Race report from Welkom.
by Pierre Martins
9 June 2007:
They say your first win in 250 Karts is always the most difficult, but I wonder how hard the second win is going to be? Yup, you guessed it, the bastards wouldn’t let me take another win this weekend, but I managed to scrape the barrel for the final spot on the podium…
It’s such a hoot going racing with my buddy Mario. We tend to laugh a lot. Sometimes he laughs at me when I do something stupid. Like when a plug lead came off in the last session and I grabbed it to push it back without thinking. Wow, almost got shocked right out of the kart! He-he-he…
A flying lap of the 4.242km Phakisa Moto-GP circuit in a 250 kart starts when you blast onto the pit straight. I’m in 3rd gear there, hooking 4th and briefly dabbing the brakes before going down two in the box for a late entry into turn one.
You hurtle in there at suicide speed and get back on the power early to settle the kart. It hooks up beautifully and you can steer on the throttle, balancing the thing slightly beyond the knife-edge of traction. What a fantastic feeling! On the exit there’s a bump you wait for before changing up to 3rd and pull it slightly to the left to set yourself up for the straightest possible line through the zig-zag section that follows.
Up through 4th & 5th and you almost take off over the blind rise into the first tight right-hander. It’s helluva bumpy in the braking zone, all too easy to lock a wheel and flat-spot a tyre. Most guys use the traditional racing line there. I opt for the biking line and aim straight for the apex under braking whilst gearing down to 2nd. With that you block the inside and outside simultaneously, but you have no room for mistakes.
On the exit you hit a sinkhole and the track suddenly drops away under you. You have to be ready for it and straighten out ever so slightly. If you hit it wrong you can get airborne and way outta shape.
After that the short straight allows you to catch your breath and size up the tight right-hander coming up. I have two options for this corner – Turn in late, square off the corner, point it and gas it, or turn in early, feed the power on and use the whole track on the exit whilst steering with the rear end. Both lines work for me.
Down a gear for the tight left hander. This is perhaps the most important corner of this track. It’s imperative to get good drive and terminal speed on the exit, cause it’s ultra high speed stuff from here all the way to the hairpin on the far side of the track. It’s bumby on the exit and you can spin if you run it wide. Gotta keep it tight!
Next up is another zig-zag section where you go up through 3rd, 4th & 5th before pitching it into the double right-hander leading onto the back straight. No braking here, just slot it back into 4 th and get back on the throttle and flat out in 5th before you come onto the back straight.
If you’re geared right you should hook 6th gear about halfway down the back straight, tuck your body in for better aerodynamics and watch those little front tyres grow on the rims with increased centrifugal force at high speed. I’m talking speeds on the plus side of 250km/h here, time to scare yourself shitless through two of the fastest corners on the local 250 Superkart scene.
Flat out in top gear. You don’t flinch. You don’t back off. You keep your right foot planted all the way through both sweepers. It’s a real test of bravery. I get it right most times, but sometimes my sense of self preservation gets the better of me and I can’t help but feather the throttle through the second sweeper.
You slingshot out of there and hit a series of bone-jarring bumps in the braking zone for the 2nd gear hairpin. Everything shakes. Your teeth clatter and it gets so blurry you can’t see shit. All that ge-ge-ge-ge-goes through your mind is - No time, no time, gotta slow this sucker down!
Make it through there and one more corner to go, the left-hander onto the pit straight. Rule of thumb is fast in, stick it hard on the exit and see what your lap-timer says as you cross the start/finish line.
And that was a 1’42-something lap, good for 4th place on the grid. Damn.
The starting lights didn’t work, so they sent us off with a flag. I got good drive and picked the inside line but Sean Moore promptly shut the door on me. I actually saw him look over his shoulder to check where I was before he blocked me into turn one.
I had to brake harder than I wanted to, letting Gary Gribben and Greg Farah through around the outside and being relegated back to P4, where I qualified. Of course I was not happy being there and made a move on Greg for P3 into the sweepers before the back straight, but he cut my nose off and I had to throw anchors not to hit him.
And that was that, Sean leading from start to finish with Gary in P2, Greg in P3 and me in P4. Nobody made a move and we finished in the positions we qualified, a boring race.
Behind us things were equally unimpressive. Some guys spun and others broke down, my team mate Lance being one of them, retiring with a broken gearbox.
This time I got a better start, slotted into P2 behind Sean Moore and tried to get close enough to bomb him a couple of times on the first lap.
That didn’t work and I found myself stuck in P2 for the next few laps, trying to come up with some sort of plan to deal with him. All of a sudden Greg Farah zapped me up the inside into the hairpin. I thought ‘Screw you pal’ and took him straight back in the very next corner onto the pit straight.
From there on we were locked in a little ding-dong battle whilst Sean Moore started clearing off in the lead.
I don’t know who the first back-marker was, but we buzzed the poor fella pretty hard coming onto the back straight on full taps. Sean took him without any hesitation and I followed suit, hoping that Greg would get stuck behind the guy and give me some breathing space, but no such luck.
Welkom really takes it out of you in a Superkart. With two and a half laps to go I was so tired I could barely hang onto the steering wheel, so I basically gave up the fight for P2 and decided to maintain position and consolidate P3 in the race and 3rd overall for the weekend.
I need to get fit.
With the racing done and stories told I was delighted to hear that our rookie driver Patric Mgee finished both races and managed to knock more than ten seconds off his lap times during the course of the weekend.
Steve Lavender had his first good dice of the season with Vaughn Obhlidal in heat two. So did our fast lady Elna Croeser and Ivor Horne. Time for another prediction – Right now Elna must rank in the top five fastest woman across all forms of circuit racing in the country. And this is just the beginning, she’s improving race by race and in time to come I’m sure we’ll see her mixing it up front.
Sean Moore is now leading the championship by a healthy margin – The writing’s on the wall, methinks. Before the season started everyone was saying ‘Nah, he’ll have to learn to drive that new PVP first…’ Well he’s making us eat our words.
Greg Farah, second in the championship – Write him off at your peril. You may think the Farahs are getting their asses whipped by a few new kids on the block, but Greg always seem to pull something out the hat with sheer determination and super-smooth driving. I rate him as the best driver in this year’s battle.
And to round off this report I’d like to mention Tony Farah, who’s not having the best of years with the reliability issues he’s having with his kart. It’s the way he deals with it that’s commendable – No throwing tantrums or sulking, he just takes it in his stride and gets on with racing in a professional manner.
There’s a lesson in that for all of us.