2006 St. Johns Grand Prix Race Report
Saturday saw the schedule calling for two practice sessions. One in the morning and another in the afternoon. Set up our space. Made a few adjustments to the kart I was waiting to do once we got up to the cooler mountain climes of St. Johns (better then doing it in the hot garage down in Mesa).
Tyler went out for the first practice session on his 80cc shifter and came back in on the very first lap. No brakes and the kart was pulling really bad to the right on the straights. On a track like St. Johns brakes are very important considering that it has two downhill straights (1/4 mile and a 1/2 mile long that end in 90 degree left hand turns) and an uphill 1/4 straight that has a greater then 90 degree right hand turn. In short section of track at the top end of the hill with five quick fast turns.
Put the kart on the stand and checked the brakes. Still had a issue with the pads not making solid contact with the left front rotor. Shimming the pads was not going to fix the brake problem so we dialed the front brakes out and gave him just rear brakes. Also re-bled the brakes and they seemed to be good on the stand. The handling problem was quickly evident. When Tyler had put the front spindle back on the kcart down here in Mesa earlier in the week he had left out the bottom spacers so we had a severe 1″ ride height difference on the front of the car and the toe was all off. I found the spacers and got them back on, borrowed a laser alignment tool to get the toe adjusted and we figured we were set foe the afternoons practice session.
Off he goes and after one lap came zooming back into the pits again complaining of no brakes. Back up on the stand and I told Tyler to keep his gear on. Quickly bled the rear brakes again – no issue. Made sure the brake bias adjuster was dialed full to the rear -it was. I then changed the rear brake pads and sent him back out for the final 3 laps of the afternoon 20 minute practice session. He came back in after the checker and said the brakes were working and the alignment problem was fixed.
Out of two twenty minute practice sessions Tyler had only managed two full laps at speed.
Sunday gave us a qualifying session in the morning and then our feature race in the afternoon.
Just like on Saturday after a single practice lap Tyler came back into the pits again complaining of no brakes. With the new pads put in the previous day I had not replaced a shim that was under one of the pads so we checked the centering on the rotor and adjusted it ever so slightly. With the pedal pressed two guys were unable to turn the rear wheels. Brakes readjusted.
For the feature race I put new tires on the kart.
Since we had so few laps – a combined total of less then six laps out of three twenty minute sessions Tlyer was forced to start as tail-end Charlie with a fastest lap of only 1:39.352 compared to a 1:33.148 for the group pole sitter!
At the drop of the green Tyler was on it and by the turn two had picked up four places and by turn three another two spots – including passing his main competition and pole sitter, Mike Laycook! Tyler was flying but his lack of practice time on a track he had never seen before bit him in the butt and Mike was able to repass him and established a two kart buffer between them (a 125cc TaG and a 125cc Shifter). Tyler tried like mad to get by the 125 shifter but it would pull him on the long straights with it’s larger engine and since the straights there are so long he was not able to maintain a draft on the kart either. By the time they came out of the tight section at the top of the track Tyler would be all over the back-end of the 125 and then they would repeat this for the next 9 laps (race was twelve laps long). During one of these laps around the track Tyler picked up a nice big black tire mark on his brand new front bumper as he harried the 125 through the corners.
He finished the race 2nd in class and 14th overall (out of 30 karts) with a fastest lap time of 1:33.499 and three spots behind Mike with a fastest lap of 1:32.817.
Tyler was also able to take turn 6 (the start of the twisty five turn section) flat out with the new tires fitted – he had been giving a slight lift and sliding through the corner previously. The data logger showed that he was whistling through this right hand corner at 81 mph and pulling 2.5 G on that fast lap.
After the race he said that the kart had developed a bad rear-end hop on the high speed straights so we suspected that maybe one or both of the rear wheels were not in balance since we could see a wobble when spinning the rear wheels. When pulling the wheels and spinning the axle we did not see the wobble so that seemed to rule out a damaged axle. Coming onto the downhill front straight there was a really bad “ski-jump” right in the middle of the track that would see a kart with all four wheels at least a good 3″ off the ground if they hit it just right and one kart did have a bent axle so we were all careful to take that section of the track either outside or inside.
When we put the wheels back on the axle the wobble was gone!
Monday morning we got a 15 minute warm-up session at 9:30am before our Pursuit Race scheduled for 11am. Driving to the grid Tyler complained of a lack of brakes again so I told him to just take it easy and drive two laps just to check for the rear end hop. Instead he stayed on it and stayed out of the entire session. He said that the brakes were “useable” and that the hop was gone.
The pursuit race is two races in one (overall and class) with the karts grided slowest to fastest. They are then released to the track individually based on a handicap of their fastest lap time (established from all the previous sessions – including the feature race). For this race on a 1.65 mile track with a race length of 12 laps the gap from the slowest KT-100 (2:16.593) powered Junior kart to the fastest 125 shifter kart (1:25.029) saw a gap of just over 10 minutes!
Tyler starting about 8th of 30 karts (two had broken the previous day and did not make the call to grid) with Mike directly behind him with a 6 second gap since one of the broken karts had been slated to be gridded between them. When Tyler was released to the track he was on it and started to increase his gap back to Mike with each lap.
Tyler finished 2nd Overall with a fastest lap of 1:31.623. We leaned out the jetting a full step for the Pursuit race and the data logger showed Tyler going through the fast turn 6 at 86.9 mph on his fastest lap.
Despite the mechanical difficulties that we encountered over the weekend we came away with two second place finishes but while we did not make up any of our points deficit to Mike in the championship we did not lose any points either. Three races to go in the season.
Oh, for those that may wonder. Mike pits next to us and we compare data, gears, jetting, tires, etc… each session. This is truly a friendly rivalry. The way that it should be!
The prequel “comedy”…
Our plan had been to head out early on Friday morning. Tyler of course was not objecting to a 5 am departure time since he would be getting an extra day off from school for the Labor Day weekend.
However, circumstance reared its ugly head to prevent a timely departure. Turns out that the trailer hook-up on our Suburban (6 pole) was not the same as the trailer we were using (7 way round). After stopping at two Autozones, a Home Depot, a Lowes on Thursday night and a U-Haul store and a Trailer sales store first thing Friday morning we discovered that there is no adapter made that will allow a 7 way round to plug into a 6 pole outlet. The trailer sales guy directed me to a place down the street that might be able to help. Drove to Quality Bumper and at first they said given the holiday weekend and the fact that they were booked solid for the day they did not see how they could possibly fit us in before mid afternoon!
I impressed on the guy at counter that we really needed to get out of town as early as possible. Since the Suburban already had an electrical brake adjuster he said that if I could get the vehicle to him ASAP he would get it done as quick as possible. 15 minuted later I was back at his store to drop off the car.
While driving home I got two support calls from one of my biggest single clients. Both were issues that could not wait So I raced downtown. Not i my normal work attire and apologized for being in a T-Shirt, shorts and flip-flops when I got there. Problems solved and while headed home got a call that the Suburban had been finished and a 7-way round adapter had been added to the vehicle!
Walked into the store and said how many pizzas did they need cause lunch was on me! Called Domino’s and ordered four large pies for them.
Finally got on the road at about 1:30p (only 8 hours AFTER I had wanted to leave).
Got to St. Johns about 5:30pm on Friday and dropped off the trailer in our paddock space and there headed over to Springerville for the night.