After re-familiarising myself with the Teamsport Bristol karting track at round one & coming away with a second-in-class finish, I was confident of going one better at round two, which took place on Wednesday 19th July.
The entire fleet of karts had been fitted with new tyres only a few days before the event, and what a difference it made! Whereas previously I had found the circuit to be VERY slippery which meant I struggled to be consistent, now the karts were doing exactly what I wanted. This feeling in-turn breeds confidence & after the initial practice I felt that I was probably more comfortable than Id ever been since the new circuit opened. However, I made a meal of my 'hot lap' (the first points scoring session) with a sideways moment which saw me only 14th quickest out of 18th- not good! Round one Heavyweight winner Josh Martin was 7th quickest, so I had to do something to stop losing further points to him.
In the main 10 minute qualifying session, I was able to find my rhythm and ended up 6th overall-much better given the calibre of drivers ahead of me. I made a clean start to the first race of the night, stayed out of trouble in turn one & ended up finishing 4th, which I would have been happy with had Josh not made an opportunistic move & got past me while I was battling for position with another driver.
In race two, starting 6th I made another clean start from the tight grid, staying out of trouble & holding position until I came up behind another of the heavyweight drivers, Luke Smith. As hard as I tried, I couldn't find a way past. This again allowed Josh to close in and again, rather opportunistically get past me whilst I was battling with Luke. Whilst I hoped the two drivers ahead might then tangle allowing me to get past, the gap between the two remained consistent with Josh being unable to really attack. I followed Josh closely lap after lap until the chequered flag fell. Luke's results over the course of the evening saw him finish second in class ahead of me and behind Josh, who took his second win in as many weeks. The event overall was won by Oliver Bayani (no surprises there!) ahead of Ed Barrs & Zac Venn.
So after two out of five rounds, Josh currently heads the Heavyweight table with me in second, ahead of Luke Smith. As only three out of the five rounds count (the fifth round being the compulsory 'final') both myself & Josh opted to miss round three which took place on August 1st. I would need to finish first in class in both the remaining rounds to have any hope of making the final in Birmingham come September.
Round Four (Wednesday 9th August)
After Josh Martin's wins at rounds one & two and Luke Smith's victory at round three (which Josh & I had elected to skip) I needed a top result to have any chance of qualifying for the Kart Champs final in September. Six driver's in total would make up the heavy-weight class for this round, with seventeen drivers entered in total.
Due to the number of drivers taking part, it was decided beforehand that the two main races would be split into an 'A' & 'B' Group, with the top 9 qualifying for the 'A' races. Getting into this group would be crucial for me, as the highest place 'B' finisher would only score the points that 10th overall would have earned had we raced as one group. The decision to split the drivers was made due to the nature of the starting grid & the history of first lap pile-ups in races since the circuit was re-designed.
The night started well enough for, recording the 7th fastest time in the opening practice session- with drivers like Ed Barrs, Scott Vowles, Mike Hutt & Franklin Carson ahead it was about the best I could have hoped for. Immediately after the practice session we each went out one by one for a points-scoring 'hot lap'. Josh already didn't look entirely comfortable, and only managed to set the 14th best time on his hot lap, with Luke ending up 5th. Although my lap wasn't the best I'd ever put together, being one of the last to run obviously gave me a bit of extra grip & I was able to grab 4th resulting a decent haul of points to kick off the night.
Qualifying was up next, and although I tried my best to give myself space to concentrate o, setting fast laps I kept finding myself behind people, resulting in me qualifying only 9th overall. I was disappointed given that I had been 7th in practice, however I was pleased to have at least made the 'A' finals. Luke had done an incredible job & finished 2nd in qualifying, while Josh's misfortune continued as he only qualified 13th- which was good news for me & Luke at least!
As the first of the night's two races would be a 'reverse' grid race, it meant I started on pole ahead of Oli Leett. The best I could hope for was to perhaps finish in the top 5 and ahead of Luke, who after qualifying 2nd would start this race second to last. I made a clean start from pole, edged ahead of Oli & surprisingly felt no contact going into the tricky tight section just after the first corner. I was sure I'd be under pressure soon from the likes of Ed & Carson but unbeknown to me Oli had maintained position after the start and was doing a great job of holding them up! After only a few laps I was ahead of him by a few corners and pulling away. Luke had a terrible start and found himself at the back of the pack as the tie ticked away. I was aware that Carson had eventually got past Oli and was taking chunks out of my lead, but there wasn't enough time left & I crossed the line a few seconds ahead, taking my first victory of any kind at the 'new' Bristol circuit-fantastic!
This result gave me a good points haul & I knew Josh (who had claimed victory in first 'B' race) was going to lose ground. I just had to ensure I didn't finish dead last in the final race in order to stay ahead of Luke. As it turned out, I was able to get past Oli during the opening lap & then Mike Hutt (who had already secured a class victory before the final race) gifted me 7th. Luke managed to finish 5th having started second, which meant in terms of heavy-weight results I came away with a crucial class victory!
As things now stand going into the mandatory regional final, to be held on Wednesday 16th August, Josh still leads the heavyweight class having won the first two rounds, with 440 points. Luke & I have one win apiece so find ourselves in 2nd & 3rd overall (me on 435 points, Luke on 423). Andy George (273 points) is the only other realistic contender (having beaten Josh in their final race at round 4) but it looks like it will a three way fight for victory & that place in the Kart Champs final in Birmingham in what is sure to be a well-attended Bristol final...
Keep a look out for my next update!