The weather was a bit better for the Saturday of round 4 of the Club 100 championships (most un-bank holiday like) and I arrived at windswept Ellough Park on the Saturday morning grateful for some sunshine and a dry track.
I had arrived fairly early because although the track is one of the nearest to me, it also involves venturing into deepest darkest Suffolk and the traffic can be a bit unpredictable, so I had given myself plenty of time to get there.
I was due to be meeting up with my two Dasterdly team mates, regular driver Oscar John Cooke (who hadn’t been driving with us at Rye House at the previous round) and stand in driver Rob Swindells (despite reports to the contrary in the race report, we weren’t fielding a team of ringers!). Both of them are regulars in the lightweight sprints, although they both tend to finish near the front of the A finals, whereas I am more often at the back of the B finals, so I knew they were both capable of handling a kart and quick.
Our team captain, Steve Gray was M.I.A. having gone to the US to watch some Mickey Mouse motor racing (the Indy 500!) so in his absence I was left to organise the team.
Before they arrived I watched a bit of the racing, had a bit of a chat with the two Chris’ from Team DGB (Rookie championship leaders and Steve Gray’s former team mates) and few other drivers I was starting to get to know. I also met up with the guys from Team G3 Pro, who very kindly gave me a goody bag full of samples as a thank you for providing them with some footage to use in their video from Rye House:
(I have to say, I am envious of the production quality of their videos, I wish I could make mine look that good). Nice chaps who were doing quite well in the championship but didn’t seem so bullish about their chances at Ellough, none of them having driven there before.
Once I found and met up with my team mates, it was time to figure out how much lead ballast each of us would need (all of us racing in lightweights meant the short answer for all of us was a lot!), who would drive when, how we would do the pit stops and perhaps most importantly, who would do the qualifying session.
We figured out we could all use the same pedal positions, so that would simplify the pit stops. Oscar needed the most ballast, Rob needed the least and I was somewhere in between.
Of the 3 of us, I had the most recent (and possibly the most) experience of driving around Ellough, having done the test session here less than 24 hours earlier and also having raced here in 2012. Rob had raced here in 2011 and Oscar had never driven the track before in his life. On the face of it, logic would dictate that I should have done the qualifying but I knew that was a bad idea, unless we wanted to start at the back of the grid. Rob is not only much quicker than I am but he also had the benefit of getting hold of one of Niki Richardson’s track guides. We nominated Rob to do the qualifying.
That meant Oscar would do the first 15 minutes of practice, I would do the second 15 minutes, then when I pitted we would refuel and send Rob out for 10 minutes practice followed by 10 minutes qualifying. The race running order would be the same – Oscar would start, I would do the middle and Rob would finish (we would all ‘double stint’ to minimise driver changes). We had a plan.
It was clear from watching Oscar during his 15 minute stint that he was tearing it up out on track. Obviously not knowing the circuit wasn’t much of a disadvantage for him. You don’t get lap time information from the practice laps at the time but looking at it now, it’s clear that he wasn’t hanging about, putting in some sub 52s laps. The spike in the graph is our pit stop, then I went out and whilst I was slower and a bit inconsistent I did manage a few sub 53s laps, an improvement on the previous day’s efforts.
The kart was quick enough but the brakes were a lot spongier than those on the one I had driven the day before and took a bit of getting used to.
Last out was Rob and once qualifying got started we could monitor lap times on the big screen. He was going quickly and at one stage was 7th or 8th overall (out of 27 teams!) but then it looked like he got caught in traffic for a while and was lapping in the mid 52s. In a deviation from the plan, we decided to try to bring him in and give Oscar the last 5 minutes, hopefully in a bit of clear space. However, Rob wasn’t expecting to pit, so he wasn’t looking out for a pit signal and by the time we did manage to bring him in and get Oscar out on track there was too little time left for him to make an impact.
Rob had done the job though, qualifying us 11th overall and on pole position for the Rookies class. A fantastic result and it looked like we could be on for a good race.
The final May bank holiday weekend was the date and Ellough Park, in Beccles, Suffolk was to be the venue, for round 4 of the 2013 Club 100 karting championship.
Back to where I started
Although Rye House had been the setting for my first ever experience of driving a Club100 kart, for a mid-week test, Ellough Park was where I had taken part in my first ever Club100 race meeting, in July 2012. I had mixed emotions about returning here. Although my performance at the last round, at Rye House, especially in B final 2 had left me encouraged by my progress, I had had a fairly torrid time during my first time at Ellough. Barely sleeping the night before, spinning out multiple times during the races; I remembered the track as being a cruel mistress.
A bit of a dampener on proceedings
I was determined to do something about that, so I was a bit miffed when I arrived at the circuit on Friday 24th May to discover the track was drying but still decidedly damp. My aim for the 1 hour session was to get in as many laps as possible, learn the track and the lines, improve my kart handling skills and knock a few seconds off my previous fastest lap time around here, a fairly pedestrian 54 seconds. However, a damp track would complicate that by altering the lines, changing the grip levels and generally making driving more difficult.
A bit rusty?
Not that this is necessarily a bad thing. Driving in difficult conditions should improve my overall driving skills and they certainly needed improving (and, spoiler alert, still do). Little did I realise quite how rusty I was, having not driven a kart for a whole month, since the meeting at Rye House at the end of April. I knew it had felt like a long time, I didn’t realise quite how much it would reflect on my driving.
A word about the video – the fogging gets progressively worse throughout. I had the closed back on my GoPro because of the damp conditions and clearly a tiny amount of moisture had found its way in there.
Despite having read the track guide on the Club100 website and having driven here back in 2012, I was all over the shop. There was a serious lack of grip, not like driving in full wet conditions but still enough that I was sliding around a lot and suffering with both under-steer and over-steer at different parts of the lap. Now, whilst sliding around like that is great fun to do, it’s not quick and is a counter-productive way of driving if you want to do well in a race.
