Triple Kart Bypass
Those who can, do, and those who can’t, talk about it. Or in my case, photograph it. That phrase was quite apt last night as thanks to Nick at Tin Tops UK, I was taking part in a two hour into the night endurance Karting race in Brentwood. It was my chance to be a racing driver rather than photographing and talking about them.
It’s been many years since I last went Karting and I have never done it on an outside circuit. I was hoping not to disgrace myself and upon finding out during the signing in process there was to be 10 teams, I was hopeful we weren’t going to finish last. However, as other divers turned up carrying their own helmets, race suits and racing shoe’s all hope quickly turned to despair. These guys must have done it before! Some were even entered as a single competitor. I was hoping they would tire before myself, Nick and Rich the third member of our team.
With a 15 minute warm up/qualifying session before heading straight into the race, it was decided Nick would warm up last and start the race for us. The plan was to do two 20 minute stints each to keep us fresh. Well, like I said, that was the plan! After my initial five minutes I came in fearing the worst. Although it felt I was going quite fast, the karts that overtook me told a different story. I looked at the time screen with Rich. 41.5 seconds. We were last. How far off the pace was that I wondered. About 3-4 seconds that’s how far off. Oh dear, it was not looking good. Thankfully Nick was out there getting quicker and a lap in the 37 second area meant we weren’t going to start last. We started Eighth.
A good start took Nick up a place on the first lap and a couple of drive through penalties meant fifth place was looking respectable. One of the guys with his own gear was hitting Nick from behind and getting cross, this upset our WAGS and left them wondering how loud they needed to shout for him to hear their torrent of abuse. With this irate 40 something year old let through, Nick proceeded to tail him proving he was no faster. After the first driver change I asked Nick where his braking points were. ‘What braking points?’ he responded. ‘Its flat out all the way around except the hairpin, but you only need to lift off for it.’ It was clear I had a lot to do to set a respectable lap time.
Before long I was out on track. It took me a while to learn the circuit and at times it was hard to ignore my brain telling me to brake. The first of my 20 minute stints was spent trying to work out if it was better to let the car run wide exiting certain corners or keep it in tight, where the limits of the Kart were and which is the best line to take. All this whilst trying not to be a mobile chicane for those lapping me. I was beginning to feel like Takuma Sato. After handing over to Nick for his second stint I was told my best lap was about 38.9s however we were in ninth place. I wondered if I could actually go any faster or was I on my limits.
After slurping on energy drink, looking at the timing screens and hoping Hispania Racing don’t call, it wasn’t long before I was getting ready for the final handover and my last go. By then we were running close to the team in eighth place. A few laps into my last run was beginning to get into the grove. I’d changed my line into the long sweeping corner before the straight which was helping and I was beginning to master the tricky sections. I even managed to overtake someone turning into the hairpin. I was beginning to hold my own out there and if it wasn’t for sliding occasionally here, or running a little wide there then perhaps I could have caught one or two others.
The Chequered Flag drop and the two hours was up. We finished ninth but the eighth placed team were apparently worried as I was catching them and with a few more minutes, I could have snatched an extra place. Never mind, I had got my best time down to 38 seconds dead and was lapping quite consistently. Our best lap as a team was set by Nick which was 36.800s. The fastest of all was a 35.950 We were told by one of the other teams who go there often that they had never seen such a fast race and hadn’t seen every team set a lap time below 37 seconds. I guess we could take some crumbs comfort from that.
It was a great evening and I loved every bit of it, I’d like to thank Nick and Tin Tops UK for inviting me along to take part and hopefully I will be back to set a 37 something lap time soon. In the mean time, I’m off to Snetterton to photograph the British F3 & GT Championship’s at the weekend to see the real racers at work. After racing a Kart you certainly gain a lot of respect for those guys. It was hard enough to consistently set good lap times in a 20 stint at 40mph and not tire, but to keep your concentration for over an hour at more than four times the speed is something I am in awe of.