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Welp I guess it was inevitable that I was going to try my hand at something competitive someday, and my start is an inauspicious (and affordable) but hopefully educational and enjoyable Fall Racing League at my local indoor karting track, SyKart. I'll be using this thread to share my results over the 8 week series because, why the hell not?

The series is run in 3 classes: A 6.5 HP kart class reserved for first timers called "GT Rookie", a 6.5 HP kart class open to anyone with a minimum 170 lb. driver weight limit called "GT1-170", and a 9 HP class that is only open to people who have A) qualified to run in the 9 HP karts (done by beating a set lap time target based on your weight in five different karts) and B) run a league before. This class is called "Pro-Unlimited". I'll be running in the GT Rookie class!

Events are every Monday. Qualifying was 9/16 and from the 23rd through to November 11th are the races, which are 30 minutes, rolling start, and a mandatory timed 10 second pit stop per race. The Rookies and 9 HP karts run at the same time and the GT1-170 karts run separately (some guys run 6.5 Pro and 9 Pro) and some races run on the course in a reversed direction (which never happens otherwise!). Qualifying was to set grid for the first event and all events thereafter are run in reversed grid order of the previous race, by class (so reversed grid Pro-Unlimited in front of reversed grid GT1-170 in front of reversed grid GT Rookie). Karts are assigned randomly to drivers at each race meeting.

Points are as follows (last race, run the same way as all others, is worth double. The worst of your 7 regular-points races is thrown out)
Fast Lap: 1
1st: 12
2nd: 10
3rd: 8
4th: 7
5th: 6
6th: 5
7th: 4
8th: 3
9th: 2
10th: 1

Points are just counted for class results so there's no "overall" honors.
Here are the results from qualifying 9/16. I managed a rather competitive 3rd out of 8 in class, particularly considering you only get 2 flying laps to do it in in a random kart. I was invited to try to qualify for GT1-170 but when I saw everyone running 31.4s I knew I couldn't keep up with that pace (thus far the best time I've managed on this track is a 31.878) and just stuck with my Rookie class.

Race #1: Started 3rd, finished 3rd.

Was an interesting first experience. They lined us up in grid order, set us off on two full-speed warmup laps, slowed us down under yellows, and then threw a green flag for a flying start.

I crashed on the first corner of the warmup lap...

I went into the first corner like I normally would on an outlap, pushing moderately hard to feel the kart but leaving what would NORMALLY be something on the table, and there was just zero grip. Slid into the wall and spun around, it happened really quickly!

Well after that my kart was making me really nervous (it was very tail-happy) and I wasn't really on the pace for the first 5 laps. Finally the tires hit their temperature, or something like that, and I was more hooked up but was probably overdriving and being ragged out of frustration. Come mid-distance I was finally getting into a decent groove, but still not really at one with my oversteer-heavy kart.

But sharing the track with the 9 HP karts, I felt I reacted very well to the blue flags and lost little time in being passed. Even got a thumbs up from one of the marshalls mid-race for how I let the faster karts by me, which was nice.

I felt I timed my pitstop really well, hitting it at mid-distance just as I came up on some traffic. Instead of forcing myself to lap them, I did my pit stop and came out in more clear track. Outside of the lead 9 HP guys lapping me in a gaggle about 2/3rds through, I had plenty of clear track ahead of me to do what I needed to do, which is good!

I came home third, lapped by the two leaders (fighting neck-and-neck the whole 40 laps) in the dying moments of the race, a few seconds ahead of 4th, 5th, and 6th, and a lap up on 7th (and last). It was hardly a fantastic performance but I got good points and kept my nose clean after that warmup crash.

Watching the GT1-170 (pro) guys in the next race, I took note of their lines and identified a few places where I think I can make some gains for next time. Really want this to be an educational experience.

And even if it wasn't a race-winning dream-come-true, it was still fun!

Race 2 out of 8 was reverse grid, reverse track direction. The only time they run reverse track direction is during league so there is no practicing for it...I spent some time doodling racing lines on a track map and trying to envision it but that and the 2 warmup laps were all we got. Was really thrilling; the reversed track direction created a very high speed braking zone into a right-left transition that was a lot of fun to get the kart through!

