Molecule Labs

Race Report #4 from Viking Racing Kart#64

Saturday June 6th was the day for the third race in the Jim Russell Northern California Rotax Challenge hosted at Infineon Raceway this time with the Reverse National Track Configuration. This track configuration was relatively new to us as we only had a few times to practice it. During the week the weather forecast was predicting rain, but once again the weather in the Wine Country showed itself from its best side with almost clear skies and sun. We had the base Kart setup ready as we had been on the track during the week as well as Friday evening to learn the new track as well as fighting an engine problem that we did not manage to solve resulting in a last minute engine swap.

Once again we had engaged with Kris Shaw from Marin Karting, who is now our permanent driver’s coach. Working with Kris has proved very valuable and from being 1-2 seconds off the pace, we are now within 0.5 seconds of the very best. We received the Kart (Kris had changed the engine) Friday for break in. In this race the fuel specs/brand were changed from ERC to VP. During the break in of the new engine we had to use the ERC and did not think more about that – a potential expensive mistake it turned out later…

We started the first session Saturday morning as first group out. The track was slippery and cold and the session as such was not really useful. However as the engine was maxing out at 14,300 rpm already under these conditions we decided to drop the rear gear. Being ready for session #2 and on our way to the hot pits we discovered a leaking valve on the right rear tire and our session was over even before it started. Fortunately the race management allowed us to do our second session with the Senior’s. We had mounted new slicks for this second session to get used to the feeling of new tires, and for the first time ever we broke the 53 second limit and set down a lap time in the high 52’s. Our objective for the season and championship is a top 5 finish, something the time reinforced.

Mounting the slicks already in practice turned out to be wise, as our qualifying session was right after the Senior’s practice, so without any opportunity to fine tune the Kart or relax we went straight in to qualifying. The positive side, however, was that our tires were already hot and we were able to push from lap one! Qualifying went well as we put down a best lap time of 52.794, which is the best time we ever did and it turned out to rank as a satisfying P4 on the grid. Before going back to the pits we had to pass technical inspection. Everything went well …until fuel test that was. Our fuel did not pass the test and we were disqualified meaning that we lost our P4 and would have to start the race at P17. It turned out that we had a squeeze of the ERC fuel left in the tank from yesterday’s break in when we poured the new VP spec fuel in to the tank, and because of that we were now disqualified. Our blood pressure rose several hundred percent and we argued with the officials as we felt that they could and should be more flexible as this was the first time with the new fuel spec (and in last race they did not even check the fuel spec). Our objections only resulted in a repetition of the rules from the technical officer but this time at a significantly higher decibel level. We left the technical inspection frustrated – but the rules are the rules.

After several minutes of cool off period our blood pressure once again rose as we found out that several Kart’s in our class had not even been tested for fuel grade! On our way to the Race Director to file a complaint Kris informed that they had withdrawn our disqualification and we would be able to start the race in P4 as qualified. After a mutual apology with the technical officer we were now again able to focus on the race!

We started the Pre Final from P4 went through first corner in the same position in a very close race. The 5 top karts were all within lap times of a second and on top of that we had the Master’s Light drivers (different class running at the same time) mixed in to the field as well. On lap 2 we caught up on Kart #22, Dolores Mosqueda from the Light Class and tried to pass her on the inside of Corner #3. She closed the door leaving us no room meaning we hit her hard in the side sending her out of the race and we lost two positions – not exactly what we planned for when entering the corner. We were now down to 6th and started an aggressive pursuit of the drivers in front of us. Helped by a few accidents and two passes we were able to fight ourselves up to 3rd place, which was a very satisfactory end of the Pre Final with Championship points on the account and a good starting position for the Final.

We started the Final from P3 in class (P5 overall), and like in the rain we had a perfect start, where we came out of Corner #1 on P2 in class (P3 overall) and the heat was on. The first laps went well, we let a Master’s Light driver by as there was no sense in fighting someone from another class. Within a few laps Kart #79, Donald Durbin went up our tail. We let him pass without any fight as he is significantly faster at this point in time and instead of sending both Karts in to the gravel this was the right decision and we were now down to P3. Also Kart #16, Jack Arluck catched us and passed us on the inside in Corner #4 but out of the corner we got on his inside and passed him back. Unfortunately he left us no room in to the chicane sending us directly in to the dirt! Several Karts passed us before we were on the track again and we were now down to P7 with around 10 laps remaining of the race. We were able to hunt down and pass two Karts in this period ending the Final at P5. Satisfactory in the bigger picture but disappointing after the great start.

Aside from a bunch of championship points on the account (we are now 5th in the Master’s Championship ) we learned a lot. We have the pace to be in top 3 over one lap but need to be more consistent in the race. A 5th position in the championship is within reach and provided we are able to improve 0.5 – 0.7 seconds in the coming 1-2 months we will be able to fight for the podium at each race.