I spun out, a lot. I can’t decide if that’s a good thing, because I was pushing the limits, or a bad thing because I was driving like a tit. What I do know is that other drivers were going considerably faster than me and I was keeping pusher kart driver Glen Beard busy! So many of the corners were causing me grief, I just couldn’t figure out my braking points, what the right lines were, or anything really!
Scheduled Pit stop
About half way through the hour I pitted to get some chain lube before heading out again. If you aren’t changing drivers during a test they like you to do this to keep things running smoothly. Thanks to the couple of chaps who got me going again.
Not long after I headed back out I had a bit of a scary moment. Coming out of the fast left hander (turn 5?) that is a flat out section, my rear wheels locked, causing me to spin. The two guys who were following close behind somehow managed to avoid collecting me (nice driving guys, I have no idea how you did that) and I ended up facing backwards on the outside of the bend, on the run off area.
I had initially thought that the spin was caused by the engine seizing (I certainly never touched the brakes) and I intimated this to Glen when he came over to give me a push. The rear tyres were flat spotted where they had locked but on attempting to push the kart to somewhere safer, we realised that the engine hadn’t seized after all. Most perplexing.
It turns out (I think) that it was caused by fuel starvation. You can hear the engine note drop during the video just before the lock up. To save you watching the whole thing (unless you have a spare hour) the incident happens around 35mins into the video.
Unscheduled pit stop
I got started again but I was a bit shaken up by the incident and I had lost confidence in the kart. I pitted on the next lap, because, as much as anything, I was worried about damaging the kart but after it got a once over in the pits they sent me back out again to finish the session.
Clearly there wasn’t anything wrong with the kart because my lap times were dropping and I set my fastest lap on the final lap of the session (the track drying out would have helped with that too) a 53.56s.
That lap was half a second quicker than my fastest lap when I had raced here back in 2012 but that didn’t represent a massive improvement in real terms. Not only that but some of my bad habits like over-driving and coasting into corners off the throttle, rather than coming off the throttle and immediately braking, had reared their ugly heads again. Dammit, I felt like I had gone backwards since the last round at Rye.
I had high hopes of not only getting this report done today but also catching up on writing some from my more recent on track excursions. However, I got distracted by setting up a new Facebook page for this site instead. So seeing as I have put so much effort into that, I would very much appreciate it if you could pay it a visit and like it and stuff. Now, back to talking about racing.
The last chance saloon
B final 2 is just that. The last chance during the weekend’s races to qualify for an A final and really get in amongst it. Despite lining up 7th on the grid, out of 13 karts, thanks to my fastest lap of 43.69 in B final 1, I didn’t have high hopes of making it through to the last A final of the day. Only the top 2 finishers from B final 2 advance to the back of the grid for A final 2 and there was still some serious competition lining up on the grid, not least amongst them Miguel Hall, one of the championship leaders after the previous two rounds, who was clearly having a bad day!
At least this time around there were no silly buggers on the rolling up laps and I started the race in my designated grid slot. I still need to work on my starts though, I left a good 3 kart lengths between me and Mike Bruford in front. I don’t know what the opposite of grid loading is but I am definitely guilty of it, to my detriment!
Done at hairpin 1 (again!)
I had closed the gap by the approach to hairpin 1, unfortunately, as had been the case all weekend, this corner was the scene of more carnage. Miguel Hall spun up ahead and the knock on effect resulted in numerous collisions, sideways karts and people coming to an abrupt halt. I was hit a few times on the way in and on the way out the other side but somehow managed to keep my kart rolling and trundled off at the pace of continental drift.
At least surviving the carnage without needing a push had allowed me to make up some places and I found myself behind but rapidly catching up with #15 Said Vedat. I was determined not to make a hash of things like I had in the last race, I knew I had more pace than some of the guys in front of me and if I could just keep it tidy I ought to be able to gain a few places.
Overtaking is hard
However, catching up with slower drivers is one thing. Getting past them is another thing altogether and something I still have very little experience of. Despite being a good second or two a lap quicker than Said, it took me until lap 6 to put a successful pass on him. During that time I had a few of failed attempts, one that earned me a contact warning and another that resulted in me making a mistake that allowed #22 Mike Bruford to overtake me.
Or maybe it isn’t
Mike managed to pull out a bit of a gap by getting past Said much quicker than I could and when I did finally get past Said I was still only in 7th, back where I had started the race and that was only thanks to some other people falling off further up the road!
I was determined to hunt down more places and I drove like a man with a mission, managing to catch up with and put a pass on Mike Bruford as he got held up behind #11 Ross Pinkstone, at the entry to the start/finish straight (I had hoped to pass them both but didn’t quite manage it).
It took me another lap to pass Ross, on the exit of Stadium, during which time I made a few mistakes and I was lucky that Mike didn’t get back past me. He did follow me through on Pinkstone though and I was ever conscious of his presence behind me, driving a defensive line for the last few laps in order to make sure Bruford couldn’t retake the position.
In the end, it wasn’t quite the photo finish it had been between Mike and I in B final 1 and I crossed the line just ahead of him to finish 5th.
Reviewing the weekend
I was really pleased with my drive in the second B final. Unlike in the first one, I hadn’t absolutely gone to pieces and made a load of mistakes when I was in amongst it at the start. Despite getting nailed into hairpin 1 on the first lap, I had kept it going and managed to catch up with and pass some other drivers to make up a few places and get my best result, on merit, so far this season (I say on merit because I got the same number of points during my first race at Buckmore Park in Feb but that was more by default, because there were no B finals).
