Wednesday, October 26, 2005

2005 MSOKC Season in Review

Originally sent: Wednesday, October 26, 2005 5:00 PM

Well, the 2005 season has come to a close for Bruce Brothers Racing. We decided to skip the final MSOKC race of the season, which was a make-up for a rain-out earlier in the season. Henry and Conor decided that they wanted to do an SCCA Solo 2 event that day instead. They traded fastest times on their first few runs. Conor continued to improve while Henry pushed too hard in his last few runs. Conor ended up 0.326 sec faster than Henry and both were more than 5 sec faster than the only other competitor in their class that day. The final Solo 2 event is this weekend, but we have all had enough for this season and have decided to skip it, too.

Looking back at the 2005 MSOKC season, it was a quite remarkable. Conor, who went winless last season, began this season with five Junior Sportsman 2 feature race wins in a row. In the 11 events in which he competed, he won the feature in eight of them. The other three were two seconds and a fourth. In his 22 heat race starts, he recorded nine wins and nine second place finishes. He qualified on the front row for the feature 10 times, including five poles. He led the season championship from start to finish in the face of some stiff competition. Late in the season, he was still eight for nine in feature race wins. His fastest lap was a 49.62 sec recorded under ideal conditions during the rescheduled Race No. 2. If we had broken down and bought him some new tires late in the season, he might have done even better. Conor had a truly remarkable season.

Henry also had a good season in the face of even stiffer competition, including Adam Roberts who is poised to win the WKA Gold Cup championship (the final event of the season is November 4-6 at Lowe's Motor Speedway in Charlotte, NC). Another competitor in Henry’s Junior Unrestricted class also competed on the national level and learned a lot in doing so. Henry had beaten him in the MSOKC championship last year, but third place this year is about the best that Henry could have hoped for. In the 11 events in which he competed, Henry recorded two second place feature race finishes and finished third five times. He also recorded nine second place heat race finishes and finished the season championship in third, one place ahead of last year’s champion. His fastest lap was a 48.44 sec recorded early in the season during Race No. 4 before the rain came.

Peter improved his performance steadily throughout his first full season of competition in the Rookie Box class. A mid-pack runner at best at the beginning of the season, he was nipping at the heels of the leaders by the end. He improved his personal best lap time in each of the first five events, knocking it down from 59.13 sec in Race No. 1 to 57.67 sec in Race No. 7 (two of the first four races were rained out). In the last four events, he recorded four podium finishes (a second and three thirds). He also led a significant number of laps toward the end of the season. He lowered his personal best lap time to 56.63 sec during Race No. 11. Because of his strong finish to the season, and the inconsistent participation of one of his competitors, Peter finished the season championship in fourth place.

My favorite statistic for the 2005 MSOKC season is this – in 99 starts (66 heat races and 33 features), Bruce Brothers Racing recorded not a single DNF (did not finish). I’m proud of this because there were no mechanical DNFs, which is my department, and I’m proud of the boys for always making it to the checkered flag. They did have numerous off-course excursions, which is to be expected when pushing hard, but they always managed to get going again without loosing much time.

All that is left for this season is the Awards Banquet, which is November 18, where the boys will receive their trophies for the season championship. Because of their ages, Conor and Henry will have to move up a class next year – Conor to Junior Unrestricted (or some other class for 13-15 year olds) and Henry to one of the adult classes (16 and older). Peter will remain in the Rookie Box class for another year. The switch for Conor will be easy, but we have yet to decide what to do for Henry.

This season review would not be complete without a heartfelt acknowledgement to the most important member of the Bruce Brothers Racing team – Laura – for all of her support, patients, and understanding. She was not mentioned nearly enough in the post-race reports, but was there at every race helping and keeping the team together. Thanks also to everyone else for all the help and support throughout the season, including my mom for being there more often than not and my dad for providing us with a way to transport three karts to the track, and for all of the kind words of encouragement.


Monday, October 10, 2005

MSOKC Race No. 9 - August 7, 2005 - A Lucky Win

Originally sent: Wednesday, August 10, 2005 5:02 PM

NEWS - All three Bruce Brothers were back in action this weekend for MSOKC Race No. 9 at Circleville Raceway Park. The track proprietor, Steve Tatman, was also back in action after suffering a mild stroke, and was looking well. We did finally get Conor's engine back from UPS on Friday, but without having had the work done that it needs. As a precaution, we borrowed an engine from our good friend Mike Fagan at Full Automotive, which we anticipated might be stronger that Conor's un-rebuilt engine. We made a few setup changed to Henry's and Conor's karts, and Peter was raring to go after a one race break to allow the surgical staples in the back of his head time to heal. We also had a few visitors at the track on Sunday, including family, neighbors, and their visitors from University of Rome in Italy.

