Race Report #7 for Viking Racing, Kart #64. Third podium finish in the season
Saturday September 26th was the day for the sixth race in the Jim Russell Northern California Rotax Challenge hosted at Infineon Raceway this time with the Reverse National Track Configuration. For once the track configuration was not new to us as we raced at this configuration earlier this year. The main feature of this configuration is the high speeds of the 880 foot/300 meter long front straight where the karts easily reach 70mph/115kph, which is pretty fast considering the driver is seated a maximum of 1 inch/25mm above the asphalt. The weather in the Wine Country once again showed itself from its best side with clear skies and sun with temperatures around 90’F/32’C.
The night before the race we did a similar test as we knew the track was getting better. This time Kris did a 52.4, but I was still around a flat 53. What this shows is that Kris’ experience helps him improving his lap times as the track grips up, where I am still struggling to nail down the last few tenths as grip improves. Same as last race, where I did not manage to take full advantage of the few golden laps new tires provides. So as we struggled a bit at the last race with that, we decided to put on new tires for second practice session where we did a best time of 52.6, which was a clear improvement but still not enough for a top 3 qualifying. We went out for qualifying leaving the Kart untouched and put down a best time of 52.8. Again not as good as we had hoped for but also not a disaster as it put us 4th on the grid only a few tenths after the 3 in front of us. Because we were well prepared we knew that we had the consistency over a race distance and as we have had really good starts all races so far, we were relatively confident that we could improve. Being fast over one lap is good for qualifying but consistent low lap times is really what it is all about as one very fast lap does not help much, if you are 8 tenths slower on the next lap.
Determined to improve we went out for the pre final and passed our closest championship competitor, Jerry Pretty, in the start on the inside going in to turn 1. It was tight race but no contact and although there were a few comments after the race, this is what racing is all about! During the pass a driver from the Master’s Light slipped by but we quickly caught and passed him on lap 2. After the pass we started to initiate our battle for second place. In between us there was another driver from the Master’s Light series. Traditionally the Light drivers are tough to pass as they are much lighter and thereby faster out of the corners. Over a few laps however we did close the gap and eventually passed the Light driver in a drag race down the straight followed by a very late brake going on the inside in to corner 1. Also this pass led to a few comments after the race but the race director looked at our on board video and confirmed that the pass was fully valid. We almost caught 2nd place as time ran out. Our strategy was right and we had executed very well and ended 3rd place, which would also be the grid position for the final.
In the final we started just behind championship leader David Harwin. On a normal day we would be around half a second off his lap times. When the flag dropped we once again did a good start and had an opportunity to go on the inside of Harwin in to corner 1, but as it was a long race and we started at 3rd we decided to keep our position and take no chances rather than ending the race in the gravel. We were able to keep up with Harwin who lost his lead to Jack Arluck, who is 3rd in the championship. Determined to improve we pushed (literally) Harwin and tried several times to pass him on the outside going in to corner one as Harwin was defending his inside giving us absolutely no room to pass on the inside. Going on the outside is close to impossible but we finally got him going out of corner one. Our battle had unfortunately created a gap up to Arluck in first. We aggressively pursued the lead while defending our position with Jerry Pretty literally at our bumper. Every time we caught up with Arluck we would get in a fight with Pretty and loose some time again. We had a close and fair race with Pretty passing each other several time during the race, and on the very last lap he passed us but we passed him back out of the hairpin into the Cramer turn, which ironically had been our weakest corner throughout the weekend. We came in 2nd only a few seconds after Arluck.
This was our best result so far and we were obviously very excited about the 2nd place as well as putting down lap times consistently in the 52’s and a best lap time of 52.3 in tough conditions. The second place had a tad of bitter sweetness though as we could have won. We had the pace, and had we been able to execute specifically the Cramer turn better we would have won. During practice we drove this corner very well but in the heat of fight we somewhat turned back to a wrong line through the corner. Next race up will be next weekend at the Dixon track, and as time allows we work hard on improving taking advantage of the track as it grips up and aim for a better qualifying results.
We would like to thank our sponsors for making this season possible!