This weekend was James’s first MSUK race since he completed his ARKS test in December. We are absolutely over the moon after the weekend. James’s performance far surpassed anything we could have hoped for.
Friday 21st February – Testing
We left the house at 5am! These mornings are really starting to get earlier. I had spent the night before getting our clothes packed, with snacks – enough for each of the three days. Darren had managed to pack up the car the on Thursday night too, so we were set to go first thing. Once the shell shock from 4:50 alarms wore off, we bundled James and Lucy into the car – onsies on – and set off on our trip down to Whilton Mill in Daventry.
We were heading to a 3 day weekend of karting. Practice Friday / Saturday followed by our first MSUK race on Sunday. Joining us at Whilton was Finn Leslie and family. They have taken us under their wing in the world of karting, and supporting us no end. James and Finn have really become good friends. Its great to see how much they are invested in each others success.
This weekend, we ran with a new team called Ultimate-R. Ben fortunately had a space for us when we decided to attend Whilton last minute after GYG had cancelled the weekend before because of the bad weather.
Arriving at the track
Leaving James and Darren to get the kart out of the car and into the lovely awning – complete with light, power and heating! I nipped down to the shop, to get a number of items on the shopping list! I had pre-ordered wet weather gloves (James loved these) and boots (came up too small – even when a size bigger – and I need to return them) brake pads, break cleaner and chain lube. When I got back with the parts, Finn and James were on a track walk. Giving the parts to Darren to fit, I wandered off to look around too.
We run an Alfano 6 and usually manage our own data. Ben at Ultimate-R uses the Mychron, and was able to lend one to us. This meant that we could compare data with Finn and the other girl there called Skye. Data means we can see where the drivers have strengths and weaknesses.
The whole day was fantastic, and the drivers got a total of 7 sessions on the track. I love watching them go out and try different lines, finding the breaking points and feeling the grip. The use of data means we can really show them the improvements (or otherwise) from the different sessions in the hope of putting together good fast laps. James and Finn were absolutely flying.
This was James’s first time out on his LS3 tyres – the new cadet tyre for 2020. The tyre is much stickier than the LS2’s even in the cooler temperatures.
Saturday 22nd February – Practice
What a glorious day! Bright and dry. The day didn’t go as well as Friday. James had a bout of self doubt. He was almost trying too hard to get improve his times and became more ragged in his driving style. He got a little upset when looking at the data and felt he was being compared negatively. James is by far the harshest critic on himself. He amazes both me and his Dad every time he gets out on track.
Ben at Ultimate-R was nothing short of amazing with him. Taking time to try and understand where James was coming from. Adjusting his coaching technique to get the best out of James. Frustratingly, he made little progress in terms of the numbers, but where he would normally get quite cross with himself, James kept a much cooler head and continued to push on.
Sunday 23rd February – Race Day
Being James’s first MSUK race, we didn’t have too high an expectations. We know that his nerves often get the better of him. Today was different. James was cool, calm and collected. He was excited and determined. As James is on a Novice Licence, he has to start his heats at the back. This gives new drivers a bit more space. It keeps them out of the ‘thick of it’ so they can focus on themselves once on track.
In good company, and there was 9 novice drivers at Whilton Mill. This included the 2001 Formula 1 Champion, David Coulthard’s Son! Darren was a little star struck to say the least!
A fully dry session, James set of in 7th of the novice drivers. He got a really good start and pushed forward really well. A few drivers got a little stuck in traffic, but James drove straight through. Sticking some great moves, he was driving in 16th position at one point. 16th, against some of the very best drivers in the UK. For some, their experience paid off and they passed him, but heroically, he crossed the line in 19th out of 33 drivers.
The heavens had opened! Darren had had to change tyres. From Slicks – to intermediate – to wets! All the other mechanics were changing gearing as well as tyres. We were just not that organised. James set off as 3rd Novice on a full dry set up – but with wet tyres. Sadly this put him off the pace, but he drove a great heat, coming over the line in 27th.
James set off from 23rd. On the outside of the track he got leaned on and pushed wide, which left him last (32nd). Determined like I’ve never seen before, he got the bit between his teeth and pushed on. Sticking moves and late braking. His fastest lap time of the weekend, and crossing the line in 22nd! Go kn my boy ❤️
Sadly got a nose cone penalty, james thinks from the first corner cufuffle), so officially placed 25th.
We have been counting down the sleeps to Wombwell IKR Round 6! This is the only track that James has actually raced on before. He has had a little bit more seat time since then. He’s done some rounds of the scholarship at Three Sisters Circuit, and a couple of indoor sessions at Teamsport Leeds. (Indoor karting is completely different to outdoor though).
We left the house at a relatively respectable 7am. Picked up the trailer and set off down the motorway. Wombwell is by far one of the easiest tracks to get to from Harrogate (North Yorkshire). The A1 was once again, kind to us. Arriving in good time, we set up with the rest of the Mark Baines Motorsport Team for our first day of driver coaching with them. We’ve had one day with a driver coach before [you can read about that here]. We plan to try and have a few days with different teams to learn how everyone does things differently. Each time on track we all seem to learn something new – myself and Darren (dad.husband.mechanic) in particular.
