Once again I’ve entered the Sunoco Rental League at GoPro Motorplex, a 5-week, 15 race championship series held once each Spring, Summer and Fall. This year, each race features the same full-course layout, which is a little disappointing compared to the three different layouts that were run a couple years ago. Nonetheless, the competition is just as fierce as I remembered and at first I was more rusty than I could imagine.
In the first round I couldn’t even break the top ten in any of the three races. I qualified poorly (17th, 14th & 14th) and then finished approximately the same (16th, 12th & 15th). Sure, I could blame it on the cold I was fighting, the karts I got, or getting punted in the last race, but there’s a lot more to it than that. It has been a while since the last time I hit the track, and a very long time since I raced in this format. I wasn’t prepared and had to shake off the rust. The good news is that I didn’t leave without learning some things. I relearned the importance of adjusting my seat and pedals properly, and regained perspective on the level of intensity required to compete with this group. Racing these karts will wear you out, and when you’re fatigued you can’t maintain the same pace. But that doesn’t even matter if you’re not ready for the challenge, and by the completion of the first round I was prepared to start fresh the following week.
Round 2 kicked off with a bang! I finished 5th after a 6th place qualifying effort and felt better than I had the entire preceding week. Unfortunately, the next two races would bring me back down a notch. In each qualifying session I got bottled up in traffic and couldn’t complete a clean lap. I qualified 9th for the second race, and was out of contention by turn 6. The eight karts ahead of me splayed out 3 wide coming out of the bowl turn after the long backstretch, and I made a move to take advantage. Unfortunately, I couldn’t complete the pass heading into turn 6, glanced off a curb and took a good shot from behind, which sent me for a spin. By the time I got the kart collected and back on track the best that I could muster was a return to 16th place. The third race wasn’t much better and began with an 11th place qualifying effort. In the race, I made it to just past the hairpin on the first lap where I was punted yet again. This time, it was through no fault of my own… I simply got dumped going into turn 9. I regained the kart and got to work, eventually driving back up to the 12th position. Difficulty passing a slow competitor allowed two faster competitors to catch up on the last lap, which resulted in a bumper-battle from turn 9 to the finish line. One got by me, but the other spun coming in to the last turn and I ended up with a 13th place finish.
To say I was frustrated is an understatement, but that’s racing. Years of incidents outside my control have taught me that the only thing you can do is move on to the next race. If nothing else, it taught me the hard way the value of a good qualifying position. This week, I will make sure that I put myself in a good position to make a clean lap, and with some skill I’ll start ahead of the quagmire. There’s not much that can be done about getting dumped from behind, but if no one can catch me then no one can spin me, which is the goal anyways.
On to the next one!