My fastest lap time in B final 2 was a 43.47, so I had gone quicker in each race throughout the day (and the weekend). Not only that but it was less than 0.5 of a second off the B final winner’s fastest lap and within about 1 second of the lap time of the A final winners.
I know I still have work to do and there are areas for improvement, especially my braking into low speed corners and exit from those corners and also perfecting my passing manoeuvres, so that I can get past slower drivers without getting penalised for colliding with them. Improving the former will definitely help me improve the latter. I also need to handle the pressure of driving in traffic better, especially when I have people trying to overtake me for position.
It feels a bit strange writing this now, seeing as it has been a month since Rye House and I’ve just got back from round 4 of the Club 100 series, at Ellough Park. I really must pull my finger out and write in a more timely fashion. Anyway, enough about that, let’s talk about the racing.
Let’s go racing
There were 17 of us going out in B Final 1. As per usual, the top 4 finishers would be promoted to the back of the grid for A Final 1. Starting 8th on the grid meant I was mid-pack for the start and possibly in with a good chance of making it through. However, there were some other, quicker (normally A finalist) drivers in the mix, such as Miguel Hall (who got 2 podiums at Buckmore Park) at the first round & Ocsar John Cooke (one of my enduro team mates) as well as some new to Club 100 drivers, so anything could happen.
Off to a bad start
Things started to unravel before the flag had even dropped to start this one. Having got myself into the correct grid slot (in front of Chris Scivier), Chris Penny then came across onto the wrong side of the grid (this all happened on the rolling up laps). A consequence of this was the Chris Scivier assumed he was out of position (technically he was) so he overtook me and jumped into my grid slot! I tried waving at the race officials to indicate Chris Penny was on the wrong side of the grid but to no avail and as the Union flag dropped to start the race people were all over the shop.
As we crossed the start line someone took out the cone in the middle of the track (you aren’t supposed to move out of your grid position until you cross the line for the first time) and sent it bouncing into Stadium. I got left behind at the start (again!) and had some catching up to do.
Just close enough
However, I was right on the back of the pack on the approach into hairpin 1 but fortunately far enough back to go around the pile up that happened (nothing compared to the incident at the same corner at the start of the enduro race the previous day) and made up a few places. Places I swiftly lost again thanks to a mistake out of hairpin 2 that cost me momentum all the way through to the final corner of the lap. That dropped me down to 12th at the end of the first lap, a place behind #44 Frankie Hedges but at that stage, only 2.5s behind the leaders. I had some catching up to do.
More cone abuse!
Luckily, the two guys ahead of me were having a bit of a tussle, allowing me to close the gap to them and on the way into Stadium I tried to get a run up the inside of Frankie Hedges. I probably could have made it stick if I had been a bit more assertive but I lifted about half way through and got pushed to the inside of the exit, causing me to clip the cone on the inside kerb after a bit of contact with Frankie’s rear bumper. The slowed me a bit and allowed #33 Roger Jenkins to sneak through. However, I passed both him and Frankie through Pylon when they ran wide, to finish that lap in 11th.
At the time I had hit the cone, I hadn’t realised, so when I crossed the start line at the end of the lap and saw that I had been given a penalty, I assumed it was for the (very minimal) contact that I had made with Frankie, which I felt was harsh because you normally get a warning for contact (unless you get an advantage from it).
Rich Ward sneaking up behind me during qualifying
My first penalty
That was my first ever penalty in Club 100 karting (you could argue that means I haven’t been trying hard enough until now) and not knowing what it was for, or how many places it was going to cost me, I assumed the worst and figured it would mean I would effectively get demoted to last place. My heart sank a bit and I remember thinking that my race was over at that point (a stupid thing to think).
Things went from bad to worse as I ran wide out of hairpin 1 on the next lap and #33 Roger Jenkins dived up the inside of me, forcing me to use the escape road. Frankie Hedges got passed me through Pylon and I finished that lap down in 13th again. I got a better run on Frankie into Stadium at the start of the next lap and really had the move made down the inside but for some reason I bottled it towards the end (I think I was worried about making contact) and let him have the place back. All the while, our dicing was no doubt costing us time and allowing the guys behind us to close up.
I started to get a bit ragged after that (clearly I hadn’t actually given up), pushing too hard in the wrong places and running wide, dropping me back from the guys I was chasing. I would put together a reasonable lap, visibly close the gap, then do something stupid and the gap would open again.
Get into the groove
At some point I decided to focus on trying to get a good lap time in, because my grid position in B Final 2 (that was definitely where I was heading, not the A finals!) would be determined by it. With a bit of clear track in front of me and without the distraction of trying to overtake other drivers, I settled down into a bit of a rhythm and managed to take just over a 10th off my fastest lap from qualifying, putting in a couple of 43.7s laps, quicker than a lot of drivers up the road from me.
Is there still hope?
The added benefit of this was that I closed up the gap to the guys I was chasing, who were still dicing with each other. Maybe I could still salvage something other than lap time from this race? What I didn’t realise was that #22 Mike Bruford was also catching up with me…
I had managed to catch up with the back of the guys in front (#44 & #52), (I was making up ground into Stadium especially) but then my exit of the last corner on each lap was rubbish and I kept dropping back. It came to the last lap and I was right on the back of Frankie Hedges again into Pylon. Was there time for a last ditch overtake? Nope. I ran wide and suddenly noticed Mike Bruford trying to sneak up the inside of me. I had to go defensive for the last couple of corners and even lean forward to reduce drag on the approach to the line. It worked, just – I crossed the line about one 100th of a second in front of him, to finish 13th on the road. However, my penalty for cone abuse would cost me that place, dropping me down to 14th, behind Mike.