First order of the day is to get James signed on. Signing on means heading to race control and confirming that he is present to drive for the weekend. Following that its grab a cup of tea from the butty van. By now the mechanic has the trailer parked and door open waiting for a lift with the kart. Trolley out, we haul the kart up an onto it. James’s kart weighs around 75kg (with his weights added) – so its a two person lift! I am not entirely sure what Darren then does for the next hour or so but I went on a track walk with James – Lucy in tow on her scooter. As we land back into the paddock, Mark and the other drivers from his team are heading out on a track walk, so James goes again too.
Racing at Wombwell cannot start until 11:30am due to the noise and the neighbours. Wombwell has been running for decades, but with all the new housing around the noise of the karts causes the populous an issue and racing is restricted to one weekend of the month. Engines can be started at 11:30, and its a quick turnaround and the first practice session is usually on track about 11:30:01 😉
This was James’s first time on track without his good friend Jamie. That did seem to upset him a little bit. Not quite his happy chirpy self. Darren had his work cut out for him too, and changed three engines and two carbs. This was to see if we could get more performance out of the kart and also to reference our own equipment against. This had a negative impact on James I think, who found the day quite stressful. I don’t think we helped by suggesting one of the engines should give him a few extra tenths… he was then over driving to achieve and ended up in a bit of a pickle with himself.
Now this is a different creature. Race day has a different feel in the air. The awnings went up overnight and everyone is ready a bit earlier. We arrived around 9:30, having pre prepared the kart before we left. First job of the day, sign on and collect our rented transponder. The transponder is what times the drivers. They weren’t ready, but we signed on and took a picture of the running order and grid positions for the heats. The day is set to consist of three heats and a final.
We came back to our team pitch to a bit of a commotion – one of the karts had a broken a seat bracket – this meant Alicia wouldn’t be able to race! There was some discussion about welding the bracket, but no-one had the confidence to do it. Luckily, Darren is a qualified welder, and offered up his services. Wombwell is the local track to a few in the MBM team, and one had a unit not to far away with a mig. Darren jumped int he van and went off to weld the kart. In the meantime I kept an eye on little Lucy and got James into the scrutineering queue. Scrutineering passed, its time to race.
Heat 1 – 6th to 3rd place. 2nd heat – 5th to 3rd place. In the 3rd heat, James was given a black flag for contact. He pushed another driver off the track. [read this blog on flags] I think that the flag was somewhat harsh. There was no malice and there was only a touch of contact, but the stewards word is final, and we respect that.
Final – 3rd to 4th. James was pushing hard gaining on 2nd, but frustratingly he spun just a couple of laps in. He did however make up almost 3 seconds to battle for 3rd, but missed out by just 4 tenths over the line. Just one more lap and he could have been on the podium – in only his 2nd ever race in his kart!
Kartal Motorsport were recommended to my Mum and Dad last time we were at Wombwell as a potentially good team to have some practice sessions with. Although we can run on our own – Dad being a mechanic. We know there is a lot for us to learn. Mum made contact with Alan at Kartal, and arranged a testing session with him.
Arriving at Hooten
We had just arrived from 2 and a half hour trip to realise i had forgotten my overalls i was fuming and so was my mum and dad. Luckily Jamie who runs with Kartal Motorsport, had a spare. I didn’t know what to say i couldn’t be luckier.
As my Dad worked on my go kart i played on my scooter. Suddenly, out of nowhere cadets were out on track but we weren’t ready yet so we missed the first session. Before long the next session arrived – it was a fast and furious day. The first session was a bit of a struggle finding the grip but we got there in the end.
One of the biggest benefits of running with Kartal is that I had my own driver coach for the day. Mum has only just figured out my Alfano 6 (data computer) and managed to download the data so its good that she had someone to look at it with. Tom was my driver coach and he stood out on track. He watched my driving, the way I took my corners and where i was accelerating and breaking. After each session Mum downloaded the data from the Alfano and she and Tom and I would look through the data and could see what I was doing.
Each session, Tom would give me something to focus on and to try and improve. The one thing I found the hardest at Hooten was to clip both curbs in the chicane, I could always get the second one but not always the first one.
Dad (@mehcanic.kell) spent a bit of time with the top guy at Kartal Motorsport called Alan. He helped dad around my kart and they tried a few different things. I was on slightly the wrong gearing when we arrived. Dad changed it after a while. It didn’t make too much difference. Apparently the track was slippier than normal because of some other racing that had been on before our testing session and no-one was making their usual times. In one session I managed to loose the plug form my air box, but Kartal had a spare box I could borrow.
My Dad changed the set up of the wheels on my kart because it is very slidy at the back end, but it didn’t make much difference either. I quite like it a bit looser though to be fair. I love the feeling of drifting in the corners.
Over the day, we managed to get 7 sessions on track, it would have been 8 if we’d got out for the first one. It was a very tiring day but so much fun. I learned a lot. Dad learned a lot and Mum says she did too. Lucy spent most of the day on her space hopper happy as anything.
