through the twenty minutes of racing and the all-important pit stop!

Predicted heat winner: Matt Bartsch (but could be any one from five!)

My predicted finishing position in this heat: 8th

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#BRKC2017 Preview – Round Three (Heat Seven)

slide3On Sunday, I will be up early for the second race of the day, again on the alternate circuit. I will be racing four of the same drivers that I lined up against in 2016; David Longman, Ramon Pineiro, Ben Churchill and Tyler Mays.

I seem to remember being in a close battle with Ben Churchill in round three last year; that time he got the better of me, but I’m determined to put that right this time around!

There are some very good drivers in this heat; Ryan Smith made it through to the semi finals last year and David and Ramon just missed out, but in my eyes, the one to watch in his return to BRKC is Mathias Grooten, who won all of his heats in BRKC 2015 and narrowly missed out on a podium position in the final.

Predicted heat winner: Mathias Grooten

My predicted finishing position in this heat: 6th

#BRKC2017 Preview – Round Two (Heat Six)

slide2On to round two, and the brand new alternate circuit, which we will have to watch the first five heats and get as much information as possible from the drivers in those races to try to get the upper hand here.

In this heat, I meet the one driver that I have raced in both of my previous two championships, Robin Kassam. Both of the two previous occasions have been in round three and on the standard circuit. Robin currently leads 2-0 in this battle, but I am determined to at least make a fight of it this time! Also in this heat are Regis Gosselin (a finalist in last year’s BRKC), Jacob Lewis and Chris Machell, all of whom I raced last year. Last year, I managed to do the double over Chris, but I’m sure it won’t be easy to do the same this year!

I’ll be the first to admit that I have had problems with alternate circuits in previous years, but hopefully this year will be different with more experience and hopefully a clearer mind.

Predicted heat winner: Regis Gosselin

My predicted finishing position in this heat: 6th

#BRKC2017 Preview – Round One (Heat Six)

slide1My BRKC2017 championship begins with an interesting heat including three drivers who I have raced in previous championships; Kyle Power from round three of 2015, Annelien Boutens from round three of 2016 and Mason Bates from round four (also last year).

I have never beaten these particular drivers in the championship before; in 2015, Kyle finished three places ahead of me, Annelien won our heat in 2016, whilst I finished in seventh position, and in my final heat last year, I finished three places behind Mason. It’s not all doom and gloom though; last year, I finished just one point behind Mason overall in the championship.

There are also some very good drivers that I haven’t met in my BRKC journey yet: Sander De Baets (who finished 24th overall last year), Craig McCallister (39th), Steve Gray (43rd) and Anne d’Hondt (51st) as well as a couple of unknown entities in this heat.

Predicted heat winner: Annelien Boutens

My predicted finishing position in this heat: 7th

Happy New Year and #BRKC2017 Heat Draw

Happy New Year to all of my readers! First, an apology. Due to life being so hectic in the second half of 2016, I have somewhat neglected this site, but I will be backfilling the posts that I have missed over the next few months – there’s another trophy in my cabinet to tell you all about!

Secondly, and seemingly out of nowhere, came the #BRKC2017 draw on the evening of Saturday 14th January. This, like the previous two years, was my first opportunity to find out who I would be facing in the first four rounds of this year’s championship. I waited patiently for my name to be called and eventually (I was the 53rd driver pulled out of the bowl) I could see how my heats were lining up. However, with the heat dispersal system, only after the last driver was drawn were all of the heats finalised.

The image below shows the full draw (with my races highlighted). Each day this week, I will focus on one of my races, starting with Round One, Heat Six tomorrow!heat-grids-2017-drawn-v1-3-page-001-1

#BRKC2016 – Sunday (Rounds three and four)

Date: 17th January 2016
Track: Formula Fast, Milton Keynes
My PB at this track (before this session): GP circuit 32.558s, BRKC2016 alternative layout 34.569s
Best lap time this session: GP circuit 32.665s, BRKC2016 alternative layout 34.981s

My BRKC 2016 heats continued with a very early and wintery start to Sunday. Whilst the temperatures may have been sub-zero outside, the action certainly heated up on the track.

