Monday, October 27, 2008

MSOKC Race of Champions – Sunday, October 19, 2008

I thought that I was done writing race reports for this season, but Mid-State of Ohio Kart Club added a post-championship event to the end of the season this year – the Race of Champions. This event was a 20 lap race reserved for season champions in 11 of the 12 classes – adults and all but the youngest of the kids. Ten of the 11 eligible class champions participated. Each participant competed in 'identically prepared' rental karts that are owned by the proprietor of Circleville Raceway Park. This event was held a week ago Sunday, October 19, just prior to another post-championship event, the IronMan 225 endurance race for Yamaha SuperCan karts. Laura and I were out of the country at the time, enjoying some time in the Czech Republic (Prague) prior to some business I had there, so fellow champion-dad and MSOKC President Paul Lyda offered to transport the boys to the race and look after them for the day (along with my dad and mom).

I say 'identically prepared' because in theory, they are, but in reality, some are in better condition than others. Kart assignments and starting positions were determined by random draw. Conor drew the No. 3 kart and Peter drew No. 10. Conor's kart turned out to be one of the better ones, but Peter's turned out to be a 'dud'. Conor tells me that, from the third starting position, he motored around the front-row starters in the first two corners but overcooked it in Turn 3 and went into the grass, dropping to last in the process. From the lap chart posted on, I can see that he made up three positions in the first lap and three more on Lap 2. In the mean time, Peter's kart never did get up to speed. He puttered around for two laps before the kart stopped working all together, ending his day – bummer. Conor made up another position on Lap 4 and ran in third until Lap 10 when he moved into second. On Lap 17, he made a pass for the lead. I understand that the pass didn't stick at first, but then did on the second try. Conor went on to win by a margin of 4.866 seconds while recording the fastest lap time (56.211 seconds on Lap 18) in the process.

By Conor's own admission, 'luck of the draw' played a big part in determining the results. When we spent a day at the track in the rental karts earlier this season (see pictures above), Peter edged Conor for the fastest lap time honors (56.123 to 56.194). Driver weight was definitely a factor, too, with lighter drivers (kids) having an advantage over heavier drivers (adults). None-the-less, Conor's result was one more feather for him to put in his increasingly-full cap this season.


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

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

MSOKC Race No. 12 – Sunday, October 5, 2008 – And The Winner Is…

NEWS – The Mid-State of Ohio Kart Club season finale was Sunday, October 5, 2008, which was a qualifying format event at Circleville Raceway Park. Peter entered this event with a slim 13 point lead in the championship. Since there are only three karts in his class that are competing for the championship, he simply needed to avoid finishing last in at least two of his three points-paying segments (qualifying, heat race, and feature race) to defend his lead. Qualifying format races are all about speed (as opposed to passing ability), however, and Peter has been much quicker than the other two in recent events. Conor entered this event with a 17 point lead over one competitor and a 21 point lead over another. With an average of 12 karts in Conor’s class, a bad race day in a class of this size can be disastrous. Conor’s lap times have been good in recent events, but his two closest competitors have been a bit quicker. Conor doesn’t know this (well, he does now), but I had made a spreadsheet that contained all of the possible permutations that would be required for him to defend his lead (seconds and thirds at the very least if his closest competitors did well, but not all thirds). As the saying goes, however, the best defense is a good offense. Read on…

PRACTICE – With many class championships still to be decided, the atmosphere in the pits on Sunday was a bit chilly, which matched the morning temperature. Fall is definitely upon us in central Ohio. The skies on Sunday were crystal clear, the barometric pressure was high, and the humidity was low – the type of day that both pilots and small displacement kart engines love. Our first hiccup of the day came when Peter pulled back into the pits after only two practice laps in his first session. He thought that his tires were flat – such was the lack of grip from the low temperatures. After being reassured that this was to be expected, the remainder of this session and his second session were business-as-usual. Conor does well driving his kart in these conditions – he loves it when lots of steering input is required. In other words, he loves to ‘drive’. We, like about half of the karts in Conor’s class, had new tires in the trailer, but chose to practice on used tires. Conor’s times in his first session were about third or fourth fastest. In the second session, Conor’s two closest competitors chose to ‘scrub’ in their new tires with a single hot lap. One of these pushed too hard and went off on the exit of Turn 6. We chose to keep the new tires fresh for the qualifying session.

