Yes, as you might have noticed from the new title, I am technically no longer a beginner. After completing six race meetings, including an ARKS test, I’ve left my “novice” label behind and moved to green plates. Yet my promotion is tinged with sadness as this month Forest Edge Kart Club in Hampshire lost one of its members.
John Fleming was just 22 when he died suddenly during a trip to Germany. A tribute to John is elsewhere in this edition but I cannot help but remember his smiling face and glasses as I reflect on my first season in karting. We started as novices with our examination in February and this month he too was due to come off his black plates. It will inevitably be a sombre experience when the club gathers next time at the track.
When it comes to tracks, 95% of my karting experience has been focused on Forest Edge. The club’s been good to me, ever helpful in the Wright Technology Centre, and its location just north of Winchester makes it close to home too. But this month I have been somewhat unfaithful — with a trip down to Dorset.
Team Wright headed to Clay Pigeon for a much-needed practice session for me. My last race left a lot to be desired with a DNF in the final and poor performances in the previous heats. I failed to concentrate properly on practice the previous day and this had a direct effect on the Sunday. If there is one thing I have learned, it’s the knowledge that it is vital to use practice to maximum effect. Tracks vary from hour to hour, so set up has to compensate for that and not making the most of that time leaves you highly exposed to rival drivers. Thankfully, David Wright secured a win in his class to give some cheer to the team.
I wanted to learn as much as I could from Clay to improve my kart’s handling. As my car pulled up on the Friday, the first thing that hit me was how cold and windy it was. Hardly surprising perhaps on top of a hill, but this was still meant to be the height of the British summer.
It wasn’t long before I got chatting to a couple of guys at the track with what I can only describe as the most immaculate karts I’d ever seen. They looked like they’d just emerged from a Kensington showroom. There were no marks on the bodywork; there wasn’t even dust on the axle or the side of the frames. A quick glance at my battle-scarred CRG sitting on its trailer took me back eight months to when it too looked brand spanking new.
Time was marching on and soon the WTC was in position. But before practice could start, I needed a few repairs. The August round of racing saw my battery holder fall apart and a stub axle wasn’t looking too healthy either.
David and his Dad Colin set to work on the CRG and before long I was pounding the shorter circuit that is Clay. It feels a great track, with some tight sequences challenging a driver’s precision. My favourite is the long straight punctuated by the slight kink left which tests any karter’s mettle heading into Billies.
It was here that my problems surfaced with an extremely twitchy rear end under braking. The brakes had always been fierce – either full on or full off – but by now
something needed to be done. Colin took the kart out as this was the best way to fully understand what was wrong. Within a few laps he was already a second quicker than me. In the pits, he tweaked the brakes and adjusted the front and rear track.
After a few more laps and a few more tweaks the kart was feeling 1000% better, balanced into Billies and more predictable under braking. A heavy shower halted proceedings a bit before the final session of the day. Suddenly, there were big power issues. The Rotax 125FR wouldn’t rev beyond 11,500rpm. On another lap, the spluttered to a complete halt!
Were these the first signs of the engine needing a rebuild? I certainly hoped not as the kart needed to make the rest of the season within the life of this current build. The only thing for it was to remove the engine and give it a good looking over.
A couple of weeks later I got a call from Chief Engineer David. A fuel pump was totally blocked, starving the unit and the power valve had stuck because it was coated with carbon. The carb was also filthy inside. These problems had now been solved, to my great relief.
It’ll be back in action in the first week of September, when I’ll also be fully testing some very interesting data-gathering sensors from Aim Technologies. Cannot wait to properly analyse my speed, GPS position and lateral and linear G-forces heading into Winger’s Dip!