Wednesday, June 28, 2006

MSOKC Race No. 6 - June 25, 2006

Originally sent: Jun 28, 2006 11:59 PM

NEWS - I am still waiting for the day when we go to the track and have something other than a good time (that sound you hear is me knocking on wood). We faced our share of potential problems this past Sunday during MSOKC Race No. 6, but ended up having an excellent day. For Conor, we continued to have engine difficulties and developed tire trouble, but were able to overcome both of these. Henry continues to have trouble with his standing starts, but this gives him lots of opportunities to practice his passing. He also developed tire trouble. Fortunately, Peter was low maintenance on Sunday and contributed to our excellent day with a personal best lap time.

PRACTICE - We were all a bit rusty from a five week break. There was a three week break scheduled between Race Nos. 4 and 5, and then Race No. 5 was cancelled due to rain. Conor was also less than 100% because of a bug he picked up during his two-week camping tour of New England. His engine was also untested, as it had been rebuilt again following Race No. 4. Peter ran some mediocre lap times on his own in his first practice. I talked to him about pushing a little bit harder, and his lap times improved by almost two seconds in his second practice. Conor complained of understeer during his first practice. We made a few changes, which seemed to help, but not much. Henry was methodical in his two practice sessions, improving on nearly every lap and getting down to a 45.63. He also complained of understeer.

ROOKIE BOX - Peter drew the last starting position (fifth of five) for his first heat. He is not nearly as aggressive as his two brothers and followed the slower karts for four laps without being able to find a way past. On lap 5, he got the job done. His final lap was over 5 seconds faster than his first four and brought him up to the rear of the next kart in line. He finished fourth, however. Starting on the pole for Heat 2, his 'goal' was to lead the first lap (that's our new thing - "Peter, what's your goal for this heat?"). He brought the field around slowly, but got out-gunned going into Turn 1. He followed closely and when the leader went wide in Turn 9, Peter was back in the lead and led the first lap. He led the second lap, too, but then succumbed to the pressure, dropping two positions on Lap 3. He stayed right on the tail of the two leaders to the finish. Starting from fourth in the feature, he made up a spot at the start. He and the two normally-faster karts ran nose to tail for 10 laps. The lead even swapped a couple of times between the two karts in front of Peter, making it a very exciting race. Four of Peter's laps in the feature were better than his previous personal best of 57.67 set using his old chassis during Race No. 9 in August of last season. As with is two heat races, his best lap was his last - a 57.27.

JR. UNRESTRICTED - I was pleased to see five karts turn out for Conor's class on Sunday, even though one of the regulars was missing. Fortunately for Conor, that missing kart - the one he has been unable to beat this season - was off at a Great Lakes Sprint Series event in East Lansing, Michigan. One of the other competitors was last year's champion in this class (Adam Roberts), who has moved on to bigger and better things, but was on hand to warm up for a World Karting Association event in East Lansing next weekend. He was using non-club-spec tires, so would be disqualified at the end of the day. Conor also drew the last starting position for his first heat. He was unable to improve in Turn 1, and as the result of an apparently worsening 'push' (understeer problem), he had difficulty making any headway whatsoever. He managed to make one pass and finished fourth. Back in our pit area, I noticed that the seams in both of his front tires were showing, even though the indicators (tread depth indicators if they had treads, but they're slicks) were still showing. The rules indicate that you cannot change tires during the course of an event without the permission of the Race Director. Fortunately, I had brought a new set of front tires with us on Sunday, and after having a look, the Race Director allowed us to change them on the basis of safety. In the second heat, starting on the pole, Conor got a great start. What happened next is a testament to how bad his front tires were. He told me later that he turned in for Turn 1 where he had been turning in and promptly dropped his two inside wheels into the grass - he was having to compensate that much for his worn front tires. He managed to keep it under control and maintained the lead. He even managed to hold off Adam for a lap and a half, running side-by-side on several occasions and turning a 49.69 in the process. Conor's personal best is a 49.33. After that, he ran a lonely second to the finish. Third is where he started the feature. I was hoping that he could follow the pole-sitter through into second at the start, but this was not the case. The starter on the outside of the front row was the notoriously-difficult-to-pass kart in Conor's class, and he dropped in between Conor and Adam. I had told Conor to be patient if that happened. Even though their lap times were almost two seconds slower that Conor's best from the previous heat, Conor could not get past because of the defensive line used by the slower kart. On the last lap, as the two approached Turn 9, I could see Conor setting up a last-ditch effort to pass. He carried a load of momentum through Turn 9 and went for the inside at the entrance to turn 10. He was far enough along side to claim the corner, but at about mid-way through, the slower kart violently turned in on Conor. Conor kept it going through the exit of Turn 10, however, with just the slightest advantage. Incredibly, the slower kart violently turned in on Conor again on the front straight. Conor did cross the finish line first, but the slower kart received a black flag for his mis-deed earlier in Turn 10 and was disqualified. Since Adam was disqualified for non-spec tires, this handed the win to Conor - his second in a row.

