So, Sunday was my first return to karting for almost 3 months, at my best track in a championship where I feel I should now be getting podiums and might even be competitive for the championship, or so I thought. While great fun overall during the day and excellent pace, events did not go my way in the slightest and I ended up with an exclusion and a 13th, which if the season improves how I hope, should be dropped the end of the year.
I had an hour test session in the early morning, starting at 10am. Given the kart changes (different, more slippery tyres) and having not raced in 3 months, this seemed like a wise idea. After a few laps timidly finding what the grip levels were, I picked things up and started gaining confidence on the new tyres, to the point where the lack of grip was actually helping me smoothly slide around corners. A small shower in the middle of the session caused some worries, but it quickly dried up again and by the end of the session, I had set a 46.300. This was enough for 2nd in the session, a third of a second ahead of anyone else. 1st was a further .16 seconds faster, but I later found out that this was the local driver in the elite class (although rocking 8kg of weight more than me).
The event proper starter at 2pm, which gave me a bit of a wait. I tried to have a bit of a nap and watched some elite races, basically just milled around a bit. I was in the first session of qualifying and it felt pretty good on track. I got a smooth clean lap in shortly before the end, but had my final lap (which had felt similarly good) stuffed a bit by reaching a backmarker. My earlier lap was a 47.003, a full second slower than the test session. If anything, conditions should’ve been better than before, so this was a pretty big disappointment. It was enough for 9th on the grid (pole was a 46.727, in the region of the next fastest people from the earlier testing).
Starting midfield has always been a struggle for me. What tends to happen is I back of so as not to run into the guys in front, but then it gives the people behind excuse to shove me out wide and let tons of people through. The first start wasn’t too bad, only a couple of places, but it was false started after an incident at hairpin two. The second start was a lot worse for me. pushed wide into the first turn and dropping me to 16th place by halfway around the lap. I had the pace (I went on to set the second best lap of the race), so I worked on getting the places back. I got as far as making a move on 13th when the next guy up ahead made a cutback I wasn’t expecting. I caught his rear corner and spun him out, which is an immediate exclusion. Given the situation and having never gotten any sort of penalty for contact before, this seems a little extreme, but it’s just the way it goes sometimes. The incident slowed me a little and I lost a couple of places again, although it didn’t matter now. I finished 13th on the track, but reckon I probably could’ve just about made it back to 9th without the incident.
Mine was actually the only penalty given that race, which actually I find shocking given how bad some of the driving standards were in general. Hopefully it will clean up a bit by the next race (probably a bit rich coming from me now though…)
Under the new rules, qualifying positions for the main final are finishing positions from the previous race (excluding penalties), so I was to start at the back in 24th. Under last years rules, which were down to fastest laps in the previous race, I would’ve been 2nd and with any luck could’ve had a bit of return to form, but the situation was very different now.
In this situation, 12 minutes isn’t long enough. I was consistently working out where people were weak and picking them off one by one, but it would typically take a lap or two each person. In the little clean air I got, my pace was rapid. On a now cooling, late afternoon track, I set the fastest lap of 46.567, a third of a second faster than the next best. By the end of the race, I reached 15th on track, but a couple of people had fallen foul of similar misdeamenors as mine, putting me up to 13th.
The next round at Rye House is another good track for me, so I’m looking forward to a good result, but I’ve got a lot of work to do now, especially as I’ve lost one of rounds at my best track to some pretty poor results.