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...