It was around 11 o’clock in the evening when I went back to my tent for what was intended to be a decent night’s sleep, or as decent as possible for camping. Unfortunately, it was so cold that I only had a maximum of about three hours sleep. On top of that, the airbed I brought with me deflated during the night, so overall, it was not an ideal approach to the final Intermediates round of the 2019 BUKC season. I did however wake up to the amusement of our mascot dangling on top of the gantry. We just left him there for the remainder of the weekend.
I was in the first race, which meant that I needed to get ready fairly quickly for the first qualifying session. Within seven seconds of leaving the pits, I was already involved in an incident. Going into the second corner, Leicester B’s Sam Boden overtook me, but was going too quickly and spun round into my path. I just about managed to avoid being collected as I trudge around the outside of the corner, but I wasn’t too impressed with Boden over-exuberance. That wouldn’t be my last encounter with him… more on that later.
Other hairy moments I had during the 20 minute session seemed to involve the number 87 of Oxford B. Going into Ashby hairpin just before the halfway point, they slowed earlier than I expected, and it was only after I pulled out that I saw a spun Liverpool B driver on the outside of the corner. I nearly lost it myself as I slammed on the brakes and then let the Oxford B driver back through. A few minutes later having got passed Oxford B, I inadvertently cut across them going into the Boot and quickly let them back through. The last thing I wanted was a penalty.
Anyway, most of the final ten minutes were spent either in traffic or being hindered by yellow flags, but once I got myself into some clear track with three minutes to go, I managed to set a quick lap that would’ve put me just outside the top ten. Occasionally when I do what I feel is a good lap, I do a little fist pump (I did this after my fastest dry lap during my endurance race at Three Sisters), but I should’ve done this at the end of my final lap as I set a time that was good enough for 5th. I was quite pleased with that effort and felt I could challenge for a top three finish in my final Intermediates race.
Unfortunately, my whole race would be compromised by an unusual problem. As I am a bit shorter than most drivers, I have to have the pedals as close to me as possible, but my allocated go-kart’s nassau panel had been shifted forward a little bit which meant that I had to have the brake pedal in the middle position. I just about managed to get the throttle into the position I wanted, but the issue with the nassau panel meant that the throttle was never fully off. The result was a disastrous first lap.
My start wasn’t great as I dropped to 7th after Christmas corner, but then going into Ashby hairpin, I braked too late (Probably because I was struggling to reach the pedal) and more or less t-boned Loughborough D. The loss of momentum left me exposed to a pretty savage mugging from a lot of very feisty drivers and I dropped a load of positions over the next couple of corners. I ended the first lap down in 15th.
The sticking throttle made the go-kart difficult to drive, but I persevered with it and managed to keep up an O.K speed. However, the issue with the pedals meant that I was overdriving, probably a psychological thing in an effort to compensate for a kart problem. I also had little confidence under braking and as a result, my lap times were rather erratic. The corners I struggled with most were Ashby, Osiers, and the entry to the Boot.
At around one third distance, I was overtaken by an old friend of mine from qualifying, Leicester B’s Sam Boden, which actually began a pretty intense dogfight between the two of us. Although he had that spin at the start of qualifying, Boden’s defensive driving was actually quite solid. Every time I attempted an overtake, he would get back in front of me, and eventually, frustration got the better of me as another attempted overtake resulted in a spin for me at Christmas corner. Just to rub salt into the wound, the stewards gave me a contact warning.
With five minutes to go, I was back on the tail of Boden and finally managed to successfully overtake him going into Christmas corner after he got caught up behind a backmarker, but the sticking throttle was still a problem. On the final three laps, I just couldn’t get Osiers right and kept clattering the exit kerb. The final lap was the worst one of them all and Boden got back in front of me. In desperation, I carried a lot of speed through the first apex of the Boot to try and give me a chance of an overtake into the next apex, but I ended up shunting into the rear of Boden. Luckily, we continued with no ill effect, but I lost the position and finished the race in a very disappointing 16th place.
I apologised to Boden for the last lap contact, but he was alright with it as he had thoroughly enjoyed our battle. I couldn’t say the same about my race, and neither could the Huddersfield crew who had been watching me from trackside. Aaron Walsh was the first to comment on my poor performance. “Oh dear, oh dear. We’ve got a lot to teach you,” He said. “Yeah, I’m not happy with that,” I agreed before explaining to the crew of the problems I had during the race.
My attention then switched to the second race of the day, where Luke Bath was in action. After sporting a new helmet at Llandow, he reverted back to his silver and blue lid after his new one felt a bit tight. He had qualified 7th, although he said after his qualifying session that he could’ve gone much quicker, which bode well for the race. Another thing that bode well was a terrific start to move up to 3rd by the end of the first lap. Bath had never had a top three finish in the BUKC with his best result being a 6th at Rye House back in 2017, and his good start to this race presented a terrific opportunity to improve on his personal best.
