So the double header of the year was upon us, Rounds 5 & 6 at the impressive Ellough Park. I actually hadn’t realised a lot of changes had gone on since F100 had visited last year. An immaculate relay of the surface and a re-profiled infield hairpin which I must say transformed that part of the track. For the weekend I was running under the guidance of long time karting friend Niels Christoffersen and John Wellstead of Ricard Engines who does all my engine work, I was very much looking forward to this since my OK test where I worked with Simon Parker, being able to work with people and bounce ideas and decisions was something I’d now found I really needed to improve as a driver.
I arrived on the Thursday to set up and get ready as this was a 3 day event for us (Fri, Sat, Sun). Friday would be spent running in a rebuilt engine and hopefully getting some testing in. Unfortunately it was to be wet all day apart from a couple of early sessions where I ran my engine in. I did some wet testing and I think we were about quickest but ideally I wanted some dry running as the forecast predicted this for both Saturday and Sunday.
Saturday | Round 5
The track was still damp on Saturday morning, this was just a session to put time on our engine and we ended up quickest, some drivers had tried slicks but it was still just wet enough for wets. The track was now all but dry for heat 1, I saw the dummy grid hairpin was still very tricky as it wasn’t drying quickly at all and a lot of the pre 95’s struggled to get the correct line in their first heat. I was starting near enough dead last for heat 1. I got a decent start and settled down to start making my way through the pack. I got held up a few times and didn’t take a couple of opportunities when they arose for fear of a DNF. I managed to make my way up to 5th, before more bad luck, a complete snap of my exhaust bend, I managed to just limp over the line. I wasn’t totally happy though that it had snapped and I knew we had time to find as the kart felt a tiny bit strange, in all my years of karting I actually couldn’t put my finger on what the problem was. Usually I’m 100% with a kart and know exactly what the issues are and can work from there, this felt like the kart was performing at around 90%, a very strange sensation.
For heat 2 we made a few changes to the kart to try and rectify the problem. I think I started 4th for this one. I was happily sitting in 3rd, just starting to real in Chris Trott in 2nd when all of a sudden I came out of the first corner and the kart just slowed, I thought I’d got a fuel problem of some sorts, so quickly choked and richened the jets up and got going again. Unfortunately I only made it half way round the track before I seized around the long infield left hander. Joe Mckernan was the unfortunate sole to be sat right behind me when it happened and had nowhere to go but over the top of me, Cracking his chassis in various places. Sorry Joe! I was gutted, a DNF was the last thing I needed in pursuit of the championship. Even a heat is worth a good chunk of points and points mean prizes, unfortunately for a DNF you get zilch!
I swapped on to one of Ricard’s own Parilla Reedjet engines for the next heat and also found out we had a bent axle from the incident so that was swapped out for another one. For Heat 3 I would be starting mid pack. I quickly made my way up to 3rd, again behind Trott and Scorey again but was a good half a second time wise down on them. I was still suffering with this odd handling problem I had where the kart was just not performing to 100% of its capability, It was starting to annoy me now as I didn’t believe we could solve it for the final.
Even with a DNF I managed to grid 5th for the final. I got a good start and managed to hold my 5th for a good chunk of the race. I slowly then managed to get past Drew Stewart for 4th and started catching Alex Cobb but there wasn’t enough laps left to go for a podium so a 4th place finish in the final it was. I couldn’t help but be disappointed as I knew we weren’t performing 100% and the fact I had narrowly missed out on a podium place because of it. On the plus side the trophies were beautiful and provided by Waveney Security Ltd, the sponsor of the Round 5 meeting. I studied some data in the evening and could definitely see we had a big problem in the quick corners.
Sunday | Round 6
I approached Round 6 on the Sunday with a more radical plan and more focused on getting a result out of this one. I was attempting to get my Rotary engines singing in the first practice and decided to bolt on the most beautiful and mean looking engine I think there is form the era. The Atomik RSV98. While John was looking over my kart in the morning he spotted something. A complete snap of the right hand chassis seat stay from the weld, completely loose. I was gutted as I hadn’t snapped a chassis in all my years of karting and on my favourite kart as well. Not even on my modern Tonykarts which are notorious for it. However I was pleased we had found the problem plaguing us from yesterday. Luckily I had my back up 1999 CRG Daytona Heron and swapped over and scrutineered that chassis for the days racing.
