Race report from Zwartkops.
by Pierre Martins
28 July 2007:
Lance and I were both on fresh engines after mid-season top-end rebuilds and full of anticipation…
Wheel-spin in fourth gear coming onto the back straight is something I experienced in the 900hp Porsche GT2 I drove at Zwartkops earlier this year. It’s certainly not something I expected from a puny little 250 kart, so let’s just say I was pleasantly surprised with power from the ‘new’ engine in the first session on old slicks and a slippery track.
That was good fun. Team mate Lance was on song as well and pushing me hard throughout the entire session, but I was not really in it for lap times or practice session fun-dicing. I was testing gear ratios, but hell, you might as well have some fun whilst you're at it. He-he...
Last session of the day I had a clear track for the most part, perfect to sample the tyre gamble I had in mind. The local 250 Superkart series are on controlled tyres, supplied by Dunlop. You're only allowed one and a half set for quali and both races, so much of the black art of motorsport, tyre choice, is taken out of the equation in an attempt to keep costs down and level the playing field.
But Zwartkops was resurfaced recently and very slippery. Most car racers I spoke to said they gained a second a lap on used rubber a weekend or two ago, so I slapped on my race tyres from the previous race and turned lap after lap in the low 1'04"s without even trying.
I danced with the kart and it felt really good.
All roads to the small town of Cradock in the Eastern Cape were closed on Friday due to heavy snow falls. Cradock is about 1000km's away and has nothing in common with Zwartkops, but when I woke up on Saturday morning I knew the cold-front was here in full force.
Veron Pappas took pole with a low 1'03", Sean & Giles Moore were in the high 03"s, Lance in the mid 04" and the best I could produce on over-size jets was a mid 1'05", placing me fifth on the grid. The rest of the field was a second or more slower, so I was kinda happy with 5th.
It looked like my tyre gamble might work.
Got a good start, but there were no gaps in the hairpin, so no places gained. The kart felt loose, but predictable. It was evident that Veron had a problem from the start and it didn't take the Moore bros long to get past him. Lance also took him and by lap three it was my turn.
I desperately wanted a piece of the action up front, but Sean Mitchell stuck himself sideways up the inside into the hairpin and bogged down right in front of me, screwing up my chances of catching a tow from Lance.
The rest of the race I hung onto P4 for dear life, with Gary Gribben all over me like a bad rash. Geesh, he's a tenacious old fox. The man is fast and experienced, been racing Superkarts since the seventies. I still have to learn the things that he's forgotten about driving Superkarts. Fortunately traffic worked in my favour and I managed to keep him behind me.
Giles pulled a five second lead up front, only to lose his chain on the last lap. His bro Sean took it in the end, with Lance in P2 and yours truly inherited P3. Not the way I would have liked it, but a podium is a podium, thank you very much.
I sat in pre-race warming up the kart and figuring who I needed to stay ahead of to consolidate third overall for the day. Veron did an excellent job of breaking his engine, so he was out. Giles will be up front, but he had a DNF in heat one. That left Sean Moore, Lance and myself in contention for the top three spots of overall results for the day, but I needed to keep Gary behind me again, ugh.
This time I didn't get such a good start and for some really stupid reason I didn't cover the inside line into the hairpin. That's all Greg Farah needed to take me. On lap two Tony Farah got me the same way. I knew I had more speed than him on the exit, but I got massive wheel-spin and got boxed in behind Tony whilst Vaughn, Gary and Sean Mitchell got through. Dammit, I had to let the gravy train through before I could power past Tony.
That's the thing about racing at the sharp end of 250 karts. - Be slightly off pace or make a small mistake and you lose plenty places before you can wipe the shit from your eyes.
I tried hard to stay with Gary and Sean who were locked in a little ding dong battle just ahead of me, but my tyre gamble was backfiring in my face and it felt like I was driving on sand.
Giles took it this time round. His first win in 250 karts. I was really happy for him. Sean Moore DNF'd with a broken rotary valve. Lance got two second places for the day, securing 1st overall for the day. I was just as happy for him. Vaughn Obhlidal got third.
I ended up in P7 in race two, but still managed 4th overall for the day. Not too shabby, I guess...
Post race day fatigue is a bitch when you race 250 karts. I’ve been thinking about getting fit, but it just doesn't make mathematical sense. I mean, take the number of hours in a day and multiply that by the number of days in a year and divide that by the number of hours we actually spend driving these karts. Now, if I exercised one hour a day, that's a lot of drinking hours I'm giving up for limited seat time in the kart.
Just doesn't make fiscal sense. He-he-he...