What comes to mind when you put the words ‘Wales’ and ‘weather’ together? We’re not ones to pin stereotypes on entire countries, but it was the morning of the 17th February, it was Rounds 3 & 4 of the 2016 British Universities Karting Championship season, and yep; it was raining.
The location was Llandow Circuit, just west of Cardiff in South Wales. An absolute driver favourite, it was fantastic to be returning to the rewarding circuit after a break from the calendar last season. Easy to learn but difficult to master, with flowing sections and a tricky infield complex, Llandow is a fantastic circuit for both beginners and veterans alike.
Round 3’s sprint racing kicked off in absolutely soaking conditions, but Nottingham A took full advantage, starting on pole in Race 1 and after some tussling with Heriot-Watt A towards the latter stages of the race, managed to hold on (after retaking) their lead and take the chequered flag in a great lights-to-flag victory. Heriot-Watt fell away to a charging Cambridge A and Leeds Beckett A, coming from 24th and 32nd respectively on the grid to steal 2nd and 3rd places away from the Scottish boys right near the end of the race.
Race 2 saw reigning champions Huddersfield A emulate Nottingham’s Race 1 success, with a brilliant pole to flag conversion, pulling 10 seconds clear of the rest of the field to deny Nottingham their second win of the day, with Oxford Brookes B finishing in 3rd.
The third sprint race saw Newcastle A’s Christos Oikonomou snatch the lead of the race from pole sitting Cambridge A, but after dropping away during the race it was 2013 champions Coventry A that came to the head, with captain Joe Charlton coming from 26th to 5th in 4 laps, before catching the leaders and stretching a 5 second gap as he crossed the line. Imperial A finished in 2nd and Kingston A’s Rogan Lungley finished 3rd.
A pause in the rain during Race 3 gave hope to everyone that it might start drying out, but it was not to be as Race 4 got underway and it started to pour yet again. UWTSD A inherited the lead after pole-sitters Warwick B took the lights and then proceeded to (unfortunately!) plant themselves into the wall down at Chandlers, with the local boys holding onto the lead of the race to take the chequered flag ahead of Huddersfield A (climbing 19 places to get 2nd!) and Leeds Beckett A in 3rd.
The penultimate sprint race saw Coventry C start on pole and hold onto the lead through the first few corners, before an enormous 13 kart pileup saw the false-start flag appear and the race neutralised. After the second attempt Coventry’s C team held onto the lead, but after some intense pack racing it was UCLan’s B team that took the win, with Warwick A holding onto a high grid start to finish 2nd and Scots UWS A finishing in 3rd after climbing an impressive 22 places in the soaking conditions – with pole-sitters Coventry C finishing a commendable 4th.
Sprint Race 6 gave local boys Cardiff A their first win of the day at their home circuit, with captain Peter Rundle using the advantage of his high grid start to simply drive away from the rest of the field, finishing an impressive 19 seconds ahead of second placed Sheffield A, who finishing a further 11 seconds ahead of Newcastle A in 3rd place.
After the conclusion of the sprint race in Round 3, with two 3rd and a 4th it was Leeds Beckett A that came out on top, their first ever round win in the BUKC! Nottingham A finished 2nd overall with a 2nd, 5th and 7th, and UCLan B came 3rd with a race win and two 7th places. A total mix up of the usual top finishers – the wet weather having a significant effect on the results!
In the intermediate class it was Heriot Watt A that took the spoils with a 4th, 8th and 11th, with Nottingham B 2nd (1st, 11th, 15th) and Newcastle A in 3rd (3rd, 12th and 16th).
After a short break for a bit of lunch and some kart-fettling, and the weather not really looking like it was going to improve in the slightest, Round 4’s three 1hr endurance races commenced.
Enduro 1 saw hugely impressive drives from both Oxford-based teams, with Oxford Brookes C team taking the win after a huge 33 place climb from their starting spot of 34th on the grid. Oxford C’s team of Callum Hughes and Matt Diffey almost took victory after some fantastic team work left them with a comfortable lead going into the closing stages of the race but the charging Brookes team closed down the gap and on the penultimate lap stole away the victory, beating their A team into 3rd place in the process as well!
The second enduro saw the incessant rain finally come to a stop, and with 36 karts streaming round the circuit it wasn’t long until drying spots started to appear on track, with lap times beginning to fall accordingly. Oxford C were looking strong once again, inheriting the lead of the race after the second pit stop window when a slow stop for locals Cardiff A cost them valuable seconds. Once again though, it was not to be, with the Oxford Brookes A team this time denying Oxford C yet another race win in startlingly similar fashion. The Brookes A team crossed the line to take the win, with Nottingham A robbing Oxford C of 2nd place on the penultimate lap top drop them down to 3rd place.
With the Sun setting over Llandow, the temperatures began to plummet as the final race of the day got underway – it was freezing! Leeds Beckett A, continuing their excellent run of form from this morning, opted for the early stop strategy, diving into the pits after 5 mins of racing as soon as the window opened. Coventry A’s excellent strategy calls meant that halfway through the race they were sitting comfortably in the lead, with UWS A chasing them down. Their second pit stop gave Oxford Brookes B the lead, but having not pitted for the second time they were forced to do so late in the race, handing the win to a charging Leeds Beckett A, with Coventry A narrowly holding off UWS A to take 2nd place. Disaster though for UWS A – a final lap spin threw away their fantastic result, allowing Warwick A to take the final step on the podium for the final race.
Just like that, racing in Wales was done for the 2016 season. With the round 4 results tallied, through a race win and 3rd place it was Oxford Brookes A that came out on top, with Oxford C in 2nd with a 2nd place and 3rd, and Coventry A 3rd with a 2nd and 7th place.
Top of the intermediates was Oxford Brookes C with that all important race win and a 10th, with Heriot Watt A finishing 2nd (4th and 16th) and Warwick B in 3rd (9th and 14th).
With the results in, after Rounds 3 & 4 and their consistently high round finishes, Coventry A remain top of the table, 9 points clear of Oxford Brookes A in 2nd place, who jumped Huddersfield A after that critical Round 4 win.
Heriot Watt A lead the intermediates table with 243 points (9th overall), ahead of Cambridge A on 238 points (12th overall) and Oxford Brookes C with 222 points (19th overall).
In the Rookies championship the next day (in dry conditions!), King’s College A finished top with two race wins and a 2nd place, a dominant performance by the Londoners. UWE C finishing in 2nd place with two 2nd places and a 3rd, and Bristol A in 3rd (2nd, 3rd and 5th place). However with their Round 1 win and finishing 4th in Round 2, Liverpool A remained narrowly on the top of the table, tied on points with Bristol A. Surrey A moved up to 3rd place after finishing 5th in round 2.
The 2016 BUKC season moves on now to its northern round – Warden Law in Sunderland, a fast, flowing track that suits Club100 karts perfectly and should provide some superb racing when we return in just under three weeks time, on the 9/10th March. Night out on the Toon anyone?!
You can follow live coverage from the BUKC 2016 season via live timing & commentary (http://bukc.co.uk/results/live) and on Facebook and Twitter.