Round 2 (Buckmore Park)
Qualified: 3rd Race: 5th
Weather: Dry, overcast
At last, my 2012 racing season begins. After round in mid-February was rescheduled following snow the Club 100 60 minute challenge took until March 31st to get started. Officially “Round Two”, the race at Buckmore Park in Kent was staged in perfect conditions: a dry track and mostly clear skies. Not too hot but enough warmth to yield some grip on the old tarmac.
The season started better than predicted. With a 36-kart grid, the track was busy during practice and qualifying, so after getting a feel for the kart and trying a few lines out, reading the traffic and looking for a suitable gap was the order of the day. The effort paid off, yielding a career-best 3rd on the grid, just a tenth of a second behind reigning champion Eddie Hall (but sadly 3 tenths off local-boy Andrew Johnson).
Last year my starts were simply too cautious and this alone cost me several places at many races – definitely an area for improvement! Evidently it’s much easier to get a solid start from the front of the grid and consequently, 2nd place beckoned as a gap opened up into turn one. Sadly, the tighter line on cooler tyres forced a slight lift – just enough for Hall to hang on around the outside and hit turn two back in second.
Further back, things were getting busy. Golby, starting from 6th in his first race for two and half year, locked and lost the back end heading into the hairpin at turn 3. This set off a chain reaction that left around 10 karts stalled and set in motion some difficult racing for the front runners too. Strong opening laps from both Johnson and Hall created a gap of over a second but gap would yo-yo several times as those involved in the lap one collision became backmarkers by lap three.
Third place become fourth on lap 5 after a clean move up the inside into turn one by kart 16 and as the out-of-position tail-enders tried to make something of their unlucky starts, racing against the leaders become tricky. If only the blue flags were in use…! By lap 9 Tim Hill made a carbon copy move into turn one and left me in 5th. Things got tricky as I was left battling with a back-marker only a few tenths slower than me but convinced we were racing for position. Several time I made a move only to be retaken and he assumed he had lost a place. The gap to the leaders grew…
The only solution was to make the mandatory as soon as the pit window opened at 20 minutes. It was a reasonable stop – but a slow approach and clumsy exit of the kart cost me 6 seconds over the leaders. As the first to pit, I re-joined in 17th.
Now the racing really began. An aggressive move from Clackett into turn one (possibly assuming it was me, not the guilty backmarker, who nearly took him out of the race a few corners earlier) forced me wide and also opened the door for Pearce to slip through too. Pearce and I would exchange positions several times over the next 40 minutes. After the pit stops were over, I was down in 6th with Pearce just two tenths behind. Pearce would make another move into turn one a few laps later (the Achilles heel of my race!) but together we caught and passed perennial race-winner Glen Beard.
Lap 60, 12 minutes of the race remaining and I made move into the turn two hairpin take regain 4th place. The next 9 places were covered by around 12 seconds as we all battled to take the 4th spot. I pulled a gap of over second to Pearce in 5th but gradually he reined it back. With three minutes to go, we were nose to tail across the line. As we began the penultimate lap, he risked his lift home (yes, we were car sharing for the journey) and pulled a brilliant move to get alongside into turn one. The only option was to yield the position and charge for the last two laps. Alas, I would finish in fifth just two tenths behind Pearce but a career best in this championship. The leaders were over thirty seconds up the road by the chequered flag – gaining a podium this year will be as hard as ever!
A pleasing start to the season, but plenty to improve on ahead of round 3 at Whilton Mill in June 🙂