Tuesday, November 2, 2004

SCCA OVR Points Event No. 9 and 10 (2004)

Originally sent: Tuesday, November 02, 2004 9:58 AM

Not content to put all of the karting equipment away after the MSOKC season finale, Bruce Brothers Racing decided to give another form of racing a try. The Ohio Valley Region (OVR) of the Sports Car Club of America (SCCA) has a very popular Solo II program, which involves timed runs through a parking lot course full of pylons (a.k.a. autocross). It's mostly for cars, but they do have kart classes for both kids and adults. Conor gave it a try two weeks ago, and this past Sunday, both Henry and Conor participated in the final OVR points event of the season.

The rules for Conor's class (FJ1) allow unrestricted Briggs and Stratton engines, but for his first event two weeks ago, we decided to run him with his existing restrictor plate set up. There are no practice runs and the course layout is not known until the morning of the event. After registration, the participants are allowed to walk the course. Junior drivers get the benefit of walking the course with the Youth Steward, who gives them guidance and tips on how to memorize the course. The kart classes made their four runs in the third and final group of the day. In the first two groups, we saw everything from race-prepared Corvettes to Formula Fords to Subaru WRXs to stock Honda Civics. Good times were in the 40 to 50 second range. Conor's first run was 49.644 seconds. He improved on that in each of his next three runs and ended up with a best time of 46.101 seconds, which was the second best time in his class and just 0.464 seconds slower than the winner, who was running an unrestricted engine. The best time for a stock Corvette was 44.450 seconds.

This past Sunday, Henry, who has been recovering from a dislocated shoulder (fell off of Peter's stunt bike), decided he also wanted to give Solo II a try. His class (FJ2) also allows unrestricted engines, but requires an additional 25 lbs of weight. For Conor, we removed his restrictor plate and made what we hoped would be the necessary carburetor jetting and gear ratio changes to increase his competitiveness. The kart classes again made their runs in the third and final group of the day and good times for the cars were again in the 40 to 50 second range. Henry was a bit tentative in his first run, but improved his time significantly in his second and third runs. Conor was fast immediately, and also improved in his second and third runs. Both boys, having set good times in their previous runs, 'over-cooked it' a bit in their fourth runs. Henry won his class with a time of 43.026 and Conor won his class with a time of 42.287 seconds. The best time for a stock Corvette was 42.194 seconds. Henry's best time was 2.901 seconds better than the second place kart in his class. Conor's best time was 3.529 seconds better than the second place kart in his class, who had not lost an event this year. SCCA has a handicapping system called PAX for comparing times of entries which are not in the same class. The index is composed of data from across the country and tries to take the cars out of the equation and compare only the drivers. Conor got a trophy for the 8th best PAX score out of 154 entries! Henry's PAX score was 38th best in his first try at Solo II.

We certainly enjoyed the experience, and if time permits, we hope to run a few more Solo II events next year.


Tuesday, October 12, 2004

MSOKC Race No. 13 - September 26, 2004

Originally sent: Tuesday, October 12, 2004 2:05 PM

The MSOKC season finale several weeks ago was a good one for Bruce Brothers Racing – personal-best lap times, secured championship positions, and more beautiful weather.

Peter again started all of his races from the back of the grid in his class, which consisted of seven karts. In the first heat, he worked his way to fourth by the end, taking advantage of mostly off-course excursions by his competitors. This result seemed to really charge him up, and at the drop of the green flag for the second heat, he had the bit between his teeth. He made a couple of well timed passes and finished fourth again, recording a personal-best lap time of 59.85 seconds in the process. With the psychological one minute barrier broken, he had high expectations for the feature. There were a few first lap tangles, but by using good sense and his quickened pace, Peter made his way to fourth by the end of the first lap. He was doing everything he could to hold on to his position, but one of his competitors was impatient and clobbered him in the rear in Turn 7 on the second lap. This sent him and several others into the grass. Quite a bit of time was lost, but this did not appear to discourage Peter, as he again lowered his personal-best lap time twice in the remaining laps (59.37 and 59.29). When approached after the race (in a friendly way), the dad of the clobberer denied the whole thing. The clobberer was quick to admit his mistake and apologized, however, while the dad remained in denial. Apparently, maturity does not always come with age…

We un-did several changes that we had made to Conor’s kart prior to the feature of the previous race, and his practice times showed a significant improvement. Conor started the first heat from the sixth position (of seven). He spent the first few laps working his way through the field. By mid distance, he was up to third. With open track in front of him, he too lowered his personal-best lap time to 50.68. The leaders were too far out in front to catch however, and he settled for third. Conor started the second heat from the pole. He made a less than spectacular start, however and was passed in Turn 1. Conor was able to pressure the leader while the front three distanced themselves from the field. He could not get by, but was able to keep his primary competition from the previous race behind him to the checkered flag. His heat races finishes earned him the second starting position for the feature. He made a good start and was able to pressure the leader in the first few laps. Her new-found pace kicked in by about mid-distance, however, and Conor ran an uneventful second to the checkered flag. Conor’s third place position in the championship had been sealed during the previous race (too far back from second but sufficiently ahead of fourth), but it was encouraging to see him lower his personal-best lap time in the season finale.

