Molecule Labs

Race Report #9 for Viking Racing, Kart #64.

Saturday October 24th was the day for the ninth race in the Jim Russell Northern California Rotax Challenge this time returning to Infineon Raceway with the National track configuration As we had raced at this configuration before we had the luxury of not being completely new to the track this time. This configuration has a long straightaway with speeds exceeding 65mph/110kph and is generally a fast configuration. The weather was sunny - perfect and very warm for the season.

Let’s start with the biggest highlight of the day, my 5 year old daughter Sofie Amalie singing the US National Anthem

As usually we had prepared well up to the race using our coach Kris in lead/follow sessions as well using radio communication. We had found a perfect kart setup  and was confident that we would be competitive. It was a clear goal to get on the podium and get as many points as possible for Championship. The evening before the race we set down a fastest time of 52.7, which in comparison was more than a full second faster than our fastest time last time we raced here. Although the track changes over time and it is difficult to compare lap times from different days it is still a clear sign of our big improvement over the season. 

We went to the grid early for qualifying and was first kart out for qualifying. Despite a cold track we were able to set below 53 second times, and clocked a fastest of 52.9 second, which would put us 3rd on the grid in the Master’s class. We did this on lap 4/5 and could probably have improved if we did not get black flagged (black flag with brown oval). Already on lap 2 we saw this flag, but as it means mechanical/technical defect (and our kart seemed complete and without defectives) we were sure the flag was not pointed at us. Next lap is was not pointed at all, but then again at lap 4, it was pointed at us and we left the track just to learn we had been disqualified – bummer!

I had forgotten to put on the neck protector, which is an safety issue. Therefore we got disqualified and had to start last in the pre final. We filed a protest but without luck. The official Rotax rules does not say anything about mandatory neck protector, but apparently there is a local track rule that says you cannot go on the track without a neck protector. Although safety is the primary thing and in everybody’s interest, we felt that we were judged very hard since we already had put down the laps when the issue was discovered, and getting disqualified did not help the safety since I had already been out there, but the rules are the rules and we will probably not forget again! We left to the pits very frustrated as starting last with two different classes would be difficult.

Running two classes together that are pretty similar in lap times, but not necessarily in racing skills, is a big challenge for the heavier drivers. The lighter drivers accelerate faster out of the corners (because of identical horsepower but 40 pounds lighter) and therefore it is difficult for the heavier drivers to pass the lighter drivers despite being faster/better. This issue has already cost us a couple of places earlier this season and this time should prove to be no different. In the pre final we started last and started to pass people. Already on lap 2 we had passed a few karts and we passed a Masters Light driver going in to corner 1, but going in to the S-chicane the Light driver hit us hard on our inside rear wheel in a stupid maneuver (especially as we were not even in the same class) and we spun off and had to start last again – but this time with a significant gap! We made our way up to 5th place before the checkered flag.

Starting the main final from 5th we were still focused on getting a podium finish. We knew it would be a long race so there would be better time for passing if we could stay out of trouble. Already 2 laps in the main we passed the guy in front of us and was on a 4th position. We then got caught in a group of at least 4 Light drivers and started to battle with those. After passing 3 out of 4 the race was almost over and we had lost around 20 seconds to the front group and started to catch in on them but it was too late and too much time was lost fighting drivers from the other class. We ended up 4th which is not a disaster in itself, but considering we did faster lap times than both number 2 and 3, it was a disappointing result. Although not benefitting fully from it, it was obviously positive that we had the pace to win.

Next race up will be November 8th returning to the Dixon kart track. As we did not score the amount of point we hoped for this time, it seems as our quest to finish 3rd in the Championship is not possible and we have adjusted our goal to go for the overall 4th which is still a good result and well within our top 5 ambition prior to the season.

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