Talk about being nervous! I couldn’t even sleep the night before! I got some sleep but probably not enough. This was going to be my first experience in a motor sports vehicle that I owned, something that I actually purchased with the intention to race. I’ve always wanted to do this, so this is my dream that I’m talking about!
For the days leading up to my first track experience, I was getting the kart ready. I had the battery hooked up to a charger, and that was pretty much it….If you read this post, you would know that I did most of the work to the kart ahead of time and it was ready. I only needed to charge the battery and get the camera ready.
I live so close to Englishtown Raceway that I woke up at 7:30AM and ate breakfast. I had to make sure I was ready to go, and then I loaded the kart in my father in laws pickup truck! Right off the saw horses, by myself!
With coffee in hand, I drove solo to the track and was there by 8:30ish when the gates opened. I paid my $30 for the practice day and parked the truck. I had no idea what I was doing but I was told that I could park anywhere as long as I did not interfere with the motor cycle school that was taking place.
I parked as close as I dared to the track and went and found the registration booth to get some direction. I asked tons of questions, I had no idea what I was doing, and the lady at the desk was extremely helpful. She stated that the classes would be called for practice throughout the day and you would be able to hear which class was next. At Englishtown, the classes for a practice day are: Kid Kart, juniors, seniors (That’s me!), and rentals. For the practice, you run with the type of kart that you have, not necessarily the karts that you will be racing against.
I got my wristband to state that I was a racer, and that I needed to have my kart pass tech. So, I unloaded the kart. The guys next to me helped to unload it since I was solo, i probably could have gotten it out by myself but i was grateful for the help. So far, my experience at the race track has been awesome, everyone was happy to help and point me in the right direction. I rolled the kart over to the tech area. I had no issues in that department so I got a sticker and was told to wait till the track opens. This would be at 9:30AM.
In the meantime I met a fellow racer that has been to the track a couple of times and we did a walk around so that I would at least have an idea for the layout of the track. The track is pretty big but is laid out in a parking lot so it’s a little bumpy. He tried to explain how different sections of the track grip differently and try and grab you but you have no idea what he’s talking about until you get out there, unless of course you’ve done this before.
I also needed gas, I was told by the person I purchased the kart from that I would be able to get fuel at the track. He was right; It was on the drag side of the track all the way behind the pond. During the lull between tech and track opening, I took a walk to get 4 gallons of 110 octane fuel. That cost me $40!
It was then time for my first practice run. I pushed the kart to the staging area (no running karts in the pits) and attempted to start it. When it was time to go, the kart would not start, one of the people in the pits offered to start the kart with a starter but the engine was too far forward for that to happen. He suggested choking the motor and that worked. I was able to get the kart started and on the track. The below video shows what had happened.
The first session ended well with me spinning out only once. Not too bad for my first time on track! I obviously was going slow at first to get my bearings and to figure out what the kart was going to do, once the tires warmed up a bit it handled much better. I also found that my right front tire was flat the whole time due to a leaky valve stem. I fixed that problem for the second session and the tire was then holding air.
The second session was better with me getting more comfortable with the kart and its handling characteristics. You can tell in the video below that I was getting braver with every lap all the way up until my kart braking.
So, the kart broke. At that point I was completely distracted with getting the kart back on the track. I was willing to purchase a new clutch (which is what I thought the issue was) but was helped by one of the stores that are onsite. I had the guy from the New Jersey Sprint Series take a look at the clutch and he seemed to think it was fine. The issue ended up being the giant nut on the clutch cover that holds the gear in place. I took it apart and tightened it as tight as I could. It held for the rest of the day!
Unfortunately I was completely distracted by the kart braking. This caused me to forget all about the camera and I ended up leaving it on while trying to get the kart fixed. So it was running while the kart was on the stand, this ran the battery out so there is no more track video. I will try to be more conscious of this in the future…..
However, I did manage to fix the issue and get back out on track. I got progressively better with each passing session. Every half hour I was able to get out on track and practice. I spent quite a bit of time in the kart on that first day and it was awesome! I did run into another issue though, at the end of the day I started to get a pain in my back, and on my last session I did not even keep running and pulled off early because of it. I ended up going to the doctor later in the week and found that I had sprained my back. This was easily remedied with moist heat with a heating pad and some Ibuprofen. At least it was nothing serious, even though it was quite painful.