Monday, August 28, 2006

MSOKC Race No. 9 - August 19, 2006

Originally sent: Monday, August 28, 2006 11:39 PM

NEWS – A week ago Saturday was our first Mid State of Ohio Kart Club race at Circleville Raceway Park in nearly a month and it was another one with a bit of a twist. There is a cut-off between Turns 3 and 7 that is normally used only for cool-down laps. It by-passes several turns and the long back straight. For Race No. 9 a week ago Saturday, which was also a night race, the 'short course' was used for the entire evening of racing. The short course is a lot like an extended oval, with five left handers and one right. All three boys acclimated easily to the change and Peter actually liked it.

PRACTICE – None of the boys had experienced the quick left hander that is composed of the combination of the usual Turns 3 and 7, so Conor and Peter both went out for some practice laps during the open session. Both need a gear change to accommodate for the extended full-throttle run that is usually interrupted by Turn 3. Henry stayed in the pits to work on finishing up his summer reading assignments prior to the first day of school, which was last week. We also made a chassis adjustment to Peter's kart, which resulted in a measurable improvement. Peter had not been in his kart in nearly a month and complained that his seat was too tight – time for bigger one…

ROOKIE BOX – Peter started from the pole position for his first heat race, which because of the shorter course was extended from the usual six laps to 10. His class consisted of five karts on Saturday. The kart that started on the outside of the front row tends to be aggressive at the start and indeed got the better of Peter at the start. Peter was glued to his bumper for the entire 10 laps. Some may have thought the short course was fun, but there are very few opportunities to pass. Peter was able to pull along side between Turns 8 and 9 several times, but could not make it stick and finished second. He started last in the second heat. I have never seen a kart in Peter's class stall at the drop of the green flag, but this time, two did. Peter went from last to first while the two got restarted, each loosing about a half a lap in the process. Peter cruised in the lead, turning laps in the mid-32 second range, until Lap 8 when he came up to lap a slower kart who obviously had no clue what those waiving blue flags meant. Even though Peter was over a second faster per lap, he could not get by. He was patient, however, and did not take any chances. He was far enough ahead of the next kart that he could trudge around for the last two laps for another heat race win. The feature, which was 15 laps instead of the usual eight, started much like the first heat for Peter. He started from the pole and ran side-by-side through Turns 1 and 2 before getting squeezed and loosing the position in Turn 3/7. After this, he was glued to the back bumper of the other kart again until Lap 13 when the pair came upon a slower kart approaching Turn 8. The kart in front of Peter braked suddenly causing Peter to brake even harder to avoid contact. Peter did a lazy half spin and high-sided his kart on the edge of the track. He needed to get out and push to get going again. He lost a lap in the process and finished fifth. Peter was very upset with the events that had transpired, but Laura was able to calm him down. In spite of having no open track in which to work, Peter set the fastest lap time in the feature (32.01).

