Tuesday, April 12, 2011

SWRC Races 1 and 2 in Norman, Oklahoma

Under the Tent with 3G Kart Racing

Sorry for the delay in getting this post out, but I finished up a successful first round of Southwest Regional Cup on April 2nd and 3rd. It was a long, but fun weekend and I logged over 140 laps around the Oklahoma Motorsports Complex 0.7 miles sprint kart track. Compared to my test day at OMC in February, I improved by 1.4s during Friday's 6 practice sessions. I worked mainly with 3G's track expert and tuner Dallas Patterson to get my shifter to handle the tricky OMC track. We started with an axle change which made a huge difference on corner exit as the previous unit was WAY too stiff and causing excess rear hopping as I got to the throttle. After a few more changes to the front end, rear width, tire pressure, and some failed gearing experimentation, I was 0.7s faster than my February test day, and a new set of MG sneakers dropped than another 0.8s. I ran about 55 laps in the 6 sessions including a mock qualifying session where we verified my pace and setup with new tires to prepare for Race 1 qualifying on Saturday.

Fresh Tires and Softer Axle During my Mock Qualifying Session

My Cubicle in the 3G Tent

With 6+ SKUSA Pro Tour shifter kart pilots in the S2 class, I knew that I was going to be qualifying near the back of the field. My pace in the shifter kart is not there yet, so I was mainly focused on improving my kart and my driving to slowly chip away at my pace delta. After two practice sessions on Saturday morning, we bolted on a new set of tires for qualifying. I ran a 46.7 which put me in 11th out of 12 karts in the class and well back of the Jake French who got the pole, but still a huge improvement over the 48.2s laps I was turning back in February. In the Saturday heat race, I had a decent start and was able to hang with the field for a few laps and move up to 8th place after several drivers dropped out due to accidents and mechanical issues. This put me in P8 to start the 16 lap Race 1 Final. I had a slow start and dropped back two spots but was able to get back inside of these karts in Turn 1. Running an inside lines proved to be in my favor as a mid-pack kart got turned sideways at the Turn 1 apex causing a 5-6 kart pileup on the outside of Turn 1. I escaped without having to slow down much which put in 5th place. I stayed in 5th place for about 10 laps before Chris Jennings in the Jimmy John's kart caught me. I finished in P6 which I was pleased with considering my qualifying position.

Ali with kart Covered up to keep out the Oklahoma dust storm Saturday night

All the times were reset for Sunday's races, and after some debate, we stuck with the SWRC mandate that all Shifter Karts must run 1 set of tires for both Race 1 and Race 2. The big change for Sunday other than starting with worn tires was that we were joined by the S4 (Stock Moto Master's) and S5 (Stock Moto Junior) classes which put the field at 19 karts in our group. I again qualified 11th in S2 class and moved up to 8th in the heat race. Similar to Saturday, I was able to claw my way up to 6th place in Sunday's final after a good race start and a lot more traffic to deal with due to the multiple classes on track.

19 Shifter Karts Taking the Green Flag on Sunday (photo credit: Galen Kurth)

Overall, I was pleased with the weekend. I had no mechanical issues, no accidents, improved the kart's handling, improved my pace, and had a blast racing for three days. This was my first non-local and multi-day kart race in the shifter and it was great to get so much track time. I need to continue to learn the Texas and Oklahoma kart tracks, work on my fitness, and practice practice practice driving the shifter kart to improve my pace. OMC was a very physical track and I was absolutely wiped when we got back to San Angelo at 2AM on Sunday. Thanks to Ali and the 3G team for helping me throughout the weekend.

My next race is a club race at NTK on April 16th and the next SWRC round is at NTK on May 13th and 14th. It will be fun to race in the ultra-competitive SWRC series at a track I am familiar with.

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