PRACTICE - We arrived at the track early on Sunday in order to get Conor's borrowed engine properly set up, which took us a few sessions. Once the regular class practices started, it became apparent that the borrowed engine was not as strong as we had hoped. While trying to help Henry sort out his handling issues, we began switching Conor back to his un-rebuilt engine. Fortunately, Peter's practices were uneventful. The setup that we ended up with on Henry's kart left a bit to be desired, but I was able to finish the work on Conor's kart while the boys were at the drivers meeting.

JUNIOR UNRESTRICTED - Henry started his first heat from the fifth position (of six). He moved up one position at the start and pressured the third place kart throughout the heat, but his handling issues prevented him from finding a way to get by. Starting on the outside of the front row in his second heat, he made a great start which enabled him to take the lead by Turn 3. This was short lived, however, as he lost two places on the next lap and another on the following lap. He regained one of these places when the kart in front of him lost its chain. Henry started the feature in the third position and ran there to the finish, with his handling problems preventing him from running with the leaders. His problem is too much grip, which not only scrubs off speed in the corners, but occasionally causes him to get up on two wheels. We have since borrowed some wider rims for Henry to try, which pull the side walls of the tires out and reduces the contact patch. Hopefully, this will have the desired effect. If he's up on two wheels again, Henry may be sitting out a race or two until we can get this resolved.

JUNIOR SPORTSMAN II - Conor also started from the back in his first heat - sixth (of seven). Even with an engine in serous need of a rebuild, he was able to make his way through the field. By the time he worked his way into second, the leader had gotten away and was still extending her lead. You would think that after starting from the rear and finishing second, he might have had an easier time starting from the second position in his second heat race. Wrong. He was unable to get around the pole sitter at the start, and in fact lost a position between Turns 1 and 2. He spent the next lap or so trying to find a way to get by the third place kart who was being held up by the two karts in front of him. In doing so, he lost a position to the eventual winner (his current main rival) when he left the door open on the approach to Turn 10 on Lap 2. He made up two positions between Turns 3 and 4 on Lap 4, but lost one on the approach to Turn 7 on Lap 5. He eventually finished fourth. Second and fourth was good enough for the second starting position for the feature. He made a great start and held his line through Turn 1. The kart that started on the pole did not concede the corner to Conor and hit him in the right rear. There was a scary moment when her kart climbed up onto the rear of Conor's. She went into the grass, but Conor was able to continue in the lead. By about Lap 2, it became apparent that Conor was having trouble turning into the corners, which allowed the second place kart to close in. These two ran nose to tail for the next four laps or so with Conor being able to pull away a bit between Turns 1 and 5 and his former Rookie Box main rival being able to reel him back in between Turns 5 and 10. As they were coming around to get the white flag, Conor understeered in Turn 10 which allowed the second place kart to pull even on the inside. Conor appeared to be ready to concede the position, but as they crossed the Start/Finish line, there was a distinct, momentary change in tone from one of the engines. When I looked up, I saw that Conor was in the lead again and his former main rival was in pursuit at what appeared to be full pace. They completed the final lap in that order (with Conor's current main rival closing in after having worked her way through the field), giving Conor his sixth feature race win in seven starts. After the race, we asked Conor's former main rival about the last lap change of engine tone. He indicated that he had simply miscounted the laps and let off of the throttle thinking that the race was over! I felt terribly bad for him, as he has steadily improved his performance this year and really deserved the win. But, it ain't over 'til it's over...

ROOKIE BOX - Peter started his first heat from outside the front row. He nailed the start and was in the lead by Turn 2. He held the lead for most of the first lap before being passed. He was passed by several other karts over the next few laps, after which his lap times improved significantly. He seems to be more comfortable following than leading. His fifth lap (of six) was just 0.02 seconds slower than his personal best. I'm sure that his last lap would have been better, but he was slowed while lapping a new-comer in his class. In the second heat, Peter started from the fourth position (of six). He dropped a position at the start when his engine bogged. Peter had asked me to make a carburetor adjustment between heats, and when I saw his lap times in the second heat, I realized I had made the adjustment in the wrong direction. He soldered around to a distant fifth place finish. I made another attempt at his carburetor adjustment for the feature, and while it helped, I probably should have changed his spark plug, too. He started in fifth and ran with the pack, but could not advance his position.

NEXT RACE - It was difficult preparing for this race knowing that we were going to be at a deficit with Conor's engine and Henry's handling problems. We were fortunate that our visitors got to see Conor get a win, albeit a lucky one. For the next race, which is Saturday, August 20 (in the evening) we have much higher hopes. Conor's engine will be fresh (as long as UPS doesn't loose it again!), and we have been assured that the wider rims for Henry will have the desired effect. I will also make sure that Peter's carburetor is in tune and that he has a new spark plug.