JR. UNRESTRICTED – Conor's lap times from practice were reasonable, but the restricted Briggs Animal engine that we have been using lacks the top-end speed of the unrestricted Briggs Raptor engine that the other karts in his class use. This was particularly evident in the long full-throttle run leading up to Turn 8. Conor was fast from Turn 8 through Turn 1, but would loose four or five kart-lengths on the run back to Turn 8. We have been given permission by the club to find a restrictor plate diameter that makes these two engines perform equally. We started too small in Race No. 7 before finding one that worked reasonably well in Race No. 8. After practice on Saturday, because of the top end discrepancy, we decided to try a bigger one for Race No. 9. Conor started last of four in his first heat. He was patient at the start and fell into line. He made two passes in Lap 2 and set out after the leader, who has not had much competition this season. Conor was able to pull away from the other two, but could not quite cut into the lead, dropping about 1 to 2 tenths per lap. He finished a comfortable second. When we put his kart down on the grid in the pole position spot for the second heat, one of the other parents asked me how much air pressure we were running in Conor's rear tires. It did not take me long to figure out why she asked – Conor's right rear tire was nearly flat with a piece of metal that he had picked up in the first heat sticking through the carcass. I quickly ran back to the trailer and grabbed another set of older rears that I just happen to have mounted on some spare rims, which are quire a bit narrower that the ones we usually run. I guessed at how much air pressure he might need for these and ran back to the grid with my trusty battery-powered impact wrench in hand. The other parents already had the rear of Conor's kart in the air, and I was able to get the rears changed just as the gate opened for the formation lap. I had no idea what to expect when the green flag flew. Conor lost a position at the start and was a bit tail happy through the first few corners, but after that he began to settle in. He again pulled away from the other two, but could not do much about the leader. His best lap was his last, which was actually better than his best lap from the first heat. Starting second in the feature, he again ran in second to the finish. We had decided to leave well enough alone with his rear tires. He again improved on his fastest lap of the day, which was a 26.36. This time, he was actually able to cut into the lead on several laps, which seemed to catch the leader by surprise. He was able to respond however, but the margin of victory was only a second or two as opposed to a quarter of a lap or so as it has been regularly this season.

80cc SHIFTER – Henry had a bit more work to do acclimating to the short track since he also needed to figure out a new set of shift points. He started his first heat from the sixth position (of 10). He got away from the standing start well, but so did the majority of the field. One of the faster karts muscled past on Lap 1. Henry was bottled up behind a group of karts that was being held up by a slower kart. With no clear track in front of him, Henry could not seem to get a rhythm going and dropped several more positions over the next few laps. He eventually finished eighth. The slower kart that caused the bottle up in the first heat started behind Henry in the second heat. He got caught on the inside with nowhere to go in Turn 3/7 on Lap 1 and lost several positions, but not to the kart that caused his problem in the first heat. With the karts in front of him spaced out a bit, he was able to begin picking them off one by one. He was up to seventh by Lap 3, sixth by Lap 4, fifth by lap 5, and fourth by Lap 8, which is where he finished. The feature was much like the second heat for Henry. Starting sixth, he dropped one position at the start and then began working his way through the field – sixth by Lap 3 and fifth by Lap 7 (of 15). Meanwhile, there was quite a bit of action going on at the front. The pole sitter, who had won the first heat by managing to keep everyone behind him, was trying to do the same in the feature. Several of the faster karts were not happy with this and were letting him know with 'gentle taps' on the rear bumper. One of these taps (on Lap 10) by the kart that ended up crossing the finish line first was a bit more than gentle, which sent the lead kart into the grass. This promoted Henry to fourth, which is where he finished. He was later promoted to third when the winner was disqualified for one too many taps. Third is another personal best for Henry in MSOKC 80cc shifter class competition. Henry's fastest lap in the feature (24.24) was actually faster than the best lap for the eventual winner.

NEXT RACE – I had been out of town the entire week before this race and arrived home late Friday evening. Friday night was spent at our church's annual Festival, where Laura and the boys were volunteering (okay, Laura was volunteering and the boys were messing around). Saturday morning was spent frantically making sandwiches, Gatorade bottles, and loading everything up for the mid-day start of practice. With extra tuning to do for a different track configuration and the various problems we had throughout the day, we were all exhausted on Sunday. The next race, September 10, 2006, is back to the regular course configuration at CRP and back to the regular Sunday schedule.


p.s., Lap times and results can be found at

Monday, August 14, 2006

Commercial Point Grand Prix - August 5-6, 2006

Originally sent: Monday, August 14, 2006 4:58 PM

NEWS – Bruce Brothers Racing had an awesome time last weekend on the streets of Commercial Point Ohio at our first non-club race – the Commercial Point Grand Prix. I remember this race from when I was a kid. It has been held on and off for years, but hadn't been held since 1999. The format for this event involved two practice sessions and a 10 lap 'merchandise race' on Saturday, which set the field for the 'trophy race' on Sunday, was held after another brief practice session. There were a total of 10 classes, including classes for Conor and Henry, but none for Peter. There was also an opportunity for four of these classes, including Henry's, to participate in a 15 lap 'pro race' with cash prizes. I had pre-registered Conor and Henry for the merchandise and trophy races. Henry didn't make up his mind about the pro race until Sunday morning.

