Summit Point Kart Race 4
August 17, 1996
The fourth race weekend of the season (our third) began well enough. We had finally prepared everything prior to leaving for the track. On Friday we went to practice but it was prematurely rained out. Nevertheless Rob managed to squeeze in a few hot laps. Heading into race day we felt very positive and were looking forward to putting together a good pair of finishes, especially after sitting out the WKA National points race held there the month before.
For the first time it was almost boring as we had everything together with hours to spare. It was terrific! I went out for morning practice and the kart felt great. The chassis had responded well to the changes we made. It was also the first time I had ever driven it in non-race conditions. There were many slower four cycle karts on (and off) the track. Rain the night before had made going off the road a dicey proposition as many people found out. I did not push too hard.
At the start of my race I made a quick, clean getaway. The first lap is always my favorite as there is lots of good wheel to wheel action. I love jockeying for position. Within the first lap I discovered the conditions had changed from morning practice. One thing was that it was much hotter. Furthermore, I had been conservative in practice.
What I found out during the race was that the kart was less forgiving at the limit. In fact it was a handful. We had increased weight (ballast) in the front and rear, and this resulted in a greater polar moment. It did make the kart more stable over bumps, but certainly not in fast sweepers when the tail began to step out. I also experienced major understeer at one point, probably because the tires were not yet up to operating temperature.
On the third lap I was passed by another kart in a late braking maneuver at the end of the 3,000 foot front straight. Unfortunately I don't have front brakes. The other kart cut back onto the racing line too abruptly and I had to slow further. This while I had already turned in. The result was apparent: A quick spin. I was surprised to find that the engine had cut off even though I never lifted much. That was the end of my day.
Rob got off to a good start. Each time he came around he was going faster and faster. And each time he was achieving a new personal best. But then about midway through the race he did not come around. Minutes ticked by and there was no sign of him. After the race he was towed in. The kart was a mess from the off track excursion. The nose was cracked and a bunch of rivets had snapped. But there was no major damage. There was just lots of cleaning and minor repairs to be done.
So what began as a promising weekend ended in disappointment. I was not happy, especially with my performance. But all things considered it was tolerable. No one was hurt, we are still racing, and we learned some lessons we will be sure to remember next time.