Not a great race for me really. Starting out of my grid position, then some early mistakes cost me several places. If I had realised that my penalty was for hitting a cone, rather than contact I wouldn’t have backed out of some of my early overtaking attempts that should have seen me clear and further up the road. I need to try to keep a cooler head when I’m in traffic and involved in wheel to wheel racing. Right now having guys close behind (or in front) of me tends to distract me and result in me making more mistakes than usual.
The third meeting of the 2013 Club100 sprint series meant an early start, because those of us racing in the lightweight classes were racing in the morning session, along with the Premier class drivers.
Despite being worn out from the previous day’s enduro race, I struggled to get a decent night’s sleep and got up on the Sunday morning feeling pretty rubbish, thanks to that and what felt like the onset of a cold. No matter, there was racing to be done and at least the sun was shining for a change.
Rye House is a very well known UK kart circuit and also definitely the closest circuit on the Club100 calendar to my house. Although roadworks on the A10 had slowed me down the day before, I knew that wouldn’t be much of a problem at 8am (ish) on a Sunday morning.
I got there in good time and for once was reasonably confident about putting in a decent performance. After all, I must have driven over 100 laps of the circuit over the previous couple of days (Friday testing, enduro practice and then race on the Saturday). If I couldn’t make that count for something then it was probably time to give up kart racing and take up knitting instead!
However, despite that I wasn’t expecting to be able to mix it with the guys at the front of the grid. I knew I had managed to do some sub 44s laps on the Saturday but that I was still over a second a lap off a quick pace. My aim was to bring my lap times down some more and finish mid-grid in the B finals. Longer term I’m aiming to get into some A finals before the end of the season. Whether that’s through direct qualification or by finishing near the front of a B final remains to be seen.
I was in lightweight sprint qualification group 1 and by virtue of my low race number this season (#5) would be leaving the pits near the front of the pack. In fact, there were only 2 other drivers with lower race numbers in the group and they both had starting problems meaning that I got to head off with a clear track in front of me for the practice laps.
For the first time ever, since starting in Club100, I wouldn’t have to spend the 5 practice laps getting the hang of the circuit. Although that was sort of the case at the previous meeting at Bayford Meadows, those practice laps had been the first truly dry laps I had done there, so it was still a learning experience. That’s not to suggest that I am not still learning now, just that I had a much better feel for Rye House in the dry.
A couple of mistakes on one of the last practice laps resulted in me getting overtaken by 3 other karts just at the start of qualifying. One of them was definitely a quicker driver than me, the other two I’m not so sure about. There were places during a lap when I was definitely catching up with them or with other drivers. In hindsight, I probably should have backed off a bit to give myself a gap and a bit of clear air to put a lap or two in. However, I was a bit concerned that doing this might result in other drivers jumping in front of me and holding me up. Also, if I’m honest, I got a bit caught up with trying to race the guys in front of me, instead of just looking to put in some clean laps.
The results are in
Fortunately, I made a bit of a mistake on one lap that dropped me back a bit, creating a gap. I set my fastest lap time after that, on lap 4 of my qualifying laps, resulting in me catching up to the back of the traffic in front again. Ultimately I was unable to improve on the 43.82 that I did on that lap. It wasn’t a blindingly quick lap but it was only just over 1s off the front running lap times (the closest I have managed to get so far) and good enough to qualify me 8 out of 17 for the first B final. My best qualifying result so far. Bring it on!
With qualifying over, the karts stopped out on track prior to the start of the race while lap times, penalties, etc were calculated and the starting grid positions worked out.
As I was doing the start stint in the race but Steve had done the qualifying, I had to find him on the track, carry out my 9kg of lead ballast and sort the kart out for me to drive during the first part of the race. With that done, we waited to find out the results of qualifying.
The results of qualifying had us starting 29th on the grid out of 36 karts. In some ways that made my life a bit easier – trying to find your place on the grid in the middle of the pack with 36 karts would be tricky, being somewhere near the front (no chance for us!) or near the back made life a bit easier. I made a note of the numbers of the karts in the grid positions around me so that I could line up based on where they were and tried to mentally prepare myself for starting on the busiest grid of my short career in kart racing.
Start the race
The leaders coming into hairpin 1 at the start of the race
After a few rolling up laps to get everyone into their correct grid positions, or thereabouts, the Union flag was waved and we were off racing. I was close but not close enough to the kart in front at the start and I lost a place into Stadium being overly cautious. Still, I was hanging on reasonably well as the pack made its way up towards Hairpin 1 for the first time.
I could see trouble brewing ahead as I approached the corner and I was already slowing (just lifting off the throttle, not braking heavily) with the hope of avoiding the chaos unfolding in front of me. Unfortunately, the guy behind me clearly wasn’t paying as much attention and ran into the back of me, sending me into a skid. In total, 12 karts were involved in the pile up (a 3rd of the grid) and I wasn’t surprised to see the false start flags being waved when I did get under way again.
So, we would have to start all over again. There would be more rolling up laps and the race would be shortened. I tried in vain to get into my grid slot again before the restart but some other drivers appeared to think they were entitled to keep the positions they had made up on the previous attempt. Not wanting to delay the restart any longer than necessary I decided not to force the issue and restarted the race slightly out of position.
I was napping this time around at the start and ended up being a long way back from the pack when the flag dropped, thanks to getting a slow exit out of the final corner into the start finish straight. I didn’t lose any places into Stadium this time around but early cautious braking into hairpin 1 cost me 3 places. However, some banditry (not by me) into hairpin 2 collected around 5 karts on lap 1 of the restarted race and another 4 on lap 2 at the same corner.
I spent the rest of the first stint catching up to the guy in front of me, then dropping back a bit after making a mistake, then catching him again and so on. I hadn’t managed to catch him by the time I was pulled in for the end of my stint and our first pit stop of the race but during that stint I had managed to get us up to 18th overall and 5th in class at one point. How much of that was down to people pitting early and how much of it was down to passing people who had spun, I’m not sure.
