Let me drive! I won’t make a fool out of you!

Date: 1st April 2016
Track: Teamsport Gosport
My PB at this track (before this session): 29.956s
Best lap time this session: 30.918s

As I wrote in my last blog post, I thought it was time for both me and Mike to go to a new track and so, before Mike travelled halfway across the world for work, I arranged an evening of karting at my old stomping ground of Teamsport Gosport.

I have to say that it was nice to be back and that, whilst there had been changes there, lots of good memories did flood back to me. Mike and I had a little catch up, but it was soon time to get into the karts and compete and, for me, find out if I could continue where I had left off.

As this was a public group, inevitably the sessions were littered with yellow flags and stoppages, alongside the difficulties of completing a fast lap in clear air.

During the first race, I found myself feeling frustrated by one driver, who I felt was considerably slower than me, but was driving very defensively. In my attempts to pass this driver, I fell behind a couple more karters, who opportunistically passed me. Eventually, I made the required overtakes and had one lap to set a good time for this session.

I expected to do well, but I didn’t expect to feel so comfortable so quickly around this track having not raced here for over a year. After all of the yellow flags and overtaking, I was delighted to top the leaderboard with a 30.971s lap – about a second off my fastest laps ever at Gosport.

After the first session, where Mike drove without any advice from me (at his request), we chatted about some visual markers for braking points, some different lines to the corners and methods for overtaking the other drivers on a notoriously difficult track to pass people on.

The second session started with a considerable amount of traffic, which I dispatched fairly easily (apart from one driver who frustrated me for a good few laps). However, once I had overtaken him, I had clear air in which to put in my hot laps. It was during these laps that I managed to put in my fastest lap of the race; fractionally quicker than in the first session, but still in the 30.9’s (30.947s).

After this period out on my own, I quickly caught up to the tail of the field which halted my charge. There were some questionable moves made to defend my attacks, but nothing that I couldn’t handle. Unfortunately, once I had passed the group of drivers (and found myself in space), I couldn’t find my rhythm again to better my laptime.

I did top the timesheets at the end of the session, but with a much smaller advantage than I had in the first race.

Before the third and final session, I asked Mike where he felt he was losing time, but he said that didn’t really know. Once the karts had been selected and it was clear that I would be starting behind Mike, I offered to stay quite closely behind him for a few laps and then we could analyse the footage from my helmet camera later for pointers.

I did exactly as I had promised, following behind Mike, despite a couple of mistakes that I could have capitalised on had I been racing hard. From my position, Mike seemed very aware that I was close behind him, and this appeared to spur him on to lap faster and faster. After I had felt that my “camera work” was done, I launched into “race mode” and tried to reel Mike in and pass him to get some clear air. This didn’t go to plan for me; I naïvely thought that I would be able to jump on any mistake he made and get past. But Mike did not make any mistakes and was actually lapping around the 31s mark, neutralising many of the other tricks up my sleeve.

As we came up to a back marker, Mike managed to squeeze past and I tried to follow him through. There wasn’t enough space for me to get past safely, so I backed off and waited for the next opportunity. At the first corner, the driver in front span and collided with me as I drove past.

Soon afterwards, there was a yellow flag, which bunched myself and Mike back up together. As this was not a race, but a time trial, track position was not important so, with only a few laps to go, I decided to go the other route – drop back by a few seconds and then try to put in a fast lap and catch up with Mike again.

I was really happy to see that Mike had topped the leaderboard in the final session, despite me finishing a couple of tenths behind him with a 30.918s lap (my third 30.9s best lap in the three sessions!) in third place. This session was all about giving Mike the opportunity to analyse some video footage, to see how he could improve his karting in general.

I do need to get a little bit of outdoor practice in before the “Karting for Heroes” race in about a month’s time, but I have the feeling that my next karting session will be indoors too!

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Review of the Fianium Unofficial Company Karting event

It was early afternoon on a overcast day in March. In a warehouse on the Fareham-Gosport border, 12 brave souls entered the unofficial Fianium company karting event. Lots had been said about who would win, but this was the time, this was the hour when the best kart drivers within the company would show off their skills and lift the trophy…

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Okay, enough with the dramatic introduction, but I was really excited to race my colleagues on the track and surprisingly, I was feeling a lot of pressure on my shoulders. Everyone expected that someone with my experience would be able to trounce the opposition, but I was very aware that I had one severe disadvantage – my weight.

