rocks on the bottom... The Superkart Non-Gearbox
National Championships were held at Mallala Motorsport
park, 1 hour north of Adelaide. Normally a P-plater
like me is not eligible to run the Nats but for
beauracratic reasons I will not go into here,
2006 was an exception. So, only my second race
meeting ever was the biggest meeting of the year.
It's called the non-gearbox nationals but a small
number of 80cc Gearbox karts joined us because
their speeds are similar. There were a total of
42 karts. That's a lot.
used to be my "home track" if you count club sprints
in an old Austin Sprite I had when I was 19, too
many years ago. The facilities have changed somewhat
but the circuit layout is the same. I was looking
forward to seeing the old place again, from the
right side of the fence
Friday 23rd Jun - private practice
some niggles at Winton earlier I was all nervous
about reliability. That was the least of my problems.
After some laps in the first of three sessions
it seemed to all be honking along nicely. Then
I had a near-harmless spin on turn 7 in front
of three others. Two got past, one didn't. He
hit the front right corner hard enough for me
to think the weekend was all over.
I drove away with some fairing damage and a bent
rim which I didn't discover until the following
day. The other guy, #83 Martin Latta, was less
fortunate with some bent axles and steering damage.
He was none too pleased but everyone agrees that
there is no right way to make a simple mistake.
#83's owner accepted it was a "racing incident".
It was back in one piece by the third session.
It's moments like this you remember not to take
yourself too seriously. We're just racing karts.
Not saving the world. Having said that, I was
none too keen to go having silly little loses
in traffic so I played it as safe as possible.
The final session's only worry was a return of
the overheating problem. Other than that, the
thing was running smoothly. More repairs and then
the machine was put to bed for the night.
June 24th- Qualifying
Naturally it was just prior to scrutineering when
I discovered that I had a bent front right rim
from the prang. Local kart shop and road racing
specialist Ian Williams popped my tyres onto his
spare rims and lent them to me for the weekend.
After a flurry of other modifications we hit the
track for Practice 1, which I later discovered
was changed to "Qualifying 1". So, what used to
be Q1 was now Q2 and Q3 was later cancelled. Geddit?
Since we were running as support to the CAMS National
Racing Series, (as seen on SBS' Speedweek Program)
we did not expect the program run to schedule
all weekend. With the big title races like V8
Commodore Cup, Formula 3 and GT Production, if
there were any delays it was a sure thing that
the little superkarts would lose a session or
two. It turned out that our second Qualifying
would be the one to go. Naturally we didn't learn
of this cancellation until after the first Qualifying.
Oh, and another bonus about running at such a
hard-core car race meeting was that, being at
ground level, us superkarters get to see all the
debris and rubbish that the cars leave behind.
I dodged nuts, bolts, brake ducts and fan belts.
I have to admit that the whole qualifying thing,
the thrill of searching for that perfect lap to
bank a good time, is a huge rush. Finding a clear
lap amongst 42 karts was the big challenge.
I thought I'd found one on around my fifth lap,
but heading into turn one, the major bump at the
apex finally got me and I had the mother of all
spins. I don't know how many times I gyrated but
it put me right back in the traffic, with some
big flat spots on the tyres vibrating like buggery.
I posted a 1:23.3685 and was a little sheepish
about taking T1 flat again.
can find the whole stats of quali 1 here
. I qualified 27th out of 42. My big surprise
come race day was that, despite being a "P" Plater,
I would be starting from my quali spot, NOT the
rear of grid as I'd thought. It was a long way
back anyway... Before I make too many excuses
I will post the following; there are many ways
to take my performance but overall I was happy.
I'd elected to run in the "lightweight" class
(160kg) but knew I would be hopelessly overweight
for that. The next weight break for heavies is
180kg. I was around 170 so it was either put on
a ridiculous amount of ballast or just suck it
in and run uncompetitive with the waify boys.
I was never expecting any trophies this time around
so it really didn't bother me.
It did bother some of the heavies though!
I really did think I had a little more speed in
hand but then found out that Q2 (Q3??) was cancelled.
At least I got to go home early.
Race 1 was scheduled for 10.20am, and I have never
been so nervous. I'm told being nervous is good.
I don't know about that. I qualified 27th but
had to start from 30th because the 80cc Gearbox
karts are put at front of field for safety reasons
(they take off much quicker), and obviously I
had outqualified some of the 80's.
So I came into the meeting expecting to have a
nice relaxing start right at the rear of grid,
and here I was right in the thick of it, slightly
rear of the midfield pack. The Mallala grid winds
all the way back past the last corner. That's
where I was.
