Pro Kart Challenge at Moran Raceway, January 29, 2005
Somewhere Over the Rainbow........Raceaflais is Defeated
Back in the Karts Again

At the end of the rainbow, a race victory awaits us....hopefully....sometime...somewhere..
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Tom over at Extreme Karting, and ex-KRC racers Greg Smith and Jim Baltutis, (along with a bunch of other people) worked hard at getting the first ever Pro Kart Challenge race up and running.  I don't understand all the politics of all the various karting organizations (SKUSA, IKF,  WKF, LAKC, FUALL, etc) nor do I want to understand it.  Pro Kart Challenge set up some goals that none of the other organizations seem to meet in their entirety:

1. Two skill levels scored separately in Premier, Formula V and Formula Spec

2. Maximum Seat Time - 50-80 laps per race day, depending on track.

3. Seven quality race venues - Moran, Xplex (Las Vegas), Grange, Willow (CW), Cal Speedway, Santa Maria, Streets of Willow

4. AMB Electronic Timing and Scoring

5. High Caliber Race Trophies (display in house instead of garage)

6. Timely Result Updates to Website - No more than 48 hrs after events

7. All Saturday Events with NO Holiday Conflicts

8. Class requirement checklists on the website

9. Handsome Event and Year End Prize Packages

10. Annual Race Number Reservation

11. Driver profiles on website - Available soon

12. Driver forum on website

13. Merchandise awards at each event.

They were bombing us with emails talking about how excited they were about the event, and they were going to have photographers, karting magazines, etc, at the track.  Hey, that was enough to get Wayne and I pumped up to do our first race together in 2+ years.  I like the fact that they were taking input from the drivers, and they will be posting all laptimes to the web.  This way, we can do a little research as to how far off we are from the podium, see where we need to improve in terms of equipment and driver skill, and then re-test at the next race to see how we match up.  Their first race is at Moran Raceway, which is a really nice kart track.

We turn our attention to our old raggedy Tony Karts

We heard that the Formula V shifter class (35+ years and older) group had about 28 people pre-registered.  Now that sounds like a fun race.  We didn't get as much time to practice as we would have liked to, since it has been raining so much, but figured it still could be fun.  We practiced about two weeks before the event, and it appeared that my clutch was slipping too much, and I would not be able to get a good standing start.   I talked to Rod at 2WildKarting, and he said that he could take a look at the clutch.  I dropped the kart off at his place, and had him deal with getting the parts for the Vortex karting motor.  Since it is an Italian karting motor, of course the parts were backordered.  Great.  This sucks.  2WildKarting was figuring I would need a new clutch basket, springs, friction disks, etc.  Some of the parts Vortex was out of, so they did their best to machine/replace what they could.   Rod asked me when the last time I replaced the clutch.  I said, "Uh.....maybe 4 years ago?".   Hummm....maybe that is why I always have crappy standing starts?  It's the damn clutch!  Rod and Wayne at 2WildKarting are easy to work with, so we are getting most of our karting stuff from them.

We were thinking that since we have these old karts, we would be lucky to finish mid-pack or so, but we figure we give it a shot to see what happens.

I've been driving around with my daughter in my 1986 MR2

Since there were going to be 75-100 karters at the track on Saturday the 29th, we figured we would go up on Friday, run a couple of session to make sure that the karts were working, park the trailer in a good spot and leave it there, and get back home early.  Before we went up, we scaled the karts, and added another 30+ lbs of lead weight.  The rules for the Formula V class require the kart and driver to weigh a minimum of 405 lbs.  Which basically mean a bunch of fat bastards wrote the rules.   

We get up early Friday morning, and head off to the track.  The gates open at 10:00 a.m. on Fridays.  It is drizzling, and the track is slippery.  There is a big rainbow over the track, since the sun is trying to come out during the rain.  Worse, it drizzles for 10 minutes, then clears up for 20 minutes, and when the track is just about dry enough to start pushing the kart, it drizzles again.  This continues for about 5 hours.  Crap.  No real testing today.  My clutch still doesn't feel perfect, but I get a couple of decent practice starts.  I just don't want to get dusted on the start.   Hopefully Raceaflais won't rear its ugly head tomorrow at the track.