PRACTICE – Conor's class was the first to take to the track on Saturday for practice. The course was composed of 10 turns and included some elevation change. The front straight was a bit longer than the back straight at Circleville Raceway Park, so we had dropped a couple of teeth from Conor's rear sprocket. The course was lined with hay bales, which I had been led to believe were unforgiving in the event of an incident. The course was also relatively bumpy, which was to be expected for a street race. We were disappointed by how few karts showed up for Conor's class (Jr. Restricted). I was expecting at least a half dozen or so, but only three had registered and one didn't show up. During both of his practice sessions, Conor ran in lock step with his classmate, who has extensive experience at the national level in this class. Henry's class consisted of 14 karts, including most of the Mid State of Ohio Kart Club regulars and a few others. Henry went out for his first practice towards the end of the pack and took his time working up to speed. We decided to send him out towards the front in his second practice session. With no slower karts to contend with and the additional rubber that had been laid down, he dropped from the 53 second range down to the mid 49s.

JR. RESTRICTED – Conor ran with the other junior driver on Saturday in a class by themselves. The start was ' Le Mans' style, with the karts lined up along the edge of the track at a 45 degree angle. Conor drew the pole and got away first at the drop of the green flag. Unlike CRP, it was impossible to see the whole track at Commercial Point. Laura and Peter were stationed on the other side of town and were equipped with a walkie-talkie so that we could communicate. The other kart came around Turn 10 first, and it was a good 20 seconds or so before Conor made it around. I later learned that, while leading, Conor clipped a hay bale on the exit of Turn 5 after hitting the big bump at the apex. These two circulated the course at about a half a lap apart for the entire 10 laps. I'm not sure that Conor could have held the other driver off for 10 laps, but I was disappointed that he didn't get a chance to try. The age of the other driver (just turned 16) was such that he could have competed in either the junior class or one of the adult classes. For the Trophy race on Sunday, they decided to try an adult class, which consisted of 10 karts, even though they would have to start from the rear. Instead of having Conor run by himself on Sunday, the organizer had him run on the tail of the adult Animal Medium class, which consisted of three other karts. After the start, the pole sitter disappeared into the distance. On Lap 2, Conor came around in third with the kart that had been in front of him nowhere to be seen (into the hay bales hard). On Lap 4, Conor came around in second after the kart that had been running second was delayed by a hay bale. He quickly caught up and passed Conor. Conor finished third overall but first in his class. The junior class turn-out was disappointing, but a first place trophy is a first place trophy.