It was a shame that my good friend and colleague, Nick Bennetts, had to pull out from the event due to injury, so he was substituted by his son, Dominic.

After everyone registered and got kitted up, there was just time for a quick chat and a group photograph (or two, after someone spotted that Tom was missing in the first one) before the safety briefing.

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It was a good safety briefing, although some of the group got very worried about the cleanliness of the helmets after this was repeated on multiple occasions in the briefing!

After the safety briefing, we headed down to the pit lane where I had stood many times before, but there was a nervous excitement buzzing around there this time.

We went out in a random order from the pits for our first session; this appeared to assist the drivers at the front, but hinder those at the back. I left in the middle of the pack, but tried to pull as far clear of the other drivers as possible to get a clear run for my hot lap. James nailed it in lap one as he started second from the pits but overtook Tom within two corners, giving him clear air from the start.

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I honestly had no idea how fast I was going, or how fast anyone else was going; I did see a few of the same karts again as I went to overtake them for the second or third time, but some (like James and Ruud) I only saw the once in the session. It was a very close run thing; three people sat in provisional pole position throughout the session, but I managed to first snatch it in lap 18, after passing the “impossible-to-pass” Adrian Piddington, and held on to it until the end with a 32.0s lap.

Reviewing the results of the first session was eye-opening. The first four drivers; myself, James, Lee and Ruud were separated by less than seven tenths in terms of fastest lap and the next four drivers; Rob, Tom, Adrian and Laura were separated by less than two tenths of a second.

Qualification results:
1. Brett Gaskin – 32.029s
2. James Strachan – 32.405s
3. Lee Archer – 32.699s
4. Ruud Jonkers – 32.723s
5. Robert Sharman – 33.610s
6. Tom Strudley – 33.763s
7. Adrian Piddington – 33.777s
8. Laura Bim – 33.788s
9. Antonin Billaud – 35.459s
10. Ana Orec-Archer – 35.646s
11. Dominic Bennetts – 39.281s
12. Lucy Hooper – 40.802s

I said to all of the others that any of the top four could easily win it, and I became very cautious about the man starting directly behind me, as he had been in the provisional pole position for the longest time and had been easily the most consistent driver in terms of qualifying lap times. I was comforted somewhat by Adrian saying that once I had overtaken him, I was gone and he couldn’t keep up.

We started from the pits in the second session and both myself and James fashioned a very good rolling start between us. We crossed the line, and then we were racing!

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I tried to put the hammer down and pull away from the field on the first lap, but by the second lap there was a yellow flag, so we bunched back up again. I hoped that this would not become a recurring theme throughout the race, because I was instantly back under pressure when the yellow lights went off (carrying the extra weight is a massive disadvantage when trying to accelerate after driving at walking pace). Unfortunately, the race was littered with yellows, disrupting the race on 5 or 6 occasions. Each time the race restarted, I had to drive defensively, as I came under attack, first by James and then by Lee.

But it wasn’t just at the front, there were battles across the field, from first to last place. Two battles of note include Ruud and Ana, with Ruud taking the inside line at the pit exit hairpin, but also taking Ana’s inside wheel away and spinning her through 180 degrees, causing her to be facing me when I came around to put a lap on her and there was a monumental battle between the two members of the same team at work; Adrian and Laura (Laura still has the bruises to prove it!).

Eventually, the race came to an end just after another yellow flag incident… I had held on to first place from the start, and boy was I relieved!

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Everyone came off the track buzzing with excitement and the chatter continued into the changing room. I ran off to pick up our timesheets whilst everyone was getting changed and I came back to award the medals and the wooden spoon award for the last placed Fianium employee.

Lucy was the “lucky” winner of the wooden spoon (and hopefully will display it proudly at work). But there was an element of controversy with the medals…

The medals were handed out as follows; the bronze medal went to Robert Sharman, the silver to Lee Archer and the gold to Brett Gaskin.

