Race Report for Viking Racing, Kart #64. 2010 Gatorz Challenge Of the Americas. Race #5/6, March 27/28th - Infineon International Karting Center, Sonoma CA
March 27th/28th was the date for the 5th and 6th round of the Gatorz Challenge Of the Americas series. As we missed round 1 and 2 in Phoenix, AZ we had no play in the championship but definitely wanted to built on our great results from round 3 and 4 and especially so as this was on our home turf at Infineon Raceway. This time we knew the field a bit better and knew we would be met with close and at times rough racing.
As usual the weekend consisted of two separate races with each their practice, warm up, qualifying, pre finale and main finale, so all in all 4 races. We showed up at the track with a fresh win from our local NorCal series, which was run at the same National Track lay out and we felt good about our performance. Our fastest lap times in our local race were around the 52.5 second mark so our goal for the weekend was to get in the 51's (anticipating the track had better grip) as well as setting our fastest lap times ate the very last lap of each race meaning we would have constantly improved throughout the race. We put down a fastest lap of 51.9 in our last practice session Friday night so everything looked good. That time put us 2nd on the grid only a couple tenths off pole but also just half a second from 10th so top 10 was very close.
Saturday morning we put down a fastest lap of 51.9 again, but this time it only did for a 6th place on the grid. Not as good as we had hoped but also not a disaster as once again top 10 was within a few tenths. Starting 6th on the grid in the pre finale we were caught in the middle of the action and were pushed off track in corner 1. As the Masters series are drivers age 32 and above, it really caught us by surprise how many drivers that forgot to put their brain inside the helmet... It should show for the entire weekend that a lot of drivers' strategy simply was to win the race in Corner 1, risking everything for themselves and everyone around them!
Now being down to 9th the odds were tough but by putting down consisting lap times we were able to pass 3 karts as well being helped from a spin and on lap 14 we were up to 4th position. At the very last lap we caught up to the rear bumper of the 3rd place driver, who very confidently waved at us going in to the very last corner before the start/finish line. He should never have done that as that encouraged us even more and literally glued to his rear bumper we drafted out of the last corner and passed him driving over the start/finish line making us finish 3rd in the pre finale. Our fastest lap time of the race was 51.7, only a few hundreds of the winners' fastest lap and we put our fastest lap down in Lap 17 - last lap of the race. So far so good.
Starting from 3rd in the final we got squeezed completely off track in corner one with a bent spindle, bent tie rod and bent steering shaft at a result. One more wreck less attempt by another driver to win the 25 lap race in corner 1... With everything bent out of shape it was very difficult to keep the kart on the track. As an example the steering wheel had to be kept at 45 degrees just to get the kart to go straight. However we decided to stay on track and make the best out of it. Despite being pushed down to 9th and doing lap times almost a second off we still managed to pass quite a few drivers and made our way up to 5th. On lap 12 we were violently pushed off track in a clueless attempt to pass us. The driver got penalized but that did not really change the fact that 4 karts got by and we were now 9th again. We finalized a promising day with a disappointing 6th place in the final.
After spending Saturday night on getting the kart back to a drive able condition, Sunday was a completely new race day and we started out in qualifying with clocking a 51.6 second lap. Fastest lap we ever did on this track, a second faster than the race a week prior and half a second faster than the current official track record for the Rotax Masters class. This put us 3rd on the grid only 2 tenths off pole. After a few restarts we started the pre finale from 3rd and kept that position throughout the race.
Starting the main finale from 3rd we once again got pushed in the start and got down to 5th. With a few good passes we made our way up to 3rd again. This race provided for the best racing of the entire weekend with a lot of close and to the limit on and off track racing. We were able to defend our position and ended the day on the podium with a 3rd in qualifying, pre and main.
Before the season we had put down an objective of finishing the Challenge Of the Americas championship in top 5. We ended on 6th place out of 21 registered drivers, but we only made 4 out of 6 races and still ended up at the podium twice. All in all a very satisfactory result in our only second year of karting and in a big race series. Next race coming up will be this weekend in the NorCal Rotax series at Infineon.
We would like to thank our sponsors for making this season possible!