80cc SHIFTER – The Commercial Point Grand Prix was Henry's best outing to date in a shifter kart. It helped that he drew the pole position for the qualifying race on Saturday. The shifter karts had a conventional standing start – staggered rows of two lined up in the middle of the track. At the driver's meeting, the flagman had explained the starting procedure, which was a little different than everyone was used to. While Henry was waiting for the signal that all of the karts were in position, which never came, the green flag was dropped. It was like 'go' instead of 'on your mark – get set – go'. This caught several drivers off-guard, but Henry managed to get into gear and get away with only a minor delay. He went through the first corner side by-side with the kart that had started behind him. They disappeared to the back side of the track and when they reappeared onto the front straightaway, Henry was third. He ran there until about Lap 5 (of 10) when another kart managed to get around him going into Turn 1. He ran in a comfortable fourth position to the finish, but was promoted to third when the kart in front of him was disqualified for being under weight. On Sunday, starting from the third position, he was able to back-up his third place finish from the day before. He got an excellent start, maintained his position, and began to reel off a series of laps in the 47 second range, including his best of the weekend – a 47.44 on Lap 5. One of the faster karts who had qualified poorly because of a mechanical failure on Saturday caught and passed Henry. A lap later, one of the karts in front clipped a hay bale coming out of Turn 10, promoting Henry back to third, which is where he finished. Henry left the decision about the pro race until the final minute of registration. There was another random draw for starting position, and this time he drew the last position (11th of 11). When it came time to line up, only eight karts made it to the grid. We decided that his best strategy for the 15 lap pro race was to be patient. He followed the field through Turn 1 and began waiting for opportunities to pass. The first one came early – on Lap 1. He made another pass and inherited another position, and was up to fifth by Lap 4. At this point, he quickly caught up to the next kart in line but had difficulty finding a way to pass. He followed this kart for the next nine laps until the leader appeared behind them. Henry let the leader pass in Turn 1. The kart in front of Henry caused the leader to have to take evasive action on his first attempt to pass. This let Henry un-lap himself. When the kart in front of Henry finally did move over, it was Henry who was immediately behind him. After getting past the slower kart, Henry let the leader through again. He quickly pulled away from the slower kart and finished fourth while catching the third place kart.

NEXT RACE – There were two awards ceremonies at Commercial Point – one on Saturday for the merchandise races and one on Sunday for the trophy and pro races. Both boys collected some nice merchandise on Saturday. The driver who won the merchandise race in Conor's class didn't show up for the ceremony, so Conor was given his merchandise, too, including a new set of front tires. On Sunday, Conor and Henry collected their first and third place trophies. Henry also collected a $50 check for his fourth place finish in the pro race (we paid the entry fee, he kept the winnings!). We have a bit of repair work to do to prepare for our next race, which is another night race at Circleville Raceway Park on Saturday August 19, 2006. In addition to Conor's hay-bale incident, Henry had one of his own in Turn 5 during practice on Sunday. The ironic thing is, the way each of them described their incident, they must have hit the same hay bale!


Wednesday, August 2, 2006

MSOKC Race No. 8 - July 23, 2006

Originally sent: Wednesday, August 02, 2006 10:35 PM

NEWS – Race No. 8 of the 2006 Mid State of Ohio Kart Club season was another one with a bit of a twist – timed qualifying as opposed to heat races. The format involved two practice sessions, then a five lap qualifying session (40 points available), followed by a six lap heat race (40 points available), and then a 10 lap feature (80 points available). The results of qualifying set the starting order for the heat race and the finishing order from the heat race set the order for the feature. We left well enough alone again with Peter's kart, Conor had a larger diameter restrictor plate to try in the Briggs Animal engine, and Henry had new rear tires and (another) new nose. Henry also got new brake pads during the course of the day.

PRACTICE – Peter was in the low 58 second range from the get-go, which was a good place for him to start the day. With the larger diameter restrictor plate, Conor dropped about a second from his lap times from the previous race, which we hoped would be enough to have him compete where he usually does. With his new rear tires, Henry got into the 44 second range for the first time ( 44.92). He missed his second practice, however, when it took us longer than anticipated to replace the four pads in his dual caliper rear brake setup.

ROOKIE BOX – Peter's class was the first to take to the track for the qualifying session. We had positioned his kart near the front of the grid so that he would go out early in hopes of not getting stuck behind a slower kart. Peter ended up going out second. The race director did his best to space the karts out on the track, but after the first full lap, the kart that had gone out first caught up with the last kart and got only one clean lap. Peter got two clean laps. When the session was over, Peter had qualified on the front row – second out of the eight karts in his class that day – with a 57.27, which is 0.1 from his personal best. In his heat race, he tucked in behind the pole sitter through Turn 1. He ran second until Lap 3, when he was passed going into Turn 1. He recorded a personal best lap time of 57.12 on Lap 5 and finished third. Starting third in the feature, he followed the pole sitter into second in Turn 1. In Turn 3, the pole sitter had a lazy spin, which put Peter in the lead. He led for two laps before succumbing to the pressure from behind at the end of the back straightaway. Peter was able keep pressure on the new leader, and two laps later, he had a lazy spin in Turn 4. This put Peter in the lead by a significant margin. The two spinners got going again, but Peter cruised to an easy first feature race win with a string of laps in the low 57 second range. Way to go Peter!!