80cc SHIFTER - There were a season high 13 karts in Henry's class on Sunday. He started both heat races near mid-pack. In the first heat, he rolled away quickly from the standing start, but had to check up and lost two positions (seventh to ninth) going into Turn 1. According to the lap times from the previous few races, there are only two or three karts in this class that are faster than Henry. This became apparent as he began to pick them off one by one. His experience in the slower karts, where carrying momentum through the corners is imperative, helps him set up passes at the end of the faster parts of the track - the entrance to Turns 5 and 3 in particular (see for an aerial view of the track). In six laps, he managed to pass five karts and finish a close fourth. In the second heat, he again timed the start well but lost momentum soon after that, dropping two positions (sixth to eighth) in Turn 1. Frustrated, he didn't get through Turn 4 very well on the first lap and lost two more positions going into Turn 5. He pulled it together after that and began working his way through the field again. By Lap 4, he had made his way up to the fifth position, benefiting from a few off-course excursions by some of his competitors along the way. He was pushing hard and by that time the understeer problem that he had complained about earlier got the best of him and he went wide in Turn 6 and stalled the engine in the grass. His heat race finishes earned him a lowly tenth place starting position for the feature. He managed to hold his position at the start (there were only three karts behind him) and managed to get around a few carts in the opening laps. On Lap 4 while running in the clear, he recoded his fastest lap of the day - a 45.43, which is only a few tenths off of his personal best. He quickly caught up to another group of karts and managed to get by a few of them, too, with two identical passes in Turn 3 on consecutive laps. His fourth place finish equaled his personal best in this class.

NEXT RACE - I was thankful that Peter finally improved his personal best lap time in his new chassis - I was beginning to think we had made a mistake about the switch. I also learned my lesson about being stingy with allocating new tires - I probably owe Conor an apology. Henry will also have new front tires for the next race and we will hopefully be able to find some time for him to practice his starts. We also have an oil leak to sort out on Conor's engine, which plagued us all day on Sunday. It was busy day on Sunday, but an immensely enjoyable one in the end. Our next race is another Saturday evening event - July 15, 2006. In the mean time, I'm home taking care of business (and the dog) while Laura and the boys are in Kansas City visiting family.


Sunday, June 18, 2006

MSOKC Race No. 5 - June 10, 2006 - Postponed

Originally sent: Jun 18, 2006 12:56 PM

Bruce Brothers Racing has been out of action for about a month now because of a three week break between Race Nos. 4 and 5, and then a rainout. Race No. 5, which was scheduled for last weekend (June 10), was supposed to be our second Saturday night race of the season. The day began with a constant rain and a prediction for rain all day, becoming heavy in the evening. The MSOKC Board of Directors got on the phone early and decided to head everyone off before it was time to depart for the track. This was nice in that it allowed for other activities that day, but as the day wore on, the sky began to clear. By about 2:30 PM (the scheduled start time for practice), the sun was shining and a light breeze began to dry things up. It turned out to be a perfect evening for racing. So much for weather forecasts! The make-up date is October 1. Our next race is next Sunday, June 25. In the mean time, Conor has been away on a two-week camping tour of New England with a group of his middle school classmates and teachers. Henry has been to a two-day pole vaulting camp and will attend another all-week camp in Dayton in the coming week. Peter has also been making the most of his summer break - swimming, having sleep-overs with friends, working on a 'top-secret' project in the basement, etc. We are all anxious to get back into the swing of things, however. Not counting 'drop' races, which get figured in at the end of the season (the best nine of twelve finishes count), both Conor and Peter are leading the championship in their classes and Henry is in second. A lot of this is due to the occasional no-show by their competitors, which will later be dropped, but it fun to think about in the mean time. I just hope it doesn't rain on the 25th...