However, following a review, it was then apparent that the order given on the time sheets was by fastest lap and not “finishing position”, therefore, the driver in third place was actually James Strachan. No redistribution of the medals are necessary after James’ good sportsmanship agreeing to allow Rob to keep the third place prize.

The official classifications (and gaps to leader) are as follows:

Official Results:
1st. Brett Gaskin (@ 21 laps)
2nd. Lee Archer (+2.1s)
3rd. James Strachan (+3.0s)
4th. Robert Sharman (+20.1s)
5th. Ruud Jonkers (+25.9s)
6th. Laura Bim (+30.8s)

7th. Adrian Piddington (+1L)
8th. Antonin Billaud (+1L)
9th. Tom Strudley (+1L)
10th. Ana Orec-Archer (+2L)
11th. Lucy Hooper (+2L)
12th. Dominic Bennetts (+2L)

Fastest laps by driver:
1. Brett Gaskin – 31.841s (S2)
2. Lee Archer – 32.305s (S2)
3. James Strachan – 32.405s (S1)
4. Robert Sharman – 32.432s (S2)
5. Adrian Piddington – 32.438s (S2)
6. Ruud Jonkers – 32.653s (S2)
7. Antonin Billaud – 32.940s (S2)
8. Tom Strudley – 33.428s (S2)
9. Laura Bim – 33.788s (S1)
10. Ana Orec-Archer – 34.230s (S2)
11. Lucy Hooper – 34.399s (S2)
12. Dominic Bennetts – 35.486s (S2)

Youthful exuberance

Date: 13th March 2015
Track: Teamsport Gosport
My PB at this track (before this session): 29.956s
Best lap time this session: 30.311s

A little practice before the unofficial Fianium GP, but also an evening where I introduced an eleven-year-old to the track for his first ever experience in a petrol kart.

Unusually for me, as a member, I attended the safety briefing with Michael before heading out to the track, which was interesting as it was nice to see a real importance being put on the safety of the drivers, especially the children, that were going out on the track.
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I was determined to see that Michael had a good time karting; all too often I had seen youngsters, brought karting by their parents, who struggled (and in some cases failed) to get out of the pits at all. Michael, although slow around he track at first, really seemed to warm to karting. In fact, I really enjoyed karting with him, despite the extra responsibility I felt, because of his youthful exuberance – we set targets together at the end of the first and second sessions and I had never seen someone so happy at coming last when he looked at the leaderboard at the end of the second session. Michael showed continued improvement throughout the evening, finishing 7th in the last session, with a best lap time of 40.3s, which puts some of the adults to shame when they are karting for the very first time.

I started off slowly, trying to take care of the youngsters; make sure that they were having a good time, not to rush them or overtake them in a way which may have worried them. But when I got into some clear air, I felt good and on top form. I finished second in the first race (I wasn’t really racing at that point) with a 32.316s fastest lap.

As Michael grew in confidence, I did too; knowing that he was handling his kart well and enjoying it, meant that I was less preoccupied by watching him around the track and more into my own racing (still, every time I did pass him, I gave him a thumbs up which he responded to). I missed out on first place by 0.03s in the second session, finishing with a best time of 31.595s.

In the final session, I went for it from the first lap. Surprisingly, I barely overtook Michael, because he was holding his own and was probably one of the most consistent drivers in racing lines out there. I managed to pull together a 30.3s lap, to put me first with the fastest lap of the night from our group.

Karting with a young novice is a completely new experience for me, but I have to say that I really enjoyed it and the practice has hopefully served me well for the unofficial Fianium GP in 4 hours time and counting…

When the wheels come off…

Date: 27th February 2015
Track: Teamsport Gosport
My PB at this track (before this session): 29.956s
Best lap time this session: 30.599s

As my wife was out for the evening for her leaving party, I thought what better time to do a spot of karting. Speaking to the guys at the front desk, they expected me to top the timing boards on the night, but I wasn’t too sure.

I was first out of the pits in the first session and after a spot of warming my kart up (it hadn’t been used in the previous session, so felt very slippery at first) I started accelerating over the bridge to get up to full speed before the start-finish line. As I prepared to turn into the first corner, I saw a kart coming head-on at me! It turns out that when the other driver came out of the pits, she had turned left instead of carrying straight on.

