Iron Rock Raceway Endurance Kart Race Report
I'd love to sit here and type ya'll out an awesome race report on how well everything went but it just didn't happen. It was a fun time, and in retrospect it was a REALLY fun time, but less of that had to do with the actual enduro racing than the getting together of the group. You see, most groups I run with are just fun no matter what. We could *gasp* actually be at work, even *more gasp* working, and still have a dang good time. It all started when the spokeslist posted a deal about a possible arrive-and-drive kart race at the new-ish Austin kart track, 'Iron Rock'. With some quick *flash* email traffic we pulled Frank Bryan, Jason McCampbell, Frank Fertitta and myself together for a Sunday afternoon enduro. The timing could not have been better as I had NO idea what to get Fertitta for his birthday and this turned out to be a great gift!
Frank Fertitta (aka 'birthday boy) on the left (w/son Cole in background), Frank 'I got this' Bryan on the right.
We didn't win. Not even close. We drew kart numbers out of a hat and our kart wasn't even on grid. Perhaps that should have told us something. The fact that they were extremely disorganized is another. Rewind. We arrived as the track opened some 4 hours before the event and the girl behind the counter told us that there would be no running of rental karts before the enduro as the track was too wet. It indeed had perhaps 15% or less of dampness but there was no rain and so we hung out a while. We walked out to look at the track and talked to a person who worked out there and asked if we could walk the track. We were told we could so we started walking. Frank Bryan (Frank, so as not to confuse with Fertitta) is the only one who had driven the track and he didn't have a lot of seat time but we listened as he told of his last experience there and what corners led to what and basically where to put the kart. We got no further than 4 corners in and the girl comes out and tells us that we now can't walk the track because if she let's us walk the track then she'll have to let everybody. Her logic is moronic, but what are we going to do? We had the option of sitting inside (don't want to have all our shoes hurting the concrete that was, some years back, holding up nuke-armed B-52s) but we chose to go eat some lunch and then we would come back for the enduro. We asked again about getting some track time and was told again that there would be no rental karts out before the enduro. So much for getting an idea of what the track looked like. We head outside, admire Frank's Camaro as he had just finished the Big Bend Open Road Race and all pile in the Duramax after putting our gear in Amy's trunk. By the time we head out, there are groups of people walking the track. W-T-F?
Jason McCampbell (red suit) and Costas (blue suit), then Fertitta and sons Brad and Cole.
Conan's. The mere mention brings a smile to me and lunch was great. Frank told us all the BBORR stories and we all got caught up on the happenings of late and worked on a strategy for the race. I would start and pit on the first lap since we were starting in the back (remember, our kart was one of 2 'backups' that, we were assured, were just as fast as the others) and traffic would be horrendous at the start. We had to make a certain number of stops and this would quickly get one out of the way. While wrapping up at Conan's, Fertitta's wife called as she had just got to Iron Rock with their boys and wondered why we weren't running. Wha? Yep, they were letting folks practice for the enduro now. Great. We jumped in the truck and headed there to find (of course) that the rental karts were now booked until the hour before the enduro. They used that hour to top off fuel and check the karts so we were now completely hosed. No pre-walking, no pre-running. Great.
Frank Bryan laps another driver while focusing on the next turn.
Long story short, we worked the plan and got hammered. The kart was nowhere near up to speed and was extremely loose compared to other karts. Not to say we had the worst kart, as there was one that I easily passed on the straight even though the other guy was on the gas 3 kart-lengths before I was. That being said, many karts that were driven well could easily get on the gas before we could and just motor on by. With ours, it would step out and slow you down severely. Backup kart indeed. Additionally, red flags were a complete screw-up as everyone was told to stop on the front straight and the situation would be solved then we would launch in the same order. Except on the first red flag three karts ducked into the pits, swapped drivers and then went around again (and got credit for the lap, AND the driver change) and got in the back of the line. WHA? Yep, and then later in the race we had a second red flag and 5 karts did it that time. Argh. Near the end, karts were running out of fuel (fast karts, the ones who could hold the throttle down in the corners...in other words, we were just DANDY on fuel!) and having to come in while the track was still hot and get some fuel dumped in.
McCampbell, right foot hammered down.
The real problem I have is this event was for money. The winners got money. Had the event been run in a remotely fair fashion and everyone having the same chance to win and 'best driving team' winning, that would be cool. However, it wasn't. The guys that pitted under red flag killed everyone else. Additionally, the karts really need to be more evenly matched. Perhaps ours was hosed as it was a backup kart, but still. They could take the local 'pro' dude and have him drive each one. Adjust the handing or the governor of each kart to where each one is within a tenth or two and then let the folks have at it.
Fertitta putting the laps in.
Interestingly enough our team actually did good and put in some decent laps. Both Franks ran clean, but Jason was hammered in the left rear (we bought that rim at a MUCH MUCH inflated price, thanks Iron Rock!) and I went for a serious ride. I caught this guy and was looking for a way through. On a VERY wide section of track I went to duck under a slower guy we both caught and the first guy put me in the barriers at the very beginning of a barrier. Up I went as one tire caught, I spun a complete 360 and nailed the landing back in my spot. The world went blurry for a second as I began the spin and then I was down. I was sure everyone saw it as I was on my last lap before pitting and handing it over to the next driver. After I landed I gave a 'thumbs up' and continued. In the pits only Amy had seen the launch-fly-spin (other than a few folks who came by in astonishment). I described the launch-fly-spin to several folks but it lacked that...certain...visual. Until now. There was a track photographer there and he was moving from spot to spot and snapping pictures and yep, you guessed it, he got the whole launch-fly-spin. Check out the pictures at the bottom!
Iron Rock is supposed to be having more arrive-and-drive endurance races and I'm sure we'll consider it. They need to make a TON of improvements for me to take them seriously though. Organization, customer service, attitude, etc. Last year I ran some at the F1 Boston track and their karts and folks just blow Iron Rock away. Sad really.
More to come....perhaps.
Above: The lap before the incident. I've caught this guy and I'm trying to get around him.
Above: So he slams the door on me on a very wide section of track. I do my best 'Apollo' imitation.
Above: Note to self: The brakes are inop when all wheels have left the playing surface. Counter-steering does not work either. Crap.
Above right: The rotation speed here is really fast. I'm completely off the seat, yet still flooring the 'go' pedal. Above Left: My left side ribs were bruised for a few days. Still on the gas and counter-steering into the spin!
Above left: NAILED the landing. Note how much room the guy gives me now! Way too much, way too late! Above right: Just after landing I give the judges a confident 'thumbs up' to try to boost my performance score. I was thinking 'all 10s' right here!
During one of the red flags...I'm trying not to think about the folks pitting, swapping drivers and getting free laps. Argh.