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StoxKarts 2011

29/01/2011: BIRMINGHAM WHEELS - 2011 TEST DAY
Having bought a new house just before Christmas that needed lots of new work before we could move in priorities were elsewhere and not with getting the kart ready.  I attended the test day mostly as a way of catching up with fellow drivers.
 
01/05/2011: KINGS LYNN - NATIONAL POINTS CHAMPIONSHIP ROUND 3 AND ENGLISH GOLD TOP QUALIFIER 2
Now moved into our house, I had managed to collect a few items needed to bring the kart up to 2011 specification at the Buxton meeting on 16 April attended during a short break to the Peak District.  The original intention was to attend this meeting to get the parts fitted whilst helping out but I was informed that it wouldn't take long to do and if I arrived early then I should be able to race.  I was so keen to arrive early that I forgot to get fuel and had to borrow some from a fellow driver!  With the kart ready and my transponder registered it was time to get back out on track for real for the first time since mid-November (I had only seen the kart about 4 times since then let alone get it near a track!) 
On a dry track 28 karts took to the track for heat 1 and I lined up on the outside front of the yellow grade - although there were 9 karts in the white grade!  This was not the best place to be when 2 karts spun on the inside and middle of turns 1 and 2 on the first lap and I had to go wide to avoid.  This is when I had an early introduction to the very loose shale marbles on the outside forcing me to ease off and avoid being sucked into the fence.  I slipped down the order and again when I was pushed wide on turn 3 and with 2 karts tangling in front I eased off thinking they were going to turn into the fence in front.  I was again pushed wide into turns 1 and 2 on lap 2 and again into turn 3 all the time slipping further down the pack.  I chucked the kart into turns 1 and 2 on lap 3 only to run wide and lose visibility in the dust.  I was struggling to find grip and a good line but on the plus side a few other karts had spun and come to grief on the loose marbles and were parked up against the fencing particularly around turns 1 and 2.  On lap 5, I caught a kart that was struggling for grip and had a few 'moments' in front of me before I was passed by another kart through turns 3 and 4 on lap 6.  On lap 7, I lapped 2 karts and just avoided a stranded kart on the exit of turn 4.  I caught another kart struggling for grip on lap 8 and decided that it was probably not just me finding the conditions interesting!  I passed a lapped kart again on lap 11 and happily finished my first race back out although down the order possibly around 15th.
Straight into heat 2, I was lined up on the inside of row two within the yellow grade.  On lap 1, I went for a wide line into turn 1 only for 2 karts to hook up in front of me and I clipped one which turned me towards the fence and after then tangling with one of those recovering karts out of turn 2 I had lost all momentum and slipped way down the order.  I passed the kart I had tangled with on lap 1 into turn 1 on lap 2 and started to find a rythem.  A few karts were coming to grief on the loose shale - on lap 3 I passed a kart stranded on turns 3 and 4 and on lap 4 a spun kart in turns 1 and 2 before I passed a kart out of turn 4.  On lap 5, I passed another spun kart on the exit of turn 2 but on lap 6 I chucked the kart into turns 1 and 2 a little excessively, ran wide and brushed the fence to lose a few places I had gained back from the start.  On lap 7 I passed a few karts including 1 spun in turns 1 and 2, 1 parked on the exit of turn 2, a kart and a lapped kart whilst negotiating these karts and a crashed kart through turns 3 and 4.  On lap 9 I passed a kart recovering from a spin down the back straight only to be repassed by that kart into turn 3 on lap 10.  I passed 3 karts through turns 1 and 2 on lap 11, one having run wide and two that had tangled.  On the 12th and final lap, the kart that passed me on lap 10 shed a wheel in front of me down the back straight - I quickly got past plus lapping a kart and passing another spun kart on the exit of turn 4.  In all the mayhem of karts going everywhere I finished 8th and in the process gained my first points of the season!
Whilst off track the track had been watered for heat 3 and was quite slippery although it rapidly dried in the dry and windy conditions.  I again started on the outside front of the yellow grade and failed to get grip at the start but soon got going ok.  On lap 2, I was pushed wide into turn 1 and lost 2 places before losing 2 more through turns 3 and 4.  On lap 3, I lost 2 more places through turns 1 and 2 before being pushed wide into turn 3.  The 2 karts that had pushed me wide tangled on the exit of turn 4 and although I passed, a brush with the wall whilst taking avoiding action saw me be passed back by these 2 karts plus another through turns 1 and 2 on lap 4 plus another kart down the back straight.  On lap 5, I was pushed wide into turn 1 and passed by a kart.  I then began to reel in the karts ahead and going into turn 3 on lap 7 pushed a kart but only managed to glance off, run wide and be passed by a kart into turn 1 on lap 8!  I again reeled in the karts ahead and got up the inside of the kart I had nudged in lap 7 going into turn 1 on lap 9.  The driver of this kart not realising I was there moved across causing me to ride up and over the front and take a big look at the sky in the process!  I ran wide on landing and was then lapped into turns 3 and 4.  Concerned whether the kart was ok and not wanting to affect those on the lead lap I kept out of the way but again brought the kart home for a finish although unplaced down the order.
Straight into the final and I again lined up on the outside of the front of the yellow grade with the track again watered.  I struggled to get momentum around turns 3 and 4 at the drop of the green and was passed by 3 karts before the start line but did get going only to be pushed wide into turn 1 and be passed by several karts down the back straight and around turns 3 and 4.  On lap 2, I passed a kart going into turn 1 but ran wide and was passed by 3 karts down the back straight.  On lap 3 the track was drying and struggling for grip I was passed by a kart through turns 1 and 2.  On lap 4, I started to find some rythem and passed a slowing kart just after the start line, a kart through turns 1 and 2 and another through turns 3 and 4.  On lap 6, I passed a kart spun on the exit of turn 2 and passed a kart through turns 3 and 4.  On lap 7, I was in amongst a group of karts but got crowded out and passed by 2 on the exit of turn 4 but gained 2 places back thorugh turns 3 and 4 on lap 8 and then another on lap 9 with a kart spun through turns 1 and 2.  On lap 10, I passed a crashed kart though turns 1 and 2, another on the exit of turn 2 and a stopped kart through turns 3 and 4 before the yellow flags came out for the crashed kart (subsequently found out it had performed a spectacular cartwheel - see video).  The karts were lined up in single file and I was 15th.  On the restart through lap 11, I passed a kart that ran wide out of turn 2 and 2 karts that had crashed on the exit of turn 2 to move up to 12th.  On lap 12, I passed 3 karts that tangled at the end of the back straight to move up to 9th before passing 2 karts that spun right in front of me through the notorious turns 1 and 2.  I just managed to avoid but was passed by a kart going into turn 3.  I lapped a kart out of turn 4 and was running 8th with a lap to go but a little too enthusiastically ran wide into turn 1, got on the loose marbles and was a passenger as the kart slid hard into the fence!  With a stranded kart on the exit of turn 2 and concerned that I had damaged the kart, I did not want to pull out on to the racing line to pass so I parked up.
Wanting to properly check the kart, I did not take part in the Grand National.
Certainly an eventful day, good to get back out again and whilst scoring some points was a welcome bonus it could have been better given how the final was going but that's racing!
Heat 1: unplaced (believe around 15th), Heat 2: 8th, Heat 3: unplaced, Final: DNF.  POINTS: 3.
 
02/07/2011: COVENTRY STADIUM - NATIONAL POINTS CHAMPIONSHIP ROUND 8 AND ENGLISH GOLD TOP QUALIFIER 5
Having attended but not raced at Stoke on 11th June for the British Drivers Championship due to feeling unwell, it was back into action at the Coventry Stadium, Brandon.
The track was wet with one dry racing line around the outside as I lined up on the inside front of the yellow grade for heat 1.  I got momentum on the rolling lap only for the grid to be stopped on the back straight.  As I got going again on the inside I couldn't get to the outside and so headed for a semi-dry line around the inside of the bend.  Down the home straight to cross the start line I got passed by some karts that had gained momentum around the outside of the bend and then got pushed into turn 1 which I took through the middle muddy line and was passed by several karts on both sides!  Down the back straight I passed a couple of spinning karts the second of which forced me to the inside of turns 3 and 4 to be passed by three karts on the outside for not the best opening lap!  Lap 2 was less eventful tracking another kart but I was passed by a kart and passed a spun kart at the start of lap 3.  Another kart passed down the outside of the back straight again initially stopping me from finding that line and as I tried to find it switching from no grip to grip the kart got out of shape and nearly turned in to the fence throwing me into a wide line around turns 3 and 4.  I passed a spinning kart on turn 2 and a crashed kart on the back straight of lap 4 but as I exited turn 2 a passing kart again stopped me from finding the dry outside line on the back straight.  I was negotiating ok the semi-dry inside line of the bends and passed 2 karts, one on each of turns 3 and 4 of lap 4 and turns 1 and 2 of lap 5, plus a parked up kart around turns 3 and 4 of lap 5.  I was now being lapped and trying to stay off the racing line on the straights which meant keeping to the less grippy inside line.  I did hope that this would help create a second racing line and I also did not want to switch lines for a repeat of lap 3!  On lap 6, two karts that had just lapped me spun ahead on the exit of turn 4 and although I clipped one I did just manage to avoid the incident.  On lap 8 I passed an out of control kart on the back straight and had a sliding kart rejoin right in front of me on the entrance to turn 1 on lap 9 of which I took quick avoiding action. Going round turns 3 and 4 on lap 10 I was pushed heavily by a kart lapping me for a second time and sent towards the fence but just managed to catch the kart in time to avoid hitting it.  I recovered to happily finish an interesting race albeit two laps down and unplaced.
Straight into heat 2 and I lined up again front inside of the yellow grade and after a void first rolling lap I got to what I thought was the outside of the backstraight only to be passed down the outside by two karts before the green.  This time I did get round the outside of turns 3 and 4 only to be passed by 2 karts on the inside coming off turn 4 as the green flag dropped.  I passed a kart on the inside going into turn 1 but then couldn't get to the outside of the back straight and was passed by several karts.  I thought the inside line was now better but I continued to drop down the order on lap 2 as other karts got better drive around the outside of the bends which baulked me from getting to the outside line down the straights forcing me to the inside of the bends.... As things settled down, I got back past a kart going down the home straight going into lap 4 and also a spinning kart on the exit of turn 2 of lap 4.  On the exit of turn 4 I was re-passed by the kart I had passed on the home straight at the same time as passing a kart that had just completed a spin.  I was passed by 2 karts around the outside coming off turn 2 of lap 5 and passed a crashed kart going into turn 3 of lap 6.  The 2 karts that passed me on lap 5 clashed and spun ahead of me on the exit of turn 2 on lap 7 and I just managed to avoid one of these to pass them both.  Laps 8 and 9 were uneventful and I was seemingly racing on my own before being lapped by the leader which enabled another kart to pass on lap 10 going into turn 3.  I tracked these karts on my lap 11 as the leader took the chequered flag and I finished a lap down and unplaced.  Hard work and challenging conditions with no success.
I was then offered use of the shale tyre on the drive wheel that the formula owners were looking to test in wet conditions - StoxKarts struggle in wet shale and if more shale fixtures are secured in front of crowds then they need to be able to put on a good show. I accepted the offer, changed the wheel and was told I should find the kart easier to control with the potential of a good result.
The track had been watered during the break and as I took to the track for heat 3 and the final I decided to test what grip I now had and headed to the slippy part of the back straight.  The kart was much more controllable and I lined up at the back of the yellow grade intrigued to see how the race would go.  As we headed into turn 1 the karts ahead went to the inside, including one being spun, and the outside whilst I was able to keep my foot down and drive straight through the middle up into 6th place.  This became 2nd down the back straight as I passed 2 karts on the inside whilst another 2 karts clashed and spun out.  Deciding to keep to the tricky inside line on the bends so as to fully compare the shale tyre I dropped to 3rd entering lap 3 as a kart passed on the outside but around turns 1 and 2 I undertook a kart to momentarily move up to 2nd before another kart undertook me and I was immediately 3rd again.  I negotiated a couple of back markers into lap 4 as the tyre was really proving its worth before getting up the inside of 2nd exiting turn 2 to take the place.  The leader was just ahead and I began to close on lap 5 and negotiated a back marker around turns 1 and 2 of lap 6.  I was delayed by a back marker through turns 1 and 2 of lap 7 but negotiated them as they got out of shape down the back straight and another backmarking kart round turns 3 and 4.  The leader was still in sight but they had begun to edge away and try as I might I could not make an impression.  I negotiated a couple of backmarkers on lap 11 one on the exit of turn 2 which had been spun by the leader and one entering turn 3 but this delayed me.  The leader, although in sight, had now moved well clear.  I negotiated a kart recovering from a spin as I crossed the line as runner-up at the end of the 12 laps. When asked after the race how the tyre performed I replied 'no difference'!  In truth it worked well.
Although we went straight into the final, whilst the karts were getting ready the track was drying all the time which, I was told might and I found out did with the shale tyre, work to my disadvantage.  I passed a kart that had been pushed wide around turns 1 and 2 and was in 7th place after lap 1.  I was then passed by 3 karts on the exit of turn 2 to drop to 10th at the end of lap 2 and it was clear that the tyre was not giving me the same advantage as in heat 3.  I passed a kart on the exit of turn 2 to move back to 9th after lap 3.  I was nudged wide and passed by 2 karts on the exit of turn 4 plus another on the home straight and was 12th after lap 4.  Another kart nudged passed into turn 1 and another nudge saw 4 more pass around turns 3 and 4 as the kart became juddery with the shale tyre now providing too much grip on the drying track.  I was down to 17th after lap 5.  On lap 6, two karts crashed into the fence ahead of me on the exit of turn 2 which I passed and in the melee another 2 karts clashed down the back straight which delayed another kart and I passed all three of these too.  The crash halted the race and on the restart I was in 12th with the kart becoming more and more juddery.  I stayed in 12th for 2 laps after the restart before being nudged and passed by a kart into turn 1 of the 3rd restart lap to drop to 13th.  I stayed in 13th for another lap before on the next being delayed by a slowed kart which gained speed as I tried to swoop around the outside of turns 3 and 4.  This enabled a kart to pass up the inside and I was in 14th. I gave the kart which had delayed me a nudge into turn 1 but glanced off the bumper to run slightly wide and another kart passed on the exit of turn 2 although I did manage to cut back inside and pass the kart I had nudged down the back straight and so regain 14th which after another lap is where I finished.
I did not race in the Grand National as the kart was becoming a bit of a handful with the juddering.
There was a bit of congestion when trying to leave the track up the ramp and in moving over I beached my kart over the edge of the ramp!  I was recovered and told to go down the side of some Brisca F1's coming through the inner pit gate for scruitineering but there was no room.  I was pulled back and the F1's were allowed through and then there was another delay at which point I recognised who was driving the F1 in front of me as an ex-StoxKart driver.  He pointed around the corner and as I looked an F1 (possibly with the driver annoyed by the delay I had caused!) seemed to have lost control and gone through some fence railings before being stopped by the fence post!  Apparently wearing no seatbelt or helmet the driver (who after all was only going to scruitineering) had cut his ear and required medical attention!
As I was tyre testing I did not think my points from heat 3 would count but as the tyre worked against me in the final the decision was taken to award me the points.
Heat 1: unplaced, Heat 2: unplaced, Heat 3: 2nd, Final: unplaced (14th). POINTS: 12.
 
2011 NATIONAL STOXKARTS POINTS CHAMPIONSHIP: 40TH - 15 points
 
Whilst 2011 continued to see StoxKarts go from strength to strength it was a bit of missed season personally.
Buying a house that required complete renovation meant that the 2010/2011 closed season came and went in a blur and I only just made it out on track at the start of May at Kings Lynn.
Only intending to race at shale meetings anyway potential appearances were further reduced when reasons beyond StoxKarts control saw subsequent Buxton shale and Kings Lynn dates removed from the fixture list - personally the loss of Buxton shale is a real shame.
Whilst there were thoughts of appearing at a few tarmac meetings, career progression also increased work commitments which had a further negative impact on time available to think about racing.  I was also not in a qualifying place for the Gold Top Championship but as this was at Skegness I wasn't too unduly concerned!
I was pleased to get out again at Coventry and although I struggled a bit in the first two heats (probably not helped by my lack of racing) heat 3 came good with a runner-up finish - my second best ever result - thanks in no small part to the fact that I was testing a proposed new shale tyre.  Anyway, it was still nice to prove that I could still do it!  I finished the season as yellow grade due to not being downgraded lower than this.

StoxKarts 2012

Copyright Mark Banham Racing