Dana helping clean up the karts

Saturday morning.
We get up there early, and the Pro Kart Challenge people are running a nice event.  Check in doesn't take more than 10 minutes, they have gas/tires/oil etc all ready for people to buy should they need it, etc.  The schedule goes like this (with about a 50-80 minute break in between, as there are 3 other groups that are running the same schedule in their class)

1. 10 minute practice

2. 10 minute practice

3. 10 minute qualifying session

4. 10 lap heat race, gridded based on qualifying results

5. Another 10 lap heat race, gridded based on the first heat results

6. 20 lap final race, based on the 2nd heard results

This is cool, because we get 3 races.  Meaning 3 full on, F1 standing starts that will make the adrenaline pump like you wouldn't believe.

Mohawk Michael with the power washer, taking off all the dirt from our crashes off the karts

In the first 10 minute practice session, the track is a little damp still.   And after a couple of laps, it appears that my clutch is slipping again.  Crap.  I pull in.  I adjust the clutch cable, and get ready for the 2nd practice session.  I do one lap, and the clutch starts spinning freely at 8000 RPMs.  I come into the pits, dejected.  This sucks.  We finally get to the point where we are not blowing up motors in our vehicles, but now all the drive train/clutch parts of the vehicles are break.  AARRGH!

So I try to figure out what to do.  I can't get the clutch fixed here at the track.  I could run the spare kart, but that kart needs to have weight added, brakes pads filed down, brakes bled, and the last time I drove it the seat was hurting my underarms.  Shit.  Or, I could try to put the motor from the spare kart in my kart, since my kart is scaled, brakes ready to go, etc.  Hummmm.......I ask a couple of people how hard it is, and they say it will take about an hour or so.    So I start on that, with help from Wayne.  We wrenching away at the track AGAIN. 

Kayla likes cruising around in the front seat, saying, "Go Daddy Go!".

I miss the qualifying session.  The Pro Kart Challenge guys have announcers for all the qualifying sessions, and all the heat races.  This is cool, as you can hear stuff like, "Sitting on the pole right now with a 1:06.5 is Joe Blow, but wait, Tom Schmoe just flew by with a 1:06.4, taking over provisional pole, but wait, here comes John down with a blazing 1:06.2".  Wayne does pretty decent, running only a second off of pole, and don't forget we are running beat up karts that are 4+ years old.  He is 8th in our class, and around 10th or so overall out of 28 karts.   Hey, we can run with these guys!  I also miss the first heat race.  Wayne's running good in the heat race!  He said he got a bad start, but felt like he passed a good 10-13 guys to get to around maybe 5th or 6th overall.  But then he got a flat tire, and a bunch of guys pass him back.  Damn.

Wayne looking tough going into the Esses
Photo by

I finally get the spare motor on my kart.  We fire it up, and it starts okay!  We can't really tune it in the pits, as it has a different carb that the ones on our regular karts, and you can't race around the pit area, but at least it runs okay.  I grid up in the last spot for the heat race, determined to make it out of last place.  On the warm up lap, the kart suddenly stops moving, despite me revving the engine.  I pull over to the side.....and the chain is broken.  DAMN!  I almost got to race.  I have to wait until this race is over to get towed in back to the pits.

I get into the pits, and Fernando, who is pitted next to us, said that our two EZ-Ups just flew backwards over the trailer and over our truck, and the truck next to us.  Luckily for us, we didn't damage the trucks or anyone else's vehicle.  It's gonna be a rough day. 

Thrashing around, trying to fix and clean up the karts

Wayne gets tangled up with another guy in a fairly hard collision in the 2nd heat race.  Hard enough to break the weld on the steering column of his kart.  So he is a DNF.  Bummer.  Wayne decides that since his kart is broken, he will run our 4th kart, the old Kawasaki powered Tony Kart that we use when friends who have never been on a kart before want to drive a kart.  It is pretty slow, but at least it works.  Wayne figures he will just run it, and maybe he can race with the people at the back of the pack.   And you know what that means.  Gridded last, and next to last, for the final race, is Mr. Mello in the 800 kart, and Mr. Hayashi in the number 5 kart.

