So Croft was my first long circuit meeting of the year and meant getting back into the swing of the gearbox karts as well as getting to grips with the long circuit kart type. My first foray into this series came back at the GP meeting last year at Donington Park which proved to be rather successful on the KZ outfit. I hadn’t driven a gearbox kart for around 9 months since I decided to quit short circuit gearbox karting at the Shenington SuperPrix last year.
I had missed out on doing the Silverstone meeting back in March and I had never planned to do the meeting at Bishopscourt either, so this was my first proper meeting to get into the swing of things. For this year I am running with Shane Hennell’s Phantom Karts outfit running Modena engines. Shane’s helped me tremendously to get into long circuit karting along with Ian Rushforth of the BSA. I was doing the Friday test day which meant 4 x 15 min sessions to get used to everything again. Shane had already got everything ready for me so all I had to do was sit in the kart and get everything adjusted to suit myself. Apparently, I have really short legs! The first thing you notice is how reclined the seating position is. Absolutely no looking over the top of the wheel to see, you will be looking around the sides, over your front wheels.
Testing went very well and I soon got to grips with the track, the kart and shifting gears again. I’d been pre-warned about Croft being bumpy but it is really flippin’ bumpy! The first chicane is a hold on for dear life and hope your steering wheel is straight on the other side! Major fun though! Below is 1 lap of the place from testing. I was getting quicker and quicker throughout the day until I started to lose the tire which brought some chronic understeer. We ended up having a 5th session but opted out of this one as I wouldn’t be learning anything out on track but instead decided to observe the front running chaps from the grandstand at turn 1.
One thing you find with long circuit racing is everything tends to be more relaxed due to the amount of time between races. My Saturday would consist of Qualifying and 2 races. Quali felt really good. New 6 inch Dunlop DES and everything felt like a dream! All I was lacking was overall power but there was no point changing a lot until I had really settled and done a race or 2. I put it 16th on the grid out of 30. I was really pleased with that. On the last lap, I found a good chunk of time from a new line I’d tried at Sunny In and Sunny Out.
Race 1 was another good run for me. I made a good start and found myself having a battle with #4 and #7 which was a pleasant surprise. I slowly just started to fall back to my starting position of 16th. One thing I do really like about Superkarts is the way they sort your grid positions for future races. Instead of doing the age-old you start where you finished it goes on your fastest lap from the previous race.
16th would be where I start race 2 from again. I got another good start and was challenging for a top 10 position into the first corner, unfortunately, there was a tangle on the inside and all I could see was E plate Kirk Cattermole travelling backwards into my path. There was only one place for me to go and that was through the gravel. Really, really not pleasant in a kart. I got covered in dust and had certainly got some damage from it. I was near enough last and made my way back up to mid-pack, unfortunately, I was massively struggling with any left hander. Until I got back to the pits I hadn’t realised the gravel trap had wiped out part of the floor tray leaving it hanging so all the aero on the left side was completely out of wack. I ended up finishing slowly and in 17th place. Unfortunately, the gravel trip meant a trip to the medical centre as I’d got a lot of dust and grit in my right eye. Really is a testament to how good the medical staff are at these tracks, every time I have needed them they have been superb, they had me sorted in about 10 minutes!
One thing that confuses me is what I’m actually racing in sometimes with the Superkarts! It turns out the Saturday racing was for the British Champs and the Sunday racing is for the English Champs, which is a double header with Cadwell. I didn’t know you could have another set of new tyres either haha! Luckily with my pace improving I would now be starting P14 in the first race of the English Champs. I managed to sort the GoPro out for this one so you can view the race below. I got another good start and settled down into about 12th/13th. I was trying my absolute hardest to keep with that group which at one point must have been all the way up to 7th or 8th. Watching it back I can see my lack of long circuit experience let me down in places but then my short circuit experience brought some of the gap back in my favour. A lot of the guys I was around were also on new tyres. There was a bit of commotion at the last corner which I managed to capitalise on luckily.
Race 2 was, unfortunately, the sour grape of the weekend. I got a bad start which was unusual for me, I proceeded to make my way back to my position by the end of my first lap, I made up another place past Josh Rayman in the flat chicane side by side which was mega fun! Unfortunately coming into the last corner hairpin I heard an almighty thud. I couldn’t pull the clutch but I was rolling so I hadn’t seized but I couldn’t work out what happened. I pulled off and jumped behind the barriers opposite the pit lane. Shout out to the marshals who are as helpful as ever, always interesting talking to these guys and girls even if you are proper miffed you are no longer in the race. One was telling me all about his scooters and one was an ex JICA racer! Got a mention of F100 in too!
Once the race finished I had a closer look and could see the chain had been decimated. I travelled back on the recovery truck with #4 Ian Larder who had been involved in a pretty big smash. On closer inspection, it looked like a stone got in between and caused the whole thing to lock and snap. This did quite some unbelievable damage to the engine and chassis which was a shame. All part of this thing we love called motorsport!
I really couldn’t have had a better weekend though. The Phantom Karts team is brilliant and reminds me of my Ricard Racing setup in F100 thankfully. Big thank you to Shane Hennell who owns Phantom Karts and Kyle Dixon for all his help over the weekend. Also to Nathan and Ron Coss who also race under the Phantom Karts banner and both helped me tremendously over the weekend. I’m still buzzing after the meeting now writing this on Tuesday evening.
Another big thank you to my parents who again give up their time to come and support my racing and supported my move into this series, I knew the short circuit racing just wasn’t for us. I think my Dad was at a bit of a loss not having to wield a spanner for this race meeting as well, sure we can sort that for Rowrah Dad!
Full results from the weekend can be found here.
Speaking of Rowrah that is next up in the F100 series and then the weekend after it is my favourite event. The 2017 GP plate at Donington Park! Cannot wait!