Whilton Mill October 14th 2007
Round 8 OEKC Summer Series
We came to this round thinking we had a pretty secure grip on 3rd place in the Championship but also a mainly theoretical chance of getting 2nd or even 1st. But for that we had to win and Box Tech and Red Max would have to have a disastrous race.
We know how easy it is for everything to go pear shaped in motor racing and whatever happened in the Championship, we wanted to end the season on a high.
So we drafted in Edward Robinson to manage the pits for us and paid particular attention to sorting out not only the kart - which is always immaculately prepared anyway - but also to how we were going to run the race. Edward and Thomas had been practising pit stops and re-fuelling on Saturday so we hoped to save some time there. The first glitch here, however, was that Andrew Hornsey - standing in for Chris York - made it quite clear he was tightening up on the re-fuelling rules - no changes to weights allowed. So we had to do a fast re-hash of our pit stops and get in some tests of the changeover procedure.
James was to start the race - so that we would only have to put the weights on once during the race - and therefore went out first for a few laps to see if he could remember the new circuit.
The track was dry and the temperature pretty reasonable for the time of year and the kart seemed to be going fine - perhaps a little too much understeer. But when Thomas tried putting in the front bar, although it felt faster, it wasn't. So that came out again.
Thomas qualified us 6th on the grid and for a time it looked as if that was where we were going to remain as the kart in front was still being repaired on the dummy grid and then when he finally moved off, our engine took a time to start. But James was well in position by the time the race started.
James optimistically made up a place to 5th on the first lap but lost it again on the following one and from then on found the leaders slipping away from him.
In fact he was coming under pressure from the karts behind him exemplified by Box Tech coming through from a low grid position and giving him a nudge at Ashby - the new hairpin at the bottom of the hill - which put him onto the grass.
It took him a bit of time to get the muck off his tyres and recover his momentum by which time Box Tech were well away. And anyway, he had other problems, with Le Maverick now challenging for position and the Usual Suspects suddenly coming past at speed.
Meanwhile in the pits the admin were getting worried about the kart's performance and wondering what was going on. James himself was fairly untroubled. His times were more or less what he expected, the kart felt OK and he reckoned he just needed to keep going at that pace for the race to start to come back to him.
That's not to say that he wasn't going as fast as he could. The Usual Suspects' overtaking manoeuvre had been opportunistic and James could keep up with them fairly easily but he couldn't find a way safely past, given that he reckoned they wouldn't give up the place easily. Eventually James thought he had the legs on them at Inkermans, but they chopped across him, causing a bit of contact but not seriously slowing either kart.
But finally he was rewarded for his patience when they went off at the bottom of the hill and a few laps later on lap 38 James got the best lap of the race for us when he did a lap of 49.54s.
Having been down in 9th we now started to move back up the leader board so that by lap 70 or so we were back up to our starting position.
We were getting close to the changeover time at just over the hour and several karts seemed to have run out of fuel - at one point James thought he must have missed a red flag as he overtook two or three karts creeping round the track.
Edward called him in after 79 laps just as we hit 3rd place and just as Box Tech began pushing their fuel-less kart into the pit lane. James was thinking about risking another lap when he saw he could squeeze in front by taking to grass. Managing to avoid a Shanghai Lewis Hamilton moment he got in front of Box Tech by the skin on his teeth and had a clear run to the weighbridge.
The changeover was superb - a very quick 115s and a record time for us at Whilton.
Thomas was going well and with other teams' troubles we were very soon up to 2nd place.
But it almost went badly wrong nine laps later as another kart spun in front of him and then began to roll to the outside of the track. Thomas had the choice of hitting him or taking to the grass and spinning. The latter option was a good choice and he only lost about five seconds.
Half a dozen laps later he was down in the 49s and consolidating our position behind KKC.
Then half way through the session KKC hit problems and we were in 1st!
Thomas continued on with consistent fast laps getting his fastest lap of 49.64s at the end of his session.
Once again the pit stop was very good - just a couple of seconds longer than the first one, as we had to put the weights back on again.
We had managed to retain the 1st position through the pit stop and still had a reasonable margin over the competition, but James was keen not to repeat the mistake of the last race when we lost 1st in the dying embers of the race. So he was driving flat out, trying to increase the margin of our lead.
He was doing reasonably well when KKC came past - not for position, but it seemed to James like an unwarranted intrusion and for most of the rest of the session he tried to get back past them
They got away in traffic but then both they and James got stuck behind the TKM when most of the course seemed to be under yellow flags. This resulted in a 55s lap but soon after the flags cleared KKC went off course and James was past and away again.
After 66 minutes James was flagged in by Edward for another quick change in 117s - a fumble with the seat buckles preventing us from beating the previous record.
We were now four laps ahead but again Thomas wasn't resting on his laurels and set about extending our lead.
As far as management could see from the pit wall he was having a fairly untroubled, quick drive, but in fact, about half way through the session Thomas found the brake pedal hitting the front bumper. Either the brake fluid had failed or he had lost all the brake pads.
He couldn't tell which, so he used the brakes as little as possible from there on. It didn't seem to harm his lap times too much and he continued at a very good pace.
At the end we were were seven and a half laps in front - a stunning margin!
There was one more final glitch when the scruitineer found that we had mistakenly put one of our old engine numbers down on the scrutineering card.
This was obviously a serious breach of regulations and it was only by leaning really heavily on his contacts at the MoD and the CIA that Edward managed to get the SWAT Team from the SAS stood down and the F-16s recalled to RAF Brize Norton. However even after the threat of thermo nuclear melt down was reduced to a code orange the scruitineer decided to call a meeting of the other teams to see if we should be disqualified. Fortunately (seriously, thank you very much, chaps) they decided that we shouldn't so we kept our 1st place.
Results are here and the final championship positions here. Although we had done everything we could, both Red Max and Box Tech had done enough to stay in front of us in the Championship so we retained a good 3rd overall but managed to squeeze into 2nd in front of Red Max for the Rotax Championship.
R e d S t r i p e R a c i n g
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