Henry’s primary goal for the day was to maintain his second place position in the championship battle - he started the day with just a slim 10 point advantage over the third place kart. He started the first heat from the fourth position (of seven) with his rival in third. The fastest kart in the class from the previous week (Adam Roberts) started at the rear, and I told Henry to let him pass when he came up from behind so that he would have sufficient time to pass his rival, too. The first part of this happened as planned but not until about mid-distance. Several laps went by without the second part happening, however. On the last turn of the last lap, Adam was finally able to get by, allowing Henry to finish immediately behind his rival - only 2 championship points lost as opposed to 4. In the second heat, Henry started third with his rival in fourth. Adam started on pole and checked out. Henry and his rival spent the entire heat bottled up behind the notoriously difficult to pass kart in this class. The important thing is that they finished this way, with Henry immediately ahead of his rival - 2 championship points re-gained. During the intermission, we did the math for all of the possible scenarios. We figured that, for his rival to overtake Henry in the championship, he would have to win the feature and have Henry finish fourth or worse. His rival started the feature from the second position with Henry in third. At the start, Adam again checked out (good ol' Adam!). Henry maintained his position, but began to loose ground to his rival. Henry's lap times had begun to creep up in the last two races and it appears that it's now his turn to need a motor re-build. Henry had enough to maintain his position, however, and the first three ran the way they started to the finish. This result sealed second place in the championship for Henry with a 6 point margin over his rival.

So, the second season of racing comes to a close for Bruce Brothers Racing. Conor did an excellent job in his first year in the Junior Sportsman II class, securing third place in the championship in the face of some stiff competition. Henry's second place the in Junior Unrestricted championship, which included several heat race wins and a feature race win, is an awesome result for a true rookie (prior to this year, Henry had only taken practice laps in Conor's kart). Peter also got his first taste of competition in the Rookie Box class and appears to have what it takes to be a serious competitor. All three boys are eligible to compete in the same classes again next year, which is our plan at this point. In the mean time, we're looking forward to the off-season. Thanks again to everyone for all the help throughout the season and for all of the kind words of encouragement and support.


Wednesday, September 22, 2004

MSOKC Race No. 1 (rescheduled) - September 19, 2004

Originally sent: Wednesday, September 22, 2004 1:00 PM

In spite of the forecast from earlier in the week, which had called for remnants of Hurricane Ivan throughout the weekend, MSOKC karters were greeted with clear skies on Sunday for the make-up race for rained-out Race No. 1. Conor celebrated his birthday at the race track and Peter made his racing debut. Henry unveiled some new graphics on his kart (pink stripes!), which were intended to offset the good-natured teasing he received last week from the family of the driver chasing him for third place in the championship.

We acquired a used chassis for Peter a couple of months ago from a colleague who was moving to Houston. Using spare parts and Conor’s 'Rookie Box' motor from last year, we were able to get him going without too much expense. I had taken him to the track to practice with Conor several times, but transportation during race weekends has been our main problem, since out trailer only holds two karts. On Sunday, my dad agreed to take Peter in his pick-up truck. Our objective for Peter was to get him some experience under race conditions. He started all of his races from the back of the grid, as is required for rookie drivers. He worked his way up to speed throughout the day, and by the feature race, he was keeping up with the back of the pack. He even made his first pass – a brave outside maneuver going into Turn 9. Way to go, Peter!

The newly-crowned champion in Conor’s class had moved up to Henry’s class, so we had hopes for a possible win for Conor. He started his first heat race from the fourth position (of five). He made a reasonable start and made two passes by about mid distance. He was then passed by the driver he is chasing for second in the championship, who went on to win the heat. Conor was unable to pass his main rival from last year, who has been getting faster as the season winds down, and finished third. Starting from outside the front row in the second heat, he tucked inside the driver in second in the championship, who had started on the pole, and had to watch as she (yes, she) checked out. Conor had beaten her pretty soundly just over a week ago, when she was lapping in the mid-52 second range. On Sunday, she was lapping in the mid-49 second range – faster than anyone has lapped all year in this class. Someone is going to have to explain to me how you pick up 3 seconds per lap in 8 days… Conor ran a relatively lonely second to the end in the second heat. Conor lined up third for the feature and made a great pass in Turn 1. There was a scary incident behind him, however, which brought out the red flag. After the pieces were cleared up, everyone made it back to the grid for the restart. The two karts involved in the red flag incident were moved to the back of the grid, which put Conor on the outside of the front row. He didn't have as much luck with the restart and was passed in Turn 1. We had made some fairly dramatic changes to his kart prior to the feature, and it became apparent fairly quickly that the set-up we ended up with was not ideal. His lap times were good, but just a tick slower than his heat race times. He was able to hold on to third to the finish, however. Post-race tech inspection varies from race to race. Several times this year they have inspected restrictor plates to make sure the diameter is to specification. This was not the case on Sunday, and while this probably sounds like 'sour grapes', I sure would like to have seen somebody have a look at the restrictor plate in the winning kart… So, with one race to go, Conor’s third place in the championship is now sealed. He is too far back from second but sufficiently ahead of fourth. Way to go Conor!

From the moment we unloaded the trailer, Henry’s pink stripes seemed to be having the desired effect. If nothing else, they let the driver chasing Henry for third place in the championship know that we had been thinking about him during the week between races. Henry started the first heat from pole position and led fairly handily through Lap 4 (of 6). By that time, Adam, the newly-crowned champion in Conor’s class, had caught up and passed Henry, who finished second. Adam went on to win both heats and the feature in his first official outing in this class – wow! Starting from last (7th) in the second heat, he made one pass but then got stuck behind the driver who everyone has trouble passing and finished sixth. His heat race finishes were on par with his rival for third place in the championship, so the feature would be the decider. Henry lined up on the inside of row two with his rival to the outside. At the start, Henry was squeezed to the inside but held his line. On the outside, there was contact and his rival did a half spin and fell to last. The contact also allowed Henry to gain a position to second, where he ran to the finish. His rival caught up to the pack by mid-distance but could not pass and finished last. Only the best nine finishes count for the championship, however, so Henry’s rival will use this as a 'drop' race. His next best race is a reasonable one, but Henry still gained four valuable points, extending his lead to 10. Henry is running as fast as he has all season - his fast lap on Sunday was sub-49 seconds, just a tenth off of his best ever - so we are optimistic that he can hang in there.

