Whilton Mill May 13th 2007
Round 3 OEKC Summer Series
We had got through the first two rounds with perseverance in the face of multiple problems. This time we were determined to have a more trouble free race - and we expected the competition to have sorted out their problems as well.
On the face of it the weather forecast for really torrential rain didn't sound like an attractive prospect but on the other hand we knew were were pretty good in the wet - both reliably quick but also, due to our set up and preparation, reliably reliable.
However right up until the start of practice it remained dry and it was only with the first kart out on the track that it began to drizzle. We still had slicks on the kart and waited a few minutes longer before swapping to a set of intermediates as the rain increased.
Thomas went out first and having decided the kart was running OK, James took over testing and then qualifying. We did change to a new set of wets on the front only but only got a lap or so out of them before the session ended.
We were on sixth spot again for the second race in succession but so far had been significantly slower than the front runners - probably as much because of the old tyres we were using as anything else.
With a genuine 9l in the tank for a change, weights sorted out with some precision and a new set of wets, Thomas started the race in light rain.
Not much spray off the back wheels but slippery.
Momentarily we dropped a place but then moved back into sixth place again.
Thomas was going well and slipped into 5th place with Box Tech in front. He caught them OK, but then needed to find a good edge in these conditions in order to get past.
He finally found it at the start of the back straight, getting the jump on Box Tech and pulling past and away from them by the beginning of the Boot.
Over the next few laps he pulled out about 50yds on them but that was about as far away as he got for the rest of the session.
The real rain had still not materialised and indeed the track started to dry out. The pit crew got the slicks ready as Thomas got our fastest lap of the race at 51.61 on lap 19.
TT Sport had dropped into the pits with a spot of bother with water in the air box and this had promoted us to third by about lap 35 and Thomas was lapping consistently in the 52s
By now with his first session coming to an end the rain was increasing, getting rid of all thoughts of slicks for the rest of the race.
After 67 minutes James signalled Tom into the pits for more fuel - fuel consumption not an issue in these conditions - and we had a good pit stop in a time of 135.93s
It was now seriously raining and James was finding the kart difficult to get used to - nothing catastrophic but it just wasn't turning in with the precision he expected.
The pit stop had dropped us down to 6th again and crucially Box Tech had been quicker in their pit stop and had got ahead of us. Equally crucially they then lapped us and although James could more or less stay with them, they pulled out a lead in passing back markers and were away.
James was definitely driving cautiously in these increasingly wet conditions and wasn't about to risk everything by over-driving.
However by lap 100 or so we had got back up to 3rd lapping in 53s and 54s as the rain came down. Spray, combined with internal visor misting, as always made overtaking very hazardous, with visibility reduced almost nothing by the time you got to the top of the hill.
A few laps later we were up to second ahead of Red Max with Box Tech leading.
James now came up to the back of a crocodile of back markers with Appliance Maintenance directly in front. In these conditions there was no way he was going to get past safely but he did put his nose allongside at Inkermans and Appliance Maintenance very sportingly waved him through at the next opportunity.
A few laps later and one of the leading links in the crocodile snapped bringing off another couple of karts. James took the safe option and motored a short distance over the grass without any damage.
Thomas meanwhile seeing that James was stuck had decided to bring him in early, and got all ready to do so, only to see that the problem had cleared.
Nevertheless it was about time for a change so James was flagged in on lap 166.
A better pit stop this time at 127.5s - our best ever at Whilton but still slower than Box Tech who remained in the lead.
Thomas was very consistent in this stretch, clocking good laps in 54s dropping to 55 on occasions.
The engine was going well and not suffering at all from the wet conditions. It did have a tendency to not come back on after overrun on the Crook but Thomas was able to adapt his driving style to cope with this.
Apart from this and frightening himself a few time at the beginning of the Boot, Thomas stayed well on the track and consolidated our second place.
After another 75 laps it was time to come in again for the final change.
Red Max were doing a change at the same moment and just beat us onto the scales. A fast re-fuel and driver change saw us get out just ahead of them. Our pit stops have undoubtedly improved but that just encourages us to find better ways to do them. We shall be working on this over the next couple of months.
The rain was deluging down and the bottom of the hill at the Crook was now flooded which sent a wave of cold water all over you every time you went through it.
In addition the back straight was covered in water and James started to aquaplane here, so decided to back off until the rain eased off a bit.
He was staying ahead of Red Max and Box Tech (who were in fact a lap ahead, but James wasn't sure about this at the time). But he now came up against APC Racing allowing Box Tech to apply some pressure. Once again the conditions were such that it was very difficult to overtake but twice James got through at the entrance to Inkermans only for APC to insist on coming past again on the exit. On the third time James had got though again and blocked the way past on the inside at the exit, only for APC to crash into the back of him and knock him off.
We really hope it wasn't deliberate..............
James wanted to catch them up again over the final 15mins of the race and as a result spun twice which had no effect on our final position but let Red Max past on the track.
So at the chequered flag we were second and had increased our lead in the Championship by a couple of points. We were pretty evenly matched with Box Tech for speed, although they did overall have the edge and they were quicker in the pits, so we shall have to do something about both those things.
Thomas is away in France for the next round, so we shall be racing again in July with June being our dropped round. So we haven't got any margin for error....
R e d S t r i p e R a c i n g
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