I recently became a member at Hill Country Kart Club in New Braunfels, which is a great facility for getting seat time at a great price. I took the kart out for the first time on May 3rd to get a feel for what I would be in for; this was my first time driving a shifter kart and it was intense. The power and acceleration alone is enough to spike your adrenaline, and the cornering speeds are enough to crack ribs if you do not have a proper fitting seat. It was already aware that I did not have a proper fitting seat, so I took it somewhat easy this time around. My friend Robert came out to assist me throughout the day, and snap some photos and video when I was on track.
I had a few issues come up, with the biggest being my motor mount coming loose. This caused the entire engine to be pulled backwards under load, and this in turn pulled my throttle open. It’s an unsettling feeling to not be in control of your throttle anymore! It was also quite hot, so I got pretty fatigued early on. The adrenaline deceives you and makes you push harder than you probably should. It’s not until you come to a stop that you notice how thoroughly worn out you are. I accomplished maybe 25 laps for the day before packing up and heading back to Austin.
A few weeks later I took the kart to Texas Karts in San Antonio and installed a seat that fits me like a glove. I fixed the motor mount issue, cleaned everything up, and bought some brackets to mount my fuel pump and ignition control to the engine instead of my new seat. I also got a rolling box to transport my tools and spare parts, and an EZ-Up canopy for the pit space.
I took the kart out for the second time on July 6th, and stayed much longer this time. The new seat gave me the confidence to push harder, and I made some big improvements with my shifting. The EZ-Up tent was also a major win, considering it was in the mid 90’s by noon. I paid attention to the engine temp this time, and added some duct tape to the radiator to keep the coolant at the right temperature. If the engine is not running hot enough it affects the tuning, and my oversize radiator is actually overkill even the Texas heat (I wound up restricting the airflow by about 50%). I also set the brake bias more rearward, to reduce some of the bite under hard braking. As I build more confidence under braking, I will begin to bring this balance back towards the front.
I think I probably did close to 50 laps this time around, and even had a chance to share the track with another stock Honda shifter kart. My fastest time of the day was 41.71 seconds, which shows an improvement of about two seconds over my last outing. Based on some of the times I have seen from the other drivers, I have about 6 seconds to find before I would be very competitive in a race. Still, I am pretty happy with these times considering I am very much a rookie.
I have a long way to go in a short amount of time. Once the weather begins to cool, I will be spending far more time on the track. I also think I will be ready for racing after a few more practice days. The goal is to race a full season in the club races at HCKC next year, and perhaps a few of the closer rounds of the Superkarts USA (SKUSA) Texas Pro Kart Challenge. By 2016 I would like to compete in a full season at the Regional Level, and attend the SKUSA Super Nationals. Ultimately, I want to be competitive enough to find some sponsorship, and just keep pushing towards the front of the pack.