BRIGGS SPORTSMAN – Peter’s class consisted of the three regulars and one new visitor on non-spec tires, who would be disqualified at the end of the day, and two from another class, who would be scored separately. Our strategy for qualifying sessions, which consist of three timed laps, is to put one in the bag, push hard on the second one, and push really hard on the third (95, 100, and 105 percent, respectively). Peter executed this plan perfectly (52.051, 51.595, and 51.332 seconds) and earned the pole position by almost a full second. In his heat race, he timed the start perfectly and won easily. These two results earned him the pole position for the feature. By this point, all he needed to do was take the green flag to clinch the championship. I told Peter that, if he didn’t get the lead at the start, he should just follow the leader around to the checkered flag (i.e., stay out of trouble), which is easier said than done. He got snookered at the start and settled in to second place. The leader was trying awfully hard to stay in front, and was making many mistakes in the process. On Lap 1, he nearly came to a stop in Turn 9 after getting almost completely sideways. Peter dutifully maintained his position, but came under pressure from the kart behind. After the leader made another mistake in Turn 4, which again slowed Peter’s progress, the kart behind was able to overtake Peter. For me, it was nice to see a buffer between Peter and his closest competitor, the father of whom has complained about ‘rough’ driving recently. Peter had other ideas, however, and regained the position on the next lap. Two laps later (Lap 7 of 10), Peter was once again on the tail of the leader, who made another mistake in Turn 4. Peter pulled along side down the long back straightaway. The lead kart has been known to be reluctant to concede the position when getting passed, but Peter had enough of an advantage to come out ahead in Turn 6 after going side-by-side through Turn 5. Peter went on to win by almost three seconds, capping off another perfect race day (1-1-1) and clinching his second consecutive season championship in this class.

YAMAHA JR. SUPERCAN – Conor’s class (12 karts) was big enough that his qualifying session was split into two groups. It’s important that you don’t get baulked by a slower kart in front of you during a qualifying session, so the primary contenders in Conor’s class all scrambled for a position at the front of the first group. We elected to go out in the second group so that we would know what time we had to beat. Conor’s data acquisition system provides him with lap times on his ‘dashboard’ each time he crosses the start/finish line. The time to beat (45.385) was announced just as engines were being fired for the second group. I relayed this to Conor, who was lined up first for the second group. His first lap was a good one (45.760). The next lap was better (45.545), but still not good enough for pole position. Conor reached deep on the third one (45.359) and captured the pole by 0.026 seconds. The Ice Man strikes again. This was a huge development not only because it put Conor in an excellent position for the remainder of the day, but because it took possible points away from his two closest competitors, both of whom have the ability to have a perfect race day (although no one has done it in this class yet this season). I wasn’t sure if Conor knew he had done it when he pulled into the pits, so I gave him the ‘#1’ sign as he pulled in. Not only did he know his lap time from his on-board display, he had remembered the time to beat to three decimal places. In his heat race, he made a good start, but not as good as the kart on the outside of the front row. Conor settled into second but was given a gift when the lead kart went off on the first lap at the exit of Turn 6 (for the second time in two events). Conor received a bit of pressure from his other primary competitor, but went on to another heat race win, recording an all-time personal best lap time of 45.347 in the process. The start of Conor’s feature race was delayed by a kart that had mechanical difficulties on the formation lap. When they finally did get the green flag, Conor got a great start from pole position with the third place kart, who is a non-contender in the championship, coming along with him. Conor was able to pull out a bit in places, only to get reeled back in in others. On Lap 7, the second place kart experienced the consequences of pushing too hard and went off at the exit of Turn 6. Conor continued to push hard to the end, although he had amassed a reasonable lead by then, and won by a margin of almost two seconds. I’m glad that all of those spreadsheet calculations were unnecessary. Like Peter, Conor had a perfect race day, and clinched the season championship in this class.

NEXT RACE – That’s it for the 2008 season. There were some exciting developments in Henry’s 80cc Shifter class during Race No. 12, but he was oblivious to it all in the sanctuary of college life at Brown University in Providence. Peter ended up on top of the championship in spite of starting the season in another class, which basically spotted his closest competitor three perfect race days prior to his arrival. Peter also accomplished this with an engine that was less than fresh. It is normal to start a season in this class on a fresh engine and have it freshened up mid season. Peter’s engine has a total of 24 race days on it since it was freshened up. Towards the end of the season, I was anticipating a major ka-boom, which fortunately did not happen. And then there is Conor. This time last year, he was in a neck brace recovering from neurosurgery. At the beginning of the season, he had not been in a kart for over a year and had never raced anything as fast as a Yamaha SuperCan kart. You could easily argue that this was the most competitive MSOKC class in 2008. Several competitors have significantly more resources than we do, yet Conor was able to win the first two events of the year and go on to claim the season championship in this class. Enough said. The season ending banquet is November 15, 2008.

I want to express special thanks to our sponsors and supporters, to family and friends who came out to watch and support us this season, to those who support us from home, and once again to Laura, our most dedicated team member and fan.


p.s., Lap times, lap charts, and results can be found at Season ending championship points will eventually be posted at