Whilton Mill September 9th 2007
Round 7 OEKC Summer Series
Once again we had convened in Cambridge the day before and had spent time putting the finishing touches to the kart and working on the re-fuelling system. Some very useful things learnt there and together with the work that Thomas had already put into the engine, exhaust and brakes in particular, we were ready and confident on the day. The brake had been back to Dartford Karting once again and we hoped that this time it really had been sorted.
We were racing on the new track at Whilton Mill for the first time, so practice had been extended to allow teams - like us - who hadn't managed to get to the test day, to become familiar with the circuit.
The weather was grey and misty but it looked as if it could well turn hot later in the morning.
Practice went well for both drivers, apart from a problem with misting visors, with Thomas going out first and then James taking over for the second half and trying out some minor variations in set up as usual.
Qualifying ended with James getting us into the top half of the grid in 8th place with a time of 49.73s.
Thomas cruised out of the pits to start the warming up lap, but at the end of the lap was straight back into the pits - he had forgotten his neck brace. Fortunately the grid was doing the full two lap warm up so he had time to get out again only half a lap behind with a fair chance of reducing that by the start line. However, forgetting that warming up laps counted, he decided to wait in the pits until they came round again and the race started, at which point he was at the back of the field and a lap down on everybody else.
From last there's only one way to go so Thomas started, not so very gradually, to move up the field.
After half an hour we were up to 11th and Thomas was engaged in a fight with with the Billand of Lightwood Karting. He had caught up with them fairly easily but now on their tail, he couldn't find a way past. He tried several times on the back straight but couldn't get far enough past before the left hander and had to back off. Eventually Lightwood made a small mistake and he was past and moving away.
As luck would have it the next kart he came up against was another Billand - Saxon II this time - and once again they proved very difficult to pass.
But once past those two teams Tom's drive through the other competitors speeded up. On lap 49 he got his best lap of the race at 49.71s, just shading James' qualifying time and as the race moved into the second hour, he had achieved an impossible seeming 3rd place after the disastrous start.
The kart was going well although he was feeling too much vibration from somewhere, and was afraid we had destroyed the front tyres again.
However a quick inspection at the fuel stop after after 67 minutes driving showed that the tyres were OK.
Anyway, James didn't notice anything wrong at this stage and settled down to try to regain the places we had now lost in the pit stop - we were back down to 9th.
Times were stuck in the worthy but dull high 50s for a time, but on his 10th lap he managed to dip into the 49s and once again we were on the move upwards.
There was no great drama, with the chassis and engine working very well and James managed not to hit anybody else and to stay mainly on the track and out of harms way.
The only contact came when an overenthusiastic Box Tech hit the rear of the kart at right hander at the start of the new section. Luckily James held it together as the kart went onto the grass and he was able to re-join the circuit without damage or loss of much time.
By lap 135 we were back up into 3rd with Red Max several laps in front, leading TT Sport ahead of us. Then TT pitted and we were in 2nd.
A few laps later on lap 144 James got our best lap of the race at 49.65.
After 69 minutes, Thomas called in James for more fuel and driver change. This was our quickest stop, but after all our practising the day before, the other stops were also pretty good and trouble free.
We retained our second place through the stop but TT Sport blasted past as Thomas got up to speed demoting us to third again.
But Thomas was going well, only being troubled by the engine intermittently cutting at Crook - the right hander at the bottom of the hill - and the increasing vibration.
By lap 200 we were up in 2nd again, but without any prospect of catching Red Max in 1st who were having a good race - leading for most of the time - three or four laps in front.
TT had pitted with about 90 minutes to go, so when Thomas came in for the final change it seemed almost certain the TT would have to stop once more for fuel.
And so it proved. Our pit stop gave 2nd back to TT and their final stop returned the favour.
James knew that all he had to do was keep going at a reasonable speed to keep second and that there was no point in caning the engine to close the gap on Red Max - they were just too far ahead.
And anyway the kart was now getting really quite unpleasant to drive. There was so much vibration that it was difficult to read the clock on the steering wheel. James had no idea what was causing it but it was no time to go after the lap record....just keep going
Then two things happened: first Red Max tried an overtaking manoeuvre on a Billand which didn't quite come off as they went round the Boot, and this damaged their front wheel. Luckily they were right at the pit entrance and with the use of our tools did a very speedy wheel change to get the kart out just behind us in second place on the track.
James was oblivious to all this and wasn't that bothered when Red Max squeezed past - he thought they were still laps ahead, rather than re-taking the lead. And anyway he had his hands full as a Billand had dropped a chain in the Boot which had gone through an oil feed pipe, depositing a line of oil all over the racing line at the approach and exit of the Pits bend. Predictably by the time James got there it wasn't being signalled, so off he went, up onto the bank at the exit of the corner. But he managed to keep going in a self created cloud of wood chip and rubbish, and no harm seemed to have been done to the kart.
Lap times were now well down as he had to stay off the racing line to get through the corner and although the pit crew was going crazy they had no way of telling James to get a move on, who was anyway finding the vibration a bit of a pain.
So we got second, just 4.6 seconds behind Red Max at the end. Its a bit doubtful if it would have made any difference had James known the true position, but on the other hand it would have been interesting to find out. So we think we might introduce a basic signalling system to use if the same thing happens again.
Here are the results and overall we were very pleased to have done as well as we did. In the Championship we have consolidated 3rd place and can still dream of the possibility of getting 2nd or even 1st - Red Max and Box Tech are respectively eight and twelve points ahead.
And the brake was still working perfectly at the end of the race! Thank you Dartford Karting...The vibration was caused by a large bulge in the sidewall of one of the front tyres, which really can't have done us many favours in the handling department.
R e d S t r i p e R a c i n g
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