I paired the Atomik engine I had on for the morning’s practice session with a Baroni carb and the whole thing absolutely lit up. bottom, mid and top range of the engine was improved massively from the reeds we were running on the Saturday. We found half a second instantly. I had another problem now though, something I absolutely hate in a kart which is coming into a mid speed corner and ‘getting a wong on’ or a hop of the chassis where it constantly loses and gains grip on the outside wheel. It is something I like to dial out as quick as I can.
Heat 1 I was gridded near the back again. I got a good start and tried a new tactic of trying to go around the outside of everyone at turn 1. It worked and I gained a good few places. Unfortunately I got grouped in with a pack of karts for a good few laps trying to pick them off safely. This let the front group get away and I only managed to get up to 5th, pushing Alex Cobb over the line for 4th. I was glad we had found a good chunk of pace but I was still suffering with this hopping problem.
For heat 2 we made a couple of small width changes to see if we could solve it. The CRG can be an odd kart so the things that you think would work ultimately don’t sometimes. I was starting up the front in this one in about 4th I think it was. I got another good start and was up to 2nd in the first corner and was leading by the end of the lap. I managed to get my head down and pull a nice gap before I was inevitably caught by Trott and Scorey. They got past but started to battle. This enabled me to sneak back up the inside of Mr Trott at the tightest corner on the track but it was short lived as he put another move on me at the end of the straight to get the place back. I settled for 3rd in this one still unhappy I couldn’t attack the middle double right hander as good as I wanted and I could see how planted both Trott’s and Scorey’s karts were around there.
I needed to do something drastic to compete with Trott and Scorey. I was never happy with the seat in this backup kart so I swapped for the one out of my race kart and we also swapped back to reed engines, putting my #1 reedjet on. Heat 3 would see me starting mid pack. I got another good start round the outside, got to the double right hander and the kart was an absolute pleasure to drive, the seat swap had solved the hopping issue. I could feel we were quick too and we had gained another 3/4 tenths, the exact amount of time we needed to compete with the front 2. I made my way through and started to reel Chris in before on lap 7 I was hit with more bad luck which seems to be the pattern this year. Going round the flat left hander my chain snapped. I rolled into the pits and couldn’t believe my luck. Another DNF and the championship slowly slipping away.
This was my last reed engine and it had obviously found me time, usually when a chain goes at that rattle its a top end rebuild on the motor. I knew it was go hell for leather in the final or we blow up in a ball of flames. Ricard checked the engine and we looked good luckily. off we go, gridding 6th for the final. I just had to go for it, round the outside at the first corner and slotting into 4th behind Drew Stewart. A couple of laps went by and I knew I had to do something quick as I saw Trott and Scorey pulling on us. I got a good run on Drew and pulled off what I believe was the move of the season for me. I jinked to the racing line before the dummy grid hairpin and at the braking zone shot it up the inside of drew and parked it on the apex. There was just enough space for a clean move. It is a testament to the kind of drivers we have in the series as I could have easily been right hand down’d and we would have ended up having a crash. I was relieved I was through and started chasing after Trott and Scorey, I got so far but then stagnated slightly. All I could see was Trott coming back at Scorey and could only hope a battle would ensue and I could catch up. I had it in the back of my mind that I probably wouldn’t make it with the state of the engine.
What actually happened was with a couple laps to go, I came around the tight hairpin at the pit entrance and suddenly there was Scorey facing the wrong way, I managed to just sneak past and saw Trott recovering off of the grass. something had happened but I didn’t actually see it. I knew it was my chance to win a round this year. I had 3 laps to catch Trott and I wasn’t sure if he was suffering from a problem or anything, for 2 laps I pulled him in but then thought I was about to be struck with more bad luck, I felt what I thought was a tightening of the engine so I just instantly went for the choke and on the final few corners thought I was going to seize but just managed to get it home. Trott taking the win and me in 2nd. It actually turned out I was just way too rich but oddly didn’t feel like the 4 stroke feeling which was a bummer as I had a bit more speed in reserve but I was thinking of the championship at that point.
I was very happy, I’d set out for a podium and I’d got one from the weekend. Another roller-coaster meeting!
A big thank you goes to Niels and John for their help over the weekend but most of all my Dad for the hours of work he puts in at the track and here at home. Without him I wouldn’t be doing any of this. Also to my Mum who is my rock at these kart meetings.
Championship wise I think it looks like this:
- Chris Trott – 485 points
- Joe Scorey – 481 points
- Glenn Guest – 429 points
- Drew Stewart – 429 points
- Alex Cobb – 429 points
Yes for 3rd we are completely tied by my calculations! 1st and 2nd are just too far way with out some serious DNF’s but anything can happen. The last round, Buckmore Park, will be an interesting one!