Thanks to everyone who helped out with getting and keeping three karts on the track on Sunday - my dad, the boy's uncle Rick, and particularly my lovely wife Laura, whose loving and constant support does not get mentioned nearly enough in these reports. The season finale is this Sunday, September 26.


Thursday, September 16, 2004

MSOKC Race No. 12 – September 11, 2004

Originally sent: Thursday, September 16, 2004 9:02 AM

This past Saturday was the last MSOKC night race of the season. Henry had a 1:00 PM soccer game near Toledo, which is a 2-1/2 - 3 hour drive from the race track, so his participation in the first heat race was questionable. We knew that this would be the case, so we had previously asked Adam Roberts, who is the point’s leader in Conor’s class to fill in for Henry until he arrived, which he gladly agreed to do. Adam ran a bunch of practice laps in Henry’s kart and provided some valuable feedback. After implementing some changes, Adam was lapping in the mid-49 second range, which is just a few tenths better than what Henry was able to do in the previous race. We had also made some chassis adjustments to Conor’s kart in an effort to correct a worsening under-steer problem. His practice laps were immediately on par with what he was able to do in the previous race and got better as the day progressed.

Conor started his first heat race from the fifth position with his main rivals in front of him and one regular and two non-spec karts behind him. At the start, the starter threw a late green flag after most of the karts, including Conor, had backed off assuming that he would send them around again. This negated any advantage he had gained on the run up to the green flag. He arrived at Turn 3 just in time to have the kart in front of him check up to avoid a slower that had started on the front row. Conor tried to check up but was hit from behind, which drove him up onto the kart in front of him. Several seconds were lost, but only minimal damage was done. He pushed hard which allowed him to regain several positions, and eventually finished fourth. Starting from second in his second heat race, he got no help from the kart behind him and the third place starter got by in Turn 1. He was able to apply some pressure but could not get by and settled for third. The flagman inadvertently gave them an extra lap (7 instead of 6), and this turned out to be his fastest of the day (51.13). His heat race finishes earned him the second starting position for the feature. This time, he held his position and ran a relatively uncontested second to the checkered flag. Adam’s perfect score for the day clinched the championship for him, so we expect to see him move up to Henry’s class for the next race. Conor gained a few point on the second place kart in the championship, but the season is quickly winding down.

Henry arrived just as the driver’s meeting was concluding. His class was fifth in the order, which meant that he would have time to change clothes in plenty of time to make it to the grid. He started his first heat race from the fourth position (of five) with three Briggs Medium karts (same engine spec with adult drivers and a bit more weight) behind him. This is the first time in our experience that the club has combined these classes and it would prove to be a factor. He made a good start to maintain his position and on Lap 2 made a pass for third. Two of the Briggs Medium guys were every bit as fast as some of the karts in Henry’s class, and with the front of the pack bunched up, they were impatient to get through. While running third on the last lap, one the Briggs Medium guys punted Henry off in Turn 6. This was a big disappointment since the kart that is third behind Henry in the championship had also gone off and was running last. By the time Henry got going again, he was last and finished that way. In the second heat race, Henry lined up second. The pole sitter was a relative new-comer and must have missed the part of the drivers meeting where they discussed bringing the field around Turn 10 slowly at the start. After three attempts, one of which resulted in a scary pile-up (literally) in Turn 10, the flagman moved the pole sitter to the rear of the grid, which put Henry on the pole. It also put the kart that is third in the championship on the front row with Henry. As is often the case, the outside was a better place to be and Henry got passed going into Turn 1. He was able to stay in contact with the leader, but could not challenge and settled for second. For the feature, the Race Director decided start the Briggs Medium guys in front of the younger guys and separate them by a half lap or so. In retrospect, this would have been smart thing to do in the heat races, too. Henry started the feature from the fourth position. He got a good start and held his line through Turns 1 and 2, which allowed him to take advantage of being on the inside for Turn 3. The leader went wide in Turn 7 on Lap 3, which put Henry into second. Having adjusted to the changes we made to his kart, Henry ran off a string of mid-49 second laps, which brought him to the tail of his rival for second place in the championship. He was able to pull along side on the entry to Turn 10 at one point, but had to back off when the door was closed. On the next lap, he lost a bit of time then the back end nearly came around in Turn 10. He ran his fastest lap of the day (49.50) on the next lap, but by that time it was too late and he took the checkered flag second. Henry lost some points to the third place kart in the championship and will have his work cut out for him in the remaining two races.

The next race is Sunday, September 19 (Conor's Birthday!). This is a make-up race for Race No. 1, which was postponed because of rain. With the aftermath of Hurricane Ivan on the way, I have a feeling that rain might again be a factor.


Friday, September 3, 2004

MSOKC Race No. 11 – August 28, 2004

Originally sent: Friday, September 03, 2004 11:57 AM

After a three week layoff, Bruce Brothers Racing was back in action last Saturday evening. We were told that the race we missed (Race No. 10) was an uncomfortably hot and sweaty affair, and the weather again played a part on Saturday. During the layoff, we concentrated on getting Conor back up to the front of the pack in his class. We Originally sent his engine back to the engine builder for a freshen up and installed an early birthday present - new tires! During the first practice session, it became apparent that we were headed in the right direction with laps in the mid 52 second range. After implementing some suggestions for fine tuning that were provided by the dad of the points leader in Conor's class (how's that for sportsmanship!), Conor was lapping in the mid 51 second range during the second practice session. Henry had recorded a near-personal-best lap of 48.96 seconds his last time out, so we were fairly content to leave well enough alone on his kart. His practice times were in the mid to upper 49 second range.