In round three, I was part of the first race on track, which included fierce opposition throughout the field; at the front there was Annelien Boutens and Anwar Beroual Smith, but lots of other drivers were in the mix. I had set myself a target of 7th going into the championship, but some drivers that I hadn’t necessarily counted on being competitive had been excellent in their first two heats.

I blasted through my qualifying lap; given my previous history with qualifying, I have no idea how I managed to just get my head down, pull a 34.587s lap time out of the bag and qualify 8th. I felt very comfortable in the kart throughout this heat, even if I still was half asleep.

I also managed to pull my only couple of on-track overtakes of the weekend thus far, one of which I was very happy with through the snail section of the track. After overtaking Sebastian Raikkonen (after my pit stop), he tried a manoeuvre at the end of the back straight to get back at me and, unfortunately for him, span causing a yellow flag and the karts to be speed limited. After following the driver in front closely, we were back to racing pace as we entered the snail section. I went to the inside as he moved to the outside and he had no way to defend my move. However, I then went wide at the second hairpin leaving him the inside line for the long left hander. I had to hold on for my life as I kept my foot down around the outside, leaving just enough room for the driver on my inside but squeezing as much as I legally could. Fortunately, I managed to get a kart length in front and I slotted into position in front.

Towards the end of the race, there was a little bit of bumping that I was involved in. Due to the leaders not pitting until late on, and myself taking my now customary early pitstop they had caught up with me a few laps from the end. I had no idea who was behind me when I felt a huge whack from behind. And then again.

It was only when the blue flag came out at race control that I realised that Annelien had been following me for the past four corners. Despite what may have been said, I didn’t deliberately hold anyone up – I felt like I was under pressure from the driver in 8th place (as it happens, 8th place finished 0.8s behind me at the end of the race) and as I have been told before, always race to the flags/lights.

I finished 7th with a best lap time of 32.665s, only a quarter of a second off the fastest laps from the top two drivers in this heat.

With very little to race for in my final heat, my body aching and a difficult line up to face, I was always going to be up against it. A number of people had dropped out as they had long journeys home and had no chance of making the semi-finals. This aside, there was a lot of excitement as this was the penultimate heat before the semi-finals and as such, there were many more distractions in the gallery and pit lane; notably, there was now a pit lane cameraman, which was a fantastic experience and a chance to show my thanks to my “fans” following my progress online (which was very much appreciated apparently).

From the first corner in qualifying, it was clear that I was exhausted; I was turning into the corners and just going through the motions. I had a poor pit stop on lap four, after a brief position change, and then it was just me on my own for lap after lap. I did dip under the 35s mark twice, but it was a pretty unspectacular race for me, and a damp squib to end my championship weekend on.

In the final leaderboard, I achieved 74th place with a points tally of 15; 11 more points than last year which, coincidentally, is also the number of kilograms that I have lost in body weight since BRKC2015!

I was incredibly happy with my performance over the weekend, but as I believe many drivers would say about their results, I felt that I could have got a couple more points, or climbed up a few more places.

After a relaxing time in the hotel spa and sauna, it was time for the BRKC Grand Final, which on paper was due to be the best yet. My wife and I planned to watch the final on the Livestream in the comfort of our hotel room, but due to technical difficulties during qualifying, we decided to make a dash to the track and managed to get there after half of the finalists had set their lap times.

Once the final had started, there was action at every corner and with every driver – It was impossible to turn away for a second and not miss some of the action. Once Rubens had taken the lead there was a feeling of inevitability; throughout the weekend, once Rubens had taken the lead, he seemed to find another gear. On this occasion, however, it wasn’t a done deal – Lewis Manley, Lee Hackett and Stefan Verhofste were keeping in touch.

It was incredibly difficult to see who had pitted, who hadn’t, who had pitted illegally and who needed to pit again; at one point, we all thought in the spectator area that Stefan just needed to defend from Rubens for five or so minutes to become the British champion (this wasn’t the case as Stefan had to pit once more).

In the end, as with the previous two years, Rubens came out on top and took the trophy, KWC entry and cash back to Holland and, I can say that he thoroughly deserved the win after being the outstanding driver over the entire competition.

Roll on #BRKC2017, where I will be slimmer, fitter, and more experienced (but then again, so will the other 99 drivers!).

#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.