The track seemed very busy; a number of yellow flags were shown throughout the three sessions, which does nothing for consistency and there was a LOT of overtaking to be done each lap, also compromising my lap times. My fastest lap in the first session was a disappointing 32.5s, but I did top the timesheet. In hindsight, that wasn’t the worst time that I could have pulled out – 11th place had a best lap of 51s.

I had a good chat with the duty manager at the track between the first two sessions and chatted about the upcoming karting with my colleagues at work. There will be 12 karts on track that day and there were lots of concerns that the track will be too busy for proper racing. But the manager wasn’t concerned (as I am a member and I wouldn’t organise it with people who will be crashing all the while) and actually was looking forward to it!

The second session started with me leaving the pits in kart 7, but finishing in kart 11! I wasn’t particularly happy with the response of the kart after the first corner; I tried to turn into the hairpin under the bridge, and had to turn the steering wheel over 90 degrees to get any sort of movement (normally, just a twitch of the steering can start the kart turning in to that corner). I thought that I would just have to drive through the “problem”, so I continued to struggle around the track with lap times ranging from the low 32s to very slow 38 second laps (where I literally had to wrestle the kart around the corners). I persevered until the end of lap 7.

Coming down from the bridge, I heard a clunk and then massive vibrations started to go through the kart. I slowed down and looked at the wheels, but everything looked fine. It was only when I sped up that I noticed that the front right wheel wasn’t going round and round, but wobbling side to side! I drove as carefully as I could back around to the pits to park that kart and get into another. It was almost a seamless change (hats off to the marshals tonight), but this was a true spare; the engine was only started when I pulled into the pit lane, so it being cold was an understatement. Anyway, I warmed this kart up the best I could with the limited time remaining and amazingly, set the fastest lap of the session again (a 31.3).

I had a bit of a chat with lots of different people in the break between session two and three and also had a bit of time to myself. I felt very relaxed having topped the leaderboard in the first two races and set out to have some fun in the final session. It started off quite messy and stop-start with the interruptions of yellow and red flags, but I totally blitzed it. Overtaking isn’t easy at the Gosport track, but I was finding new ways to pass at every corner (my favourite manoeuvre was going around the outside of the wide hairpin under the bridge in order to pass another driver). I managed to post the fastest lap of the evening in this race, a 30.5s lap.

I really enjoyed the evening and I will remember it as the night of many firsts; the first time I have encountered someone driving the wrong way on the track, the first time I have had a kart malfunction, the first time I have overtaken so many people (and not get overtaken on the track myself) and the first time I have topped the timing sheets three times in a row.

On another note, I hope that I can grab someone with a camera to do some photography during my upcoming practice sessions (for the blog) and also the unofficial company karting event that I have organised on the 14th March.

Back to reality… with a bump!

Date: 21st February 2015
Track: Teamsport Gosport
My PB at this track (before this session): 29.956s
Best lap time this session: 30.830s

So, after a brief hiatus following the BRKC, I got back into the swing of things at my home track this weekend. I certainly noticed the difference in the karts and the set up; it felt very awkward and I couldn’t quite get into a comfortable position in the kart (I think I had been spoilt with the GT5 Sodikarts at Formula Fast).

Anyway, I was back doing my usual three-for-two Saturday evening session at Gosport. It was quite a nice evening; I arrived a little late after remembering that I left my helmet and gloves at home whilst driving to the track and it was sub-zero temperatures outside!

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The first session of the three was quite slow and uneventful by all of the drivers; there were a couple of yellow flags where a couple of people misjudged the speed they were carrying through the corners, but other than that, it was fairly unspectacular. My fastest lap was a disappointing 31.8s.