Conor started the first heat from pole position with his main competitors lined up in 6th and 7th. He made a great start and began to pull away by just less than a second a lap. By mid distance (Lap 3 of 6), the points leader in Conor's class, who just keeps getting faster and faster as the result of experience gained recently in regional and national level races, had worked his way from last to second. He caught and passed Conor with about a lap to go. Conor held on to finish a comfortable second. In the second heat, it was Conor's turn to start from the rear. He made a good start, gaining several positions on the first lap. He caught up with two karts that were battling for the third position by Lap 3. The kart in 4th tried to go through Turn 5 (end of the long straight-away) side-by-side with the kart in 3rd. They came together and both went into the grass. It's normally advantageous when two karts in front of you go into the grass, but this time they took Conor with them. By the time he got going again, everyone else had gotten by. He pushed hard for the remainder of the heat, recording another mid 51 second lap, but ended up finishing last (7th). Before all of the heat races were concluded, the skies finally decided to open up. The club decided to award points for the day based on heat race finishes and the order in which you would have started the feature. A 2nd and a 7th might have earned Conor a feature race starting position as low as 5th, but there were four karts whose heat race finishes equaled 9 (2nd and 7th, 3rd and 6th, 4th and 5th, and 5th and 4th). Because Conor drew the second starting position for the first heat, which is the tie-breaker in these cases, he was awarded points for 3rd place in the feature. That was a reasonable result for what was generally a disappointing day. The best aspect of the day for Conor, however, was that, except for the points leader in his class, who set the fastest lap time in the WKA National race on the previous weekend, he was the fastest kart in his class. He remains third in championship points and has just a glimmer of hope for catching the kart in second with three races remaining.

Henry started both of his heat races from the third position (out of five karts in his class). In the first heat, he made a great start and followed the pole-sitter through Turn 1 into 2nd. On Lap 3, he got a good run coming out of Turn 4 and made a pass for the lead at the end of the long straight-away. He held a comfortable lead to the checkered flag, adding another heat race win to the list of accomplishments for his short racing career. In the second heat race, one of the slower karts in Henry's class started from the pole. Henry made another great start, which was a carbon-copy of the first heat and was in 2nd by Turn 3. The kart that started on the pole drives a very defensive line that borders on blocking. It was very frustrating to see Henry and several others bottled up behind him, unable to get past. Henry made an attempt on Lap 3 that didn't quite work. To make matters worse, Henry's attempt allowed the kart in 3rd to get past. On the last lap while running in 3rd (which would have earned him the pole position/1st place points for the feature), he made a lunge up the inside going into Turn 9 in an attempt to gain back a position. The gap that he thought was there wasn't, contact was made, and all three of the front runners went into the grass. Frustration is a powerful thing, and I'm sure he wouldn't have attempted such a move under different circumstances. By the time he got going again - you guessed it - he was last (5th). After the rain began, Henry was also awarded 3rd place points for the feature. He remains second in championship points with a narrow gap to third and no real hope of catching the points leader, who ended up winning the second heat race because of the incident in Turn 9! Henry was mighty disappointed with himself, but he did learn a valuable lesson.

The next race is Saturday evening, September 11. Henry is on the Upper Arlington High School Junior Varsity soccer team, which has a game that day. The club rules allow for a substitute driver as long as the primary driver participates in at least one of the races (either of the heat races or the feature). We have recruited the points leader in Conor's class, who is about the same size as Henry, to fill in until Henry arrives. It will be an interesting day. I hope that the weather decided to participate, but it looks as if we might be under the influence of Hurricane Frances by then...


Tuesday, August 10, 2004

MSOKC Race No. 9 – August 7, 2004

Originally sent: Tuesday, August 10, 2004 7:53 AM

Rebound. That’s a pretty good description of last Saturday night compared to two weeks prior to that. Henry earned his first feature race win and Conor overcame some adverse circumstances to finish second in his feature race.

We had made quite a few changes to Conor’s kart during the two-week layoff in an effort to get him back up to speed. During the practice sessions, it became apparent that we had made some progress, but his times were still off by about a second a lap. We began to suspect that his engine was getting a bit sour. He started the first heat race from the third position (of seven karts in his class). He was able to maintain his position at the start, but the two karts in front of him began to disappear into the distance. He was able to keep the rest of the field behind him, however, and finished third. Starting from third again in the second heat race, he followed the pole-sitter through to second by Turn 2. In Turn 3, the kart that had started outside on the front row clobbered Conor in the right rear and both went spinning into the grass. Both took some time to get going again - Conor actually had to get out and push while the corner worker helped the culprit! From the rear, he made up two spots and finished fifth. In the feature, he was lined up on the outside of Row 2 at the start. When the green flag flew, he hooked up with the kart that started on the outside of the front row and both were able to get by the pole-sitter. The kart in front of him again began to disappear into the distance, but Conor was able to keep in front of the remainder of the field. The two karts immediately behind him both had a bit more pace, but Conor made neither a single mistake nor left a door open and hung on to finish second. Not a bad result for a kart with a souring motor.

