Saturday, August 13, 2011

Commercial Point Grand Prix of Karting – August 6-7, 2011 – Peter Storms and Conor Cashes In

NEWS – Another great time was had by all this year at the Commercial Point Grand Prix of Karting. Even the weather cooperated – for the most part. The circuit was again the revised six turn 0.5 mile course that winds through the streets of Commercial Point, Ohio. The front straight is 900 feet long, which results in top speeds 75 mph in the faster karts. The course is lined with an impressive number of straw bales and plastic drums. The CPGP does not offer the adult class that Peter has moved into for our club racing, so we had to reconfigure our Yamaha Spec 100 Pipe kart into a SuperCan Lite kart for this event. Conor once again competed in the 80cc Shifter class, including the Pro race for this class.

PRACTICE – Two rounds of practice took place on Saturday with best times from the second session determining starting positions for the Merchandise races later on Saturday. Finishing positions from the Merchandise races determined starting positions for the Trophy races on Sunday. Both boys had a lot to get used to during the practice sessions; the course and the stickier MG “Yellow” tires that are allowed for the CPGP for both, the reconfigured kart for Peter, and new brake pads all around for Conor. Peter did well in his first session, but had a problem during his second. We had made a gear change just prior to this session, and somehow, the bolts didn’t get tightened. He got through the first few laps before the gear came loose, throwing the chain and bringing his kart to a disappointing stop (see photo sequence in earlier post). With only a few laps in the bag and the track getting faster as more rubber was laid down, Peter qualified only ninth (of 15 in his class). This would set the stage for an exciting Merchandise race for him, however. When Conor applied the brakes for the first time going into Turn 1 (at about 70 mph), the new pads on the front left grabbed before the ones on the right and just about threw him into the bales. He nursed it around for the next few laps until they seated in properly. There were only four karts in Conor’s class this year, which was a bit of a disappointment. In his second (qualifying) session, Conor held the fastest lap at several points, but ended up second, just 0.1 second behind the eventual pole sitter. He reported that several of his laps were spoiled by a random downshift that he didn’t order. We traced the problem to a broken seat strut, which was allowing his seat to hit the gear-shift linkage over the bigger bumps. Having this welded involved removing and reinstalling the seat before Conor’s Merchandise race, which was a bit frantic but was completed with time to spare.

YAMAHA SUPERCAN LITE – Knowing that he had his work cut out for him starting in ninth, Peter’s objective for his Merchandise race was to make at least one pass. He got away well from the Le Mans-style standing start and entered Turn 1 where he started; in ninth position. We had obviously made some good decisions regarding setup, because he was able to make a pass going into Turn 1 on the second lap. He was able to do the same thing on the next lap, which brought him up to seventh. He made two more passes on Lap 5 and another on Lap 9 (of 15), bringing him up to fourth. The closer he got to the front, the more difficult the passes became. He made another pass for third on Lap 14, and had the second place kart in his sights when the checkered flag fell. He was obviously very pleased to have underestimated his potential in his first year in an adult class at the CPGP. Peter’s Trophy race on Sunday was also exciting. Starting from third, he held his position at the start. He made a pass for second going into turn 1 on Lap 4, but got crossed up on the exit and let two karts get by. He regained one of these positions with another Turn 1 pass on Lap 5. He repeated this move on Lap 7 to move into second. We had made another gear change for the Trophy race, and it may have been a bit too much. While it got him into second place, he couldn’t quite shake the two karts behind him. One of these hit the bales exiting Turn 6 on Lap 13. While Peter and the third place kart were catching the leader, Peter had to do everything he could to keep the third place kart behind him. The third place kart gave Peter a big bump in Turn 5 on the final lap, but Peter was able to hold on to second at the finish – by a less than 0.1 seconds.

80cc SHIFTER – Since the shifter karts have manually operated clutches, they use Formula 1 style starts as opposed to Le Mans style. Conor got away well in his Merchandise race and set out after the leader. These two were never more than a second apart, but Conor didn’t have the speed to challenge for the lead, even though he did record the fastest lap time on the final lap (31.736 seconds). I suspect that the brake problem he had earlier in the day was having an adverse effect on his confidence. During the single practice session on Sunday morning, Conor pushed a little too hard and clipped a bale on the exit of Turn 6, which bent a tie rod and a spindle, which ended his session early. We made the necessary repairs, but in his Trophy race on Sunday, it became apparent that something was not right. It turned out to be a brake problem again. He lost a position on Lap 2 and ran a lonely race in third to the end. For Conor’s 20-lap Pro race, we managed to fix the brake problem and we made a gear ratio change to help him get out of Turn 6 a little better. At the start, he bogged the engine down and fell from third to fourth. He made a pass for third in Turn 1 on Lap 3. On Lap 4, the leader (and winner of the Trophy race) pulled off with mechanical problems, which promoted Conor to second. The new leader had about a half-straightaway lead by then, and while these two traded fast laps (Conor’s best was a 31.670), Conor was unable to close the gap significantly. That Conor was able to do as well as he did was due in large part to the eventually winner, who just happens to be the welder who fixed his broken seat strut. I suppose it would have been in bad taste to have beaten him, but I doubt that Conor was thinking about this at the time. Conor’s second place finish in the Pro race earned him a cool $250 while the winner took home $500.

NEXT RACE – As we were watching the last two Pro races after Conor’s, the sky darkened and the wind began to pick up. The temperature dropped about 10 degrees in a matter of minutes. We made it back to our pit area just in time to start packing up prior to the rain coming down. When it did, it came down in buckets. By the time we got it all packed up, all four of us were soaked to the bone. The normal trophy ceremony was replaced by an impromptu gathering in the registration trailer, where Conor picked up his check and he and Peter both picked up their trophies. Our next race is Mid State of Ohio Kart Club Race No. 7 at Circleville Raceway Park on Sunday August 14, 2011. I’m hoping that all of our equipment will be dried out by then, but the weather forecast for Sunday does not look promising.


p.s., Lap times, lap charts, and results can be found at (Saturday) and (Sunday)