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Driver’s Diary: Owner-driver karting

Photo May 13, 8 49 34 AMYou may recollect that in my first ever column, I said that I’d tell you all about the dreams and harsh realities that owner-driver karting brings.

Well, here’s a reality check. ‘If you can’t afford to pay, then you won’t be able to play’. It’s as simple as that. Motorsport takes no prisoners and karting is no exception. Although it can be the best thing that’s ever happened to you, it can also be the worst when you can no longer afford to compete. It’s somewhat frightening. A change of circumstances has resulted in Simon Mace withdrawing from the Easykart championship. The man who I bought my first ever kart from, a fierce competitor and a friend who was currently 4th in the Championship is gone from the grid. As quick as that. He didn’t see it coming and neither did any of us. I along with the rest of his team mates and fellow competitors in the Easykart community wish him well and hope to see him back on the grid as soon as possible.

Round 2 is being contested over the weekend of 30th April to 1st May. I arrive at the venue and I’m feeling a little down. The withdraw of Simon Mace has come as a bit of a shock to me and it’s definitely reinforced my appreciation for the karting that I find myself able to do. I’ve a heavy heart when I make my way to the track on Saturday for practice, but I’ve also got a heavy right foot too. Time to get on with testing.

Testing was one of those days where I had to remind myself that I ‘knew’ that there would be days like this. My fastest time was 1.4s slower than Pittingale. My average time was a good 2s slower than him. The kart felt horrible. The back end was constantly snapping out as well as unpredictable understeer. No momentum, no speed, equals poor pace. Nothing I did with regard to my driving style or set up helped. The seat was moved backwards, ride height lowered, track adjustments made but no joy. I tried braking earlier, later, steering smother, taking a wider or tighter line. Nothing helped. All I did was become extremely frustrated. Suddenly this fun sport of karting didn’t seem much like fun.

After a staring competition with my kart (which my kart won) team chief Carson measured my frame to find that it was bent.

After a staring competition with my kart (which my kart won) team chief Carson measured my frame to find that it was bent. Not good. You might think that to straighten a kart will require an extremely expensive piece of machinery which will slowly and meticulously straighten your frame back into its original position. Not quite. A spare wheel was placed under my kart thus lifting the front of the kart in the air. Four burly men (and Ryan) were placed onto the back bumper to stop the kart from catapulting into space. I then got to watch the team Chief Jump up and down on my kart like he thought he was on a trampoline! This process was repeated until the kart was deemed straight. Top tip, if you ever need your frame straightened. Don’t watch. It’s like watching a loved one having teeth removed. Not nice, but necessary!

Race day loomed and if I’m being honest, I wasn’t really looking forward to it. When you’re struggling to keep up with everyone let alone race them, your morale will take an all-time blow. Since owning my kart, I have never experienced the handling issues that it was delivering this weekend. The only confidence boost I had was that, thanks to ‘Sir’ Tim Hill & Glen Beard, I completed five laps in a test session in their karts and duly posted a time that was easily half a second quicker than I could do in my kart. I’ve no doubt that I could have gone faster if given the chance.

With record breaking entries, 38 heavyweight drivers were signed up ready to do battle out on track. This would mean yet another A and B Final. This is a true testament of the every growing popularity of Easykart. In practice I completed only two laps to check that my carburettor settings were correct. Good pick up out of slow corners and good top end speed. I was taking bends as slow as I dared so not to take too much life out of my brand new set of slicks. I then measured the fuel to the milometer to ensure that I wasn’t carrying any excess weight that I didn’t have to. Time for Qualifying. I drove my heart out. I really did. On lap 4 I posted a time of 45.5s which was good enough to earn me last place into the A. The difference between me making the A and dropping to the B was just 0.150s.

With no pace and consistently posting some of the slowest times, I had but one option. Attack at the start, pick off as many places as I could while everyone squabbled amongst themselves and then defend like my life depended on it for the remainder of the race. Not much fun but I needed to try and salvage what I could from the weekend. Despite my handling issues, I had some really good battles throughout the races with some of the regular drivers like Martin Joyce and Ken Churchill. In the A Final I somehow managed to finish in 13th place. Not the highest placed novice this time as that accolade goes to Neil Fisher who finished 9th. But 13th out of 38 isn’t that bad from a realist’s point of view. But I can do better… and I will.