Beeblebrox JBC 1st Shakedown: the only way is up…

Event: ELKC November Social Meet
Track:Puckapunyal
Date:15 November 2020

The sun was shining, it was marvellously warm, there were a few clouds hanging in the sky and even at times the odd spit of rain, it was the perfect day for karting. Not only this it was many months since most of us had been karting. This was the first weekend, the first opportunity for Melbourne residents to venture out of the metro area, outside of the “ring of steel” and once again visit those rural area which had been off limits just the weekend prior due to the covid lockdown, months in lockdown which actually felt like an eternity. Finally though, here was the chance to get back into what we love doing, spending time at the track!

For Beeblebrox JBC this was our first outing since becoming something resembling an organised and identifiable entity, the day was also a new frontier for myself having never been part of a real karting club prior. Heading up north to Puckapunyal was going to be a learning experience despite what I thought I already knew about karting. Prior to this my level of karting experience was the BYO tracks in Melbourne. My usual stomping grounds had been Silhouette in Somerton and TUKE in South Morang. These tracks have now both been gobbled up by developers, ripped up and no longer exist. They both shared a similar business model – bring your own kart to the track, pay $50, do as many laps as you can be arsed to do or until you crash into something so long as you get off the track when the rental karts need to come out. It was simple, easy and close to home. So joining the Eastern Lions Karting Club was a completely different kettle of fish all together. The club is more organised, more professional in its conduct and the standard of karts are so much higher than anything that was ever at Somerton or South Morang and not to mention further away…

For us to even make it to the circuit many number of factors needed to all come together, all of which had been done at the eleventh hour, due to time constrains and supplier issues, but done none the less. This was also going to be a test of our own organisational abilities and logistics – there is much to consider when trying to move 2 karts over 100km’s north of where you live. Planning for any and all eventualities we tried to pack as many spares into the “team van” as possible while also taking into account our own needs such as clothing and what to have for lunch, by the time we were finished packing the van it was chock-a-black full with everything we should have needed and much that we would later find out we could have gotten away without having. Regardless of this it is always better to have too much in certain cases than not enough. Being the well oiled machine are, we were able to present to the paddock with two karts, the #42 Monaco GP5 and the #74 EA Racing, both with Torini clubmax engines bolted on, ready for a full day of track work, getting to business of shacking them down and putting them through their paces.

Unfortunately while the day was bright and clear all was not sunny in our gazebo. Technical problems on the #74 kart put an end to the hopes of getting both karts out on track. I spent over an hour trying to fix the issue in the pits but due to being short of parts and tools there was no way to get the kart to a running state. Because of this time loss in the pits trying to rectify the issue we lost valuable track time.

Adding to the reduction in overall track time was new government restrictions being imposed limiting the amount of persons allowed to be out on track at any given moment. The sheer amount of participation for the event meant there were lengthy waits on being able to head out onto track compounded further by the restrictions allowing only 10 karts on track at any given moment. As a result, during the busiest periods of track activities, we found ourselves waiting for an hour prior to being able to get out on track for our 10 minute session. I want to stress though that our lengthy wait was in no way the fault of the organisers or track officials, they did an amazing job at keeping the whole show running as smoothly and efficiently as possible. My criticism is aimed largely at the overbearing government limitations being put on numbers on track. What is puzzling is at the same time as limits on active runners on the track there were no limits on numbers in the setup area… I guess that’s just the logic of the government for you. While this was frustrating and a first world problem at that, at least we were there and able to do some running as opposed to no running at all.

The aim was to get both karts doing shake down laps and also running in the clubmax on the #42 kart. With the mechanical issue experienced on the #74 kart, it was only the #42 kart which was able to put down any laps at all and even this was prematurely halted when another mechanical issue arose towards the end of the second session out on track with myself at the wheel.

Track running was limited and having never driven this circuit before I was on a mission into the unknown, learning the track all while I was also learning the chassis (which I had never driven before) and also while running in the engine which was brand new. My first impressions of the Puckapunyal track was wow! Such a wonderful and challenging bit of tarmac. Technical in places, long straights, elevation changes and off camber corners make it challenging but rewarding for the driver. I wasn’t focused on setting fast laps, I estimated my fastest lap at around the 57 second mark, at this point knowing which way the track was went and the correct lines to be taking was my focus, but I can see myself really enjoying racing here once the kart has been shaken down properly and set up for this place.

All in all, for the 4 or so hours we were there only one kart saw a combined total of approx. 15 mins running. With one kart damaged by the end of the second session and the other not turning a wheel all day. There is much room for improvement from us as a team and the fact that one of the #74 kart wasn’t ready to be dropped onto the track says a lot about the ambition being greater than situational reality. The hand full of laps completed still provided some glimpse of what we’re dealing with in terms of setup for the track and will be able to make some changes for the next outing, when ever that may be. A disappointing day to say the least but there is much potential to be unlocked still, the only way from here is up.

Monaco GP5 (#42)

Out on track at Puckapunyal, Monaco GP5 being put through its paces during its first shakedown and running in of the new Torini Clubmaxx engine.

Best Lap: 57 sec (approx.)

The only kart which was able to get out on track and do some laps. The objective for the number 42 kart was to run in the brand new, out of the box Torini Clubmax but was ended early with a mechanical issue with the rear hub and a loose wheel.

1st Session:

The first run was fine getting consistent and steady laps. On the first lap out, on cold tyres and being a bit too cocky for my own good I managed to spin at the chicane. After a full 360 degree skid across the grass was able to recover and keep going, I just needed to keep my ego in place and not try any heroics at the early early stage of the piece. After this it was head down and learn the track. I prematurely came into the pit area when I followed in another driver rather than waiting for the chequered flag to be shown. As a result I probably lost a lap or two of running.

2nd Session:

The session started under brilliant blue Skys and the track temperature raising meaning plenty of grip from the tyres. I was the only 4 stroke out of the group of 10 and was having to move out of the way of faster karts almost every lap, picking up rubbish on the tyres and losing momentum. Just as the chequered flag was shown for the end of my block of 10 minutes, what I can only describe as feeling like a puncture came on suddenly. Managing to limp the kart back to the pit area, upon further inspection discovered all three wheel nuts on the left hand rear hub were gone and significant damage to the magnesium rim had been caused. This was the cause of the handling issue, not a puncture.

On board from the number 42 Monaco GP5 while out on track during 1st shakedown. Track is Hume International Raceway Puckapunyal

Prior to sending the kart out on track I had noted there was an issue with either the hub being not true or possibly a rim being buckled. Regardless the wheel nuts were tightened prior to being sent out on track for the first session. The issue appeared to be with the hub itself and resulted in the wheel nuts being loosened enough that after only the two stints out on track all 3 nuts went flying off the studs. This came as a real shock to me as I have never had anything like this happen before. The subsequent damage to the kart and no spare parts available meant calling an end to the day out on track.

EA Racing (#74)

Not a single lap was completed by the number 74 kart.

Unfortunately while I thought I had all parts required to mount the Torini engine to the frame, it became clear there was an obvious clearance issues between the sprocket, chain and parts of the frame. Having been working on this kart until 2am that morning, I could not complete all that I needed to then and there, my plan was to finish the mounting of the engine in the pits. This ultimately turned out to be futile given the issues experienced. A lesson for future me is not to assume I can make something major, like fitting/mounting the engine, happen track side. Only a completed, ready to run kart should be taken to the track. The aim going forward will be to only need to check tyre pressures and fill up with petrol before heading out on track.

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