Henry practiced well and started the first heat from outside the from row. His class was joined by another national level guy who would eventually be disqualified for non-spec tires. He timed the start perfectly and led by Turn 3. With the remainder of the field bottled up behind the pole-sitter, Henry began to pull away. The pole-sitter managed to keep the field behind him and Henry won by a significant margin. He started the second heat race from the fifth position (of nine). On the formation lap, the kart in the fourth position dropped out with engine trouble, which left an open spot on the grid. At the green flag, Henry made the best of the open position and followed the outside row into Turn 1. By Turn 3, he found himself in third. The first three, including Henry, his main rival, and the national level guy, began to distance themselves from the field. Henry was close enough to attempt a pass on several occasions, but could not get by. A first and a third did earn him the pole position for the feature, however. The nice thing about pole position is that there is not much strategy to discuss on the grid. - I told Henry “You’re the Boss.” He timed the start perfectly and managed to pull away from the national level guy over the first few laps, with the remainder of the field in tow. By mid distance (Lap 4 of eight), Henry had a several second lead and the national level guy began to pull away from the field. The national level guy began to close the gap on Henry but the gap to the field stayed constant. By the final lap, the national level guy had caught Henry and passed, relatively uncontested, on the inside at the approach to Turn 7. Henry took the checkered flag second knowing that the national level guy would be disqualified, giving him his first feature race win of his short racing career. After the race, I confirmed with Henry that he had backed off in the last few laps and let the national level guy pass. I tell the boys to race with their heads and not with their hearts. Someone else might have raced the national level guy and risked having an incident. One part of me would like to have seen him take his first feature race win outright, particularly against such strong competition, but Henry is a young man with quite a head on his shoulders. What would you have done?

The next race is Sunday, August 15, but we will be in Kansas City for a family wedding. In the mean time, Conor’s engine is on its way back to our engine builder for a freshen-up. We will be back in action on Saturday, August 28.


Tuesday, July 27, 2004

MSOKC Race No. 8 - July 24, 2004

Originally sent: Tuesday, July 27, 2004 4:28 PM

Perfect weather greeted central Ohio karters Saturday evening for MSOKC Race No. 8. Practice was reduced from three sessions to two, there were no problems with the lighting system, and the program was run much more efficiently than two weeks ago, so we actually got home before midnight! There wasn't a whole lot to cheer about, however, as mechanical gremlins haunted both Conor and Henry.

Conor started Heat 1 from the fifth position (of six). He worked his way up to fourth and was working on third with a brave outside pass in Turn 4 on the first lap. The kart on the inside went wide and pushed Conor out onto the grass. He did a quick '360' and rejoined at the back of the pack. He was able to make up one position, but his lap times were off by about a second. He started Heat 2 from outside the front row and tucked in behind the pole sitter at the green flag. The pole sitter, who Conor can usually keep up with, quickly began pulling away. Conor was able to maintain second position, but just barely as his lap times were again just a tick off. While lubricating Conor's chain during the intermission, I discovered his right rear wheel bearing was not turning with the axle. The axle was turning inside the bearing instead. Time was short, but I decided that I had just enough time to replace it with a slightly used one. When I got it back together, I discovered that the slightly used one was even worse that the original! With the help of a friend, I was able to replace it with a different slightly used one just in time for the feature. Finishing positions of fifth and second put him in the fourth starting position for the feature. The pole sitter again checked out, and even the second and third place karts began to pull away from Conor. Conor reeled the second and third place karts in by mid distance (Lap 4 of 8), but could not get by. He recorded his first non-podium finish in a feature race in over a year of competition. After the race, Conor informed me that the reason he fell back at the beginning was that he had no brakes. In my haste to get things back together, I had neglected to clean the dirt and oil off of his disk brake rotor, and it took a couple of laps for it to burn off. After we got home, I also discovered that the second slightly used axle bearing was the worst of the three!

One of the eight starters in Henry's class was a national-level guy who would eventually be disqualified for using non-spec tires. He was there to test the not-yet-released 2005 Bandit chassis. Henry started his first heat race from the seventh starting position. The inside row got a good run at the green flag and Henry found himself in fourth by Turn 4. While chasing down the third place kart, Henry recorded his fastest lap ever (48.88 seconds), but eventually settled for fourth. He started from pole position in Heat 2 with the national-level guy to his outside. I told Henry on the grid, that if the national-level guy got a jump at the start, to let him go since he was not running for championship points. The start was fairly even at the front and Henry raced the national-level guy through the first few turns. He finally conceded the position in Turn 4 and just about let the third place kart through with him. He stuck right with the national-level guy for the next few laps and even appeared to be held up at one point. The pace of the first two drew them away from the rest of the field and Henry appeared to be headed for maximum points. It was not to be, however. As he was exiting Turn 8 on the fourth lap (of six), his chain inexplicably derailed leaving him stranded and dropping him from maximum points to minimum points. The wayward chain had wrapped itself around the axle at one point, so we decided to replace it during the intermission as a precautionary measure. Henry started the feature from the fifth position. He gained two spots when one of his competitors spun in front of him. One of the spots had belonged to the national-level guy, however, who reclaimed it by mid distance. He was again able to pressure for third, but could not get by. When the national-level guy was disqualified, this elevated Henry's feature race finish to third. When I asked him how he managed to avoid the spinning kart in front of him, he indicated that he had employed a technique that I had mentioned to him at one time. When someone spins in front of you, you head straight for them because, by the time you get there, they'll be gone!

Overall it was not the best of outings, but we did learn a few things. I have since replaced the rear axle bearing hangers on Conor's kart, which seemed to be the source of his problem. I have also ordered new bearings for Conor and chain guides for both karts, which are supposed to prevent the type of problem Henry experienced. We'll see how all this works at our next race, which is another Saturday evening affair on August 7, 2004.


