Wednesday, July 26, 2006

MSOKC Race No. 7 - July 15, 2006

Originally sent: Wednesday, July 26, 2006 1:52 AM

NEWS - The second night race of the 2006 Mid State of Ohio Kart Club season was a week ago Saturday. The biggest change we made from the previous race was a radically different engine on Conor's kart. The existing engine that his class uses - the Briggs Raptor - is based on ancient technology - pushrod valves. On the national level, this class is moving toward an overhead valve engine - the Briggs Animal. We received permission from the club to experiment with an Animal that we borrowed from a proponent of this engine with the goal of finding a restrictor plate size that would give equal performance to the un-restricted Raptor. An important aspect of our request was that Conor could still earn points toward the championship. During a test session between races, we found a restrictor plate that resulted in lap times that were similar to, but a bit slower than, his previous lap times. We thought with some additional tuning we could make up the difference. Henry had new front tires for this race, and since Peter set his personal best lap time at the previous race, we decided to leave well enough alone with his kart.

PRACTICE - All three boys practiced well. Peter got into the low 58 second range, and with his new front tires, Henry got into the mid 45 range. Conor's best lap was a 50.48, which is about a second or so slower that his normal practice session times. This would be a recurring theme throughout the day.

ROOKIE BOX - Peter started his first heat from the pole position. He brought the field around slowly, as he is supposed to do. When the green flag flew, the third place starter had already begun to accelerate and was on the inside of Peter before the starting line. Peter had to go wide into Turn 1, which let the second place starter through as well. These three quickly separated themselves from the others (six in all). Peter never let the two in front of him get away and somehow managed to set the fastest lap of the race - a 57.17, which is another new personal best for him. These three finished in that order. In the second heat, starting from third, he maintained his position at the start. The same three began to pull away again, but this time Peter was able to make a pass for second on Lap 2 entering Turn 5. This lasted only a lap however, as he was re-passed and finished third. Under the lights in the feature, Peter started from third again. The first three went through Turn 1 in the order in which they started. There was a pass for the lead at about mid-distance and Peter ran a close third to the finish.

JR. UNRESTRICTED - Conor also started from the pole position for his first heat. He lost one position at the end of the long straightaway on Lap 1 and another at the same place on Lap 2. It became apparent that the Animal engine in this configuration is no match for the unrestricted Raptor. While Conor was able to keep ahead of the remaining competitors (five in all), both his lap times and his top speed were not up to par. We tried a different exhaust header for Conor's second heat, in which he started from the third position. He maintained his position at the start, but gained a position when the second place kart went into Turn 6 a bit too hot on Lap 1 and didn't come out. He finished the race in second. Conor's feature was uneventful. He started third and ran there to the finish. Conor's fastest lap of the day was his last, a 50.20.

80cc SHIFTER - If Peter's and Conor's races were uneventful, Henry's was anything but. A season high 14 karts turned up for this race. We were not able to find time for Henry to practice his starts as we had planned, so I was relieved to see that he had drawn the outside front row starting position for his first heat. He got away reasonably well from the standing start, but did loose two positions in Turn 1. He got moved out of the way by one of the faster karts entering Turn 5 on the first lap, and before he was able to recover, lost a total of four positions. Over the next few laps, he was able to regain three of these and finished fifth. When you start from the front in the first heat, you start from the rear in the second. Henry got away slowly, but since there was nobody behind him it didn't matter. By Lap 3, he had worked his way up to ninth but was stuck behind a slower group who were battling for position among themselves. The kart in front of Henry got a bit sideways in Turn 1 and Henry made a bold move on the inside in Turn 3. Both karts wound up in the grass with engines silent. The curious examination Henry gave the front end of his kart while he waited for the race to finish did not give me a warm feeling. When he got back to the track exit, I could see that he had broken the brand new nose we had put on his kart and punctured one of his brand new front tires. Closer examination also revealed that he took a chunk out of one of his cast magnesium rear wheels. Fortunately we had the parts to put him back together again for the feature. His heat race results earned him another lowly starting position for the feature. He again got bottled up behind a slower group at about mid distance and went off again with another bold move on the inside in Turn 6, which ended his day. If nothing else, Henry learned a lesson about being patient.

NEXT RACE - Peter's personal best lap time was the highlight of our day. In looking at Conor's lap times, we decided that the Animal engine with the restrictor plate we used is about 1 to 1-1/2 seconds slower than the unrestricted Raptor. We were able to figure this out without loosing too many points in the championship, so we decided it was a worthwhile experiment. Conor likes the Animal, so we made plans to ask permission to continue our testing program using a larger diameter restrictor plate. For Henry, we WILL find time for him to practice his starts so that he is less likely to get bottled up behind slower traffic. As I write this, our next race has already happened - it was this past Sunday. I will try to get to the report for that in the next few days. I will also provide information about the upcoming Commercial Point Grand Prix, which is August 5-6, 2006.