Clay Pigeon; Round 4 MSA BEKC May 17th 2003
Finishing position: 7th
James arrived on the Friday at about 10:15 rapidly followed by Richard towing the trailer. Thomas was away visiting vampires in Whitby so we were to do this race with just the two of us.
The usual cabal of SRP, Jeff Johnson, GPR, Extreme and Neil Dodson were encamped in a semi fortified huddle against the wind and rain all along the pit wall, so we setup behind them in the open wilds of the car park.
It was wet, cold and windy with cloud intermittently sweeping across the track, but there was nothing to do but get on with it, so we set up leaving as much as possible inside the trailer in order to keep it dry.
We went out on the wets we had used at Lydd and found staying on the newly re-surfaced track pretty difficult. All the corners had a very smooth version of tarmac which offered no grip in the wet but which dried off very quickly as soon as it stopped raining. Everywhere else was a much coarser surface which gave much more grip but then took longer to dry off.
We found the quickest route was to drive round the inside of most of the corners except at the exit onto the main straight where the pit entrance lane on the outside offered most grip.
But we weren't having a lot of success in getting the setup right, trying some fairly extreme settings in order to set some parameters. In the middle of that Richard went off at the top bend, more or less held it together but then lost it as he tried to get off the grass. The back bumper caught on something bending it back by sixty degrees, the sprocket caught on something else - so much for the sprocket guard - and the sprocket carrier bent in sympathy.
Having sorted out that lot we tried increasing tyre pressures considerably, and that started to give us some predictable grip. But we were still unhappy, and asked Neil Dodson to drive it for us and give us some advice. He said he wasn't going to come anywhere near it unless we put on new wets so we rather reluctantly did so and then set the kart back to a more or less standard wet setup. It went much better and Neil did some laps, pronounced the chassis fine and gave us some further set up help, although at times now the cloud cover was so thick that it was difficult to see where one was going.
In the last hour it stopped raining and we could see how quickly the track dried. It was pretty obvious that with even the smallest amount of rain the track would be undriveable on slicks but that once it had stopped raining the wets wouldn't last long.
On Saturday we arrived from an overnight stop in Weymouth and set up directly opposite the pit entrance - a much better place to be.
At drivers' briefing Barry Prosser appeared dressed for a round the world trip in a small boat in a hurricane and pronounced that the weather forecast was for a dry day.
It had in fact stopped raining but the track was very wet and we took a fairly relaxed view of practice, but eventually went out on old intermediates for a few laps until the track became dry enough for slicks. We grabbed at the opportunity to run in a new set and having done that sent James out on old slicks again. He was enjoying himself a lot and was just perfecting a nice drift out of the top bend onto the straight when he just drifted a fraction too far. An inch onto the grass and it was all over, the front left wheel caught on the barrier and it was goodbye to another track rod end, the stub axle and the steering column.
Thinly disguised cheering was heard from the Misfit pits.
SRP lent us a spare steering column and we had spares of the rest but by the time we got it all back together again it was raining again and it was back to the wets.
Richard went to qualify on a track that was now drying again after the downpour and did very well to get us 8th on the grid.
The whole grid now changed to slicks for the start of the race but it was obvious that we hadn't got a good setup for the dry. Although there wasn't anything dramatically wrong with the kart, it just wasn't very fast and we dropped back to 11th.
One good thing was that all the work Thomas had done on the engine had paid off because that at least was running without any problems at all.
On lap 38 Richard got our fastest lap of the race at 40.227
8 laps later and it had begun to rain and the pit crews were emulating the proverbial headless chickens trying to decide if and when to bring their drivers in. In fact the rain stopped again just before anyone did, but it was very slippery and lap times were up by over 10 seconds for those who actually stayed on the track.
As little as four laps later the track was dry again, but Pit Management took the opportunity to have a good look at the approaching weather and decided that if it did start to rain again it was going to do it for real.
Consequently at the next drop of rain we had, the board went out immediately bringing Richard through the fuel bay without any hold up and having a good change to full wets with James taking over the driving.
It now became steadily wetter until it was very, very wet, indeed, with James' lap times hitting a best of 48.678 at the beginning but dropping off to the 50s as the track became more flooded.
The engine was doing well in the wet, spending one lap with a fit of coughing but apart from that running smoothly and as fast as one wanted in these conditions.
And the kart was handling well, enabling him to keep up with or overtake much of the opposition. ZLR were certainly faster but Titan having gone off like a rocket at the start in the dry were struggling a bit with the wet set up.
After 52 minutes the board went out to bring him in and after negotiating a rather over enthusiastic line to the pit lane which took him over the grass, James came in for a fast change over to Richard.
After the pit change we were lying 8th and then briefly up to 6th before the flurry of pit stops finished and we were back to 8th again.
Richard now did another 52 minutes with the rain beginning to ease off towards the end of his drive, but with more cloud coming in making visibility a real problem.
He was doing well with some fast laps in the 49s and managing to stay largely on the track.
The change to James was again clean and he all but disappeared into the encroaching cloud.
Three laps of that and Barry Prosser reckoned enough was enough and after a lap and half of running under full yellows during which Moss took the opportunity to overtake both Misfit and James who was politely queuing up behind, suspended the race for half an hour.
At this point we re-calculated our strategy, planning to split the remaining time into two drives of 45 minutes each with Richard stopping twice in his session to make up our fuel stops. Unfortunately we had forgotten that Richard had effectively already done one more stint than James so that by the end of the race he had born the brunt of the driving.
But now with James driving on wets on a rapidly drying track the lap times were coming down - or they were until he spun while trying to overtake Misfit.
Having got going again he caught and overtook them but after 38 minutes the track was getting dry enough for slicks and Richard brought him in for another good tyre and driver change.
The sun came out. But the possibility of another shower was always present. Although it wouldn't have been worth changing tyres again it would have been sensible to use any wet weather time for re-fuelling so James delayed the final stop for as long as possible.
Richard was doing a great job driving defensively and aggressively as appropriate, against all karts as he wasn't sure who he was competing with for finishing positions
Meanwhile Cobra were a few laps down but it wasn't clear how many stops they had done. We just managed to keep ahead of them with one more stop still scheduled, and then they stopped again and we were safe in 7th.
It had been a good weekend and we were happy with the way we had managed with only two people, but at the same time we were looking forward to having the whole team together for the next round at Llandow.
Full results and other reports will be available here when they are posted.
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