If the first session was slow because of the temperature outside, the second session really heated up on the track! We lined up again in the same karts and in the same order as we had done for the first, but there was definitely an increase in aggression in some drivers this time around. We circled for a few laps until the fireworks started! I had caught up with the driver in front of me, but was biding my time until I found the best spot to overtake him. This waiting did very little to help me as he was driving a very defensive line and it gave the others chance to catch on to my tail. Rammed from behind several times with no real attempt to get past me, I was beginning to get frustrated with the drivers behind. I was eventually caught and overtaken after I was pushed off line again at the final corner.

wpid-photo-2-8.jpg.jpegIt wasn’t as if they disappeared off in the distance, I was just fourth in the queue of drivers making their way around the track in convoy. The defensive driving clearly got to the drivers who overtook me and there was an almighty crash at the first corner where the three drivers in front of me collided with one another. I took an alternative line through the corner and thought I had squeezed through unscathed. The drivers behind me had other ideas; one smashed into the other three, pushing them towards me on the inside of the corner and another then hit me from behind. This jarred my back somewhat, and whilst I slowly made my way around the track again, I seriously contemplated pitting and retiring from the session.

Whilst crawling around the circuit one of the marshals came out in a kart and asked if I was okay. I also saw at least one driver get black flagged, which made me feel like people were being punished for their reckless driving (I haven’t seen it happen before on a timed session). I picked up the pace again, with my last lap being my fastest in this session, a 31.5.

I spent a little time alone in the changing room before the final session; stretching my back out a little and just generally relaxing. The third session was very clean, with no yellow flags at all (possibly because we were placed in the order fastest to slowest in the pits and, ironically, it was the slower drivers who were the most dangerous when trying to overtake others in all the wrong places!). I was satisfied with my times in the last race; consistently (90% of my laps) lapping in the low 31’s, with a fastest lap of 30.8s.

I now feel that I need to compete with others more often down the track, rather than just turning up for the open timed sessions, however, I will be down the track more regularly in the coming weeks; I’ve organised an unofficial karting event with 11 of my work colleagues on March 14th. Everyone is expecting me to win, but I think that the weight disadvantage that I will be carrying compared with my colleagues (30kg+ in some cases!) will massively outweigh the experience I have down there!

If anything can go wrong, it will!

Date: 10th January 2015 (6 days until the BRKC)
Track: Teamsport Gosport
My PB at this track (before this session): 29.956s
Best lap time this session: 32.054s

My last planned “home” practice before the BRKC, was meant to be a confidence-boosting session where I could try out some new equipment, tactics and practice my race craft. That was the plan anyway…

I could just feel that it was going to be one of those nights when I got to the track, but little did I know what was going to happen when I was racing. We were already slightly delayed before four of the drivers in my session arrived late and we waited for them to get kitted up.

I was first out on track, so I had some clear air to feel the kart underneath me. As many had said that night, the track was very slippery and, additionally, the karts were not very responsive (I believe that all of the karts were fuelled heavily as there were a lot of empty fuel cans being taken out just before our session). One recurring issue through the three sessions were the number of yellow and red flags; in the first session I was feeling comfortable and warming the kart up nicely until lap 8 when the red flags came out.

Nearly ten minutes later, I was still sat underneath the bridge waiting for the lights to change to green (apparently one of the other drivers had come over the bridge at such speed that he crashed and shattered the barriers at the bottom and we had to wait for that barrier to be removed and another one to be fixed in place). I finished with the fastest lap of the session, even though it wasn’t that fast!

The second session was very stop-start with another scattering of yellow and red flags. The next drama was during one of these yellow flags, where a marshal fell over the barrier trying to assist a driver who had buried his kart in the tyre wall. It seemed like a nasty sprained ankle (as I drove past with the marshal on the ground). Again, I finished 1st in the session with a slightly faster time.

In between the second and third sessions, I chatted with a few drivers who were racing against me and I was very pleased to hear them complimenting me on my driving and we got chatting about the track (overtaking and fastest lines through corners) and then we got on to talking about the BRKC.

Maybe my tips helped the other drivers in the third race, or maybe I was just caught behind some back markers as I tried to set my fast laps, as I missed out on the hat-trick of fastest laps by 0.05s. I did stay out of trouble and managed to squeeze out of some tricky situations where other drivers were taking each other out (much use of the “No Bumping” sign here).

All-in-all, it was a satisfying trip to the track and I’m in a good frame of mind to tackle my next big challenge – the BRKC!

My First Race – Chase the Ace!