Steve during one of his stints in the race
Our first pit stop wasn’t fantastic. As the pit entry is quite short at Rye House, I hadn’t got the fuel filler cap fully unscrewed on the way in (you are not allowed to screw or unscrew the filler caps on track, for obvious safety reasons) but when I arrived at the refuelling bay there was still another kart in it anyway. A lot of time can be made up (and lost) during pit stops and our first one definitely hadn’t helped us.
Steve’s first stint was quite a short one and, after helping Team DGB with their stop I didn’t have a lot of time to collect my thoughts before going out on track again, this time for our longest stint of the race. One thing I had meant to do was to put some ear plugs in. Until now I hadn’t seen the need for them (maybe I wasn’t driving fast enough?) but fortunately I had brought them with me. However, I didn’t get a chance to put them in before it was time to get in amongst it again.
Back out on track
Because of the short time I had spent in the pits, I didn’t really know where we were in the race by the time I got back out on track. Our second pit stop was a bit better organised than our first one but still not up to F1 standards by a long shot.
I came back out onto the circuit with no idea of who I was racing for position and who was either way ahead or way behind. You don’t get any blue flags to give you a clue during enduro races either. I had just two thoughts in mind – “drive fast; don’t crash.”
It wasn’t long before I caught up with someone who was clearly slower than I was. Of course catching someone is one thing, passing them is another thing altogether and something that up until now I have relatively little experience of. I’ve gotten used to being the guy being overtaken, not the guy doing the overtaking. It took me a few laps to pull off a successful pass on him, on the exit of Stadium. During that time, other quicker karts caught and passed us both. Each time they passed me it would cost me a bit of time to the guy in front, meaning I had to catch up again.
Being overtaken by quicker drivers can often be useful, because (for the brief period you can keep up with them) you can see what lines they take through corners and use that to improve your own driving. You can also note where and how they overtake and learn from that as well.
The rest of my stint was fairly incident free. I got passed by quicker drivers and I managed to pass some slower ones.
Towards the latter part of my stint I had caught up with another slower driver who I found it tricky to pass. I must have spent at least 10 laps following him; getting close then dropping back either because I got overtaken by someone quicker, or I made a mistake somewhere. I knew it would be costing me valuable lap time whilst I was stuck behind him. Eventually, I got a better run out of Stadium and managed to dive up the inside of him through hairpin 1. I punched the air in jubilation when I got through and left him for dust.
I did have another little brush with the tyres on the exit of hairpin 2 towards the end of my stint. Someone else must have clattered them because they were out of position again but other than that the stint ended without incident and even our pit stop was relatively slick to send Steve out for his next stint.
I now had about 30 minutes before I was due back out on track for my last stint. Time to do all of the things that become almost a matter of urgency after spending 40 minutes racing in a Club 100 kart, things like getting a drink, having something to eat, going to the loo, getting my ear plugs out of my car and finding out where we were in the race.
At this point, I think we were 6th in class and around 25th overall in the race but don’t quote me on that. I have no idea how other people keep track of it, especially when they are in the driving seat but I guess it’s something I will need to get the hang of and perhaps it comes with experience.
Back on track?
Before too long it was time for my final stint. We were doing reasonably well up until this point but I think this is when things started to unravel somewhat. I say think, I mean I am certain.
The pit stop to start this stint was a shambles. It would have been a really good stop but for some reason I decided to do it with only one of my gloves on. I got caught out by how quick the stop was and still only had one glove on as I was being push started towards the end of the pits, doing up the fuel filler cap. I had the cap half done up and my glove half on when I got to the end of the pits and had to take evasive action to steer out of the pits, onto the pit straight.
With my left glove still only half on, I was cruising towards Stadium trying desperately to sort things out by steering with my knees and using my right hand to pull my left glove on properly. Then, on the way around Stadium I switched my focus back to doing up the fuel filler cap properly (I’m lucky no one spotted this, I could have definitely got some sort of penalty) before finishing pulling my glove on, on the approach to hairpin 1. I got it sorted and got back up to speed. I think someone trying to come up the inside of me there got caught out by my change of speed because I felt a bit of contact. He may have spun, I wasn’t going to stick around to find out.
So, a terrible start to my final stint that cost who knows how much time but after that I got settled into a rhythm and was lapping at a reasonable pace. The sunny skies from the start of the race had been replaced by gathering dark clouds and those clouds delivered on their promise towards the end of my stint. It started hailing!
Even before the hail started to come down there seemed to be more incidents than during my previous stints, with people off all over the place, including on the outside of the entry to Stadium at the end of the start/finish straight. There hadn’t really been a noticeable change in grip levels (I was wary of that happening once wet stuff started falling out of the sky) until, that was, when the slippery surface flag came out. Then all of sudden, on the way into Stadium (at speed) I understood exactly what the term ‘driving on marbles’ means! Boom, it went from good grip to no grip very rapidly and people were sliding around and spinning off all over the shop. I slowed right down to focus on not spinning and I was extremely relieved to see the pit board out as I came around to complete that lap. All I had to do was keep it on the island for one more lap…
Unfortunately, I didn’t quite manage that. Attempting to go up the inside of a stationary kart at hairpin 2, I gave it just a touch too much throttle and spun out. Aaaargh! Luckily it didn’t take long for the pusher kart to turn up (I had barely had time to point my kart in the right direction again) and I’m sure the other guy was probably a bit miffed that I got started before him – he had already been there for a lap!
Our last pit stop wasn’t terrible and Steve went out for what would be a curtailed final stint, because the race had been shortened after the false start. Of course we had forgotten about that in the heat of the moment, otherwise we might have adjusted out pit stop strategy slightly.
