Go Karting Challenge!
As we arrived the rain had subsided, leaving a glisten on a track covered by mist. We went inside to sign in. The teams had been decided in advance – amateur racer Adam Nakar, Tom Blake and Saran Girdwood in WSM A; Ben Stanton, Ben Colyer and Josh Cummings in WSM B. We laughed about team names; who was going to win; who was going to lose, but the jovial mood couldn’t disguise the tension that was bubbling down as we sized up our competition. The rules were simple – one hour endurance race, 17 teams, each team-member must pit at least once. Winners go onto Regional Finals and certain glory.
After the jumpsuits and helmets had been donned and the requisite safety video had been watched, Adam took us through the turns, hairpins and chicanes on the racetrack map. It was the first time most of us had seen the layout of the track. A long straight preceding a calm turn right, followed by twist after turn after twist after turn. The map was shadowed by the leader board of the greats who had felt the same nervousness as we did then but had persevered though, people including Fernando Alonso, Ben Collins and Declan Donnelly. While we stared at the names, we heard the tannoy announce for the teams to approach the pits. It was time – there was no going back.
Each team member got a five minute session before the start of the race in order to get to grips with the karts. Tom and Ben Colyer went first, setting a steady pace that would be a sign of things to come. Next up, Saran and Josh jumped into the carts and sped off. After only 3 minutes however the red flags came up, pulling the warm-up to a halt and setting a murmur reverberate through the crowd. Looking over the haze created by the floodlights we saw a cart perched on top of a hill, teetering on the edge as if it could fall off a cliff any second. As the driver got out and walked towards the pits, we saw that he had a smashed visor and bloodied nose. It wasn’t long before we realised it was Josh, giving the thumbs up and looking bemused. Apparently the potent mixture of speed and aggressive competitors had forced him off the track, through a tire barrier and up a mound. As he stood there, the murmurs turned to hush and the only sounds were the race stewards stammering that they had never quite seen anything like it, never seen a crash as ferocious and spectacular than that that had just been. Josh was to sit out for the rest of the race, but we now knew what we were up against and why we needed to win. Playtime was over. The warm-ups continued and after a quick session by Adam and Ben Stanton the race began.
Adam immediately set the pace for the whole competition, leading the pack for the first half of the race. As he raced over the course, drifting around corners and weaving through stragglers, he drove with the style and panache of someone who had nothing to prove but everything to show. He would eventually set a fastest lap-time of just 51.181, with that time holding the competition top spot until the dying minutes of the race. Ben Stanton kept to his word and bombed around the track. As the light got dimmer and the track got dryer he only got faster and faster, eventually setting a lap-time PB of 53.1 and setting up his teammate Ben Colyer with a comfortable position. When the first change-over did come, WSM A were in the lead while WSM B were in 7th.
Saran ‘The Hedgehog’ Girdwood and Ben Colyer were next up, easily taking on the challenges of the constantly changing track conditions. Saran lived up to his moniker and after 15 minutes of furious acceleration did a quick pit-stop to hand the reins to the final WSM A member. Tom spent the final 15 minutes powering through the ranks, keeping his left foot well away from the pedal, his right eye fixed on the finishing line.
With 5 minutes to go Ben Colyer did a quick pit stop and was hardly out of his seat before Ben Stanton leapt into the kart in order to take the team home. After a few short circuits the chequered flag came up and the race was over.
A slight melancholic air hit the teams as the results came in – 8th place for WSM A, 11th place for WSM B. However, we had fought hard, had a great time and improved our skills. Only a year now in order to improve them even more. Bring on 2017.
Write up by Ben Colyer