As a journalist I get asked to do a lot of cool things involving cars but I do not get asked to get into other engine driven machines quite as often. So when Daytona motorsport asked me to enter their DMAX Karting championships last year I jumped at the chance. As some of you will have read before, I love karting, I may not be great at it, but I do love it! My first season was a very steep learning curve indeed, going from the odd arrive and drive session at my local track to the fastest karting championship in the UK that doesn’t involve owning your own kart was a big step. I won’t go into all the crazy things I had to learn and the frankly terrifying journey I had to take but I will say it was the most fun I have ever had. I was naturally really excited when Daytona got in touch and asked me to do another season this year and as I sit here in a hotel room about to head off to round 3 at Whilton Mill I felt it was a good time to look back at the first couple of races.
How It All Works
Without going into vast detail again I take part in the heats races. This is basically a set of 3 qualifying races and a final. Drivers are divided into weight classes to keep the racing close and the karts are chosen at random and changed each race so you are not in the same kart twice. There is also an enduro option where the racers qualify and then race in a 1 hour non stop competition, this is quite a feat as anyone who has been in a kart will know! Each race is at a different track, though sometimes the location is the same the layout is different so there is no chance for people to learn any track too well.
In all honesty, most of the people driving in the DMAX champs are pretty damn good, many of them, I have no doubt, could have been professional racers given the right chances in life. This thought does not apply to me so it will come as no surprise that I do not win races but I do have a great time. In the light category where I race there are a few youngsters that could still have a racing career ahead of them and a number of 20 some things that may well find a home in racing too so it is a very competitive group, but so are the others, make no mistake, these guys may not own their own karts etc but they are no playing around and they want to win. There are also some people giving it a go once a month rather than racing every week and these are the people I tend to race at the back in a kind of classic Caterham vs Marussia kind of a way.
Races 1 and 2
So the first race was at Daytona’s own track in Milton Keynes and the second was at their Sandown track. Both of these tracks are amazing fun, big, fast and enough corners to keep you learning every time you race on them. My aim this year was to improve on last years effort and as you may have read I was going to try using racing simulator games like project cars with a steering wheel on a wheel stand pro. So far I really think it has worked, I am not saying I vastly faster but my racecraft is a lot better. I am using so much more of the track on the exits of corners, my braking is getting better because I’m mentally marking braking points and I am just feeling more confident due to the track time. It may be simulated but it’s still racing and my brain treats it in a very similar way.
The first 2 races were really good fun, I didn’t win, I didn’t even do that well on paper but I 100% felt faster and felt better on track. Comparing my times to 2015 in race 1 I was about 2 seconds faster which is a massive increase. I was also faster in race 2 but the 2015 race was on a slightly damp track so the times were not really comparable. I actually came last in race 2 but that was because of a spin and I was actually set to beat 3 people. In race 1 2 people pulled out so I naturally beat them in the points but I also beat another 2 people so I was really pleased. My starts have got better, I am less worried about hitting other people when it’s my line and I seem to have generally stopped driving like I do not belong there. For many races last year I would almost let people past who were faster because I had some kind of apologetic complex…this is now gone and I am feeling very good about that fact. I am not saying I am driving like an idiot but I am pushing people and not yielding without a fight and this is in no small part down to practising on the sim.
I am about to leave for Whilton Mill Kart track and it is the fastest track on the circuit, I did testing last night and was reminded in no uncertain terms that it is a flat out kind of track that takes a lot of bravery to drive fast on. I feel like last night went well so lets see what happens…