Date: 30th December 2014 (18 days until the BRKC)
Track: Teamsport Gosport
My PB at this track (before this session): 30.446s
Best lap time this session: 29.956s

Wow. What a year it has been!

But it wasn’t over until this race, my first competitive race ever. To fill you in on the format first; there was a 5 minute practice session, followed by a single “hot lap” qualifying session, completed by a 45 minute, non-stop, endurance race.

To say that it was daunting to have an endurance race as my first competitive race and amongst all of the “regulars” of which I have heard and seen so much of, was an understatement. But I have to start somewhere and quickly with less than three weeks to go before the BRKC!

I was drawn kart 12 which, during practice was very slippery and continued to be throughout the rest of the race despite my best efforts to keep the tyres warm on a freezing night!

Practice was mediocre, but I think everyone was still trying to warm themselves up, let alone the karts! The one lap qualifying was nerve-wracking. Everyone sitting in their karts, lined up in the pits, as one by one, we had the track to ourselves to set one flying lap to decide our grid positions. I didn’t think that I had done too badly around the first three-quarters of the track, but the slipperiness of the kart bit back on the final hairpin where I pushed slightly too hard and slid around the corner into the start-finish line. From experience, that cost me at least 0.5 seconds which would have pushed me at least one and possibly two places on the starting grid. In the end, I qualified 11th out of 12, which was slightly disappointing, but I think a fair reflection on my performance this far in the evening.

With a 5 minute break between qualifying and the race, I needed desperately to warm my hands, so I ran them under the red hot tap in the hope that they would thaw before the race.

As we were in the same karts as before (I had hoped to have a different kart), we then had to arrange ourselves in the order we had qualified on track. This proved quite difficult for some! One rolling lap behind the “Santa” kart and we were off!

In the first few laps, I was all over the back of the two karts in front, and I seemed to have lost the guy behind me, so I could focus on the overtaking possibilities. I believe that it was lap 8 or 9 where I managed to overtake the only woman in the field. I would love to say that I made it stick and then plowed through the field to win. But I can’t. It was a real challenge and about 5 laps later, I lost the place back to her and stayed there until the end. But breaking my 87 laps into manageable chunks, I set new PB after new PB during the race, including making sub-30s laps on no less than three separate occasions (lap 35, lap 60 and lap 78).

I found the racing very disorientating; I had no idea how many laps I had done, how much time had passed/how much was left, or whether I was doing well in terms of my laptimes. All I remembered, despite being focussed on each corner, was that there was a lot of spectators all around the pits and start-finish straight and that there were a lot of camera flashes as we were racing (I hope to see some of these photographs soon and hopefully add them to this blog!). There are also a lot of onboard youtube videos if you would like to find them (search for “Chase the Santa”).

I ached after the race. My ankles had gone completely. I was sweating. I had lost a fair bit of weight. But nevertheless, I had completed the race and was only 2 minutes off the leader at the end. 10th place was a success for me (at least I wasn’t last!) and I had upped my game to break the 30s barrier for the first time at this track.

I was also pleased to hear that I had been commended for my sportsmanship for allowing the leaders past without causing them any trouble. I was very aware that I was not racing against the leaders, so I shouldn’t disrupt their races and battles.

It’s a start… Now I need to finish it in Milton Keynes!

I’m back… But am I back on top?

Date: 23rd December 2014 (25 days until the BRKC)
Track: Teamsport Gosport
My PB at this track (before this session): 30.486s
Best lap time this session: 30.446s

Well it has been a long time since I was last on the track. After my last blog post, I suffered a severe chest infection (the dosing up that I mentioned in the last post didn’t help, I was put on strong antibiotics, a course of steroids and given inhalers from the doctor who was so shocked with the symptoms I was displaying wanted to send me to hospital!).

So I had an enforced month’s break from my karting, but on the night before Christmas Eve, I ventured out on track again.

It was actually a pleasure to drive in this session; there was a mix of very experienced drivers and novice drivers who, surprisingly and refreshingly, were very aware of their surroundings and generally moved out of the way of the regulars whenever they saw an opportunity.

