Summit Point Kart Race 1
April 27, 1996
Our very first race weekend got off to a precarious start. Rob and I arrived home from school and work, respectively, Friday night. With the kart not quite assembled, we spent all night preparing it. Saturday morning we arrived at Summit Point Raceway in disarray since we ran into so many snags which we could not overcome during the night.
It was a mad dash all the way to 1:00 pm when my race started. I sat on the starting line with the engine never having been fired up. I had never driven a racing kart, never even been on the track since we missed all the practice sessions. Naturally the race director was concerned. He let me run with a warning that I would be black flagged for even the slightest transgression.
On the grid we had to borrow a battery for the starter since we found ours had died. I must have gotten so much attention because I was so unprepared that everyone wanted to avoid me. Talk about filling your competitors with fear.
Fortunately, the race went without incident. The kart was certainly slow since I was not revving it to anywhere near the redline, just breaking it in. That gave me the chance to familiarize myself with the kart and the track. Mid-range and above performance was quite lively. It was faster than I had anticipated, though less difficult to handle than I was led to believe. Things went well until the closing laps when I lost belt tension and pulled off. Later it turned out the engine mount had come loose and the engine had slid back. Luckily, there was no damage.
Between the races, we put the engine back in place and checked everything over. The clutch was adjusted to engage at higher revs, and we fixed a leaking tire. At that point, Rob was not feeling well and decided not to drive, and I ended up filling in.
At the start I made up some ground on a few karts and moved to the outside. At the first corner I was forced to the very edge. When I ran out of room I just held my ground and touched with another kart. It wasn't a big deal, and no one lost much distance. But I was surprised by the lack of sportsmanship. The kart handled well enough, being very easy to drive. But because we were running without bodywork, there was too much drag to get decent straightline speed, especially when I was not in anyone's draft.
No one who moved in in front of me was close enough to draft. Once when I did manage to get behind a very wide kart, the effect was noticeable. However, it eventually pulled away as well, leaving me a sitting duck. During this time I worked on finding the smoother parts of the racing line, and taking the corners flat out where possible. It was not too difficult considering that, at any given point, I was down by about 1,000 rpm.
Finally my race came to an end while being passed in a tight left hander. The other driver swapped ends and slid towards the outside just as I was turning in. Our paths were rapidly converging and I had nowhere to go but straight. I spun in the grass and kept the engine going. But then it became obvious I had slid too far (and over too many dips) to drive back onto the course so I shut it off.
That was our first race weekend, a lesson we will always remember. On one hand we were much slower than the competition, and the kart was faster than expected. Yet it was easier to drive than I had thought, especially since we did not play with the set up. All things considered, we think there is a lot of potential left in our existing equipment which we will try to optimize for the next race. After all the time, effort, and money we have invested, it is finally beginning to provide some return. We know this is what we want to do, and that we will continue to work towards being successful in the not too distant future.