Driver’s Diary: The start of a dream or the beginning of a nightmare

Senior HeavyWeight  Round 3When I first started competing in owner-driver karting, I was warned of the following; There are 2 types of drivers – those who have had big crashes – and those who will have big crashes

Being the latter, I was more than happy to stay as I was for the remainder of my time. Unbeknown to me that I was actually going to join this club sooner than I anticipated.

Teesside was a weekend to forget. My kart was a complete nightmare on both test/race days. My kart was approaching four years old. The frame was flexible and a handful to drive in grippy conditions. Carson completed an overhaul which deemed the following needed replacing. My frame, steering column, axle, exhaust, axle bearings, floor tray and both side pod support bars. Not much change from £1500 with the kart looking like new and a loss of 3kg around my waist, I couldn’t wait to get to Clay Pigeon and start testing.

Round 3 was being contested over the weekend of the 21st May 2011. Being on top of a hill, the weather at Clay is unpredictable and changeable. Its the shortest track Ive ever been to, yet extremely fast. What a difference a grand and a half can make! To have a machine that goes where you want it to and responds to your every request is a fabulous feeling. It was now time to learn the track. It may look simplistic, but its actually quite complex. So much time can be gained or lost in the chicane alone. Here at the moment, I’m around 1s slower than Pittingale. Not good, but this is due to my inexperience at this circuit. I can get better. As drivers swapped and changed their tyres, times suddenly became less important. I concentrated solely on learning and trying to perfect each and every corner. The beautiful thing about having a good kart is that I’m finding my times are becoming more consistent. Thus allowing me to try different braking/turning points to see if they improve my lap times. I finished the day relatively happy with my pace and confident that I could be within 0.5s of the top runners if I could just hook it up.

Race day greeted all 34 Heavyweight drivers with a deep dark cloud that would cover the track with just enough water to require wet tyres. What to do? Stick to slicks or change to wets? It stopped raining just before my Qualifying session started, resulting in frantic action in the paddock with some of the fastest tyre changes youve ever seen in your life! Slicks to wets then back to slicks again! As I ventured out on track for Qualifying my engine was making an unusual noise. The clutch was broke. Its surviving sufficiently to get me going but the broken part is rattling around looking for a new home. I was struggling to get the chicane perfect but as the laps ticked on, I completed a lap time that was 0.8s slower than pole setter Michael Roots. I’d qualified for the As but only 22nd position. A quick change of my clutch (£££) and I was now ready for racing.

In Heat A I was starting on the left hand side of the track. I was warned that this was the worst place to be at Clay as Id be on the outside for Turn 1. The Union Jack was waved and we charged around the left kink on our approach to Turn 1. Everyone in front of me dived to the right hand side to get a tight line for the first turn. I could almost hear Harry from Days of Thunder say to me in an American twang when they all slow down for the turn, just pass right by them on the outside. Ive got nothing to lose and everything to gain. I braked firmly and planted the throttle.

On the dirty side of the track, I slid around the outside with my engine screaming and my hands constantly correcting the steering wheel like a man possessed. Drifting around the long right hander towards the chicane and Id passed ten karts who all got bogged down line a stern on the tight inside line. Brilliant stuff! Through the chicane and a quick check behind showed that no one was threatening me. A short drag to the hairpin and there were two karts side by side in front of me. This will be the top 10! Well happy. I was chuffed that Id made such a brilliant start and I was quite happy to finish where I was.

However, upon the approach to the hairpin the two karts ahead of me made contact with each other. I slammed on the brakes but hit both of them. My kart slid to the left and I was now facing the wrong way. I jumped out of my kart and turned myself around just in time to see the rest of the field pass me by. 22nd position to top 10 then back to last in half a lap. Unbelievable. I decided to come back to the pits to conserve my tyres for the rest of the day.