In the first session of two, I was feeling my way back into it in the first couple of laps, even making some amateur mistakes (bumping a couple of the inexperienced drivers whilst they were slowing and moving to the side [I really didn’t read their movements well!]). But, after that, the kart felt good and I was putting in good laptimes (14 out of the next 19 laps were in the 31s’s or better), culminating in a best lap time in this session of 30.988s.

The second session was amazing; I was actively racing the more experienced guys all over the track and there were some amazing overtaking manoeuvres being pulled off. A couple of laps from the end, I fell victim to one of these overtakes. If you were a fan of Formula 1 in the 2000’s, you will most likely remember Hakkinen overtaking Schumacher at Spa. If you don’t, there is a video below.

It was almost a carbon copy of the above video, where I played the part of Michael Schumacher. I couldn’t be angry with the result; I chose my normal, outside line around the back marker, he took a chance and went inside. I was amazed that this had just happened (I didn’t think three karts could squeeze through side-by-side at that point on the track). I congratulated the other driver following the session on this move because I was still in awe.

I created a new PB in this session of 30.446s, which I am pleased with, but I am still struggling to break that 30s barrier.

I am trying to step up my practice for the BRKC, so before this session started I booked on to the “Chase the Ace Santa” on the 30th December at Teamsport Gosport, which is an endurance race: 1 lap qualifying followed by a 45 minute non-stop race. It’s going to be tough!

Being outstanding is good, but standing-out is better?

Date: 21st November 2014 (56 days until the BRKC)
Track: Teamsport Gosport
My PB at this track (before this session): 30.486s
Best lap time this session: 31.113s

With a change to my normal karting schedule (a Friday night after work, rather than a Saturday) and, as my work colleagues would tell you, I have not been particularly well over the past few days, but I still hoped for a good perfomance out on the track having dosed up on cold/flu/cough remedies all day. I was on my own this week too, as Mary-Anne had gone to an awards ceremony for work.

A lot of you will be thinking that this post starts with a lot of excuses for a bad performance, but I want to make it clear that none of this had any impact on what happened out on the track.

Gosport-trackI was almost going through the motions at the start of the first session. Stuck in some traffic at the beginning, but a couple of good moves pushed me up the field. It was on lap 13 that the fireworks started! For those who know the Gosport track, you’ll be aware that there is a bridge that goes over the top of the track to bring you back to the start-finish line. I took the fastest line at the hairpin, leaving me the inside line at the bridge. The bridge is about three karts wide, but this driver forced me into the tyre wall even though, at the point of impact, I steered full-lock into his kart to avoid being buried in the barrier. I’m not going to name the driver that did it, but for the rest of the evening this kind of behaviour continued from him. I backed off massively after this incident but still managed to put in a series of faster laps together at the end.

This group of sessions were also different for another reason; we kept the same kart all the way through and the karts were not used for the other group (the other group consisted of a group of kids so they were using the 125cc karts instead). This was both good and bad; good because it gave you the opportunity to learn the kart, but bad because if you got a stinker of a kart, you were stuck with it!

I was hoping that the incident in the first session was a one-off, but I knew who I was looking out for in the second (I remembered the kart number from the previous race). I thought by starting first in the pitlane, this would allow me to have the clean air for at least a few laps, but no, this wasn’t to be the case. I’ve been in some aggressive races in the past, but when one driver forces you out of the way, throws his fist in the air at you and then cuts straight across you whilst making an inappropriate gesture, that just is not on. The red mist descended and for the rest of the race, I was determined to re-overtake him (which unfortunately didn’t happen!).

wpid-dsc_0007.jpgI was so angry after the second session that I walked out of the pits with my helmet on and didn’t take it off for a good few minutes. I swore that I would be getting him back in the third session. I stood in the pits with my helmet on and my visor up staring at him as he got ready for the next race.

The third session began with the rival, kart 16, two places in front of me in the pits. I sat in my kart at the end of the pit lane just staring right at the back of his head, almost as if he had a massive target on it. But as soon as the lights went green, I changed my attitude and allowed everyone behind me to overtake. Four slow laps later, I took the bull by the horns and put in 14 consecutive quick laps with no-one infront of me (all within a second of each other), including my fastest lap of the night. I then got caught in a little bit of traffic at the end, but kart 16 was nowhere to be seen (apart from overtaking me and another kart under yellows right at the end!!)