My race was defined by a poor start and a good everything else. Reverse grid meant that I had the two quick guys from last week behind me and everyone else in front. The front of the queue was a rolling roadblock and the guy in second made a quick getaway and ran from there. Meanwhile I was mugged by the guy behind me and it took me awhile to make positive ground on the guys in front as I recovered. Most of my 8 second deficit to the winner came from the first two laps :/

From there, it was about settling into a good groove on a new track. The concentration was sharp and I focused on not losing time getting passed by the 9 HP karts. I pitted about 25 laps in out of 37 and popped out just in front of last week's winner...I wasn't sure if we were fighting for position or not as he's quite quick, but I kept him at bay, not getting flustered by having him behind me and being very focused on getting the power down out of the corner leading into his favorite passing zone and I was rewarded with second place. It was a blast!

Results after 2 rounds of the championship...I'm 3rd in class, tied on points but lose out on results countback
As you know I haven't been on for a while, so I missed this when you started. Sounds like real fun and something I'd give a go if I had some spare cash, there's a couple of tracks near me that I've raced before with mates and probably do a similar thing. There's also a 24 hour Enduro race every year, but it's a bit costly.

Interesting to follow your race diary, keep up the good work. Hope there's a class win in there soon!
I just did 3rd then 2nd so 1st is obviously next tongue.gif

Pricewise, this isn't too bad! I pre-purchased 24 "race credits" for $250, plus a $25 registration fee. I'll use 2 credits per race, leaving me with my entire championship (8 40 lap races) covered plus 8 more non-league 10-minute sessions for $275. That compares to a regular public price of $17 per 10-minute session (or $13 for members during the week). Basically I did the math for how much it costs per-minute on track, and it costs half as much as the public price to run pre-paid league.
Sounds good mate. I don't do it as often as I would like, something like this would be perfect.
Race #3...back to the regular track configuration. Several people didn't show so it was just 5 per class, which means that despite being second last race and the reverse grid, I lined up 3rd out of 5 (the two guys who finished behind me last week in front of me, the guy who won last week behind me and a guy who missed the first two races of the season at the back). The guy on reverse grid pole has typically been the back-of-the-pack guy and the guy in second has been the quickest rookie in the league (he's the only guy who's qualified in the 9 HP karts, which is damned hard to do). So when the race started, 2nd got past 1st really quickly and then started running surprise that he put in the best race average time and fastest lap on his way to winning another race.

As for me, I managed a clean pass on the slower guy and got myself into 2nd within a couple laps and was really hooked up in the kart. I pitted relatively early, as soon as the lead 9 HP karts were bearing down on me, and came out into more clear track, thus avoiding an entire blue flag phase. I only suffered one more blue flag phase late in the race and otherwise could focus on what I was doing. Finished 2nd, on the lead lap, which is another step for me! That said, the guy who missed the first two races of the season (and never actually drove the track before qualifying 3 weeks ago) was matching my pace in 3rd place behind me for about 2/3rds of the race and then in the last 10 laps or so, he either found a couple tenths somewhere or I was getting sloppy because he started taking chunks of time out of me! Unlike the first two races of the season I felt like this one just kept going and going, and the last ~10 laps I was begging for them to throw the white flag as I tried to consolidate my 2nd. I got a couple bumps in the hairpin (slowing down for the hairpin remains a weakness of mine, but at least I'm not outbraking myself all the time like I was in the beginning of league) but kept it smooth to prevent any passing attempts on me. It felt very well-earned!

Race 4/8:

Another really fun race! The kart I drove the race in had been described as "undrivable" by another league-er in the warmup session before the race and he swapped out of it; I got it by random assignment. Sure, the brakes were kinda grabby at first but with some heat smoothed out and I did OK in it. After my pitstop about mid-distance however, I shifted my weight as far back in the kart as I could and had good braking and amazing traction and put in my fastest race pace in the league so far quite consistently.

I started 2nd, was holding onto 1st for the first couple laps and even thought I had a chance to make a pass but in the end I couldn't maintain the lead pace and started falling back (not surprising). Then I was rather surprised to be passed by the guy who started 3rd and was being pressured by the guy who started last but made it up to 4th pretty quickly! The guy who passed me for 2nd pitted very early and I knew I had to make time in the pit phase. I nailed my pit-stop mid-race and came out just a couple seconds ahead of the guy who has passed me, which is also about the time I discovered my weight distribution technique and started making serious time, pulling away from the following pack and pacing, maybe even closing a bit, on the guy in 1st. In the end I finished about 1/3rd of a lap behind 1st place and was a rather comfortable 2nd and put in my best pace of the league so far. I was stoked!!