Tuesday, July 13, 2004

MSOKC Race No. 7 - July 10, 2004

Originally sent: Tuesday, July 13, 2004 7:35 AM

The Bruce Brothers were back in action this past weekend after almost a month off. MSOKC Race No. 7 was a Saturday evening affair, with practice starting at 3:30 PM and racing scheduled to get underway at 6:00 PM. There was a downpour just after the gates opened at 2:00 PM, which pushed the schedule back a bit while the track dried. I have told the boys many times that races are not won during the practice sessions. This must have slipped Conor's mind, as he was involved in an incident while dicing with another kart that spun in front of him on the second lap of the first practice session. The result was significant damage to the nose of his kart. With the help of a couple of nuts and bolts, a few wire ties, and about 3 yards of duct tape, he was back in business prior to the second session. We were a bit rusty and quite a few changes were required to get both boys up to speed (correct carburetor jets, spark plugs, and tire pressures for the weather conditions, gear ratios etc.). We were a bit behind because of Conor's incident, but we managed to get to where we needed to be by the time the heat races started at about 6:45 PM.

Conor started from the third position in his first heat race. About five of the seven karts in his class ran nose to tail, with Conor third, for the first four laps (of six). The second place kart ran wide on the exit to Turn 6, which elevated him to second. On the last lap, the lead kart sputtered and Conor was able to pass. He then held on for the win. Starting from fourth in his second heat race, he made a few well-timed passes, which put him into second. The leader had built up a healthy lead by that point, so Conor had to settle for second. A first and a second earned him his first feature race pole position of the year, however. He timed his start perfectly and led the first few laps easily. Conor's main rival this year was right on his tail by mid-distance (Lap 3 of only six instead of eight because of the late start). On Lap 4, Conor's rival was able get inside on the entrance to Turn 10 and got by. Conor held on to finish second.

Henry started from outside the front row in his first heat race. He went through Turn 1 side-by-side with the pole-sitter and got by in Turn 2. His main rival was on his bumper by Lap 2, however. He made no mistakes and on the penultimate lap, his rival put two wheels on the grass, which allowed Henry to take the win uncontested. Starting sixth (of eight) in his second heat race, he made a couple of passes in the first few turns. He then got stuck behind a kart that he usually has no trouble getting around and stayed there to the finish. He had complained about a rough idle on the grid, and when we checked the spark plug, we found that the gap was almost completely closed. It is a wonder that he finished at all. The cams in these engines have such a high lift that if you don't orient the electrode in the proper direction (using different thickness washers), the valves will actually hit the spark plug and close the gap. I had changed the spark plug during the practice sessions and this was obviously the case. His heat race finishes were good enough for a front row starting position for the feature, however. Equipped with a correctly-oriented new spark plug, he tucked in behind the pole sitter (his main rival) and ran an uneventful second to the finish.

It was well after dark by the time the feature races were supposed to start. Just after the driver's meeting, all of the lights on the track and in the pits went out, the result of an overheated circuit panel. By the time this was corrected and some additional temporary lighting was erected in one of the darker spots, it was quite late. The green flag for Conor's feature race, which was after Henry's, flew at about 11:35 PM! It was a good day in the end, albeit a long one, with two heat race wins, two feature race front row starting positions, and two second place feature race finishes. In the points race for the championship, Conor gained a bit of ground on second place and Henry further solidified his second place position. Amazingly, this is the first race of the season that Conor and Henry didn’t score the exact same number of championship points! The next race, which is also a Saturday evening affair, is July 24. We are hoping that the teething problems with the lighting system are worked out by then. I also have some bodywork repairs to make...


Tuesday, June 15, 2004

MSOKC Race No. 5 - June 13, 2004

Originally sent: Tuesday, June 15, 2004 7:53 AM

Bruce Brother's Racing was back in action this past weekend. A good time was had by all and all of the equipment was brought home in one piece.

Conor's class had a fairly light turnout (four karts) as the result of several former participants having moved up a class for various reasons. Conor started on the outside of the front row for his first heat race. The winners of the two previous races started on the inside of the first two rows and timed the start perfectly. They stayed nose-to-tail through Turn 1, which left Conor nowhere to go on the outside. After some wheel banging, he settled into third place. He made a good run through Turn 4 on the second lap and was able to pass the second place kart on the entry to Turn 5 (after the long back straight). He then set his sights on the leader. He was able to apply plenty of pressure, but could not get past. On two consecutive laps, he tried a different line through Turn 7 which brought him along side the leader, (can you hear my heart beating?) but this cost them both some time. This allowed the third place kart to close the gap. Approaching the last corner of the last lap, Conor left the door open on the inside and lost a position just before the finish line. Starting again on the outside of the front row for his second heat race, it was Conor's turn to time the start perfectly. He went side-by-side through Turns 1 and 2 with the pole-sitter, which put him on the inside for Turn 3. He led the next few laps with the two previous winners close behind. He once again left the door open on the inside of turn 10, however, and the second-place kart took advantage. Conor tried to maintain his line, but was pushed up into the marbles and spun a rather spectacular "360" in front of the main grandstand. He rejoined in third place, caught back up to the first two, but could not pass. Starting from the third starting position for the feature, he ran the first few laps a close third, after which the second place kart succumbed to the pressure. He then set his sights on the leader. He was able to pull along side on several occasions, recording what had to be a class-best lap for the day of 51.17 sec, but had to settle for a well-deserved second.