The results are in
We finished 8th in class in the end and 27th overall. I can’t be certain but I think my final stint almost certainly cost us a couple of places. I don’t think our pit stops helped our cause either. On the other hand Team DGB managed a very creditable 3rd overall (beating most of the Inters teams) and 1st in class to increase their lead in the overall Rookies standings. An honorary mention goes to Inters Team Loose Heads (who I had driven for at Bayford Meadows) who had a much better race this time around (without me messing things up for them) finishing 4th overall and 3rd in class. Nice one lads.
Inters team #8 Loose Heads
Until the next round
It would be another month before the next round of the enduro championship but only 24 hours until I was racing again, this time in the Sprint championship. More on that soon and at the time of writing, the next round of the Club100 championship, at Ellough Park is only 1 week away, where I will meet and be racing with my other team mate Oscar John Cooke.
Having met my one of my new team mates the day before, during the Friday practice session, I arrived at Rye House on Saturday 27th April 2013, raring to go for my first drive with Rookie team 45 ‘Dasterdly & Mutley’s’.
Overnight I had been reviewing the on-board video from my two stints during that test session, looking for where I could improve on my disappointing (I’ve come to realise I use that word rather a lot to describe my karting at the moment) lap times that were no quicker than when I had raced here in September 2012, during my first Club 100 season. I had some ideas, whether I could put them to good use in the race was a different matter.
Strategy and tactics
I met up with my team mate Steve, to discuss pit stop tactics, who would be driving when during the race and so on. As Steve was clearly quicker than me, we decided it made sense for him to do the qualifying but I would be starting the race so that I would end up driving the longest stint during the race. Our pit stops would be somewhat synchronised with those of team DGB, in that we would pit two laps earlier than them on each stop. As we were both running two man teams, this would allow us to always have 2 drivers in the pits to help with pit stops (one from Team DGB and one from Team Dasterdly and the Mutley’s).
Steve and I would be swapping each time we did a pit stop – not the most efficient way of doing it because it meant changing lead ballast and pedal positions at every stop but the alternative would mean staying in the driving seat for over an hour each!
Because Steve would be doing the qualifying, he would also go out first during the practice, then I would go out at the 15 minute mark for about 20+ mins, before coming in to refuel and hand the kart back over the Steve for qualifying.
The last order of business to sort out before we started racing would be for me to get a race suit sorted. Up until this point I had been renting one each time from the Club 100 organisers. After my failed attempt to organise buying a second hand one at Bayford Meadows, I had arranged to meet one of the Clubman enduro racers (who were racing in the morning) and get a second hand race suit off him. Unfortunately, he was just about to go out on track when I arrived (I managed to say a quick hello before he raced off) so I borrowed Steve’s Team DGB suit to wear to the drivers’ briefing. That caused a bit of confusion later, when people thought I was part of their team…
Let’s be brief
One of the focusses of the drivers’ briefing had been the large class size (there were due to be 36 teams racing across the Inters and Rookies classes) and the importance (and difficulty) of getting that many karts around the Rye House circuit successfully, especially on the first lap. The false start zones were pointed out, extending all the way up to and including hairpin 1. More on that later.
With the briefing over, it was time to get out on track. The weather forecast was good and the skies looked relatively benign, so it promised to be a dry race, unlike two weeks earlier at Bayford Meadows. I had managed to meet up with the guy selling the second hand race suit, so I was now the proud owner of my own entry level Sparco karting suit, for the bargain price of £15 and would be modelling it during that afternoon’s racing (and not the Team DGB one I had been wearing earlier).
Action packed practice
We had a 40 minute practice session before qualifying started and I got about 20 or so minutes of that session to build on my sessions from the previous evening. There were now a lot more karts out on the circuit than there had been the previous day (36 in total) and people were lapping at different speeds. The pit exit at Rye House brings you out towards the end of the start finish straight, on one of the fastest parts of the circuit and it takes a bit of a leap of faith to leave the pits, into fast moving traffic and know you aren’t going to get collected. Too slow and hesitant and you run the risk of stalling in the pit lane exit, or on the pit straight, too quick and you can’t really take a proper look to see if anyone is coming.
Speaking of getting collected, that happened a couple of times during my practice stint. I tried to out-brake someone slower into hairpin two, then panicked a bit when they started to close the door and I out-braked myself instead (I didn’t want to hit them and get a penalty for contact – that would mean starting the race from the back of the grid), resulting in a lock up and a spin. It wouldn’t have been too bad but it was followed up by someone from team Mwa Ha Ha binning it and running into me (he was following close behind so he didn’t have a lot of time to react). I think he came out of it slightly worse than I did.
I hadn’t really found my rhythm at that point but it didn’t take long to get started and under way again. I was getting passed a lot into and through Stadium – clearly I didn’t have my line or my entry speed right for that corner, something I would need to get right before the start of the race itself.
It also didn’t take long before I managed to screw up into hairpin two again, also trying to pass someone slower and locking up when they turned in – another mistake I wouldn’t want to make during the race. Hairpin two caused me a few problems later on during the practice session when I got my exit wrong, came out too wide and hit the tyres on the way out. I managed to keep it going but it resulted in the some of tyres in the wall being out of position and would make the exit of that corner tricky for a few laps, until they were put back in their proper position (they were already sticking out a bit when I hit them).
I got involved in another tangle into hairpin one later in my session. I had caught up with a slower driver and attempted a pass under braking on the way in but he got a better run on the exit and I got squeezed on both sides by him and someone else. The next lap, I had a much better run through Stadium and was right behind him into hairpin one. I tried the move again, this time I was a bit more ‘assertive’ and I caught his sidepod, then got nailed from behind by team #10. Somehow, I was the only one who ended up needing a push start, everyone else got away relatively unscathed. Clearly I need to work on my overtakes under braking.
