4 May 2016

Race with no Testing

Asia Max Challenge (Round 3)
30 April-1 May 2016, Elite Speedway Malaysia

As a result of school commitments, Jon can only go to the Elite Speedway track on Saturday race day morning. In order to avoid the Mayday traffic jam, Jon set off at 2am from Singapore and arrived at the track 6am.

This round, Jon will be driving the same Element Motorsports DD2 kart from last round. On the first warm-up session of the day, Jon only went down for one lap & came back due to front brake problem. The uneven braking between the left & right wheel caused the kart to wobble and pull to the left. The mechanic rush to bleed the brakes and prepare the kart for the second 10 minutes warm-up session. Unfortunately, the problem persisted and Jon had to abandon testing of the kart. Upon returning to the pit, it was discovered that uneven wearing of the brake pads is the culprit. New sets of brake pads were fitted and the team can only hope that the issue had been solved. It was a good Qualifying as Jon managed to put himself 7th on the grid. This was a significant improvement compared to last round when he qualified 11th. In Heat 1, Jon was able to finish 7th without much incident. Just before Heat 2, it started to rain heavily accompanied with thunder and lightning. The officials had to postpone the race till tomorrow morning.

Picture courtesy of Gary Khor

On Sunday morning, all the karters have a chance to test their kart during the final warm-up of the weekend. It was bad luck for Jon as the brake problem came back again when he was driving high speed downhill and crashed onto the barrier. With less than an hour till start of Heat 2, the mechanic can only bleed the brakes, as he spent most of the time to rebuild the kart front end. In Heat 2, Jon was driving with the brakes still pulling to one side. As he adjusted his driving to compensate for the uneven braking, he was braking much earlier thus loosing pace. With that, Jon finished the race at 10th position.

With more than an hour between heat 2 and Pre-Final, the mechanic was able to change one side of the brake caliper. In Pre-Final, the kart felt better but Jon was still compensating for the uneven braking. Even though he was not maximizing his pace, Jon was able to finish 8th.

Just before the Final, the mechanic changed the brake caliper again. The problem was minimized in the Final but started to occur during the end part of the race. Nevertheless, Jon was able to run his true pace in the early part of the race and eventually finished at position 7th.

A well-deserved finishing for an eventful race weekend marred with brake problems.

19 April 2016

Moving in the Right Direction

X30 Challenge 2016 (Round 2)
16 April 2016, KF1 Circuit

Due to school and extra curriculum activities, Jon arrived at the track for round 2 with no experience on the new Komet tires on Friday afternoon. With just three practice sessions left, the team only managed to perform basic set-ups.

Picture courtesy of X30 Challenge Singapore
It was a bright and sunny Saturday morning as Qualifying session gets on its way. Even though Jon was not able to familiarize well with the new tires, he was able to qualify much better than anticipated. Unlike last round, Jon only managed to qualify at 7th position with a deficit of 6tenths, this round, Jon improved to 4th position and only 2tenths from the pole driver. This massive improvement has given the team new confidence knowing that they are moving in the right direction.

Jon in Kart no. 233

Just before race 1, some minor adjustments were made to improve the kart behaviour on exits from corners. Unfortunately, the outcome is not as expected and Jon struggled to catch up with the front group thus ending the race at 4th position where he started. Upon returning to the pit, the kart was adjusted back to qualifying condition but while waiting for the race to start, it started pouring heavily. A wet race was announced and  everyone prepared their karts to be raced in the rain. Due to thunder and lightning, the race was delayed and eventually race distance was reduced to 10 from 20 laps.

Starting race 2 on the outside of the track, Jon was able to storm his way to second by the 4th corner but dropped to 3rd in the next lap. By lap 6, Jon was back at 2nd and chasing the pole driver but the rear was catching up too. In order to defend his position, Jon had to give up chasing for a win thus finishing with a well-deserved 2nd place.

There was a mix-up in the points during the podium ceremony that awarded Jon as 3rd but eventually it was rectified and Jon was declared as 2nd through mail announcement by the race organizer.

More pictures of the race can be viewed here (facebook of X30 Challenge Singapore)

4 April 2016

A Roller Coaster Ride with DD2

Asia Max Challenge (Round 2)
2-3 April 2016, Elite Speedway Malaysia

Due to school commitments, Jon has been missing the Asia Max Challenge (AMC) for more than six months. The AMC has a special place in Jon's heart because that's where he first started racing at the age of nine. So there was much relief and joy when the school agreed to allow Jon to take a day of absence on 1 April to participate in the AMC race.

Starting this year, most of the participants will be using the new EVO engine which Jon does not have. Fortunately, we managed to get it with the kind support of Uncle Peter, which allowed Jon to return to the AMC tracks again. It won't be a walk in the park because he would have to deal with the challenges of racing in the DD2 category for the first time.

The Rotax Max Challenge website states that the “DD2 is open to karters who are 15 years old and above. The chainless drive concept is combined with a 2-speed gearbox operated by means of shift paddles directly from the steering wheel. Ideal for drivers aged 15 years and older* with know-how in kart racing, the engine is the closest to Formula car racing. Launched in 2002, the revolutionary engine gave rise to the development of chassis by all leading manufacturers. The DD2 is a completely different category with a more powerful engine and two gears. It is meant for those looking for the ultimate thrill and more challenges with the gears”.

Friday un-official free practise has four sessions for each category. Jon and his mechanic arrived at Elite Speedway, just in time to prepare the kart for the first session.
The day did not start as planned because the engine power valve was not working accordingly. Only in the second session was Jon able to put in some reasonable lap times. New tires were fitted to confirm the kart set-up in the third session but another issue caused his lap times to improve slightly only. It was found that the seat has cracked after the final session of the day. A new seat was fitted and re-positioned again before the team wrapped up the day.

Picture courtesy of Gary Khor
More dramas unfolded on Saturday morning during official practice session 1. While Jon was going flat out down the high speed part of the track, just as he reached the turn, he braked but the right front brake was not working thus locking the left side, sending Jon towards the barrier. It was a heavy crash that completely mangled the stub axle, tie rods and steering column. Luckily Jon escaped with a sore right thumb only. After retrieving the kart, a few other mechanics joined in to help repair the kart, just in time for practice session 2. Jon tested the kart carefully but still complained that the brakes are not working properly. During lunch time before Qualifying, new brake pads were fitted and all the brakes fluids are also changed and bled. With no testing to confirm if the brakes are working properly, Jon took a cautious approach in the first few laps of Qualifying.In the end, he still managed to Qualify 11th among 24 drivers, not bad for a first timer. In Heat 1 and Heat 2, Jon was able to finish 6th and 7th respectively thus giving him a 5th position starting grid for Sunday’s Pre-Final. 

Looks like things are finally turning around after a disastrous morning. In the Pre-Final, Jon did not start well and dropped a few position but things are about to get worse. This time, the battery holder had gotten loose and it dropped sideways causing the wire harness to rub against the floor, shutting the engine down. Due to this DNF, Jon has to start from the last position in the Final.

Not to be discouraged, the team still target for a top ten finishing. It was almost a perfect start as Jon was able to jump eight drivers after just two turns. Bad luck strikes again as Jon was heading towards the high speed downhill section. He was taking a tight line to protect his position but the track was bumpy and the kart swerved left hitting another kart causing Jon to spin 180 degree and stalled. By the time he was able to get the kart racing again, the whole pack was already three quarter of the track away. After 20 laps, Jon completed the race at 20th position.

Nevertheless, the organizer still award Jon with a consolation trophy.

With a two-week break, Jon will be back in KF1 for round 2 of X30 Challenge on 16 April.