The defections from Conor’s class meant a bumper crop (seven karts) for Henry’s class. He started from pole position in the first heat race. He maintained his position and led the first few laps uncontested. The winner of all but one heat race in this class this season (Henry won the other one in Race No. 2) began to apply pressure by lap 4 (of 6). Entering Turn 10, Henry left the door open and lost the position. He was able to keep in touch and finished second. Starting fifth in the second heat race, Henry made a good start (the changes we made to his clutch seem to be working), made a few well timed passes, and again finished second, abet a distant one. His best lap (49.20 seconds) seemed to be on par with the winner, however. A pair of second place finishes in the heat races earned him the second starting position for the feature. He lost a position going into Turn 1 and ran third for the next few laps. He ran wide exiting Turn 4 on Lap 3 and temporarily lost another position. He was able to make this back up, and re-connect with the second place kart, but was not able to pass. With both the humidity and the temperature increasing in the afternoon, we probably should have leaned-out the engine (by installing a smaller carburetor jet) and reduced the tire pressure, but, you know what they say about hind-sight…

Both boys maintained their position in the championship (third for Conor, second for Henry), but this was the first race weekend in a long time without at least one win in either a heat race or a feature. You know, though, the competition was so close and fair, and everyone had so much fun, that it didn’t seem to matter.

The next race is Sunday, June 20, 2004, but we will not be there. Henry and I are off to Honduras on a mission trip with a group from our church. We will be doing construction work at a facility that houses children with AIDS or that have been infected with HIV. Laura, Conor, and Peter are flying to Kansas City to spend some time with family. So, the next race for us is MSOKC Race No. 7, which will be held under the lights on Saturday, July 10, 2004. In the mean time, both boys will be thinking about how not to leave the door open in Turn 10…


Monday, June 7, 2004

MSOKC Race No. 4 – Sunday, May 30, 2004

Originally sent: Monday, June 07, 2004 2:35 PM

Bruce Brothers Racing had this past weekend off, but were in action the weekend before. In spite of threatening weather and the Memorial Day holiday, there was a good turn-out for both Junior Sportsman 2 (Conor) and Junior Unrestricted (Henry). With Great Lakes Sprint Series visiting Circleville Raceway Park the following weekend, there were a variety of national-level drivers in attendance (one in Conor's class and three in Henry's). Conor had a minor engine problem in practice that we were able to sort out prior to his first heat race and Henry seemed to acclimate well to his new Vega tires. Both boys had the benefit of a fresh chassis alignment, which Henry and I learned to do at the Chassis Set-Up seminar we had attended the weekend before.

Conor started from pole position for his first heat race and was able to maintain his position into Turn 1. With the events of the previous race in mind, he set a comfortable pace for himself and led every lap. Starting 6th in the second heat race (out of 8 starters - two relative new-comers volunteered to start from the back), he worked his way up to 3rd and was even able to put pressure on the first two in the closing laps. His heat race finishes earned him the 2nd starting position for the feature. He dropped a position at the start but was able to quickly make it back up. He then set out after the leader (the winner of the second heat race). These two circulated nose-to-tail for the next few laps with the leader clearly holding Conor up a bit. He was able to pull along side on the back stretch at on point, but this put him on a less-than-ideal line for Turn 5. He decided that discretion was the better part of valor, and backed off. He tried the inside line coming out of Turn 10 on the final lap, but came up about half a kart length short. His finishes for the day brought him closer in season points to the points leader in his class (who had an uncharacteristically lack-luster day), but he actually lost 2nd place in the championship battle to the feature race winner. The three of them are separated by a mere 16 points (460, 446, and 444).

Henry started from the 3rd position in his first heat race. He dropped two positions at the start and drove a clean race to finish 5th (out of 7 starters). Three of the four in front of him were the national-level guys who were on non-spec tires, however. Starting from 5th in the second heat race, he dropped a position at the start but was able to quickly make it back up. He was not able to match the pace of the national-level guys or of the season points leader in his class, but running by himself, he did record four nearly-identical laps that were close to his personal best. Starting from 5th in the feature, he again dropped positions at the start. There was a mid-pack melee in Turn 3 on the first lap however, and by being in the rear, Henry was able to come through without loosing too much time. He again ran most of the race by himself and finished 5th. At post race tech inspection, the national-level guys were excluded from the results, which improved Henry's results to a trio of 2nd place finishes. This moved him up to 2nd (from 3rd) in the championship battle.

During the week off, we discovered a problem with Henry's clutch. We are in the process of rectifying this, which should help him with his starts. We also have a few things to try in the engine department, which we hope will give both boys a bit more horsepower. The next race is Sunday, June 13, 2004.


Thursday, May 20, 2004

MSOKC Race No. 3 – Sunday, May 16, 2004

Originally sent: Thursday, May 20, 2004 9:40 AM

Bruce Brothers Racing had a bit of a rough day at Circleville Raceway park on Sunday, although there were some highlights. Conor and Henry both practiced well and there was a good turn-out for both of their classes.

Conor started on pole for his first heat race with most of his main competition starting from the rear. He timed his start well, went through the first two corners side-by-side with his fellow front-row-starter, and claimed the lead in Turn 3. He then began to pull away at quite a rate while the remainder of his competitors were bottled up behind his fellow front-row-starter, who is strong on the straights but less so in the corners. By lap 3, Conor had amassed a huge lead – so much so that Henry and I tried to give him the ‘ease up’ signal from the observation tower. Our signals went unheeded, however, and in Turn 8 on the fourth lap (out of six), he got two wheels up on the curb and spun into the grass. His lead was such that he had plenty of time to get back on track and headed in the right direction without loosing the lead, but his engine sputtered and died. He sat there for quite some time with his head in his steering wheel, obviously feeling dejected. It was heartbreaking… Starting on pole in his first heat race meant that he would start from the rear in Heat 2 with most of his main competition starting up front. He managed to work his way through the pack, but by the time he had done so, his two main competitors had amassed a healthy lead and he had to settle for third. His heat race finishes earned him the fourth starting position (out of seven) for the feature. He quickly dispensed with the third place starter and latched on to the tail end of his two main competitors. The trio circulated nose-to-tail for lap after lap. Conor lost several kart lengths at one point trying a different line through Turn 4, but recorded a new personal best lap time (50.75 seconds) catching back up. He got along side the second place kart in Turn 9 on the final lap and tried his now-familiar dive-to-the-inside move out of Turn 10, but missed second place by about two feet. After an inauspicious start to the day, Conor maintained his record of never having finished outside of the top three in a feature.