I managed to stay out of trouble for the rest of the session but I still hadn’t managed to find any real rhythm or improve much on my pace from the previous day in order to bring my lap times down. Our pit stop when I came in was our first refuelling stop, before Steve went out to qualify. Business time.
Steve’s best lap in qualifying was a 43.38 that would put us 29th overall on the grid. It doesn’t sound great but when you consider that there were 8 10ths covering all the positions between us and pole, it was a pretty good effort. However, it paled in comparison to Team DGB’s qualifying effort that saw them right on the front row of the grid. Good effort lads. Bring on the race!
As I mentioned at the end of my report on the enduro race at Bayford Meadows, despite my less than auspicious début in Club 100 enduro racing, when offered, I had jumped at the opportunity to join up with a Rookies team for the rest of the season.
The opportunity came in the form of a post on the Club 100 forums requesting drivers for the Rye House enduro, to race in a Rookies team that I had responded to. The Rookies team in question was team #45 Dasterdly & Mutley’s. The name Mutley is somewhat infamous in Club 100 circles, being the nickname of a chap who now does some officiating (clerk of the course type thing) but who used to race and apparently had a bit of a reputation as a driver. Anyway, it turns out that although he lends his nickname to the team, he won’t be doing any driving with us. I’m not sure if that will stop us getting a bad press or not though.
What’s my motivation?
Having spoken to Steve Gray, the chap organising the team, it was quite clear that we wouldn’t be under pressure to compete for trophies (although winning one would be nice) it would be more about getting seat time in the karts and experience of the circuits. My thinking behind getting involved in enduro racing was that I would be able to get more track time, more driving experience and give myself a chance of being more competitive. Plus do more karting, which I am thoroughly enjoying. Sounded perfect to me.
Because I was going to be racing in the enduro on the Saturday and the sprints on the Sunday, I had decided against booking a kart for the Friday afternoon test session at Rye House, the venue for round 3 of the 2013 Club 100 championship. However, when I got a call from Steve early in the week saying that he had a kart booked for the second hour of the practice session and asking if I wanted to get involved, I decided it would be a great opportunity to meet my new team mate(s) and get a few laps in as well.
I arrived early for the test session (the kart was booked for 5, I got there at 3:30!), meaning I had plenty of time to meet Steve, discuss strategy for the race the next day and so on. What I hadn’t realised was that I would also be meeting some of the competition, Steve’s former team mates in the Rookie class from the previous season – team DGB (Steve had been the G in DGB), current Rookie championship leaders.
The other thing I hadn’t realised until I got there was that there would be just the two of us driving for team #45 on the Saturday – Steve and myself. That was going to mean a lot of driving for both of us. More on that later.
Steve went out first for our 5 o’clock practice session, the idea being that we would each do 2 15 minute sessions during the hour long test. The swap overs would give us a bit of a chance to practice our pit stops, although I don’t normally bother with lead ballast during testing, preferring to focus purely on learning the track and not worrying overly about lap times comparative to race pace (also, as far as I can tell, the ballast makes negligible difference to overall lap times). This meant that we only had to mess about with changing pedal positions and removing Steve’s seat insert at the pit stops.
Rye House is a shorter (1000m) circuit with a long straight and some tight, technical sections and I had struggled to find the right lines and be anything close to the pace the last time I had raced here. My best time in September 2012 had been a 44. something, a good 2 seconds off a quick time. Carrying enough speed into Stadium at the start of a lap and also getting the line right out of the last corner onto the start/finish straight were both important to getting a decent lap time and both areas that I was getting wrong.
Unfortunately and much to my disappointment, I still didn’t manage to get it right during either of my two stints on track during the test. Watching the videos back now, it looks painfully slow to watch and my best lap times were still only in the 44s. I had hoped to get into the 43s at the very least. I got plenty of track time, because Steve’s second stint was rather short after he winded himself in a spin and came in early.
I had been given advice on the right lines, where to go quick, where to brake, etc but I just wasn’t putting it into action out on track. Lifting on the entrance to Stadium, braking way too early into hairpin 1 and 2, slow into Pylon, the list goes on. I was also doing my old trick of coming off the power, cruising into a corner then applying the brake, rather than switching straight from one to the other.
Fast in, slow out
Although I was better in my second stint, I was now over-driving the kart – carrying too much speed into corners and drifting/sliding wide on the exit, bogging down, dropping engine revs and losing exit speed as a consequence. Not the ‘slow in fast out’ approach.
On the plus side, I hadn’t needed the assistance of a pusher kart at all during the test session – often that would be an indication of not trying hard enough but I was definitely trying hard by the end, probably too hard!
Steve’s lap times were consistently quicker than mine – so at least we knew who would be doing timed qualifying for the race on Saturday. I drove home to review the video footage and try to figure out where I was making mistakes and giving away crucial seconds on each lap.
Whilst the performance of my kart in B final 1 had left me disappointed and wondering what might have been, I was encouraged by my driving performance and hopeful that with a decent kart under me in B Final 2 I might be able to make up some positions from my starting grid of 10th.
The grid positions for B final 2 were determined by fastest lap times in B final 1 and as I had ended up with a kart lacking any top end, any hopes of a decent grid slot were slim. I had discovered the problems with my kart in B final 1 shortly after my moment of glory, captured here:
when I made up 8 places in the space of one corner.
This time around, I made absolutely certain that I gave it full beans on the rolling up laps – I didn’t want to get caught out again after the start by discovering my kart was lacking straight line speed.
I didn’t make a terrible start but it wasn’t great either. Although I didn’t drop any places into the first corner, I could have been closer to the guys in front at the start and if I had, maybe I would have been able to make up a place or two through the first few corners. However, I didn’t and I was hanging onto the back of the pack as we came around to complete the first lap but then mistakes in the last couple of corners meant I had dropped back by the time I entered the start/finish straight.