We figure that we should able to claw our way past at least 8 people using our crappy spare karts.  We are gridded around 27th and 28th.  Green flag drops, IQs immediately drop into the single digits, and we are off.  There is carnage everywhere.  Two guys in front of us get tangled up, and they head towards turn 1 with the left front of a kart on top of a sidepod of another kart, so that he is being dragged sideways into the the turn.  Ha ha!  Amateurs!  

Photo from MLP Imaging

There are guys spinning out and getting tangled up everywhere.  I'm gonna setup the Helmet Cam for the next race, there is some good video bloopers in our race.  Unfortunately for me, it appears that the jetting is way wrong on my kart, so my power band instead of being 10,000-14,000 RPMS, is now 10,000-11,000 RPMS.  But hey, at least I'm racing and mixing it up.  I figured we passed about 8 people already in four laps.  Ha ha!  In the pack of six karts or so that I am in, I'm faster in the turns and braking zone, but they are kicking my ass on the straights.  Wayne is at the back of this pack, waiting for people to make a mistake so he can slip by.   In lap 5, I try to get by someone in turn 2, but I think I got nudged by someone trying to get by me on the left, thus spinning both of us around.  I grabbed the clutch quickly so it doesn't stall, and I get ready to peel out back into the race.  It happened pretty fast, but I don't think it was my fault.  Meanwhile, Wayne was watching how close our group was racing, waiting for an opportunity to pass us in the real slow Kawasaki kart, and he sees daylight between me and the other guy that spun.  He hauls ass at 60 mph for the hole inbetween us.  Unfortunately, someone tries to get by him on the left, nudges him, and now he's heading at 60 mph toward Yours Truly who is just starting to peel out.  WHAM!  He goes full bore into my right rear wheel, spinning me around more.  He gets up on his two left side wheels at a 45 degree angle, and goes flying off into the dirt.  We both look at each other like, "I can't fucking believe you did that!".   But ha ha! I grabbed the clutch in time again, it doesn't stall, and from the dirt I launch and peel back onto the track.  I go into the next turn, laughing at Wayne being stalled on the track.  But then I realize that something is wrong with my kart, and it feels like a flat tire.  SHIT!  I pull over to into the dirt, check the kart, and my rear magnesium rim is shattered into oblivion.  Damn!  I'm a DNF. 

Nice driving by Wayne........right into my rear right hub

About 30 seconds later, I see Wayne driving by me giving me a dirty look.  WTF?  He crashed into me, I was pretty much stationary because someone sideswiped me!  Wayne's tie rod is bent at a 20 degree angle, but Wayne figures he will drive with a crooked tie rod and a bent steering shaft, and just keep the kart going.  After a lap, he gets black flagged. He isn't sure what for, (probably for ramming me while I was stationary is my guess), so he turns into the pits. 

We get into the pits, and I still can't believe he crashed into me.  The ex-KRC racers stop by our pits, and they can't believe it either.  25 ffing people on the track, and he has to take me out!  Just like the old days at the KRC races.  Wayne says it is my fault for spinning out on the track in the turn at a critical part of the turn.  I tell him the I think someone hit me, as I never spin.  And I ask him if he always hit immovable objects like trees/walls when he is driving, as I wasn't moving when he hit me.

Later on, we find out that ex-KRC racer Dave Degraw takes 1st in V2-Novice (not sure why he ran novice, his excuse was he hasn't raced in 2 years), and more interestingly, he woulda taken 3rd overall in V1.  (both V1 and V2 run in the same group and are gridded according to results of previous run group)  Dave has the same 4 year old equipment as us, and more importantly, we battled with Dave for positions 4th-6th at the old KRC races.  Wayne out qualified Dave earlier today.  Meaning that if our karts were working, and we weren't crashing into each other, we had a shot at the V1 podium, and could have gotten our pictures in a karting magazine on the podium.  Instead, you heard this SOB story of how we broke four karts, crashed into each other, and ended up  DNFs in our first kart race together in 2 years.  We coulda looked like professionals, instead we look like amateur hacks!  Final results are here.

