Race Report for Viking Racing, Kart #64. 2010 Gatorz Challenge Of the Americas. Race #3/4, February 27/28th - CalSpeed Karting Center, Fontana CA
February 27th/28th was the date for the 3rd and 4th round of the Gatorz Challenge Of the Americas series. Due to severe weather forecasts for round 1 and 2 in Phoenix, AZ we decided to cancel the first rounds, meaning that round 3 and 4 at CalSpeed Karting Center in Fontana, CA would be our opening races for the 2010 season.
The weekend consisted of two separate races Saturday and Sunday, each with practice, qualifying, pre final and final. The track is located at the world famous Auto Club Speedway in Southern California (formerly California Speedway) and is beautifully surrounded be the Sierra Nevada mountains (covered by snow at this time a year). This race would be our first ever outside NorCal with a new track, new competitors and race management so we were anxious to get started and expected fierce competition out of the gate - something we got confirmed pretty soon. Without knowing the track and the field in advance it was difficult to set a meaningful objective for the weekend but we decided to aim for a top 5 finish and improve our lap times throughout the weekend.
When we arrived at the track the weather was beautiful and we focused on getting to know the track and setting up the kart. As we now got two identical karts our tuner/coach Kris and I could both go on the track at the same time and compare notes and different setups. We were able to get down the mid 53 second lap times by Friday evening and we knew we could still improve. The weather forecast had shown heavy rain for Saturday - unfortunately the forecast was right and when we showed up Saturday it was raining heavily. Racing in the rain is fun, but as we had close to zero rain racing experience and we got her to compete, rain was not what we wanted.
As it was raining severely we thought the race would be canceled so we decided not to go out for morning practice and get everything wet. However the race director made it clear that racing in the rain was not dangerous compared to racing in the dry (because of the lower speed in the rain) so the race would go on no matter what! That meant we did our first rain session in qualifying not ideal but in rain qualifying results do not matter as much as the faster drivers will get in front during the race anyway. We went out and qualified in 9th position. Not what we had dreamt about but also not a disaster as we knew we had no rain practice and had not participated in the morning warm-up.
We started from 9th position in the pre final and just focused on improving our lap times and not making mistakes and spin out. This, a bit conservative, approach made us finish on a 5th position - a good starting point for the final. It was very difficult driving conditions with monsoon like rains and inches of standing water everywhere and little to no visibility but we definitely improved our rain driving skills!
Starting from 6th position in the main final we did what the speakers referred to as "the start of the day" as we moved from 6th to 2nd in the start! Within half a lap we passed the leader and now found ourselves in the front. Funny how we went from almost last to first within one race. Being in control and having a comfortable gap to the rest of the field the red flag was thrown at us at lap 3! Supposedly other drivers' engines had started to drown and all of a sudden the race management thought the rain was too heavy for Karting. Quite a contrast to the earlier statement that morning about racing and rain. On top of that the local ambulance had to go for other and more important duties. Being out there, the rain in the final was no worse than in the pre final. All racing was ceased for the day...
After a lot of discussion we failed to convince the race director of what we still believe to be the rules for a race re start, so instead of re starting the race from the lead and without the drivers that had not prepared their karts/engines properly for the wet we once again started the race from 6th position Sunday morning. The track was 80% dry but there was still puddles of water in a few corners. We decided to start on rain tires along with half of the field, while half of the field went out on slicks.
Once again we made a good start and passed a few people. We made our way up to second but around half in to the race the rain tires started to fall off and slicks were the better choice. It became a very close race and we managed to keep a 3rd place and thereby a podium. Very satisfactory for our first race in rain and on a new track!
After that we started on an entirely new race day with warm-up, qualifying, pre final and main final. We were hit and almost run off track in both practice, qualifying and the pre main by the same kamikaze-style driver, which meant that we lost our at the time 3rd place and ended the pre at 6th. In the main we ended 8th after once again being hit and taken off track, and once again from a top 3 position. The weekend offered lot of close racing and in the 15 kart field 10 drivers were constantly within 3/10 of a second in lap times.
The race management definitely allowed more stock car style racing than we were used to, but that was a part of our learning and preparation for later and greater races this year. We went back with a podium finish, a ton of learning - not the least that we became competitive in the wet in record time. Our engines and karts ran perfectly throughout the event so all in all a good weekend. Photos are available in the Photo Section. Next races in the Challenge Of the Americas series will be on our home track at Infineon March 26-28th.
We would like to thank our sponsors for making this season possible!