Buckmore Park May 8th 2005
Round 5 Stiddard Trackside GP Premier Series
At last after four months off we were back racing again with a new Gillard chassis and a new Rotax Max with a con rod that wasn't made out of recycled tin from Eastern Europe.
On the negative side both Thomas and James were medically well below par, both suffering from recurring heavy colds but we hoped the adrenalin would get them through the day.
It was good to see many of the old teams from the Promax Series once again and a lot of new ones - and all of them looking unnervingly fast.
Thomas went out first on a dry track in largely sunny but chilly conditions and set a few laps to make sure both he and the kart were OK. He had moved the seat into a more upright position since our test day at Whilton and this was the first chance he had had to try it.
James then took over to try some different settings and Simon Blease turned up to manage the pit operations for us - very good to have him along again.
The kart had too little understeer - or too much oversteer - whichever way you want to look at it, so we took the front end right in and then in successive sessions played with the tyre pressures.
It all paid off and on the last lap, before the chequered flag marked the end of qualifying, James got a 42.08sec lap which was good enough for 13th on the grid of 21 karts - perfectly respectable, if not exactly world shattering.
We weren't sure what sort of fuel consumption the Rotax would do but we guessed we would be pushing our luck if we banked on an hour's running. So we were planning to play safe and re-fuel three times at 45 min intervals and then have a drive through half way through the final session.
James started the race and made up a couple of places in the first lap but then Zero Racing came alongside on the outside of the second hairpin, got squeezed by another team on his right and got entangled with our kart.
James didn't have to stop but it look a few seconds to get clear again. Unfortunately Zero got a punctured front tyre from the experience.
By this time the main pack had disappeared into the distance and we were back in 17th place with Poland Racing directly in front. James faffed around for a few laps but finally got past and pulled away.
He was now running in a vacuum which didn't provide much in the way of incentives but got the fastest lap of our race on lap 29 at 41.646
The engine was running well and the kart was OK but still with too much oversteer and James was unable to adapt his driving style enough to feel really happy about it. But at the end of his drive we were up to 10th.
At 45 minutes on the dot Simon brought him in for a decently quick fuel stop and driver change - James being only momentarily nonplussed when he drove into the pits and passed Thomas running in the opposite direction. But by the time the kart was re-fuelled Thomas was back again and off without delay.
From the pit wall it looked as if Tom had got the measure of the chassis, looking very planted and controlled with no wild oversteering corrections being necessary.
He was also circulating pretty quickly getting down to 41.94secs on lap 104 but generally being very consistent in the low 42s. By this time he had pulled back up to 10th again from 13th at the break.
In general he was finding, as James had, that some of the teams were less skilled or punctilious about avoiding contact than we had come to expect in the BEKC and Promax series. But although the side pods were amassing a significant collection of skid marks, no real damage was done. So perhaps they were just being oversensitive after their sabbatical....
If we were going to have rain, we knew it would be in the second half of the race and there were now a number of clouds in the area which could have dumped on us. Indeed as we approached the end of Thomas's drive we felt the odd spot.
But at the 45 minute mark it wasn't looking too bad and we decided not to keep him out there any longer.
Again a good changeover to James with the outlap now down to 116secs from the previous 120secs.
Just before the stop we had reached 8th and had dropped only one place in the changeover to 9th which we held until the next change.
He was circulating reasonably well in the mid 42s but finding the kart even more difficult to cope with. In particular it was now hopping badly, especially on the right hand corners and with the bumps on the rest of the circuit James was finding it really outrageously uncomfortable. This was reflected in his lap times which rose steadily into the 43s and 44s towards the end of his session and although there were spots of rain from time to time there was never enough to provide a good excuse for the longer times.
Excitement was provided by Zero who came sweeping past at the end of the main straight only to spin off in cloud of dust and a shower of sparks as his right front wheel filed for divorce from the hub. Luckily there's a fair bit of run off space there and he came to no harm, leaving enough space for James to get back through on the inside.
The race then went onto full course yellow as Zero's kart was rescued and five minutes or so later with the race still in go-slow mode, James pitted for the final changeover to Thomas. This was a slow changeover in part due to James having to queue up behind the trolleyed kart of Zero Racing which was blocking the pit entrance at precisely the wrong moment.
Tom was now out and getting almost immediately into the 42s until after only five laps the full yellows were again shown. With quick thinking Thomas dived into the pits and was out again having completed our 4th statutory stop before the pit crew had noticed what was going on.
Thomas joined the end of the snake and when the race re-started managed to catch and overtake Red Max Racing.
We were now in 6th but as luck would have it the fastest kart on the circuit was in 7th and catching us very quickly indeed.
After a few laps 2Old2B Racing caught and passed us and we were in a fairly safe 7th spot, with Jason in the SRP kart some distance behind having had all sorts of problems. Behind him was Titan who seemed to have a dodgy engine. They could start it in the pits but as soon as it got into the middle of the pits bend the engine would die on them. Eventually after this had happened about three times they must have done something radical and they got out on the track again.
So at the end we were still 7th - an excellent result we were very pleased with. Especially as we are confident that we can get the kart handling better with a little more set up time.
R e d S t r i p e R a c i n g
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