Dave Degraw makes it to the podium in his first race in 2 years

We stay for the part of the awards ceremony so we can get a picture of our buddy Dave getting his first win ever.  Right after that, we take off.  After all the trophies are handed out, there is a drawing for karting stuff, prizes, etc, with one of them being an expensive subwoofer.  Wayne wins the drawing for the subwoofer!  Hey, he's lucky after all! must be present to claim it, and Wayne's in his car on the cellphone, so they give it to someone else.  Like I was a rough day!

People keep asking us when are we going to get rid of our old Tony Karts and buy something new and more competitive.  January was a rough month.....I had to get the F350 tranny rebuilt, had to buy a differential for the S2000, and had to have assorted maintenance on the F355 (hoses/catalytic converter ECUs/etc), so let's just say that the racing budget for the first five months of the year was blown before we even got to January 30th.  And now we have four broken karts to deal with...

Does F355 = Elise + Tony Kart Venox + spare motor? 

Mr. C calls me in late January, and says that I could buy a blue or silver Elise out of the latest allotment that came in.  I'm holding out for red, which apparently won't be in for many more months.  I still can't decide what do to.   The wife says I gotta get rid of the F355 if I'm gonna waste money on another car like an Elise.  I figure I could sell the F355 and buy the Elise + a new shifter kart + spare motor and parts, and have money left over for tires for the NSX.  But then I hop into the F355 for an infrequent drive around town, and then I tell myself, "I can't sell this car.  Listen to that motor as it revs to 8500 rpms, the bam-bam-bam as the F1 tranny does three quick downshifts into a corner. It would be an ffing sin".  The wife says the depreciation on an Elise and a shifter kart would be pretty ugly one year from now, whereas the F355 should maintain its already ridiculously depreciated value.  Then I think maybe I should sell the S2000 and take the money and buy a new shifter kart with spare motor and parts, but that seems kinda ridiculous.  I mean, how can a new shifter kart with an extra motor+spares cost almost as much as a used S2000?  That's ffing crazy.   Wayne said he could sell the 360, buy a kart with a bunch of spares, and pay down his house mortgage.  But would that really make him happy, and motivate him to get out of bed in the morning?  Hummm...

Does S2000 daily driver = Tony Kart Venox + Spare motor + spare parts?

A new Elise would be nice.  But would it be as exhilarating as occasionally driving around an F355?  The Elise would have a warranty, I could drive it every day, but the F355 would have that shriek that echoes off the walls/buildings/tunnels and makes your heart beat 200 times a minute and your eyes open real wide.  A new Tony Kart with motor would be nice, but would it be that much more fun than the old Tony Kart?  Is it worth selling the S2000 just to go full on kart racing?  I just put a new motor and diff in the S2000, and it has the Penske 3x's on it.  It seems a shame to take the depreciation hit on that.   I think for now, I'll just stand pat, and not sell any vehicles.  Wayne and I will make do with the old karts for right now.....unless we get stomped fair and square in the next kart race by amateurs with newer, better karts....then we will have to revisit the decision again. 

The next Pro Kart Challenge Race is February 26th.  Their first ever event was extremely well received by the kart racers.  Everything ran exceptionally smooth, and you would never notice that it their first event.  Probably because it was organized by people who are primarily kart racers, and who also have good business sense as to how to run an event and make it popular.  I'm guessing that the turnout for this event will be bigger than the last one.

We plan to get all the karts ready for this one, we plan on not crashing, and we plan on getting to that third spot on the podium.  The guys that came in 1st and 2nd are too fast for us by a full second (or at least their karts are), but we think that third spot might be open for the taking.....unless of course, all the hot shoe kart drivers sat out this first race, suckering us weekend warriors into the game, getting us hooked on the the speed and excitement, before they come in for the slaughter.

We will keep searching for that elusive victory......
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