Henry’s class was quite a bit bigger than it had been the week before – eight karts as opposed to four. Two of his competitors on Sunday were ‘big guns’ (if you can say that about 12 to 15 year-olds) who travel the country on the World Karting Association ‘National’ circuit. We had a peek in one of their trailers between heats – this kid had two kart chassis and eight engines to choose from! Henry started on the outside of the front row in the first heat and was able to maintain his position for the first lap or so. One of the big guns worked his way up to the back of Henry and gave him a bump as he approached his turn-in point for Turn 2. This caused him to miss his apex and the big gun got by along with Henry’s main competition from the week before. He then began to try a bit too hard, had a small spin in Turn 6, and eventually finished sixth. Starting from the seventh position in Heat 2, Henry worked his way to fourth at the finish while recording several laps in the mid 49 second range. His heat race finishes earned him the fifth starting position for the feature. We had made a tire pressure change for the feature, and this combined with another dose of trying too hard resulted in two small spins. He did manage to record several low 49 second laps (including a personal best of 49.19), but ended up finishing sixth. The two big guns were both running on non-club-spec tires, so they were both excluded from the results, which moved Henry up two positions in each of his races. Henry has been running on an old set of last season’s club-spec tire (Dunlop SL4). This race was the last for which that tire will be allowed, so we have a brand new set of the new club-spec tire (Vega SL5) that we will be installing this week. When we changed Conor over to Vega tires before the beginning of this season, he immediately improved his lap times by about a second.

Conor learned an important lesson about when to push hard and when not to, and Henry learned a bit about how the big guns play. We are hoping that Conor will soon have another opportunity to put his lesson into practice. We are also hoping that the Vega tires will have the same effect on Henry's kart as they did on Conor's. The next race is Sunday, May 30, 2004.


Sunday, May 9, 2004

MSOKC Race No. 2 - Saturday, May 8, 2004

Originally sent: Sunday, May 09, 2004 4:00 PM

In contrast to two weeks ago, the weather for MSOKC Race No. 2 was perfect – crystal clear and 65F in the morning and 80F or so by the afternoon. We couldn’t have asked for much more in terms of results either, which were nearly identical for both boys. In the practice sessions, both Henry and Conor recorded personal-best lap times (49.27 and 51.04 seconds, respectively) and both seemed to be as fast (if not faster) than their respective competition. The random draw for starting positions in the heat races had them both starting last (fourth of four for Henry and eighth of eight for Conor) in the first heat race. Both finished a close second after working their way through the field. In the second heat race, starting from pole position, both won handily while distancing themselves from the field. Both started on the front row for the feature, got passed in the first corner, and finished second (Conor by about 12 inches, Henry by a bit more after having ‘pulled out the stops’ in the penultimate corner trying to gain an advantage). Henry ended up tied in Championship points with what appears to be his main rival (who finished last in the second heat race after having spin twice trying to catch Henry) and Conor is a mere four points behind what appears to be his main rival (who won the championship in this class last year). Both boys appear to have the necessary speed to win, but we’re going to have to work on those rolling starts. The next race is Sunday, May 16, 2004.


Tuesday, May 4, 2004

MSOKC Race No. 1 - Sunday, April 25, 2004

Originally sent: Tuesday, May 04, 2004 2:37 PM

The 2004 Mid State of Ohio Kart Club season got off to a soggy start two Sundays ago. After a long off-season of preparation, Race No. 1 was postponed because of rain, which started during the first practice session of the day. The make-up date is Sunday, September 19.

During the off-season, we have had to come to grips with a new class for Conor (Junior Sportsman II - 9 to 12 year olds, modified engine with a turquoise restrictor plate running on alcohol, 265 lb minimum-required total weight) and had to get Henry prepared for his first season of competition (Junior Unrestricted - 12 to 15 year olds, modified engine with no restrictor plate running on alcohol, 305 lb minimum-required total weight). We had the engine that came on Henry's kart rebuilt for Conor and we purchased a 'new' rebuilt engine for Henry. In the half dozen or so practice sessions we've attended at Circleville Raceway Park this spring, both boys have worked their way down to what we hope will be competitive lap times (and Conor is nipping at Henry's heels!). Only time will tell, however. The next race is this Saturday, May 8. Racing gets underway at about noon. The full season schedule is as follows:

Race 1 April 25 - Sunday (postponed)
Race 2 May 8 - Saturday
Race 3 May 16 - Sunday
Race 4 May 30 - Sunday
Race 5 June 13 - Sunday
Race 6 June 20 - Sunday
Race 7 July 10 - Saturday
Race 8 July 24 - Saturday
Race 9 August 7 - Saturday
Race 10 August 15 - Sunday
Race 11 August 28 - Saturday
Race 12 September 11 - Saturday
RAIN DATE September 19 - Sunday
Race 13 September 26 - Sunday
RAIN DATE October 3 - Sunday

We hope to see you at the race track sometime this season. Circleville Raceway Park is on U.S. Route 23 just North of Circleville (across from and a bit south of 84 Lumber).