JR. UNRESTRICTED – With only five karts in Conor's class, I wasn't concerned about him getting clean laps, so I also had him line up second. He qualified second with a lap of 49.05, which is still a bit slower that he has gone with his unrestricted Raptor. But second is probably where he would have qualified with his Raptor, so we were pleased. In the heat race, starting second, Conor made the most of the better torque of the Animal and ran side-by-side with the pole sitter through Turns 1 and 2. He settled into second, but soon came under pressure from the third place kart. While the Animal engine with this restrictor plate seems to run about the same lap times as the unrestricted Raptor, the terminal speed of the Raptor is a bit better. The kart behind Conor almost got the best of him at the end of the back straightaway on several occasions, but Conor managed to hold on to finish second. If the Raptor is faster in a straight line, the additional torque of the Animal makes it quicker coming out of the corners, which was the theme in Conor's feature race. The first few laps were a carbon copy of the heat race – side-by-side with the pole sitter through Turns 1 and 2 again and then pressure from behind. This time, the kart behind Conor managed to get around him at the end of the back straightaway on Lap 6. Through the next few corners, Conor was all over the kart in front of him. He got a good run through Turn 9 and made an outside-in move in Turn 10. And it almost worked. About mid-way through, Conor ran out of room and made contact when the other kart closed the door. Both spent a brief moment on two wheels. Both kept going but Conor got the better end of the deal. Conor received a warning the next time around (a rolled black flag) and went on to finish second. After the race, Conor apologized to the other driver, who agreed that it was nothing more than a racing incident ("…just one of them racin' deals" as they would say in NASCAR).

80cc SHIFTER – Of the karts in his class, Henry's lap times are at the sharp end of the spectrum when he's running well. Based on this, we had high hopes for his ability to do well under the timed qualifying format. His class, which consisted of 14 karts again on Sunday, was divided into two groups for qualifying – a faster and a slower group. We lined Henry up so that he would go out in the second half of the faster group. Based on what I was measuring on my stopwatch, his lap time were good but not quite as good as in his single practice session. This turned out to be a moot point, however. When Henry came through the scale house after exiting the track, we noticed that I had forgotten to move the single transponder that we own from Conor's kart to Henry's kart – Duh! Henry was not pleased, as this resulted in him qualifying last – behind the eight ball again. Starting 14th out of 14 in his heat race, he finally made a good start. We had worked on this in our driveway the day before (much to the chagrin of our neighbors, I'm sure). He made two passes at the start and a couple more along the way, and finished 10th. His new brakes must not have been seated in yet, because his lap times were still not as good as his practice times. In the feature, starting from 10th he made another great start, getting around two karts by Turn 1. There was a pile-up in Turn 4 of the first lap and Henry got caught up in it, damaging his new nose and stalling his engine. Since there was nobody behind him, he was able to give himself a push start and got going again. He seemed to be running better, as he caught and passed several karts and recorded several laps in the high 44 second range again. This included another personal best of 44.70. We vowed to never again to forget the transponder.

NEXT RACE – Peter again provided the highlight of our day with his first win. There was a professional photographer at the track on Sunday, and we ponied-up the cash for an 8 by 10 of him in action to commemorate the occasion. Our next race is a non-championship event – the Commercial Point Grand Prix – which is August 5-6, 2006. This is a street race through the town of Commercial Point, Ohio, which benefits the Jackson Township Fireman's Association. There are classes for Conor and Henry, but not for Peter. Qualifying races are on Saturday beginning at 3:30 PM. The results set the starting order for the feature races on Sunday, which get underway at 1:00 PM.