Monday, May 18, 2009

MSOKC Point Race # 3

Sunday was a perfect day for racing. It started out a little chilly but by noon it was sunny and 70 with not much of the typical Ohio wind. For the 3rd points race of the season, the MSOKC ran counter-clockwise at Circleville Raceway. 13 TAG karts showed up this weekend to make it the biggest field of the year so far for the MSOKC and the most karts I've race against yet.

Practice went well despite the cold conditions. Grip was sparse but I managed to click off mid 45 second laps which was my goal. My kart and I got warmed up nicely with no mechanical issues. I did, however, pull off early in the 2nd practice because I picked up a big vibration in the rear axle. I was worried I'd bent my axle or blown a bearing but it turned out I picked up a few big rocks with the rear tires. That was a relief!

With the Heat 1 grid randomly set, I started 12th out of the 13 starting karts. Luckily, this put me on the outside of row at the start. Coming into turn 1, the two karts in front of me dove into the inside line causing the classic problem of too many karts and not enough real-estate. While they got jammed up as each of the inside karts had to let off the throttle in a corner that should be flat, I drove to the outside and ducked under the 7th place kart in turn 3. Not bad for the first three corners of the race. I stayed in 7th for three laps but was closing on P6. On lap 4, the P6 kart went wide in turn 3 and I was able to dive underneath over the curbing to take 6th place. I crossed the finish line with a huge 12th to 6th jump. Passing karts is the key to a good starting spot for the feature and I was lucky to be able to take advantage of the traffic jam on lap 1.

Between heats, I made a few key setup changes to the kart with the help of Paul Milleman of PM Karting. In practice and Heat 1, my kart was unstable and difficult to drive. It oversteered on entry and exit so it was clearly time for a setup adjustment. We widened the front and rear tack, toed the front end out by 0.5mm per side and adjusted front camber. This made the kart much more driveable and I dropped about 0.4 seconds on my fastest lap. With the field flipped, I started on outside pole for Heat 2. I dropped to 3rd on the first lap and stayed there for the next two laps. I was not driving well in the track's LH corners and it cost me two more positions on lap 4 and 5. I finished 5th.

The feature race grid is set by your points sum from Heat 1 and Heat 2. With two consistent Heat race finishes, I started 4th for the feature. This is my best start in a field of over 10 karts so I was pumped for the final. I really wanted to pick up my first legitimate podium (finishing 3rd out of 6 karts doesn't count in my book). I got a decent start was was able to move under Angel Wilkinson in Turn 3 to take over 3rd. I put a 2-3 kart gap on Angel and kept it until lap 6 when Mike Under got past her. He was a bit faster than both of us so he caught me and passed me in Turn 9. At this point, I was wiped. I have never gotten this tired in a kart race before and it really effected my lap times. I lost about a half second per lap for the last three laps. On lap 8, Angel dove under me in Turn 10 and we made contact. My LF tire got into her right bumper and RR tire causing me to track out and get passed by the P5 kart who was on her tail. On the last lap, I thought I had a nice gap back to 7th place and I was too far from P5 after the contact on the previous lap, so I put it in cruise control until the checker. I learned a hard lesson in the last corner of the last lap as the P7 kart dove under me to take 6th place away. All I had to do was keep pushing and I would have easily kept 6th. It was a dumb mistake but I learned from it. It was a disappointing end to an exciting race where I was in podium position over half-way through the race.

I posted a video of the feature race below. For now, I need to get into better shape so I'm going to go for a jog.

Monday, May 11, 2009

MSOKC Points Race # 2

Team Yaw Moment Racing had two goals for the weekend: 1) Avoid the rain and 2) Run every lap of the weekend incident free. I did not want a repeat of the first race and come home with 0 championship points after two races. Both goals were achieved this weekend.

We ran Circleville backwards (clockwise) this weekend which basically meant all my practice and testing in the offseason running counter-clockwise went out the window. I have only run this configuration once about 7 months ago so I was a bit rusty. The track was still wet in places for the first practice so it was difficult to put the power down coming out of the corners without a nice powerslide. The 2nd practice was uneventful as I used the 5 laps to re-familiarize myself with the clockwise racing line and braking zones.

The starting order for Heat 1 was randomly assigned and I started in P1. I was a little nervous to be leading the field into Turn 1 with 3 or 4 faster drivers following me, but we all made it through unscathed. On the 2nd lap, Bo Strawser made the pass for 1st place in turn 2 and never looked back. I held the rest of the field off for the next three laps. Racing into the hairpin at 63 mph after the back straight at Circleville, the 3rd place racer bump-drafted me NASCAR-style in the braking zone. It forced me wide in the hairpin but I stayed on track. Three karts passed me in the process though dropping me to 5th place out of 8. I finished 0.2 seconds behind 4th place after rough driving between P3 and P4 caused a near spin for the P4 driver, but I couldn't make the pass before the finish line.

Starting P1 for the 1st heat means starting in the back for Heat 2 when the field is flipped. Heat 2 was a very clean race with mainly single-file racing. I moved up to 6th place after a stuck throttle and black flag sidelined the 6th and 7th place starters. I really started to notice my lack of pace in this heat as I struggled to keep up with the 5th place racer. After a few laps, the kart was really sluggish out of the corners and it felt as if the axle was binding on corner exit. A problem in the braking system is causing my rear caliper to hang on the rotor after the kart heats up. I'm thinking either water/junk in the brake lines is expanding and preloading the caliper pistons or faulty caliper seals are causing the pistons to not return. With this holding me back and a lack of experience in this configuration, I could only muster a 6th place finish in Heat 2.

I started 6th for the Feature Race, but, man, it was a boring race. There was not a single racing pass during the 10-lap race. Each person gapped the surrounding karters and no one made a mistake except for Angel Wilkinson going off track while in 4th place and losing her chain. With her mishap, I came home safely in 5th place out of 8 and survived the weekend with no big parts bills! I posted a helmet cam video of the feature race below. Next time I will take video for the heat races and the feature because the heat races are generally more exciting. I'll post the most entertaining race to watch.

YMR's next race is a week from yesterday at Circleville Raceway Park running CCW. This will be the 3rd points race of the year for the Midstate Ohio Kart Club and an important race for me to pick up the pace and start bringing home better finishes!

Friday, May 8, 2009

Do Your Non-Rain Dance

My 2nd race of the season is tomorrow at Circleville Raceway Park and we are running the track backwards so it should be a challenge. Unfortunately, I had to work today so no practice day before the race so I need to make the most of tomorrow's practice sessions.

The forecast is looks great, 70 and Sunny all day, except for the chance of scattered thunderstorms. The Midstate Ohio Kart Club does not run in the rain so either its safe to drive on slicks or no pack up and go home. I've been itching to get back to the track since the frustrating first race so please do your non-rain dance for central Ohio. I certainly am!