Belated Blytheville Pro debrief

posted Apr 15, 2014, 5:08 AM by Scoob Edoo
I forgot I hadn't done this, so it's not exactly fresh in my mind.  But I'll give it a shot.

The drive out was uneventful but lonely without Kieran.  I drove to the west side of Nashville and slept in the truck at WalMart again.  Next morning I was up before dawn and drove the rest of the way.  It was a BEAUTIFUL day on Friday.  Really exactly what SCCA had hoped for when they moved the event up on the schedule away from the 100+ degree days of the mid-summer.  I got there early and prepared the kart for the practice course.  The course was not exactly representative of the real courses, but I was able to tune the chassis for the concrete pretty well.

After the practice I walked the courses and didn't have a plan for much else in the afternoon.  The Nut arrived and they also tested some on the practice course, then he found me after registering and asked if I was interested in a co-driver so we could make a class.  I said sure, but I'm fairly short, so who did he have in mind?  Dana Gill, a recent "graduate" from Junior karts who was out on the practice course when I was there, getting ready to drive Doug's Cibic-yo.  Nut had asked her and she said yes.  I wasn't sure if she'd fit, so we took my kart over to tech and got her in.  She fit very well, so we decided she would be our fifth. She was very excited to drive a shifter in competition.  She apparently had gotten into one at the SCCA headquarters but couldn't do much there other than know she liked it.

So we said she'd benefit from some practice in the kart and we set about getting it and her ready.  One issue we found was she had difficulty disengaging the clutch.  I had noticed that it had gotten stiffer, but I didn't realize how much stiffer until she pointed it out.  She didn't have the forearm strength to pull the lever with one hand - and I had to admit that it wasn't exactly easy for me either.  So on the advice of the Nut and Keith Roberts, we first changed the trans oil and that didn't help, so we took off the trans cover and looked at the clutch plates.  They looked pretty good, but we found that the previous owner had installed a few plates incorrectly so we reordered them, reassembled, installed new trans oil and tried again - still no dice.  Hmmm.  Unfortunately by this time the practice course was closed so we found a piece of unused airstrip and let her play for over an hour, learning how to launch, shift, downshift, power-on turns, etc.  She stalled it quite often and simply loved the speed of going up through the gears.  It was reminiscent of Killeen's first time in the kart when she kept going and going, not paying attention to me or anyone else.

She eventually felt good about trying it for competition, so I packed up everything and went to eat at the tail-end of the welcome party.  It was a long day and I was tired so I went to the hotel and crashed.

Saturday morning held a different story than Friday - it was starting cold and windy and the wind never stopped.  The temp never felt like it got above 50-55 and the big wind made it feel cooler than that.  In the morning everyone was a little frozen after the perfect weather on Friday.  We ran last, so at least we had a little sun and warmth for the tires, but the first 1 1/2 runs were still a little squirrely.  It got better on runs 3 and 4 but I was still leaving a lot out there.  Dana ran second just so I could work out any kinks if necessary.  The kart was fine on the 3rd and 4th runs, so I think I left everything as is for her.  Her starts were inconsistent and I think she only stalled once in the morning.  She ran pretty good times and had a huge smile on her face.  Jason had some trouble so she was in 4th after the morning runs.

The afternoon didn't exactly warm up and the wind never relented.  By the time we ran, it was essentially identical conditions to our morning runs, so no changes were required.  I got faster on both sides and sat 2nd.  Dana became more aggressive on her starts and stalled a few times.  I was able to pull her out of the lights in time once, but not the last time.  I think her arm was tired from holding the clutch, so she was just physically exhausted by the end of the day.  She hit a cone directly on the helmet cam I had mounted on my nose, killing the camera mount.  I recovered the camera, but the miniSD card had apparently gotten thrown from the camera when the camera was thrown from its case!  So I lost all of our runs.  Still she was very happy to drive the kart and had a huge smile.

After runs were complete Eric Hyman came through paddock dispensing homemade margaritas.  After a few of those, Jason and I went to the Mexican restaurant for dinner.  I was so parched that I should not have had any alcohol.  I seriously drank water for a few hours and still felt dehydrated.  That wind had just sapped all of my water.

The next morning I was still feeling the effects of the dehydration and the forecast led me to consider scrapping the day and just driving home.  I asked Dana about it at breakfast and she was disappointed but understood.  I simply didn't want to get sick before my 10-day European business trip so that was guiding my thoughts.  Then when I stepped outside to go to the truck my mind was made up for me - it was 10 degrees colder and the winder was even stronger than Saturday.  My mind and body synced immediately and I decided to just pack up and drive home after talking to the head safety steward, Dana, and the kart guys.  I had convinced myself that I wouldn't go any faster because of the conditions, but it turns out I was likely wrong.  The remaining three guys all went faster as conditions had improved by run time.  The sun had come out and even with the stronger wind it was similar to Saturday's conditions.  So I possibly threw away a win or 2nd place points, but I didn't get sick before the trip either.  I continued to drink Powerade on the trip home and eventually got hydrated.

So it's probably a little too early to have that event at Blytheville.  Next year hopefully they shoot for April or May instead.