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Race Report #2 for Viking Racing. 4th place finish in championship opening race

April 4th was the season kick off race of the 2009 Jim Russell Northern California Rotax Challenge hosted at Infineon Raceway (National Track Configuration). The weather was beautiful for racing with blue skies and temperatures in the high seventies. The excitement was high for the team as this was the first time possible to see how well the hard physical as well as in-Kart training over the winter had paid off and how close we would be to the other teams. The objective before the season was a top 5 championship finish – a realistic but yet ambitious goal.

The Masters class has been joined by additional racers this season and is more competitive than last year’s class. On top of that all races will be run with the Masters Light class, adding further dynamics of having to pass other class drivers as well as having around 20 karts at the track at the time.

With a freshly rebuilt engine on the Kart, the two morning warm-up sessions were used for breaking-in the engine at low rpm’s and as such did not offer any further insight in to the competitiveness of the team. Next session up was Qualifying – first qualifying session ever. New tires was mounted and a last minute gearing change was done to maximize the rpm span down the straight. Just before entering the hot pits it was discussed that a low 54 second time would be satisfactory (fastest training time on this track configuration during the winter had been 54.6 seconds) and a time in the high 53 seconds would be great. 4 laps in to qualifying we put down a 53.7 time and everybody was excited. This time put us 5th on the grid and in the middle of the field. Very good starting point for our first race.

 

The Pre-final was up and once again the excitement was high, as this was the first race-start ever for the team. The strategy was to take it easy in corner 1, as it would be tragic to end the first race in corner 1, but also based on the old saying “in order to finish first, first you have to finish”. It was very obvious that this was the first race of the season as everyone were really excited and not until start attempt number 3 (two jumpstarts) the green flag was up. We kept our position through corner 1 and throughout the race and ended the Pre-final where we started – P5, and as such the 15 minute heat was uneventful. The Kart felt great, but started to bounce in the tight corners towards the end of the race. 

In order to eliminate the bumping we put in a softer rear axle for the Final as well as lowered the tire pressures and had confidence that it would work out better. In the Final, people had calmed down a bit (with help from the race director) and the green flag was up in the first start attempt. Applying same strategy as in the Pre-final we took it easy in corner – and lost 2 positions! We were now down to 6th (one position being another class driver) and the heat was on.  The changes to the Kart worked great and we were able to push hard, and a third in to the race we had passed 3 drivers and we were now in 4th position (One position being another class driver). We had a very close race for the next 6-8 laps, but as heat built up in the tires the Kart started to slide and once again bounce so we had to fight hard for our position but was able to keep it to the checkered flag. 

During the Final we set a new lap record (for the team) of 53.4 second placing us only a second from the fastest drivers in the class. All in all a very rewarding day that showed that the hard winter training in the gym as well as on the track had paid off and that we had the pace to be competitive. Next race up is May 2nd at the Jim Russell International Kart track at Infineon Raceway. This time in the Sprint track configuration with a lot of tight hairpins. The team will work hard towards this race to become even more competitive on this very difficult track configuration.

We would like to thank our sponsors for making this season possible!