I am hoping to get out with Kartal Motorsport for one of the championships next year #YesNow.
5am! I had to get up at 5am to go karting! The shop wasn’t even open for us to grab some breakfast… Mum normally gets us croissants when were going out in the morning. Mum always has a coffee too – it makes her less grumpy! Dad had already got our trailer ready so we only had to go and get it before setting off. Both of our karts go into the trailer and all of Dad’s kit with mine and Jamie’s go karts in we set of on our 2 hour journey to Wigan-three sisters.
When we got there it was shocking at how many racing teams and lots expensive equipment. It looked amazing and mum said we looked like the ‘poor cousins’ – I didn’t understand that when she said it. I thought it was because it was our first time at The Three Sisters Circuit with our own karts but it was actually because it was a BIG race meet weekend.
When we got parked we met up with Jamie and his mum Jennie. Our parents started to unload the go karts while we raced on scooters after getting sorted we heard our class get called to the grid. BUT. Our karts had a problem so we had to go on the next session. as we waited we watched our class go out and they were really good. It was a different track than the one we used at the kart school in the holidays. You can read about the novice and intermediate lessons we did at the Bill Sisley Kart school HERE.
Getting on Track
The next session is here and me and Jamie just took it slow and steady, it was really fun we just about to get called on to the grid and out of nowhere our indoor training teacher came Ben. We quickly got to the grid. It was much better and we kept up with some of the regular drivers.
By this time our seats were hurting us. My hips were hurting and Jamie’s ribs were hurting. Dad (on insta) put some foam into jamie’s which helped but I think he was already bruised by then.
We both had something to eat before the session. It came before we knew it so we got to the grid and we were blasting round the track. For some reason I was doing Tokyo drifts round corners – ace!. The session ended and it was a lunch break. I had a burger hmmmmm yummy and Jamie had a sausage sandwich also yummy. After lunch we played on our scooters which in the end got boring until It was our turn again. I pulled away from Jamie and was right behind one of the others but he braked too early and caused me to spin out again that session ended really quickly as well.
Sadly it was our last session. Jamie wanted to follow me the racing line but guess what – I spun out – however I still managed to catch Jamie up and overtake witch is really good. Unfortunately we had to go home but i had good fun and I can’t wait to go again. Man I a tired and ready for my bed but what an epic day. #yeahboi
Next, I think we are going to Wombwell again probably just saturday but maybe the race on the sunday too. Depends on money and how i feel on the saturday.
I had a giggle at my Mum today, because she had to wear a Hi Viz jacket. This was so my Mum and Jamie’s Mum could take photographs of us from a different angle.
Advanced Session 1 and 2
So today we learned about kart control. Ben had put out a lot of cones for us to drive around. He made extra chicanes in a few places so that he could test our skills. We had to turn, brake and accelerate our way around the cones.
Today I was on track with Jamie and Cameron. All three of us are good drivers and know the track really well. I enjoyed there only being three of us on track, because it meant I could really focus on what I was learning and not worrying about the traffic on the track.
Advanced Session 3 – RACE
As always, Ben saves the best till last and that means we get to race. We do one warm up lap and come around to the grid. Cameron was driving all over the place in his warm up lap – but I have now been told this is to warm up his tires. This is because the karts (and any race car) performs better if the wheels are warm as it means they have better grip!
How do we get our grid positions? They are based on the lap times we did in the 2nd session and this meant that I was just behind Cameron in pole, which put Jamie just behind me.
It was a really good race. Cameron got a really good start which meant Jamie and I were left behind as we were a little slower off the start. I was having to really keep Jamie behind me and we were battling for the most of the first half of the race. We touched in the bottom corner and it meant that I got a bit ahead of him. Once I was in clear space I could focus on catching Cameron, which is exactly what I did and I put in my fastest lap!
I was catching him a bit more each lap and this meant that me and Cameron started battling. Jamie began to catch us up and all three of us were flying round together. There was no overtaking and I think that is because we are all very competitive! I really enjoyed our session today and learned a lot.
1st – Cameron
2nd – Me
3rd – Jamie
Because I love karting so much. Mum has arranged some outdoor karting for me. Jamie’s mum has booked him on too and we will be going to the Three Sisters track in Wigan during the May Half Term. We are so excited. You will have to read our blog on that one!
Jamie and i are both intermediate cadets. I have been doing it a little bit longer, Jamie is just as good. Today was a cadet training session there were not many people there, I’m guesting that was because it was Easter. But it meant that Jamie I had a blast. we were learning about defending lines and the final session we had a big race and i just managed to beat my best lap time yet.
During the third session, Ben came on track. He is the cadet instructor. as he was on track he tested us all on our defending lines and he tried to get past each one off us – it was really fun. It tested our skills. I cant wait for the next session.
Jamie and I finished just 2 tenths off each other with what I think our both our best lap times. I got my best ever lap time with a 46.665 and Jamie was a 46.854! I love love love racing with Jamie . It is anyones race when we set off.