In the Prefinal I had another rear starting position but this time the inside line. What a nightmare. Whoever thought the inside line was the best line must have been nuts! I was unable to make up any positions and I was all over some of the drivers. Despite being faster, getting past proved to be a little difficult. The racing is so close that an overambitious move could result in not only you failing to complete the overtake, but to then lose three to four positions! Qualifying is so important in Easykart. Your day’s racing can literally be dictated by it. The positive outcome was that my lap times were tumbling and I’m now only just over 0.5s slower than the top guys. Quite happy with my pace so far and not regretting the money Ive spent to try and be competitive.

Starting in 20th position out of 25 drivers for the A Final left me with it all to do. Lining up on the dummy grid I was happy when I realised that I would be on the outside for Turn 1. Can I make the great start that I did in my heat? Will everyone dive off to the right again leaving the door open for me?
We rolled out of the pits and onto the track. Accelerating hard to clear the carb, braking sharp to warm the tyres and check for issues. My kart feels good. We crawled around the last few corners on the rolling up lap. The tension was unbearable. The Union Jack was waved and all 25 engines screamed into life. Right foot hard down and we slithered around the left kink heading to turn 1 with thick blue smoke covering the whole field. Theres contact ahead! Karts are flying off to my left and right and I lifted off the accelerator. Theres a gap in front of me. Paranoid that someones about to smack me from behind I floor my right foot to make for this gap. Time slowed downÉ To my left, karts are heading for the tyre wall. Two of whom are my team mates Stig and Gary. To my right I see karts cutting the corner to avoid spinners and I also see the bright orange kart of Jerry Pack.

I can still recollect it as if it just happened Jerry, was completely out of control but desperately trying to save his kart. I witnessed him complete a beautiful pirouette which reversed him directly into my open space ‘Time sped up’ I stamped on my brakes at the precise moment that I slammed directly into the side of his kart. The rear of my kart flew into the air and I was thrown from my seat. My chest smacked against my steering wheel and I landed on top of Jerrys engine.
My legs were still in my kart and my engines screaming as the throttle was stuck open. With no friction for the back wheels, they spun around at over 1600rpm. I was worried that my kart would literally run over me. From the heavy sensation that my kart was on top of me, my back and legs suddenly felt free. I remember thinking I’m on top of his engine and exhaust. This isnt good!

I tried to lift myself up, but I couldnt. I didnt know where both my arms were. My right leg felt secure as Jerry was holding onto me but I couldnt feel my left. I could barely see a thing with my head lodged between his engine and seat. I then heard a voice say Its alright mate, I got youand at that point, my panic to lift myself up faded and I felt quite comfortable and secure mangled into his machine. Everything went silent as the roar of the other engines disappeared into the distance. All I could hear was the gentle breeze of the wind that had chilled us for the duration of the weekend.

Very quickly I was joined by marshals and medical staff. The race was red flagged. Apart from having the wind knocked out of me, the only pain I had was in my right leg. I jumped up and down on it to pathetically show the bemused onlookers that I was fine and that I wanted to get back into the race. I was shown my mangled machine which now sported the look of Left wheel in the air and not on the ground… My frame, steering column and track rods were severely bent. My bodywork is also a mess. I felt like crying. Not because Id just had a nasty impact or that I was still in pain. But because my pride and joy, was ruined.

Id like to thank everyone at the track who helped me and for their support. You really were fantastic. ACR and C100, what a brilliant and friendly series. Well done. So what of me? As I write this column, my season’s over. My kart is a mangled mess and I dont currently have a pot of gold available to fix her. I have spent a small fortune so far in pursuing my racing dream but I always knew that it wouldnt be cheap. Running costs can me managed, but starting costs will always hurt. A totalled kart equals no kart for me. Obviously things can change, but its not looking likely.

My first ever column was entitled The start of a dream or the beginning of a nightmare. Well, its pretty much been a nightmare, but Ive been living the dream and I wouldnt change that for anything. In life, there are three types of people. There are those who make things happen, watch things happen and then there are those who wonder what the hell happened. Which one are you?
Andrew Gould
Photographs courtesy of Enver Meyer