It's been a busy few weeks. William passed his ARKS at CKC in a day where everything, bye and large, went perfectly.

That was a stark contrast to our latest excursion to Forest Edge. I had packed everything and we set off in good time - arriving just before 8am. With the gates locked I decided to kill the engine and make sure nothing had moved in the van. As I got round to the side door I could hear a hissing. And there it was, the back tyre was busy deflating.

When we got into the pits and parked up I got the kart out and as it was all set up and ready to go decided to tackle the flat tyre. I've never changed the tyre on a Transit before. I knew where the wheel brace and jack where from a previous exploration of the van so set about jacking it up. I did the jacking in three session as my left arm between the palm and elbow was hurting; I must be using that more and more and slowly but surely it will get stronger. Once jacked up I realised that the van wasn't high enough.

So I had to bring the van down and then remove some wood that was attached to the floor to keep the kart in place - the driver I bought was excellent - place the wood under the jack and then jack it back up again. I managed to get the tyre off but was tired by now. I'm not a muscle man and have spent most of my life at a computer keyboard. Another stroke of luck was down to my laziness. I had decided that I didn't need my full socket kit - half of it is imperial and of the metric I only need about 5 of them. If I had organised my sockets I would have been in deep pooh as the wheel nuts are imperial.

We went and signed on - William joining the licensed cadets - that alone put a massive smile on his face which gave me a renewed strength and it was back to getting at the spare wheel. I could see it under the back of the Transit but I had no idea how to get to it. Google is your friend right? I couldn't get a data connection on my iPhone, I was sure I had one last time so quickly into Airplane Mode and then out again - bosh! 3G appeared. Then a quick search "jumbo transit spare wheel".

The first result looked good but when I tapped it on my phone the site popped up a screen asking me if I wanted to install an app. I clicked the "x" in the top corner and then it told me "page not found". I tried a different link pointing to the same forum and got the same error. This is stress that I didn't need - with desktop Google it is possible to get a version of the page from Google's cache, this was my first thought. Then I thought about iOS' "Reading List". It allows you to save web pages to read later when offline - like on an airplane for example. On the Google results page I simply pressed the link and after a few seconds a menu appeared. I tapped "Send To Reading List", Safari did it's thing. I went to the reading list and there was the article with the photos. 5 minute of stress to get the page, 2 minutes to get the spare tyre down.

Time for another break as my arms were hurting, we caught the tail end of drivers briefing, I bought a can of Red Bull, William had his usual hot chocolate and then back to work for me - putting the spare on. Even with the jack all the way up they tyre wouldn't fit - so I let some air out of the tyre and pushed it on with my feet. It would only cover a few threads so I let some more air out and then pushed again. Only when it was flat would it go all the way back - William was worried that the spare was flat but I wasn't, we have a compressor. I tightened the nuts, plugged in the compressor into the dashboard, undid the wire from the back of it and started to stretch it to the back wheel. It was short but that's okay because it has a hose, which I pulled out. It was still 5 centimetres short. The guy in the pit box next to us had a Range Rover so I was going to ask him but it was nearly time for the first session so time to start the engine. Steve at Shark had given me clear and precise instructions on what I needed to do: remove the air box, loosen the spark plug and with a hand over the air intake, 6 gentle pulls of the starter. Put the airbox and spark plug back in and give it a start.

I did and the engine wouldn't start. A few pulls later and still nothing, not the slightest hint of it firing. Not a problem, I'd change the spark plug. I tried again and we got a splutter but then nothing. I rang Steve - but called him Mike, his son's name (by publicly stating my rudeness I'm hoping it can be cured) and explained the problem. Steve said we needed a new spark plug - I went to the parts man and he wanted £9. I asked him if I could give £5 and pay the other £4 at Camberley on Saturday. He said yes. I usually take more cash but last time we bought from another supplier and she took cards - she wasn't there though!

We went back to the kart and I put the new plug in - a quick pull of the chord and the engine started. Lovely. Off to the holding area for the session.
William came in after about 4 laps complaining that the chain had a rattle and he was scared it might pop off. I got a life from a passing dad and tightened the chain and we went down a sprocket at the same time. He'd managed a 52.something on these 4 laps without really breaking sweat - I knew that we were in for some fast time.

The next session was very bitty with spins and excursions to the grass a common feature. We talked about it afterwards and William was trying to keep up with the faster lads - a good thing and in time he too will be able to execute the skills they have amassed over the years. By trying and failing he is learning - so all good. And I needed to tell myself this more than once as the kart bashed across a kerb sounding like a machine gun.

In-between sessions I reserved the van up to the kart parts man and inflated the back tyre - one less thing to worry about.

Session Three - William came in early as he was finding it impossible to take the turn into the home straight. He had tried it very slowly but the kart wasn't having it. I looked at the front left tyre it was nearly done - not much left on it. We needed to scrub in a brand new set of tyres - on brand new rims - and now would be as a good time as any. So on they went. Even with his cornering problems William was still able to post a 49.something - 7 seconds faster than his first go around the track in anger just 2 weeks before.

In the break William mentioned lead - I had intended to buy some to get him up to weight. I was going to buy from the lady who took cards, but as stated earlier, she wasn't here. William said there was another van selling parts and maybe they took cards - another lady and she also took cards. I bought two two-killo weights and the fixings. Back at the van I realised that although I had my driver I didn't have any drill bits ... so we could;t attach the lead.

So off out with the new tyres and it was clear that William was flying. The kart seemed to stick to the road nicely and he was doing really well. As he came past the grandstand I heard a rattling and it reminded me of something but I couldn't think what. As he took the long corner into the straight before the bus stop his back tyre bounced off - oh yeah, I l know that noise, a loose tyre. Now I'm totally certain that I put the nuts on really tight. Anyway I ran onto the track and someone helped me get the kart on the trolley and as we pushed it back across the middle of the track the next lot of karts came out so William and I stood there, next to a three wheeled kart for the whole session.

When it was over we got the kart off the track as soon as possible and headed for the lady who also takes cards. She sold us a rear hub and 6 new nuts. I put the new hub on. We kept the new front rims/tyres and put the old scrub set on the back just in time for the next session. I warned William that his kart would be strange - the front would have grip, the rear wouldn't - and to treat the session as a learning experience. There were spins a plenty as the front held but the back gave way - he eventually got into the groove and put in some good laps. I explained that this might happen for real if he were to get a puncture.

We did two more uneventful sessions and then had to wait for the rest of the classes to finish so we could look for the missing wheel. We spread out, William found it and this gave us both a lift. The rim was damaged beyond repair but the tyre is still good.

The whole day was stress from arrival to just before leaving but we both enjoyed it. And what doesn't kill you, makes you stronger!


Author: Jez Caudle. Published: Tuesday July 21 2015

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