Monday, 9 December 2013

More of a Turkey Amble than Trot...

To be fair, I was never going to set the world alight with my performance on a kart that Alex discarded as "too small" 18 months ago! But I'll admit the annual Clay Pigeon Kart Club Turkey Trot race meeting was more of an amble thanks to my ineptitude. I'm sure Attaq Motorsport's #1 driver would have been quicker - and if he hadn't a swift boot up the backside would have been delivered!

Despite the dire predictions of the Daily Express we set off down to Clay on a damp but not-too-cold Saturday and set up for the weekend in the new Attaq Motorsport Gin Palace - a 6m x 3m pro-quality awning that keeps us snug, warm and dry. It will also do sterling service as racewear.co.uk's "Racewear Towers" away from home.

Alex tested all day on the Saturday and I managed to squeeze out for one session on slicks on a drying track. You know what? I wasn't slowest and superstar had to fight to get by me and couldn't pull away - at least until I tried "a demon new line through the kink". Ah, that'll be why no-one else uses it then...so we did a little rain dance and retired home to beers, pizza and bed.

Race Day. Practice. Cold and damp and half the grid out on slicks, including me. I managed to drop it at the hairpin because I had been laughing too much at Liam spinning in front of me and missed my braking point. Pillock. Superstar wasn't very happy as it was the furthest point from the pit lane to run with the trolley....

For those not versed in the art of TKM racing, a little education. Clutches are not a feature of karting in its purest form and drivers either have to run with the kart, jump in and juggle the throttle while it fires (unlikely given my bulk and height) or enlist the help of strong able bodied pushers. I had Alex, who recruited our colleague Josh from Combe Karting, and the pair of them barely added up to my body weight. Thanks guys, you did a great job! Once the engine is firing, you really, really don't want to spin because the engine stalls and if you can't restart on your own you're finished. It was my mistake with the direct drive that caused my practice spin - I braked hard on the wet surface, stalled the engine, didn't come off the brakes soon enough to re-start it and whoops! round we went.

So, Race 1. All but one driver changed to wets - Sally stayed on slicks and was on pole! It would have been an inspired choice had the race started just two or three minutes later. As we drove out for my first TKM start I cursed outwardly: the bottom end of the circuit had a proper dry line. This was going to be expensive on wets :-( Race started and we headed off round Billy's, through the chicane, down the left hand side of the straight to the (wet) Hairpin - where I'm overtaken by a Tonykart going faster backwards than I was forwards. Massive avoidance, he hits me side on and I j-u-s-t managed to keep the engine running or my first race would have been over before it even started. Head down, set off after the others. I caught & passed Steve after a few laps, and despite a few excursions Sally suddenly started making progress, absolutely flying along on her slicks on what was a drying track. If only it hadn't been so wet for the first couple of laps she'd really have been in the mix.

Race 2 was dreadful. We found a puncture on my alloy-wheel mounted slicks and had to fit Alex's half-mag Alonso wheels. The kart was dreadful. It didn't generate any heat, the tyres wouldn't grip and it was all I could do to get it to the finish a whole lap down on everyone else. Back in the Gin Palace we had a lightbulb moment: the Alonso rims had a different offset and the geometry had been totally wrong! No wonder it was so bad. A bit of a guesstimate re-set and it's time for the Final, a mammoth 12 minutes plus one lap.

12 minutes doesn't sound much to car racers, but proper karts on sticky tyres are just so physical that it was going to be hard work. Dicing hard into the first corner, I made up a couple of places and came out of the Chicane to see Derek facing towards us. In fact I could see the whites of his eyes as we all scattered every which way to avoid him. I flicked left and just snagged Steve's rear bumper. It ripped my nose cone off from the mountings and from then onwards it was going to be a struggle - if they let me continue. Sure enough, the black and orange flag was shown and I retired to the pits, my TKM debut over.

The kart still hadn't been right in those few laps so we learned that the Venom doesn't like half mags - and that'll be why the Alonso was so rubbish on the allys first time we ran it. So a good lesson, but it was a bit deflating.On the plus side we had no mechanical problems apart from the set-up error but I don't feel I did myself justice. The wrong side of 50, the wrong side of the weight limit, I'm never going to be quick but I really wanted to have been a bit better. Will I do it again? I don't know - if I do I'll need a clutched engine so I don't need to keep finding "willing" pushers :-) Oh and there's a new "Heavies" class just to entice me, although I still need to lose 10kg.

Now both karts have to be rebuilt over the Christmas break, our first Step up to 2-Stroke day is on 4th January at Clay followed by 18th January at Llandow. Anyone fancy a go?