Week 6 of 8: a pretty crazy race. Ran reverse track layout. Running reverse grid, as usual, means that the slowest guys start the race in front but as league has worn on, the slower guys have gotten faster and are more aggressive defenders. Spent the first half of the race struggling to get by anyone, mired in traffic. After my pitstop I immediately set fastest race lap (yay!) and put in a pace that actually had me slightly gaining on the leaders. In terms of speed, this was my most convincing week so far, but I didn't have the track position for half of the race to exploit it so I still wound up third. Kinda bittersweet but still a lot of positives to take from this, including my very first lap that was quick enough to qualify for the 9 HP karts (still need 4 more) and a fastest lap point!

Alright, league is over...and I won the last two races! As you can see I ended up just 4 points off of the championship leader which I'm very very happy with because honestly he has probably a half a second in single-lap pace over me and a few tenths in race pace too, makes good overtaking moves, and is plenty clever about his pit strategies. He would easily be in the mix for wins in the more experienced GT1 class from what I saw so managing to be up there with him is a great result!

Though I have to be honest that in terms of pure pace, I'm not a close second in the GT rookie group, probably more like a respectable third behind Justin S. I made the difference with nailing my pit stop strategies to exploit the clear track as much as possible (and stops themselves, as I managed a nearly unheard of sub-8 second total pit loss), clean defensive driving when I needed to, and losing as little time in the blue flag phases of the race as possible.

Race 7: An incredibly satisfying first win; I started 4th on the grid but as opposed to race 6, where I went backward at the start, made a succession of passing moves to get in front within the first lap and a half and just got into a great groove from there on out, controlling the race from the front. The faster cars who started behind me ended up working their way to 2nd and 3rd in time but never managed to close the gap to me, as I was running a really good pace until one of the 9 HP karts had an engine blow up a half a dozen laps from the end. So a red flag restart wiped out what was a rather decent leading margin for me and I had to do my first (and only) rolling start of the field with my first win on the line. I must admit the restart rattled me and I was overdriving the kart particularly out of the traction zones, trying to be defensive. At one point I even whipped my head around to check how close others were behind me and I majorly strained some neck muscle and it hurt like a bitch! I ALMOST stopped my race because it hurt so much but ended up just taking a few deep breaths, trying to let the pain subside, and ended up settling into a good pace for the last couple laps and opening up a bit of a cushion to see me over the line. Great stuff smile.gif

Race 8: For the double points finale, we ran the track in the reversed direction and started in championship order instead of reverse grid from the previous race. I knew from my first warmup lap that my kart was hooked up and just felt great everywhere, and it was also clear that the championship leader was not very happy in his. My big concern was behind me, as Justin was behind me and has proven himself to be the most aggressive passer of the season, in addition to generally having a little pace in hand over me. We were nose-to-tail through the first 8 laps or so until the pits opened up and I was the first one to make my move. Did my fastest pit stop of the season and came out to pound in some laps, hoping to undercut Kyle, and sure enough when he pit a few laps later it was neck and neck at the exit but I made the pass stick and kept my head down, pulling away. Justin pit a few laps later still and also jumped Kyle and was only a few seconds behind me, catching. The second half of the race basically amounted to Justin within a second of me, often on my bumper, but I kept myself unflustered, drove my own line, and he never really had a chance to make a move because I was staying clean and quick, particularly out of the couple traction zones that lead into the best passing zones. I felt it was my strongest performance across an entire race and it was a great way to sign off the league!
Overall across the league, I learned a lot of tricks about making the karts work and probably picked up 2 or 3 tenths in single lap pace and 4 or 5 tenths in average race pace.
Hey hadn't had any time to properly read through your remaining race reports until now. Great improvements throughout the championship, I think it's fair to say you deserve the 2nd place, because at the end of the day you had the results that gave you that position. Someone being quicker but having bad luck, slower kart, etc. is how racing works (see Fernando Alonso).

So what's up next?
Up next? I'm gonna try to hit up the place a couple times a month and pick up my 5 required qualifying times to drive the 9 HP karts. Picked up my second time last night, in fact, so 3 more to go, and my pace is consistently such that I'm able to do quali laps now. Spring league is Aprilish? Got some friends who are talking about doing it. I hope to do it again. Then during the summer my focus will be on HPDE with the GTI.

Look, my trophy! tongue.gif
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