Driver’s Diary: “Courage is not the absence of fear, but taking action, despite fear.”

Ellough after_collisionWhen reality bites… It bites hard “How fast does your kart go?” is a question that most of my friends, of no karting knowledge, usually ask me when the topic comes up. The truth is, I don’t really know. I can tell you how high it revs and how much faster over a lap it is compared to other forms of karting, but the actual speed? All I know is that when I’m on track, I’m constantly pushing to go faster. Constantly looking for the line of least resistance and for more grip. When I’m actually screaming around the track, the thought of speed doesn’t even cross my mind. That is until I need to stop. At a recent test session at Bayford Meadows I had just this experience.

When I raced Club 100 Karts around Buckmore Park and Rye House my method of racing or testing was always slightly different to others. Most seem to push themselves until they go beyond their limit and lose control of their kart. They then know where the limit is and try not to go over it again. I’m not a fan of this method. I prefer the application of ‘pushing’. This is where I constantly push myself each and every corner to go just that little bit faster. Every racer worth his salt will tell you “Slow in, fast out” but I quite like the thought of “Fast in, Faster out!”

However, this is easier said than done and I haven’t found many who agree with me on this sentiment. The problem with this method I have found is the following. I’m entering corners quicker than some. I’m constantly trying to go quicker at that corner lap after lap. Until that is, my kart or my ability can no longer sustain the pace!

Bayford Meadows is a peculiar track. Buckmore, Rye, I can seem to develop a rhythm and keep the pace up lap after lap. But Bayford is different. Apart from the slow infield section, it has a range of high speed corners at Turns 1, 2, 8 and 9. Turn 9 being my favourite. It’s a turn where my revs are high and I’m carrying a lot of speed approaching the corner. I always feel like I can take it flat out and perhaps in dry, sticky conditions, I can.

But on this cold, damp day, I’ve got no chance. The turn almost invites you – goads you – into entering it too quickly and then it tightens up sufficiently to require good skill, good grip or good luck! The sensible approach would be to either slightly lift off the accelerator and then plant it when I reach the apex or to gently brake on the approach and then take it flat out all the way through. But sensible Andy’s not here today. He’s still in the pits.

My tyres are warm and I’m feeling confident (perhaps over confident). I’ve decided that on this lap, I’m not going to lift. I’ve got a good exit out of Turn 8 and my right foot is hard down. My grip on the steering wheel tightens; I start breathing harder; I’m so focused on this one corner that the rest of the track doesn’t even exist. I’m going to turn in early. Turn in late and I’ll slide on the damp section of the track. Turn in too early and I’m sure to fly off.
My engine’s screaming as I approach… I turn in…
My kart grips and I fly around the right hander faster than I’ve done all day. The sensation was so phenomenal that I feel like I’ve been on a slingshot and that I have been thrown around the corner by the hand of God! My momentary burst of delight soon fades as I run wide on the kerb. I hit a bump that I didn’t know existed, my kart violently snaps left and I apply full opposite lock. My right foot is still planted and I’m now facing the tyre wall. A mixture of muck, grass and water fly up in front of my visor.

I’m going flat out and I’m out of control. I’m approximately 5 feet away from the tyre wall and I’m going to hit it hard. My legs are exposed. Momentary panic engulfs me as I realise the very real and present danger there is of me breaking my ankle or damaging one of my legs. The sign ‘Motorsport is Dangerous’ flashes before my eyes as if to punish me for all those occasions that I chuckled at the sight of it. Before the panic completely takes hold, my kart snaps right again and I’m quickly back on the racing line and approaching the final turn. I start breathing again and I make my way back to the pits to check for damage.
I’m approached by a driver who was following closely behind. He praises me for my skills behind the wheel. He is genuinely shocked and amazed by what he had just witnessed. His eyes are wide with disbelief and amazement and he wants to shake my hand. Male bravado takes hold, and I recollect the
story like a complete buffoon who tries to persuade his audience that yes, I am that good. But that’s not the truth. The truth is, I was completely out of control. How I managed to get it back on track and facing the correct way without losing much speed is a mystery to me.

Then the fear pays me another visit. The realisation that not only did I come close to doing some serious damage to my kart but also to myself is a poignant thought. For the first time, I’m slightly afraid of my kart. I’m worried by the consequences that could follow whilst in pursuit of my racing dream. Before donning my helmet to re-join the track, I’m reminded of a quote that serves me well – “Courage is not the absence of fear, but taking action, despite fear.”