I think all of the 12 karts behind me passed me
at the start when I put the right foot down and
nothing happened. Some annoying little carburettion
problem perhaps. It cleared itself by the start
finish line and off I went, almost last. The rest
is quite a blur but I was having a nice duel with
pit buddy Ron Goldfinch (SA), and got the occasional
love tap from Lee Filliponi (VIC).
Friday crash mate Martin Latta was in the mix
but I eventually got past him, with a slight weight
In lights, Deane Crooke, who had qualified fifth,
had a spin at Turn 7 trying to abort an overtake
under yellow flags in a spirited dice with Stewart
Campbell (SA) and Stratton Limberis (SA) among
others. His recovery drive was stirring, eventually
passing me and finishing 25th.
The perennial Colin McIntyre topped the heavy
class, finishing 10th outright from 22nd. There
were incidents galore and many yellow flags. Overall
my thing performed well. The brakes were a bit
spongy and tyres stayed consistent. I finished
27th, three spots ahead of where I started. Considering
how many spots I lost at the green light, that
Starting order was as per finishing positions
in race 1. The only change I made between races
was to make the gearing a little taller. Since
I was expecting to spend most of the race running
in a pack, there would be plenty of slipstreaming.
You really notice the engine spin up about 400rpm
when you're behind someone. This time I started
a little better, but the thing still coughed and
spluttered off the line. I dropped to 29th at
3 I was 27th, lap 4 Michael Rogers and Ron Goldfinch
(SA) nailed me, but lap 5 I follwed them through
Andrew Beams and Jason Burton (SA) to grab 25th
on the last lap. Moving up again! Very happy.
But I was particularly keen to catch Alastair
Punshon (SA #54) as I knew he was running very
similar weight and setup to me. This put him right
ahead of me on the grid for race 3.
the misfire didn't bother me at the start and
I flew (or actually, crawled, as the non-gearbox
karts tend to do) past Alastair Punshon at the
start. I even nailed Kristian Stebbing, one of
Victoria's State Championship front-runners, briefly
on lap 1.
Commencing lap 2 and going into my favourite turn
1, I threw it down the road again, obviously having
learned nothing from Q1 yesterday. The problem
was, the chassis flexed so much that the chain
flew off and I free-wheeled conveniently into
the pit entrance with no prop.
it is impossible to put a chain on, to the correct
adjustment, by hand. But by some mysterious quirk
I was able to do just that. I rejoined, with the
leaders bearing down on me, about to put me a
lap down. Whilst grimacing, waiting for the damaged
chain to go "bang" I drove the wheels off the
thing trying to stay ahead of the leaders. In
fact I equalled my qualifying time in the process.
But they were too quick, not to mention 10 kilos
lighter, and I obeyed the blue flags.
It was interesting though, to run with the leaders
for a lap, albeit last. My nemesis Alastair Punshon
(a lovely bloke, that #54) finished 24th. So I
could have been 23rd or higher. What if, what
if, what if. What if I hadn't made a stupid mistake.
just ignore the last couple of lines.
combined results put me grid 30th for the 8 lap
final. On lap one Dean Crooke in the Hypermax
spun it again, this time on turn 3, as did Brad
Stebbing and others. Even from my vantage point
back there I could see clouds of dust and karts
everywhere. This must have given me a leg up to
be 27th by end lap 1.
But that meant these front runners would be trailblazing
from rear of field and catching us slower guys,
it was just a matter of time.
In the meantime I spent most of the race having
a great dice with Ron Goldfinch again. Whilst
it was a little disheartening to be only on the
pace of a heavier weight competitor, Ron is one
of SA's frontrunners, so my speed was mostly encouraging.
Every lap, side by side down the straight and
braking duels into the northern hairpin. Great
fun. Our pace put me as high as 25th on lap 3
and 4, but I still couldn't nail Ron, and was
getting tired of looking at the #46 on his bumper.
Then on lap 7 the fast guys loomed, recovering
from their first lap spins, just as I was having
a crack at Ron. Rod Clark, Brad Stebbing and Deane
Crooke menaced me going into the northern hairpin,
and I planned to let them through after exiting
the hairpin, hopefully having a crack at Mr. Goldfinch
as they passed him.
The kerb on the outside of the northern hairpin
is rather nasty and tall. I managed to miss it
all weekend, until now. Trying to get a fast exit
I threw it up onto the kerb, sparks and debris
flying everywhere, not to mention getting a very
sore bum in the process. Deane Crooke told me
later it was a spectacular sight. It kinda took
the wind out of my sails and I lost touch with
Goldfinch, eventually finishing 27th. Right where
I started! Results here
Nothing ventured, nothing gained. In what other
sport can you push like a lunatic, drive madly
around in circles and finish exactly where you
started? Not many, I suspect. We're not saving
the world, we're just racing silly little karts.