Fast becoming my favourite event of the year, the British Superkart Grand Prix. Held at what I consider my second home, Donington Park. Spending most of my childhood there peering over the fence watching the mighty Lister Storm in the British GT, the ELMS and various other series it holds a special place in my heart. It’s lucky for me as I only live 10 miles away which means I can come home at night!
Getting down to business and based on last years run after finishing 14th I was aiming for a top 10 in the GP race. A competitive grid of 37 screaming 125’s but one I thought I could pull off. Donington can’t have 3 days of noisy activity so that means the test day is on the Thursday before the weekend, I always go back to work on Friday in between! There isn’t much point in discussing the Thursday, we had 3 sessions of 15 mins in the afternoon and I didn’t get 1 quick lap in any of them. problem after problem hit us which meant I was really going in blind on the Saturday. This was a pity as the weather was beautiful and I just wanted to drive the place. I only really need 1 session to get back into the swing of things but I use a few quick laps to plot my braking, turn in and acceleration points mentally which I didn’t manage to do.
I was hoping for a better Saturday which would consist of practice, qualifying and 1 race. I have purchased my own Modena engine to help Shane of Phantom Karts with the development of the brand in 125 open. I put this on in the practice but it wasn’t up to speed at all. On the in lap I seized up at Coppice turning into the blind apex, that was certainly an experience! It really was not going well for me. I’m always of the opinion that life finds ways of balancing itself out so this was the low to compensate for the high the previous weekend at Rowrah. Obviously, you can’t let this get to you mentally so you regroup and go again! Next up, qualifying, we put the other engine we had back on and I set out to set a time on a lovely set of brand new 6 inch Dunlops. This was the session I’d been waiting for all weekend, everything finally lit up and I was racing myself round Donington Park, trying to set a time. I was looking for somebody to draft but nobody materialised so I set about doing it alone. I put in quick lap after quick lap and managed to put myself 13th which I was ecstatic about! Really good position considering the lack of being able to prepare and dial in everything.
So race 1 and of course the bad luck had to return didn’t it. I made a good start and near enough held my place into the first corner. I’d made my way to around 10th when on the 2nd lap my rear seat post bracket snapped! Now how the seats are mounted on these karts you wouldn’t think it would make much of a difference compared to the short circuit counterpart bolted straight to the chassis but it really does. It made the kart an absolute pain to drive, it would hop around any right-hander with my weight shifting and I was trying so hard to brace my body to stop it I was tiring myself out. it induced a huge amount of understeer as well. I fell down the order to 18th place in the end, a bit of a shame as I was hoping to move up into the top 10.
All being well race 2 on Sunday would be the one, this was important as it would give me the lap time for where I would be starting the GP race. I exited the pit lane and I could already feel something on the left rear wasn’t correct, every time I turned right it was stepping out. I started the race in case it was just something I had picked up on the tyre but unfortunately going down to the old hairpin, a 90 mph corner my rear left gave way. I managed to save myself from a trip through the gravel and I limped back to the pits. It was obvious something had gone and it was one of the studs on the rear hub that had snapped. Shane managed to fix me up and I got back out to set a lap time. Something still wasn’t perfect and I only set a time capable of 24th for the GP race, a lot of work to do!
Shane and I discussed some changes we could make to find some pace for the GP race and we decided on some and not others. We were meant to be the first race out after lunch but helpfully whoever was running the meeting decided that we should be the last race out before lunch. Why, I have no idea, we were not pushed for time. This meant a ridiculous rush for the 125s to get out. We were still implementing changes when it was announced. I was 1 of the last to the dummy grid to be noise tested and I’d barely stopped before they sent us all out to race! Some poor guys hadn’t even made the dummy grid like #1 Lee Harpham. A ridiculous situation for a professional circuit. I wasn’t even in the correct position lining up. I think I must have lined up 28th out of 37, I was certainly further back than I should have been.
I did make a good start and was barreling around the outside making up a good chunk of places before I nearly got collected on the inside and had to pull up rather sharpish at Redgate. From here on I settled into a rhythm and picked off karts as and when I could. Before long I was in a major scrap with about 6 other karts, unknown to me battling for 9th place! This was some serious hard but fair racing which eventually came down to just 2 of us swapping position every lap which was with my Phantom Karts teammate Mark Pinfield. We had broken away and unfortunately, on the penultimate lap my reeds broke at McLean’s corner. Absolutely gutted, I couldn’t hide it in the kart, I was on for my target regardless of where I finished in the battle and I’d had it snatched away. I limped back to the pits for a DNF. That is motorsport, unfortunately. I was glad at least that we had shown we had the pace for a decent top 10 finish, it wasn’t to be this year. Below is the GP race in all its ups and downs for you to watch! I must say being inches away fro another kart, dropping it down a gear and flatting it through Old Hairpin is a feeling that just doesn’t age.
As always a proper good bunch of people to thank. Shane Hennell for being on the spanners and providing all the Phantom Karts and Modena gear. Could not take on preparing another load of karting gear so he is a major timesaver in that department. Not to mention just a lovely guy to work and have a laugh with. Josh Hennell and Kyle Dixon for their help with various tasks over the weekend as well as all the people that came to support me this weekend and it was a fair few people for my local event! Lastly, my parents for the never ending support and it is probably quite hard to watch for them as we are doing some serious speeds and when things go wrong they could go wrong in a big way.