Molecule Labs

Race Report #1 for Viking Racing. Strong finish in 4-hour endurance race

The annual 4-hour Enduro race hosted by Jim Russell International Karting Center in Sonoma, CA was held Sunday January 18th, 2009. The track located in the wine-country near Napa and the weather was beautiful with blue skies and sun all day with temperatures around 20°C. All was set for a great race and expectations were high. As this was the first race ever of Viking Racing ambitions was to get to finish strong and gather as much experience as possible before the opening race March 1st of the NorCal Rotax Masters Championship.

The 4-hour race can best be described as the Le Mans of Go Karts, since 4 hours is a very long time applying extreme pressure on the Kart and drivers. According to the rules there needs to be 3-4 drivers on each team, where André Eriksen from Viking Racing teamed up with Mary Beth/Jerry Wilson and Alex Keys all seasoned and very fast racers. All teamed up under team name “Infinity Racing” racing André’s Kart #64 and competed in the Master's Class.

Like Le Mans the main objective for a Go Kart endurance race is to stay out of trouble and be consistent and reasonably fast. Qualifying is not vital and André qualified the kart at a 6th place in class position without pushing the material too much. At 11.30 exactly the green flag was shown, and like in the old Le Mans races, each driver had to run to the Kart, get it started and go. 

The strategy was set at 30 minutes stints with driver shift every stint and fuel for every second stint. Mary Beth was first in the Kart and she was flying right from the start setting one of the fastest laps of the day (across all classes) and during the stint she advanced to an in class 4th position. After 30 minutes André got in the seat and during a relatively uneventful stint he further advanced the Kart to an in class 3rd position.

One hour in to the race Alex Keys got in to the Kart, and continued at a very fast pace advancing the Kart further as he almost flew past number two in the class and was set to catch the leading kart. Despite rigorous preparation of the Kart, 15 minutes in to Alex’ stint the kart stopped at the track with electrical problems and was towed back to the pits. Thanks to a heroic effort from Dave Carrasco, owner of Infinity Karting - mechanic and trackside support for the day, the problem was identified to a small electrical connector and quickly fixed. This accident cost 11 laps, but since each lap is only around 53 seconds, the gap was not devastating although it was a setback. The tactics was changed to minimize time in the pits and each stint was now set to 45 minutes. 

Jerry came in the Kart and at a very fast pace, and helped by others technical problems he was able to advance the Kart to an amazing 4th position during his 45 minute stint. The battle was still open and a podium place within reach. At the very last lap of his stint, Jerry was almost torpedoed off track by Kart #77 in a reckless maneuver. This was an unnecessary and not very intelligent move, since the two Karts were not even in the same class. Kart #77 got a well-deserved stop and go penalty, but for Infinity Racing and Kart #64 the damaged was severe. The radiator was torn off and although a new radiator was provided and installed in record speed the total loss was now 31 laps. 

This loss was obviously too big to regain and the strategy was now set to finish and rely on others bad luck. Mary Beth and Alex both completed their stints at the same very fast pace, and with other teams facing blown up engines etc. the Kart was handed over to André at a 5th position, which was kept until the checkered flag. Compared to the initial ambitions a 5th place it respectable but quite disappointing as the pace of the team was really good, and without the accidents the final position would definitely had been within top 2.

On a troubled day Viking Racing could still claim success since team member Henri Richard, who usually runs the Rotax DD2 class had teamed up with Finemech Racing who claimed the victory in the Master's Class in Kart #18. All in all a strong finish for the team.