Monday, 31 October 2016

Racing with the 'Old Boy'

This past weekend, I had the pleasure of joining BRKC-regular Slawek Zuzel Piskorz for his Birthday Event at Formula Fast in Milton Keynes. Nine teams made of three drivers of mixed abilities would take part in a 1.5 Hour Endurance-style event, with the aim of having a fun evening & not getting too serious about the racing. Yeah, right!

Slawek had come up with a system of mixing up the drivers randomly within each team depending on speed, experience & driver weight (remember, the emphasis was on fun!) and each team would be named after a Grand Prix driver from the era that Slawek was born. I drew Laffite, and was paired with two youngsters by the names of Dante Dhillon and Louis Dymond. Neither of them had ever been to Formula Fast before, but they certainly brought the 'speed' to our team -which I guess means that I brought the experience (and the extra kg's!) Team Laffite joined the likes of Hunt, Lauda, Scheckter, Fittipaldi, Raggazoni etc in making up the grid. A short practice/qualifying session would be followed by the main race itself, with a minimum number of drivers changes required, meaning that you couldn't just do a solid 30 minutes each. 

Once we had come up with what we thought was a good plan for the race, I was the first of the three of us to take to the circuit, and it wasn't long before I felt up to speed, passing two other drivers in my stint before handing over to Louis. My best time had been good enough for 2nd of the group I was on track with, but that soon dropped to 4th as the other teams deployed their faster drivers. Louis lack of experience on the track was nothing compared to his amount of talent though, and he was soon topping the times with some blistering laps, before handing over to Dante with about six minutes remaining. Dante picked up right where Louis left off, consolidating our 1st place and before we knew it we had pole! Things were looking good for Team Laffite..

Dante remained in the kart to take the start of the race, and went about building up a lead of a few seconds in the opening phase. Each team had to make a minimum number of pit stops, but weren't required to change drivers each time. Essentially, you could come into the pits, exit the kart & step over a barrier, then get back into the kart, which would count as one stop. As a team we had decided to each do 20 minutes to begin with, during which time we would do a 'get out then get back in' stop, followed by the 'driver change' stop. Dante left it late for his first stop, but the change over with Louis went smoothly. Unlike some other teams, we weren't held up in the pits at all. 20 minutes later it was my turn. Louis pitted from the lead, jumped out & I found myself in the kart with a nice empty bit of track around me. Around I went for about 10 minutes before I started to catch the kart ahead, which I when I decided to make my first stop. I pulled into the pit lane, jumped out of the kart and over the barrier, then back in again & rejoined the track. This time I was a couple of seconds behind Slawek, and it was encouraging to see that lap by lap I was taking a bit of time out of him. Just as I had got the gap down to about 1 second, it was my turn to come in and hand back over to Louis for his remaining 10 minutes. 

Dante informed me that I would be back in the kart after Louis, with Dante then taking the final 10 minutes or so. I was happy to let the other two extend their stints slightly given how quick they both were, so it was decided my last stint would only be around 7-8 minutes- we had a comfortable lead by this point so when I was back in the kart I concentrated on just maintaining the gap, not making any mistakes and not getting caught up in any fighting with other drivers. As it was, when I re-joined I again found myself just ahead of Slawek, whose team were in a fight for a podium position. I managed to stay ahead of the Birthday Boy, and brought the kart in for our final stop, handing over to Louis for final 12 minutes or so. We briefly lost the lead to one of the other teams but it was evident they would have to stop again, and when they did we were promoted back into first place. Dante took the chequered flag by around 18 seconds, and incredibly (given that it was his first time at this particular track) he very nearly beat the all-time lap record too - insane!

Slawek had arranged for the top three teams to be awarded with some rather fancy-looking trophies, as well as a cool customised champagne bottle showing the names of all the teams participating. It was a real pleasure to take to the top step of the podium with the two hotshots I had been lucky enough to be paired with, and to come away with a bit of silverware was the proverbial icing on the (birthday) cake! I want to take this opportunity to say thanks to Slawek for putting on such a fun and well organised event, along with the other drivers who took part. A special mention goes to the staff of Formula Fast who as usual made sure the event ran smoothly, and to Slawek's partner Joanna Piskorz who was on photography and cake-distributing duties- it was a really good evening and fantastic fun, so thank you!

The next time I'm likely to be at Formula Fast will be for the 2017 British Rental Kart Championship event- if you've not heard of it please check out the website!

See you then!

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