The first annual TTAC Media Challenge go-kart race happened on Thursday night, and your humble author ended up losing by a frustratingly small margin. Eventually.
Despite seemingly insurmountable logistical problems ( a lack of cars to get us to the track, Matt Farah’s date with a washed-up “actress” that same night in Orange County) 10 of us managed to head out to Miramar Speed Circuit.
Miramar’s karts were a much more appealing alternative to the electric karts at K1 in Carlsbad; the SODI chassis and 6.5 horsepower Honda engines made for “proper” karts, rather than the watered-down amusement park units that most indoor places offer.
The only format being offered by Miramar that night was a 20 minute heat that saw the winner declared via a single fastest lap; in essence, this was an extremely long and tiresome qualifying session. Not that anybody was going to object. Despite starting third on the grid, my own race was fraught with problems
- Not keeping my eyes up. The cardinal rule of driving fast is to look well ahead and through the turns, but I didn’t do it enough.
- I treated the race as a head to head battle rather than running smooth, clean laps and waving people by. Instead, I tried to jockey for position.
- I wrongly assumed that these karts would be more like outdoor karts, which can be balanced with the throttle much more readily, and require precise application of the brakes. Instead, they just needed to be manhandled around certain turns, with a bit of braking in a straight line beforehand. Most turns could be taken flat out.
The first race was handily won by Danny Battaglia of ALG, who clocked off a 30.938. Second place went to another Derek, Derek Joyce of Hyundai with a 31.252, while Blake Z. Rong of Automotive.com (and the lightest of our group) took third with a 31.258. I finished a distant 7th, just behind my main rivals, Matt Farah, Jared Gall of Car and Driver and Jeff Glucker of Hooniverse.com – but at least I wasn’t last. And yes, to confuse my many enemies, and es part of ab elaborate deception scheme, my nickname for the race was “Ray Wert” .
Fortunately, a rematch was proposed, and enthusiastically accepted by all parties. For all the grumbling about sore muscles and stiff joints, everyone seemed eager to contort themselves in a noisy, vibrating deathtrap for yet another 20 minutes, and I wasn’t going to raise any objections – the honor of TTAC was at stake. For the final race, we were all aching, winded and drenched in sweat. The brief period we spent outside in the fresh air ended far too soon as we were called back to grid up for the final race.
With my knees and shoulders already getting sore, I decided to take it easy and focus on getting some good solid laps in. During the break, I noticed that there was a giant TV right above the start-finish line that displayed the latest lap times. I made an attempt to run a few “fast” laps, and then would slow down to try and check my times on the screen as a means of evaluating my performance in real time. The chronograph feature on my watch was used to count down the 20 minutes.
With some good vision habits and careful braking, I managed to climb up the leader board. The first few laps were shaky, as I worked out the proper lines and braking points, but I managed to continuously shave precious milliseconds off my time. All the competitors managed to run within a second of one another, and there were some great battles; Matt and I went back and forth over the course of the race, while Dan and I had a great lead-follow session that saw us going two-wide through a turn before I backed off and let him by. Hyundai’s Derek Joyce, who tracks his Cayman S regularly, proved to be an especially persistent character, similar to Eddie Irvine in his prime. For such a serious track racer, Derek seemed to take the “racing is rubbing” mantra very seriously. After 15 minutes, I was in second place, with race leader Blake Z. Rong ahead of me by a mere .0297 seconds. Unfortunately, I never managed to best Blake’s time, which I’ll attribute to the 40 pound difference between us.
Since Blake didn’t pick a charity, I’ll still be donating my $25 to Gabrielle’s Ride. Next year’s tournament can’t come soon enough.