Words by: Ben - Snaps by: June
Ray Motorsports, one of Singapore's rotary-specialist garage, has been running the Ray Motorsports Karting Challenge 2013 since the beginning of the year. The championship, open to anyone and everyone who can gather a team of four drivers, was a three-part competition, with its final round mid of October.
I first heard of the competition during the 911's 50th Anniversary Event, when a friend of mine talked me into joining this second leg of the challenge. The race format for all three rounds was the same: a 2-hour, 4 drivers endurance race. From this point I busied myself into gathering three other motorheads willing enough to take it to the track with me. After a few calls and messages, the team was set: Bernie (the owner of the Black Fibre Evo X), François and Ian joined me to form team POWAA Garage.
While we were all hyped up about taking part in the race, we had one major issue: out of all of us, only Bernie had ever been on the Changi Karting Circuit's asphalt and, unfortunately, busy work schedules did not let us have enough time to go for a practice round. We thus had no choice, we were going to have to get straight in the fight on the race day. Hopefully, we thought, we'd have some warm ups or qualifying laps to help us get a first feel of the track before the actual race. We thought.
The calendar quickly flipped forward, and we were all showing up at the Changi Karting Circuit, with little to no experience of the track, readying ourselves for an epic and fun race. As we reached, pro-karts were running some open laps. While waiting for the driver's briefing, we examined the track from the sides, trying to mark out certain features of this terra incognita in anticipation to our time behind the wheel.
We were called in for the driver's briefing where we were told that there would be no qualifying nor practice laps, but instead that the teams would be arranged on the grid according to their weight, with the heaviest team starting in pole position and the lightest team lining up last. Furthermore, the heaviest driver of each team would start first, for a stint of 15 minutes minimum. Each driver had to have at least 2 stints behind the wheel, which set the race strategy to a simple 2x15 minutes for each driver.
The briefing finished, we headed back to the pits to know which go-kart we would be given, and decide on the racing order. François was starting, followed by myself, Ian and Bernie, who would thus have the honours of racing past the chequered flag. Our attention was then directed to the screen where we saw our kart number being displayed: No. 9. We quickly went to it and François got ready to drive... Until we were told the order was changed and we had kart No. 13. While it meant that we were going to start further back in the grid (whatever happened to the weight rule?), we saw the silver lining in the form of four brand new tyres on each corner of our kart.
With smiles on our faces, we settled with the lucky (or unlucky?) number 13, only to be held up once again by yet another unexplained change in kart assignment. The final change had us given kart No. 6 which, to our annoyance, had bald tyres at the rear. Chalk one up to the difficulty level. Anyway, since we had missed the first round, we were already out in terms of racing points, so we were here to make the best of it and have some fun.
The grid finally formed on the track, and the green light was given, marking the start of 2 hours of intense racing. François led the dance for team POWAA Garage and clocked 15 minutes-worth of consistent laps, an awesome run for a first time on the track.
I was up next, and I had to remind myself to go easy for the first few laps to get used to the track.
My resolve to take it slow lasted approximately the length of the straight, following which I threw myself waaay too fast in the first corner and spun out. Lesson learnt, I really had to block out the excitement and focus on learning the track slowly...
Until the first corner of the second lap, where once again, my over-zealousness had me eat some gravels. Third time's the charm, as they say, and I finally got to stay within the width of the track. My eagerness had the team lose some precious time, and I had to make it up - until I saw the guys wave frantically by the side of the track to signal me to pit in and let Ian drive.
Driver change done, Ian sped off to discover the track. Another quarter of an hour passed and it was Bernie's time to do his first stint. At this point, the already worn out rear tyres were starting to struggle, and the kart was becoming trickier to handle, as Bernie realised. His 15 minutes fight with the kart seemed epic, and ended when François took over for his second and last run.
Once again, François humbled us with his consistency, and brought us higher up in the standings - in 10th place, fighting for 9th.
I then took the wheel again, and managed to clock some faster and more consistent laps. I was finally getting in the groove of the track, yet I was not able to improve on our standings.
Ian then went for his final stint, but with with 90 minutes of racing taking its heavy toll on the tyres, the kart began to be more and more tricky to control, and the other teams started catching up.
When Bernie got behind the wheel for the final laps, his main focus was to stay on the track without the rear kicking out.
By then, the pits were in effervescence with the non-running drivers staring at the standings shown on the screen.
As the chequered flag was waived, team POWAA Garage crossed the line in 14th position... Out of 14 teams.
Still smiling as we had made it through the 2 hours, we then headed for the prize ceremony. There, we had the surprise of being 12th in the rankings, as two teams were brought down due to penalties incurred during the race.
All in all, we had a great time, with its fair share of joy and fear, excitement and disappointment, and, well, everything that makes a team endurance race worth it!
Our minds are set, though, we'll definitely do better next time!