Last weekend was Round 8 of the OSKCS at the Mac Track in Mcminnville, Oregon. This was my second full race weekend in a kart (though I have more than a dozen or so practice days in).
Going into this race, I had my engine’s head gasket replaced. After struggling last race with power, I took it in and the shop discovered that it was leaking 30% of compression and the head gasket was blown. Despite that, I ended up 4th in that race so I was really excited to see what I could do with the repaired engine.
Word around the pits was that the two fastest guys were playing around with slightly higher gearing than the standard ratio most everyone runs at this track. I decided to drop a tooth in practice and did see my times improve. I kept that ratio on for quali. The track is a good mix of flowy high speed corners as well as some low speed, heavy braking corners. Qualifying went well and I was happy with my fastest lap. I qualified P5 out of 10. P3 through myself in P5 were separated by less than 0.2 seconds! Though the two fastest guys in P1 and P2 were over a second down the row lol. They were drafting together and switching leads during qualifying so that definitely helped them. But, they are also just outright fast!
The standing start was slightly better than last race. Off line line I felt like I had a solid 2-10ft or so compared to others. But I am still struggling from 10 - 200ft or so off the line. Gearing definitely is a factor but I ended up losing one position into turn 1. I felt like I was driving okay but I had a driver all over my bumper for most of the race. I let that distract me and I drove defensive lines way too early in the race. I realize that now re-watching the footage. Because of this, I lost touch with the group ahead early. After a few laps of solid battling, I got punted in the braking zone entering turn 5. This pushed me long and off the track which cost me two positions. No penalty was given for that move. Ended the race in P7.
The starting order in this heat is set by inverting the top 8 in qualifying (not the finishing positions of the prior heat). As I qualified P5, I started this race in P4. I decided to go back to my lower standard gearing for this race. This is because I felt that in Heat 1, the higher gearing compromised my corner exits more than I could make back up by the end of the straights. Overall lap times on the higher gearing was faster for me but I felt the trade-off wasnt worth it if I still couldn’t setup passes by the end of the straights. Off the line, I got a better start. However, I hesitated to move to the inside and lost a position into turn 1.
I felt much more racy this heat and was able to make a couple passes as well as staying closer to the bumper of other drivers. Unfortunately, this would all be for naught. On the last lap, I got a much better exit out of turn 5 than kart 38x who I was behind. I was fully alongside them on the outside of the track well before half way down the straight. However, they apparently did not hear or see me somehow and they moved up the track directly into me. Our wheels touched which popped me up and spun me out off the track and backed into the wall. 38x then proceeded to take out another driver who was on their inside a second later on the same straight. I re-joined the track but was a half-kart length behind 38x as we crossed the line. Again, no penalty was given. I finished P9.
The starting order for the final is an average of your finishing positions in Heat 1 and Heat 2. As such, I started P8. At this point, I was really frustrated with how the day had gone. The crash in Heat 2 bent my axle and my steering column and I was quite annoyed that there were no penalties given. Marshalls can’t see everything, which I understand and that is how things go. I was really trying to clear my mind and push all that away from my focus. The final is the one that counts.
At the start, I finally did not lose a position into turn 1! I slotted in and had a good couple opening laps. Then, I made a dumb mistake and dropped a tire on the exit of turn 5. 100% my bad. I lost two positions because of that. After that, my headspace snapped into a much better place surprisingly. I was determined not to let a dumb mistake be the result of the final! I put my head down and managed to chase down and pass those two drivers to get back to where I was before the mistake. Unfortunately, we would only race to half distance due to a red flag. An accident occured at turn 1 when 38x locked up and spun out and another driver had nowhere to go but into 38x. The other driver flipped his kart and was momentarily trapped under it. The marshals got to him quickly and got the kart off him. Both drivers were okay which is amazing! The flipped kart spilled fuel on the track and the race was ended there. Final positions were based on the prior complete lap. I ended up finishing P6, which I wasn’t stoked about but also, it could have been worse!
I need to not drive defensive lines so early in the race. Instead, drive the racing line to stay in touch with the leading group for longer even if that means getting passed early.
Higher gearing was the right choice for qualifying but may not be the optimal choice for the races in this layout. I am going to play around with this more.
I felt that my tire pressures were managed well and I nailed them for each of the heats! My log data on cold psi, hot psi and conditions have really helped me predict optimal starting pressures.
I need to manage my frustration better and not let that affect my head game as much.
I believe the low end was too lean all day and that is something I need to tune better. Top end felt great. I think this will help me off the line as well as on the exits of the slow corners.