Tuesday, May 16, 2006

MSOKC Race No. 3 - May 6, 2006

Originally sent: May 16, 2006 3:30 PM

NEWS – Bruce Brothers Racing had another good event a week ago Saturday at the first night race of the season. After some early problems with Conor's engine, he and Henry both recorded personal best lap times. Peter also had a milestone day, in almost more ways than one.

PRACTICE – We made a pretty radical change to the setup on Peter's kart prior to this event. In practice, this didn't seem to have a detrimental effect on his lap times, which was good, since I knew that it would help him with his starts. Conor did well in his first practice session, but in the second session, he came to a stop on the back straightaway on his second lap. Retrieving a kart on one of track-owned golf carts is a rare experience for us, as reliability seems to be one of our strong points. Conor reported that the engine made a weird noise coming out of Turn 4, so he shut it off. When we got back to out pit area, I got to experience the weird noise firsthand when we tried to start it. Our good friend Butch McCall confirmed that we indeed had a major problem. As I was informing Conor that his day of racing was over (we have no spare engine), the parents of Conor's primary competition offered to let us 'break in' one of their brand new spare engines. We quickly accepted, but as all this was happening, Henry was preparing to go out for his second practice session. While I went to look after Henry, Butch offered to work on swapping engines. On his third lap, Henry recorded a 45.08, a personal best by nearly half a second. By the time I got back to our pit area, Butch had the switch just about complete.

PETER – ROOKIE BOX – Peter had five competitors in his class for Race No. 3. Starting from pole position in the first heat, he brought the field around slowly, which worked to his favor. When they got on the throttle as the starter waived the green flag, Peter clearly had an acceleration advantage over his fellow front row starter. He pulled out a bit of a lead over the next lap or so, but he soon had a kart right on his tail. He was able to hold them off to the finish, however, recording his first career heat race win. In the second heat, starting from the fourth position, he made another good start and was up to third by Turn 3. He found a way past the kart in front of him on the third lap and finished second. For the feature, which got started after the sun went down, we added a bit of air pressure to make the tires come up to temperature a bit more quickly. Starting from the pole position, Peter again brought the field around slowly (almost painfully so), and made another great start. He was able to hold off the kart behind him for a lap or so, but then dropped to second. Under the lights, the lead group ran lap times that were about 2 sec slower than they ran during the daylight hours. Peter ran right on the tail of the leader for several laps. On the white flag lap, Peter got a great run through Turn 4 and snuck under the leader going into Turn 5. He held the lead through Turn 9, but left the door open in Turn 10. The kart behind him made a desperate dive to the inside and beat Peter to the checkered flag by 0.009 seconds – a mere 6 inches or so. Peter was very disappointed, but a good lesson was learned. His first feature race win can't be far away.

CONOR – JR. UNRESTRICTED – The use of a brand new, top-of-the-line engine was a dream-come-true for Conor. It was also a good opportunity to see how much this would help us. Conor's class again had five competitors. At the start of the first heat, from the second position, Conor made a good start and slid into second. He was a bit tentative in the first few laps, which let the leader get away. After that, his lap time began to improve. His previous best lap time had been a 49.33. Late in the race, Conor actually began to catch the leader, and with the leader in sight, his final lap was a new personal best of 48.46. We later learned that the leader had a rear axle bearing that was tightening up. If there had been another lap, Conor may have gotten by. Starting from the pole position in the second heat, Conor got passed by the eventual winner going into Turn 1. With an on-par engine, this is an indication that our clutch may need some work. Conor circulated comfortably in second, at about half a second a lap slower than the leader. With an on-par engine, this is an indication that our chassis is not up to par, but isn't too bad considering that it's six years old. The feature was much like the second heat. Conor started from second and ran there to the finish. This will be a reoccurring theme for Conor throughout the season. It was nice to see how much improvement was possible with a brand new, top-of-the-line engine.

HENRY – 80cc SHIFTER – Henry's excellent practice times were a good indication of what the remainder of the day had in store for him. He started the first heat from the outside of the fourth row (of 11 starters). When the flag dropped, his reaction time was good, but he had to check up for a slower kart in from of him. When he did, he fell all the way to the rear. He made up a couple of positions when he went by several karts that had gone into the grass in Turn 2. He inherited one more position and earned two more and finished sixth. Starting fourth in the second heat, he got away cleanly and maintained his position. He lost a position to a faster kart at about mid-distance, but made one up late in the race with a good pass on the inside of Turn 3. He finished where he started. His heat race finishes earned him the fifth starting spot for the feature. He made another good start and tucked in behind the fourth place kart. After several laps, it was apparent that the fourth place kart was holding Henry up, which allowed the two karts behind him to close the gap. On the sixth lap or so (of 10), Henry repeated is inside pass in Turn 3. The two karts behind Henry were also able to get by and were applying pressure again on the next lap. Henry's pace was too much for the kart immediately behind, as he went into the grass a lap later. Henry cruised to a well-earned fourth place – his best feature race finish in this class. Our objective just two short races ago was for him not to get lapped. On Saturday, Henry lapped what must have been four of the other karts in his class.

NEXT RACE – The next race, which is Sunday, May 21, 2006, at Circleville Raceway Park, will be an interesting one. Prior to the beginning of the season, the club decided to add some variety by running one of the events in the opposite direction and one using the short version of the course (using the cut-off between Turns 3 and 7). The next race is the one in the opposite direction, which hasn't been done in quite some time. Henry and Conor think that they will have an advantage as the result of their SCCA autocross experience, which involves acclimating to a new course each time. We hope to get to the track on Friday or Saturday of this week, which will be the only two opportunities to practice on the track in this direction. This will also give us a chance to break in Conor's engine, which is being rebuilt.