It's safe to say that the Winter of 2013/14 will be known for its storms, floods and general wetness. We're lucky to live in a sheltered rural area well away from rivers and seaside, so have avoided the devastation.
Why then for a hobby and a job do I insist on going to kart tracks at former airfields, wet and wild at the best of times? And this winter they have been the wettest, wildest, most God-Forsaken spots in the world, little oases of misery totally surrounded by water. What a plonker!
It all started as early as the first Saturday in January with Connor and Ed splashing their way round Clay Pigeon on our recently-acquired Tonykart hire chassis. The puddles on the way were so deep we nearly lost the Peugeot and trailer!.
A week later it's dry and warm at Autosports International with the Racewear Roadshow (when of course it wasn't raining outside!), then a week later it's back out in a south Wales deluge at Llandow with Oli on his Rotax. Zack and Alex were driving the TKM TonyKart, and the airbox had more water in than most peoples' baths at the end of the day! On the Sunday it was merely "soggy" at Castle Combe, a great improvement on the monsoon of the day before. I was over-seeing some of our junior karting hotshots who were receiving one-to-one tuition from the team at Go-Faster Training, and it was a nice respite to be working with pull start 4- strokes for a change!
It was supposed to be Clay on the first Saturday of February but along came the next set back - the Peugeot suffered terminal breathing problems and was in no fit state to drag the trailer, so we had to cancel. A day catching up on office work then, and the Sunday saw the first round of the Combe Karting Junior Championship.Still damp, but great racing and a chance to to see how the training had improved the drivers.
Peugeot-less, a Mercedes Vito day van was purchased just in time for the Clay shakedown meeting. Alex was keen to test on the Saturday ("I haven't driven a kart since December!" he wailed) but the storm forecast as The Beast hit Dorset that day so I put my foot down. Many of our hardy friends did make the trip to the kart track and even stayed in caravans - chapeau, mes amis, chapeau, I stayed at home in the warm and deserved the "Wimp" comments! Sunday was windy but mainly dry, and after we caught Jinder's awning making its airborne way to Dorchester decided our own Gin Palace could stay in the back of the van.
The Shakedown was a great success for the Club, and we're looking forward to more of the same this season as Clay Pigeon Kart Club seems to have hit on a sweet formula. 25 TKM Extreme/Masters drivers heading out of the pit lane at once certainly sharpened up the reflexes of us pushers I can tell you! For once we drove home in the dry and in daylight - was spring on the way?
Don't be silly! One week later and we are back in at Clay in rain with the hire kart - ah well, it was nice while it lasted. George and Liam faced greasy conditions and coped really well in very low temperatures. At last the days are lengthening and we drove home in the daylight again, Alex frustrated that I popped the Tonykart back into the trailer rather than put him out on it :-/ I was cold, son, and hungry! Combe the next day was starting to get warm - NOW is spring on its way?
It certainly seemed like it the next weekend and where were we? In a cowshed in Warwickshire! The Race Retro exhibition is normally a pleasant start to the racing season, but this year it seemed like an imposition, stopping the serious business of racing...
Still the weather has turned hasn't it? At the beginning of March Zack, James and I hauled the Tonykart down to Forest Edge and Connor had his first taste of TKM on slicks - that's more like it! Steadily whittling his lap times down under the eagle eye of Go-Faster Training, Connor looks to be heading off to Club 100 when he finishes his time learning his craft with Attaq Motorsport.
Next day down to Llandow with Oli and his Rotax - guess what, it's raining! How can two consecutive days be so different? Today is more about learning than the last time, and I played race engineer for a while and found him a couple of seconds in set up alone. When the rain intensified from heavy to monsoon we called it a day, packed up the Gin Palace and came home (drenched). I had one last job to do, deliver a racewear parcel to a customer that runs a pub just up the road from the circuit. The atmosphere was warm, convivial and I really needed a pint.....but no, back into Attaq's crew bus for the drive otherwise I'd be there still.........
We're looking forward to the Clay race weekend in a couple of days' time. This will be Alex's first championship race as a Senior, and with 25 TKMs entered again it's going to be mega. He's testing on the Saturday and we're kipping at the track overnight so the crew bus will become a camper.
So after a lot of water under a lot of bridges since we last had a day van - I was about 10 years old and we had an old Thames Trader, called a day van because it took a day to get anywhere - but here we are again, camping at a race circuit. We've been through sprints, Thundersports and racing around Europe but it always comes back to this - motor sport is sitting around in the half-dark, frozen, drinking cheap beer while the tales get taller and we love it!
A lot of bridges. A lot of water. Most of it over me.