For the first half of the race, he battled with Liverpool A for 2nd before they started working together to catch up to the leader, who at this point was Strathclyde’s Christopher Doyle. Bit by bit, they closed the gap until on lap 20, Bath found himself in 2nd after Doyle got caught up in traffic. A fierce three-way battle for the lead ensued over the final eight laps which eventually went the way of Liverpool A. Bath finished a career best 3rd, just four tenths of a second behind the winner and thoroughly delighted with his race.
The original plan was that Bath would be doing another race immediately afterwards, but a combination of exhaustion and wanting to end his BUKC career on a high meant that he was reluctant. We initially suggested to Jacob Harris that Sam Tearne would take his place to give him a bit of practice for the drivers championship, but that was dismissed. In the end, I was allowed to take Bath’s place which gave me a chance to try and make up for a difficult first race.
I start my second race of the day from 9th on the grid (Courtesy of Luke Bath), but once again, I had a poor start and dropped to 14th after choosing the wrong line at Christmas corner. Things didn’t get better on the second lap as I lost another four positions including one to King’s College A, who then spent the next third of the race defending his position from me. I finally managed to get ahead going into Christmas corner on lap 11, but then I got caught up behind a backmarker at Ashby hairpin which led to the King’s College A driver getting back in front.
Something about that backmarker moment bugged me. I really didn’t want my redemption to be an ordinary one and from that moment, I just went hell for leather. Firstly, I got back ahead of the backmarker after they had a lurid slide at the exit of the final corner. Strictly speaking, I went beyond the track limits to overtake, but luckily for me, the marshals were looking away at that point.
A couple of laps later, I finally got back in front of King’s College A, and for good this time, before my next bit of action involved witnessing a bit of a silly collision between Bath C and Uni of Life B. Parkers isn’t really a place to outbrake another driver unless you’re fully alongside, which Bath C wasn’t. Once the incident happened, I got through on the inside without getting myself involved in the accident. Having said that, I went for an overtake on Uni of Life B at the same corner on the next lap, but because I was fully alongside before the corner, the move paid off and I was up to 13th.
With five laps to go, I managed to dip below the 55 second barrier with a 54.978. At the same time, I was bearing down on UCL A’s Tom Brown for 12th place, who himself was trying to get ahead of Birmingham C. My opportunity came when Brown overtook a backmarker going into the Boot. I managed to follow through, but had such a good exit coming out of the corner that I also got ahead of Brown going into the final corner. In some ways, I was surprised at how quickly I was overtaking other drivers, but I was really enjoying it, a lot more than having to cope with a sticking throttle for an entire race.
After setting my personal best lap on the penultimate lap, a 54.953, I came across a pretty mad three-way scramble for 10th place on the final lap, although one of the karts involved wasn’t for position. I managed to sneak ahead of Birmingham C coming out of Parkers, and ended up crossing the finish line glued to the back of Cardiff A’s bumper and in 11th place, although I moved up another position post-race. The second half of that race was probably the best I had driven over my two seasons in the BUKC, rivalled by my first qualifiers race last November.
With my racing done for the day, I watched Clio Tjonnadi’s race from a few different vantage points, mostly at the Ashby hairpin where I chatted with Sam Tearne. After my first race, he advised me to drive more smoothly as Rotax karts don’t particularly like sliding and have a tendency to bog as a result. While I felt as if I had smoothened my steering inputs during my second race, Tearne said that it was still a bit choppy in places. He had been trying to signal that to me during the race, but I must admit I hadn’t noticed him. He also pointed out to me that Clio was one of the smoothest drivers he had ever seen. As I was taking part in the drivers championship, I needed as much advise as I could get.
Back to the racing, and from 20th on the grid, Tjonnadi made good progress in the early laps to run in 12th place. After battling with a number of other runners, she found herself in 11th, but then with just three laps to go, an incident dropped her down to 19th come the end of the race. We hadn’t seen what had happened, but she apologetically explained afterwards that she had a spin somewhere in the first sector. Like myself and Luke, this was her final BUKC meeting as an undergraduate, and in that brief time, she proved to be a strong asset as she showed tremendous consistency in the go-kart alongside a cool head during those frantic first laps.
All four races counted towards the final results, and Huddersfield C ended up 10th overall out of 44 teams, which was another improvement from the 12th at Llandow. Throughout the season, the C Team had been making steady improvements from Buckmore Park, even though we had been short on drivers for three successive meetings, and combined with a strong result in qualifiers, we ended up 11th in the Intermediates championship. The honours went to Bath B, who had been championship contenders from the very beginning.
With no further award ceremonies planned, many drivers either went home or to the nearest pub, but the Huddersfield drivers that were taking part in the individual drivers championship the following day decided to stay at the circuit. We spent most of the evening kicking a football around with members of UWTSD Swansea, some of whom were also taking part in the drivers championship. I would find myself battling with one of them on the next day, not just on the circuit, but also for the best fancy dress costume.