There is a definite divide between Clubman drivers, those who can consistently hit 42 second laps, and those that can’t, like me. While I do hit the odd high 42 when conditions are good, it is not with anywhere near the regularity needed to push up the grid.
Starting with such little experience as we did, our improvements were exponential. We went from God awful, to awful in just one race. Throughout the 2016 season we progressed further past other such mile stones as; woeful, sketchy, ascending to the heady highs of mediocre. Don’t get me wrong, I was having a blast the whole time, but our lap times and enthusiasm were not correlating in the way I’d initially hoped.
The early gains in time came relatively easily, especially with starting from such a low base. Friendly advice changed 45 second laps into 44s, seat time and a better set up got me into the 43s. My rise to take overall pole by the end of the season seemed inevitable! But that’s when the law of ‘diminishing returns’ reared its ugly head.
Rookie Mistake #4. To avoid X-rated karting videos, remember to turn off your GoPro before your post stint wee.
As our initial improvements had begun to plateau, it became about finding tenths rather than seconds. We certainly couldn’t blame the kit, since race one we have been lucky enough to run a brand new XV 7Kart. Now admittedly the old girl is not quite what she once was. After two and a half season in the hands of amateurs, our mishaps have landed her on Malcolm’s straightening table more than once. But even now, drop a Super into the kart and the times tumble. Man rather than machine.
Now the more astute members of the RHPK family may have noticed, I am not your typical racing driver shape, aerodynamic I am not. By the time I’ve squeezed my 6 foot 4 frame into the seat, I bear more than a passing resemblance to a BBQ party drunk trying to ride in a ‘My First’ Barbie jeep. ‘But these are typical racing driver excuses! ‘ I hear you cry, and you are probably right. At the speeds we travel aero’ is probably minimal, but it is difficult for the thought not to cross your mind as you head down the main straight with your extremities flapping in the wind.
Mass on the other hand is an issue, I am sure Pelam Racing won’t be on the only team in February carrying a little holiday ballast. So with Christmas behind us and March firmly in sights, our first race will be to get back down to fighting weight, hopefully returning a little lighter than last season. If that fails…then we pray for rain!
Rookie Mistake #5. ‘The kart is skipping through Stadium, should I box?!’… ” I’m sure it will be fine, keep going!” …2 laps later, a wheel nonchalantly bounces past and number 37 is in the tyres. Listen to your driver.
The other thing ‘hampering’ our progression up the grid has been the general rise in the standard of Clubman teams. Even in the short time we have participated, the series has gone from strength to strength. Not only have excellent new teams like Time Crisis and JND joined and been immediately competitive, but existing teams such as Artifex & CET have raised their game to a level well above ours in 2017. A tip of the hat gentlemen.
To really improve this year I believe we will need to focus two key areas. Firstly and most importantly is to get more time in the seat. When reviewing GoPro footage I still catch myself making a catalogue of rookie errors, apexing early, missing apexes all together and generally overdriving. These are all things I’m confident I can improve with deliberate practice. Secondly, but connected to the first point, we need to be less conservative, particularly with set up. Given the limited race day testing, we typically focus on getting a predictable kart, one that we are comfortable driving for hours. But as I am sure you will agree, easy to drive does not necessarily equate to quick.
Rookie Mistake #6 ‘I’ve lost an engine…both engines! Oh…we’re out of fuel’ Check your fuel before leaving the pits, it’s always embarrassing to be pushed back.
Now I do not want to come across as negative, this is our own team review and targets for 2018. We love the series and enjoy every race weekend regardless, but to progress first you need a frank assessment of where you are. Obviously we want be challenging for Clubman podiums in 2018, I am not proposing “it’s the taking part that counts” but even if we are not, the fun comes from picking your own rivalries and targets. I’m sure you all have your own secret benchmarks, the kart that pipped you last year or the driver you’re desperate to out qualify, that is where the joy can be found. And if no team motivates you, then it is the merciless and unflinching stopwatch that silently judges, as you hit yet another 43.1 second lap.
Pelam Racing #38
P.s. The 2018 livery has now been ordered, and with preparations well underway you can be assured of one thing. If we aren’t fast, at least we will be pretty.