Wednesday, 21 August 2013

British 24 Hours 2013. Teesside. Preview.

Every sport has its crowd favourite. Tour de France, Grand National, Monaco Grand Prix, Le Mans.

For endurance karting, this is it. Seventy ace teams featuring some of Europe's finest drivers in four classes of owner and hire karts; once around the clock on the longest, fastest kart circuit in the world.

In 2012, the winners completed over 1050 laps of 2.1 kilometres each. London to Malaga at an average speed nudging 60 mph, on a twin-engined rollerskate designed with one purpose: to go fast. No windscreen, no seatbelts, no power steering, no suspension.

If it sounds slightly unhinged, that's because it is.

There are other 24 hour kart races on circuits with legendary names - Spa Francorchamps, Le Mans - but nothing matches the sheer scale of Teesside. It's one of the greatest challenges - and one of the most coveted prizes - in our sport.

Much as we love it, Teesside hasn't been kind to the Corporate Chauffeurs BRKC team. In 2011 - our debut - we lost third place in class to a kart failure with less than an hour to go. In 2012, a litany of mechanical problems left us stone last after ten hours; following a kart change, we dragged ourselves back into the midfield and made up six laps on the leaders by the end.

Heroic stuff, but it's time we got our hands on some silverware.

What started in 2011 as a middling team has evolved into the strongest I have ever been part of. Three years of top-quality competition in the British Rental Kart Championship has sharpened founder team members Alex Vangeen and I from mediocre to solid. We won't set the world alight, but we have the pace and experience to be competitive.

We were disappointed to lose the superb wheel skills and hardwired racing brain (and indecipherable Brummie accent) of founder member Lee Jones earlier this year. But Alex has secured some serious talent to fill our two vacant seats. Multiple champions Anwar Beroual-Smith and Lee Hollywood bring huge speed, technical savvy and boundless enthusiasm. There'll be much to learn from these two.

We've moved up to the Club Hire class this year, which brings quicker machinery and a minimum weight limit of 210kg for kart and driver combined. The karts weigh 132 kg, which means that the driver must weigh at least 78kg.

I'm right on the bubble, which has required a significant change to my race preparation. Instead of starving myself I've been loading up on protein, trying to put some muscle on my weedy runner's frame. My cardiovascular fitness is good, but mustering the strength to hang on through Teesside's warp-speed corners has always been a challenge.

In its third season, the BRKC continues its love affair with the British 24 Hours. Besides ours at least three other teams bear the BRKC name; several more include BRKC drivers past and present. We'll all be focused on our own races, but in quieter moments we'll be keeping tabs on friends and rivals. Tough competition on track combined with cameraderie off it is part of the appeal of this very special event.

Once again, our team is kindly sponsored by Corporate Chauffeurs, courtesy of family Vangeen. At our third British 24 Hours, I think we're better placed than ever to reward their loyalty with a result.

Previously I'd have said that no matter how good the team, in a hire kart your fate lies in the hands of the reliability gods. That's still true, but I sense that experience and an injection of knowledge has shifted the balance. I think we're better placed to make our own luck than ever before.

Testing for the British 24 Hours starts on Friday 23 August. The race starts at midday on Saturday 24 August. For regular updates, follow me on Twitter: @ajrduff. Messages of support and/or abuse will be gratefully received.

To everyone competing this weekend: good luck, and stay safe.

I believe the technical term is 'Game On'.

1 comment: