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Summer at Rowrah – rain, wind and fog

July 15, 2010

Whilst the rest of the UK basked in glorious sunshine, the DPRS Kart Race Team took the long trek up to the Rowrah circuit in Cumbria to battle with the elements.

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Beautiful spot in the sunshine - this was Sunday

Driving rain storms and gale force winds overnight welcomed us late Friday as we made the long trek up to Cumbria. Thick fog delayed proceedings on Saturday morning as the Marshalls could not see each other and the competitors could not see the track!

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Sam takes a wayward minimax in the wet

The fog was cleared by ….. more heavy rain making Saturday an endurance as we battled to find set-up, learn a new track and stay dry. But what a track – built inside an old quarry the circuit had everything including uphill and downhill sections and blind apex’s that are quite rare (in the midlands at least, where most circuits tend to be close to airfields and therefore very flat). The Rowrah circuit was incredibly greasy on the racing line and creative alternatives had to be found just to stay out of the bark chippings. The local heroes had a distinct advantage and we just weren’t fast enough to stay behind them and watch their lines. Then weather got worse overnight and whilst we had tied the awning to the kart to stop it blowing away, there was a real danger that both could be gone in the morning!

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DPRS Teamates Jack and Harry head to head

The locals had predicted that despite the forecast, the rain on Saturday would continue to Sunday and they weren’t wrong. Heat 1 was a full wet set-up though visibility was clear at least. Following some confusion around our race number (two #21’s ran in the 3 lap warm up -oops – we hastily changed to #22) we discovered Sam had been drawn in pole position for heat 1. We don’t mind pole, but would rather it not be heat 1 – on a new circuit we have barely had a chance to learn.

I was really struggling to find the right braking points and enough grip in the wet so I was not surprised that I was soon overtaken after the start of the race. I tried to follow but was constantly under attack from behind and I slipped back several places in the first couple of laps“.

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Sam on the left in pole .... starts the race in 2nd!

A somewhat dubious start by #16 pushing Sam from behind even lifting him off the ground, whilst #21 in second place crossed the line first!! So Ben Spenser led from 2nd place (but actually first if you see what I mean) and Sam slipped to 3rd on the first lap. Sam recovered to 2nd by the end of lap 2 but by then the local heroes had fought their way through the pack and with almost a second (per lap) advantage over Sam they had no problem taking his position. He was clearly struggling to find the right braking points and the flag could not come soon enough. A finish in 5th was quite a result considering how it felt. At this stage we were still unsure how much of the grip problem was circuit knowledge, driver performance or just mechanical grip from the new Tony Kart.

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As we collected the karts from parc ferme, the locals predicted the weather will clear and the sun will be out within the hour. They were right again! Heat 2 was a full dry set-up which pleased Sam as we knew how to set-up the Tony Kart in the dry. Changes to the width of the front and rear of the kart were made, toe in/out adjusted, gearing changed, and of course slick tyres were fitted. Sam was drawn on the back row so plenty of opportunity to make up places.

I was more confident we could make progress in the dry as the Tony was incredible last time out at Rissington. I still needed to learn the track but at least I could take more traditional racing lines instead of wet weather lines where you have to avoid the rubber on the track which becomes slippy in the wet.”

A TKM rolling start - haze of blue smoke

Alongside the only novice on the back row and directly behind his two DPRS team-mates, Sam made a good start and made up 3 places on the first lap. Another scalp was #33 before Sam found himself up behind #21, Ben Spenser again. Sam was visibly fast throughout this heat but spent too long racing Ben and Emerson Armstrong directly ahead of Ben. The three of them slowed each other down as they cleanly swapped positions again and again. Eventually Sam got the better of them both and closed in on 4th place and last years Rowrah champion, Aaron Mansergh, but he ran out of laps and the race finished with Sam in 5th from a back row start and fastest lap of the race. Not bad considering we don’t know the circuit!

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For heat 3 Sam’s grid slot was p7. At the rolling start the grid funnels into the uphill section and right/left chicane.

Sam and Ben Spenser were never far apart

I got caught on the outside line going into the chicane and maybe I was a bit cautious as I didn’t want a DNF but several guys passed me and I came out way back. I got a couple back during the first lap but it then put me behind Ben Spenser #21 again who I had been racing closely in the previous heat“.

Sam and Ben were swapping places every lap in very close but fair racing. Unfortunately the pair probably slowed each other down and finished p5/p6 with Ben getting the upper hand over the finish line.

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Final

Erm ... another pic of Sam and Ben

With three fair results from the heats Sam qualified P4 for the final. The start this time was clean and Sam maintained his p4 position. Unfortunately his nemesis, #21 Ben Spenser had made a cracking start from p8 and was up on the back of Sam by the end of the first lap. And so it continued, Sam’s pace was a little too much for Ben but not enough to put daylight between them. On lap 7 Ben closed up through the uphill chicane and dived down the inside into the hairpin to take the position. Sam stuck in the slip stream down through the rest of the lap down into the last corner and used the superior grip of his Tony kart to drive past on a tighter line and retake his 4th place over the start line.

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And this is how far apart they finished after racing each other all day

The race finished in formation after an impressive and very clean duel between the boys for the length of the final. This time Sam getting the upper hand and finishing in 4th, just missing out on a trophy. Plenty of hand shakes with Team Spenser in parc ferme, which is how good racing should be.

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A great circuit, rubbish weather, and a long long way away from home! We returned to Derbyshire very late and exhausted but happy with the result.

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Full race results here.

Next event Rissington in August.

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4 Comments leave one →
  1. Martin Riley permalink
    July 19, 2010 9:38 pm

    Read the Cumbria race report with interest. Sounds like you can adapt to different tracks that you don’t know without too much trouble and are not afraid to compete with the “locals”. Keep up the good work and enjoy it. At least you didn’t have to rely on your dad for a push start at this meeting!

    • July 19, 2010 10:04 pm

      Oi! Nothing wrong with my pushing 😉 Actually at Rowrah the dummy grid is on a steep slope so the pushing was downhill – easy …..

  2. trisha shaw permalink
    July 19, 2010 11:41 am

    Brilliant!! To adapt to a new track takes time but to do it the conditions that you were faced with and to finish in such a strong position is really admirable. Well Done Sam!

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