How many firsts can you cram into a day? First time at a track. First time with a van. First time with a particular kart and the first time with a 2-stroke engine.

The old Project One has been retired and is currently on the wall until William's little brother needs it - about 8 months. In that time it will be stripped and the chassis and stub-axles sent away to be straightened. BRT are favourites at the moment. I just love their web site - it take me back in time to 1997 when frames and animated GIF's where all the rage.

So it was time to take the new Shark Attack out for a spin and my first instinct was wait until Camberley Kart Club had another practise session as this would be one less change from usual. We had never been to Forest Edge and the practice session we were aiming to attend was the day before a race and I had been warned that it was going to be busy - much busier than if it was just a practice day. There would be loads of other new stuff to contend with: using the van, a new kart and a two stroke engine.

Steve at Shark had given me instructions on how to run the new engine in: first session max 8000rpm, second session max 10000rpm and for the third session max 11,000rpm. I made sure William was aware of this. Did he still want to go to Forest Edge? I was hoping he would say "no" - less stressful for me but I always knew he would say "yes" and he did.

Getting to the track was very easy and only took 35 minutes but when we pulled in I was immediately intimidated by it all - the pits there are huge. 22 pit boxes deep by 12 wide; 264 very large pit boxes. And the awnings!! Massive things that wouldn't go amiss as a performance space at Glastonbury - a slight exaggeration - but I did notice something that looked like a removal van that had been converted into a motor home. Someone had told me that the pit boxes numbered 1 to 12 were reserved so I parked near the back. The kart slid out nicely from the van, in marked to contrast to how I had to giggle the kart out of the trailer before putting the rear wheels and side pods on. No such difficulty - straight onto the trolley, all prepared and ready to go.

It was then that I noticed I had forgotten our gazebo and then after some digging I discovered that I had left my socket set at home as well. With no rain forecast and no spare sprockets I wouldn't need to change the tyres and I didn't have another sprocket to put on. Steve had asked me email him with any questions and sprockets had completely left my mind until we unpacked the tools at Edge - or is it Forest? Not sure, I'll have to pay more attention when chatting with other people.

We went for a quick wander and into the office. An old gentleman, who reminded me of the old man that used to warn Scooby Doo and the gang about a ghost in most episodes, told me that the office opened at 8am. Could we do a track walk? Yes we could and we did. William had spent the week watching head-cam footage of Edge - that's what I'm calling it form now on - and had learnt the line but even his research hadn't revealed how long the track is in real life. We talked it and noticed how it was basically 4 longish straights - it would be three but for the bus stop in the middle of one - linked with some high speed corners. Even the bus stop looks high speed. And it's long. Compared to Camberley it felt like a marathon - it also felt longer than Clay - I'm going to start calling it Pigeon, just to confuse - although without a quick bit of Googling I don't know for sure.

Before we hit Pigeon for the first time I watched the video's with William and soon learned the track from a karts drivers perspective. When I actually saw how Pigeon was played out, it confused me and as I couldn't take the drivers view and translate that into a plan view. The same thing happened with Edge - I had only briefly watched one video and how it was laid out was completely different to how I had imagined it. William had uses Google maps and viewed the satellite image so was unfazed.

The first problem of the day occurred when we went to sign on. William doesn't yet have his racing license so doesn't race so doesn't have a number. This is has never been an issue at Camberley and wasn't at Pigeon but Edge didn't become a track with 264 very large pit bays by accident - they have their reasons; how can they warn a driver if they don't have a number for example? So, flustered, I wrote down 99. We paid- by card, which was nice and left to buy some numbers. The kart shop place right next to the office was very helpful. She didn't have four-9's so we settled on 84 - Hasely Crawford wore 846 when he won the Gold medal in the 100m at the 1976 Montreal Olympics. If she didn't have sufficient numbers for 84, we would have tried 46 instead. We paid for the stick on numbers and the number plate by card - another nice touch - and retired to our pit box to fit the number plates.

The first session passed without incident - William pootled around never exceeding 8000rpm and was passed by most of the field. It may be my imagination but I got the feeling that some of the other parents were have a smug moment. "Look, he's in a brand new kart but can only go really slowly!" Still people were friendly and it was all going well. When I lubed the chain I noticed that it was tight - this can happen with a new kart apparently so I moved the engine backward slightly and the chain appeared to have the right amount of play. We went out for session two - max 10,000rpm. William was visibly faster in this session but still being passed by most of the field. As he came around a corner I noticed something fly up from his kart. At first I thought something had come off but as he passed I couldn't see anything obviously missing. I decided that he had run over some debris and it flown up. The next lap William came in and I went running over and asked him what was wrong - "something is rattling". The something was the engine - an engine mount had disappeared - that was the thing I had seen go flying. Luckily the nice lady by the office had a spare one and a bolt and I was able to pay by card - which was nice. I can only think that after the moving the engine I only tightened one of the engine mounts and the other one just worked loose.

Session Three and William was allowed 11,000rpm. He was now second fastest out there and itching to see what full pelt was like. Session Four came around and he hoofed it around. His best time was a 56.something. Any chance of a 53 in the next session I asked, maybe a 54 was the response. Session Five and we hit 52:08 - the track was lovely and warm and I was getting sun burnt. Session 6 and we got into the 50's with a 50:76. The next session a 50:67 - the improvements had stopped. We needed to drop a couple of teeth on the back sprocket if William were to find some more time but unfortunately I didn't have my sockets as we could have bought some sprockets from the nice woman who took cards.

The last session saw no improvement and a couple of spins. I had encourage William to really push to see where the limit was and that contributed to one spin. The other spin came when overtaking a lad doing waking speed - he was on the racing line and William miss judged the corner.

We packed up - much quicker, easier and less stressful with the van - and headed home. My arms and neck are sunburnt but the van's air conditioning works so we got the can nice and cool and rove the empty roads home both happy with how the day had panned out.

Hopefully William can do his Arks on Saturday and start mixing it with the big boys.


Author: Jez Caudle. Published: Sunday July 5 2015

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