Molecule Labs

Race Report #8 for Viking Racing, Kart #64. First Victory!

Sunday October 11th was the day for the eight race in the Jim Russell Northern California Rotax Challenge this time hosted at Kinsmen Kart Club track in Dixon. The track is four-tenths mile long, tight with high speed corners and it is difficult to make passes. The track is physical demanding due to the high G-forces in the high speed corners putting strain on arm and neck muscles. The weather was a bit cold and windy but still with sunshine over the track.

As we missed the 5th race, which was run at this track, we had never raced here before. Therefore we arrived for Friday evening practice as well as Saturday in order to get the best possible setup and speed. As usually we worked with our coach Kris. As the track has been re paved recently as well as last race was a night race (where lap times are usually slower) we did not have a clear benchmark. Instead we swapped between Kris and I to establish the pace. By the end of Saturday Kris was around 30 second flat and I was around 30.4. Being within a few tenths of Kris is usually fast enough for a podium as well as Kris being lighter (and thereby faster) we were confident that the we had the speed for a strong finish.

Saturday had been hot with plenty of grip on the track, but when we arrived early Sunday morning it was cold and windy and the track was slipperier than we had experienced Friday/Saturday. Everything happens very fast at Dixon there is only 2 laps for qualifying, meaning that the tires do not even heat up before qualifying is over. This is annoying but since everyone is in the same boat it is at least fair and comes down to preparation. Thanks to Kris we had practiced exactly this on Saturday, so despite the track was slippery we were confident we could put down a fast lap. We went out for qualifying put down a lap time of 31.022 only 0.043 seconds after pole, second in class and 3rd overall, meaning we were faster than most Light drivers that are 40 pounds lighter. Excellent result and best qualifying to date.

Being in the very front of the grid our starting strategy for the pre final was simply to hang in there with the fastest and stay out of trouble. We managed to stay out of trouble and let a few drivers pass from the Light class, as there was no point in fighting drivers from another class and risk anything. However we did not have the pace we hoped for and although we were never seriously challenged we could not keep up with David Harwin in 1st. A few laps in to the race, Harwin lost his rear bumper and got black flagged, meaning we moved to 1st place and held that to the checkered flag. We were happy about the win but not really that excited about our pace and performance.

After analyzing the race, we decided to shift the rear axle to get more grip as well optimize the gearing for the final. This was first time ever we had lead a race and without doubt the mental aspect of being over cautious not to lose the race had played in and affected our speed and performance. In the final the pressure would just increase, as we would start the race from pole in the class. However, as we were now aware of the situation we regained confidence in our speed and capabilities and went out to the final with a “can do” attitude.

The final started out as a mess with jump starts, re starts etc. and finally as the green flag was dropped two karts collided in corner #2 and flipped around in the air. A pretty nasty accident that caused a red flag and the race was stopped. Luckily nothing happened to anyone. There is a video clip in the video section of the accident, captured with our onboard camera. Because of his defect in the pre final Harwin started last on the grid and being a tad faster the bigger question would be if he was able to catch us during the race.

Once again the green flag dropped and the race was on. We only had one driver ahead of us and since he was from the Light class we did not really have a desire to challenge him and risk anything. We kept behind him for the entire race and was faster throughout the race and could have made a pass if it had been necessary. The Kart felt much better with the stiffer axle and mentally we were much more ready and we just increased our lead to the drivers behind us lap over lap. Fantastic race with consistently fast lap, no major mistakes and a 1st place finish! 
Improving on last races’ 2nd place this was our best result so far and we were obviously very excited about that. It exceeded even our most optimistic hopes prior to the season. This win was a true team effort between Kris and I as the Kart was great, engine was great, strategy was great and I was able to execute on it. We are 4th in championship with 2 races to go. If we manage to end in top 4 the next two races an overall 3rd place for the championship is within reach, so we will work hard to get there. The overall goal for the season was a top 5, which we have already achieved even prior to the next races, so we feel it is appropriate and within reach to adjust the objectives.  There are video clips from both the pre and main final in the video section and photos in the photo section

Next race up will be next weekend, Septemer 24th at Infineon Raceway.

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