Driver’s Diary

The first race of the Easykart championship is only around the corner (having had the date moved forward… yikes!) and is happening on the weekend of the 5th and 6th March.
Time to get down to the serious business of Pre-season Testing. (ahh.. pre-season testing… buzz words like that make me feel like a proper racing driver!
Testing is not what I initially imagined it to be. In all honesty, I don’t think I even knew what I’d imagined it to be! After all, my experience is with hire karts. With hire karting, you wake up whenever suits you, take a leisurely drive to the circuit, pay your money and have 30 minutes on the track, and bingo! You’re a happy customer. Companies call this Testing, but in reality you’re just paying to get your jollys off. But in ‘proper’ karting… It’s different. You don’t just drive around aimlessly like you would normally do in hire karting. You need to have a plan. A structure. This is where owner-driver karting really comes into its own. It’s all about being professional.
A day of testing for me usually means an early start and a late finish. A typical day would mean a 0530 wake up call, 30 minutes to get myself together and then another 40 minutes loading up my vehicle with my tools and spares. For me this is particularly back breaking as I live on the top floor of a three-storey block with no lifts! Usually, I’m then ready to go by 0700. Then (depending what track you’re going to) anything from a 1 hour, to 3 hour drive just to get to the track. Once at the track it takes me 30 minutes to set up my equipment and another 40 minutes setting up my kart. Kart tracks are notoriously cold places to be, almost as if god wants to make you suffer for all the money you’re spending on your pride and joy! Always make sure you bring everything with you, in order to be ‘self-sufficient’. This means adequate warm clothing,
food and refreshments to keep you going throughout the day. Don’t live by the motto “It will be ok..” because If you fail to plan, you could very easily fall into the trap of ‘You’re cold, tired, hungry and your kart wont start.’ Not much fun and tempers can then rise and you almost forget why you’re doing this in the first place. Yes, you want to win and be the dominating champion of the world, but it’s about enjoying yourself and having fun.
When I first started testing (September 2010) and with no knowledge of the kart I was driving, I spent the first three days’ worth of testing on old rubber and simply making one adjustment at a time. I wasn’t too concerned about lap times at that point. I simply wanted to see how the kart behaved when I made these changes.
I was in for a shock. Karts (despite the general public’s perceptions) really are little racing machines. But once you’ve got to grips with them, they’re really not that complicated. On the Easykart you can adjust tyre pressures, carburettor jet settings, front and rear track widths, steering geometry, torsion bar and exhaust flex. Gearing is fixed to each circuit to promote equality. Other karts in different classes will have more scope for modifications with regard to types of parts you can use. But trust me, when you’ve got hands on and possibly been guided by experienced eyes, things will quickly fall into place.
Right, you’ve got the gear, got a few spares and consumables and now you’re at the track. Why have you come there? What’s your purpose? Is it a track that you will be racing at all year? Are you going to spend all day learning the circuit or making set up adjustments? As long as you have a plan, no day need be wasted. Do whatever you’re comfortable with. Karting is full of people who are willing to offer advice. But be careful whose advice you buy. There’s nothing wrong with listening, but judge for yourself if the advice you’ve been given is the direction you want to go.
Most importantly, realise and accept that you’re going to have good days and bad ones. Always reflect on what went well and badly during your test sessions and try to improve. There’s no point in beating yourself up and making yourself miserable. Otherwise you might start calculating how much it has cost you to get this far. You’ll feel depressed. Your morale will hit an all-time low. You’ll begin to doubt yourself and your intentions for racing in the first place. You’ll feel stupid. Ashamed even, that you’re trying to compete with the big boys
and yet you couldn’t even do the simplest of things.
If you know nothing about karts, you might want to consider hiring a professional to accompany you on your first outing or two. I was lucky enough to be guided and advised by some really fantastic people, who without their help, I would have stumbled at the first hurdle. There will
be many who will argue that this is wasted money, but ask yourself, when you’ve spent thousands already just to be in a position to go testing, is it really worth risking a catastrophic day when all that could be troubling you is a loose wire on your kart? When for anything from £100-£300 you could have a fully trained professional with you to ensure that you day runs smoothly. It’s a no brainer to me. You don’t have to look far either. Just look in the magazine you’re reading. There’s plenty of people who are willing to help. If you do decide to get some help, don’t be afraid to haggle either. Don’t push your luck too far, but I always find informing people that you will be paying in cash seems to help reduce costs!