Frustrated by errors
I made up that ground again going through the first series of corners on the second lap, only to make similar mistakes through the latter part of the lap and come onto the pit straight even further back. Frustrating! I knew I could lap quicker than the guys in front if I could just keep it neat and tidy. Instead, I managed to get a rear wheel on the grass as I was going along the straight, unsettling the kart (and me slightly) and meaning that this time around I couldn’t catch up through the infield section.
The fogging is worse in this video than it was in Final 1 but you can still just about see what’s going on.
The story of the rest of the race was much the same really, I would visibly make up ground on the pack in front, then get ragged through one or two corners, run wide, make a mistake and the gap would increase again. This can clearly be seen from my lap times that bounce around all over the place and more to the point, were not much better than in the previous race! In fact, my fastest lap was only about .5 second quicker than in B Final 1 and a good 1.5 seconds off the winner’s lap time. Not as much progress as I had hoped to make.
The results are in
In the end, the only place I made up from my grid position was overtaking Tom Lee, who had spun, on the penultimate lap. I believe it was because he took a nudge from someone else. I finished 9th out of 14, 26 seconds behind the winner. My brother finished 10th, having started 12th on the grid, a pretty good result for his first Club 100 race meet. I am trying to persuade him to take part in some more races but it remains to be seen whether I will be successful or not.
Despite my disappointment at not getting a better result in either final, I could take some solace in the fact that this was my first ever Club 100 meeting where I hadn’t crashed or needed a restart a single time. You could argue that this is because I wasn’t trying hard enough but, I definitely was trying hard, too hard in B final 2, hence the number of mistakes I made. Ok, there was still work to do and the result hadn’t been great but my driving was definitely improving. I was no longer getting lapped, having to slow down as the faster guys came through (except maybe in practice) but I still needed to work on my driving including my starts, braking into slow speed corners and overtaking skills.
Looking forward to the next round
In just two weeks it would be the next round at Rye House and I could try to make some further improvements.
After my disappointing qualifying performance, I wanted to at least get a good start to B Final 1. Both of my starts at Buckmore Park, during the previous meeting, had been terrible, leaving me several kart lengths back before the flag had even dropped to start the race. I was determined not to let that happen again.
During the rolling up laps I was a bit upset to see the guy who had held me up in qualifying was somehow starting in front of me on the grid. He had managed one slightly quicker lap than I had, with the rest of his being terrible. I knew that I was quicker than him (based on catching him in qualifying) so I figured that I should be able to get past him at least during the race. Unlike the A finals, those of us who are also-rans, racing in the B finals don’t get any practice laps to make sure everything is ok before we get into our grid positions for the race and I never got my kart up to full throttle on the rolling up laps. Something I would rue once the race started.
After a couple of formation laps around the oval (not using the full circuit) we were in our correct grid positions and the Union flag dropped to signal the start of the race. I wasn’t right on the back of the pack but I was still close enough to keep in contention. Not so close that if there was any first corner carnage I would get caught up in it though.
As it happened, everyone got through turns 1 and 2 without any drama. I had neither lost, nor made up any places at this point but I was still close to the pack. Turn 3, the first hairpin, is where things got interesting. The first 5 karts got through without incident but after that things started going wrong. I could see there was a spinner – I think it was number 22, Mike Bruford. I’m not sure what happened, he may have got a bit of a nudge. 3 karts went wide to go around the outside of him, the other 4 in front of me dived up the inside of the incident and I followed them through on the racing line.
By the time we got to the exit of the corner, those 4 karts had run wide and were side by side, leaving me with plenty of room to dive up the outside of them like this:
with others no doubt following me through.
I couldn’t believe it. I was up the 6th! I could see the leading pack a fair bit further away up the road but I knew all I had to do was keep it neat and tidy and not fall off and I would be in with a good chance of a decent result (for me anyway).
Sadly my hopes of that were short lived. As I accelerated out of the bus stop final hairpin and along the start finish straight my kart ran out of legs a lot sooner than it should have done. The engine note sounded distinctly off and I was clearly lacking top end power. I was visibly frustrated and annoyed, especially because had I discovered the issue during the rolling up laps, I could have swapped my kart for another one before the race started. For a split second I contemplated coming into the pits for a kart change at that point but I knew doing that would have effectively ended my race there and then, so I decided to stay out and make the best of it.
I probably could have driven faster through some of the corners but I managed to keep it neat and tidy and not make any mistakes and it took the first of those I had passed on that first lap another lap to drive past me on the straight as if I wasn’t there. Unfortunately, that experience was repeated a number of additional times before the end of the race. I am proud to say I was only really passed by one driver not on a straight section of track and, frustratingly, had I not been driving a sub-standard kart, I think I would have been able to hold onto that 6th position, or at the very worst maybe dropped down to 7th by the end.
By the end of the race, I had lost 5 of the positions I gained on the first lap, finishing 11th from my grid position of 15th. If you had offered me that before the race, I probably would have been pleased but given the circumstances I was a bit miffed. To add insult to injury, because grid positions for B Final 2 would be determined on fastest lap time from B Final 1, I wouldn’t have a great grid position in the second final either. My lap times were slower than they were in qualifying, something that had only really happened to me once previously, at Whilton Mill, back during my second ever Club 100 round. I could however take solace in how well I felt I had driven, even with a sick kart. That should at least bode well for the second B final if I got a quicker kart (I would make damn sure it wasn’t broken next time) and drove a good race.
My brother finished in a respectable 12th place in his first Club 100 kart race.
Unfortunately, I think a bit of moisture must have got into my GoPro housing, causing it to gradually fog up, because the footage gets worse throughout the course of the race.