Normally I would round it up here, but it didn’t quite end there. I went into the cafe to pick up my print-out and someone had put mine into a spillage of some sort, so my printout was soaking wet. I really wasn’t impressed, but at that point, I just wanted to get in my car and get home.

Looking at the data analysis, I was again Mr. Consistency, with my second best session average ever at this circuit. I am slightly concerned at my lack of overtaking in recent races leading up to the BRKC.

Also, on a different note, whilst wearing my white helmet made me stand out somewhat compared to the other drivers, with my full race suit on, I feel like I am the target for the bullies/jealous drivers.

photo 3
Before…
wpid-photo-5-2.jpg.jpeg
After…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Does anyone have any tips that they would like to share with me? Or does anyone fancy coming racing with me one day? (I would like to organise a private session, with practice, qualifying and race session soon)

My next session is on Tuesday after work (a freebie), so we will see how I do then!

“And rubbin’, son, is racin’!”

Date: 15th November 2014 (61 days until the BRKC)
Track: Teamsport Gosport
My PB at this track (before this session): 30.486s
Best lap time this session: 31.085s

This week was my first karting session in a while, so I expected to be a little ring rusty, but still to perform well. It was also my first race in my new racing suit, which was very comfortable to race in (and the internal padding prevented me from waking up with any bruises this morning!).

So on to the three sessions last night. Lots of yellow and red flags in general and I got a couple of “No bumping” boards shown at me (some justified, some not in my opinion).

wpid-photo-3-6.jpg.jpegThe first race was pretty uneventful, I achieved my fastest lap of 31.085s, finishing in second place, 4/1000ths of a second ahead of the more experienced driver in the field, an achievement that I was quite proud of at the time.

The second race was a lot more aggressive and frustrating in equal measures. I set off second out of the pits and had five laps of clear track in which I set my fastest laps of this race (31.498s on both lap 4 and 5). After this however, I got caught in traffic from those who started behind me in the pit lane.

In fact, there was one driver in particular that I was ridiculously frustrated by; lapping about one to one and a half seconds per lap slower than I would have been, but taking defensive lines through every single corner and always finding himself having the inside line at the end of the series of bends when I pulled alongside him. It was the frustration of a number of laps behind him that caused me to start to make overtaking attempts that really weren’t there to be made (I did take the defensive driver off on a couple of occasions, which earned me the “No bumping” warnings). However, each time I did, I let him back in front afterwards (I may be competitive, but I am fair in my racing).

wpid-photo-1-8.jpg.jpegIn between the second and third races, one of the other drivers came up to me and chatted to me briefly about karting in general and the previous session. He said that he looked behind him when I was charging through the field again and thought ‘Shit!’. He then described that for the rest of the race he was determined to keep me behind him at any cost. It was then that I realised it was the driver who had held me up for 17 laps of the previous race!

Actually, this attitude was brilliant for me to practice my race craft, rather than go for a fast single lap.

In the third session, I thought that I would go for the race practice rather than the time trial practice. I started off first from the pit lane and after being overtaken once by the more experienced driver, I set off carving my way through the field lapping each driver as I came across them on track. It just so happened that the hardest guy to overtake in the second race was also my rival in the third.

wpid-photo-3-7.jpg.jpegHe wasn’t going to give me an easy ride and I couldn’t pull a reckless manoeuvre up the inside of him because he wasn’t going to give way. What I needed to do was be brave and be very late on the brakes and also feign the route that I was going to take through the corners to make him defend a different line. Whatever I did worked and I managed to cleanly overtake him a couple of times before the time ran out in addition, I achieved a 31.290s fastest lap in this final race.

I was quite disappointed with my lap times when I got back home last night, but having analysed them on my spreadsheet today, actually it was a successful night in many ways.

I log all of my lap times and plot a variety of things including fastest lap times, mean lap times, variance/standard deviation etc. (this is my geekiness/scientist coming out!). Last night, whilst slightly slower than usual, was one of my most consistent nights for a month.